Perspective Provides Purpose

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:14

fall pond

Recently I went back to my hometown in the UK to see my mother.

Just over a year ago she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She has deteriorated quite quickly since. While she still knows who I am, there will come a day when she no longer can grasp simple realities.

As I spent time with her, I cherished simple conversations and made the most of asking questions that her longterm memory still allows her to recall. There were questions I had never thought to ask before, and things I knew I needed to say while we still had precious time together.

Spending time with a parent who is slowly deteriorating certainly has a way to bring things into perspective.

So, here is a question I leave you to consider: 

If you knew your time on earth was limited, what would you do differently? Why not start today? 

Phil <><

 

 

photo credit: David Paul Ohmer via photopin cc

Please Pray for Veteran Youth Worker and Friend, Byron Porisch

Twelve years ago a veteran youth worker took a chance on a young inexperienced British guy and asked him to come and work and study youth ministry in Ann Arbor, MI. My life has forever changed because someone saw potential in me. Today, I would like to ask you to pray for the guy who gave me a start in youth ministry.

Byron Porisch

Recently, he has been diagnosed with Glioblastoma multiforme, which is a form of cancer represented by tumors in the brain. While Byron has great peace in all of this, I would ask you to pray for him and his family as they navigate through many new challenges.

Byron is the kind of guy who is Kingdom minded and there are so many youth workers in fulltime ministry today who came through under Byron’s leadership. He’s invested so much into 30+ years of ministry, let’s invest time to pray for him…

Here’s a video I posted on Byron’s Facebook page. You can like the page too, and stay up to date on how he is doing. Most of all, please pray for him and his family. Write a note on the wall and let them know where you are from. (They have a prayer map going… It’s pretty awesome).

Thanks for listening… Thanks for praying…

Phil

What Youth Ministry Needs More Of In 2013

In the previous post Darren, John, Leneita, and myself, gave four opinions of what youth ministry needs LESS of in 2013. If you are like me, it’s easy to talk about what is broken in youth ministry. But what can we do MORE of? Today, we’ll give you four candid opinions of what we think could benefit youth ministry in 2013. Once again, these are opinions based on what we see in the youth ministry landscape. They are not meant to offend or upset, just challenge you to consider… Feel free to comment and add your opinion too!

Youth Ministry 2013 Read more

What Youth Ministry Needs Less Of In 2013

I hate the idea that what I am doing is creating a barrier for students hearing the Gospel and growing in their faith. As the four of us, (Darren, John, Leneita, and myself), have surveyed the youth ministry landscape, here are our personal opinions of what youth ministry needs less of in 2013. These are our personal opinions and are not meant to hurt or offend. Please know that we are simply sharing what we see as we look back and look forward this year. We hope to spark some good conversation and add some of your comments to this discussion…

Youth Ministry

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3 Healthy Ways to Start Your New Year in Ministry: Part 2

In my previous post I shared some insights from Hebrews 12 and the importance of realizing we are not alone in ministry. Often ministry can feel like we are isolated and it feels impossible to hang in for the long-term. Realizing the countless ministry heroes who have gone before us, as well as seeking out the veterans of today, goes a long way to help us stay encouraged when we have “those days.”

Today, I want to focus on a second healthy way to start out the new year in ministry:

Get Rid of Excess Baggage:  let us throw off everything that hinders… Hebrews 12:1

The Complex and Absurd of Ministry: One of the greatest challenges I see for youth workers is the natural tendency to allow our lives and ministry to be overly complex and absurdly busy. Many youth workers wear this badge with pride, and I have often been one of those people. However, as time goes by, I am seeing the foolishness in chasing after every opportunity and every latest trend.

The Hebrew Christians had begun to move away from their dependence on God’s grace through Jesus and had become increasingly focused on Jewish rituals, traditions, and backsliding to old habits. In many ways, I see a similar principle played out in ministry, and it is to the detriment of our personal walk with God, and ultimately the shepherding of students… We often depend too much on traditions, familiar ways, and our personal dependence on ourselves…

Here’s what I am considering this new year: 

Dependence on Programs, Systems, and Self! It’s easy to focus more on a program or system, than the power of God and His wisdom to guide us… It’s easy to get stuck in traditions and familiar ways of doing ministry instead of seeking God’s immediate best… It’s easy to depend on our own skills, work longer hours and become driven by certain results… In the long-term, they can squeeze out our dependence on God and His specific focus for our ministry… How much is my ministry defined by traditions, familiarity, and systems, rather than stepping back to seek God’s leading? 

Before you rush in to 2012 and fall back to the familiar, take some time to step back to survey what needs to be thrown out…

What are some of the things that are hindering you and your ministry?

Phil <><


Family Focused Student Ministry – Part 3: Volunteers

In my previous post I talked about how a successful ministry goes hand in hand with a leaders who care well for their own family. Today I want to talk about the importance of caring well for volunteer leaders and supporting a healthy family focus for them too. Many of them work full-time, or have teenagers of their own and busy lives. Therefore, it’s imperative that I create an environment that is conducive to healthy family ministry for them too…

I could start by telling you what I do to promote a healthy family focus for my leaders, but I will let some of them start by telling you instead: Read more

New Ministry Position: One Year Later

One year ago I started a new ministry position as Pastor to High School Students. As I reflect back on my year, here are some memories, thoughts and insights…

THE FIRST WEEKEND WAS MEMORABLE: My first commitment was to attend the high school winter retreat. I thought it would be a great way to make good connections with students… so I thought! Unfortunately, on the Saturday morning, one of our new students collided with another student on the tubing hill. One ambulance ride later, and a stay in the ER, he was air-flighted with a bleed on his brain. Praise God he was fine after a few days in hospital… but a very scary moment for everyone… I will never forget my first retreat, (neither will he).

LISTEN FIRST, IMPLEMENT SECOND: I made the commitment that I would move slowly and take time to understand the people and programs first. I committed to not making any major changes in the first year, (only tweaking what we had). This is easier said than done, but was crucial for me. I gleaned so many important insights, learned good lessons, and most importantly built trust with leaders, students, and parents.

RELATIONSHIPS: No matter what I do in ministry, I cannot forget that relationships are at the core of everything I should be doing. This last year has been filled to the brim of meeting with students, leaders, and parents. In a new position, I think it is easy to get task focused, but we cannot get too busy to build relationships… The age old statement of, “people don’t care what you know until they know you care” is so true.

CLEAR VISION: Given many years of history before me, there were a lot of ideas and visions that were ingrained into the heart of this ministry. Some were good, some used to be good, and some… not so good. It has been imperative to constantly discuss a vision for healthy ministry and the steps needed to get there…

OWNERSHIP: It’s easy to start somewhere new and lead everything as the person who has been employed to be the ‘expert’. However, it’s important that people feel ownership of what we are doing. I often find too, that given the time and investment, others actually do a better job than me… It’s imperative to see this key truth: People become devoted to a ministry when they are given a clear vision and ownership to see the vision come to life…

GOOD FRIENDS: In the last year we have been surrounded by many people who have become good friends. Dinner and lunch invites still continue to come in for us, even after a year of being here… that is unusual… I think?

TRANSITION: I am just starting to read a book called “In Transit” by a friend in ministry Tim Ciccone. I will be doing a review soon… If you are interested in how to transition well, it could be a great read for you…?

Phil <><

The Best Kind of Vision?

Do you ever have those moments when you daydream and think about what could happen if your ministry were to have all the right ingredients to see incredible life change and transformation? Do ever wonder what that could look like? Do you ever wonder how that happens? If you are like me, I can spend hours thinking about and planning ways to create a dynamic ministry… It’s easy to spend a lot of time (and energy) trying figure out how to “make it work”…

However, the more time I spend in student ministry, I don’t think it is as complex as we might think… I think the answer is not just kept to certain people or churches… I think we all can look forward to seeing ministries with transformation and life change as a regular occurrence. So how does this happen (or start to happen)? Well, first, let’s confirm that it all centers around Jesus and that should a solid foundation for every ministry. But, the question is, how can you and I be used to effectively build Jesus centered ministries..? Well, here’s what I have been challenged by recently… wait for it… I think it starts with vision… But maybe not the same kind of vision that you and I often hear about in church circles. Hang in with me for a few minutes and let me explain…

You can’t be in Student Ministry for too long before you start hearing about and begin to talk about vision. So many churches and ministries have developed well crafted vision statements and we often hear phrases like, “what is the vision for this ministry”? If you are like me there have been times when we spend months working on carefully crafting vision statements to make sure the vision is clear… When things are going well we might expect to hear, “this place has a great vision”… When things are going badly we might expect to hear, “the vision has died” or “there is no vision here”. Do you know what I mean?Here’s what I see with ministries struggling with vision:

Unplanned Ministries: Ministries will often just jump into “what we have always done” rather than stopping to consider their natural uniqueness and the needs of their current students and community.

Side-tracked Ministries: Ministries get side-tracked with too many programs or events and the vision leaks. There are so many competing issues, programs and agendas that the vision becomes distorted…

Ministry Clones: Sometimes it’s hard to see our unique ministry gifting and how we can use that gifting.  Instead we become a clone of another successful ministry. We often jump into the latest ministry model or use others successful vision statements…

So, where am I going with all this? Well, whether your ministry is struggling to discover and enact a clear vision or whether your ministry is knocking the ball out of the park with vision clarity… I wonder if there is a more compelling vision to search for? You see, I think it is healthy to seek clarity and vision for our ministries and I will always seek this for where I am. However, what could happen if we sought out a different kind of vision with the same or greater passion and intentionality?

What if we were to help students PERSONALLY find God’s VISION for THEIR lives?

Unplanned Lives: You see, just like our ministries, so many of our students are just going through the motions and not even considering the incredible vision and plan God has for their lives. They appear to be just going through the motions and unaware that God could use them for amazing purposes…

Side-tracked Lives: And what about our busy students who have learned to take every opportunity that comes there way, yet there lives are defined by constant pressure and stress… Clarity cannot possibly be in view… Instead they live in constant detour mode as they take every path except God’s best for them…

Cloned Lives: So many students simply try to clone themselves and try to be like the the next “successful kid” in their class. As they try to clone themselves they are left wanting more… feeling somehow that what they achieve and discover is not enough.

The Challenge: What could our ministries look like if we were to use our time, talent and resources to work with our leaders and students to discover PERSONAL VISION? What would our students start to do when they discover and embrace their uniqueness? What would happen if we spent LESS time invested in corporate vision statements and spent more time helping students find clarity in God’s vision for them?

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that vision is imperative in our ministries and I believe that we cannot do ministry without having a clear picture of what could and should be. However, I believe that we are sometimes guilty of making this more about a vision statement and programs than we have made it about students and their individual lives… do you know what I mean? Yes, we are responsible to churches and ministry executives and we need to craft a compelling vision and plan… But, how much of our energy do we spend doing this for students in comparison? Are we so focused on the programs and structures that we miss God’s vision for these students individually?

Just asking…

Phil <><

Listening…

Last night I met with a group of my high school students at the local Panera Bread to hang-out, talk, and…. listen.

If you are like me, it’s so easy to get bogged down with planning, message writing, and meetings. It’s easy to become task driven and focus less on just ‘being’ with students. Last night I was truly blessed to be around a group of students who are excited about God, are excited to see their friends being reached, and excited about growing deeper in their faith. Last night was a time to listen to their hearts, their ideas and their hopes. Here’s what was impressed upon my heart from our time together…

1) We Discover the Real Issues Students Face:

Students foundational adolescent issues tend to not change too much in that they still desire Identity, Autonomy and Affinity. (Marko in Youth Ministry 3.0). However, when as, Chap Clark puts it, we “sit on the steps” that lead up to student culture, we get great insights to students current issues and needs. Last night was one of those nights for me as I discovered so many things that I was unaware of or had not considered. As I look forward with my teaching, planning and implementation, I am able to focus my energies to support students in areas that they truly need .

2) We move from Colonialism to being  a Missionary:

In his book Youth Ministry 3.0, Mark Oestreicher talks about the importance of seeing ourselves as a missionary. In other words, seeing ourselves as someone who is foreign to a culture and comes in and listens to the locals and understands them first. Coming from England, I am all too aware of British colonialism in the world where the Brits went in to foreign lands and insisted that the locals follow the British customs and cultural nuances. What happened? The Brits got kicked out! Now, I hope you and I don’t get kicked out of our churches or ministries, but it’s important to consider if we are only imparting our own set of agendas and ideas on students. Are we ‘colonizing’ or being a missionary to these students.

Now bear with me for a minute as I say this. I am aware that there are many things that students do not yet see in their lives that are imperative to know and live by. I am aware that students ‘felt needs’ are not always what they really do need… However, they are less likely to listen to us unless they know that we have taken time to listen to them first…

3) We give Ownership to Students:

This was huge for me last night. As I sat and listened to students talk about what they are seeing in our ministry and what they are excited about, they were owning the ministry with their words and their plans for the future. As they talked, they got lit up with ideas and dreams –  they began to take ownership. When students can put the ministry vision into their own words, it is better that a well-crafted vision statement in any student ministry.

4) We Hear Honesty

“Phil, you give great messages, but when one of us can back up what you are saying and can be involved in your message, it has a greater impact”. That was my takeaway last night, among other things. It can be hard to hear that kind of stuff can’t it? But, when we listen long enough, students can feel like they can communicate their true thoughts with you. Ultimately, it will lead to creating a better and more effective ministry. My ego might take a hit, but who is more important here?

5) We Send the most Important Message:

I think the most important factor for me was that they heard the most important message last night. “I care about you guys. You are important and you can make a huge difference”. I didn’t say it with words, I communicated it through listening…In coming weeks, when you and I stand in front of students with a message or study for them, I am convinced they will hear better when they know that we care deeply and have their best interests at heart.

So this next few weeks, I encourage you to hang out, have fun…. and listen.

Helping Students do Great Things…

Today I watched this video on cnn.com (below), and I was amazed by one high school students dedication and passion to make a difference in the world. As I watched, I was struck by two major revelations. 

First, I can’t underestimate how God will use me to challenge students to do something great. In this video, Emily Blake shares of how a speaker at a camp challenged her and others to, “not just be good students, but to do great things for God”… As I paused to consider this today, it made me wonder whether or not I am always expectant that God will do grand things with the words HE gives me? How about you? Are you expecting students to respond, or are you hoping they will? There’s a difference isn’t there? As speaker and teacher of God’s Word, I need to be reminded that there is power in His Word and promises. When I teach, I should expect God to do great things…

Second, it was a good reminder to me that students will often approach me with grand plans to change the world and make a difference… it’s means everything in how I respond. As adults in their lives, it is often easy to simply explain away an idea with a dose of reality from the ‘been there seen that – it won’t work’ reaction. However, her parents and Compassion International did more than simply give her a chance with an idea. Not only did they believe in her, they saw fit to come alongside her and help her navigate the steps she needed to take. It reminded me that I must not only encourage, I must also equip and empower.

 

Let’s face it, will all our students attain what Emily Blake did? Who knows? On average, probably not. However, I believe it means so much to students when we challenge them to raise the bar and do something amazing. It is also imperative that we support them as they try ideas in a safe environment. The steps (and how we support them in these steps), are crucial in this cynical world that always seems to have a way to dispel dreams. They may not be world changers today… but what they experience and how they are equipped and encouraged today means everything for what they attain tomorrow…

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