Support Your Local Youth Pastor!

I am pro-local church.

That said…I am everlastingly grateful that God has called and equipped me to work in (oh, how I detest this term) “parachurch” ministry.

Why?

For one reason, because of the way many…if not most…churches treat their youth pastors/workers.

I write particularly of full-time, vocational youth pastors; though the premise is sadly applicable to all who work with teens in the context of a local church.

I’m not writing of the budget (or lack thereof), or the folks who gripe that the youth “mess up” the church…or their music is too loud…or their room is painted weirdly…though things like the aforementioned and so much more are “little foxes that spoil the vine.”

I write particularly of those church members/leadership who:

  • don’t like that the youth pastor talks about sex so much
  • don’t like that the youth pastor spends so much time at games, concerts, and plays that involve teens
  • don’t like that the youth pastor takes his kids to camps/programs/concerts that aren’t their particular denomination or favorite “ism”
  • don’t like that the youth group is allowing “those” types of teens to attend
  • don’t like that the youth pastor is encouraging students to ask their parents to pray and/or study the Word with them
  • don’t like that the youth pastor occasionally challenges students to think about the level of their commitment to sports

Yes, I’ve heard all of those and more…some of them during times when I was serving as a part time youth pastor in a church whilst they looked for a full time guy or girl.

Too many church types want “their” youth group to be a social club for the church kids…only. Why do they feel that way? Probably because that’s how they look at church themselves.

After all, the great commission, obedience, discipleship, mentoring, holiness etc are great things to talk about (or listen to); but, gee whiz, you don’t want to complicate my already busy life with actually doing something, do you?

Thus when a youth group starts rolling as a group of Christians seeking to love, obey, and share the Lord (in other words, to be the church) that group can and does make a lot of the church folks nervous…and thus they take out their arrows to shoot at the youth pastor.

And that stinks.

Bad.

Fabulous Week of Camp…WHY?

Saturday concluded week 1 at Midland Ministries’ SuperC Teen Camp. I once again had the privilege, responsibility, and joy of being the speaker.

I left camp a bit early yesterday so Jacob and I could drive 9 hours to my next camp (Machasay in Colorado). Spoke last night to the staff; again this morning; and tomorrow will speak for two days at their teen leadership camp.

But back to week 1.

As most know, I’ve been tasked with camp speaking for 41 summers, averaging 6 or 7 weeks each season.

So I’ve done a few…

This one was…well…dare I say it?…anointed.

If you’ve ever been to a teen camp; you know that it is usually midweek (at best) before the walls come down. Worship is stilted, interaction is almost forced, and there is a bit of wariness.

Monday evenings worship was rather typical…but starting Tuesday morning I and other staff members noticed a cohesiveness, a caring, a joy that is not typical.

I think one reason was that Jared Prindle, who used to be a youth pastor at a local church and now serves at a church near Saint Louis, brought over 30 campers and a few counselors.

They already knew each other, and yet were not clique-ish…they melded and molded with the other campers and I believe were a key factor in the week.

God’s Spirit convicted several and brought them to Christ and the gospel. Other commitments were made that prayerfully will stand the test of time.

Last Sunday night I preached at a maximum security prison located about 45 minutes from the camp. I’ve known many of the inmates who showed up for chapel for several years. I shared I’d be starting a week of camp the next morning; and they prayed for me and stated that they would gather together each morning at breakfast to pray.

Perhaps that had something to do with the week being a success? And many, many other supporters and friends of me and Midland were praying. Who knows how many grandmas, parents, and others were praying for “their” campers to be impacted by the Word of hope?

All I know is that I was blessed beyond belief to be a part of the week; and continue to pray that the campers remember, apply, and follow through with their “decisions.”

And I’d ask you to pray, also.

Here’s a pic of the group: week 1

And part of the fun of “Survivor”

survivor

And fun on the water:

blob

Summer Camp –

youth camp

I’m amazed…

Amazed I’m in the family of God, redeemed, forgiven, justified…

Amazed I get to spend time bragging on Jesus to teens…over four years of my life have been spent speaking at youth camps over the last four decades…

Camp is an amazing thing. Monday I’ll begin the first of 7 weeks of camp preaching for 2019 (5 teen, two family).

The crucial ingredient of an effective Christian camp is good, committed counselors. The best speaker with apathetic counselors makes for a horrendous camp;  an okay speaker with great counselors will work well.

Good food, good discipline, and good acoustics are key ingredients. If a worship band is used…they should be quality and interested in facilitating worship; not putting on a show.

Notice I’ve not listed “programming” yet?

Doesn’t matter what programming you have…if you don’t have a good (meaning Bible-based) speaker, good counselors, and the other things listed it doesn’t matter what kind of programming you have…

I also think camp can be a dangerous thing; if everyone is pushing for “decisions” rather than asking the Spirit of God to work in His way and His timing. I am not against altar calls; I am against “easy” altar calls. Why?

I read the Bible. And I notice that Jesus always made it easier to say “no” than “yes.”

Again…I am not diametrically opposed to “invitations,” as long as the invitee is the Spirit and not someone doing “business as usual”.

I also am leery of the “heads bowed, eyes closed” approach. I “get” it…I just can’t imagine Paul, or Peter…or Jesus…doing such a thing.

I want and I believe the Lord wants young (and old) people to stand out and stand up for Jesus and the Gospel…so why “start” them in secret??? “No one is looking around, just raise your hand if…” Please understand – I am not hammering the motives of anyone who gives invitations like this; I just question the methodology.

All too often, especially in camp situations, students are exhausted, emotionally drained, and a well-meaning but careless speaker can provoke “decisions” born of peer pressure, tiredness, and emotion rather than birthed by conviction and drawing of the Spirit of God.

So I ask prayer that I’d be bold in preaching, clear in communication, discerning in one-on-one counsel…and that the Wind of the Spirit would be pleased to change us.

Do you agree, disagree, or not understand my observations of camp ministry? I ask you to make the time to “comment” so we can, together, learn from each other.

Often This is the Big Problem for Youth

problemInterested in the reality of youth ministry? Youth, in general?

The following quote is from No Guts, No Glory (Matthias Media).

It is, quite simply, the first book I recommend to youth pastors.

I wish parents and “senior” pastors would read it.

Any veteran of youth work will nod and remember, probably with tears, particular teens who were negatively impacted not by drugs, sex, or rock-and-roll…but by parents.

Read it if you dare:

“Unfortunately, it is sometimes Christian parents
who tell their teenagers that they do not have time for proper involvement
in Christian activities, because they need to be studying, learning music,
training for sport, or whatever it is.
This reflects a problem with the Christian life of the parents
rather than the teenagers;
it is what we want for our children that really
reflects our values in life.

>Youth Worker? Vitally Important Sentence

>If you serve Jesus as a youth worker…regardless of what the Board says, regardless what parents want (usually to pass their parenting responsibilities on to you), regardless of what is easier and shows quicker “results” (though they may vaporize the next day, week, month)…read and remember this, from Brett Kunkle of Stand To Reason (if you are not using this website, do so). 

If you are not directly involved in youth work, pass this on to those who are.


I noted that my PREVIOUS BLOG was one of the most important I’ve ever passed on; this is of equal importance…perhaps even moreso:

“Youth groups are good at telling kids how we should behave but undermine those efforts by failing to address what we should believe and why.”

And…if you want to do something to “address what we should believe and why,” you need to order and pass on several copies of this:http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=jacksjots-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0830834222&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

>Prison and Christian Camp

>I was captured by Christ while in jail awaiting a prison sentence. I now work in both youth ministry and prison ministry.

I’m struck by the similarities…it is relatively easy to make “decisions” for Christ in prison and in Christian camps.

It is a different story to live out those decisions when returning to the real world…whether from a Christian camp or a prison sentence.

As the inmates are always told just before they get out, “Don’t leave Jesus at the gate.” The same thing applies to students leaving Christian camps.

Of course a week of summer camp doesn’t compare in most ways to a 3, 5, 10 or more year prison sentence.

But the fact remains – going back to the “real” world is where the decision must be lived out in dependence on God, in discipline, in accountability, and in community.

>Lessons Learned – Part 3

>The percentage “game” continues to be a huge part of the problem of discipleship. It is certainly not unique to teenagers, though playing the percentage game as a Christian teen significantly impacts the continuance of the problem as an adult.

Colossians 3.4 reads, “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (emphasis obviously added)

So the question I pose to myself often (but not often enough), and present to both teens and adults, is simple yet telling…is Christ part of your life, or is He your life?

I wish Midland or any other youth ministry had the opportunity and direction to hold a week of youth camp “by invitation only.” Coordinating with youth pastors a list of students who seem to be intent and intentional on serving the Lord would be put together, invitations sent, and a week of genuine “feeding of the sheep” rather than trying to “entertain the goats” would transpire.

In most camps there is a “fun” event after the evening chapel…thus students and staff are torn between responding to God’s challenge and recognizing that “hey, I might miss the fun” or “what if our schedule gets off track”?

In over thirty summers of speaking at 5-8 youth camps each year I can recall only twice when the evening “event” was cancelled…and both of those incidents (one in Maryland, the other in Missouri) were as close to Biblical revival as I’ve seen.

Lord, do it again…and help us to get out of the way, out of “the way we do it,” out of our bondage to schedules.

>Lessons Learned – Part Two

>Sex.

It’s been a problem for Christians throughout history. But the advent of electronic media, the lessening of parental involvement, and the acceptance by society as a whole of things unheard of a few years ago makes it an even larger negative influence on teenagers today.

It’s not “just” sleeping around…it’s homosexuality and bisexuality…and it is just as evident in the Bible belt as it is in the inner city.

Parents…get involved when your kids are four and five years old…youth pastors…risk getting fired, talk about the subject often!

Anyone over twenty or so…it is a different world.

One of the things that infuriates me is too many Christians let the world make our standards…re movie ratings. And it disgusts me that parents boast they never let their children see “R” rated movies; but allow them to see all the PG 13 filth there is…if you know anything of the “plots” and the scenes, you’d probably let your kids watch 100 “R” movies rather than 1 “pg 13”.

So how can a teen (or an adult single) in the 2010’s maintain a commitment to purity…one way only…never be alone with another single. Never. Never. Never.

Don’t “oh, but Jack” me. It is the only way to be certain you don’t cave into flesh fed by our decadent culture.