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I shared this message with the Atlanta Leadership College gang back in September at our annual Opening Chapel. In this you will hear me say something that I pray that this echos through your mind, "The threshold of your destiny could rest on one isolated choice. Choose wisely."
We minister to students who stand on the threshold of their lives and try our best to help them make God-honoring choices with their futures...but I've learned that throughout life, we continue to be at the threshold of so many things. The Lord has had me camped on the 23rd Psalm for much of the last year, especially verse 4, "Even though I WALK through The Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." When you are on the threshold of the of Death Valley, you just go AROUND it, you must WALK THROUGH it if you ever want to arrive at verse 6, where it promises "goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life."
Journey with me as we talk about the Threshold, Death Valley, and see how God wants to create an INVICTUS spirit inside of you and your students! I promise, you will not regret it.
We minister with a culture that more and more accepts the premise that “living together before marriage is not only OK…but often a positive ‘try and see’ approach before the definite commitment of marriage is made.” We’re going to call this practice, “cohabitation,” which has increased in the US more than 1,500% in the past 50 years! And believe it or not, in a representative survey, nearly half of twenty-somethings agreed with the statement: “You would only marry someone if he or she agreed to live together first to see if you really got along.”
This trend is so prominent and so obviously counter to what the Word of God says to us I think it is important that we take a close look at it. I've taken much of the data for this resource from an excellent secular book entitled, The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter—And How to Make the Most of Them Now by Meg Jay, PhD. So let's spend some time together as I share my heart on the subject with you.
Relationships are a theme we often teach on in youth ministry because it's the number one way the Enemy attempts to take out your students. One of the "signatures" of our youth ministry is to cultivate HEALTHY, GREAT CHRISTIAN FRIENDSHIPS. But "FEELINGS" can make that goal pretty complicated sometimes when it comes to FRIENDSHIPS WITH THE OPPOSITE SEX.
I wanted to connect with the hearts of my students, so I hosted two "focus groups," one with guys and the other one with girls. I asked them to talk about their FEELINGS when it came to building HEALTHY FRIENDSHIPS with the opposite sex...what they WISHED their counterparts KNEW. Listen in to the 12 things the guys wanted the girls to know...and the 14 things the girls wanted me to pass on to the guys. I added a memorable story and God's concept of unselfish friendship and Christian love outlined for us in 1 Corinthians 13. It was a light hearted evening that conveyed some pretty profound truths.
My heart aches as I hear of yet another prominent name in the Christian circles that has fallen victim to sexual sin. I am angry at the number of Christ followers that continue to believe that they can "dance some of these lines"...yet not become another fatality victim. But the truth is, in today's world more than ever, the Enemy delights in the many opportunities he has to entice our sexual desires.
A quote that I heard often from my hero and husband Sam Mayo, was, "If not for the Grace of God...so go I." Proverbs says, "Guard your heart (affections)..." for Satan always reserves the right to collect on your sin (compromise) when it is his most opportune moment. So, let's take some time to unpack one of the most important things we can discuss as leaders...whether we're men or women..."Moral Purity in a Sex-Saturated World."
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You're not surprised by the topic of this Youth Leader's Coach are you? Boredom is a fact of life with anything you decide to do with consistency for the long haul.
Even Michael Jordan got bored, but instead of coasting he chose to get creative. He found new ways to do the basic drills to stay sharp when others found it easy to get lazy. He fought through the boredom and became a legend.
If we want to be more than good in youth ministry, but for the Lord's honor want to be great, we too must intentionally and strategically shake up our routines and take care of ourselves. So, grab a cup of coffee and let's wrestle through this thing...together!
Choosing to get creative,
Even though statistics show that depression is a huge issue in today's youth culture, I'm not sure I've ever heard anyone talk about it in the church world. Untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide in our country and the third leading cause of death among teenagers. In fact, 20% of our kids will experience some level of serious depression before they reach adulthood. Those statistics are alarming to say the least...too alarming not to address the topic in our youth services.
This message, "The Dungeon of Depression," is part of our "Dirty Little Secrets Series" covering topics the church world often find difficult to address. It's jam packed with statistics, solutions, stories and skits that will help illustrate the message for your students in a very real way. So, lean in and listen deeply as I touch on a subject that hits closer to home for more of the teenagers and young adults in your youth ministry than you probably realize.
In the trenches with you,
In the spirit realm, unforgiveness always emotionally chains you to the person you are not forgiving. The truth is that forgiveness is hard. It's easy not to forgive because we don't feel like we can or we think it lets the person off the hook from what they've done. In reality though, unforgiveness is like drinking a cup of poison and expecting the other person to die from it.
In this month's Source, "Who Are You Chained To?" I'm sharing with our students five practical ways to unchain yourself from people who have wounded you. I promise you, for your students and your adult leaders alike, this will be an incredibly helpful message.
Taking off the chains,
One of the biggest challenges in youth ministry is money! Through the years, I've done countless fundraisers. So, in this Youth Leader's Coach, I'm going to share with you some of my very best ideas.
Listen in on "24 Ways To Raise Money Without Washing Cars" and I guarantee that you will come away with some new strategies that will make your fundraising adventures a whole lot easier, more profitable and, maybe, even fun!
This Youth Leader's Coach, "20 Things Guys On Your Youth Leadership Team Want The Lady Leaders To Know," is sure to become one of your favorites! It's the companion to the one I did from the female perspective. Granted, last time I checked, I'm a million miles from being a guy. So rest assured that I interviewed many of the male species to get their "top twenty." The results were eye-opening in some cases.
So listen carefully to what many men in youth ministry would love to communicate to the female leaders on their team. And then feel free to make copies of both this Youth Leader's Coach and its companion, "25 Things Ladies On Your Leadership Team Wish Male Leaders Knew About Them." Hand them out to your leaders and I assure you that the unity and understanding on your team will go up. After all, a popular writer tells us that "Men are from Mars and women are from Venus!" No matter how much we all love teenagers, we're wired up pretty differently.
Your Venus Cheerleader,
This is one of those times together that you will want to copy and give to all the guys in your leadership team! Better yet, if you are bold, make copies for your female leaders too and then ask them how you're doing (if you're a male leader). I've entitled our time together "25 Things Ladies On Your Leadership Team Wish Male Leaders Knew About Them."
Through the years in youth ministry, I've repeatedly heard girls bemoan some of the same issues with men in the youth leadership trenches. This is especially true of ladies who work on the team of a male youth pastor. So I had some fun and decided to create this Youth Leader's Coach around 25 of those most repeated themes. You'll have fun listening. Even more, I think you'll hear some things that will help sharpen teamwork in your youth ministry with some of the amazing females around you.
Still laughing at "Women's Lib,"
Over the years, each of my youth groups have been diverse and unique. But each group has also had one thing in common - we sought to create a friendship culture. This topic is so important to me that I've devoted an entire book to it called "Thriving Youth Groups."
I'm giving you the heart of that concept in this Youth Leader's Coach entitled, "Creating A Friendship Culture In Your Youth Ministry." If a youth group fails what I call the "friendliness test," the youth ministry has all but failed. So grab a cup of java and let me share some of the key principles to change the culture in your group.
Lovingly being a friend,
This Source was such a key night in our own youth group and it is my gift to you, as we stir up a spirit of expectancy in our youth groups. I've entitled it "An Enemy Called Average." Use this message right before a key event to set the stage for spiritual explosion, as we did right before our Fall Retreat. It is an equally powerful message to stir up the mediocre and routine lulls that we sometimes find our group to be in.
Even we as leaders often face this enemy called average. My friend, let this message minister directly to you. Let expectancy grow in your heart as we explore the ingredients for spiritual explosion!
Still refusing to be average,
You'll enjoy this Source, "A Cause Worth Fighting For." So often we preach messages to our students about keeping the future and their God-given destiny in focus in their lives, or we help them to get free from the past issues in their lives. But tonight's Source asked our students, "What cause are you fighting for...RIGHT NOW?"
Without a sense of cause in our lives, it's all too easy to slip into routine and complacency during the day-in, day-out moments. As youth ministers, let's keep before our student's eyes, these pivotal questions: What is going to be part of my signature? What matters to me that counts for eternity? Remember, youth leaders, it's in the daily decisions that lead to our ultimate destiny. So grab this Source and passionately encourage your students to find their cause worth fighting for.
Still fighting for the cause,
Recent data tells us that most of today's youth culture doesn't have anyone they would consider to be a "living hero." How tragic. So this Source, "A Call For Some New Heroes," attempts to call the hero out of some of your students.
It also reminds them that most true heroes have to "make their own mantle" rather than hang around to inherit someone else's. Deceased Christopher Reeves (former Superman) who lived his final years in a wheelchair, said it well: "A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles." So in case no one has told you recently, thanks for staying in the youth ministry trenches and being a TRUE HERO.
Determined to pay the price for my own mantle,
Deep hurt in life is often hard to talk about. How do we relate to someone that we have no idea how they feel, even remotely? And we also, sometimes think no one will ever understand our levels of pain and heartache in life. We all know that pain makes us stronger...and that's great...but that doesn't always make it ok. Things like rape, divorce, accidents, sickness and death can leave us wondering, "Where were You, God?" If that question hasn't ever gone through your own head, I can guarantee it's gone through some of your students'. And, if we don't give them a safe place to process and disarm those thoughts, they can prove to be spiritually lethal. In fact, they are probably the reason for some of the empty chairs in our youth ministries today.
In this Source, I talk about how Jesus was the ultimate victim when He died for our sins. He was mistreated and abused, just as many of us were in our lives. So what do we do with that? Helping students to understand our God hurts when we hurt, He cries when we cry and is painfully aware of all that we are going through...well, that can help.
Bottom line, my heart's desire is for our students not to have an "If only things had been different" mindset, but choose instead to live "Even if..." lives. Even if I don't understand, the Christ inside of me is big enough to see me through. Even if I don't get it, I will follow Him.
Serving a God who collects my tears,
If you're in youth ministry, you know counseling is a significant part of the job description and can be one of the most rewarding things you do. All too often, however, it can feel like a huge black hole...a total waste of time due to the lack of results.
It doesn't have to be that way! While one of my college degrees was in counseling, allow me to share with you 12 things they never taught me in the classroom. The wisdom I've gained through my ministry run will not only help you crawl out of the black hole and get some decent results, it will also save you time...something there never seems to be enough of.
We're wired to feel...we like it...in fact, we love it! I would go so far as to say that we have an "addiction" problem. We want to "feel" when it comes to our music, media, friendships, etc. Unfortunately, with it typically comes the desire to abandon it or them once we no longer "feel" the same way.
If we're not careful, we can have that same faulty mentality when it comes to the Lord. Most of us can tell you an exact time and place where we felt God the most, maybe on a retreat or during a worship service. But, we can also tell you that the "feeling" wore off a few days later and, if we're honest, how we secretly longed to have it back.
I guess I wish some of my leaders would have been more forthright regarding how to handle "non-feeling" times. I think that's why I am so impassioned about walking through them with my students. In this Source, "God, I Can't Feel You Anymore!," we navigate through causes and solutions for those times. An eye-opening Whitney Houston interview, a heart-wrenching Holocaust story, an honest excerpt from, Uncensored: Finding God When He Feels Far Away, and Jesus' own story, help students understand that when they feel God the least, they may be pleasing Him the most.
You'll love this Source! It's the first night with my new youth group and my strategic announcement of launching small groups. You'll hear me take a run at what our youth ministry can look like over the next year and how the students can be involved in creating the next 8,760 hours together.
You don't have to be starting with a new ministry like I am to use this Source. It's a great message to use if you just want to "refresh" your youth ministry at any point in the journey. With some thought provoking monologues from both students and leaders, a few key Scriptures and some quotes, we saw the atmosphere of the room change as we built a dream for the future.
You may also want to listen to the Youth Leader's Coach that goes with this message, "Thoughts From The Starting Line."
This iVolunteer resource is a COACHING RESOURCE for volunteer youth leaders who want to be the BEST they can be!
Group Magazine did a survey of 10,000 youth and young adults, asking them what the #1 thing was they were looking for in a church. The top answer from an overwhelming majority was "a welcoming, warm environment." The honest truth is, if you "fail the friendliness test in ministry...you've failed." This isn't surprising as we live in a culture of shallow friendships and broken families.
Often our leaders have great intentions, but they don't have a clue where to start. Listen in to this iVolunteer, "Creating A Sense Of Family In Your Ministry," as I share one of my favorite stories that will help your leaders visualize the importance of creating a sense of family. I also give them seven pragmatics to start putting steps behind launching and developing a friendship culture in your youth ministry.
Building A Family,
Youth Ministry Basics is eight pragmatic teachings with informative "how-tos" that have consistently made significant differences in my youth ministries over the years.
If your youth ministry is larger than five or six, you will need to recruit leaders to help you. Even Jesus only had 12 in His youth group! But the challenge is finding volunteer leaders to come alongside you.
Before I had a single leader, I made a list of five names that I saw as potential leaders. My “big five” weren’t even a part of the youth ministry, nor did they show any interest in getting involved. This Youth Ministry Basics Resource outlines exactly how I have been able to find good leaders, cast vision to them and get them to stick.
You'll love this resource! It's a special love gift from my heart to yours from a recent message I shared during our college days, "Experience," with Master's Commission Atlanta. It's for far more than potential college students though, as it's a topic that students of all ages deal with...family. Family can be pretty broken these days, but my reminder to our students is to say, no matter your story or your family, your past does not define you. People can always disappoint us, but there is a Heavenly Father who never will and because of His love, He has placed destiny and purpose on all of our lives.
In this month's Source, "In Search of a Real Dad," I'm pulling parallels from the life of Mephibosheth and the movie Antwoine Fisher, as I take a run at sharing the Father heart of God for all us. It's been so pivotal in my own personal walk with Christ and let me just remind you my incredible youth leader friend, His love carries you to His table.
Grateful for His Father's Heart,
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The reality is, how each of us choose to spend our time, will ultimately create how each of us choose to spend our life. However, it's all too easy to let our primary focus be inward, thinking of our own personal rights, to ever truly seize the day. But to be able to truly change my behavior, I must first change my perspective.
In this month's Source, "Carpe Diem," I'm challenging our students to seize the day on making some Christ-honoring choices that can set them up with a lifetime of success and happiness. Listen in, as you hear me illustrate the importance of how we spend our lives with some help from a powerful tape measure illustration, four lepers, and a clock ticking away in the background. It's my hope that we all say to the Lord, "Give me your kind of spiritual leprosy...so I don't waste my life spiritually having too much to lose."
Choosing to seize the day,
You'll love this Source, "Awkward Worship"! In this message I'm taking a run with my gang to up the ante on worship and remove some of the misconceptions of what worship is and is not.
We all know that worship can be awkward at times, especially if you're not used to it. So this message is a simple reminder that WORSHIP is just LOVE EXPRESSED. Like every person who has ever loved someone else knows: If you really love someone, you will somehow show it. With a simple, thought provoking drama and some key Scriptures, this Source will help turn "Awkward Worship" into a passionate lifestyle that glorifies God.
As an "added bonus," I've included the outlines for the other three messages we did in a 4-part series we called AWKWARD: "Awkward Silence," "Awkward Question," and "Awkward Book."
We all know that good volunteers are hard to find, but they're even harder to keep! There's a million legitimate things that can cause great people to quit, but it's our role to help manage those things effectively so our volunteers will stay in the game long-haul. That's why I wanted to share this resource with you.
In this month's Youth Leader's Coach, "16 Reasons Why Good Volunteers Quit," I'm sharing from my more than 40 years of experience 16 of the most common reasons I've found why good leaders quit and how we can tackle them effectively.
This resource will be invaluable for any of us that call ourselves leaders, no matter where we are at in life. Everything rises and falls on leadership. That's why it's so important that we take the time to evaluate ourselves occasionally on how we are doing personally as we lead others.
In this month's Youth Leader's Coach, "10 Point Leadership Self-Assessment Test: How Much Of A Leader Are You Really?" I'm challenging all of us to use these 10 points to gauge how we are doing leadership-wise. Let this be both an encouragement for you in the areas you are doing great and a chance to put the target on the wall for yourself in areas that could use some improvement.
A few years back, a PBS special was aired about a war hero who was being awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery on the battlefield. He was a "conscientious objector," so his role on the front lines was that of being an ambulance driver to get wounded soldiers back for medical treatment. He chose not to kill anyone in war, but risked being killed for the sake of others.
The Old Testament story of Samson, shows us another story of a man with great destiny on his life, who was willing to die for something, and a man who God used even after his past mistakes. In many ways, Samson was an "ambulance driver."
In this month's Source, "A Call For Ambulance Drivers," with the help of Samson, a hilarious skit, and some other must-see creative elements, I'm bringing to life the concept of GIVING YOUR LIFE AWAY for others. With the reminder that failure isn't fatal, to occasionally have holy anger, and to have the guts to pull down the pillars in our own lives, the challenge is sent out to our students. We too, can be ambulance drivers.
We think that this quarter's topic could be a game-changer for your ALLIANCE group. I think all of us enter youth ministry with high expectations and some UNREALISTIC ones. It's easy to become disillusioned when youth ministry doesn't work out the way we envisioned it. I created this coaching session from many of my talks with ALL OF YOU. The points I share are some of the repeating themes youth pastors and leaders tell me confidentially when they feel SAFE ENOUGH to open up their honest hearts. That's why we call this Alliance, "7 Things Youth Pastors Tell Me In Private."So, as you discuss with your gang some of the things that they may quietly wrestle with, may you hear each other all the way. It's not nearly as challenging when you know others deal with some of the same thoughts. Know, too, that we're all cheering you on from Atlanta.
You'll love this Source! Using the example of Desmond Doss, the first conscientious objector to earn a medal of honor for bravery during World War II portrayed in the incredible movie, Hacksaw Ridge, I challenge our students to go through the roof! To live a WIT (Whatever It Takes) life of heroism and selflessness.
With some key Scriptures and a few clips from the movie, I remind our students that "Heroes are often ordinary people that simply chose to put their dreams above their fears." What a REAL and SOBERING description of what ministry can feel like for all of us sometimes...a constant battle to get JUST ONE MORE, right after we've gotten one to safety. Yet, for Desmond Doss, as with each one of you, he was remembered for his life's sacrifice of selflessness as he looked past the pain and saved, JUST...ONE...MORE.
Saving just one more, right alongside you,