Storytelling is a powerful tool for ministry that is underutilized today.
God is the master creator of our lives who is telling a beautiful story. The ministry that God is doing in our midst is worth communicating in a way that compels a response of life transformation towards Jesus.
Please check out the presentation I gave at the Drive-Thru Training Conference.
I have an 8 month old son who is obsessed with the TV remote. I even bought him a toy remote that sounds like you are changing the channel, but it didn’t fool him.
Now that he has started crawling, one of the greatest joys in my day is coming home, sitting on the floor, and waiting for him to crawl over to me. His smile leaks drool all over the carpet as he approaches.
Clawing up my shirt, wiping his nose on the way to a standing position, there is very little in this world greater than your kid crawling all over you in complete joy just to be with you again.
But then something happens.
His attention quickly shifts from touching my scruffy face to the TV remote on the coffee table. Like a puppy who just spotted a chew toy, my son is done with me and onto something else. This is the point I realize that I was being used…
He is not tall enough to reach the coffee table where he knows the remote lives. I sit on the ground and he has been presented the perfect launching point to get what he really wants. I am nothing more than a footstool that makes goofy noises to earn a smile.
Isn’t it frustrating when we are a stepping stone for something else? Its even more frustrating when I realize my relationship with God is often reduced to this.
The good news is that my son doesn’t know any better and I love him all the same. I think that we know better.
Lets make a deal with each other today: avoid using God to get what you want in life. More money, a less stressful job, and less homework are not what you need. Simply put, lets enjoy God for the Father that he truly is, sitting on the floor with us excited to be together again.
(this is not my kid)
I made the early drive to Blackies before sunrise to avoid the clutter of people in the water. Most times I found myself in the company of old men and girls, the mellowest of crowds, the most welcoming of sessions. As a beginner I craved this environment, the kind of environment that said my errors were a part of the process.
In working with staff and volunteers, I have come to realize how important intentional leadership is necessary. These are the 3 things that I try to do at every event, camp, and weekend service for my team.
- Encourage: be your team’s biggest fan. Motivate and create energy by lifting people up higher than when they showed for your event. Make them feel better about themselves just for being there. This attitude will then be passed to your students, creating an environment of encouragement.
- Affirm: whenever you see something done in the way that matches your ministry’s vision, take 10 seconds to affirm that person. Affirm the leader engaging the student sitting alone, the leader welcoming by the door, the person who gave a great announcement or led a game well, affirm your guest speakers, or the student leader who included a new student into their group of friends. Affirming an action that reflects your vision will guarantee it will be done again.
- Coach: when someone is not quite operating in the way you had hoped, take a minute to course-correct with a simple coaching moment. The key to this is to still keep it positive. This is not a time to reprimand or take out months of frustration on a leader. You cannot change a leader overnight, instead, give consistent feedback that gradually develops the people on your team.
I have been thinking about lot lately about what I am good at. I am not trying to create a list of things that I can do, or what I like to do, but what I am truly gifted at. I believe that all of us want to grow, learn, succeed, become better at what we do, accomplish, and be the person that God intended us to be.
But how am I cultivating that?
A good portion of my life is wasted on things unnecessary and dreaming of schemes larger than I am able to grasp. I want to be one of those people who know who they are and, maybe more importantly, know who they are not.
I watched this video a while back and a single stood out to me. It was created by Patagonia, an outdoor outfitter and overall activist for ecology and simplicity.
“To be a citizen of the earth is to put one’s brief life to the use of one’s dearest gifts.”
The obvious question is “what are my dearest gifts?” Dearest is such a brilliant choice of words as well, I love that our gifts are dear to us and that some of them are more emotional than others. Life was intended to be simple. Busy with the right stuff. Complex in the things that you were created to be.
Let us not chase after fasle ambition, selfish desires, or delusions of grandeur. Lets be who we are. Lets love in a way that is surprising, be generous in a way that is compelling, and forgive in a way that brings us back to a posture of wonder.
Sometimes knowing what not to do is the greatest learning of all.
“Careful with these jet skis, they have more power than most people understand,” a leader told one of our staff members on a junior high summer camp. “Please refrain from the temptation to ride alongside another watercraft and splash them with your wake.”
You and I both know that a jet ski gets old pretty quick if you are not bobbing and weaving in the water and occasionally using the power of your floating Ducati to douse people with the spray of your wake. On that trip I was given the incredibly sought-after role of driving the pontoon boat from the beach to the cliff jumping site with groups of students. While on one of my many trips a fellow staff member approached our slow moving vessel on a jet ski. She had the look in her eye that said, “you have no idea what is about to hit you!”
She was right. As she approached the rear of the boat, she hit the throttle while going over the wake of my boat, attempting to splash the students. The wake abruptly changed the course of the jet ski and she slammed into the back of the boat, striking the engine at full speed causing it to explode like we were hit by a torpedo. Dead in the water I was forced to swim (…SWIM!) the boat to shore.
The power of the jet ski was too much for her to handle.
Power has an ability to effect people like nothing else in the world. Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
Saul was the picture of absolute power in the first Century. Given authority by the high priest, he used his power to protect Judaism by persecuting and destroying the first church. Stopping at nothing, Jesus took it upon himself to end the destructive cycle that Saul had begun. In a radical disorientation, everything that Saul once knew was completely changed. Everything that he once stood for was uprooted, leaving a ghost of a man. In total contrast to the egotistical maniac that once stood, Saul was blind and led by hand to Damascus.
Saul was re-purposed by Jesus. His life built upon death and destruction was re-purposed to speak life into the world in the name of Jesus. Saul had to die so that Paul could be born.
Jesus understood power. “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” [John 13:3-5] In full knowledge and understanding of his power, he got up to serve his followers.
You are powerful, but what is your character saying about the way you use it?
P.S. this post has nothing to do with the leader’s character…just a story.
You mean I don’t just make a flier, put some kids in a group, and let the magic happen?
For whatever reason, small groups have become a burden to youth pastors. We know that we are supposed to offer them, parents expect them, and something in our ministry would be missing with out them. As mentioned in the post below, I spoke at a youth workers conference on Saturday about creating a successful small group ministry. Here is the approach I went with:
- Small groups are good if they accomplish: community, relationship, and deeper faith in Jesus.
- Small groups are significant if they are intentional and missional about shaping the culture around them.
My hope is to model our small group ministry after Jesus, in that he selected a group of boys and spent an intentional 3 years with them before handing over the keys to kingdom. We must ingrain the mission of God into our small groups and challenge them to change the world by the way they follow Jesus.
If you are further interested in my talk, you can download the .pdf of my teaching notes here. SuccessfulSmallGroupMinistry_teaching notes
A good story captures our emotion like nothing else. They have a way of communicating truths in a rich way that inspires us to live our lives differently. There are 4 primary components to every story: protagonist, ambition, conflict and resolution. Without each of these elements, the story won’t sit right with us.
It’s interesting how much our lives are like stories. We are the protagonist and we want something with our life. In reality if we want something lame, our story will be lame. But when we want something noble, bold, or powerful, our story will follow. Ambition is what drives our story. But good ambition will always be followed by conflict.
Every good story is filled with conflict. This is where most of the story takes places, its where we see what the protagonist is made of, its where we get inspired to overcome obstacles and never give up. We talked this weekend in junior high ministry about creating a good ambition for this school year so that each student has a great story when June comes around. We spent most of our time talking about the conflict that is guaranteed to take place. Consider it a gripping part of your story when things get tough, you feel like giving up, you are losing hope…but keep moving forward.
Your story is powerful. We each have a story that is being written by the author of life. What story is being written with your life?
(Donald Miller has some amazing material on the concept of story…you should check him out here.)
One of the best things a ministry can do is adopt a cause together. We have been raising awareness and money for a breakfast program in a partner village in Mexico called Rojo Gomez. 200 kids show up every school day to get breakfast at the local church. Because their parents work and money is an issue, these kids would normally only get one meal a day.
We have committed to raising 3,000 meals. Currently we are at 1,000. I wanted to share a story with you about one student who understands the power of caring for others. Madison’s mom sent this to me:
“Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to share my daughter’s story.
Madison told me on Friday night that she wanted to follow the plan of the week and support Rojo Gomez by raising money on Saturday. She wanted to sell lemonade. I thought to my self great, I’ve got no lemonade, no cups, no sweets or even a table for her to use! Well her father bought a cool wooden stand for $5 at a garage sale and I went shopping for the goodies. Madison, her 9 year old brother and two girlfriends decorated the stand and dragged it out to the corner. I quickly made a small batch of brownies and off they went to raise money for Rojo. Well after selling 16 quarts of lemonade and a batch of brownies, Madison raised over $100!
Boy was I surprised since it was cool and windy outside- who would want lemonade? God must having been shining down on those kids at that corner because there were so many people stopping they could hardly keep up! Anyways I am so proud of Madison and I hope the money helps those in need.”
I love when junior high students get it. I tend to forget how much God can use a couple of kids selling lemonade.