Jesus for an Ipad

I was standing in the parking lot of a Southern California "mega church" handing out tickets to kids and their families for a chance to win a free Ipad. As I stood there wearing angel wings and sweating in my Halloween costume [SoCal problems] I began to wonder is this really what the gospel is about? Forcing people to hear a salvation talk in a parking lot because they want to stick around for an Ipad?  

As a youth pastor, I began to notice adults, specifically church leaders had their own agendas when it came to teenagers. I began to wrestle and struggle with this whole idea that converting teenagers to faith seemed more and more like a selfish way to impress executive staff, board members, and financial stakeholders. Were we introducing them to a Jesus worth following? Shallow numbers youth pastors desperately need from decision cards and attendance reports for job security rather than true life change.

How does the church and youth ministry contribute to an epidemic of manipulating students to perform for us? They perform for coaches to win championships and achieve success coaching elite [and expensive] travel teams. Students are pressured to perform and exceed state standards on standardized testing. State funding for schools and job security for educators depend on it. Kids perform for parents who are more and more absent in their lives. Teens perform for grades and sports to get scholarships their parents want for them [typically for financial reasons]. Teens perform for youth pastors by being pressured to bring their friends and hit those attendance, decision and baptism benchmarks. Chap Clark refers to this as “Systemic Abandonment” in his book Hurt 2.0.  

"Organizations, structures, and institutions that were originally concerned with children’s care, welfare, and development have become less interested in individual nurture and development and more interested in institutional perpetuation (or the competitive, even pathological, needs of the adult in charge). Today’s adolescents have indeed been abandoned.” - Chap Clark

When it comes to faith, why not advocate for a salvation experience richer than an “only believe and raise your hand" moment? Salvation and life change go hand in hand. I was beginning to see the "right numbers" in our mega church ministry, but very little significant life change. I didn't see anyone tracking or even noticing what happened to kids once they left our ministry programs entering into emerging adulthood.

What I love about the Christian life, is the emphasis on being born again. Beautiful imagery for an invitation to begin again. To start living life differently. An invitation to living the best kind of life. An invitation to “embody the all things which Christ commanded.” Following Jesus could actually change your life. A faith that is deep and wide and turns your life around. Not a shallow "raise your pinky in the air if you want to accept Jesus" because we scared you into it moment.

I refuse to be the one handing out Ipads at a "free" Harvest Carnival or invite middle schoolers to a giant water fight using dyed water, only to corner them in a room for a twenty minute "salvation talk" first. The good news of Jesus doesn't need to be snuck into trendy giveaways or hidden behind Christmas presents we won’t give to needy families until they hear our Romans Road presentation.

The mega church “free” Harvest Festival wasn’t really free. It was designed to entice you to hear about Jesus by bribing you with glossy giveaways and carnival rides. Used to get results and hit benchmarks to keep our jobs. With no thoughtful way to track or measure any holistic or measurable change.

I advocate for a youth ministry modeling the invitational way of Jesus. Youth Ministry that looks like the kind of ministry Jesus did. A ministry centered around service, dinner conversations, hanging out on the margins and meeting real needs without strings attached. The presence of Jesus inspires life change without being gimmicky.

We embody a faith that is relevant and inspires students with a better way to live today. A new life that can be seen, experienced, and enjoyed right now. When you hang out with Jesus, he changes your life. Ipads not needed.


Leveraging Mondays to Lead Small Group Leaders

Mondays can be hard. There never seems to be enough time or Coffee to go around.  My influence as a ministry leader really started to multiply when I started using GoWeekly as a tool to lead leaders. It really is one of my favorite go to resources to help manage Mondays and make the most of my week. I love the GoWeekly To-Do List that arrives in my inbox at the start of every week. I've bragged about this a ton. You really should check it out. Every Monday you get an email like this to help you lead leaders and influence parents. 

With your To-Do List in hand, you can log in to GoWeekly to get your hands on a ton of free resources to help you accomplish all the things. Goodies such as cool b-day card downloads, ready to edit and send leader and parent emails, and resources to help you lead small group leaders well. 

You also get your hands on a ton of resources and training videos filled with advice from people who do what you week in and week out. Here are a couple of videos I did with GoWeekly to help you lead small group leaders. There are more that come with your GoWeekly subscription. 

Hope they are helpful! 

disclaimer: I was not paid to write this and I don't get any financial kickbacks when you subscribe to GoWeekly. 


Birthday cards for Small Group Leaders

One of the most simple ways to encourage small group leaders and to cultivate a Lead Small Culture  is by remembering and acknowledging their birthday. Who doesn't love a birthday? Maybe you can't Fedex a cup of coffee and slice of yummy cake to your SGL's but YOU can mail them this fun little treat. 

Coffee and Cake in an envelope: 
  • The Birthday Cake gum I picked up at Target. I love Project 7 gum because it's a brand that seeks to do good in the world. 
  • I have a stack of $5 Starbuck Cards I keep on hand for Volunteer Appreciation. 
  • Remember to add the right amount of postage. 
Need FREE and AWESOME Birthday Cards for Small Group Leaders? 

If you are looking for trendy SGL themed [and did I mention FREE?] Birthday cards to send your volunteers, I have the perfect thing for you. You can get awesome printable cards at GoWeekly from Orange. Login [you need to be a subscriber....SO WORTH every penny]. Once logged in, go to the search bar and type "birthday." You will see a link to the downloadable cards. 

Short on Time? 
  • Screen shot a birthday card graphic and text it to your favorite volunteer. 
  • Send a Starbucks digital gift card straight to their inbox. 

Need something other than Facebook to remember their Birthdays? Try this...
1. Put them on your calendar. A calendar you actually look at. 
2. Check out Birthday Reminder
3. Put them in a group [called MY Few] in the Lead Small App


Youth Group Used to Be Boring Until....

from the YS Blog 
October 17, 2016
Gina Abbas
How long is your attention span?
Thinking about tacos already huh? I have approximately 4 minutes and 52 seconds until your attention shifts to something else. Adults can focus for about 5 minutes on a message until they check out.[1] Even the 20 second commercials before a Youtube video often seem too long. If teens are texting or updating their social media accounts while you are teaching and even your adult volunteer leaders seem ready for nap, there is help! You can create the right environment that engages their developing brain and keeps everyone tuned in and wanting more!
Here are a few simple hacks to keep students attention during youth group.


Simple ways to leverage Mondays in your Ministry

Does anyone love Monday? I typically roll out of bed to the sound of a 4 year old begging to play on my smartphone while eating Lucky Charms [the marshmallows anyways]. She likes shiny new technology and sugar. Preschoolers and middle schoolers. They are like the same thing. After sending the big kids off to school and dropping the littlest one off at preschool, I hit up Starbucks on my way into the church office.  A freshly brewed dark roast always makes Monday SO MUCH BETTER. Are you with me on that?

On Mondays I am more physically tired than every other day of the week and my mind occupied thinking about all the students, volunteers, and parents I just interacted with 15 hours earlier. A little bit of adrenalne kicks in because my brain does not shut off after a Sunday filled with purposeful activity.  I am in evaluation mode and fixed on improving whatever wasn't 100% in my Sunday environments. I am also looking ahead at the next 52 weeks, right? You too?

After the Orange Conference this year, I have been "Rethinking" my whole Monday. Here are a few ways I've am leveraging the beauty of Mondays in my ministry.

1. My GoWeekly subscription to assist with my post-Sunday hangover [ok not a REAL hangover people] brain fog. Go Weekly provides strategic cues, reminders, and resources do two things really well. Those two things are leading volunteers and partnering with parents. That IS the secret sauce of ministry. Empowering teams of volunteers and supporting families. Sometimes I refer to GoWeekly as my personal assistant, waiting at my desk on Monday morning with everything I need to rock my week, my month, and my year as a student pastor.

2. I get involved in the Mondays-Fridays of students lives. This year I've chosen to lock arms with Young Life and be more intentional about being on campus with students. Because if I am not in the loop of what Monday looks like for the students I serve, I am dramatically handicapped in the effectiveness of Sunday. I can't reach students or know what is really happening in their world if Sunday is the only interaction I have with them. You can't accomplish life changing ministry from behind a desk.  God is a God who is WITH US [Immanuel] and does not engage us from a distance.

Jesus was Jesus all week long, not just on Sunday. We don't have a Sunday savior, we have an everyday Immanuel. – @JonAcuff.

3. I care about the Monday of my volunteers.  I listen, I ask, I pay attention to what gets posted on social media and I make a point to PRAY for each of my volunteers by name on Mondays. I text volunteers to ask how I can be praying for them. This has been a game changer for me, because you are only as strong as your team and prayer is sometimes our most under utilized resource. Because it's not flashy. You can't show it off. You can't take attendance from it. But PRAYER is a powerful way to step into Mondays with your people.

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