Thursday, February 23, 2012

99 Thoughts About JHigh

If you've been in junior high ministry for any length of time you know that Kurt Johnston and the guys at Simply Youth Ministry are THE source for junior high resources.  Kurt has been involved with junior high ministry for 25 years and I would consider him to be one of our vocations best spokespeople and advocates.  He loves junior high, is gracious, humble, and committed to the local church.  His latest book is called 99 Thoughts About Junior High Ministry and I can't wait to read it.  I've ordered my copy and look forward to getting it soon (I may need to order the e-version now so I can read it faster).  I am confident it will be something we put in the hands of everyone of our volunteers this fall at our training day.  Check it out, order a copy, and if you're as happy as I think you'll be, order one for every volunteer you have.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

My New Role - Part 3

This is the last of three posts where I am working to outline for you what my new role will look like.  So far, I have described my role as pastor of student ministries and my role as staff and campus leader.  The final “big rock” of my new role falls under the umbrella of intergenerational ministry.  For the past three years we have been thinking, planning, changing, and striving for a more intergenerational approach to ministry in our church.  The driving force behind all of it was our student ministry team and me, but when you are the pastor of student ministry and middle school, you just don’t have the right seat on the bus to really get this kind of whole church ethos changed.  When it was suggested that I could have a seat that allowed me to not only think, but really implement these ideas, my heart leapt.

Over the past year, we participated in a Sticky Faith cohort of churches pulled together by the Fuller Youth Institute lead Kara Powell and Brad Griffen.  This year long conversation and stimulation further pushed our thinking, and our desire for impact.  We could no longer sit on the sideline thinking about this, we needed to get it implemented in big ways.  My new role allows for this to happen.  Here’s what we are doing right now:

1.    Students engaged in corporate worship:  This is planned for at least twelve times each year.  The five weeks of Advent, five weeks for Lent, and sporadic other weeks throughout the year will be used to intentionally “force” students to attend corporate worship.
2.    Intergenerational Service:  This summer we have cancelled all age-specific mission trips and are working toward a church-wide service project in Joplin, MO.
3.    Intergenerational Events:  This April we will have our first ever church wide “man” day.  This day will bring all men and boys from Christ Community together for the purpose of building community and relationship though “man” type fun events like trap shooting and paintball.
4.    Community Groups:  Some of our adult community groups have already begun to incorporate the children of their groups into the life of their group rather than keep them entirely separate.  While there is a solid place for keeping them separate at times, there is also great advantage to utilizing these natural relationships to reinforce the 5:1 factor.
5.    Women’s and Men’s Ministries: These traditionally “adult” ministries have begun to think about opportunities to include students when appropriate.
6.    “Cradle to Grave” discipleship:  The paid staff of the children’s ministries, student ministries, and adult formation, are beginning to work toward thinking how to seamlessly disciple congregants of our body.
7.    College Ministry:  Our high school staff is working with a team of volunteers to not only care for college freshmen as they transition from high school into college (traditionally, a place where Christian students ditch their faith), but also to engage them in the life of Christ Community when they return home for breaks.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

My New Role - Part 2

In my last post, I started sharing with you the three “big rocks” of my new role at Christ Community’s Leawood Campus.  Big rock number one is I a still the student ministry pastor (although my title does not reflect this, we are trying to communicate it well to those who need to know).  Big rock number two, I lead the staff team of our campus and really need to be the one looking out for this campus.

This role provides a bit of mixed emotion.  On one hand, I think it will be great.  I’ve been given a chance to lead an all star team of pastors and administrative professionals.  I mentioned a few posts back that I feel much like Phil Jackson in that I find myself asking “how do you lead people who are all experts in their fields?”  I’m thinking I just need to know when to call a time-out and when to give a pat on the back.  Yet, on the other hand, there are parts to leading a campus that I know very little about.  For example, I was sitting in a building committee meeting the other day (we are adding an addition to our campus next year) thinking, “is that my job?” and “I’m thinking I need to lead that discussion.”  Those are the moment when I sort of find myself asking “what have I gotten myself into?”  Yet, I also know, as I looked around the table, I see two men who have both had kids come through the middle school group when I was leading it and both men are extraordinary men in their fields and they know what they are doing.  I’ll ride their coat tails.  Okay, this may not be too bad.

This is the part of my role I know will force my dependence on God.  I am thankful for the chance to be forced to grow in this way.  As my senior pastor mentioned, I am not adequate, but the God I serve certainly is.  May I find my dependence and adequacy in Him.

Friday, February 10, 2012

My New Role - Part 1

As I have been given a new “seat on the bus” (thanks Jim Collins), let me take a few posts to share why I’m excited and what I’m going to be doing.  First of all, one of the only reasons I felt I could take this new role is it is not a complete departure from student ministry.  Yes, I am no longer the hands-on, in the trench, leader of our middle school ministry.  However, I am still the pastor of student ministry.  I have the chance to interact with and lead a great team of people and provide some veteran (or maybe just old and crusty) leadership to our student ministry.  This gets me excited because I can still participate in a lot of the fun part of student ministry (in fact, I’m writing this from the hotel room of our middle school winter retreat – we are at CIY’s Believe in Tulsa, OK and I have three sixth grade boys staying with me in my room – what a riot!).  I will get to lead some combined events and be a resource for our student ministry leadership.  Would you love it if you had a reliable person to fill in for you if you were sick or needing a vacation?

So, as the months go on, my role with the students will change, but it will not go away.  In fact, as my youngest child becomes a sixth grader in June, I’m planning on being a volunteer in our middle school ministry and lead his small group.  Stop and think about this for a minute.  You could think “wow, do I really want the former youth pastor on my volunteer team?”  That’s a fair question, but you could also look at it in a different way.  What would you think if the executive pastor at your church showed enough interest in the student ministry to be a volunteer?  It might intimidate you at first, but how cool would it be for the students to see a “big church” pastor showing an interest in them?

Sunday, February 05, 2012

One Foot In, One Foot Out...

My blog has been silent for a while.  Why?  Because of a totally unexpected change in my life.  Here’s the story.  On November 9 I received an email from my executive pastor inviting me to a meeting with he and my senior pastor.  My initial reaction was “what have I done?”  I’ve been called to the principals office enough times in my life to know those kind of emails are not usually very good.

Back up with me for a bit and hear some of my heart for students.  You know I have been working with middle schoolers for 22 years and almost since day 1 I have regularly been asked some form of the question “what are you going to do when you grow up?” or “What are you going to do when you can’t do middle school anymore?”  (I know you know what I’m talking about)  Honestly, I have always been slightly offended by these questions because I have truly felt called to middle school and student ministry.  However, I have also always wrestled with the truth that for most, middle school is not a life-long vocation and sooner or later I knew I would be faced with a decision.

Back to the present day.  I’m called into a meeting with two of the three members of “the trinity” (that’s what we affectionately call our executive leadership team – and the only reason it was not all three of them was one was out sick) and I’m thinking I’m in big trouble.  Instead, they present me with an opportunity to take on a new executive role for our main campus.  As they begin to explain a role that was created for me and my gifts, I was immediately struck with two feelings.  First, I was not offended at all.  Second, I was really excited about the job description.  After several weeks of seeking wise council and reflecting on that council, it was clear that God had orchestrated this move.

As I look at the campus I am asked to now lead, I am excited to bring some new thoughts and ideas to the table of discussion.  I find my inner wheels turning quickly as I think about how I have been given an unusual blend of roles in this executive pastor seat.  From leading a gifted staff of “all stars” (and really it feels more like Phil Jackson coaching the Bulls or Lakers than anything), to having the continued opportunity to be hands on in student ministry, to being given the drivers seat for intergenerational ministry on our campus, I am jazzed at what we can do together.  Maybe most specifically trying to link all of these areas into one venture, I am looking forward to building a more seamless “cradle to grave” discipleship plan here on the Leawood Campus.  I am also thrilled to see our church leadership bring younger leadership onto the team and I believe the fresh perspective my colleges will bring to our overall church will continue to breath new life into our incredible body.

Let me wrap up by saying, I would not be integral if I did not admit I am a bit nervous about my new role.  Although I have been living in this organization for eleven years, I have been asked to not only take a new role, but, in many ways, I have been asked to take on a new vocation.  That’s a bit scary.  As my senior pastor reminded me, I am not adequate for this job, but the God we serve is more than adequate and our sufficiency comes from him.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Middle School Small Groups and Friendships

I am leading a volunteer through the book “Middle SchoolMinistry” by Mark Oestreicher and Scott Rubin.  Today we talked about the chapter on friendships.  If you’ve read the book, or you have worked with middle school students for more than an hour, you know that friendships can be intimate, deep, water tight, volatile, shaky, brittle, and unpredictable all in the same day.  So, how do you structure your small groups?  At the 30,000 foot level, in our ministry we have structured our groups by grade and gender.  This is a great starting point.  However, when you dig down from there, how to you break the students up within that grade and gender?  Do you keep all the friends together (they may not be friends next week)?  Do you split them all up and have a melting pot of students?  Do you keep consistent small groups each week or do you mix them up each week?  Does the answer to this question change between sixth and eighth grade?  What do you think?  How do we best set up our groups for success in not only their small group experience, but the cultivation of friendships?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Advent is coming…

Advent is just two weeks away and in our context with the coming of Advent comes a very exciting time for our push toward intergenerational ministry.  In our church, Advent is one of the times in the year where we have committed to putting student ministry on hold so we can intentionally encourage families to worship together in the corporate worship services.  The Sticky Faith research has played a large role in moving us in this direction.  You can read in Kara Powell’s new book “Sticky Faith” that although there is not really a “silver bullet” for building sticky faith in our kids, there are some trends that seems to be very significant and students worshiping in a corporate setting is one of those trends.

Involvement in all-church worship during high school is more consistently linked with mature faith in both high school and college than any other form of church participation.” – Kara Powell

In our context, families are largely single service families.  Thus, when they arrive on campus each week, students will attend the student ministry and never set foot in the worship center.  We hope to change this, little by little, as we encourage families to worship together.  If you think of it, please be in prayer for us as we seek to lead in this new direction.