Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World

51KjG3d-XpL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I recently read Brock Morgan’s book Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World. In the book Brock discusses the major shifts we have experienced in our culture over the past couple of decades and how that has affected the students we work with in youth ministry. Because the world is a different place, by necessity, how we relate to and minister to students must change. Many of the ways we did ministry just a decade ago are no longer effective, and the expectations we had of students and our programs are no longer valid. But rather than sit back and miss the good ole’ days of youth ministry, Brock offers us a fresh perspective and a hopeful way forward.

One of the things that stood out to me in the book was the recognition that there seems to be a sad increase in the number of youth workers being fired these days. While there are certainly very legitimate reasons that some are released, more often than not, it is due to the perceived inability of the youth leader to get large numbers of students to come out to their programs. Morgan makes the astute observation that many of the senior pastors and supervisors in the church today were either youth workers or students themselves in the 80s and 90s when it seemed that all one had to do was offer pizza and some messy, crazy games, and kids from all over the community would come out to youth ministry programs en mass. In that era, success was defined in terms of numbers. What many overseers and decision makers today often fail to recognize is that those days are long over.

At the National Youth Worker’s Convention I attended last week, Dr. Kara Powell noted: “When I was a youth leader in the 80s and 90s, parents would call and ask us to have more activities for their students. Now when parents call, it is to apologize that their students can’t come because of they’re too busy.” In the book, Morgan does not suggest that counting is unimportant or that we should just resign ourselves to running programs no one will come to. Rather, he challenges us to change what we are counting. Success in today’s youth ministry should be measured much less in terms of attendance at our events, and much more in terms of individual care, how often we are getting out of our offices and connecting with students one-on-one or on campus, how we are encouraging and helping students become authentic members of the larger church body, how we are getting students involved in compassion and justice, how we are investing in families … These are things that matter and have lasting impact in students’ lives.

He also calls on youth workers to remember that we are engaged in a spiritual battle, and that as people on the front lines contending for the hearts of a generation, we need to be doing battle on our knees in prayer, and we need to be living in purity. Whenever there have been significant moves of God throughout history, the leaders were people devoted to passionate, faith-filled prayer and right, God-honoring living. Youth leaders must remain faithful to their primary calling of ministering before the Lord. Our ministry to students must overflow from our intimacy with the Father.

I highly recommend this book. I am looking forward to having Brock speak to our entire youth leadership team, and perhaps even our entire church leadership team. I believe he has a word for the church in our generation.

10 Things We Are Thankful For After Serving on Thanksgiving

IMG_8381Today our family decided to do something new for Thanksgiving. We drove into the Bronx and partnered with our friends Reggie and Ibelsa Stutzman and Real Life Church to serve food and distribute clothing to about 1,000 people. On our way home I asked the family to list things we could give thanks to God for that we observed during our serving experience today. Here’s what we came up with:

Generosity. It was incredible to see how much food, clothing, toiletries, toys, etc. was donated to help and bless those in need.

Volunteers. Seeing about 100 people selflessly give of their time in order to serve others when they likely had their own families and plans to attend to was a testament to the kindness of humanity.

Team work. Those serving were from Real Life Church, other churches, community groups, and individuals (some who simply Googled places to serve and found Real Life’s outreach). Without even knowing each other, people quickly found places to work and did their best to work together to make it a great experience.

Unity in Diversity. In a moment in our nation’s history where there is once again, sadly, a polarizing tension over the issue of race, it was beautiful to be in a place where people of many different races were together simply sharing, working together, and expressing thanksgiving.

Vision. All of this was happening in Hunts Point today because Pastor Reggie and Ibelsa have a vision to see their community transformed by the love of Jesus.

Leadership. Their vision is not just sitting on the shelf. They are actively out in their community demonstrating courageous leadership despite the many obstacles they face.

A Holistic Gospel. I am so grateful that Real Life Church recognizes their calling to minister to the whole person. They don’t just meet in their church and engage in spiritual mental exercises or have spiritual experiences while ignoring the felt needs of their community. Nor do they simply meet people’s physical needs without addressing their spiritual needs. Today they were feeding people, clothing people, sharing the Good News with people, and praying with people. I also know that they actively help people get connected to organizations that can help them overcome addiction and substance abuse issues, relationship issues, immigration issues, and more. God cares about our physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual needs. They preach a whole Jesus for the whole person.

A Servant’s Heart. During our car ride home we talked about how we had gone to serve with the thought that we would be serving food. When we arrived, however, the food duties were pretty well covered. We ended up in the back room sorting clothing donations. Some people might have been discouraged and left, but I was so proud of our girls for embracing a servant’s heart that said, “We aren’t here to do what we want to do, we are here to do whatever is needed.” Everybody loves to do the “sexy” jobs, to give to the “sexy” projects and organizations. But as followers of Jesus, we are called to follow His example of humility and service (John 13:1-17) that says I serve an audience of One (Matthew 6:1-4).

The Body of Christ. We thank God for the Church – the body of Christ. We so appreciate our friends laboring in the Bronx, their desire to be connected with other churches and Christians, and the opportunity we had to join with them to love people in the name of Jesus today. We look forward to more ministry together.

Faith and Prayer. As we were leaving Hunts Point, we drove by Platinum Pleasures. It is a strip club that no longer in business. Pastor Reggie and his church have been praying and believing God to do a miracle and allow them to be able to buy the building as the new home for Real Life Church. I am always so encouraged by their vision to see a place where so much darkness has happened transformed into a beacon of light for Jesus Christ, and their faith to believe that God can do it. They are regularly holding prayer and worship services outside of the club on the sidewalk, calling for heaven to kiss earth on this street corner, and as we drove by today, we joined our prayers with theirs. Will you join them as well? They only need 1 million dollars. Yes, I said ONLY. It’s nothing for a building in the Bronx, and it is nothing for our God who owns the whole earth and all of its resources. If you want to be a part of the Miracle in Hunts Point, you can donate here.

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The Dream Has Come True!

Today, after months and months of prayer and hard work, our daughter Natalia’s dream of starting the first-ever Christian Club at Roslyn Middle School came true! They had 11 students there for their first meeting, and they all left saying they had a good time. We are very thankful to the school administration for their support, to Mrs. Marx for supporting the club as their advisor, and to Emma Rucci and Long Island Youth For Christ for their guidance in walking Natalia through the process of getting the club started. We are SOOOO proud of our daughter who is such a courageous leader. Yeah God! Way to go Natalia! You are making an impact and leaving a legacy!

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