It's the Best Kept Secret
I started a teaching series last week called, It's the Best Kept Secret. This week, I want to share this series as a study, so I am going back through the material and reshaping it as a daily study. My hope is that as you think about your relationship with Jesus Christ, you might also consider how you live for him. So I hope this helps you as you chase after Jesus.
What does it look like to live a balanced healthy life, a life that passionately chases after the things of God? What does it look like to live a life of worship? How does one grow as a disciple? And when it comes to ministry, how do you serve those around you?
Like many church leaders, I was drawn to the idea that there was some miraculous method or model to inspire and accomplish growth. I wanted to see growth in both my personal spiritual life and growth in my ministry. So I read books, a lot of books. And I went to seminars, a lot of seminars. And I hoped, boy did I hope that I would find the secret that I though some many already knew.
I read books like...
- The Purpose Driven Youth Ministry, Doug Fields…
- Sustainable Youth Ministry, Mark DeVries…
- Thriving Youth Ministry in Smaller Church, Rick Chrome...
- The Purpose Driven Church, Rick Warren…
- Leading with Love, Alexander Strauch…
- Spiritual Leadership, J. Oswald Sanders…
- Evangelism Explosion, D James Kennedy…
- Radical, David Platt…
- Multiply, Francis Chan…
- The Church Planter, Darrin Patrick…
- The Irresistible Church, Wayne Cordeiro…
- Simple Church, Thom S Rainer and Eric Geiger…
- 7 Practices of Effective Ministry, Andy Stanley, Reggie Joinier, Lane Jones…
- Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, Mark Dever…
- The Power of a Whisper, Bill Hybels…
- The Circle Maker, Mark Batterson…
- Verticle Church, James MacDonald…
[ If you would like to read these books, CLICK HERE for links to both digital and printed copies. ]
Now these aren’t books that I’ve just read. These are books that I have studied, dissected and pondered over. I was amazed by the stories that told of tremendous growth and ministry. Stories of how churches jumped from a handful of worshipers to the gathering of thousands celebrating together in weekly worship.
With each book, I kept looking for some secret ingredient, a model or structure, a particular strategy or look, a common tread that ran through each church or growth story, something that would spark the growth in what I was doing. And after years of looking and studying, I think it’s safe to say, I found it. But to my surprise, I didn’t find it in any of these books. Despite all the experience, know-how, stories, methods, and models, the answer to my deep quest for understand the church and church growth wasn’t found in any of the books I read.
In fact, it all comes down to not a method or a model, not even a strategy or a vision statement. It comes down to what we see happening in the early church as it is shared in Acts 2:42-47. So let's look at Acts 2:42-47.
Acts 2:42-47 English Standard Version (ESV)
The Fellowship of the Believers
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (ESV)
We see something special in the early church. Something that if we look close enough, we too will see. Growth doesn't comes because of a model or a method or a strategy. Growth comes as we pursue three things.
Worship. Discipleship. Ministry
To Think About...
Worship. Discipleship. Ministry.
How would you define these terms based simply on what you understand as you consider the concept of WORSHIP, DISCIPLESHIP and MINISTRY. Print out the .pdf using the link below and answer the simple questions provided and keep them with your bible.
See you tomorrow.
It has been a long time practice of mine to schedule, organize, and publish a yearly student ministry calendar. This planning takes place in the late spring early summer of the year and launches at the start of the new school year. Typically, I plan for September through the end of July. This past year, I did what I've done for years. But for the first time (maybe the very first time) I am facing significant calendar changes.
Good planning is crucial to your student ministry. Even more crucial is communicating your plans so that you can maximize people, budgets, time, and dates. Early in my career I made it a habit to plan out the entire student ministry calendar and have it ready for parents at the start of the new school year. This advanced planning allowed me to lay out the year, compare it with the church calendar, lay claim to some important dates and church space, and provided parents the heads up time to schedule vacations, trips, and activities around what I was hoping to do with the student ministry.
While not fool-proof, having the calendar ready in advance helped to navigate a number of would be calendar conflicts and set us up for a good year of ministry. Sure there were the eventual conflicts, cancelations, postponements, and rescheduling. That's going to happen. Ministry is alive and breathing and there will be conflicts. But if you can reduce those conflicts, well, ministry becomes a little easier.
There were cheers and applause, congratulations and thank you's as the parents expressed their appreciation for such a well thought out calendar. Everyone seem delighted by the effort, and I, well, I loved knowing that my year was set. That is until we crossed into the new calendar year.
At a staff meeting in early January, we pulled out the church calendar and looked at January through April. Within a matter of minutes, I saw my well thought out calendar go from a work of art to a mess of conflicts and potential cancelations. While it could have been worse, I have at least one full month of student meeting that were going to need to be completely rescheduled. Completely rescheduled!!
My first thought...this wasn't fair! I spent hours, days, WEEKS working on my calendar, why should I have to be the one who has to change everything? Hey, I'm human. But fortunately, my years of experience spoke up, and I began to see not the conflict, but an opportunity.
There will always be times in our ministries where our plans will collide with the rest of the church. Since most of us work in smaller churched where space and people are shared, we will always run into conflicts over dates, times, rooms, and even people. But here are three quick reminders to help us as we work through the pitfalls of calendar planning.
1. Plan in Advance!
Whether you plan out your student ministry calendar 3 months, 6 months or even 12 months in advance, you need to be planning in advance. Long range planning is what many business and organizations do. It helps them to see where they are going, what's coming up next, and allows you to forecast and plan your budget and resources.The further out you are able to plan, the better you are.
I like to look at the entire year. It helps me think about activities, themes, teaching series, and the types of trips we will take. I find that I have the time to make sure what we're looking to do aligns with our purpose and direction. I am able to ask questions, bring in ideas from other church leaders, parents and students. I can set aside budget money, or look for new sources of support to cover costs. (This proved super helpful this past year in that I was able to go before our Stewardship Team and share some plans we were making for the new year, while identifying some new costs and expenses. That meeting led to a significant increase in funds to help cover those new costs. I'll share more in an upcoming blog post.)
Your plans don't have to be concrete. They can be flexible and tentative, but do your best to be as accurate and complete as possible. And that leads us to our next thought.
2. Be Flexible!
No one will ever be able to create a ministry calendar and not have any changes. It's impossible! There will always be conflict. People are creatures of change, thus our plans change all the time. In student ministry, we're dealing with a lot of different people and a lot of different calendars. From families within the church and community, to the church calendar, to school calendars, to athletic calendars, to even your own, personal calendar (which you need to keep track of, by the way) there are a lot of potential conflicts. So learn to be flexible!
Yes, it is super helpful to give parents a yearly ministry calendar, but the reality is, that calendar is going to change! So make it a tentative calendar, subject to change as the year moves on. Let people know that there will be changes, cancelations, postponements, and reschedules. And ask that they be as flexible as you will be when this conflicts arise.
3. Communicate the Change!
This is probably one of the more important thoughts, communicate the change! It's easy for us to sit in our offices look at the calendar and reschedule your events. What's harder is communicating the change so that everyone is on the same page!
When conflicts arise, remember to communicate the changes. Notify parents and students of the conflict, give a short reason for the change and update them with the necessary information. The trick, however, is in HOW you communicate. Hopefully you have a communication plan in place that helps you disseminate information. So whether it's through email, a newsletter, a text message, or by making 50 phones calls, make sure you are communicating the change.
It would be great if we never ran into a calendar conflict. But the reality is, conflict and change is inevitable. So go with the change. Be as organized and on top of things as possible, but when conflict and change come, just go with it.
For me, I am replacing most of my March and April. And instead of complaining about the conflicts, I'm looking for ways that the conflict might bless or add to our overall ministry strategy. In some cases, the conflicts are because of congregational activities that the students might not otherwise participate in. So instead of separating our student ministry out of the event, we're looking to become part of the event with the hopes of building a stronger bond between the student ministry and the congregation! And that, I believe, is a great thing!
This past Sunday, I had the opportunity to preach at Hickory United E.P. Church, where I serve as the Youth Director. I always love when I get to bring God's word to the church. But on this particular Sunday, I was a little more excited as usual. They 'Why,' I will share in another blog post. But for now, I just want to share the recorded presentation.
I originally preached a similar message in January at another church. And while I don't like reusing preaching material, I felt the Lord leading me to share from this passage again. It turns out, the Spirit had something to say. These words were timely and appropriate.
So please, listen to the podcast. My prayer is that you too would be challenged and encouraged as you live out your faith.