Archives For March 2012

One of the most critical aspects of youth ministry is the development of a permanent attitude of worship within the student body. Humanity is geared to worship, and it seems that we are all too eager to give worship to a lot of people and things that aren’t deserving of that honor. Athletes and musicians and actors can make millions because their fans are willing to worship and adore them in a society that consistently gives time and money to watch them do their thing and tell everyone else how great they did.

In the church, we’ve countered that propensity to misplace worship by designating the first day of the week to go to worship (at least the first morning of the first day, anyway). All over the world, people head out on Sunday morning for a time of worship with their church friends and families. On the surface, this sounds like a Biblical idea. God was constantly reminding the Israelites to keep the Sabbath holy by setting that day aside for Him. And just as the Jews had met together weekly in synagogues all over the known world for instruction in the Torah, and the Prophets, and Writings, so too the early church met together for mutual encouragement, and teaching, and provision for one another. But through the centuries, that weekly meeting may have left us with an inadequate picture of worship.

I’m not belittling the act of getting together on Sunday morning with like minded believers. I don’t want to make light of the historic practice of doing that on Sunday morning. [Just for the record, I do hate how we call it “going to church.” Maybe it’s just a pet peeve but that phrase harbors a terribly corrosive mentality about what the church really is.] For the church in our nation to move forward, we need to get past the idea that what happens in church building on Sunday mornings is what worship is. Worship is not a sing-a-long and a well crafted speech explaining a Biblical text; it’s what I do with my life.

Worship isn’t about sitting in the right seat on Sunday.

In Romans 12, Paul urged the early Christians “to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” He wanted them to allow God to transform them, to renew their minds by giving themselves in sacrifice to God. In Colossians 3, he taught another set of early believers “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” Their daily work was service to Christ. That was their worship. And so it is today. We need to help our students understand that worship is what they do in math class and on the football field and in the stockroom and break rooms and basements… We worship when we give our best in every situation because we live in the knowledge that we are not living for ourselves.

So how, then, do we teach our students to have this permanent attitude of worship?

  1. We model it. God is great and deserves everything I am and everything I can give for Him in every situation. No circumstance or frustration I face can change His mercy. In light of what He’s done for me, how can I be anything but a living sacrifice given to Him.
  2. We foster it. In our slate of ministry events and activities, do our students find opportunities to pour their gifts and abilities into service for their King? (Not just the musical ones.) It’s great to have fun together and develop meaningful friendships within our students, but if we’re not helping them identify how God has crafted them and how they can put their unique mix of aptitudes on the altar, we’re missing the point.
  3. We connect the dots. We need to creatively explore our students’ life stories together with them and help them see what God may be doing. How is he working through the triumphs and difficulties they’ve walked through? As we begin to see what He’s doing, we discover more and more points of entry for joining Him in that work.

I don’t mean to present this as a 3 step process to revolutionize the way we worship. But I do think these 3 actions can go a long way toward developing a permanent attitude of worship among our students ~ an attitude that will permeate the church with individuals collectively given in living sacrifice to our great, deserving God.

How else have you seen this attitude of worship being developed in young people?

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Here are the links to the rest of the Foundations of Youth Ministry series. Check out the other posts and be sure to use the subscribe field at the top to get new content via e-mail:

5 Marks of Youth Ministry That Makes a Difference

A Kingdom View of God’s Church

A Passion for Revealing God

A Commitment to Service as the Church

A Hunger for Depth in Relationship With God

Buckle up, this might be a little ugly – and it’s about football, so some of you who usually read stuff here won’t give a rip. Feel free to go read something else, skip this post, and know that you’re not missing anything too earth shattering. Sorry, but I’ve gotta spit out some opinions out before I choke on them.

Keep in mind they’re just the opinions of some guy with a keyboard and internet access. I’m not a football coach. I’m not a football player. I’m not a football talent scout. But I’ve been a fan of the Denver Broncos since I could sit still (sort of still) long enough to watch games in my grandma’s living room. I get the Broncos making what could possibly be the biggest free agent acquisition ever. Peyton Manning is a great quarterback. I get it. Any other year since John Elway retired, I would have been ecstatic to see Peyton Manning in a Broncos uniform.

But something changed last year for this team. This was only from the outside looking in, but it looked like the team had something they’d been missing since about 1998. It looked like they had heart. And it showed up the day Tim Tebow stepped into the game. They still had boneheaded breakdowns and suspect holes in certain areas – but the team was different. The Broncos were exciting to watch again. Most of the games had an excitement level to them that hadn’t been around since Helicopter #7 flew over the Packers.

It is undeniable that Tim Tebow was a huge factor in bringing that excitement. I suppose, technically, some idiot could deny it, but hey… we were all watching and it was obvious. This smaller market team was the talk of the football nation again. Jerseys were selling, seats were full, and fans were screaming. But I think that’s where the wheels fell off.

I think the Broncos have made a mistake trading away Tim Tebow. I know, for his sake, he’s probably better off with a chance to compete for the starting job. I know, he would not have that opportunity with Peyton Manning in town. But I also think he’s a strong enough person to override his own ego and wait. I think John Fox is a creative enough coach to get them both on the field. (Could you imagine a backfield with Manning and Tebow both a few yards behind center? No defense could game plan for that!) I think it could have worked.

But again, I’m just some guy with a keyboard, what do I know?

I know Denver gave up a great player for a 4th round draft pick. Can you name me a 4th round draft pick that’s had a bigger impact in Denver in the last decade than Tim Tebow had last season? (Dumervil from 2006 is the only 1 I can come up with.) If that’s all they were going to get, they should have just kept him. He’s a big boy and would’ve handled not being the starter for a while, just like he did at Florida as a freshman. So… quick recap:

  • 1-4 record
  • Replace Orton with Tebow
  • 7-4 in the remaining 11 games
  • Win a playoff game for the first time in WAY too long
  • National media
  • Tickets selling
  • Jerseys selling
So why get rid of the guy who was the catalyst for so much of that?
There are a lot of people mad a John Elway, saying he just wanted to get rid of Tebow out of some kind of QB jealousy he just couldn’t manage. That’s just stupid. If that was the case, they would have just kept Orton or some other undeniably sub-Elway player. They would definitely not have gone out and pulled out $96 million to get one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever put on a helmet (which is exactly what Manning is)!
They didn’t get rid of him for cost reasons either. Lots of teams will pay their backup QB’s much more than what Tebow would have been paid.
I think it boils down to the crazy level of insanity brought on by a small core of incredibly stupid and vocal Tebow fans. Don’t get me wrong, I am a Tebow fan. I hope he enjoys NY wherever he ends up and rolls over that part of the NFL. I love watching him play and will continue to follow his career. But there is a section of – lets not call them fans anymore, lets call them worshipers because that’s what they really are (and also the last thing Tebow would ever want) – who have thrown out every scrap of logic and football sense who would make life miserable for any team that would leave Tebow on a bench for a while. He’s an awesome man of great faith, who is inspiring to watch. I can only imagine that playing as a teammate would be even more inspiring. But that doesn’t make him a better quarterback than Peyton Manning.
I wonder if the fans who are most outraged at the Broncos need to look a little closer to home… No front office or coaching staff with any sense of sanity wants to deal with the crazy level of mania brought around by those who think Tebow is football Jesus. You got him traded. Jerks. Judas-es. After a revolving door that started turning behind center the day Elway retired, we could have had one of the best quarterbacks of the last 15 years AND one of the best of the next 15 years. Sorry… I’m  a little cranky.
Have a nice day.

Spring Thing Event

Mike —  March 20, 2012 — Leave a comment

Every spring, the youth ministry where I work teams up with others from around the area to bring together middle school and high school students for a weekend of worship and teaching. For several decades, this event (known as Spring Thing) has been used by God to strengthen His church in our region. We rotate hosts each year, and this is our year to host here at WestWay – so I’m putting the Imminent Crash concept into service for the weekend as well as here on this site. While this site won’t be solely focused on the event, I will be posting items in their own category that pertain specifically to Spring Thing.

If you’d like more details or would like to join us with your teens, click the link below to view the poster and drop me a message and I’ll fill you in.

Spring Thing Poster

Preach Better Sermons

Mike —  March 15, 2012 — 2 Comments
I’m watching a live conference put together by the people at Preaching Rocket. It’s all about Preaching Better Sermons. As a youth minister, when I talk about preaching, sometimes people look at me strangely, not realizing I am not only called to be great a dodgeball and ordering pizza, but also at communicating the Word of God. If you lead a student ministry, you need to get better at communicating God’s Word – even if you’re already pretty good at it. If you are a preacher, you need to get better at communicating God’s Word – even if you’re already pretty good at it.

If you missed the webcast, here are some highlights (not complete notes or many quotes) from some of my favorite preachers (who are also still learning).

Perry Noble:

  • Plan Ahead.
  • Communicating for A Change” – Andy Stanley (great book for communicators)
  • 40 messages per year. How do you decide what to say?
    • Read to hear from God, not to find sermons.
    • Preach out of the overflow of your heart.
    • Keep track of thought ‘kernels’ (evernote)
    • Find great visuals
  • Plan with a team of people with various points of view.
  • Don’t put too much stock what fans and foes say – listen to friends.
  • Let the Bible drive the message.
Jud Wilhite:
  • Be personal – share your life through stories to remove barriers.
    • Don’t just share someone else’s amazing story – build common ground by sharing your story.
    • Where does your experience overlap your listeners’ life experience?
    • Share honestly – don’t just make stuff up.
    • Communicate to the broken.
      • Think about how different people will hear what you’re saying
      • How will the hear what God wants them to hear?
    • Communicate the Word.
      • Preaching is not about me – not about the listener – it’s about Jesus.
      • Be sure to use language that everyone will understand.
        • Don’t water stuff down – but explain what you mean!
    • Communicate for Next Steps
      • Can people see the connection with real life?
      • Be crystal clear about what you want people to do as a result of your message.
  • Don’t cop out & be lazy in preparation – this stuff is important!
  • Park in one passage, don’t just jump all over the place and lose people.

Andy Stanley:

  • It’s a story you’re telling, not a bunch of points you’re trying to make.
  • Me, We, God, You, We mile markers
    • Here’s my issue/thought/idea.
    • Don’t we all experience that?
    • What does God say about it?
    • What should you do about what God says about it?
    • What if we all did that together?
  • Stay in the text and let it speak.
  • Help people understand what they need to do AND what’s really at stake.
  • Distill everything and give the message in a single phrase.
    • What’s this all about?
    • What’s the one thing I want them to take away?
  • Create tension in the first few minutes.
    • Instigates a desire to know more
    • Creates interest – “We need to solve the mystery.”
  • Mature believers AND engage those who don’t believe.
  • Watch yourself preach.
  • Listen to other teachers/preachers.
  • Learn from comedians & others who engage audiences.
  • Ask yourself, “Who is this really about?”
    • Evaluate yourself by what people do with what you said, not by how you did.

Jeff Foxworthy:

  • Humor keeps us from taking ourselves too seriously.
  • Trim down to the bare essentials – stories don’t need to include every detail.
  • Capture random thoughts (notecards, etc.) to flesh out & try out later.
  • Always be writing.
  • Be simple. Simple connects.
  • Don’t be a sissy. But be vulnerable and admit you don’t have it all figured out.
Vanable Moody:
  • Effective preaching starts with the end in mind.
    • Behavioral preaching
    • What do you want people to do?
  • Are you trying to make an impression or make an impact?
    • Impression doesn’t last
    • Impact leaves lives changed
  • Identify the behavioral purpose of the Scripture.
    • Study to find out what God says He wants people to do.
    • Everything else flows with that behavioral point.
    • Preach with a sword, not a broom – one point.
    • Doesn’t matter if we have a bunch of great information & research & message writing if we miss the assignment!
  • Let people see the message in your life.
  • Don’t just make points for the head, but also paint pictures for the heart.
    • Behavior starts at the heart level.
  • Provide a vehicle for them to do what you’re preaching about.
Dan Cathy: My stream broke during this session, so all I got is a craving for chikin’! (Also thanks to some timely text photos from some mean children currently eating Chick-fil-A)
Dr. Charles Stanley:
  • Be disciplined. You can’t just ‘sort of’ preach.
    • Build the relationship with God from which the message will flow – Prayer.
    • Study – don’t just give a sermon to fill the time.
  • You can’t preach any better than you pray.
  • Unless you have a burden for a message, you’re not ready to preach.
    • Is there a message that you must preach?
    • Impact is made by the Holy Spirit
  • What is the need?
  • What Scripture addresses the need?
  • What does that text say?
  • What material will help me communicate that and what do I want people to take away?
  • No matter how well equipped & well prepared we may be, God can shut it down in a breath.
    • Great story answering why he never asks for money on air.
      • Short answer – God told him not to.
  • Obey God & leave the consequences to Him.
Louie Giglio:
  • Calling of God, Self-discovery, Affirmation by God’s People
  • You may have no idea what God’s about to do.
    • Start wherever there is an open door.
  • Preaching is about the Power and the Presence of the Word of God.
    • Don’t just try to sound eloquent and persuasive.
  • Find out how God wants to impact His people.
  • Gather & craft the information that will help you be a part of that.
    • Preaching should be like putting your life through a funnel, not a megaphone.
  • Sometimes we need to reach for creative/artistic language to use in our message (not just a good illustration).
I can’t yet vouch for all the coaching that will happen through Preaching Rocket, but if it’s anything like today’s webcast, a lot of people will be hearing a lot better preaching in the near future.

Imminent Crash Update

Mike —  March 9, 2012 — Leave a comment
Just a quick update to explain the trickle of new content here:

I’ve started another site called Imminent Crash. It’s all about youth ministry and leadership in the church ~ if you care about the church or young people, I’d love it if you’d do me a favor; check it out and let me know what you think. Subscribe if you like it, leave some comments if you want to talk back. I’ve been doing a lot of work to the inner workings of the site, which is all brand new and totally unfamiliar territory for me, which has had some ripple effects:

– I haven’t posted much here. I’m not going to be doubling the amount of time I spend posting my thoughts and experiences online, so I’m trying to find a good balance point between the two places. This may become more of a general blog, while the other site will be honed in on youth ministry.

– I haven’t posted much there, either. Because it’s new, I want to lay the groundwork well. Every time I start to write something, it ends up seeming to be ‘not foundational enough’ so I file it away for later. Additionally, right now is not the most opportune moment for me to be starting on a learning adventure like this. Lots of other irons are playing in my fire right now! I don’t know squat about actually building and maintaining a blog, so it’s been time consuming to learn about hosting and dig into cPanel & install wordpress there and installing the theme I chose to use (Standard Theme) and figuring out just what a theme even is… not to mention widgets and plugins and figuring out how to adjust the style aspects…

I’m excited to see where the new blog will go and what kind of community can be formed there. I hope that youth leaders, students, parents, and church leaders will all be able to come together there to learn how to make the most of what God’s knitting together in His church… that we’ll learn to help youth to recognize and unleash their potential for Kingdom service… that the unstoppable church Jesus heads up will gain momentum as we seek to tear down the gates of Hell that keep people separate from our Father.

I hope you’ll be praying for the new venture and join us there as we move forward wherever He leads…

If you’ve spent any time at all involved in youth ministry, or thinking or reading about how the church can more effectively disciple young people, then you’ve probably come across lamentable statements about how young people are graduating from High School and walking away from their faith. A number of books and articles explore the bleak statistics regarding just how many students seem to be checking out of church after graduation. Anecdotally, I can put names and faces with those statistics to verify, at least in my own experience, that far too many students who seem faithful to participating in youth ministry disengage after high school (if not before).

This is probably a topic for a different post, but my contention with these statistics is that ‘participating in youth ministry’ and being vitally engaged in the mission that Christ is accomplishing in and through his church are not the same thing. From a cynical vantage point, it seems like many of the students who we see as ‘walking away’ have never really been connected with Jesus, they were just connected to some of Jesus’ people who happened to hang out at youth group. That can (and should) lead to connection with Jesus, but it’s not automatic. It seems that some (maybe a lot) of what happens in youth ministry, just isn’t making much of a difference long term.

But, we want to make a long term impact, right? We want to know that the work of our ministry isn’t just some fleeting set of crutches to help teens through an awkward period of time. We want to make a difference for life. I would suggest that aiming toward these 5 attitudes in our students would go a long way toward doing just that.

1. A permanent attitude of worship. Worship is not a sing-a-long; it’s what I do with my life.

2. A kingdom view of God’s church. The church is bigger than me and the way I do things. What is God doing in His people throughout the world?

3. A passion for revealing God to people who don’t notice Him. I can’t change another person – but recognizing God changes everything.

4. A commitment to local service as the church. I don’t have to wait until I’ve established myself as an adult to participate in the life of the church – I’ll serve now.

5. A hunger for depth in the relationship with God. The more I know Him, the more I want to know Him more.

As I think of the most meaningful ministry I’ve done with students, these 5 characteristics show up over and over again. They are touch points that I come back to and characteristics that I want to see my students develop. As we dig in to each of these foundations over the next several weeks, I hope you’ll find some helpful thoughts and share your insights about what you can do to indelibly impress these attitudes with the teens you know.

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But first, how do you exhibit these characteristics in your own life so that young people can see them?

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Here are the links to the rest of the Foundations of Youth Ministry series. Check out the other posts and be sure to use the subscribe field at the top to get new content via e-mail:

A Permanent Attitude of Worship

A Kingdom View of God’s Church

A Passion for Revealing God

A Commitment to Service as the Church

A Hunger for Depth in Relationship With God