Notes and thoughts from second day at NYWC

I wasn’t quite sure what this guy’s point was and, judging by the number of people that left during his talk, I’m not sure too many other people did either. What I took from it, though, is that homes are always creating values and beliefs in the lives of our students. We may spend a lot of time telling kids something at church, like God loves them, but when they go home all they hear is, “You’re worthless!” Our messages are often overshadowed by what they hear at home because the home is spending more time instilling a different set of values and beliefs, whether intentionally or not.

I really enjoyed Marko’s seminar because most of it came from personal stories of failure and mistakes. He wasn’t afraid to say, “Here’s how I messed up big-time and here’s what I learned from it.” It was kinda refreshing in a way to know that I’m not the only youth pastor that makes mistakes and learns the hard way. I just hope I can avoid some mistakes in the future by learning from people like him.

Last week I thought to myself, “If I could back up two and a half years and start everything over again at my youth ministry, what would I do differently?” Two things come to mind that I would change if I could start over. First, I’d make outreach a priority rather than letting students become comfortable with their own little group. Second, I’d be more intentional about making sure communication was clear and complete between students, parents, volunteers and church leadership. I can’t go back and change them, but following Marko’s example I can learn for the future and start to make the necessary changes now.

One thing Marko’s learning about leadership right now is that people are more comfortable with change when they know and see that we’re around and available to their lives. This doesn’t mean scheduling time to meet with someone — this means normal, unscheduled time spent together.

There are plenty of things in my youth group that need to change. Marko mentioned that change works best when it’s a continual cycle that people are used to. When people start to feel comfortable and settle into a routine, change becomes more difficult and needs to be approached differently. This is true because there is a major weakness of our youth ministry that I’m trying hard to change, but it feels like little ground is being made because I let it go too long. Everyone feels too “stable” and I know now that I need to address these things before they become the norm.

Marko left us with a practical process for future-dreaming and evaluating ministry that they use for Youth Specialties. It has 5 steps and should be done thoroughly with a team of people.

1. Dream up a long list of “Imagine if…” statements. Dream way bigger than what you actually want to do.

2. What are the things we clearly value in this ministry? Which old values do we want to hold on to and what new ones do we want to adopt?

3. What characteristics define who your ministry is? Give your ministry a name and think of it as a living human. What characteristics does your ministry posses? What is the ministry like? Where do we want this ministry to move?

4. Identify the “sacred cows.” What are some road-blocks to changing these things? Most sacred cows are unspoken in our ministries. There are three levels to the sacred cows: red light = this will never change, it’s non-negotiable; yellow light = this might be changeable, but changing it will be costly; green light = this cow is easy to slaughter.

Marko gave us some time to start discussing these things with our church group, so Dana, Jessica and myself did so. Here’s a couple items from our “Imagine if…” list:
— Imagine if every student brought a friend to church on the same day.
— Imagine if students were more concerned for others than themselves.
— Imagine if students had a passion to worship God genuinely and publicly.
— Imagine if students had a burden for unsaved people and were missional-minded.
— Imagine if all the youth group students were unified together.

After attending Marko’s session I think I feel a little more confident to tackle some of these issues and do my best to make change take place.

Donald Miller, the author of Blue Like Jazz, wasn’t a very dynamic kinda guy as I anticipated he would be, but after I got over the fact that he’s pretty introverted and soft-spoken, man, that guy is loaded with insights!

Donald Miller really challenged me to be more intentional about building relationships with unsaved people and leading them to Christ. Unfortunately, I am pretty wrapped up in a Christian bubble. The most contact I have with unbelievers is when I get online to play Guild Wars with about 10 other guys. It’s a double-standard for me to encourage students to get to know unbelievers at their school and invite them to Christ if I’m not doing the same.

Donald said two things clearly. First, the church needs to change. How we “do church” must be taken back to scripture and evaluated. Unfortunately, the only thing scripture tells us about how to “do church” is how to pick elders for it, that’s it. We have a blank slate on pretty much everything else concerning “doing church.” The example we have is bunch of people sitting around a table as a family breaking bread and drinking wine together. If the church should be like a family, then it’s going to be pretty small, messy, hard and it’s going to take time.

Second, Christians are taught to stay inside the Christian culture in order to stay safe and avoid people who disagree with us. In Acts, though, the apostles went so far out into culture that they were killed for it! Donald used the traditional passage of Paul in Athens in Acts 17 to point out that Paul discussed the gospel to the people of Athens in their meeting place. Then he went to the streets and talked with anyone who came along and the people loved him!

Darwin’s influence on the church is the survival of the fittest — if they don’t agree with you, starve them out. But Paul does the opposite. He seeks them out and intentionally builds relationships with them. Because of this, he’s invited to speak more and, in this meeting, he opens with a complement, “I see that you are deeply spiritual.” He looks at them and thinks, “What do we have in common?” People have 99% of everything on common, so build relationships on these things.

Paul was also involved in their culture by memorizing poetry. Some say that this was Paul’s strategy, but Donald Miller thinks it was because Paul actually liked these people. He enjoyed them and invested time into what they were all about.

The personal application is clear.

[tags]National Youth Workers Convention, NYWC, Youth Specialties, Rollie Martinson, Donald Miller, Mark Oestreicher, church[/tags]

Posted on October 8, 2006

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