If you look around, there are many things to be thankful for. The beauty of life, the ability to bless others, for all of God’s promises, for the simple yet meaningful things of life that often go overlooked. But until you get your focus off of the negative, your vision will be blocked from seeing the positive. And until you see the positive, you will not see the abundant life God is trying to lead you to. Negative vision stirs negative results, every time. Positive vision stirs up the vision God has for your life, every time.
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Intergenerational ministry has been getting a lot of attention in the church and in the youth ministry world in the last couple of years, and for good reason! It is a very important element when guiding teens through discipleship. Books, articles, and youth ministry speakers have all begun to share ideas and philosophies on how important this process is in keeping teens involved with the church family as a whole. While this is encouraging and inspirational I believe many of us ask the question, where do we begin?
About four years ago my church began to focus on being a better church family while promoting the idea of doing more intergenerational ministry. We still have age specific ministries, like youth ministry and others, but the leadership meets regularly to discuss the larger vision and how we can all work together to achieve this as the church body.
I noticed that we got really good about making committees. You know what I mean… Talking about, and promoting the importance of, intergenerational ministry… but I came to realize, I wasn’t doing enough to implement it. This conviction led me to start brainstorming with our Prime Time Ministries Pastor (60+ age group). He wanted to do something special for National Grandparents Day, and I knew just the thing. Our student music team had been playing quite a few traditional hymns and our older church members love to have hymn sings. So I suggested (albeit quite nervously), that the youth and Prime Time Ministry work together to host an all-church hymn sing. At first, I was skeptical of my own idea, I thought it might fail, but I took a risk and jumped toward this idea.
The Prime-timers really jumped on board, however, and in the end, we had a packed out event of people of all ages singing and worshiping God – eating together, praying together, and singing hymns of praise to God together. This event was a huge success; one member even said it reminded them of the old big tent revivals. This ended up being a great intergenerational event that all age groups enjoyed and are still talking about today.
So how do you begin to do more intergenerational ministry in a youth ministry context? Our church is brainstorming the same question, and based on what we’ve been discussing, I would suggest the following:
1. Pray, brainstorm and meet with other ministry leaders in your church that work with different age groups.
2. Be Creative – Be willing to come up with new ideas that you have never done before. It does not have to be a hymn sing, think of something that might work well in your church context and go for it. Involve groups of varying age and let them all have their voice.
3. Do Something – I think we often talk about great ideas, but we need to start acting on these ideas. Just go for it, if it does not go well at least you are moving in the right direction.
Kevin Klas has been in youth ministry for 10 years. He is currently the director of student ministries at Lake City Community Church in Lakewood, WA.
Our church just has made a transition to buying a new piece of land where we will be meeting. But currently we are using the existing building on the new property for offices and youth space while we sell the old building to help us fund tearing this new building down to build a new church building.
You do not have to be a youth worker very long before you’ll face some sort of adversity. The adversity can come from a direct report, a parent, a volunteer and it can even come from students. There are some places adversity comes from that hurts more than others and is harder I have Two Truth’s I remind myself about adversity, you WILL have adversity and you WILL have to handle it well.
Here are some suggestions as to how we as youth workers can handle moments of adversity directly related to ministry:
Do not react based on emotions:
When we are caught off guard, blindsided or wounded our reactions to people can be hostile, defensive and even full of non-graced filled moments. We do not have to be bullied and we don’t have to roll over, but we do need to be cautious with our response. Like it or not we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard of how we react. How we react always has a ripple effect to a larger audience and taking time to process how we should react may radical affect our ministry voice to a larger audience.
Be careful of the voices we listen to;
The voices that bring adversity to us are only one type of voice. Bring people into our life and ministry settings that can be honest & non-biased. Let them speak into the situation or circumstances we are facing and give us some broader perspective. The voice that is coming to us may be coming from a place of frustration, insecurity or even fear but they aren’t necessarily a reflection of what should be happening.
Our Pace of Life is important;
When we are trying to save the world, and let’s be honest we all get suckered into a place of trying to accomplish everything, we get busy and our priorities get out of line. We need to take a step back & take a breath. We need to breathe in the truth that God is still God and we are not. We need to take in a breath to remind ourselves that business does not equate health. We need to take in a breath and take in a breath often. Taking on adversity when we are stressed and overwhelmed is not a good recipe.
Jesus values us, even if we are in the wrong;
When the adversity we face is because of a mistake we have made it is hard to work through. But even in our own leadership or sinful mistakes Jesus has love and grace ready for us. We can learn, we can grow and we can continue to be transformed by the Holy Spirit.
Adversity will impact us at many points in a ministry year. My prayer is that you have the ability with key people around you to help you walk through it and remain healthy.
It is hard choosing to someone who doesn’t love you back but so easy to love someone who already loves you. As I sit back and observe, I witness this happen far too often. Our flesh is naturally drawn to people who already love and accept us. But we are not called to be loved by people. We are loved by God, called to love people.
“We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” (1 John 4:16) Our trust is in His love for us. We should be eager for God’s love and for a relationship with Him. Every day, we should open our Bibles to read about the love He has specifically for you and me. His love is eternal, forever more. He is our creator and has designed us out of love. He is love.
Once you grasp this, you will realize that even though people may fail you, people may not be kind to or like you, God still loves you! The creator of the entire universe…loves you. And when He is on your side, there is not one single person (who likes you or not) that can obstruct God’s plan for you! He is the almighty, sovereign One and you are His precious child whom He loves.
We should seek God’s love before going into the world to love others. Love will overflow from our hearts and reach the unloving. We will no longer seek love from others, but seek to give love to others. And that’s what it’s all about…LOVE! “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.” (John 15:12) And the way to do that is to seek God’s love first!
I challenge you to get so filled up with the love of God that His love overflows into the lives around you and touches them in a mighty and powerful way!!
Ashley Fordinal is the Children’s Church volunteer at Family Life Church in Sulphur Springs, TX.
I’m a fan of Strength Finder tests. I don’t think they are the most comprehensive approach to who we are as leaders but every time I’ve take one it’s unique to see what stands out. One of those traits has always been a learner. I like to learn, process & apply ideas and strategies. As with youth ministry we as youth workers have a great setting that allows us to test a lot of different strategies and implement what’ll work the best for our unique setting, church setting & micro-culture of students.
A truth is when we implement something it is usually because something else wasn’t working. I know for me there are times where removing or altering with an aspect of a program be it large group, small groups, specific events, leadership development or anything else. If I’m able to see it at a deeper level I need to see if the Gospel is really the foundation it moves out of.
I’ll confess that I find it easy for myself as a youth worker to think strategy & implementation of ideas and forget that when we cast a net too wide trying to tackle to many things we are not able to always keep a clear communication as to how the Gospel bleeds out of what we are doing.
A simple question we ask student leaders & adult leaders is “How does this [program element] reflect the Gospel clearly?”. It’s interesting to always here the feedback as well as the discussion that follows as these become prime team collaboration time to be sure the main thing stays the main thing.
There is also a deeper truth that is revealed in these moments about my role & leadership. If people are unclear as to why a certain program element matters and how it helps us further a gospel living mindset in students then I’ve done a poor job communicating and leading that fact.
What if you dug into a variety of ministry components in your ministry? Would you see the gospel as a foundation or a sidepiece? When was the last time you asked key leaders to help you evaluate part of the ministry using the filter of “How is the Gospel reflected clearly for students in this?”.
When The Five Love Languages was all the rage, I bought a copy, thinking it would be a great book for my husband and I to read together.
True confession: We never did.
A decade later I can tell you – even without ever having read the book – that words of affirmation are my love language.
I am a words person. I love to read and write so the fastest way to my heart is through words – especially written words.
Since words of affirmation are my love language, I naturally assume they’re also everyone else’s love language. As a result, I frequently take time to send my students’ encouragement notes – handwritten notes I mail to their houses that in some way affirm who they are.
This comes naturally to me; It’s something I view as an important part of my job. What comes far less naturally is encouraging and affirming the parents of my students.
The irony is that the longer I’ve been in youth ministry, the more I’ve realized that in truth, parents need affirmation far more than their teens.
I know, as youth workers, we’re often convinced ours is the most thankless job in the world. In reality, though, that honor goes to parents, whose own kids rarely, if ever, thank, encourage, or affirm them. For that matter, nor do their kids’ teachers. Most often, parents assume communication from their child’s school means their kid is in trouble.
For this, and so many other reasons, as youth workers, we need to affirm parents.
I was reminded of this just the other day when I took time to do so after one of my student leaders led an incredible discussion. During her discussion, this student did everything right: She did her research, was well-prepared, and led the discussion like a veteran, with a grace and ease I rarely see in teens. Her peers responded, participating incredibly well in a moment during which you could tangibly feel the presence of God. What made the discussion even more remarkable was that a year ago, I was at my wit’s end with this student and so were her parents.
The day after this student led her discussion, I sent her mom an e-mail describing her daughter’s leadership. I ended by saying, “I’m so proud of her.”
Minutes later, I got this response from her parent: “Thank you so much!!!! I am crying right now, but tears of happiness.”
In that moment, I realized words of affirmation are not just my love language; They’re also the love language of parents. Through them, we can encourage parents to persevere in discipling their child.
As it turns out, intentionally affirming parents may very well be the most effective form of parent ministry we can do.
Jen Bradbury has been in youth ministry for 11 years. She’s the youth director at Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, IL. Her writing has appeared in YouthWorker Journal, The Christian Century, and Immerse. She blogs at ymjen.com
One of the most and least popular Sunday school classes I ever taught involved a lot of mud. “Most” popular, I say, because the students always remembered it. “Least” popular, because their parents weren’t all that happy with the results.
Early on Sunday morning, I walked out onto the church lawn with a hose. This was one of those formal churches, where the girls where frilly dresses and the boys wore handsome suits. On the front lawn of the church that day, I made a mud puddle. And by “puddle,” I mean lake. When the students arrived, I told them to take off their shoes and splash through the mud. There was mud everywhere. There was mud on their dresses and mud on their suits, mud between their toes and mud in their hair. However, it was all a necessary baptism into the world of clear thinking.
“If there is no God,” I told them, “this is where you came from.” I observed that a sheerly material world could produce nothing but highly-evolved mud. We might have all kinds of fascinating, highly developed traits, like language, cognition, and the ability to scratch our tummies while rubbing our heads, but at the heart of things, we were simply mud. “And if this is all we are, there is no reason why you shouldn’t treat other people like you are treating this mud.”
For the students, it was a living object lesson that they would not forget. For their parents, who had to let these muddy children into their cars, well…sometimes the youth pastor just has to apologize.
But what we caught in our little parade across the lawn was a visual representation of the moral argument. If there is no God, then fundamentally, morality amounts to little more than socialization, peer pressure, and meaningless instincts. Though an atheist could construct a reasonable explanation for kin altruism, at the end of the day, the sense for any innate or objective moral value attributable to humanity is simply a misfiring of neurons. Evolution may have produced in us a sense for teamwork so that we might survive, but true, objective moral value is simply an illusion.
I find when I present this argument in abstract terms in an apologetics seminar that I offer to churches, there is often a rational pushback from Christians and skeptics alike. It seems like atheists should be able to hold onto morality, since so many of them seem to behave morally. But when I present it in terms of the mud puddle, the dire consequences of atheism and materialism become hard to refute.
I hope that more than a few church youth leaders read this post and go make mud puddles of their own. The moral argument is likely to be on the forefront of Christian apologetics in the coming decades. If we’re not confronting students with the stark alternatives to faith, they may never realize how important the choice is.
Rev. Dr. James W. Miller is the author of Hardwired: Finding the God You Already Know and the Pastor of Glenkirk Church in Los Angeles, CA.
When I first made the decision to begin choosing my friends more wisely, it was tough to part ways with my past, but I knew it had to be done, not only for me, but for them as well. Although parting ways may hurt, it shouldn’t be viewed as selfish and inconsiderate. It should be viewed as a new beginning. In some circumstances, it allows both parties involved to grow stronger and wiser. Because sometimes, separation is what it takes to get out and explore other opportunities and possibilities that you never stopped to consider before.
As I said, parting ways may hurt. Even when done with consideration and care, some people involved may not be happy or take it the right way. I can relate to both sides, I have been the person parting ways and I have been the person being told it’s time to part ways. Let me tell you, it’s tough being on either side. You’ve shared so much with that person so it seems like you are losing a part of you. Time will tell that that is not the case when you decide it’s time to move on and do something with your life besides look back. You can’t move forward when you are looking back!
When you part ways with people in your life, you are separating yourself from what once was, you have a completely new beginning! You want to start that new beginning by focusing on healthy relationships built on following God and His plan. Cause His way is the way to life and light! Your relationship will thrive when based on Him and His way because you will both have the same desires in life. You will rock the nation when you have a friend on your side that has the same desires, vision and outlook on life!
When has it been hard for you to part ways with someone and how did it turn out for the better that you did?
Ashley Fordinal is the Children’s Church volunteer at Family Life Church in Sulphur Springs, TX.
There is no doubt about it, “Bad company ruins good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) At the beginning of time, God saw fit to warn us about this because whom we let into our lives, is who we become. It’s okay to minister to people and accept people for who they are, but it is another thing to invite those people into your inner circle of friends. Ministering to someone does not require sharing your innermost emotions and desires for your life, friendship does. Ministering to someone does not require sharing daily, everyday life with someone, friendship does. So you can still love people, accept and forgive and not bring them into your circle.
It was not until about three years ago that I started considering who my friends are. Because I am so accepting and forgiving, I allowed any and every one into my circle of friends. It was a series of experiences over time that gave me insight into the reality of the importance of choosing friends wisely. Friends have the ability to help you grow into the best person you can be, but they also have the ability to break you down. “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17) A friend should bring out the very best you, you can be! They should be supportive of your goals and desires, backing you 100%. They should work with you as a team, giving as much as they take. They should share the same values as you, and strive for excellence as well.
When you have friends like this, your ministry will thrive because you have someone to talk to about your victories and failures, and someone you can share your great ideas and not so great ideas with. Your friends will hold you accountable and even assist you in following through with your awesome ideas! When you have a friend/friends like this, you wake up every day with a sense of love and belonging because you know you have someone who’s got your back 100% and together, one step at a time, you can change the world!
How do you love, accept, and forgive people without letting them into your inner circle? Comment below!
Ashley Fordinal is the Children’s Church volunteer at Family Life Church in Sulphur Springs, TX.