Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Discipleship Resource You Didn't Know You Have

3 Ways Public School are a Great Resource to Your Youth Ministry! 
by Travis Deans

A good bit, though not enough, has been written about youth pastors serving as a resource to public schools (here’s a recent article by Adam McLane). But I believe that public schools are a great resource to youth pastors.

Generally, a youth pastor’s top priority is to help the students in their churches learn to follow Jesus. But the fact is that your students spend five days a week, seven or more hours a day, 180 days a year at school – at least five times as many hours as they spend at church. School, not church, is the environment they spend the most time in. Becoming followers of Jesus must include following Him all that time they spend at school. But that’s not a bad thing. Here’s why:

1. If your students can live their faith at school, that’s great evidence that their faith is genuine.

Scripture speaks a lot about the testing of our faith. In fact, it’s been said that an untested faith is no faith at all. As we all know, anybody can be a Christian at church – that’s easy. But school forces students to decide every day to honor God, or not. School is second only to home as an indicator of how real a student’s faith is.

2. If your students can serve God in their schools, they’ll be able to do it anywhere.

We all know Jesus’ pattern for the growth of the church in Acts 1:8 – “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Your students’ schools are their Jerusalem! Whatever God has in store for the rest of their life, nothing will prepare them better than being a witness right now right where they are. In fact, if they can do ministry in that environment, they’ll be ready to go anywhere God sends them! According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 90% of American kids go to public school. This fact alone makes public schools a great mission field for your students.
3. If they face challenge of living and sharing their faith at school, they will feel the need of what you teach them at youth group.

As Greg Stier points out, evangelism fuels and creates a hunger for discipleship - “…challenging our teens to take the risk of evangelism can lead to the reward of our teens growing deeper in their faith faster than we could have ever imagined. Evangelism, especially among one’s friends, makes you desperately dependent on God’s Spirit. And it is this dependency which produces spiritual growth (John 15:1-8.).” I believe Jesus sent his disciples on short term mission trips for this very reason. They came back wanting to learn more!
Obviously, public school is not the right place for all students, but I believe that encouraging your students in school to live their faith there is one of the greatest ways to apply everything you teach them. Here are just a few practical ideas to help them live out their faith.

• Carry their Bible to school (a great conversation starter)
• Sit with the kid at lunch who is always alone
• Ask their friends, “How can I pray for you?”
• Pray over their food at lunch time
• Start a campus ministry (a great way to develop their leadership skills)
• Lead outreaches on campus

Do you want to make sure your students are following Jesus after they leave your youth ministry? Public schools give you a chance to help them follow Jesus when you aren’t around right now.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Thoughts About The Hero's Journey

I'm sure many others have written much better stuff on this topic than me, but after seeing Iron Man 3 tonight (it was awesome - even better than 1 and 2), I found myself thinking about the story arcs of hero trilogies - we have Sam Rami's Spider-Man, Christopher Nolan's Batman, Peter Jackson's Aragorn, George Lucas's Luke Skywalker, and now Jon Favreau and Shane Black's Iron Man (of course there's also Shrek, Neo, Will Turner, Sheriff Woody, Captain Kirk, and hopefully a Superman trilogy coming!)

The stories seem to follow a similar pattern - discovering a new/true identity, struggling through the tests of one's destiny, and finally leaving a noble legacy. It is frequently some life altering event that brings on the new identity (loss of parents, captivity & torture, a crisis of some kind). Then follows a series of tests which include fighting fears within, fighting the evil out there, fighting the evil inside, fighting the desire to quit, fighting the hype of one's own success, fighting to protect the ones you love, fighting for those who need you, fighting to keep your convictions intact, fighting to keep your soul, fighting for the greater good. The hero's journey is a complex maze of no simple choices. There is a time to fight on and a time to let go, a time to fight with all you've got and a time to sacrifice yourself totally. And finally, when the hero's story concludes can he (or she) finish well leaving the world a better place. Leave with their heart and soul intact. Leave having loved those who are closest to them well.

I believe that all of our lives are part of a great hero story - there is a Great Hero that we can emulate and follow. And yet, each of our lives is a story in and of itself. Have you discovered who you are? What tests have you faced? Are you facing? Will you finish the race well? One of my greatest fears is that I will fail to finish well especially now that I have little ones whose lives are so dependent upon mine. I'm thankful for the hero stories that remind me of what kind of man I need to be. I'm thankful for my family - they inspire me to be heroic. And I'm thankful for the Great Hero who guides my life each day.

What are your thoughts on the hero's journey?