Insta-Youth Ministry and Insta-Noodles

4 Steps to ensure your students are piping hot.

  1. Break youth ministry into programmed events. Pour in excited Youth Worker and boil for two minutes.
  2. Add entertainment to flavour.  All the taste of chicken without any actual chicken.
  3. Serve in 5 years time.
  4. CAUTION: Contents hot and may no longer be found in any Church.

    noodles

Advertisements

The iGeneration and Moral Individualists

As I’ve moved to a more tech-savvy part of the world where culture is heavily shaped by social media, advertising and the advance of technology targeted toward the individual consumer, I’ve come across a new term that helps explain how the iGeneration thinks.

Moral Individualists.

This is a term that refers to how young people think about truth.

For many years we’ve known the term Moral Relativists and we’ve helped our young people to see that there is Absolute Truth and not one set of truths for one person and another set of truths for another.

The idea of Moral Individualism takes that a step further.  No longer are young people believing that one person can hold a set of beliefs equally valid to their own different set of beliefs (moral relativism), but that a young person can hold two completely different and opposing set of beliefs themselves.

That means, they can believe that having sex with their boyfriend or girlfriend is wrong, but an hour later have sex with their girlfriend or boyfriend and not feel as if they’ve done nothing wrong, or contradicted their own previously mentioned belief and still hold to it.

Two pieces of key research

No commentary, just a couple of links to very recent research.  These aren’t at all written from Christian perspectives, but are very useful for anyone working (or living!) with teenagers today and wondering how the mobile phone affects their lives.

The first is presented by Google Research

https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/interactive-report/gen-z-a-look-inside-its-mobile-first-mindset/

The second a report from the NY Times

Things I’ve Learned and Things I still Hold to as a Youth Pastor #2

Continuing my series.  You can find the first one here.

Things I’ve learned

I’m a racist.  I’m sorry, but (and) it’s true.  I told some of my black friends today (lol – yes, I went there).  But seriously, the more I speak with white people and the more I hang out with black people, the more I realise I’m a racist.

Now, that word is filled with different meanings and definitions.  I’m a traditionalist.  I’m comfortable with dictionary definitions and I hate definitions that change to suit an agenda.  The word “racist” is one of those words.  I hate words like #whitesplaining and #whiteprivilege as I think they do more harm to the conversation than good.

I’ve never been racist in the traditional segregation/supremist sort of way.  No, that’s so 20 years ago.  But over the years I realised that I know nothing about black, South African people, who I pretend are my brothers and sisters in Christ.

I don’t know their language.  I don’t understand their culture.  I don’t understand their way of life.  I don’t understand their struggles.  I don’t understand their history.  I don’t understand their hair (that’s a joke).  But I pretend that we share the same love for this country, yet what is this country if it is not the people who reside in it?

Nothing else has eternal value other than the people that surround us.  

Now, as I’ve spoken with white and black friends about this all, one realises just how terribly messy a topic this is.  There are all sorts of things that people want to add to the conversation, from political stances to personal “I’m not racist, but…” (and who hasn’t been there, am I right?).

But there is one thing that continues to inspire change and hope in me. The Jesus that I believe in and His gospel that I profess publically talks about a Kingdom vision that transcends any discussion of this earth or its rulers and powers.  Over the past few years I’ve been challenged more and encouraged deeply by the concept of God bringing about Salvation for the nations, and at the end of our time when this earth is no more, the Throne of God will be surrounded by the nations; every nation.  Every tongue.  Every tribe. Every people group.  Every culture. Everyone that is different to me.  Now, if you hold racist tendencies (and I believe many of us still do), if you don’t think pursuing relationships with people different to you is worthwhile – Heaven is going to absolutely suck for you!  Because you are going to be surrounded by the different, and thank God for that.  Because unless Jesus came, only one people group had a chance – and it probably wasn’t you.

So for these past 4 years, I’ve been absolutely immersed into a culture different than mine.  It has challenged me, changed me and caused me to cherish the unique creation of God. In particular I have learned to love the Xhosa people and their cultures and customs.  Not everything.  In every culture there are things which are against God, mine included.  But there are beautiful things within the Xhosa culture that when met by the gospel transform it into a masterpiece reflecting the awesome hand of God, and He will use this beautiful culture to continue to spread His Gospel to all the peoples.  And I’m all the better for it.

What I’m Still Totally Convinced About

God cares more about who you are to Him than what you do for Him.  This is something I’ve been teaching for around 6 years now, and I’m more convinced of this than ever. Really it gets to the core of who we are: our identity.  Identity is the core of who we are.  It the question that every person has asked.  Who am I?  Where do I belong?  What is my purpose in life?

In Jesus we are made sons and daughters of a deeply loving God.  God has saved me, and therefore my utmost priority in life is not what I do for God, but rather who am I to God? Answer?  I am saved, sanctified and sent by God.  He has done, He is doing and He will do through me.  I am never more loved by Him than I am right now.

Here’s Romans 8 to bring the point home:
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:37-39)

Really all this boils down to two things:  I’m a sinner in need of a Savior.  Whatever superiority I’ve believed myself to have is null and void before the cross – thank God for that.  I am made free to serve Him without the chains of human history.  I am made free to give up whatever privilege or rights I’ve grown accustomed too.  I am made free to live in a better culture, a Kingdom culture that invites ALL cultures to sit together before His thrown, where one day we may join the Four Living Creatures and sing (in our various tongues, of course): Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.  Who Was, And Is, And Is To Come.

Soli Deo Gloria

Things I’ve learned and Things I still Hold to as a Youth Pastor #1

As I begin the countdown to leave First City Baptist Church (you can read about some of my work here), my thoughts have been rather reflective towards some of the lesson I’ve learned over the past (almost) 4 years, as well as some of the things I’ve become even more convinced about and still continue to hold on to.  As I close out my work here over the coming week, these next series of posts will seek to highlight some of these things.

What I’ve Learned

Love and Compassion are easy words to spout, but are far more profound in the practice of our ministries.  Jesus was compassionate.  It was a clear marker of His ministry to the crowds He preached to.  He was compassionate because they were lost sheep in need of a Saviour.  He was compassionate when they were full of sin.  He was with them in their sin.  He didn’t excuse sin, He never gave false senses of security in the midst of sin, but he was compassionate because he knew their sin was deeper than their actions.  He knew they were completely lost.  This becomes evident when we preach the Bible, do we say the truth with love and out of love.  Do we preach the truth with compassion?   I’ve learned somewhat to be a more compassionate person when ministring the Gospel – I know it may sound weird.  Isn’t that obvious?  Perhaps, but it’s taken me 13 years of ministry to begin to get that right.

What I’m Still Totally Convinced About

“How many Youth Workers does it take to change a lightbulb?”  None.  They’re not around long enough for bulb to burn out (and – they might burn out before the light bulb does!).

If there is something that I have tried to fight most in my time here, is the perception of youth ministry and age.  Why oh why do people think youth ministry is for junior gospel servants?  It boggles my mind.  Youth workers leave for 3 reasons:

  1. It’s a stepping stone to more senior ministry.  I’ll be honest, I have many quality friends who are in youth ministry who aren’t there for the long term.  They know they aren’t there for the long term, but youth ministry was a helpful stepping stone for them.  They’ve done great things in the groups they’ve served, but they’re leaving.  However, I really hope this trend ends, especially in South Africa where Youth Ministry is not taken that seriously.  Sometimes I even want to shout at my friends and tell them “Get out!”, we don’t need you here if you’re only here for your self.  Maybe a little unfair – but we desperately need older people to stay.  Young people need commitment, they need the wisdom and stability of the aged.  They don’t need their friend leading them.  They need you.
  2. Burn-Out.  Youth Workers are some of the busiest ministry leaders there are.  They are someb of the loneliest.  They are often young and are exposed to the sinfulness of others (without protection from their leaders) and exposed to the sinfulness of their own hearts (without the mentorship of their own leaders).  Youth workers need others to hold them to account, pray for them, protect them from abuse in the church, and need support from all areas, whether it’s adults in their leadership teams to social friendships that can take their minds of the ministry for a moment to generous friendships within the church that can bless them and give them rest.  It’s not a sin to rest, in fact, it’s a command from God.
  3. They’re not paid enough.  This is related to the first two.  And it’s horrible to put it into words.  No youth worker goes into ministry looking to be well paid.  What happens over time, however, is that the practical burdens of life accumulate and youth workers are left with no choice but to seek employment elsewhere.  They get married, have to pay off student loans, have kids, adopt, buy a home – but they cannot afford any of these things.  Churches are notorious for wanting the most out their youth worker for the least amount of buck.  I’ve read job descriptions of churches looking for youth workers and I’ve had to say to their leadership; “Are you seriously expecting one full-time worker to do all of that for that little pay?”  And sadly the answer is often “Yes.”

Church leaders, you need to understand that Youth Ministry is a serious job.  Up your game, invest in ministries to young people and invest in those working with young people. You will have stronger, more faithful youth ministries because of it.  Your church will benefit and you’ll be faithful to both the scriptures, your staff and the people you seek to serve.

 

Summer Camp, Race and Worldviews

This is a thought-dump.  The last couple of weeks have been beautifully busy.  Here we go:

Our annual SUMMER CAMP was themed DIVERSCITY, a topic that sought to speak right at the heart of the many conflicts happening in our country, cities and youth groups right now.  Brain Koela of Common Ground in Cape Town did a superb job of taking our young people through the Bible and speaking God’s timeless truth on cultures, the Human Race (just one) and the future vision of the church (every tribe, tongue and nation before the throne of God).

In particular I was blessed by own multi-cultural youth group, their wisdom far surpassing the leaders of our country right now.  I want to continue to sit with them as we discover our creator God together, in the fellowship of the Spirit that unites us under the Lordship of Jesus.

Whilst at Summer Camp I was blessed to share a workshop on Worldviews.  In particular my aim was to speak with those heading off to university next year.  Here’s the best of it: We like to live as Unicorns.  We take the Tusk of Narwahl and we place it on a Horse – BAM! Unicorn.  Except Unicorns don’t exist.  We can’t live as Kingdom citizens if we’re still partaking in Earthly customs.  We live in a Non-Christian World, been brought up by Non-Christianity and we think that the ideas borne of the world are good for us or the world?  No.  The world will want you to choose personal happiness above God’s call for holiness.  Holiness means foresaking what might bring you temporal happiness for eternal, ever-lasting Joy.

Thank goodness Summer Camp is a temporary place.  It’s a great place for focussed time and discussions on God, where we can worship Him intensly.  But it isn’t our home.  We can’t do that forever.  It’s temporary.  Like Summer Camp the earth, the world is not our home.  Its temporary.  Let’s live with Heaven minded, as aliens in a foreign land, ambassadors to what the Kingdom of God is like to the Glory of our God and King.

Saying “I’m proud of you” to your young people.

I dislike participation awards.  Don’t you?

We don’t want to hurt little Johnny’s feelings when he loses, so we give him an award anyway.  Participation awards.  Well done, you can breathe.

When last did you praise one of your young people?  Have you ever used the words “I’m proud of you”?

One of the most powerful things you can say to a young person is “I’m proud of you.”  And genuinely mean it too.  Don’t just say it.  Mean it.  It’s easy.  Just find opportunities where your young person does something that makes you proud.  Then tell them.  Hey, I’m really proud of you.”

Why?

Because most of our young people have never heard these words in any meaningful way. Either they have been overpraised and given participation awards since birth for doing the simplest of tasks to which point up until their teenage years they just think they’re best. Or they’ve never been praised for anything.  They’ve never been told their existance is meaningful.  That what they do matters.  That WHO they are, matters.

1 Corinthians 15:58  “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

Just prior to this verse Paul speaks of the death of death, and there is this beautiful picture of how the eternal victory that Christ has won for us, the imperishable and immortal trophies that Christ places over our perishable-mortalness.  We are destined for death but His life is made manifest in and over our own lives and then Paul’s words to us to be steadfast, immovable, consumed by Gospel fervour and knowing that what we do in this life matters eternally!  What we do matters to God.  Who we are matters to God and we do not labour in vain!

Ordinarily, to tell your young person that you are “proud of them” will do wonders for their emotional health.  But as you seek to disciples your young people, seek out the moments that matter eternally.

When they confess sin – praise their confession.
When they state their victories over temptation – praise their victory.
When they mention some good deed – praise their work.

And none of this for self-glory – always make it clear that it is “God who works in us and through us for His good purposes” Phil. 2:13.  Always point their praise to God not themselves – but you praise God and them.  They need to know that they’re doing ok.

Although I’m not partial to participation awards, there is one that I’m super grateful for.  It’s the one where Jesus won the victory that I could never win and then allows me to participate.  I long for the day when he will say to me Well done good and faithful servant, and we can help our young people to live in that reality now – pursuing the things of Christ until that day when the King will tell them:  “I’m proud of you.  Well done for trusting in my Son, the centre of my pride.”