Living out God’s purposes: Grow—Your Commitment to Spiritual Maturity

We were in week three of a five week series entitled ‘Living out God’s purposes’ in Student Quest this week. It’s actually centered around our student ministry purpose statement, ‘We are real people, in love with a real God, making a real difference in the world.’ That statement contains five values, or purposes:

  • Real People: Fellowship
  • Real God: Worship, Discipleship
  • Real Difference: Evangelism, Service

We’re using a study called ‘Living out God’s purposes’ from the Live Curriculum as our launching point. This week I taught the middle school students while Jeff M taught the high school students. The series is actually looking at the story of Mary and how she lived out God’s purposes in her life.

On Sunday we focused on the biblical purpose of growing spiritually. We examined Mary’s song in Luke 1:46-55—a passage that revealed her deep understanding of God’s nature and how God miraculously protected and provided for Israel throughout the nation’s history.

This week, look for an opportunity to talk with your teenager about this week’s lesson. Here are some questions you could include in your conversation:

  • You’ve probably thought about this question before, but it’s worth asking again: Why is it important to study the Bible? How does this commitment contribute to your spiritual growth?
  • What’s the point of memorizing verses from the Bible? How have you grown in this area, or how much do you continue to struggle with this?
  • What results or changes have you seen in your life as you spend more time reading Scripture, memorizing Bible verses, and pursuing other commitments to spiritual growth?

If your family doesn’t already have a regular pattern of spending time together reading the Bible and talking about God’s work in your lives, this is a great opportunity to launch that habit. Use the experience of reading and memorizing the Bible to create opportunities to talk about the power of God’s Word in your lives and its ability to help your children grow on their own, stand strong, and overcome life’s hurdles. Have a great week!

 

Living out God’s purposes: Your support in community (Sunday, 10/16/11)

We were in week two of a five week series entitled ‘Living out God’s purposes’ in Student Quest this week. It’s actually centered around our student ministry purpose statement, ‘We are real people, in love with a real God, making a real difference in the world.’ That statement contains five values, or purposes:

  • Real People: Fellowship
  • Real God: Worship, Discipleship
  • Real Difference: Evangelism, Service

We’re using a study called ‘Living out God’s purposes’ from the Live Curriculum as our launching point. This week Jen B taught the middle school students while George F taught the high school students. The series is actually looking at the story of Mary and how she lived out God’s purposes in her life.

This week, we looked at the comfort and support Mary found from her relative Elizabeth—an example of the value of connecting with others through deep, meaningful community. We used the example of Mary in Luke 1:39-45, 56 to see how all we have a need for community, no matter what we may be going through right at this moment. We discussed the value of connecting with like-minded people, encouraging one another, and creating genuine community time.

If you’re a parent/guardian with a teen that was present, I’d encourage you to find a few moments this week to talk with your teenager about the importance of community—being connected with other Christians. Here are some questions you could use during your conversation:

  • How would you define the word “community”? What does that word mean to you?
  • When you feel lonely or tired or depressed, what people do you turn to for encouragement? Why are these people so encouraging?
  • How do we balance our need for community—being around like-minded people who support and encourage us—with our need for solitude—times of being alone that help us connect with God?
  • How are you helping to create community?

One of the greatest places to encounter community is in our church’s small group ministry – we have groups for children through adults. Check ’em out if you’re not involved!

Living out God’s purposes: Evangelism (Sunday, 10/9/11)

This was the first in a new five week series entitled ‘Living out God’s purposes.’ It’s actually centered around our student ministry purpose statement, ‘We are real people, in love with a real God, making a real difference in the world.’ That statement contains five values, or purposes:

  • Real People: Fellowship
  • Real God: Worship, Discipleship
  • Real Difference: Evangelism, Service

We’re using a study called ‘Living out God’s purposes’ from the Live Curriculum as our launching point. This week Jen S taught a combined Student Quest (a number of the students were on the fall retreat). The series is actually looking at the story of Mary and how she lived out God’s purposes in her life. We’ll see how her life can inspire us to reach through our role in telling others about Jesus, connect through involvement in authentic community, grow through commitments and spiritual disciples, discover through serving God and others, and honor God through a lifestyle of worship.

Using Luke 1:26-35, we saw how Mary was a young woman—perhaps a young teenage girl—when she received the news that she would be the mother of the Son of God, whom she would name Jesus. She was initially confused and disturbed, but the angel reassured her that she had found favor with God and that she had been specially chosen. Mary isn’t alone in being selected to play a role in reaching people with the good news of Jesus; all Christians are given an opportunity and responsibility to become active participants in spreading the message of Jesus.

I’d encourage you to take a few moments this week to talk with your teenager about this week’s lesson. As always, I’d like to pass along some questions you could use to stimulate conversation:

  • What are some of the most effective and ineffective ways to tell other people about Jesus? Why are they so effective or ineffective?
  • When you think of telling other people about Jesus, what fears or worries— or other emotions—do you experience? How different are those from the emotions you experienced as a high school freshman? How have you changed?
  • How has the story of your spiritual journey affected the stories of other people—ones you know well and ones you don’t?

Short Term Missions resource 80% off!


Wow – this is an amazing deal! I’ve been using this resource for the last couple years with our group and it has been amazing. Part of what I like about it is that everything in it is also included digitally on a CD with the right to reproduce it like crazy within your church for no additional costs!  Very, very solid resource I can’t recommend enough. You can find it here. The official description:

Prepare. Go. Live. – Helping your short-Term Mission Drive Your Long-Term Vision

by LeaderTreks & SYM

Few things will bring the gospel to life for your students like heading out onto the mission field. Spending a day, weekend, or longer in service to God, for his love, and with people in need brings the calling of Christ vividly into focus. With this easy to implement 3-part missions trip curriculum, you’ll get everything you need to get your students ready (Prepare), devotions for the trip (Go), and follow-up materials (Live) to make their experience part of an ongoing, godly lifestyle. And what good would we be if we didn’t include helpful stuff for leaders to make the whole trip more fun for everyone? No good at all, so we’ve given you plenty.

*Offer Expires at 5pm MST on 9/26/11

 

Minor Prophets, Major Messages: Malachi (Sunday, 9/4/11)

This Sunday was the sixth, and final, week in a series we’ve been doing on the Minor Prophets. I have a couple purposes behind these updates; one is to help keep parents informed on what we’re up to in the 6th-12th grade Sunday morning classes. The second purpose is much bigger in my mind – to give parents some ideas/tools for continuing the lesson/conversation at home! So whether you talk about it in the car, over the table, or in the family room, here’s the summary of what was taught and some followup discussion questions you can use!

We were using the Minor Prophets, Major Messagesseries from Simply Youth Ministry. Chris Z taught this week’s lesson on Malachi. He looked at the words the prophet Malachi shares to the Israelites. Malachi challenges them to be faithful to the Lord by giving the first portion of their money to God and by giving their lives to serve him. We examined the stronghold money has on the world and how the discipline of regular giving can free us from that grip. A great follow up would be to read Malachi 3:6-18, and then ask the following questions:

  • What do you think about the fact that God says His people are robbing Him? Do you feel like you’re robbing God when you don’t give?
  • In this text, God says to test Him in being a faithful giver. Does this mean that God is going to make us rich if we give our money to Him? If not, what does it mean?
  • How do you develop a good giving habit such as a tithe of 10% of your income? Do you think this is easier to do when you’re younger and have less money or when you’re older and have more money? Why do you think that?
  • Have you experienced the rewards of serving God or giving money to Him? If so, how has God blessed you and others through your obedience? What would you encourage others to do this week?

Group Texting made easy

Okay, so this post is for the iPhone users out there. I just bought an app that is going to save my youth ministry budget a ton of money! Sweeeeeeeeet.

It’s called Group Text, and it’s a simple little app that integrates with your iPhone’s text messaging. It enables me to send mass texts to TONS of people; I can create lists from my contacts, and then use the app to blast out messages to everyone on the list. Part of what I like about it is that unlike other mass texting services out there that are email/web based and pop up as an email or some random phone number, this uses my actual iPhone messaging system so it blasts out as a text message from me. The app is only $2.99, which makes it a steal for anyone regularly mass texting – especially since it’s a one time expense.

For me, the youth ministry application is huge. I’ve been using a mass texting subscription service for several years now; it’s the best way to communicate with the teens, with my volunteer leaders, and a growing way to communicate with parents.

If you don’t have an iPhone, Simply Youth Ministry Tools (formerly called Simply Txt) is still the way to go for mass messaging.

Student Ministry Communication

In recent years one of my evaluation checklist items during the summer has been thinking about how we communicate and inform our families and students – with technology and what works changing from year to year (remember when every good youth pastor used MySpace and AOL Instant Messenger?), it’s something that has to be constantly updated. I really like honing in on three tools for blasting the message out – one wouldn’t get to everyone, and more than three becomes overwhelming. So, after much thought, review, and a lot of influence from the survey we had parents take last May/June, here’s where we’re focusing our communication efforts this school year …

Students:

  • Facebook (www.Facebook.com/SummitDE). Kind of a ‘no duh’ here; they’re all on it! It’s the best way to interact, see how kids are doing, get a sense of who is interested in events, etc.
  • Texting. I’ve been using Simply TXT for a few years now and still love it. Very convenient, and very effective for the majority of our students who live on their cell phones and can’t be bothered with anything they can’t access from a portable device. I did just download ‘Group Text’, an app for my iPhone that was only $3 and promises to do mass texting from my phone and my cell number (instead of an email based system like most mass texting services).
  • Mail. Will I ever quit using this? The two previous ones probably are the best way to contact 80% of the group (especially high school), but for the rest the one guaranteed way to get to them is old fashioned mail.

Parents:

On the survey, I asked about a variety of communication formats – it wasn’t even a contest. The following three were neck and neck … and miles ahead of all the other options. So it’s a no-brainer!

  • Email. The number one choice for the majority of parents; my goal is to use it more this year. Last year I was sporadic at best. My goal is to do weekly short emails basically made up of bullet points. The necessary details on upcoming events, needs, and links to resources and follow up ideas to our Sunday morning lessons.
  • Mail. Because of budgetary reasons, we won’t use this as much, but it’s still a critical tool in getting out our calendars and important information. We actually have a big mailing going out this week with a few biggies; news about this year, a fridge magnet with our website and key dates for the year, and an annual calendar with all of our special events for the school year listed on it.
  • Ministry News. This is our weekly Sunday bulletin, which according to the survey, is a huge part of how we keep parents informed. So we’re going to keep making the Student Page a priority in it!

And one experiment. For the first time I’ve had enough parents voice interest in mass texting (for signup reminders, cancellations, etc.), that we will try it out this year and see how it goes. In theory I would only be texting parents 2-3 times a month, if that.

All new Live Curriculum editions!

I am REALLY excited about the two new editions of Simply Youth Ministry’s Live Curriculum, a fantastic youth ministry resource we’ve been using the last couple years.  Two years ago we got the original Live Curriculum, a four year, balanced high school small group curriculum plan.  My leaders and groups LOVED it, so last we year we bought the Live Curriculum Jr. High edition, which includes two years of junior high small group lessons, also a big hit with my leaders.  We’ve found that it’s easy to use, well written, and facilitates some great depth, discussion and Bible study with their small groups.  We’ve also used some of the series/lessons as Sunday morning teaching series, which has also worked really well.

Earlier this week I pre-ordered the two new editions of the Live Curriculum; a Books of the Bible edition which includes 72 weeks worth of studies working systematically through books of the Bible, and a Live Curriculum Leadership track, which includes 60 weeks worth of studies and lessons on leadership targeted towards leaders in general, high school leaders, middle school leaders, high school students who are leaders and middle school students who are leaders.  I’m planning on using them in a couple ways; the Books of the Bible lessons will be a part of our Sunday morning Biblical literacy strategy – we spend 24 weeks of the year working our way through the Old and New Testament in an effort to increase our young people’s knowledge of the scriptures.  The leadership lessons will be used in my monthly adult volunteer meetings and our Joshua Team meetings (our student leadership team).  If you’re curious about it, click one of the above links to learn more about it (and use the 10% off banner on the right to save some $$$).

HABITS: Bible memorization and study (Sunday, 5/8/11)

We have been continuing our ‘Growing Spiritually’ teaching series on Sunday mornings (a HABITS series), with Matt O teaching the middle school students this last Sunday and Paul R teaching the high school students.  The lesson series is from the Live Curriculum, a great youth ministry resource.  Here’s the recap and some follow up ideas for families at home:

Each lesson focuses on a basic spiritual discipline/practice that can foster spiritual growth. The theme of the lesson series is HABITS, which stands for:

  • Hang out with God (prayer)
  • Accountable friendships
  • Bible memorization and study
  • Involvement within the church body
  • Tithing
  • Sacraments (baptism, communion)

This week’s lesson continued our HABITS series and focused on the spiritual discipline of Bible memorization and Bible study. Our teenagers looked at Joshua 1:8 as the primary text, a verse that challenges us to study and meditate on God’s Word day and night.

Memorization can seem like a complicated task, but we’re all able to remember lyrics to songs, facts for tests, and lines from our favorite movies. We challenged our young people to see the importance of having God’s Word in their hearts as a source of strength, guidance, and inspiration to make decisions that honor God.

This week, I’d encourage you to take a few minutes to discuss the importance of Bible memorization with your teenager. Here are some questions you could use to fuel the conversation:

  • Part of growing in your faith is learning to make choices that honor God. But how do you know what is really honoring to God?
  • Joshua was told that he would prosper and succeed if he obeyed God’s commands. Do you believe that same promise extends to you? Why or why not?
  • Why might God want us to study the Bible on our own and memorize it instead of just hearing it read when we go to church?

You also might want to come up with a family plan where everyone can memorize a verse together. Maybe create a challenge to see who can memorize the verse first, and every time you see each other, you have to repeat your verse to one another. Have a blessed week!