My Time is Very Valuable…

November 17, 2011

From a quick glance at this title, one might conclude: “this sounds intriguing…Either he thinks too highly of himself or he has a good grasp on reality,” or “this will be a blog about him and how someone wasted his time.” Well, you are wrong (if you thought that)! It has nothing to do with me, sort of…you’ll see…

Today, I embarked on my journey from Doylestown, PA to Atlanta, GA for the National Youth Workers Convention. Convention related things don’t start until tomorrow, but I wanted to come a little earlier in hopes of making time to relax and reenergize myself before I partake in this information overload that will be thrown my way in all of the Big Room Sessions, Breakout Sessions, seminars, etc… Don’t get me wrong, those are all amazingly beneficial things, but I’m at a point lately where I need to be recharged.  I went to bed at 2:00 am last night and woke up at 5:45 am to go lead my High School students in a Bible study at a local coffee shop. After that, I took a quick nap, loaded up my truck, and hit the road. What should have been a 45-minute drive to the airport, turned into almost a two hour excursion on account of the rain and the people of Philadelphia’s inability to drive in said rain! I was frustrated! I just wanted to get to the airport, get on the plane, and sleep until I landed in Atlanta. Being that I am 26 years old, you would think I would know by now that I can never get comfortable enough to sleep on a plane. Long story short, I eventually got to Atlanta and then my hotel in the downtown area.

After I unpacked and freshened up a bit, I started walking in hopes of finding a restaurant some friends and I went to years ago when we were here for the convention (Max Lager’s Wood-Fired Grill and Brewery). I found it and the food was just as good as I remembered it being. However, the barbeque sauce was  ten times as good as I remember it being. They must have made some improvements since I was last here. For that, I am thankful!

I bet you are still wondering why this blog post is called “My Time is Very Valuable…”! Don’t worry, I’m getting to it!

When I was walking back to my hotel from the restaurant, I somehow ended up going the wrong way. I was tired, frustrated, and just wanted to get back to my room. Before I go any further, I need to give you some context of this city…

If you know anything about Atlanta or if you have ever been here before, there are a lot of homeless people on the streets. Some of them will play instruments on the side of the road in hopes of passers-by giving them some change. Some of them will just sit there with a coffee can and a sign asking for any spare change. Some of them will sing in hopes that you will give them money. And others will start walking right next to you, show interest in you, and help you get to where you are going. This latter example happened to me when I was here in 2008 and again tonight. The man that I encountered in 2008 made a huge impact on my life. We walked and talked and I got to learn a little bit about his life and why he was in the situation that he was in. As I got to my destination, God was laying it on my heart to help him but all I had was a ten dollar bill, so I gave it to him. I don’t know if it helped him very much, but that encounter really opened my eyes and gave me a new perspective on Matthew 25:35-40…

“35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

In this passage, Jesus teaches that when you help people in need, you are actually doing whatever it is you did for Jesus.

I wish I could tell you that I remembered that guy’s name and that I regularly prayed for him, but I can’t. I did for a few weeks, but then I forgot about him. Until tonight…as I was walking into the restaurant I saw a guy standing near the side of the building who looked very familiar. He said “what’s up, big man?” and I nodded my head and proceeded to go get some dinner. I can’t be certain that it wasn’t the same guy, but the odds of it being him are very low. Regardless though, seeing that man tonight brought memories of 2008’s encounter back into my mind and God renewed those thoughts of wanting to make a difference in my mind.

Now, back to tonight…as I was walking around trying to bounce back from being lost, I walked past a guy who was singing something. And guess who this guy looked like?!? You guessed it, the guy from 2008 and the guy I saw earlier in the night. If it was the same guy, then God was definitely behind that beautiful orchestration. He looked at me and started walking and talking with me. He took note of my Steelers hat and started talking to me about the Steelers…not the Steelers of today, but the champions from the 1970’s. Now, keep in mind, I was lost and frustrated at the time. After a few blocks, we came to a cross-walk and waited for the signal to change that would grant us permission to cross. He asked me which hotel I was trying to find. Because of the frustrated attitude I had, I didn’t want to be bothered so I said “I’m just walking around…” But as soon as I said that, I got a gut check from God that pretty much told me that I’m an idiot and I need to help this man out. So I told him the truth and that I was trying to find the Sheraton Atlanta hotel. He told me that he knew where it was and that he wanted to help me out. Then he proceeded to tell me that besides the singing, he likes to help people like me out when they are trying to get around in the city. I reached into my pocket and gave him whatever money I had in there. It wasn’t much, and I told him that, but he said “that’s perfect!” I shook his hand and found out his name was Timothy. I thanked him and told him to go get himself something to eat!

So, you’re still wondering what this title has to do with anything, huh? I suppose it’s time to tell you. As soon as that guy stopped singing and started walking and talking with me, he went on a little rant that went something like this: “you know, I don’t have a job right now and I’m struggling, but I can sing and so I was just singing for those guys (points back to the group that had just walked away) and they wouldn’t even give me a couple dollars so that I could get something to eat. If they’re going to waste my time, they should just leave me the (expletive) alone. You know? My time is very valuable…” And that’s when it hit me. That man; although he didn’t have a job, money, or a place to live, still had an amazing grasp on reality. His reality was that even though he didn’t have much to offer, he wanted to use the little that he did have to help people. The group of guys that listened to him sing and then didn’t help him out were wasting his time. Time that he could have been using to help other people in whatever way he could.

So the questions that I want to leave you with are: Is your time so valuable to you that you aren’t allowing yourself to be tuned in to where God is leading you in terms of being the difference in peoples’ lives? Are you too busy or too frustrated to allow God to use you to help someone in need?

The reality is that our time is valuable. Not for the purpose of doing what makes us feel good but for the purpose of completing the good works God created for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). We can live by our own agendas or we can live by His, but either way, we only have so much time…

 – paulg


The Book of Eli…

August 26, 2010

Before I get started, I need to mention that this is NOT a movie review. I will be talking about some parts of this movie, but will not be giving away any key points to the plot or ruining the ending of the film for you. My purpose with this is to relate some parts of the movie to serving God and doing ministry.

The Book of Eli

I have wanted to watch “The Book of Eli” for a few months now and the other day I finally decided to rent it. I loved every minute of it and would definitely recommend that people see it. I’ll more than likely watch it again. The movie takes place in a post-war ravaged world and is about a nomad named Eli who is on a mission to transport the last copy of the Bible to a place on the West Coast of the United States where it will be safe; a place where people will need it and know what to do with it.

On his journey, Eli encounters various thugs and rogue gangs who set traps to ambush people, kill them, steal their belongings, and eat them. However, Eli possesses an amazing ability to fight off and kill everyone that tries to deter him from completing his mission. Later on in the movie, we learn that Eli was told that he would be protected from anything or anyone that stands in his way. At first I just thought that Eli was tough as nails, but when I found out that God was on his side and was protecting him from everything that got in his way, I realized he was tougher than I had originally thought; he was tougher than nails!

This morning, I watched an online sermon from Elevation Church (in North Carolina) by Pastor Steven Furtick. His message was about betrayal and keeping your head up. He preached from Psalms 3:1-8, but the primary focus was on verse 3. And this is where I am going to tie this in to this movie, in case you were wondering! 😉 As I just mentioned, God protected Eli on his journey across North America; He protected him on every side.

Psalm 3:3 says, “But you are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.

In “The Book of Eli,” God protected Eli (when He had the Bible) so much that even bullets that hit him did not hurt him. He provided him with amazing senses, and gave him incredible speed with his sword and amazing accuracy with his guns. If you watch the movie in its entirety, and pay close attention at the end, you will be even more amazed at these abilities that Eli possessed.

I believe that, to some extent, God provides the same amount of protection and guidance to us on our tasks, missions, and callings that He has called us to. I don’t know that He will prevent bullets from penetrating our skin when we are being shot at, but He certainly could if He wanted to. So maybe just don’t go trying to get shot at! I have heard a saying before that says, “You are safer deep in the jungles of Africa living inside of God’s will than you are in your own living room living outside of God’s will!” I firmly believe that we will be protected on every side when we are seeking God, following His leading, guidance, and direction, and living fully for Him. As Psalm 3:3 says, He is a shield around us!

Verse 4 goes on to say, “To the LORD I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill.” If we sincerely cry out to God, He will hear us, He will answer us, and He WILL be a shield around us!

What about YOU?

Are you following God’s leading and going where He tells you to go, and doing what He tells you to do?

Have you ever experienced God’s hand of protection on your life?

I would love to hear some feedback on this…I would love to hear your stories!

– paulg


a physical and spiritual transformation…

August 25, 2010

A few weeks ago, I made a promise to myself and to a very close friend of mine. I promised that I would go to the gym every single day. It sucked at first, but now, a week and a half later; I am seeing results and loving it. Of course, there are days where I do not feel like going at all, but the above-mentioned friend sort of holds me accountable and reminds me that I promised myself I would go, and for that, I am very thankful.

The Incredible Hulk

Over the last few days I have been doing a lot of thinking about transformation. I saw how quickly the health (and shape) of my body has been changing from my hard work at the gym. This got me thinking about my spiritual life. If I can devote 2 ½  to 3 hours a day to lifting weights, doing cardio, and swimming, then how would my life look if I devoted this much time (if not more) to spending time with God in prayer, in reading His Word, and in serving Him?

It was a scary realization to come to. If I’m going to be completely honest with myself, I have not been growing in my walk with God lately. I have not been spending time with Him.  It has been way too long since I was truly and sincerely seeking Him and striving to grow closer on a daily basis. Sometimes going to a Christian college and having a job that you get paid to read your Bible for will do that to you. It becomes a job and not a desire. I have also been bitter for the last few months and have been completely unmotivated to work on that issue and fix my spiritual life. But that is changing.

Yesterday, I challenged myself to make it a priority to spend as much time with God (in prayer, reading His word, watching and learning from sermons, etc) each day as I do at the gym. It is going to require a lot of discipline and hard work, but so does lifting weights. I’m seeing results from my hard work at the gym, and now it is time to start seeing results from my hard work in growing in my walk with God.

Can anyone relate to any of this? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Post Script – Your prayers are greatly appreciated!

–          paulg


what is fair?

August 21, 2010

Sometimes, life doesn’t seem fair…who am I kidding? Life usually doesn’t seem fair! However, one thing that I am learning as of late is that it’s not up to us to decide what is fair and what is not. We, in our very limited human perspective view the hardships, pain, and trials that we go through as being unfair, and rightly so. They hurt…they suck…and are not pleasant at all. But sometimes we just need to take a step back, take some time to think through and attempt to process the situation, and try (and the key word here is TRY) to view things from God’s perspective.

During my last few months as a youth pastor, I went through some very difficult things, some of which nobody knows about. During these months a majority of my teachings to my students were on the topic of trials. It was very real to me and what I was going through, and I felt there were lessons that I was learning that they needed to learn as well. The main thing that I tried to drive home to them was that sometimes, God uses our trials to teach us something. Obviously He doesn’t want to see us suffer, but He is infinite in His knowledge and all-knowing in everything ever. Because of that, He knows what is best for us and knows what it will take for us to learn the lesson that He desperately wants us to learn. The ironic thing is that most likely, He told us what we needed to learn over and over again but we were too distracted or too unfocused to hear His voice. Because of this fact, He has no choice but to allow us to go through a trial. It’s the only way to get our attention and for us to learn!

I’ve been reading a lot in the book of Job lately. Job was a man who had a reason to think that life wasn’t fair. He was a man that was “blameless and upright!” (Job 1:1, 8, 2:3) Everything he did in his life was for God’s glory and he never had anything to do with evil. So one would think that because Job so obediently followed and lived for God that He would have no problems and that God would bless Him. But that is not how life works. I find it very interesting that this whole “messing with Job’s life” thing wasn’t Satan’s idea, but God’s! Satan didn’t come to God and say “hey, can I try to turn your servant Job away from you?” In actuality, God said to Satan “have you considered my servant Job?” Satan saw that this man (Job) was completely and irrevocably in love with God and he hated that. He wanted to stop it and try to make Job stumble and curse God, and for whatever reason, God allowed Satan to try to do just that. It doesn’t make sense to us, but God saw the bigger picture (or the end result) and knew the plans that He had for Job (check out Jeremiah 29:11).

After Satan sabotages Job’s life twice (killing all of his sons, daughters, and livestock and afflicting him with sores and rashes) Job starts to wish that he was never born and complain. Then Job’s friends start to accuse him of all sorts of things (sinning, living wrong, etc). Isn’t it like this at times in our lives too? We are going through something that only us and God can understand and deal with yet our friends speak their mind and try to tell us what we need to do to fix our problems. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, they’re our friends, they love us, and they are only trying to help. But they have an outside perspective and they don’t truly know the heart of the matter. After Job’s friends gave him their two cents, we see that God spoke up.

It starts off by saying “Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm…” (Job 38:1). I find it amazing that there are so many different ways that God can speak to us, and sometimes, He chooses to do it through a storm (a very difficult time in our lives where we think the world is crashing down around us). What comes next is very convicting, for me anyway. In verse 2 of chapter 28, God asks Job “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?” I find this convicting in that I often am like Job. When things get tough and the storms come, I start to question God and demand to know why things are happening. I argue and wrestle with God, which is ok to do, but this verse always puts me in check. Do I darken God’s counsel with words without knowledge? That’s a scary thing to think about!

Unfortunately, I have no clever concluding paragraph to sum this whole blog up. But what I do know is that I need to take a step back, take some time to think through and attempt to process the situation, and try (do you remember what I said the keyword here is?) to view things from God’s perspective. When I do that and leave things in God’s hands, I can’t fail!

– paulg


Perry Noble’s Prayers for Youth Ministry…

November 25, 2009

By far, my favorite thing about the National Youth Workers Convention in Atlanta was Perry Noble’s message to youth workers. Perry spoke on Saturday morning and left most people in the room feeling encouraged, energized, and pumped up for youth ministry. Perry Noble is a 6’ 6” 230 lb. Senior Pastor from New Spring Church in South Carolina. He started off by making a joke about his southern drawl. He said that in heaven, everyone will have a southern drawl, if you don’t believe that, you may not be going to heaven!

Perry’s message was based out of Acts 20:7-12. I’ve spoken to a few different youth workers at the convention and have heard mixed reviews/feelings about this message. The reviews/feelings ranged from “he nailed it,” to “he took the passage and made it apply to his topic!” When someone takes a passage and make sit say what they want it to say, it is known as “eisegesis.” Eisegesis is when you put your own ideas into the text to make it mean whatever you want it to.

For the record, I do not know where I stand on this matter! I loved what Perry had to say but I am not a Bible scholar so I don’t know if it was eisegesis or not.

Anyway, regardless of how you interpret the passage and the message he gave us, it’s time to move on. Perry went on to tell us that he believes there is a breakdown in communication with youth pastors and the church in general. He and many others believe that youth pastors are viewed as glorified babysitters in that we are supposed to watch the kids, teach them a few things, and when they are old enough to attend big people church and tithe; then they matter to the church. This is not the case and it should never be viewed as such. Perry was not saying that this is the case in all churches, but it is definitely something that he has seen happen occasionally. But regardless of whether your church falls into either of these categories, an alarming statistic is that around 80% of students are walking out the door when they turn 18, and many of them are never going to come back!

Youth ministry is a hard and vital job. Most people will disagree with that, but that is because they have no idea what it means to be a youth pastor. They think we get paid to hang out and play video games all day, but that is 100% inaccurate. There are days when we go home from youth ministry and it isn’t “Thank you Jesus!” it’s “Help me Jesus!” Rest assured…there is hope! Perry said that we, as youth workers, are game changers. We work in the ripest harvest in the world and if we can get our minds (senior pastors, youth pastors, volunteers) around several of these soon to be mentioned concepts, we could see a revolution in youth ministry and the local church. When youth ministry catches on fire through the local church, nothing can stop it!!!!

Perry and many of the other speakers who were senior pastors were very much in support of youth workers. Perry has four prayers that he is praying for youth ministry. Those prayers are: For Attention, For Submission, For a Biblical Foundation, and For Stewardship.

For Attention:

In the Bible passage that Perry spoke from (Acts 20:7-12), Paul was speaking to a group of people late into the night (because he intended to leave the next day) and basically had a long message planned for them. There was a young man (a youth) sitting in a window seal in the back of the room who fell into a deep sleep as Paul was preaching. Eutychus fell to the ground from the third story and died. Yikes! Perry said that in this story, Eutychus fell out of the window because no one was paying attention to the youth ministry of that church. When a church refuses to pay attention to the youth ministry, kids fall out of the window and die (a.k.a. – leave the church and never look back) each and every day.

Youth ministry is important, not just for the teenagers but for also for the church as a whole. The youth aren’t the church of tomorrow, THEY MATTER TODAY! Perry said “The kids that we are called to ministry to matter today and the church better wake up and smell the Starbucks because if not, the kids will fall out of the back window and die.” Perry’s philosophy is that you can tell if a church is paying attention to the youth by looking at how much money they spend on them. He says that you can never spend too much on your youth and children. I understand the premise of what he was saying, but I don’t know if it applies to every circumstance. Some churches simply can’t afford to put a lot of money in the youth fund, and they could be the church that supports their youth way more than the church with the large youth fund. Money shouldn’t matter and shouldn’t be a deciding factor on whether or not a church is paying attention to their youth (my thoughts).

Perry does something cool in his church. I don’t think it would work at every church, but it is something to hope for I guess. Perry believes that a youth group should never be asked to do a fundraiser for anything. He doesn’t allow the youth group at his church to do fundraising because he believes that the church and the older people should support them to show that they care.

If we want attention in our youth ministries, we need to start reaching kids for Jesus and seeing lives change! If the adults come into the sanctuary and have no place to sit because of the youth, the older people will pay attention and take them seriously. The last thing that Perry said about this first prayer for youth is that we need to not bang the budget drum, but we need to bang the kids need Jesus drum and change their lives!

For Submission:

The way a youth group gets noticed in the church is when they are completely submitted and sold out to Jesus! Perry says that we need less strategy and more spirit in our youth ministries, and I couldn’t agree more! Not only do we need submitted and sold out youth, but we need leaders who are as well. When God asks us to do something unbelievable, we need to say “Yes Lord!” In the Bible passage, Paul was so submitted to Jesus that he was willing to declare the impossible (that Eutychus was alive). We need to have complete submission.

In order to be completely submitted to God, according to Perry, “you have to be you!” We shouldn’t have the desire to be someone else or do ministry as they do it because you think they’re better than you. When you do this, it is known as ministry envy. You can read a post of mine about ministry envy by clicking here. Perry says that the problem with churches today is that there is too much imitation and no more revelation. He also said that youth pastors have a disease that he invented called “destination disease.” Destination disease is when people in ministry want to be over there (at the other church/ministry) because they think it’ll be better there. This is not true though because you take you with you and it will be exactly the same. You are you!

When we get to the point where we get it all figured out in our ministry, God will say “you don’t need me? Fine…go ahead!” We need to be in complete submission to God. When we do this, it is unbelievable. Leadership is as easy as listening to God and doing what He says! Perry’s prayer is to have a generation of youth pastors and workers completely sold out for Jesus. We are the ones who set the pace for what youth ministry will look like in 10-20 years!

For a Biblical Foundation:

After Paul (with God’s help) brought Eutychus back to life, they went upstairs again and broke bread. Paul got carried away preaching, the youth died, Paul declared something supernatural and brings the kid to life, and then comes back up to keep the focus on Jesus. Paul never stopped focusing on Jesus or teaching about him. This is an example to us. We need to never quite proclaiming who Jesus is to students. They need to know who He is and it is our job to tell them. Some people think that if we focus on only Jesus, then we won’t be relevant. Perry says that we won’t be irrelevant, we will be impotent! We’ve watered our youth ministries down with these next three things and the kids don’t even know who Jesus is when they graduate from or leave our youth groups. 1. Morality – we teach our kids to be good…problem is, if we teach our kids not to watch rated R movies or listen to “bad” music, they can become morally superior to everyone and no one likes them…we can’t teach them to be moral without Jesus. 2. Compromise – Everyone gets caught up in this game. We think that if a lot of kids come to our group and we do all kinds of fun things, we have a great ministry. But in reality, we are compromising who Jesus is to have a great crowd show up. Sometimes, youth ministries let kids show up and say it’s ok to do what you are doing and not repent. When they do this, they are leaving Jesus out of the picture…allowing compromise to creep into that ministry. 3. Personal Agendas – Don’t ever let your personal agenda trump the Gospel! We make our own personal agendas the agenda of the youth group. If we put anything in front of the cross, it becomes an idol in our ministry. Let’s worship God in splendor and majesty rather than trying to boil him down to fit into our social agendas.

For stewardship:

Perry’s prayer is that our prayer would be that we look at God and say “give me the ball…I’ll be hurt and play hurt, but I’ll do whatever it takes to push the ball down the field…I want the ball!” Perry said that in Acts 20:12, the youth ministry got brought back up and the church embraced stewardship…they said they want the ball.

We can do it, no matter how small our budget is. But if our attitude is that we want the ball, money doesn’t matter. It doesn’t happen because of lights, sound systems, looks, but because there is a sold out man and team saying give us the ball…and they are sold out for Jesus. Perry says that the senior pastor needs to make sure the youth ministry has everything they need and the youth pastor needs to sit down with his senior pastor and find out what his vision is…and then line up with that.

God’s plan is that youth ministry will thrive in the context of the local church to make a difference. When the church gets that right, it is on fire and is an unstoppable force!

Perry closed with the following comments:

“It’s always hard when we do what Jesus calls us to do. When we think it’s hard, may we think of Jesus hanging on the cross and bleeding! If no one else tells you this, I (Perry Noble) believe that you are the difference makers. Out of your ministries will be the next Billy Graham and other amazing church leaders! We will not fall…we want the ball!”

–          paulg


Story, Experience, and Collaboration…

November 21, 2009

Wow, what a day! I won’t be writing about everything in this one post. That would be way too lengthy. So I have decided to break it up into a few separate posts.

Today was the official first day of the youth specialties convention in Atlanta. I have been here since Wednesday night though. I planned to arrive early so I could attend the pre-convention intensive training seminar that was offered. The one that I chose to attend was taught by Mike Novelli, Mark Novelli, and Kelly Dolan and was called “Story, Experience, and Collaboration.” It was a six hour course (split up in to two three hour courses), thus the term “intensive” before the training seminar! I chose this one because one of the presenters was the guy that wrote the book (Shaped by the Story) that I recently bought and started reading. This new method of teaching has intrigued me for some time now and I was continually told by many of my youth pastor friends to get the above-mentioned book. Whenever I found out the author of the book was leading the seminar, I knew that it was the one for me.

Mike and Mark are twins so half of the time I never knew which one was speaking, which is why I liked when Kelly spoke; it was easy to distinguish who he was! The seminar started off with Mike showing a clip of Louis CK from Conan O’Brien called “Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy.” The clip was a comedic one that basically stated that we live in a world where everything is amazing (we have everything at our fingertips/disposal) but no one is happy. He showed this to illustrate that this emergent generation are not idiots, but their expectations have changed. How we learn things, how we view the world, and how we interact with each other have all changed. Typical forms of worship, engagement, faith formation, and spiritual community do not work well with these students. As a result, this should change the way that we do ministry.

Mike told us a story of how he noticed that most of his students were very busy, but not very deep. To try to solve this, he tried his favorite method of inductive Bible study (an analytical method of looking at a specific text). In this method, you ask specific questions to learn. Mike then told us a story of one of his students that when asked what he thought about the new method of learning, said: “I like that we are learning the Bible, and I think that it is important that we do, but I don’t think that this is the way that I learn!” This blew Mike away and got him to start thinking: “Is the Bible intimidating, boring, or irrelevant?” and “when do they begin to experience, interact with, and enjoy this story (of the Bible) for themselves?”

At Mike’s next church, he tried a new form of teaching with them that he learned form a missionary in Uganda. He tried a method of teaching known as “storying.” In storying, learning is now the hearer’s responsibility. Storying is not about memorizing Bible stories, but it is about it becoming their own story! They can see themselves in the people in the story and how they should and shouldn’t live! One student’s comment about storying is as follows:

“It made me realize…I need to live for the author! God has a story for my life and I am excited to discover and I want to share it with others. God’s amazing story is what we’ve been waiting for our entire lives.” – Michelle (High School Junior)

Mike saw a breakthrough and that the story was really rooted in these students (like Michelle). The students knew where they fit in to the story and that they are a continuation of that story. Something changed in his students; something lasting…there was formation in it!

This idea of storying has really got me thinking and trying to find ways to incorporate it and use it in my youth ministry. One of the main reasons I want to try to implement this is because of the following statistics:

We retain:

  • 10% of what we read
  • 20% of what we hear
  • 30% of what we see
  • 50% of what we see and hear
  • 70% of what is discussed with others
  • 80% of what we experience personally
  • 95% of what we teach someone else

If our students can experience God’s story personally and then teach it to others, imagine how drastically different our youth ministries, churches, and world would be!

– paulg


Prayer: Why Don’t We Do It?

November 19, 2009

Today, I had the privilege of speaking at one of the high schools near my church. The principal there called me months ago and asked me if I would be willing to speak at their chapel. I chose today because it fit best with my schedule. The purpose of my speaking there was two-fold. One reason was because I felt that God opened the door for me to speak, and the second was that it offered the possibility of helping my youth group to grow. I know that may sound selfish, but it’s one of the bargaining points that the principal used when presenting me with the opportunity. He said that he requires his students to be a member of a youth group and that some of them haven’t found a youth group to belong to yet. If you haven’t figured it out yet, the school I spoke at was a Christian school. There were about 50 students present, 3 of which are members of my youth group. It was nice to hear them get excited that their youth pastor was coming to their school to speak!

I spoke on “prayer” and entitled my message: “What’s a Christian to do?” In my initial talks with the principal of that school, he revealed to me that he is ashamed to see that most of the students there don’t pray. I don’t know if he meant that they don’t ever pray, and I also don’t think that he can determine that. But he did know that he rarely sees them pray before lunch each day. So I took what he told me, prayed about it, and ran with it. My main point was that often times; people don’t know what it means to be a Christian. I’ve run into too many people who think that in order to be a Christian, all they have to do is go to church once a week. Prayer is one of the most important aspects of the Christian life (along with the Word of God) and that was the message that I was trying to get across to them.

Another point I hit them with was that sometimes, people think they are too busy to pray. You’ve done it, the principal of the school has done it, I’ve done it (that’s for sure), and I’m sure that most Christians have done it. We live in a society and culture where busyness is the norm. More and more these days, kids are trained to go from one thing to the next. Wake up, eat breakfast, go to school, come home,  start homework, go to a sports practice or game, come home, eat dinner, do more homework, etc, etc, etc… Did you notice that church wasn’t involved in that list? Usually, at least from what I’ve seen so far, homework and sports come before youth group and church. It’s a sad but true reality! Because of this extreme busyness that we all have in our lives, we often leave little to no time to communicate with God through prayer. This should not be the case…at all!

In the Bible, an excellent example of someone who understood the importance of prayer was…you guessed it…Jesus! Jesus was a very busy man who had people to teach, sicknesses and diseases to heal, miracles to perform, an enemy to fight, and a life to live as an example to others. But even though Jesus was insanely busy and had a ton of good reasons not to pray, He still found time to communicate with His Father in Heaven!

Luke 5:15-16 says:

“Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

This passage is just one example of Jesus’ extreme busyness. Word started to spread about the work and miracles that Jesus was doing and more and more people came to hear what He had to say and to be healed of their sicknesses and diseases. But as we see in the passage, Jesus often “withdrew” to lonely places (this means He went away…by Himself) to pray and spend time with His Father in Heaven! This passage should serve as a great example to us. Jesus displayed a very real sense of closeness with God that I believe we should all try to imitate. Jesus lived and prayed like He believed that prayer worked and it kept Him focused and in-touch with God. The great news is that it can do the same for us!

To illustrate the point that we need to talk to God on a regular basis, I included a poem that I found in one of my sermon illustration books.

“I woke up late, no time to pray, I hurried off to school.

I failed to take advantage of this important tool.

Throughout the day I ran about, I had no time to kneel.

When dinner came, I failed again, to thank God for my meal.

When day was done, I went to bed, to get the rest I needed.

But once again the Bible’s call for prayer was left unheeded.

One busy day my soul was called, to answer for my deeds;

And as I stood, I realized I had denied its needs.

My name was called, and I stepped up to hear my sentence quote;

Yet all I got, to my surprise, was a little paper note;

And on this note God had written a message, oh, so true.

“You always failed to talk to me, why should I speak to you?”

Every time I read this poem, it makes me think back to all the times in my life where I was too “busy” to talk to God. I pray that it did that for all of those High School students today as well!

As I stated earlier, prayer and the Word of God are two of the most important aspects of the Christian life. If you take out the spark of prayer, and the gas of God’s Word, then you will never have a fire!

Now, as I am 37,000 feet in the air (on my way to the national youth workers convention) in Atlanta, Georgia, I was able to do some thinking and I realize that God had me prepare and deliver a message on prayer because I needed to hear it myself! I have allowed myself to become so “busy” that I rarely give God the time that He deserves. That will soon change though.

I want to end this post with some questions that I asked during my talk today. I’m not only asking you this; I’m asking myself as well!

Don’t we believe in prayer? Don’t we know what it could mean in our lives? Then why don’t we pray?

My question for you is this: Do you struggle with this as well? Are you too busy to spend time communicating with your Father in Heaven?

God wants to be our friends. He wants to be there for us through thick and thin. If we don’t talk to Him, our friendship will not grow. We know that prayer is important to our lives, so why don’t we do it?

–          paulg


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