Being Aware of God’s Leading

In chapters one and two of Matthew we find two different accounts of different people who are in tune with God and His voice and His leading.  We read about Joseph who hears from God via an angel in a dream, that he is not to ditch Mary, but that he is to take her as his wife because the baby she is pregnant with is of the Holy Spirit.  OK, let’s be honest.  If you were Joseph and woke up the next morning after that message, would you believe that it was really God speaking to you? Not sure I would have.  In chapter two we read about the magi coming to visit Jesus a while after he was born.  We’re told that they were also warned in a dream to head a different direction and not go back to Herod.

What do Joseph and the magi have in common?  They are close enough to God that they can distinguish His voice and His leading.  There was no question about whether it was some weird dream or the result of something they shouldn’t have eaten the night before.  They heard the voice (told in a dream), woke up and knew it was God and obeyed.

Do you and I have that same intimacy with God that we can hear His voice and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is Him speaking to us?

What impact would that have on our ministry to students if we were that in-touch with God?

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God Doesn’t Always Use the Obvious

Admittedly genealogies are those parts I usually skim or skip as I’m reading my Bible.  But as I started studying Matthew again, I was drawn to slowly read through the genealogy this time.  The genealogical line of Jesus has some very interesting people in it.  Each used by God even though we probably would not have picked them to be used.

God often chooses those who don’t seem to fit the profile to accomplish His purposes for His glory.

I think some of the greatest youth workers are those who don’t  fit the profile of what many would think of when they think of a good youth worker.  But they simply say to God, “Here I am, use me.”  I’m grateful for men and women who simply offer their lives to be used by God in the lives of students.

My Summer As An Intern At Aldan

by Seth Cross

This summer has been crazy, busy, and fast, but it has been amazing. It feels like I got sucked into a whirlpool in mid-May and am being released today. For the last three months my whole world has been Youth Ministry. My internship was not just a job, but rather my life while I was with Aldan. I think I have grown a lot and changed a lot these last few months. I have made new friends and learned new skills. It has been very overwhelming but also very rewarding.

My goal for the summer was to determine whether or not I should go into full-time ministry. I have not determined this yet. I love youth ministry, but that is not enough reason to do it. While I am not sure what life will bring for me, I do know that God is at work in this world and in my life. What I have learned this summer is that I need to let go of my dreams and let them die if they must. Only when something is dead can it be resurrected and renewed by God. I am working on trusting God to take my dreams and have His way with them. I am working on trusting that He will give my heart the desires that He wants me to have and to fulfill them as only He can.

Contacting – Being Intentional

One of my team members related this story to me and I wanted to share it with all of you as a reminder of what we do and why.  Afterwards I will comment.

God laid it on my heart the other Sunday that I hadn’t seen a particular student in a few weeks.  Even though that student wasn’t in my small group, on Sunday morning when I woke up around 6:30, I sent them a short text message that simply said, “Missed you. Will you be in Sunday School today?”  A few hours later that student walked into Bible School.  When I saw them and went over to say “hi,” I asked them if they got my text message earlier. They said, “Yes, that’s why I’m here.”

Sending that text message took no more than thirty seconds.  Was it a huge undertaking?  No.  But it did require being intentional.  Contacting isn’t always a huge time commitment, especially not in today’s technological world.  You don’t even need to re-arrange your entire life and schedule around it.  BUT, it does require being intentional.  It is a huge part of shepherding.  We have the unbelievable privilege of speaking into the lives of and sharing our lives with students.  Be intentional and watch the way God uses those small acts to open doors into the lives of kids.

The Worst Part of Summer in Student Ministry

Yesterday I talked about why I love summer so much in student ministry.  However, it’s not all sunshine and roses.  There are some parts of the summer that are hard and that are a struggle.  Here are a few that come to my mind.

  1. All of our volunteers are coming and going on vacation.  Don’t get me wrong – they need it and deserve it!  But, the downside is that some momentum is lost and relationships can get stalled for a few months if volunteers don’t make a very conscious effort to amp up their contacting during these months when everyone is coming and going.
  2. Students are coming and going.  Between vacations, camp, sports playoffs and all of the other stuff that is a part of summer, students are in and out a lot – just like volunteers.  Just like with volunteers being in and out, momentum can be lost and that’s hard.
  3. If you have your own kids, the pressure of wanting to spend time with your family while they’re off from school versus wanting to spend time with your students who are more available, along with all of the added summer events and activities, can create a tension that needs to be navigated. I’m not sure that I’ve gotten this figured out completely yet.  I just know that trying to manage this tension (along with coaching baseball and a personal ministry to the lost around me and trying to keep up with extended family like my brothers and mom) is a crazy pressure that is not easy to get excited about and can quickly wear me down.

What about you?  What are the worst/hardest aspects of summer in student ministry?  What am I missing?

The Best Part of Summer in Student Ministry

Summer is nearing its end and I’ve been thinking about the best parts of summer in student ministry.  There are three things that I love about summer with students ::

  1. Students are out of school and have a lot more discretionary time on their hands which means that they are often looking for something to do.
  2. Because of #1, there are more informal opportunities to build relationships with our students – to hang out, grab some grub, laugh together.
  3. Mission Trips.  We do a mission trip with our high school students every summer.  For me, they are the highlight of our year.  So much happens in the life of students on these trips, not to mention the relationships that are deepened between team members and between students and leaders. Preparation and planning is a job in and of itself, but it is always worth every extra hour spent.

What are your favorite parts of summer in student ministry?

My First Month As An Intern

by Seth Cross

Doing Youth Ministry this past month has been like riding a roller-coaster! Some days I feel lost and unproductive. Other days I feel overwhelmed with work. Sometimes this leads me to be stressed out and depressed, other days I feel productive and excited about what I’ve done and what is coming next!

I’ve found that one of the hardest things to be disciplined in is solitude. Even when I’m not in the office I’m constantly thinking about event planning and the different checklists I have to complete. It’s hard to be present. When I’m constantly preparing and organizing for the future, it’s hard to come back down to the present.

On the other hand, being constantly aware of my role as a leader, I am better developing spiritual disciplines (other than solitude). I have been praying and reading Scripture more consistently. I have been better able to focus in Sunday worship services and grapple with sermons.

In my month as an Intern I have been all over the place emotionally and spiritually, but I am learning to balance my life better because of it. I’m so thankful to God for using me and training. I’m excited for what He will do with the rest of the summer!

Life Without Walls

by Drew Pederson
originally appeared 06.27.12 @ Drewism

This will sound crazy to anyone under the age of 30, but there was a time when people weren’t constantly available.  There was a time before cell phones and wifi, where you had to memorize your friends’ telephone numbers and call and ask their parents if they could come to the phone.  And when you were away from your house, nobody thought anything of leaving a message on the answering machine and waiting for you to get back to them. Now we live in a society where we get ticked off and hang up if a call goes to voicemail.  Where we carry our phones, email and dozens of other ways to get in touch in our pockets.  With that has come the expectation that we’re always available- only a phone call or email or text message away.

I think another interesting side effect of this is that the idea of personal privacy has slowly eroded.  Even as phrases like “work/life balance” come into our lexicon, we undermine that very balance by mixing the two at every turn.  (As an aside, I think our parents and grandparents find that phrase hilarious.  They only knew a world where you put in your time at work then came home and the two rarely, if ever, mixed.) It starts slowly, we add our work email on our phone figuring it can’t hurt to be able to check it “just in case there’s an emergency”. That turns into checking it every morning when we first wake up, then before we fall asleep and soon we find ourselves firing off replies to emails from our phones before we even get to work just to “head things off”. It’s a slippery slope from there.

As it turns out, this is entirely a generational thing, one which I’m not sure if the technology caused or simply enabled. I found some pretty interesting statistics in an article I was reading today-

70% of people surveyed had some sort of connection with coworkers or superiors on either Facebook or Twitter.  That means 70% of us are willingly opening up our private lives to our coworkers.  I’m almost old enough to find this shocking but still young enough to be a willing participant in this trend.

So what does this mean for us in youth ministry?  We’re dealing with a generation that approaches life with a fairly open-book policy.  They don’t create artificial divisions in life based on the context of the relationship.  There is simply in or out.  If you are trustworthy (or just haven’t proven yourself untrustworthy yet…) you’re in. Once you lose that trust, you’re on the outside looking in at privacy settings and locked accounts.  They truly prefer not to put up walls between themselves and those they know until they feel like they have to.  Youth leaders have an interesting opportunity here to interact and start real conversations with students based on what they’re (over)sharing.

 

Family or Hired Hand

For many years I’ve read the words of many who espouse that pastors should remain somewhat detached from their people. Serve them well, but don’t get too close. We don’t want to get too close because when we do, we could get burned, hurt, have a hard time saying the “hard” things that maybe we’ll have to someday say, because leaving will be harder …

I disagree with that approach. We need to allow ourselves to be adopted into a church family, to become one of them, to be a part of them. Get close. We, as pastors, need our people as much, if not more, than they need us.

This past Wednesday I was sent to the ER for an emergency appendectomy.  My poor wife spent most of Wednesday afternoon and evening, and all day Thursday, fielding phone calls, text messages and emails from our church family asking about me, letting us know they were praying for us. On Friday I spent a good part of my day fielding those same messages from my hospital room and getting visitors once we arrived home. I can’t tell you the number of people today (Sunday at church) who have asked me how I’m doing.

What an encouragement from my family. Yup, they are my family. I love them. And I know they love me and us. Today marks eighteen years here at our church and I wouldn’t trade the relationships for anything, even “protection” from the stuff that “could” happen when we become family. Don’t trade the benefits to protect yourself from what could be.

Thanks AUC for allowing us to be a part of your family, for loving us, for praying for us, and for eighteen amazing years.