Singing a song like this only gets better when you get to share it with someone who can sing so well. This is a beautiful song by Natalie Grant. What a joy to be able to sing with this young lady. What a joy to have been her youth pastor for so many years.

As you can see, I taught her everything she knows. The rest is pure God-given talent and training.

For His Great Name and not for our glory!

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“Bad pastors beat their people up with their failures. Bad pastors are always disappointed. Good pastors know grace is true and Jesus is Lord, so they are ready to challenge every self-despairing soul with the wonderful truth that in Christ we are approved by God. Good pastors tell people they do have what it takes when they have Jesus’ righteousness.”

(from 10 Simple Things Good Pastors Say)

I read these lines above and they cut me to the core. This is terrific wisdom I wish I had known in my early years working with youth (and even later at times!). I have not always responded with grace. I have been easily disappointed and unfortunately I have let those I lead know. How refreshing it is to know we are covered by grace.

How refreshing it is to know that my own sinful life is covered by grace!

Father, forgive me for my shortcomings as a leader. Thank you for the grace you offer. Help me to lovingly extend that to others as both a shepherd of your people and as a shepherd of my own family.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV).

“Believe in the Lord Jesus; and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31, ESV).

About a month ago I was asked by another youth leader how to prepare students to lead “worship.”  This youth leader was very concerned about the lack of consideration and depth in the song selection.  This is a great question that plagues many youth groups.

In response to that question, here are a few initial thoughts to help song leaders think through their song selections. This does not guarantee quality musicianship. Actually, it doesn’t guarantee anything! However, it should encourage thoughtful reflection.

Let me know what you think and if things should be tweaked.

  1. What are your songs?
  2. Why did you choose these songs?
  3. Summarize each song in a sentence.
  4. How are these songs fit together (key, tempo, flow, topic, other)?
  5. What would be a key verse to support this song?

To be sure, the last one will be a bit more of a challenge. Maybe it shouldn’t be in this list of questions.  I’m concerned because this question, #5, could also lend itself to some prooftexting and improper use of Scripture.  It will, however, encourage some thinking!

Overall, I think the best way to equip someone is to have them mentored by another worship leader so that the process can be caught as they spend time together preparing things.  It is definitely a trial and error experience.  They will need someone to talk them through what’s going on, to answer questions, to encourage them when things go well (and when they don’t).  Most importantly, it will be helpful to have another mature believer (hopefully) with common interests to share life with.

What do you do to prepare your student leaders?

So we just finished up our summer series for youth group. It was a six-week series entitled “Live, Love, and Look like Jesus, Breaking Down the Cliches.” We took a look at six phrases and how really following them (since there’s a reason they are cliches) could help us to live, love, and look like Jesus.

The six phrases were:

1. 24/7 – Full worship and obedience all the time
2. The Golden Rule – What does it mean to “do unto others?”
3. I’m Sorry – True Biblical Forgiveness
4. FROG – Fully Rely On God (Prayer, the Word, and Faith)
5. WWJD – What Did Jesus Do? (Looking at the actions of Jesus)
6. Loser – Losing a life that wasn’t yours to begin with!

Most of the time was spent in the Gospels looking at the life of Jesus. I won’t claim to speak for the youth but it impacted me tremendously. On top of that our young adult/college group was reading and studying through Francis Chan’s Crazy Love.

It was a great summer! I hope it left them changed as much as it did me.

I really like writing, I promise. Life just sort of starts rolling and continues to pick up momentum.

Here are a couple of personal updates:

1. I really enjoy my job as an elementary music teacher. I never would’ve suspected that. I’m still torn, though, as to how I should use my time best (music teacher or youth pastor). Right now I’m doing both. I don’t know how long that can last.

2. I still have the headaches. We’re still trying to figure out what the root cause is. I have made some headway (no pun intended) but the headaches are still consistent (24/7). I can guarantee you that my life has been forever changed by the things we’ve learned.

There are so many thoughts running around in my head right now. I’m reading books and web sites on youth ministry, on music education, and on health. The more I learn the more questions I have. I’ll save the health and music stuff for another time but here are a few youth ministry and church questions I’ve been pondering…

These are from my journal a few days ago:

1. A youth pastor can’t make mature disciples.

2. Neither can a parent.

3. A person must cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives before any growth in discipleship can be made.

4. This does not diminish the role of the youth pastor or the parents (foremost) to commit to the responsibilities God has given them.

5. Does a youth ministry need consistency to achieve its purpose? If it does, how do we function in a society where everything competes for the attention of our youth?

6. How do you develop relationships and discipleship without consistency?

7. Schools demand consistency with attendance, grades, practices, rehearsals, etc. What does/can the church do?

I’m wrestling a lot with these questions. I’d love to hear your feedback.

Final installment, for those of you following.

Friday night was our final night at Spring Hill. After working all day on various projects like building a bridge, cleaning bathrooms, setting up a big tent, and washing yet MORE dishes, we finally settled in for the evening.

We wrapped everything up by focusing on a strategy for making good decisions. Our strategy including committing our ways to the Lord (Proverbs 16:3), asking for help on difficult situations (Proverbs 15:22), and not being quick in making life changing decisions (Proverbs 21:5).

Following that we talked about making decisions using situational ethics (basically reducing a decisions down to one principle – such as love – that trumps other truth) and majority ethics (if everyone is doing it then it must be okay).

Then we gave them a chance to think through everything from the week and apply it to their own personal decisions.

Overall it was a pretty good series to use for the week but I’m not sure if I would use it again. There were parts that were confusing and redundant (and repetitive). I wonder if more could’ve been covered. I did like the various quotes and stories that it used. I don’t always spend a good deal of time on those when I’m writing my own stuff. For the past 4 or 5 years I’ve written our own quiet time and lesson series for Spring Hill. This is the first canned curriculum I’ve used in a long time.

After our teaching we had an extended time of praise and adoration that was really sweet. At one point one of the boys fell asleep and started snoring. That was pretty funny (and definitely expected after a long week).

Then came the long-awaited game of “Capture the Flag.” I’ll just be straight forward. It didn’t go well. Our group is too competitive and has too strong a sense a fairness to just let things be. Add to that being very tired and having a bit of a restricted area to play in and it just made for a rough game with a lot of emotions out of whack by the end.

Saturday morning left us tired with a few more hours of work to knock out. We left after lunch and enjoyed a quiet, uneventful ride home. Many thanks to the parents who helped out by driving.

But, all in all it was a good week. There were a lot of significant conversations that took place and many were challenged. A lot of work was accomplished at the camp. Relationships were built, strengthened, and renewed. And, no one got hurt too badly. That’s always a plus.

As always, it was a good kick-off to our summer.

Whew! We are dragging today! It’s been a good week but I think I will be ready when we go home.

Yesterday afternoon was a good hard work day. It got nice and warm and most of our group spent the afternoon down by the lake digging deep holes with a huge auger and putting large posts in them. They must’ve dug 20+ holes! They were all hot and tired. Towards the end they got to test out some of the water games though so I think it made up for all the hard work.

This morning they’re out at it again in three different groups. We have a bathroom crew, dining hall crew (dishes, all things kitchen), and hole digging crew. Later on they are going to set stakes and put up a tent. They may not always like what they are doing but they have been doing a reliable job. I continue to hear positive comments from all the different staff that I talk to.

Last night was a good night. We changed the location of our meeting place so everything seemed to go more smoothly. Our time of praise and adoration was sweet. If only the church, as a whole, could have opportunities to praise like this all the time. I know it’s available but we just don’t give our best when we do it normally. Why don’t we (as a church)?

Our lesson last night was on taking the “road less traveled.” We took a deeper look at Titus 2:12, our theme verse for the week. Our goal was to challenge the youth to take the road that led to self-controlled, godly, and upright lives. One of the pictures that I kept painting was the picture of a “choose-your-own-adventure” story. Every decision we make leads us down this path where we choose our own adventure.

Following our teaching time we set out on our own little adventure around the camp. We were split into four groups and we visited four different people. Each person played out a different scenario where the youth had to make decisions.

The first scenario was a guy who was really struggling with his connection to God and the church and he was trying to get some advice from the different groups about how to connect.

The second scenario was trying to decide what a youth group should look like to a new visitor. What would the youth want their friends to see if they came to visit? One of the things that could carry over for those reading this is “what do you want your church to look like?” The next question that followed that was “what are you willing to do about it?”

The third scenario was pretty interesting. The group “accidentally” stumbled upon a homeless man while they were walking down a dark gravel road. He talked to them about making the decision to love all people as Jesus loved them and he challenged them about their responsibility.

The fourth scenario was a guy who had an interest in Christianity and needed help in how to make his decision…

So this was our goal last night – in all of this we tried to get them to think about a wide variety of decisions that they would have to make.

Following that we went to our campfire. And you really can’t have a campfire without smores! Out by the campfire there was a white sheet where they wrote out all the different decisions that they wanted to make when they got home. After they had gotten a chance to write out their decisions we took the sheet and threw it on the fire. We threw it on the fire for a couple of reasons. First, the fire represented the purifying process that we all want to go through with our decision making. We prayed that our motives would be made clean and holy. Second, I read from Hebrews 12 where it talked about God being a consuming fire. I prayed that we would be consumed by the holiness and awesomeness of God. When we are consumed by God then our decision making takes on a different perspective.

Finally, we gave the youth an opportunity to talk one-on-one with any of the youth staff regarding questions or decisions they were dealing with. All-in-all it was a great evening. People were challenged and I can’t help but think lives were changed. I’m praying that this doesn’t stop as they leave tomorrow.

Your prayers this week have been invaluable. Thank-you! I don’t know what the rest of the summer holds when we return but I do know who holds the summer. Our goal is authentic, godly relationships that reflect biblical values.

Last night coming up! Please pray for us…