7 Things Every Student Pastor Needs To Know

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Having spent over 20 years in student ministry, these are just a few brief thoughts that I felt led to share:

1. You Bring Nothing To The Table

A great friend of mine spoke this truth into my life several years back and he reminds me of it often when we are discussing ministry. He tells me, “You bring nothing to the table but your unrighteousness. Jesus brings everything else!” Before your pride starts letting you believe that you are God’s gift to ministry, allow this truth sink in and humble your heart. Because that is when true ministry happens. When we start to understand that this thing is not about us or our abilities, but rather it is all about Christ taking the wretches that we are and choosing to use us in His kingdom work, that’s when He begins to get the true glory in our lives and in our ministries.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” – James 4:10

 

2. You Should Partner With Other Student Ministers

I struggled with this for years in my ministry. I used to think that only small and weak student ministries needed to team up with other Churches in order to do events. I felt that if I was to partner with another Church for a ministry project, it was a poor reflection on me or that it expressed my ministry couldn’t do it alone. Looking back on it, it was really a pride issue. If I partnered with another minister to do an event, then I would have to share the success and glory that would come out of it. That is a sad place to be in ministry. The truth is, at times, we can do so much more Kingdom work collectively than we ever could apart. I’m not saying you have to team up for everything on your ministry calendar.   But, at times, there are benefits to working together with other ministries.

“Therefore we ought to support others, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.” – 3 John 1:8

 

3. You Are Vulnerable

No matter who you are, no matter how strong your faith, you are vulnerable to a spiritual face plant. The real truth is that I am a sinner. And because of that, left to myself, without Christ’s influence in my life on a daily basis, I am capable of some very ugly, vile, nasty, grossly offensive things. I must commit to daily renewing my mind with the Truth of the Gospel. When I don’t, I leave myself spiritually exposed and even more vulnerable to attack.

Whether it be moral failure, divorce, addiction, or some other form of stumbling, be certain that Satan is looking for the opportunity to destroy you. I speak from experience when I say that these things can and will cost you your friends, your credibility, your reputation, your family, and your ministry. Be diligent in guarding your heart. Be tenacious when it comes to protecting your marriage. And always strive to be morally above board in all your dealings, ministry or otherwise.

In addition, be very careful how you treat and speak about another minister who has stumbled. Show the grace and love that you would want to be shown if the situation was reversed.

“Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.” – Proverbs 4:23

 

4. You Need Accountability

This is something that we as ministers hear all the time, but rarely use it effectively.  We must have accountability in all areas of our lives. Men, if your wife doesn’t have the password to your phone, computer and all social networks that you are a part of, she needs to. (on a side note: and I know there are exceptions, but if you don’t have small children and you feel the need for a password on your phone, that’s a red flag.)

I have two guys in my life that I talk to on at least a weekly basis. We know the good, the bad, and the ugly about one another. I know I can call when I am struggling or when crisis hits my life and I trust them to speak the Truth in love to me. I know that they love me unconditionally, but they are not afraid to ask me tough questions or confront me when needed. If you don’t have a friend like that, find one.

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” – Proverbs 27:17

 

5. You Still Have A Lot To Learn

No matter how many years of ministry you have under your belt of Truth, there are always ways you can improve your ministry. If you are just starting out, listen and learn from some guys who have been in ministry a while. If you have been in ministry for a while, listen and learn from some of the younger guys who have some fresh, new ideas. The way you’ve always done it is not always the best way to keep doing it. Take some time, find a conference that you feel like will be a benefit to you in your ministry, and go. Ministry, technology, and culture are always changing. We need to be willing to adapt our ministries methods (without compromising the message) to effectively reach students. Never reach a point where you are unwilling to learn something new.

“Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.” – Proverbs 8:33


6. You Will Not Always Be Liked

I am a people pleaser by nature, so I struggle a lot with this one. Leading effectively does not equate with always being liked by everyone. There are going to be plenty of times in your ministry when students, parents, Church members, and even fellow staff members are not going to like a leadership decision that you make. You are called to honor God in your ministry. At times, that means making tough decisions and standing by them.

I’m not saying that you don’t take other people’s feelings into account. We are commanded by God to see others as more important than ourselves. But you cannot compromise your ministries integrity to save people’s feelings towards you. This is especially difficult when it comes to students. You are called to be their Student Minister, not their friend. That is a fine line to walk at times because those two roles cant always coexists.

But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men.’” – Acts 5:29

 

7. You Have To Be Genuine

A former pastor of mine once told me that, “Talent and ability will only take you so far in ministry. If you aren’t genuine with people, you will not be successful.”   Especially with students, if you are not real with them, they will see right through you. You can’t stand up in front of a group of teenagers and plead with them to follow a pattern of life that you yourself aren’t living out in front of them. Your Student ministry will ultimately reflect its leader. If you compromise in your walk, your students will do the same. If you live out a life that is bold for Christ, you will inspire the same in your students. Be Real and your students will do the same.

“So that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—maybe found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” – 1 Peter 1:7

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Jesus Rx

Jesus Rx

Like many people, I have been battling allergy related illnesses this Spring. Last week a head and chest cold took me down hard. When I’m sick like that, the remedy I reach for is Nyquil. A bottle of Nyquil will last the average person 3-6 months. A guy my size, it lasts about 2-3 days.   That little cup they give you as a dosage measure, it goes in the trash with the plastic safety wrap.

So, usually after 2 or 3 nights with my Nyquil, the cold passes. Did Nyquil cure my cold? Not at all. It simply helped me manage my symptoms.   The countless medicines out there on the market, for whatever type of ailment, all basically do the same thing. They don’t cure the sickness, they help mask the discomforts caused by the sickness itself.

We were all born with a spiritual sickness to which we have no cure on our own – Sin. And we turn to many things in life to help us mask the pain that our sin causes. Some turn to substances; some chase after fortune to satisfy the emptiness inside; still others attempt to find relief in relationships.

The symptoms that we try to cope with – anger, bitterness, loneliness, fear, guilt, pride, self worth, selfishness – they are tied back to the deep seeded sickness found in our sin nature. And there is no cure that this world can offer.

Sadly, even as Christians, too often, we treat Jesus like He is our Spiritual Nyquil. We turn to Him only when life gets tough and difficult for us to manage. Got a problem? Pull Jesus off the shelf and ask Him to help us deal with it.

Christ did not come to earth, die on the cross, and raise from the dead to help us manage our symptoms of sin. He came to be the cure for our sin once and for all.

He didn’t come to make your life better.
He came to make your life brand new.

He didn’t come to remodel us.
He came to remake us.

He’s not a self-help method.
He’s our Salvation.

He is the only CURE for the sickness of sin. Stop trying to manage the symptoms of the sickness. Start living in the freedom found in being cured.

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“I Just Can’t Talk To People About Jesus”

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“I just can’t find a way to talk to people about Jesus without seeming pushy or awkward.”

Ever heard that? Ever said that?

Sometimes we make the whole concept of “talking about Jesus” entirely too difficult. Having a Gospel conversation with someone doesn’t mean you have to beat them over the head with the Bible – starting at Genesis and telling the entire story through Revelation.

Talking about Jesus means at some point, we turn the conversation towards Christ, even if it is just for a sentence.  Sometimes it may lead to the conversations opening up to discuss your faith; other times it will just be a quick mention of Christ and then the conversation moves on.

The excuse that it’s really hard and at times awkward to just turn a conversation is not a valid excuse at all. We turn conversations all the time.

For example, you don’t have to talk to me for very long before I will be telling you about my wife and kids or pulling out my phone to show you pictures of them. Am I being pushy? No. I am just passionate about my family. So I take the opportunity to let people know that whenever I see the chance.

Guys, you have your favorite team. You turn conversations toward that team all the time – “Did you see the game last night?” “Did you hear about the big trade?” “Did you hear our third string half-back has an ingrown toenail and is out for two weeks?” – Why? It’s something that you are passionate about. You find joy in talking about it.

Ladies, let’s say you find a great deal on a particular outfit at your favorite store.   I mean you get this thing for a steal because of the in-store discount combined with an online coupon you had and Venus being aligned with Jupiter and all other sorts of things. How long do you wait before you work that in to a conversation with a friend? You can’t wait to tell someone! You are excited about it and you don’t care who knows it!

The truth is, we talk about what we are passionate about. We don’t have to work hard or be manipulative to work those things into our everyday conversations. They just come out of us because they are things that are important to us.

If we are living the type of lives that Christ has called us to live and allowing Him to permeate every area of our life, if He is our true passion, guess what? – He will begin to pop up in our daily conversations.   Many of those mentions of Christ will not be anymore than a sentence long. But some might be. Just see where the conversation takes you

Stop making it so hard on yourself. Just try it. Turn a conversation towards Christ today.

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7 Methods of “Bracketology”

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Today is an awesome day if you are a College Basketball fan – the bracket is set, the teams are seeded, and the contest invitations are suddenly outnumbering “Harlem Shake” video links.

The tournament kicks off in three days; unless you count the “play-in” games, which I don’t (until my team lands in one).  And yes they are play-in games, not the first round.  I refuse to tarnish the splendor that is the first Thursday of The Big Dance by referring to it as the “second round.”  Whether you are a casual watcher or a die-hard fanatic, it is hard not to get caught up “hoop”la that surrounds this special time of year in College Sports.

Millions of people are once again filling out their brackets.  Some do it for fun, some do it for prizes, and some do it for bragging rights.  And then they will sit back to see how their selections play out. As I begin the process of filling out my bracket today, I ponder the many different processes that people employ when making their bracket decisions.  Here are a few systems of selection that I came up with:

“The Seeder”
This person that goes straight down the bracket and picks the highest seeded team in every game.  They have not watched a college basketball game all season.  And they are only filling out a bracket because they can’t say no to peer pressure.

“The Statistician”
This is the guy that knows every detail about every match-up.  Right down to the shoe size of the second string small forward on a random 16 seed team.  He spends way, way, way too much time filling out his bracket.  And then spends even more time telling everyone about the hows and whys of each of his picks.  This is also the guy who will be cursing at the TV and telling everyone how jacked up his bracket is by the second round.

“The Fan”
No matter what the odds, they pick with their heart.  Their selections are based on creating the best case scenario for their team to make it to the Final Four.  And of course, once their team is there, they WILL win it all!

“The Flipper”
This person has no problem figuring out the easy picks.  But if the truth is told, when it comes down to the 7 seed versus a 10 seed or even worse, a 8 versus a 9, they pull out a quarter and let fate decide.

“The Buzzer Beater”
They will fill out a bracket at the last minute; just in the nick of time simply because they don’t want to feel left out.  They will rush through their picks because of the time deadline and they will spend the entire tournament second guessing themselves.  The regret and shame they put themselves through will turn out to be a far worse feeling then having just been left out of the contest in the first place.

“The Old School”
This is the person who hasn’t watched college basketball since 1980; and all their picks are based on the talent level of the teams as they knew them back then.  In some cases this is an okay thing.  In some cases this is a very bad thing.  These are also the only brackets that may contain “write-in” selections.  This is where they remember a team that was really good back-in-the-day and think they should be in the mix now.  So, they just add them to the list.

“The Color Coordinator”
Usually a sister, wife or a mom who decides it would be fun to jump into to your bracket tournament filling out contest thingy.  They make all their selections based on the team that has the prettiest colors or best coordinated uniforms.  And on a side note, these ladies’ brackets more often than not unexplainably finish near the top of the contest if they don’t win the whole thing.

What are some methods you or “a friend” have used?

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Do You Follow Jesus?

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Do you follow Jesus?

The twittersphere has redefined that word:   follow.

Many people in today’s culture have reduced the idea of following Jesus to just that.  We treat our “relationship” with Christ as if He is a Twitter account.  From time to time, He will show up on our life’s feed amongst all the others influences that we “follow.”  We give Him a quick glace as He makes an appearance, sandwiched between our friends and the other cultural icons that we “follow” religiously.

We even take that extra step and intentionally check out His feed by going to Church almost once a week.  And there is always something there that makes us think – not for very long; but think none the less.  On the rare occasion we even re-tweet what He has to say on our life’s feed and for a brief moment we let His truth impact our lives.  But sadly, that too fades away all too quickly as our attention is once again swept away by other influences.

But, hey, at least we’re “following” Jesus.  Right?

Just a reminder about what Jesus said it meant to follow Him:
“And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'” – Luke 9:23

Following Jesus does not mean that we insert Him into our lives and treat our association with Him like it’s just another hat we wear: I’m a parent, I’m a teacher, I’m a student, I’m a spouse,  I’m a child, I’m a baseball player, I’m a fisherman, I’m a computer programmer… oh, yeah, I’m a Christian too.

Following Christ doesn’t mean we simply add Him to our life.  It means we give up complete  control of our life to Him and He in turn affects every facet of our life: I’m a Christ Follower who is also a parent, I’m a Christ Follower who is also a student, I’m a Christ Follower who is employed as an Accountant, I’m a Christ Follower who enjoys Cheerleading, I’m a Christ Follower… That has to be the driving force of a person that truly follows Christ.

So the question remains … Do you follow Jesus?

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10 Things NOT To Give A Woman for Valentine’s Day (re-post)

(Originally posted 2-13-2012)

Just in the nick of time – because most guys haven’t bought anything yet; in fact, if most guys reading this were honest, this post just reminded you that Valentine’s Day is two days away – I present 10 things NOT to give a woman on Valentine’s Day.

10. A Gym Membership
Guys, even though in your mind you are thinking, “she is always saying she wants to get in shape,” I can promise you that she doesn’t want any help from you in this area on this day.
This also includes any fitness related gifts of any kind, including but not limited to: bathroom scales, running shoes, pilates mat, Biggest Loser cookbook, and diet pills.

9. A Kitchen Appliance Of Any Kind
I would hope this one is self-explanatory. Because, nothing says, “I love you” more than, “Get in the kitchen and whip up a little something.” Right?

8. A Coupon For Public Displays Of Affection
Guys, we think we are being cute and sweet when we make the home-made coupon book that includes cards that say things like “Good for 1 FREE hug”, “Give one kiss get a second one FREE” and “Good for 30 minutes of hand holding in a public place.” But basically you are saying, “Ok, ok, I’ll kiss you, but you need to have your coupon; and you better hope it hasn’t expired.”

7. Any Car Accessory or Maintenance
Fellas, I know cars are important to us. But giving a woman with an oil change and tire rotation on her vehicle for Valentine’s Day just doesn’t scream romance. Ladies, sadly, men are putting forth an effort here. Guys really think they have done something when they stand there and anxiously watch you open ‘The Club: Car Security System’ on February 14. And they will stand there grinning from ear to ear and say, “See, Baby, now no one can steal your car!”

6. Drugstore Chocolates
Let me first clarify that there are acceptable candies to give for Valentine’s Day. But the standard, heart-shaped boxes that the local drugstore unpacks every year in January (most of which have been stored in the warehouse after not selling last year) are unacceptable. The message you are sending here, guys, is “I stopped off to buy some toilet paper and beef jerky and I thought of you.”

5. Tickets To An Event That YOU Wanna Go To
It cannot be denied that ladies love to be taken out for special events. They love for men to plan ahead and buy tickets in advance. That being said, guys don’t be surprised when they react negatively on Valentine’s Day if you present them with season tickets to the monster truck rally. Just because you wanna go see WWE Raw when it comes to a city near you, doesn’t mean she has her heart set on it.

4. A Gag Gift
We think we are hilarious, don’t we guys? Granted, I am all in favor of humor; I love a good joke. But if all you have to give her for Valentine’s is a t-shirt that reads “I’m With Stupid”, Well, then I would have to agree with the shirt. Save the fun for April 1.

3. Pepper Spray
Men think they are offering protection with a gift like this. It is that whole sense of security thing we want to offer. But gentlemen, if this is the only gift you have for her on “the most romantic day of the year,” then the only advice I can offer you is:
– Wash face and eyes with soap and water
– Flush eyes profusely with cold water
– Keep face exposed to fresh air
– Do not bandage the exposed area
– Repeat as needed until inflammation subsides

2. Power Tools Or Home Improvement Tools Of Any Kind
Guys, women are not stupid! When you tell them, “Honey, I love you so much, that I bought you this DEWALT DCK655X 18-Volt XRP Cordless 6 Tool Combo Kit!” they know who you bought it for. Because we all know it is every woman’s dream to have her own Snow Blower or Table Saw given to her on V-Day.

1. Anything in a ring-sized box that is NOT a ring
This is an absolute no no! Something happens to women when they see that velvet 2.5 inch square box. And when they open that box and find cubic zirconium earrings, things are going to go very badly, very quickly! Guys, just be safe and steer clear of any gift even remotely the same size of a ring box unless it is actually a ring. This no, no is especially true for single women. Oh, the horrors!

What are some other gifts NOT to give a woman on Valentine’s Day?

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Need Hope This Christmas? Here It Is?

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When I say the word’s “Christmas Story”, what pops into your head?   A Star?  Bethlehem?  A Manger?  A Red Rider BB Gun?  We all have thoughts about the Christmas Story.  We are constantly reminded during this time of year to remember the true meaning of Christmas.  But, what is the true meaning of the Christmas Story?  Let me suggest to you that the Christmas story began way before that night in Bethlehem; way before Mary and Joseph; all the way back to the beginning of the world.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” we are told in Genesis 1:1.  God created everything.  God created man to live in fellowship with Him.  Man sinned; and the relationship was severed.  There was a huge gap between God and man that man had no hope of bridging.

The entire Old Testament is a story of God choosing to reveal Himself to His people.  God’s Shekinah Glory represented God’s presence with His people.  The word Shekinah, aside from being a fun word to say, simply means a visible manifestation of a divine presence.  The burning bush (Exodus 3:1-15); the cloud of smoke, the pillar of fire (Exodus 13:21-22); Moses atop the mountain (Exodus 31) – all pictures of God’s Glory.

Later, God chose to allow His glory to dwell with His people in the Tabernacle.

Still later, God allowed Solomon to build a temple where God’s Glory dwelt again among His people.

God’s Glory represented God’s presence and His covenant with His people.
God had not given up on them.  God was choosing to reveal Himself to man.

Throughout out the entire Old Testament we see a cycle:
-God has a good relationship with His people.
– God’s people rebel and fall away from Him.
– God’s people fall on hard times.
– God chooses a messenger, a prophet, a judge or a king to lead His people back to Him.
– The relationship is restored.
– And the cycle begins all over again.

But, in Ezekiel chapters 8 & 9, due again to His people’s rebellion,  we are told of God’s Glory leaving the temple; in fact, leaving the face of the earth.  From that point on, God’s Glory wasn’t seen or heard from for over 400 years.  That is a long time.

To put it in perspective, try this, The United States has only been a nation for a little over 230 years.  We are talking 400 years here.

Imagine what people must have been thinking.

50 years go by… No prophets; no Word from God.

100 years pass… no judges; nothing

200 years… not a word; no Glory.  Has He forgotten us?

300 years… despair sets in as people remember stories of The Glory

400 years pass… no Glory.  God must have given up on us.  We are doomed

And then…

“there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” (Luke 2:8-9)

What shone around them?  THE GLORY!

For the first time in over 400 years, The Glory was seen on the earth.

“the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”” (Luke 2:10-11)

God didn’t forget us!  He came back!  God’s presence once again dwells with man.

And this time it was different.  No smoke or fire, tabernacles or temples; no, this time God chose to dwell with men as man.  He manifested Himself through His Son, Jesus.  So that He could bridge the gap of sin once and for all and provide the way for God to dwell in us as His chosen people; as His Children.

That’s the true meaning of Christmas!  God didn’t leave us in our sin.  He came back to save us.  He came back to dwell with us.  Why?  Because He loves us!

If you need hope this Christmas, there it is.  God made a way for you and for me to become His Children.  It is a story that has been thousands of years in the making;  a story that is still being written.

Merry Christmas!

“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His GLORY, the GLORY of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

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