Antique Roadshow

Do you remember the show “Antique Roadshow?”  If you’re not familiar, the show revolved around people bringing their old junk to an antique dealer that traveled the country.  Most of the time, the items that were showcased held more sentimental value than they did monetary value.  In the end, the individual was just glad to get the item appraised to see it’s actual worth.  I have a lot of things I’ve kept over the years due to sentimental reasons: a few old stuffed animals from my youth, baseball cards, and old console video games.

Recently, two important people in my life hit me with some real truth.  That an idea I had would have a major impact and that I didn’t really understand the value of what I had.  As many of you know, a week ago I launched a daily devotional for my high school students on iTunes.  I just wanted my students to have God’s word to them on a regular basis and to have an opportunity to pray for them daily.  It was meant for them.

After 8 days, we’ve had over 120 downloads including downloads from California, Colorado, Michigan, North Carolina, Missouri, New Jersey and West Virginia.  I’ve heard stories of families listening on the way to school…adults listening as they drink their morning coffee.  It’s remarkable what God is doing with this idea after a little over a week.

It’s not that I think this podcast is “junk” by any means, but didn’t think much of it.  I didn’t see its potential and I didn’t see its true value.  I’ve poured more time, money, blood, sweat and tears into other projects that have fallen flat and never amounted to anything.

Remember the feeding of the 5,000?  We often focus on Jesus or the miracle that happened.  We often forget about the boy who provided the five loaves and the two fish.  He happily offered up his lunch, knowing that it would only be “a drop in the ocean” of need.  He did it anyway knowing that if he could help one person, it could make a difference.  In the end, he helped far more.

What are your five loaves and two fish?  Maybe you have an idea that you’ve been sitting on for a while.  Maybe you’ve been hesitant to pull the trigger on it.  Maybe you don’t think it’s worth anything.  Let God decide that.  Put it in His hands and let Him go to work.  I know that I sat on my hands with this devotional for a year!  I deeply regret that now.  But I’ve since given it to God and now I sit back and watch Him do His thing.

-Jeff

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And We’re Off!

Like most of you, we kicked off our ministry year this past Sunday.  It was bittersweet for me.  I’ve loved having Sunday nights to spend with my family.  It will be hard to not see them on Sunday nights from now until Christmas.  The “sweet” part is that I get to spend time with the youth of our congregation.  I miss spending time with these kids.  I miss watching the light bulb go on in their heads when they make a spiritual connection.  I love watching them grow in their faith.

Many people have asked what curriculum I use for our Sunday night Bible study.  I’ve used boxed curriculum in the past and was never fully satisfied with what my money got me.  These days, I write my own.

I know what you’re thinking!  That sounds so scary and time consuming, but it really doesn’t have to be!  Yes, there are times when I plan “themed” months and toil over a message.  But when the group is smaller, I’ve learned to rely on the original Bible study curriculum…the Bible.

Our theme this year is “Echo Christ.”  For those that attended the LCMS Youth Gathering this past summer, that theme may sound familiar.  So what’s the best way to learn how to “Echo Christ?”  Probably reading through his life.  So that’s what we’re doing.  Each week, we’re taking a section of Luke and discussing Jesus’ ministry.  We’re looking at how He treated people and how He handled certain situations.  Essentially, we’re going verse by verse through Luke and discussing it.  No budget needed.  No fancy graphics.  No “frills.”  Just Jesus.

As we go verse by verse, the students relate the material to their daily lives.  It’s not some theme from a box that you have to stretch and take massive leaps to make connections to your specific students.  It’s their experiences and thoughts being applied in their spiritual lives.  The students own the lesson.  They are able to actively participate in their spiritual growth.  Also, it’s extremely cost effective.

If you’re looking for ways to cut cost and up the spiritual content of your ministry, give it a try.  You don’t have to pay publishing companies and famous speakers half of your yearly budget.  God’s already given you the curriculum.

-Jeff

Happy New Year!

Don’t worry, it’s not January 1st yet, but for many of us in ministry, it might as well be.  Churches across the world will be relaunching this Sunday with new mottos, slogans and visions.  There might be new programs starting and new leadership taking the reins.  With this new ministry year, comes both excitement and uncertainty.

In my youth ministry, we are retooling our student leadership program, we are kicking off a daily devotion that will stream on iTunes, and we’ll reconfigure our Sunday night programming.  This may sound like a lot and it is, but I can do more…I can do better.

By all accounts, last year was considered a successful year for my ministry.  After taking over the ministry in the fall of 2015, attendance rose to four times the amount of students by May of 2016.  The ministry that I inherited was gutted and turned upside down prior to my taking over.  Some of those wounds still run deep in our ministry and as a result, there are some students that may never step foot in our ministry again.  It’s sad and my heart breaks for them, and yet, there’s a part of me that doesn’t blame them for not coming back.

So if last year was such a success, why would I change anything?

The easy thing for me to do would be to keep the same formula going.  But students’ interests are always changing.  I can’t do the same things year in and year out.

Think about the coaching landscape in professional sports.  The average coach only last a few years.  They have a certain way of doing things and that’s what makes them successful.  But after a while, the players begin to “tune out” their coach.  They have heard the same pep talks week in and week out.  The novelty has worn off and the players stop playing for their coach and ultimately, the coach is fired.

Have you ever wondered how Greg Popovich has kept winning in San Antonio all these years?  Sure, he’s had Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu.  Pop has been able to adapt his coaching to the changing landscape of the game.  A decade ago, his team knew how to control the tempo of a game.  They made their opponents play a grueling style of half-court basketball.   Last year, future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan rode the bench in favor of younger players who could run up and down the court with opposing teams.  They were successful in spite of their aging roster.  The style of play has changed and Pop has adapted to it.  Every year, his team finds a way to get better.  He gets his team to play unselfishly.  He teaches them that it’s not about one person, but rather, it’s about the team.  That philosophy has made him one of the best coaches in the history of the game.

How are you adapting to the changing landscape of student ministry?  Don’t be afraid to try something new.  If you fall flat on your face…GREAT!  At least you tried.  I’ll always remember the line Alfred said in Batman Begins: “Why do we fall?  So we can get back up.”

My challenge for you is this: as you are planning your 2016-17 year, what’s one new thing that you can offer your students?  It doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking.  It could be something small.  Whatever it is, try it.  If it’s a success..great!  Keep it or make it better for next year.  If it fails…that’s OK too.  Retool it or scrap it all together.

You can do this!

Jeff