Day 1: NYWC session notes and thoughts

Topic / Culture, Training

Man, it’s only the first day and I’ve already taken 8 pages of notes! I think this will be the only night I try to type ’em all up in a some kind of logical sense. Whew!

Shifting from a youth ministry to a group of youth missionaries, by Dan Kimball
Despite the fact that Dan was functioning on only a couple hours of sleep from the night before, he presented this seminar very well. He addressed a big question many of us have thought before, “Why do teenagers get so passionate and excited about serving God and being evangelistic on Mexico mission trips (and other trips like that), but when they are back home fall into more of a routine and neutral passion about evangelism?”

His answer was basically this: We need to intentionally view our town as a mission field and model a lifestyle that actively seeks to reach others for Christ.

In Matthew 4:17-20 Jesus calls the disciples to follow Him and be fishers of people. Their primary role is the worship God, their secondary roll is to reach people. Acts 1:8 carries this same message. When we start reading the Bible through a missional lens, the whole book is missional, too.

Evangelism in Christian sub-culture becomes events and concerts. My personal observation is that Christians attend Christian outreach events more than non-Christians. What’s supposed to be an event for reaching the lost becomes entertainment for those already saved. Even though outreach events may reach some, I’ve seen relational outreach be much more effective. The success rate of relational evangelism seems to be so much higher than that of big events that I sometimes wonder why we still bother with them. Relational evangelism is just so much easier, too!

Unfortunately, the longer we’re Christians the more we stop socializing and hanging out with non-Christian friends, so by the time we reach a ripe old age and have grown to be mature in our faith, the only people who see it are other believers.

Dan said he thinks the reason teens drop out of church after high school is because they’re bored with the “bunny slope” (short-term missions) and they don’t know that the black diamond slope even exists (our life is on a mission). If they lived like they’re on a mission in a mission field their prayer lives would increase, their spirituality would be strengthened and their knowledge of scripture would abound. Our kids have skis but they need to put them on an go down the hill!

Some ideas and questions in creating guilt-free and non-awkward missionaries
1. Do an experiment of presenting your local town as a mission field. Give demographic stats, the perks, the struggles, what previous missionaries have tried there and what it will cost them (free!), but present it initially as if it were a village somewhere.

2. Personally re-think our role. Are we “youth group leaders” or “leaders of youth missionaries?” Do we see ourselves as youth leaders or just hang out with church kids? We need to intentionally go to the unsaved community and use our teens to reach them.

3. Write missionary letters or missionary journals as an exercise. Send newsletters and mission updates and prayer support letters just like we would for any short-term missions trip.

Teach and train youth to better understand how to think about critical key issues in our culture, such as the trustworthiness of scripture and other apologetics.

BOTTOM LINE FOR ME: Relational ministry is the most effective form of evangelism, which obviously indicates it must be an ongoing visible lifestyle, not a calendar event.

General Session #1: Buster Soaries
Normal faith is not what we need — it’s inadequate. We need to pray for astonishing faith if we want to see what God has in store for us.

In Matthew 8:5-10 the Centurion had faith that God could heal his servant from a distance. Whenever God is revealed, something happens!

How did the Centurion know Jesus could heal from a distance It had never been done before. Jesus touched other sick people or was in the presence in some way. The Centurion’s faith was so astonishing. He believed God could do what He’s never done before. God specializes in things that have never happened before, not reruns.

BOTTOM LINE FOR ME: Faith involves risk. When I ask the Lord to interact with my life I then need to trust Him with it. God wants to do things through me that He’s never done before and He needs me to take my hands off!

The importance of theology in youth ministry (or any ministry in a church), by Dan Kimball
Dan’s main roll in this seminar was to raise a lot of questions about why we do what we do in church. Most of it is not based on scripture but rather has just passed down through tradition. Whether we like it or not, the way we do church communicates a lot about our theology and values. A lot of his questions and conclusions are some of the exact same ones I’ve been wrestling with personally and blogging about the past several months. Some people may read my skepticism about the current model for this thing we call church and be immediately label me a heretic, so it was refreshing for me to sit in Dan’s seminar and hear all my same questions being asked by someone who’s more well-known and respected than me.

The modern church has fallen into a subtle trap that has caused some people to re-think what church is supposed to look like. Dan said it goes through several phases.

Phase 1: First we re-think our methodology. How are ministry methods supposed to change as culture changed? Rethinking methods usually begins with changing the worship gathering, as I kinda thought through in a blog post earlier this week. Why do we do what we do?

Phase 2: We then re-think the youth ministry, realizing that it is not in isolation and culture and theology is beyond an age group. Discipleship is not something limited to just certain age groups.

Phase 3:
Next we rethink our ecclesiology. What is church? (It’s not a building or a place. It’s not some place we go. WE are the church, I am a part of it.) Our theology about church is indicated in many ways, including how we set up a room. Pews separate the speaker from the audience, raising him to some “more important” status of the church. Pews also make the church service a performance with spectators. It doesn’t teach community as we stare at that backs of people’s heads. Our ecclesiology is also indicated by what we teach about worship. We don’t go to church to worship (as I also blogged about two weeks ago), as if what takes place at church is something different than what should take place at home. We also equate worship with singing and thereby ignore many other forms of worship in services.

This leads to start rethinking spiritual formation, evangelism, community, preaching, church “membership,” and the roll of a “pastor.” What is a pastor? What’s a youth pastor? In scripture “pastor” is a spiritual gift, but we’ve turned it into a title.

Phase 4:
No we start rethinking our theology (without losing truth). This means changes are more than just contemporary music and adding some candles. More questions are bound to come up and thus we MUST know what we believe and why. Students need to know the Bible, its origin, inspiration, how to handle difficult passages and how to understand it holistically. They also need a theology of human sexuality, marriage, homosexuality and divorce. Furthermore, they need to understand the church, the roll of women, what “church” is, the roll of the Holy Spirit and more.

Phase 5: We start being the church rather than going to church.

BOTTOM LINE FOR ME: Dan Kimball: “Getting the latest youth ministry fad materials lasts for only minutes, but theology will last students their lifetime.” I also walked away feeling more confident about my critical questions concerning church and that I need to continue exploring scripture’s intent and how that plays out for us today.

General Session #2: Mike Pilavachi
Jesus didn’t try to entertain anyone into the kingdom. He just had them hang out with Him through daily life and He taught them along the way. He had the disciples feed the 5,000 from 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes. Jesus likes to perform miracles through His disciples. The disciples finally cast out a demon and they were excited. Jesus said, “Rejoice not that demons flee, but that your names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” Jesus taught them as they went.

BOTTOM LINE FOR ME: It confirms the importance for relational ministry and teaching through real-life situations.

[tags]Evangelism, Dan Kimball, Youth Specialties, National Youth Workers Convention, NYWC, Outreach, Mike Pilavachi, Buster Soaries, church, missions[/tags]

Posted on October 7, 2006

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