I read a fascinating book recently about management and performing well at your job called First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham.  It is written from a business perspective and is about managing people and helping them realize their full potential as employees.

If you are employed at all, it is worth reading from cover to cover, but he laid down a quote on the last page that, I feel, has implications for those of us who disciple students.  He said this,

“Don’t try to put in what was left out.  Try to draw out what was left in” (pg. 245).

So often, discipleship becomes about cramming in bits of information to students to help them know how to “be good” and “follow the rules” (don’t drink, don’t party, don’t watch rated R movies, etc.), but I have been in ministry long enough to see this form of discipleship fail.

I wonder if, instead of focusing students on what they should not do, we should draw them to their potential in the Spirit of Christ inside them. Some thoughts:

  1. Jesus did it. With those he discipled, he said very little about “following the rules,” in fact, many times he actually told them to break them.  He sent them out in pairs pronouncing the kingdom, he called him to walk on the water, he spoke at length about the Spirit who would give them power when he left.  He enabled them to focus, not on what they were doing wrong, but on what they could do so right.
  2. Those times when students don’t “follow the rules” were died for.  Our goal is not to try to turn bad people into good people, it is to try to help turn bad people into saved people.
  3. Any behavior change will likely be intrinsic. A heart in love with Jesus is the best help for students to follow the rules I have ever seen.  If people are going to change, it has got to come from the inside (a heart which has been redeemed).  Words of Paul ring a bell here, “Let us live up to what we have already attained” (Philippians 3:16).
Perhaps, our goal in discipleship should be to help people realize that a follower of Christ is less pushed by following rules and more pulled into the salvation they have already attained.
Thoughts?
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Last week, I was the event coordinator at a week of Jr High Camp.  As I have been out of camp for about a decade, I did a lot of things wrong, but I think there are a few things that I did right.  Here is a list:

  1. I Used Mature High Schoolers on my Faculty – Though it was a bit hard to get them to get out of bed on time, I found them to be spectacular when it came to relating their stories to the Jr. Highers.  Not to mention, the late night mentoring discussions with them and the chance for them to flex their spiritual muscles in real ministry was great for their growth in Christ.
  2. Campfire – Many have given up on this old fashioned event at camp, but I embraced it and did one every night even though it was insanely hot outside. It is so different from anything the students experience on a weekly basis; this makes it that much more powerful.
  3. Balls and Music – As I said, it was ridiculously hot, so much of what was planned outdoors had to be cancelled so no one died of heat exhaustion.  We found that free time with beach balls and music went a long way in helping students, not only cope with the heat, but in giving them a chance to burn energy and “hang out.”
  4. Affirm the Faculty – I recruited many people to serve as faculty for my week.  They performed so well and many went above and beyond their call of duty.  I affirmed them every chance I got.  This contributed, at least in part, to a week virtually free of any faculty controversy.
What ideas do you have in planning a successful camp or retreat?

I ran across this picture of the “Perfect Employee” on Guy Kawasaki’s blog.  This guy has a, “Modern haircut with a touch of gray that boasts of knowledge and wisdom,” a, “Family picture . . . always in his front pocket,” and, my personal favorite, he, “Wins the air-guitar contest evey year at the company picnic – last year’s song: ‘Sweet Child of Mine.'”

This reminded me of a blog I read once called, “The Perfect Youth Ministry Leader” – a quiz one takes to find out if they are “An Intern” or an “Epic Legend” in youth ministry.  In this list, the youth worker must have, “. .  .the ‘side hug’ down to a science,” and have, “. . . a verse tattooed somewhere on his body (+2 points for Hebrew words).”

Satire aside, what attributes would you place on the perfect youth minister?  Here are a few that I came up with:

  1. Knows that he/she is not the Savior of students.
  2. His/Her investment in students is long-term; knowing that fruit takes a good deal time to grow.
  3. Knows that the “perfect youth worker” does not exist and he/she determines their worth based on what Christ thinks of them, not the points on the “cool scale” they can accumulate by having the proper amount of facial hair or Christian t-shirts.

Shake the Dust

April 27, 2011

Scripture: Matthew 7:21-29

Poet, Anis Mogjani, in this video, calls his listeners to action after they hear his words:

This is for you…
Just like the days I burn at both ends,
and every time I write, every time I open my eyes,
I’m cutting up parts of myself simply to hand them over to you.

So, shake the dust and take me with you when you do
because none of this has ever been for me.
All the pushes and pulls, pushes and pulls, pushes and pulls,
It pushes for you…

For this is yours. This is yours.
Make my words worth it.
Make this not some poem I write…
Walk into it, breathe it in.

Now, Jesus . . .

Calling those who hear what he says in the Sermon on the Mount to be people who not only “say” (Matthew 7:21-23) and “hear” (Matthew 7:24-29) what he preaches, but to construct their metaphorical houses on the rock these words impart.

Build your foundation on the pieces cut from Jesus found in his brilliant sermon meant to inspire you and ordain you to be flava and gleam in a world that is tasteless and dark.

Build your foundation on the rock of these words of Christ, for when the storms of life come, they will give you strength to stand.

Work in his words.  Breathe his words.  Live his words so well that dust does not have a chance to settle.  Or, as Mogjani states:

Let it crash into the halls of your arms…
Making you live, so that when the world knocks at your front door,
Clutch the knob tightly and open on up and run forward and far into its widespread greeting arms with your hands outstretched before you,
Fingertips trembling though they may be.

Thanks to Aaron Monts who turned me onto this video on his blog and for being an all around good man.  Check him out here.

The Best Youth Ministry

January 7, 2011

I ran across this quote from Mike Yaconelli today in Wayne Rice’s new book, Reinventing Youth Ministry (Again) and thought I would put it up here.

Youth Group is good.  But there’s a better good.  It’s called church.  Not youth church, or contemporary church, or postmodern church.  Just plain church.  Just plain, boring, ordinary church.  Yes, that’s right.  Church.  The place where people who don’t know each other get to know each other; where people who don’t normally associate with each other associate; where people who are different from each other learn how to be one.

Thoughts?

Where Student Ministry Fails

December 22, 2010

I just finished the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.  It is filled with stories about why successful people become successful.

Every story of success in Gladwell’s work has one thing in common.  Each of them has, when an opportunity comes, at least 10,000 hours of work in whatever field they become successful in (for instance, Bill Gates, when the personal computer craze started and the Beatles, when rock n roll emerged).

The goal of student ministry has always been to give a student a firm foundation in the Word so that when he/she graduates from high school and faces the challenges of the real world, they will not stray from Christ.  Lets us impose Gladwell’s theory of 10,000 hours equaling success to the number of hours it takes for a student to have a “firm foundation” in Christ.  If a student, from birth until eighteen, is to spends four hours at church a week (a very generous number), the number of hours they accumulate is 3744 (dreadfully short of the 10,000 required).  This leads me to several conclusions . . .

  1. It is no wonder the statistics of students falling away after high school are so high. There are all kinds of numbers for this, but I have heard it as low as 4% and as high as 12% of students who graduate from high school actually hold onto the faith.  If a church’s only offering to them is a few Bible studies a week, the student has little chance.
  2. Parents are essential. If a student’s parents are not helping to shape, mold and bring their kids up in Christ at home, away from church programs, the odds against a student are stacked against them.  The Church should encourage and empower parents as youth ministers wherever possible.
  3. The Church must encourage and teach students in how to gain insight from the Bible on their own. Leaving out the fact that the Bible is powerful and life-transforming, if we only did this to encourage them to gain more hours of experience into what it looks like to be a Christ follower, it would be worth it.
  4. Relationships which endure when a student graduates from high school will trump any Bible studies they attended. An adult who has earned the role of mentor to a student who graduates and leaves has a Kingdom responsibility to stay in that role in whatever capacity is possible.