Zach’s Insta Devo

Our student ministry has been posting short devos called “Insta Devos” to our Instagram and Facebook pages. It’s been a fun way to see students interact with scripture and share their insights with one another. This week, our youngest – Zach – who is moving up into the youth group in a few weeks, did one as well! I’m super proud of him … it’s my favorite Insta Devo!

First Testament: 1 Kings resource

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My ninth First Testament curriculum resource was released last week by the Youth Cartel, this one on the book of 1 Kings! First Kings is a fascinating book to study; the historian in me loves the stories of the different kings of Judah and Israel. It is history with a purpose; the stories are chosen by the author(s) to demonstrate God’s power and His desire for us to follow Him alone. It is very applicable to today – and each lesson has connections to the book of James. Like the other First Testament curriculum, it is a four week small group guide full of discussion questions and lesson ideas. They’re only $5.99 each, or you can grab five of them for only $19.99 (that’s twenty weeks of material for a buck a week!). Here’s the official description:

First Kings is history written with a theological purpose; the author(s) wanted the readers to know there is one true God. Despite the covenant between God and His people, the Israelites fell into a downward spiral of increasing sin and death. Their constant selfishness, idolatry, and fighting with one another, resulted in the nation splitting in two, Judah and Israel, and a long list of evil rulers. Only a handful of the kings followed God, but even through all the failure, First Kings is an important book for believers today.

Through the stories of the different kings, students learn important lessons about God’s power, our dependence on Him, the hope we have in spite of failure, and the incredible love God has for each of us.

  • Week 1, Solomon the Wise (1 Kings 3): A challenge to look to God for wisdom.
  • Week 2, Solomon the Fool (1 Kings 11): Solomon allowed to sin to creep into his life; this lesson challenges students to keep their focus on God.
  • Week 3, Asa the Good (1 Kings 15): In spite of failures, Asa was able to be righteous before God.
  • Week 4, Ahab the Evil (1 Kings 16-18): Idolatry was not just a danger for the ancients, it is a real danger today as well.

First Testament: Lamentations resource

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My eighth (!!!) First Testament curriculum resource was released last week by the Youth Cartel, this one on the book of Lamentations! I’ve always loved the book of Lamentations; in many ways I believe our culture pushes us towards unhealthy ways of handling sadness, grief and suffering; Lamentations models a far healthier way to process difficult times. It’s beautiful poetry, haunting and terrifying imagery, and fascinating that it doesn’t have a happy ending. I think for many, this current season is a perfect time to embrace the five laments of Lamentations and work through them. Like the other First Testament curriculum, it is a four week small group guide full of discussion questions and lesson ideas. They’re only $5.99 each, or you can grab five of them for only $19.99 (that’s twenty weeks of material for a buck a week!). Here’s the official description:

Lamentations is a collection of five poems, or laments, that wrestle with the pain, grief and horror the ancient Israelites experienced at the hands of the Babylonians. Their nation conquered, their temple destroyed, and their children taken captive, they were a devastated people. Lamentations was written and/or collected by the prophet Jeremiah and read in unison every year on the anniversary of the destruction of the temple. Lamentations teaches the reader how to grieve. It also teaches lessons about God’s judgment, compassion and sovereignty.

Included with this study is a collection of 60 images to be used as a discussion opener for each study. Lamentations uses word images to convey message and meaning. In the same way, use the photos to get the participants to think abstractly, to identify and communicate message and meaning.

  • Week 1, Family (Lamentations 1): The importance of family and connections in the grieving process.
  • Week 2, Judgment (Lamentations 2): What does God’s judgment mean? What is its place in our lives?
  • Week 3, Compassion (Lamentations 3): Even when the end is not in sight, it is possible to see God’s compassion and hope in our suffering.
  • Week 4, Sovereignty (Lamentations 4-5): God’s power and authority is absolute; what does that mean when we suffer?

First Testament: Daniel resource

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My seventh First Testament curriculum resource dropped a few weeks ago with the Youth Cartel, this one on the book of Daniel! And yes, I was working on it BEFORE I heard of the Tiger King. I love the book of Daniel; it’s one that we may feel so familiar with after years of Sunday School lessons … but it’s far more edgy and thought provoking than our third grade teacher led us to believe. Like the other First Testament curriculum, it is a four week small group guide full of discussion questions and lesson ideas. They’re only $5.99 each, or you can grab five of them for only $19.99 (that’s twenty weeks of material for a buck a week!). Here’s the official description:

Perhaps one of the more well-known names in scripture, Daniel was a prophet trapped in a foreign land. Captured as a teenager when his nation was conquered and his family most likely killed, he was taken away from all he knew and forced to live in Babylon where he was castrated and given a new name. He should have lost his identity through all of that, yet he remained powerfully committed to God through a lifetime of captivity. His life teaches young people powerful lessons in God’s sovereignty, what it means to be faithful, and opens the door to conversations around ancient prophecies.

  • Week 1, Babylon (Daniel 1): A challenge to recognize God’s control and have the faith to stand for Him.
  • Week 2, Belshazzar (Daniel 5): A warning about pride and how it can negatively impact decision making.
  • Week 3, Lion’s Den (Daniel 6): A powerful lesson in just how important prayer is in the life of a believer.
  • Week 4, Prophecy (Daniel 10-12): A reminder that we are precious to God and have overwhelming victory in Him.

First Testament: Hosea resource

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The fifth edition in the First Testament series I’m writing for the Youth Cartel is out! It’s a four week small group resource on the book of Hosea. Hosea, the first of the twelve minor prophets, is a fascinating and somewhat disturbing book. It’s one of those ones that forces the reader to think, brings up questions, and allows groups to wrestle through some difficult passages together. It’s famous for it’s opening chapters about Hosea’s marriage to Gomer, a prostitute who is unfaithful to him, but there is a lot more to this book even beyond those surprising chapters. Hosea contains powerful messages relevant today on the dangers of allowing idols in our lives, the need to use leadership and influence for God’s honor, the importance of being intentional with our actions, and most importantly, an incredible look at God’s limitless love. Click here to check it out, and let me know what you think! It’s four weeks of curriculum for less than six bucks!

First Testament: Ruth resource

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The fourth edition in the First Testament series I’m writing for the Youth Cartel is out! It’s a four week small group resource on the book of Ruth. I really enjoyed putting this one together; the story of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz fascinates me to no end. Ruth, a Moabite woman, who likely had no say in her marriage – the typical marrying age for girls was 12-15 years old, and would have been arranged by the adults in her life – demonstrates powerful love and commitment to her mother-in-law. Arriving in Bethlehem, her ethnicity that of a enemy, her husband dead after a childless marriage, every card was stacked against her. Yet her reputation for deep love and loyalty spoke to the community in a powerful way. The book of Ruth is a beautiful story, one that teaches us even now, thousands of years later. Click here to check it out, and let me know what you think! It’s four weeks of curriculum for less than six bucks!

2019 Writing in Review

2019 was a big year for me! I have always loved writing, but my publishing efforts really went on hold during my four years of seminary. Once I graduated in 2017, I started slowly creating and submitting again, with a focus on curriculum for youth ministry. Those resources started dropping this past year; I actually had fourteen different resources release over the course of the year, which is exciting to look back on! My favorites? The First Testament curriculum series at the Youth Cartel; I love the challenge of creating a series and have always felt there is a lack of Old Testament resources for student ministries! Here they all are; click on them to learn more! The Micah resource was highlighted by Doug Fields as a strong resource, and the Ephesians typography video was actually chosen to be one of the DYM member perks!

Released at The Youth Cartel:

   

Released at Download Youth Ministry:

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Released at YouthMin.org:

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Mark Stuart’s “Losing My Voice to Find It”

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Mark Stuart’s Losing My Voice to Find It is such a great book! I picked it up a couple weeks ago at Youth Specialties NYWC conference; I actually got to meet Mark at the Interlinc booth and get my copy signed.

I should probably preface this review with the fact that Audio Adrenaline has long been my favorite Christian rock band. I’ve always enjoyed their music; when I was a student at Gordon College in the late 90’s their tour came to my school. I was dirt broke so I volunteered to be one of the security people so I could get in the show. I did my job while All Star United opened, however, there is a slight chance that I forgot about it when Audio Adrenaline hit the stage. I also may have abused my position to sneak backstage and meet the band. If you’re ever in my office, I have a shelf that is dedicated to things that make me love student ministry – 99% of it is gifts from students. The other 1% is a beat up copy of Audio Adrenaline’s “Bloom” cd with all their autographs – I got their signatures that night at Gordon. I’ve seen them other times since, but that night was amazing; they brought it big time. One of my all time favorite concert experiences!

So I’m biased.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I loved discovering how the band came together, the struggles, the process behind the music I’ve listened to for decades. An unexpected bonus was an inside look at the Christian music scene in general; of course their story crossed with the major bands of the 90’s and early 2000’s, and it was fun to see those stories play out.

Reading about Mark’s personal story; the challenges of being a pastor’s kid and missionary kid (something I personally related to), his struggle with confidence, his first marriage’s struggles – and the pressure to hide his imperfections from the Christian community, all of this was both fascinating, gut wrenching, and beautiful to see the thread of God’s hand in his life and calling. To see his frustration with losing his voice and the breakup of the band as a result, to his joy in finding a bigger mission through the Hands and Feet project in Haiti, was beautiful.

The book is so good. I thought it would be a fun exploration of my favorite band’s story, but it’s much more than that. There is a deeper message about our desire for control and the power that comes from letting go and letting God take the lead. You don’t need to a fan of the band to be moved by Stuart’s story. The writing is strong, the book flows well – I couldn’t put it down. It’s definitely worth grabbing, especially if you’ve ever enjoyed Christian rock.

Teaching Teachers

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One of the strengths in our student ministry is the variety of volunteer teachers we have. I’ve always believed that if a student or adult is willing to do the hard work of student ministry, they should also be able to have the spotlight as well. For some people, that means being up front; our volunteers teach in our weekly meetings, our retreats, and even in conference events we host. Anyone who wants to teach can become a strong teacher, and we give them the opportunty; here is how we help that happen:

  • Regular opportunities. No one becomes a strong teacher overnight. It takes time and practice in front of groups to become confident and capable. The reality is, the person who learns the most IS the teacher through their preparation; the more you can get students and adults up front, the more growth you will see in them.
  • Set them up for success. I don’t need curriculum to teach; after more than two decades of regularly being up front, if I’m honest, I can coast on experience if I need to. I deeply enjoy the creative process to writing a message. But for the rookie teacher, that’s a lot. I regularly buy strong curriculum for my teachers to use; this accomplishes a couple different things. First, it helps create a strong connection from week to week even with different teachers. Secondly, it allows the teachers to focus on their delivery. I tell them they’re allowed to use as much or as little of it as they want as long as they stick to the key points – as teachers gain experience, I regularly see them move from leaning heavily on the curriculum to showing creativity and letting their own style come through.
  • Positive reinforcement. Odds are, they are over thinking and already self critiquing – I know I do. It is incredibly rare that I give negative feedback; I’ll only do it if I see the same bad habit happen for multiple lessons in a row. Instead, I try to find at least one thing to praise. Emphasizing what they’re doing right helps build their confidence and make them better teachers for the next time. I’ll also on occasion – after pointing out several things done right – suggest something they could have added to the lesson to make it even stronger. For example; I have a young leader who did a lesson and I knew had the perfect example from his own life to illustrate the point but didn’t do it. I mentioned that as I was listening, it occurred to me that it would have been a great illustration and it would have helped connect people to him. The next time he taught he used a great personal story.
  • Let go of the ego. I’ve had volunteers who are stronger teachers than me. It could be easy to feel threatened by that. But the reality is, the more capable teachers you have, the better YOU look as a leader. The more you share the spotlight, the more your leaders appreciate being on your team. Having great teachers makes the ministry as a whole look better, not the leader weaker. And here’s the thing; my teaching improves dramatically the weeks I’m on because I’ve let others teach as well.

One more thought; teens in particular can be intimidated to get up in front of their peers. We’ve helped set them up for success in a couple ways that we don’t usually do with the adults. First, we have a couple series we do every year (HABITS and our purpose series); we usually recruit older students to teach this one because they’ve heard variations of it over the years and feel more confident with it. A second thing we do on occasion with students who are really intimidated but want to try is take a lesson and split it into it’s different points and recruit a different student for each point, giving them five to eight minutes each.

First Testament: Zephaniah resource

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The third edition in the First Testament series I’m writing for the Youth Cartel is out! It’s a four week small group resource on the book of Zephaniah. I did something different with this one; it includes 60 photos and discussion prompts to lead off each week with. With Zephaniah being a book of poetry to create images and feelings in the reader, using the photos to create thoughts and get the ball rolling on the discussion seemed a great way to launch each week. Zephaniah is short, yet powerful book, that speaks a lot about the coming Day of the Lord. It’s one that teaches students about judgement, salvation, hope for the future, and urgency for our world today.

Click here to check it out, and if you want to grab a copy use promo code ‘2bucksoff’ to save two dollars and get it for only $3.99 by December 15th!