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Tag Archives | David Hertweck

GUEST POST: Think as You Plan

As I write down these thoughts, I’m neck-deep in preparations for our annual state Youth Convention. A few thousand teenagers will descend upon Syracuse in a couple months, all with the hopes of having a wonderful weekend. There will be over 150 people working behind the scenes to make that hope a reality.

I know I’ve done a good job planning when I’m not running around at Convention like the proverbial headless chicken. My goal is to work hard enough and plan smart enough that I can actually enjoy the weekend, attentively host the speaker and spend time in meaningful conversation with other leaders.

Here’s five ways to think as you plan events:

Think Big
Communicate the big picture…what’s the vision? What’s the purpose of the event? Communicate it often. Often we get so drawn into the details that we can’t see the forest for the trees. A well-run event without a clear purpose is a shell of what it should be.

Think Long
How can you leverage the event to create long-term impact? That may mean reevaluating the components, the emphasis and/or the budget allocations of the event. It has to be more than an event; think sustainable and transferable. How is your event helping the local church make disciples?

Think Team
The #1 key to pulling off events? Get the right people in the right place. Surround yourself with people who are strong where you are weak and who are proven leaders. One other key: surround yourself with people who will buffer you from onsite drama and not create or exacerbate it.

Think Lists
I’m not a list maker. But at event time I depend on them. Create checklists, timelines and systems to both serve the event and make it sustainable in the future. If I’m not here next year, a team should be able to take my lists and run it.

Think Thanks
Thank your team before, during and afterwards. A handwritten note, public recognition, a pat on the back in the midst of the event, a small gift, etc… Those things make a difference. Be gracious. Be grateful. You haven’t done it alone!

David Hertweck served as senior associate pastor of Trinity A/G in Clay, NY for over eleven years. He served as the lead pastor of inside-out student ministries and element young adults ministries and as a worship leader. He is an ordained Assembly of God minister. He presently serves as the District Youth Ministries and Chi Alpha Director. He’s also the author of The Word: a 31 day devotional… buy one and make as many copies as you want.

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A Culture of Honor

The Assemblies of God national youth director, Heath Adamson, talks often about creating a “culture of honor”.  Being a child of the 80’s, the first thing I thought of when I heard that phrase was the Karate Kid movies and everyone’s favorite sensei, Mr. Miyagi.  Japan is certainly an example of a culture where honor is an important value.  But what does a “culture of honor” mean to you and me?

One danger facing young leaders is our tendency to neglect honor and default to flattery. Flattery rears its ugly head when we leverage seemingly kind words and overstated compliments in an attempt to advance our agenda. Flattery is self-serving in purpose and selective in distribution.  On the other hand, honor displays a humble attitude and employs gracious genuine words (or strategic silence). The gift of honor is extended to leadership positions, not just persons in leadership.

As a leader you will always have other leaders to serve and follow.  Often leaders expect the individuals following them to trust them in ways that they themselves are not willing to trust the leaders they have been called to follow. At best, that is inconsistent. Agree or disagree with our leaders, we are called to honor them and not just to their face. It’s very easy to attack and critique leaders, it’s very godly to protect and honor them. I’ve learned that my commitment to honor those over me is not truly put to the test until I disagree with them on a matter I care strongly about.

I am thankful for the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit as He guards our hearts and joins our conversations. I am thankful that Jesus never failed as a leader and that his perfect leadership record belongs to and speaks for every believer!  I’m thankful that the Father knows and judges the motivations of all men, so I don’t have to.

How do you go about creating a culture of honor in your ministry settings?

David Hertweck serves the Assemblies of God in New York as the state youth director. He has been involved in local church youth ministry since 1999. Check out his resources on DYM right here.

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Are you teaching teenagers the Gospel or Moralism/Motivationalism?


But we refused to give in to them for a single moment. We wanted to preserve the truth of the gospel message for you.  Galatians 2:5 (NLT)

From the church’s beginning until today, there has waged a battle to preserve the truth of the gospel message. Every generation, every culture and every heart finds ways to pervert the Gospel. The Gospel is the proclamation that Jesus became man, lived perfect in our place and died shamed in our place. His life and work makes repentant sinners entirely accepted and approved (righteous) before a holy God. It’s a complete work of grace. Tim Keller says it this way: “we are sinful beyond belief but loved beyond hope.”

One of the constant threats to the Gospel message is the moralistic message and motivational message.

Moralistic messages begin and end with:You SHOULD!”
Motivational messages begin and end with: You CAN!”
But the Gospel message begins with You MUST but you CAN’T!”

Thankfully, it doesn’t end there.

In youth ministry there is undeniable pressure to get teenagers to behave. The problem is there is nothing more exhausting AND dangerous than convincing unconverted teenagers to behave like Christians. This problem is exacerbated by the truth that it is possible to leverage lesser motivations (fear, pride, guilt) to manufacture behavior change–even spiritual activity. You can build and grow a youth ministry on moralism and motivationalism!

There are so many reasons our hearts default to moralism.  It offers us control.  We can measure ourselves.  We can measure others.  We aren’t truly indebted to the grace of God – there’s a limit to what He can ask of us.

There are four primary responses in the mind and hearts of students when they hear moralistic/motivational preaching:

DEFIANT: “I never get this right and I don’t care.”

DESPAIR:“I never get this right and I never will.”

DETERMINED:“I never get this right but I will now.”

DESENSITIZED:“I never get this wrong/I always get this right.”

In each response, the teenager is focused on self. The radical call of Christianity is away from self-reliance and self-salvation of any kind. We must die to every last ounce of hope in ourselves that we have! The beauty of Jesus is seen when we recognize the full Gospel message:

“We MUST! We CAN’T! He DID! In Him, we CAN!”

Youth workers, let’s be careful in our teaching and preaching that we’re not simply giving GOOD ADVICE instead of sharing GOOD NEWS. Let’s remember the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:16 – the gospel is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes!

Question: Why do you think it’s so normal to give GOOD ADVICE rather than the GOOD NEWS? Share thoughts here and David will respond.

Guest Post: David Hertweck served as senior associate pastor of Trinity A/G in Clay, NY for over eleven years. He served as the lead pastor of inside-out student ministries and element young adults ministries and as a worship leader. He is an ordained Assembly of God minister. He presently serves as the District Youth Ministries and Chi Alpha Director.



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The Fantasy Youth Ministry Team

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The last Sunday afternoon of every August I sit in my living room with 11 other guys. We’re intensely focused as we type away on our laptops while looking through stacks of papers covered in handwritten notes. A planning retreat? No. A curriculum development meeting? Nope. An anointed brainstorming session? No way. It’s my annual fantasy football draft.

It sure would be nice if we could pick our youth ministry teams like we pick our fantasy football teams: looking at statistics and match-ups and choosing based on need. Obviously, it doesn’t work that way but if there were such a thing as a “fantasy youth ministry team draft”… here are five categories I would consider:

Love the Gospel – I don’t care how hip or influential a person seems to be. If it isn’t obvious they love the story of redemption and are centering their lives on the goodness of Jesus, then I don’t want them on my team. I’m not talking about perfect people. I’m talking about people who are entirely aware of their imperfections and modeling a lifestyle of faith and repentance.

Love the Family – Youth ministry is not just about teenagers. Youth ministry is about partnering with and supporting the work of discipleship happening in the home. Youth workers that try to take the place of parents or try to make parents out to be the enemy would go undrafted by me. If parents are unsaved this may look different but it’s still a non-negotiable.

Love the Team – We’re better together. Sometimes talented individuals and natural leaders have a hard time believing that. I want people on my team who love that they’re a part of a team and are glad to have a role to play. I don’t need someone with a messiah complex or a lone ranger.

Love the Journey – We’re all in process and there’s never been a teenager who emerged from youth ministry a finished product. 15+ years after high school and I still have so much growing in grace to do. I would select youth workers who patiently trust in God’s progressive work of sanctification as opposed to trying to be the Holy Spirit in teenagers’ lives while forcing behavior change that is disconnected from heart transformation.

Love the Vision – This one starts with me as the leader. What’s the vision, why does it matter and how can you be involved? The vision should me memorable, engaging and regularly repeated. I would be using my draft picks on people who feel the tension of the problem that the vision exists to solve, buy into that vision and can share it with others in a compelling fashion.

We can’t draft our youth ministry team but we can intentionally recruit them and we must strategically develop them. Consider using these five categories as areas of development in your team and you just might be on your way to leading your very own fantasy youth ministry team.


Question: What would you add to this list? Share it here and let’s learn from one another.

Guest Post: David Hertweck serves the Assemblies of God in New York as the District Youth and Chi Alpha Director. Prior to that he served as a youth pastor for 11+ years at Trinity AG in Clay, NY. He’s married to Erin and has two daughters, Lilia and Caraline. He loves his girls, his extended family, good music, good food, his Weber grill, his Taylor guitar, Liverpool Football Club, the Yankees and the Gospel. You can follow him on Twitter at @DavidHertweck.


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Leadership Mistakes: Owning Up

Guest Post: David Hertweck served as senior associate pastor of Trinity A/G in Clay, NY for over eleven years. He served as the lead pastor of inside-out student ministries and element young adults ministries and as a worship leader. He is an ordained Assembly of God minister. He presently serves as the District Youth Ministries and Chi Alpha Director.

One of the most difficult tasks for any leader is when it comes to owning up to their own mistakes. We’re frightfully proficient at deflecting blame and intuitively skilled at protecting self. We carefully craft our words or strategically choose silence to avoid owning up. If you’re anything like me, you have an “inner lawyer” that can readily defend your actions and motives. But everyone loses when leaders don’t own up. Churches and organizations need leaders who own up.

What are the benefits of owning up?

1) The team you lead will be attracted to your transparency and more likely to trust your leadership.

2) Your honesty gives the team a better (and safer!) starting point for the necessary learning and growing conversations.

3) You’re modeling for your team how to humbly own up.

Where do we find the motivation to own up? The same place we find the motivation and power for all true spiritual growth: the Gospel.

The Gospel frees us to own up by giving us a true starting point: we’re sinful beyond belief. Recognizing our own depravity and tendencies keeps us from placing ultimate hope in our leadership skills or in our abilities to make things work and make people happy. When I place my ultimate hope in being “The Leader”, I will be dangerously busy maintaining that image and I’ll find myself becoming unusually angry or down when I fail. The reason? I’ve made my leadership status my true god and when I fail, it has no power to forgive me. It will only crush me. The result? I’ll never own up.

The Gospel also frees us to own up by giving us a true resting place: we’re loved beyond hope because of Jesus. As your heart rests and rejoices in that unchanging truth, you won’t be a slave to approval or achievement because the cross is the source of both of those things. Your true worth to God is never at risk when you make mistakes. The result? You’ll be humble in all your wins and you’ll own up to all your mistakes.

Question: Why is owning-up difficult for you as a leader? Share your thoughts and let’s learn from one another.



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The Sucker’s Choice: is it either/or… or… both/and?

Guest Post: David Hertweck served as senior associate pastor of Trinity A/G in Clay, NY for over eleven years. He served as the lead pastor of inside-out student ministries and element young adults ministries and as a worship leader. He is an ordained Assembly of God minister. He presently serves as the District Youth Ministries and Chi Alpha Director.


Sometimes the choice to make a choice is the wrong choice.

In the insightful book, Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Second Edition<img src="http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=dougfiecom01-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0071771328" Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler write about avoiding “the sucker’s choice”.

In short, “the sucker’s choice” is when we force an “EITHER…OR…” dilemma when it can be a “BOTH…AND…” opportunity. You may have heard someone say something like: “Either we can have fun OR we can have competition”. It implies that you can’t possibly find a way to have both fun AND competition. It sets up an unnecessary choice, aptly named: “the sucker’s choice”.

An example in youth ministry goes something like this: EITHER we prepare and deliver a message with non-Christian teenagers in mind OR we prepare and deliver a message with Christian teenagers in mind.

We don’t have to make that choice. I believe that there is a way to effectively preach to both audiences at the same time and with the same words. The solution is to preach the Gospel.

I remember a time in my life when I had the mindset that the Gospel message was only for those who didn’t know Christ. I thought that, in time, mature believers “graduated from the Gospel”. I was wrong.

The message of the Gospel is not something that is solely necessary at the beginning of a teenager’s faith journey; it is their faithful companion every step of the way. We never graduate from the truth of the Gospel rather we cling to it and allow it to bring about more and more change in our lives.

Repentance and faith in the message of the Gospel justifies us but it is also the Gospel, at work in us, which causes us to grow in faith, purity and maturity. While hard work and determination are a part of the Christian’s life, if they are not “in line with the Gospel” they will not sanctify, they will strangle.

The main problem, then, in the life of a Christian teenager is that they have not thought out or lived out the deep implications of the Gospel. They have restricted the work of the Gospel to the initial work of salvation (justification) and not allowed it to run rampant in their lives bringing about growth and gratitude (sanctification).

Paul makes it clear in Galatians that we are not justified by the Gospel and then sanctified apart from the Gospel through our own efforts. The Gospel is the way we grow.

1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Galatians 3

Human nature is clearly seen in our attempts to control the source of our salvation with works-righteousness instead of fully trusting in Christ. The Gospel reminds us that we are now hidden in Christ and because of that we are both righteous and welcomed. Apart from Him we are hopelessly lacking and desperately trying to do something about that lack. Both believers and unbelievers need to hear this message…repeatedly!

Negative emotions and sinful behavior manifest in the life of a Christian teenager because at that exact moment something or someone other than Christ and his work has become more central to their existence and they’ve elevated that thing (good or bad) to an ultimate thing. The Bible calls this idolatry.

In other words, everyone has “saving faith” in something or someone. Everyone is looking to an accomplishment, an achievement, an experience or an individual to gain approval and acceptance…to justify their existence. Non-Christians do this because they haven’t had a grace awakening but Christians do this when they forget or don’t believe the Gospel.

The Christian way to drive out lesser love (idols) is to daily center our lives on our greatest affection. Thomas Chalmers says it this way: “We know of no other way by which to keep the love of the world out of our heart than to keep in our hearts the love of God”.

We are prone to sin when we believe a lie about the nature of God. As Tim Chester writes in his book, You Can Change, we forget that God is great, glorious, good and gracious. The Gospel is the most intimate and intensive reminder of who God is and what He has done. We need to be “Gospel-fluent” with students, with our families and with ourselves!
Whether Paul was dealing with marital issues in Ephesians 5, emphasizing the importance of generosity in 1 Corinthians 8, or confronting Peter’s hypocrisy and racism in Galatians 2, he never just addressed their behavior. He didn’t verbally bully or emotionally manipulate. He didn’t guilt or scare them into change.

He repeatedly points to Christ, he preaches the Gospel. He’s essentially says to them: you are not living as if the Gospel is true! Your heart does not resemble a heart that has been both captured and freed by the life and work of Jesus. And he’s saying this to believers! In fact much of Paul’s writings can be classified as preaching the Gospel to people who already knew it.

One final reason to avoid “the sucker’s choice”: Christian teenagers need to hear you talking to non-Christian teenagers and non-Christian teenagers need to hear you talking to Christian teenagers. Why?

Christian teenagers need to hear you talking to non-Christian teenagers about the Gospel because many of them don’t know how to do the same. As you preach the Gospel in a way that engages and answers the questions and objections of the irreligious, your Christian teenagers will be learning how to do the same! Those same students will also realize that youth group is a place to bring their non-Christian friends to get their questions answered.

On the other hand, non-Christian teenagers need to hear you talking to Christian teenagers about the Gospel because they need to have a sense of the community, the values, the priorities, the passion of a Christ like people and the REASON for all of those things. The reason is the Gospel. They also need to experience growing sense that they are on the outside of something that is beautiful…namely Jesus.

In Romans 1:15, Paul writes that he is “eager to preach the Gospel” and he’s writing to Christians! Friends, there’s no need to make the “sucker’s choice”. Preach the Gospel to the lost, preach the Gospel to the found.

Question: Weigh in… what do you think? Share your thoughts here.

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GUEST POST: Is Jesus in your preaching?

This is a guest post by David Hertweck who serves the Assemblies of God in the state of NY as their District Youth Director. He is also the 2nd place winner to last week’s creativity challenge (which won him nothing). David can be tracked down at Twitter: @NY_YouthMin or Facebook group: NYDAG Youth Min

Preaching Jesus as…?
In his book, Searching For God Knows What, Donald Miller describe a time when he shared a detailed Gospel message with a roomful of seminary students. He purposefully left one key component out of the presentation and asked the class to identify it. They couldn’t.

The missing part? Jesus.

Charles Spurgeon said, “The sermon which does not lead to Christ, or of which Jesus Christ is not the top and the bottom, is a sort of sermon that will make the devils in hell laugh, but make the angels of God weep.” Tim Keller says it less elegantly but more succinctly: “Until you get to Jesus, it’s just a Sunday school lesson.”

I’ve heard many youth messages and I don’t think I’ve heard one that doesn’t mention or reference Jesus at some point. Somehow, somewhere, at some point He gets an obligatory mention… even if it’s just in the closing prayer.

But is that good enough?


I’ve witnessed four ways that Jesus is often preached to teenagers:

1. Jesus as an inspirational example.

The main idea: Jesus did it, you can do it!
The problem: This appeals to a student who measures their worth in terms of accomplishment, spiritual or otherwise. It works on the will but not the heart. If Jesus is only an example, then the average teenager is in a lot of trouble because, well… Jesus was perfect. Your teenagers need much more than an example to inspire them (or eventually crush them)… they need a Savior to rescue them.
The result: You might get teenagers to change their behavior but it will be in their own strength and with a hint of moralism. This is not the Gospel. Jesus did not die on the cross to give us a second chance to get things right. He did it because He knew we never would.

2. Jesus as a faithful sidekick.

The main idea: Jesus did it and He will help you do it!
The problem: This reduces Jesus from the central character of our story of our salvation to the silent partner who simply helps us live right. He is nothing more than the greatest tool in your toolbox. One more metaphor: Jesus gets the assist, but I get the goal. The Gospel is not that He helps us get it right but that He got it right in our place. Big difference.
The result: You may get teenagers fired up, but you may also make them self-reliant and filled with unhealthy expectations. If they think that all they need is a boost from their buddy Jesus to be ok, then they may not understand the depth of their own depravity. Grasping, on a profound level, how lost we are is the starting point to encounter Jesus.

3. Jesus as a jilted boyfriend/girlfriend.

The main idea: Jesus did it for you, don’t hurt his feelings and let Him down!
The problem: This appeals to the students’ emotions, fears and sense of guilt. Most people don’t want to disappoint or let down anyone, let alone God! But fear and guilt are not Gospel motivations; they are tools of the enemy.
The result: You may get emotionally driven responses, especially from students that want to please people. They will make all sorts of radical promises about never ever, ever sinning again. However, teenagers will eventually find someone else (peers, boyfriend, girlfriend…) who they don’t want to disappoint even more. That relationship will easily trump this type of change.

4. Jesus as a divine loophole.

The main idea: Jesus did it and you should too, but if you don’t He will forgive you!
The problem: This approach can be combined with any of the previous three. This weakens the message of the Gospel and the power of grace. C.S. Lewis said that grace is the distinctive term of the Christian faith. Either the grace of God is the most powerful change force for mankind, or we’re hopeless. The “get-out-of-jail-free card” approach to grace doesn’t communicate that.
The result: Some teenagers will come to see Jesus as nothing more than the great eraser. They do whatever they want and come to Him hoping He can hit the reset button for them. It makes them feel better, but it doesn’t invite them into the story of the Gospel. Eventually they won’t believe it; they’ll believe they’ve fallen too far. Or they just won’t be drawn to a grace that is strong enough to forgive them when their hearts wander, but too weak to truly win their affections.

So how do we preach Jesus as the center? As the beginning and the end? How do we preach the Gospel as the good news it is? How do we show that all of the Scriptures and all of history exist to reveal Jesus?

I’ve heard Tim Keller reveal his answers to these important questions:

1) Preach the principles in the text. Go ahead, point out how we should live, what type of character we should have and use the stories or the teachings to strengthen your points. (This is where most messages end!)

2) Explain why they’ll never do it. Don’t just go after the behavior but go after the root: the lack of belief or the lie behind the behavior. This is also your chance to critique both irreligion AND religion. Show how even the religious can be wrong in their hearts despite being right in their behavior.

3) Preach the One who did it! Show Jesus to be the one who kept the law and preach his supremacy over every issue. Make him beautiful to the listener so that the very affections of their hearts can be realigned.

4) Teach students how to rest in the truth of the Gospel. Teach them how to rejoice in the truth that Jesus both lived perfect for them and died shamed for them. Pray that the Holy Spirit will melt and move their hearts with the power of the Gospel. Trust in the truth that Jonah learned in the belly of the big fish: salvation is of God.

Question: What are the primary questions you use to evaluate your messages?

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