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


Making a Difference in Lynn, MA – DUMC High School Missions Trip…

July 20, 2011

This past week I had the privilege of leading my first Missions Trip with my new youth group. Five of our adult leaders and I took a group of 39 High School-ers to serve the community of Lynn, MA (right outside of Boston).  It was a phenomenal week and one that I will never forget. I was blown away (again) by the way my new students welcomed, supported, and loved me. I wasn’t sure of what to expect going into the trip, but now that it’s over I realize that I had no reason to worry. I believe that bonds were formed, friendships were strengthened, and lives were changed because of this trip and I am so thankful that I was able to be a part of it all!

The leaders and I picked up the vans the day before we left and we had the students meet at the church the night before to load the vans. This was an exciting time because we all knew it meant that we would get to leave soon! We also spent some time decorating the windows of the vans to let people know who we were and what our purpose was (to spread the love of Jesus)! Once we had the vans packed, and the names checked off on the list of attendees, we all got to go home and get a good night’s sleep before we embarked on our journey to Massachusetts. We pulled out of the church at 8:30 AM and after two bathroom stops, one of which was extremely long (on account of the Starbucks that distracted our kids), and one lunch stop, we made it safely to the church we stayed at in Lynn, MA.

On our first night in Lynn, we had a leaders meeting where we spent time assigning all of our students into the work groups/locations that we thought would best fit them. Being that this trip was my first time meeting some of these students; it was a very difficult/stressful thing to figure out where they best fit. Thankfully, I had some veteran youth leaders there with me who were able to help me out.

Surprisingly there were no problems with the groups or who the students were paired up with. A few of the students weren’t happy with the work that they were actually doing and expressed to me that they would rather have been doing something different but I just used that as an opportunity to stress to them the importance of stepping out of their comfort zones and sticking it out to make a difference in peoples’ lives! I told them that we weren’t there that week for us, but for the people of Lynn, MA. These students really stepped it up after this and I was very impressed with them.

Being that I am the youngest leader in our group, I got assigned to do sports camp where we played football with community kids aged 10-14 all week. I got to take 6 of my students to the sports camp to help lead with me. It was great to see my students stepping up and being a positive influence in the lives of these community kids. I saw tremendous leadership qualities in all 6 of those guys and I think they learned a lot from the experience. Some of the community kids we worked with were tough and did not want to listen or follow rules, but overall it was a great experience for everyone involved. After we were done with sports camp each day, both I and Steve (the youth pastor from the church in Minnesota who was on the trip with us) drove the community kids back to the church. This was one of my favorite times of each day because as the kids were piling out of the van and we were waiting in the parking lot, I had the opportunity to sit and watch/take pictures of some of my other students loving on their group of community kids. It is great to see true ministry taking place and the love of Jesus being shown!

Each night, after we finished our work for the day, we got to do a fun, evening activity. On Monday night we got to go to Nahant Beach. It was a beautiful beach and provided for a great group photo.

If I could do one thing differently about this beach trip, I would make sure guitars do not get left at the beach. We had an incident where a guitar was left at the beach and no one told me it was missing until three days after the fact. By that point, kids had convinced themselves that it was brought back and was either stolen or hidden in the church somewhere. Long story short, the guitar was found and turned in to the police station and the student’s father will be picking it up during his already scheduled trip to Boston in August. On Tuesday night we got to ride the subway into to downtown Boston and spend an hour shopping and exploring the city. This was probably one of my favorite evening activities that we did. I got to walk around the city with 17 of my students and see all that that part of Boston had to offer. We also got a plethora of pictures and videos of a few of my students doing “The Bernie.”

For those of you that don’t know, “The Bernie” is based on the moves of the dead guy Bernie from a movie made in the 1980’s (Weekend at Bernie’s). Apparently it is a new dance craze that is sweeping the South…and apparently it has made its way to Doylestown, PA and now Boston, MA! Our group loves “The Bernie” so much that we got all of us together for a “Mass Bernie-ing” and recorded it with an intro tutorial! And yes, it will make an appearance in church whenever we talk about our trip!

On Wednesday night we got to go have dinner with people from the community at a soup kitchen called “My Brothers Table.” It was great to see my students and leaders sitting and eating with the people we were working with all week. And on Thursday we got to go to Gloucester, MA for a cookout/hangout time at the beach. We got to swim, play football, play volley ball, and climb rocks. It was a beautiful place and everyone had a blast. I treated everyone to ice cream in Gloucester and I think I won everyone’s heart because of it! haha

After we got back from the beach cookout, we had a worship service followed by a foot washing ceremony. This was one of the most powerful things from the entire week. YouthWorks washed the adult leaders’ feet and then we washed our students’ feet and prayed with each and every one of them. After some of the students’ got their feet washed, they went around the room and prayed with their friends. It was a very powerful and emotional evening and I was blown away by it.

A parent of two of the girls in my youth group asked me if I would have done anything differently. Now that I think back on it I realize that I wouldn’t change a thing. It was a great experience and a huge trip for me in terms of getting to know the students and building relationships with them. I am so thankful that God had His hands all over this trip!

A Special Thanks to Katie, Joel, Dan, Meredith, and Jenna!

Special thanks to Katie, Joel, Dan, Meredith, and Jenna for providing an amazing trip for us!

Now I have the Middle School Missions Trip to Charleston, WV to look forward to. We leave this Sunday. Woooohoooo!

–          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


Attitude Adjustment…

February 15, 2010

Much of the way we experience life is determined by the attitude we choose to adopt in a given situation. The attitude you bring into an experience is often times different from the one with which you leave. Understanding this is key to finding hope in every circumstance.

At times, I’ve been able to view my situation with a positive and optimistic attitude. At times, I’ve allowed my problems to become bigger than God, which is the exact thing that I’ve been teaching my students not to do. Some youth pastor I am, eh? (P.S. – No, I am not Canadian!!!)

But you know what? That’s ok! I’ve talked to God about this for countless hours over the past few months and He’s letting me know that it’s ok, that I’m human, and that I WILL make mistakes. Ask any of my students and they will be the first to tell you that I am open and real with them; that I am authentic with them. If I’m struggling with something, I’ll tell them. If I’m extremely happy about something, I’ll tell them. I don’t hide anything, because I think that shows weakness. I want my students to be open and real with me, so if I’m keeping things from them, that tells them that it’s not ok to talk about the struggles, issues, and problems that life throws at us at times.

Often times in life, music will speak to me in amazing ways. That’s what’s so amazing about it. One of the songs that has been on repeat in my truck, in the office, and at home where I am writing this blog right now, is called “I’m Not Alright” by Sanctus Real. The lyrics to a part of the song are as follows:

“I’m not alright, I’m broken inside
And all I go through, it leads me to You

Burn away the pride
Bring me to my weakness
Until everything I hide behind is gone
And when I’m open wide with nothing left to cling to
Only You are there to lead me on.”

I’ve always told people who were struggling with something that it is ok to not be ok! That’s my philosophy on life and I stand behind it. We as Christians think that we need to be perfect, put on this front (or mask) that lets people know we have it all together, when in reality…we don’t! If we were all perfect, we wouldn’t need Jesus!  The singer in this song is saying that he is not alright, and that he is broken inside (in case you couldn’t see that for yourself from the hard-to-understand chorus…haha). It goes on to talk about how all of the things we go through in life (both good and bad) should lead us to Jesus!

I love the next part where it says “burn away my pride…bring me to my weakness…until everything I hide behind is gone…”  To me, this is very powerful. Too many times in my life, God has had to burn away my pride and bring me face to face with my weaknesses. He had to do this by stripping me of the things that I would hide behind. God doesn’t play games with us and He knows that in order to get through to us effectively, most of the time He needs to break us and bring us to a point of weakness. It is in that point of weakness that we grow the most.

Lastly, the song says, “and when I’m open wide with nothing left to cling to…only you are there to lead me on.” This is saying that when God gets through to us, takes away our pride, brings us to a point of weakness, and takes away the things we “hide behind”…it is then that we realize that ONLY HE can lead us on. ONLY HE can bring us out of our hurt. ONLY HE can bring us through our trial, difficultly, or struggle.

Kind of an awesome concept, eh?

– paulg


Alexis Update: God is goood!

December 24, 2009

So, as you all know, I’ve been very distant as of late in the online world. I haven’t been blogging, tweeting, or facebook updating. Someone very close to me was diagnosed with Leukemia and I haven’t had much desire to do anything but spend time in prayer. I’m not the only one either; there have been and are thousands of people all over the country and world praying for Alexis Jane Battisti, the cute/sweet/amazing/beautiful/loveable little 2 ½ year old girl! And God is sooooooo good!

Ashley, Alexis, my Mom's hand, and my dog Pepper!

Three weeks ago, on December 3, 2009, Alexis was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. She went in the previous day for a normal check up and blood work. They found out her numbers were extremely low and ordered more tests the following day, and then were told to rush her to Childrens Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA. You can read more about the initial testing and results at the following links: Urgent Prayer Request and Alexis Update: Day 2.

Ashley (Alexis’ amazing mommy), Alexis, Ashley’s mom, and other family members spent 9 days in the hospital as Alexis underwent test after test, and treatment after treatment. She received blood transfusions, spinal taps, bone marrow aspirates, platelets, and numerous other things. Thanks to God being so amazing, Alexis was able to go home earlier than anticipated on Friday December 11, 2009. Things have been rough since then. Due to the steroids and other medication that Alexis is on, she hasn’t been the same little girl. She eats everything in sight, even more than I do…and I’m a 265 pound 6’4 ½” 24 year old!!! The medicine makes her grumpy and not very Alexis like! And it’s taking a toll on her mommy, the rest of her family, and those that are close to and love her! I visited Ashley and Alexis on Tuesday and it was hard to see Alexis with no cheer and no care about anything. But I was able to make her smile and giggle a little, and Ashley told me that I should feel special because I’m one of the few that can make her happy! And that made my day to see both of them smile and giggle! And yes, I feel very special!

Today, Ashley, Alexis, and Alexis’ daddy traveled to Childrens Hospital for a Chemo treatment, and the results they got were truly breathtaking. I received a text message from Ashley that said:

“Everything’s great, no leukemia in her bone marrow, not even a trace!!!! 🙂 So she is officially in remission!”

I have not been able to stop thanking God ever since then. I spoke with a good friend of mine who is a nurse and she said that she has never heard of the numbers dropping from 90 to 0 in just 3 short weeks. My take on that is that God was definitely involved and was working His Wonders! We serve an awesome God, and He is sooooo good to His children!

Thank you all so very much for your continued prayers, and keep them coming. This is not over yet, but it is a huge step in the right direction. When God is in the driver’s seat, nothing is impossible, as we’ve already seen in the last 3 weeks! Thank you, thank you, and thank you!

–          paulg


Jumping Off of the Cliff…

November 30, 2009

“There’s a faculty built into the human brain that makes every cliff seem twice the height when you’re looking down from the top and everything in you says, ‘Don’t even think about it’. So you don’t think about it, you just hurl yourself off out into the middle of the canyon, and then you free-fall for what feels like enough time to recite the Gettysburg Address and all your senses are on maximum alert as you plunge into the cold water. When you come back up the crowd is cheering and something in you is also cheering because you did it.

In his book, Wild at Heart, John Eldridge re-tells the story of a time when he and his family went on a cliff jumping adventure. The quoted paragraph above is from the 11th chapter of this book. Eldridge goes on to say: “After that first jump you have to do it again, partly because you can’t believe you did it and partly because the fear has given way to the thrill of such freedom”

When I first read this book a few months ago, I was blown away by something that Eldridge said shortly after the quotes from above.

“I want to live my whole life like that. I want to love with much more abandon and stop waiting for others to love me first. I want to hurl myself in a creative work worthy of God. I want to charge the fields at Banockburn, follow Peter as he followed Christ out onto the sea, and pray from my hearts true desire.”

I think of youth ministry and can resonate with Eldridge’s words about wanting to live his whole life as if he were jumping off of a cliff. I, too, wish to live my life loving with abandon and without having to wait for others to show me love first. I, too, want to hurl myself in a creative work worthy of God. I, too, want to charge the fields in a major battle, follow Peter as he followed Christ out onto the raging sea, and pray from my hearts true desire.

As I have been thinking through this for the past few weeks, I have been attempting to ask myself how these things can apply to youth ministry. Here is what I came up with:

Loving with Abandon:

“I want to love with much more abandon and stop waiting for others to love me first.” Many times in my life, I would wait until someone showed me love before I would show them love. I have been hurt many times in the past by doing it the other way around and, in a sense, I was afraid and unwilling to do it anymore, so I closed myself off to this approach. However, I have changed my approach over the last few years. In youth ministry, it can’t be about waiting until a student will show you love. Your ministry will not be successful that way and you will not be able to show that student the love of Christ! We can’t sit around waiting for students to show up and start loving us; we need to go to them. We need to go to where they are, build relationships with them, love on them, and show them what it means to have a relationship with Jesus! In my experience thus far in youth ministry, I have found that students today are hurting much more than they were when I was their age. They have so many more influences and experiences that simply weren’t present 10 or 15 years ago. With that being said, it’s ridiculous for us to think that a student is going to magically come to us and start loving us on their own. Many students have no example of love in their lives; therefore we need to be that love!

Jumping In:

“I want to hurl myself in a creative work worthy of God.” To me, this quotation is saying that it is beneficial to dive in to something creative that will glorify God. This is why I attempt to always change and adapt my ministry in new, innovative, and creative ways. Ways that will take the attention off of me and my leaders, and place it where it needs to be…on God!

Charging, Following, and Praying:

“I want to charge the fields at Bannockburn, follow Peter as he followed Christ out onto the sea, and pray from my hearts true desire.” Although I don’t know much about the war of Scottish Independence known as the Battle of Bannockburn (I had to Google it to find out what it was so I can make myself sound intelligent on this blog), I can picture what it would be like to charge out onto a battlefield ready to fight for what I believe in. I’m ready to fight for the souls of my students (both current and future). I’m ready to meet the enemy head-on and make him aware that these students have been bought with a price…the Blood of Christ!

I want to know what it would be like to be right behind Peter as he took that first step out onto the raging sea towards Jesus! I want to know what it looks like in my ministry to step out of my boat (my comfort zones) and step into the unknown (the dangerous, unknown, and chaotic waves of ministering to teenagers). These things don’t scare me because I know that if I keep my eyes on Jesus, then I will not be shaken!

I want to know what it means to pray from my hearts true desire. I’m very real with God when I am talking to him. I want to be able to be real with him about my students (current and future) as well, but in order for this to happen; I need to continue to be there with and for them. I need to show them love. I need to do everything that I mentioned a few paragraphs ago in order to love with abandon. My prayer for youth ministry is that students would have the desire to open up and be real with their youth pastors and leaders, just as those same youth pastors and leaders are real with them!

In closing, I would like to find out what these things look like in your youth ministries, lives, and careers! Can you relate to these things? Are you the person who sits back and waits/hopes that people will come and start loving you? Or have you seen yourself as the person going all out and jumping off of the cliff?

–          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


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