Archives For May 2011

Today is Day 1 of Filter, the 100 hour Bible reading challenge I’ve put up for my students. 100 hours in 100 days – reading the Bible for an hour each day. Why? Why would I ask my kids to trade a hundred hours of their summertime freedom to read the Bible?

It’s because we need to hear God’s voice. In a world of Biblical illiteracy, the church runs the risk of losing touch with our Maker. We have more translations and study resources than ever before, yet many Christians never read the Word beyond what’s read to them on a Sunday morning. It’s no wonder so many churches aren’t actually making disciples.

But I think the church is poised for some amazing things that God will do through this next generation – if they can hear Him calling… Young people have some serious questions and some difficult issues with how the church seems to be functioning. But they often are beginning to take their faith very seriously, digging into those questions and issues for resolution. If they can learn to recognize His voice in their lives, God will use them to take the church to places we never dreamed we’d go. It will take a lot more than 100 hours, but it’s a start.

I recently completed a series of posts reflecting on Geoff Surrat’s book Ten Stupid Things That Keep Churches From Growing, and how those stupid things relate to youth ministry. I want to add one last post to sum it all up and add a few extras. The book primarily addresses lead pastors and the stupid things they do, but we youth ministers do our fair share of stupid things, too. In the previous posts, I’ve noted how each of Surrat’s 10 things may pertain to youth ministry, so I won’t rehash all that, but I will add a few to the list for youth ministers:

1.  Thinking parents are ‘the other side/team’. Youth ministers, please hear me on this: We are supplemental.
I’m not saying youth ministry is a superfluous luxury, or that we aren’t integral to the spiritual growth of our kids. But the families of our kids will have far greater influence than we will. We’d do well to structure our ministries to facilitate and maximize parents’ influence on their own kids rather than setting ourselves up as the main portal of spiritual growth for the next generation.

2.  Failing to communicate. Do the leaders of your church know what God is doing in your their student ministry? Whether they ask you for it or not, you should be regularly reporting to the rest of your leadership what’s been happening in the student ministry. Maybe it’s a written report filed with the elders or lead team, maybe it’s a monthly verbal report… but let them know in whatever way possible. Do the parents and students know what’s coming up and what’s been going on when they’ve gotten out of the loop? How many times has a parent come to you and asked for details of an upcoming event for which it’s already too late for their son or daughter to register? It happens. Sometimes, they just haven’t been paying attention – but sometimes, we haven’t clearly communicated what’s coming up and what’s the timetable for getting involved. Never assume everyone who needs to know actually does know.

3.  Operating in silos. There may be no other area of ministry in which it is easier to segregate your work from the rest of the church. Make sure this doesn’t happen. If your youth ministry kids aren’t involved in other areas of service in the church and are disengaged from the life of the Body, stop what you’re doing and refocus on connecting kids with Jesus AND His Body – not just with your youth group. Get them serving in the band, in the nursery or children’s church, in greeting… in anything they can do with the rest of the church. Their spiritual growth will be severely hindered at best, if you keep them in your little youth ministry silo.

4.  Having low expectations. They’re just kids, right? No that’s not right; the ‘just kids’ mentality is crippling a generation by expecting nothing, equipping for nothing, then complaining when nothing is delivered. Raise the bar! This generation is sailing solo around the world, shaping political campaigns, starting successful businesses, working creatively and tirelessly for a whole host of causes that matter… are we really doing them any favors by expecting them to come chug milk and be nicer people? Raise the bar! (I know I said that twice – it’s important.)

5.  Letting kids drive the church van. Umm… yes, I have literally done this, though not by choice. On the way to interview for my first full time youth ministry 12 years ago, I got a speeding ticket. That blemish on my record was enough to cause the insurance company to say I couldn’t drive the church van – which was brought to our attention about 4 days before a 1400 mile trip. Apparently, they were more comfortable with an 18 year old girl driving a van full of kids across two states than me. To be totally honest, it was pretty humiliating – I’m a good driver… on the racetrack. But I’m not as concerned with literally letting kids drive the church van as I am about what that metaphor represents. If you’re shaping your ministry based only on what kids want, you can easily miss God’s vision for the young church. If God’s not driving your ministry, you better be praying for good air bags.

6.  Rinsing/Repeating. When something goes well in ministry, it’s tempting to just do it again next year. Don’t. Don’t just repeat the calendar year after year because it worked before. Evaluate where you’ve been, and pay attention to where God is leading. Your students are different every year. Their world has changed every year. Don’t assume that the awesome camp/retreat/conference/series/etc. that you’ve scheduled for the last 6 years is still going to be awesome. If it’s not, and if something else will be a better next step for you and your students to be taking, don’t be afraid to get out of the spin cycle and find some fresh water. That’s not to say we should mindlessly innovate and have to rhythm to our ministries – just that we shouldn’t mindlessly imitate last year’s success.

I’m sure there are a lot more stupid things we could add to the list, so I’m going to open myself up again for your best shots: What are the most stupid things you’ve seen in youth ministry?
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Also, if you haven’t seen them, check out these links to the rest of the 10ST series:
Ten Stupid Things
Doing It All
Misappropriating Your Family
2nd Rate Worship Experiences
Settling for Low Quality Children’s Ministry
Promoting Talent Over Integrity
Bad Location
Copycat Church
Discipline Over Reconciliation
Mixing Ministry & Business
Committees

Help Wanted

Mike —  May 19, 2011 — 2 Comments

Her face said enough. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to know she needed help as she sat there in traffic with the hazard lights on and her head mostly buried in the steering wheel. She looked like she’d been there for a while… waiting.

I wondered what was wrong and if there was actually anything I could do to help. Did she hit something? Had she been told to stay put? There was a dent in the front fender, but no glass or parts or another vehicle or anything to suggest an accident. Must be something else…

As I pulled into a nearby parking lot and reached for my door handle, some doubts flashed across my mind. Mind your own business. Go home, this is your lunch break. You’re going to feel pretty dumb when she says she doesn’t need help. What if her problem is too big for you? You’re going to look stupid…


The last thought almost kept me in my nice dry vehicle. Do you have any idea how ridiculous it looks to see a 5’5″ scrawny, nerd-looking guy pushing a Suburban across one of the busiest intersections in town? I didn’t really want to look ridiculous. I was on my way home for lunch. She probably didn’t really need my help. Surely she’d called someone already and help was on the way, right?

In the few seconds it took me to have all those thoughts and more poke holes in my altruistic cranium, I kept seeing her face as I’d driven by (she was headed the opposite direction): dejected, defeated, helpless, embarrassed… I recognized so many emotions I’ve wrestled with myself. But still, I almost didn’t help. I almost backed out of the parking spot and headed home.

I’m sure I did look pretty pathetic pushing the SUV out of traffic and into a safer spot. But once she was out of harm’s way, a whole new face appeared: grateful, hopeful, encouraged… Someone had actually stopped to help. I almost missed seeing that face.

As I caught my breath on the way home, it occurred to me that probably 100 cars or more passed by that intersection while the hazard lights flashed. Able bodied high school kids on their way back to class… workers on their lunch break… underemployed people with nothing much going on at all… Why didn’t anyone stop?

I wondered how many of Jesus’ followers “passed by on the other side of the road” today? I’m not patting myself of the back at all, because I know how close I was to doing nothing either, but Church, we can do better. With the grace we’ve been given, we can extend ourselves to people who need help of all kinds.

Slow down.
Notice.
Help.

God, let us see with your eyes…

Bio?

Mike —  May 18, 2011 — 2 Comments

I was asked to write a bio a few months ago for an online youth ministry publication called Youth Ministry Today that wanted to post an article I’d written. Writing a bio of myself seemed kind of like writing my own obituary, only I get to keep breathing! I was happy to have something I’d originally posted here published for a wider audience, but it was kind of awkward writing a really short bio of myself. I’m not really sure why – maybe I think too much of myself, maybe too little (or maybe both). Now I need to provide another bio for another youth ministry site that I may be writing for regularly (Youth Ministry Ideas), and I’m faced with the same dilemma:

How do I sum myself up?

Here’s what I wrote:

Mike Andrews has spent most of his life in Wyoming and Nebraska, but he doesn’t have cowboy boots and he doesn’t love corn. He does love his wife, whom he married a few weeks after their high school graduation in 1994. They packed up their little Dodge Omni and headed off to Nebraska Christian College. They now have four kids and live in Scottsbluff, NE where Mike is the youth minister at WestWay Christian Church.

Mike loves working with adolescents and developing them to lead the church. He loves seeing them come face to face with God and discover who they really are. He thinks it’s amazing to be able to help students realize they don’t have to settle for normal and that things don’t have to stay the way they are. Mostly, he loves it when they figure out they’re made for another Kingdom…

You can find Mike on twitter (@6drews) or on his blog.

(It’s sort of just a summary of what I wrote on the Who’s Mike page here on the blog, but I’m thinking of shortening it even more based on a tweet I saw yesterday from a friend to #oneofthegoodguys.)

I need a little feedback, friends.

  1. How would you write my bio?
  2. How would you write your own?

10ST – Committees

Mike —  May 16, 2011 — Leave a comment
10ST is an ongoing series digging into Geoff Surratt’s Ten Stupid Things that Keep Churches from Growing and how those stupid things keep youth ministries from growing as well.
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Ok, so technically, committees themselves aren’t the stupid thing as this title may suggest, but “letting committees steer the ship” is. Surratt suggests that letting committees lead decisions ineffectively slows the decision making process so much that it qualifies for stupid thing status. I’d have to agree. Vision (which is critical to leading well) comes from God, not from a committee. Instead of having committees to determine direction, we need God to tell us where He’s leading… then we need courageous people to step out and follow, and we need effectively led and resourced teams to implement action.
At least in the circles I’ve grown up in, this stupid thing may be one of the most common. Our churches strongly (and sometimes even to our own detriment) maintain the independence of each congregation and choose our own leaders. Our system of choosing leaders can (but doesn’t always) lead to a multitude of committees and meetings and agenda items. Without a compelling vision from God, these committees often degenerate into meetings with little sense of the need to actually accomplishing something. We came. We met. See you again next month/week/year…

Surratt offers a four pronged approach to leading well in a team environment that will benefit about every youth minister & pastor I know. (Remember, the committees aren’t really the problem; it’s when the committees lead rather than implement.)

  1. Get a vision. Be alone with God enough that you know what He wants. If you don’t have a clear and compelling picture of what God is calling you to do, it will be nearly impossible to see the team/committee you’re leading flourish and grow.
  2. Share the dream. Once the vision is clear, begin to share it with key leaders in your ministry.
  3. Define the mission. As the team understands and buys into the vision, you need to be defining the specific roles and pieces and how those play into that vision. It’s awesome when a team is able to put people into service in areas where they are genuinely gifted and passionate about serving to reach the mission.
  4. Empower the missionaries. Keep the vision fresh, keep the team on mission, keep the path clear, and give the team what it needs to accomplish the mission.

Blogger was having issues while I was at Catalyst, so I parked this post in a temporary spot and am now moving it back over here. I have issues, too, so I’m not bitter. A little disclaimer though; my filter breaks when I’m tired, and… I was tired when I posted, plus LuAnn wasn’t there to preview this and tell me how bad it sounds, so please take it with a grain of dragon salt (which Ted and I had at a Mongolian grill that night)…
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Do you ever wonder if you’re really picking up what God’s dropping for you? Like He’s told you something, but you’re maybe not quite getting it… Today at Catalyst I had that feeling.

Give me a sign #cat11 on Twitpic

A lot of the sessions today were messages I’ve heard from speakers I’ve heard. Not just similar messages, but nearly identical messages. I wasn’t upset about the repetition (because these were great the first time and I had no worries that they wouldn’t be great this time, too), but I wondered if I didn’t get it last time or something…

As Scott Belsky talked about making ideas happen, I went right back to my thoughts (and notes) from last year. A key component of making ideas happen is creating a culture that is biased toward action. I remember thinking last year how I didn’t feel like our church’s culture was biased toward action. We have lots of analysis and discussion and contemplation… then, if everyone hasn’t given up on the idea, there can be action.

This is something that is a constant source of friction for me, like a little rock in my shoe that just isn’t coming out. You can live with it, it’s just annoying and may cause blisters. My kids come home with pebbles in their shoes all the time. (I think we could solve school budget issues if my kids would stop stealing the playground.) I don’t know how they do it, but they just ignore the rocks. Our lack of a bias for action was something that, last year, I couldn’t ignore anymore.

But I questioned if culture-creating was really my role? New guy on the ministry totem pole… youth minister… younger than all the other leaders… Am I overstepping?.. I used all kinds of thoughts and labels and self-doubting questions to make myself feel like it was ok to hide from the burden I felt to change our culture, but I recognize now that partially because I did so much hiding, our bias is still not toward action. But today, I also realized that a shift has been happening. There is a holy discontent that seems to be welling up and fostering more of a desire to act.

Some other statements and thoughts that really struck me today:

  • God didn’t just let a bunch of crap happen to Joseph – He WANTED it to happen in order to teach Joseph what he needed to know to be what God would call him to be. From Donald Miller, but he didn’t say crap – Tripp & Tyler would have probably bleeped him out if he did.
  • What do I need to be learning on the path while it’s difficult?
  • When did it occur to you that following Jesus would be dangerous? It is, so don’t seek to be safe, but rather, seek to be brave.
  • The Isolation of Obedience: Am I willing to step into isolation when that will be the result of obedience? (this will warrant it’s own post)
  • Lecrae was awesome.
  • Propaganda kicked off the morning in an amazing way. “This ain’t a conference. IT’S A RUNWAY.”

Only 5 sessions into Catalyst Dallas, through the pre-labs, and I’ve already been wrecked. Maybe I was damaged to begin with, but I don’t remember this much inner wrestling this soon into the previous two Catalyst’s I’ve been too. It probably more a reflection of my own spiritual-mental state at the moment than anything Catalyst’s done different but it felt different today somehow. Or maybe it’s the abscence of Grumpy Jim and a bumpy ride in a rented Mustang… or the acute Rodd deficiency our group is currently experiencing.

Scot McKnight opened the first session talking about the need for us to “paint the leaves” (ref. to Tolkien’s “Leaf By Niggle”), to paint the small, insignificant details of our dreams and leave the significance to Jesus. As he talked about the way Jesus’ parables subvert our grandiosity, our values, our plans… this was the first point where I found myself slammed to the mat. How often do I miss the details of God’s dream for my life because I’m too busy trying to see the whole tree? What are the dreams I’m painting in the Kingdom?

Since I’m so deeply saturated in the hip-hop culture (cough-cough), I was excited to go to Lecrae’s lab in the next session (no joke about that part, the guy is pretty awesome). His message was to engage your city, love your city, and work to bring about redemption and rehabilitation. I loved how he began his lab by saying he wasn’t going to rap, he isn’t a great speaker, and he isn’t very entertaining without a beat track. His lab, however was deeply reflective of Acts 17 and the idea of Paul being “provoked in His Spirit.” He didn’t just walk away disgusted with the sin he saw, but sought to redeem and rehabilitate – to reconcile and push back the darkness.

In the midst of what has kind of been a dry time for me, I almost opted for a safer alternative during the next lab session, but ultimately went to Jon Acuff’s lab talking about his new book Quitter. He talked about “closing the gap between your day job and your dream job.” I love youth ministry, and the last year has seen some huge strides with a number of my students, and I’m really excited to see what God is going to do with them/us next… but I’ve had to face a pretty large gap between my day job and my dream job recently. He talked about defining your dream as the first step to closing that gap, and I probably haven’t done that very well to this point (or maybe I have and not admitting it is a way to let myself off the hook). Dreaming is a process of recover, not just discovery: What have I done that I loved? What passion have I lost? Just as Acuff’s humor had me laughing, I found myself on the mat again, choke slammed by the thought that “maybe the desert road is a gift from a loving Father.” I’m tired of being patient. Thankfully, his next statement was that wrestling with God is a sign of intimacy – you can’t wrestle from a distance.

Pete Wilson’s lab was on transformational leadership and focused on Joshua’s faithful reliance on God even when it didn’t seem to make sense. He talked about how transformational leadership always requires more than you have, requires you to avoid the path of least resistance, requires God sized obedience not me sized solutions, and always relies on God promises (not on answers). I loved the thought that “every opportunity has an expiration date” and missing out will often cost more than messing up. So stop playing it safe, stop hiding, and choose to be with God.

The theme of hiding was one that stood out to me today. In several instances, I found myself being challenged – How am I hiding? Why don’t I just trust and do what He’s telling me to do? Am I still consecrated to Jesus, or am I just doing what I’ve been doing for the last 12 years because I’m comfortable with it? This last thought of consecration was the crux of Mark Batterson’s message in the last session, which had me thinking back to the first Catalyst Lab I attended two years ago in Los Angeles. Then, he seemed to ditch his notes in response to God’s prompting to talk about Numbers 11, where God miraculously provided what His grumbling people really didn’t deserve. It was a great session that I still remember vividly. After 2 years of simmering, the message to live in a place of complete dependence on a God who is big enough to do what He says He will do was just as convicting and encouraging.

I just wonder if I’ll even be able to get up off the mat tomorrow…

10ST is an ongoing series digging into Geoff Surratt’s Ten Stupid Things that Keep Churches from Growing and how those stupid things keep youth ministries from growing as well.
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This stupid thing is a little tricky. It must have been difficult to write – mixing the business of authoring with the ministry Surrat was leading at the time. (He does mention writing on vacation time to avoid an improper mix.) I’m inclined to think that this issue isn’t quite as black & white as the title implies (and the actual content of the chapter indicates as much).
The point is still valid: It’s stupid to use your position in ministry to gain a business advantage for yourself. Many pastors work bi-vocationally and do so with integrity. A list of my favorite pastors would include people who also make money as authors, entrepreneurs, film-makers, and a geologist. But very clear boundaries have to be established in order to successfully mix business and ministry.
In youth ministry, these boundaries may need to be even more sharply defined. A youth ministry friend of mine had a roofing business. During summers, he spent a good deal of time shingling roofs with his small work force, which was primarily made up of his students. It would have been really easy to develop a division between students that worked with him and those who didn’t. He had to be careful not to create that kind of atmosphere, while at the same time make the most of the opportunity to develop those relationships by working together. He did a good job on both fronts, but I know that’s not always the case.
If we’re employing our students in any kind of outside business, at what point do we diminish our capacity to pastor them? If they decide to leave our group, do they lose their job as well? Are they only participating in our youth ministries to keep their part time jobs? 
On the other hand, working together could be a great opportunity for building relationships. I’ve worked part-time coaching soccer at a high school, where I was able to meet students I’d never have contacted otherwise. As some of my players got involved in our youth ministry and came to know Jesus and be a part of His Body, I wonder if I was always maintaining a healthy mix. Did the players and managers who never connected with the church still feel like they had “equal access”? For a while, I also worked part-time at a go-kart place where some of my students also worked. I wasn’t the boss or anything, but I wonder what the effect was on our group dynamics… (I think they secretly enjoyed getting to tell me what to do since I was the new guy!)
Lots of good stuff in this chapter to keep in mind.
10ST is an ongoing series digging into Geoff Surratt’s Ten Stupid Things that Keep Churches from Growing and how those stupid things keep youth ministries from growing as well.
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This chapter may have been one of the most obviously relevant chapters to youth ministry. How do we respond when discipline is necessary in our ministries? It’s often tempting to give in to the knee jerk & tell them they can’t come anymore. It would often make our lives easier to do exactly that.
I once had a couple guys start coming to youth group who had a reputation for being in trouble a lot. I thought it was awesome that these guys wanted to be there at all, and prayed they’d quickly find a deeper connection with God. But, the parents of some of the other kids in the group didn’t want them around. Actually, they threatened to stop bringing their kids if I allowed these two guys to keep coming. There was a real fear that I was allowing the bad influences into our group.
But isn’t that part of what we’re here for? Why are we surprised when Godless people act Godless? Why does it shock us when an unexperienced kid makes a dumb decision to get himself in trouble? A huge part of youth ministry is helping those students learn from bad decisions and learn to avoid compounding the trouble with more bad decisions in the future. It’s helping them understand the life of a disciple of Jesus and how to trust and share His mercy without cheapening and abusing it.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s important to discipline students who are out of line. But the intention isn’t to punish them or kick them out of the group or keep them away from the “good kids” – it’s to build and to restore and to reconcile their relationship with Jesus. A thought that was central to this chapter is the familial nature of the church. If we think of our youth ministry as our family, we’ll be much more likely to offer mercy and extend the grace needed to restore relationships.

The Envelope Fundraiser

Mike —  May 6, 2011 — 5 Comments

A few weeks ago, I had my students number 100 envelopes (1-100). We put the envelopes on a display board and explained to the church that they had a chance to help the students with the cost of registration for CIY Move this summer. We have a group of 15 going this year, so this will be a costly endeavor, so we need help. The intention is to take an envelope and donate that amount of money toward the trip as well as pray for the group.

I was hoping for a hundred people to get involved. Not just for the money’s sake, but a hundred people to invest themselves in the lives of our students. I was hoping to be able to cover the cost of the trip with the fundraiser, but we’re well short of that hope. I just finished totaling everything up and thought I’d share some quick stats.

100 envelopes available.
Gifts given in increments of $1 from $1 to $100.
35 envelopes taken.
30 envelopes returned (maybe the other 5 will still make it back).
$1746 given.

I’m really grateful for the 30 people who’ve given. God will use what you’ve given to build into the lives of these young kingdom workers. This is a great start to this summer’s trip – please be praying and watch how God will provide for the rest. Let me know if you’d like to sponsor a student.
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So, I need your opinion. This was the first time we’d done this type of fundraiser and I’m trying to evaluate whether it’s worth doing again. About 30 people seemed to feel pretty good about it, but what about the rest? We raised way more money than we’ve raised with any other single fundraiser but one, but we were way short of the goal. So is this:

  1. a bad idea… If you fall that far short of the goal, it was a bad idea to start with.
  2. a good start… $1746 dollars is a great first step.
  3. a stupid way to raise money… Why would I want to just put some money in an envelope without the kids doing anything to earn it?
  4. a good idea… I just didn’t have anything to give this time. We should do it again sometime & have the envelopes out longer.
  5. huh… What envelopes? I should show up more often ‘cuz I don’t even know what you’re talking about Mike.

What’s your vote?