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

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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


YouthWorks takes over Youth Specialties…

November 21, 2009

For the last month or so, there has been much uncertainty in the youth ministry world as to what would happen to the youth ministry giant Youth Specialties after 7-year president Mark Oestreicher was released from the company. Marko was released and all the info that was given to the youth ministry world was found at this link: Statement by Moe Girkins, President and CEO of Zondervan.

This is my third convention and because of the uncertainty of what was going on with Youth Specialties, I had mixed feelings about coming to the National Youth Workers Convention this year. I didn’t know how it would be without Marko and Tic Long and I honestly wasn’t sure if I wanted to find out. But I came (obviously) and I was very glad that I did. After Andy Stanley’s message to us about uncertainty, the announcer for the convention (who I think was Mark Matlock) called a youth worker named Paul Bertelson up onto the stage for what appeared to be one of their normal interviews where they ask long time youth workers questions and give them a huge round of applause and a thank you! But this was different. After we found out that Paul was a 38-year youth ministry veteran who started his own company (YouthWorks) to help youth workers get the resources they needed. After we found out a little info about who he was, the announcer then called out another special guest, Moe Girkins, the President and CEO of Zondervan.

The announcer then proceeded to ask Moe some questions. He started off by saying that there are a lot of youth workers out there who have written nasty blogs and said some harsh things about her and her company after they released Marko. After that, his main question was: “Does it suck to be Moe Girkins right now?” She answered that yes it does suck to be her right now, but not always. She then said a few nice things about Tic and Marko and thanked them for how much they meant to the company and the youth workers all over the world. She announced the opportunity to write Marko and Tic a note to say thank you. Now (the day after), there are boxes set up for both of those guys and they are filling up pretty quickly. After that, Moe began to announce the shift that is going to take place where youth specialties will be sold to YouthWorks. The link to this acquisition can be found here: – – – -> YS gets sold to YouthWorks

When I first heard this, I was a bit skeptical. And now that I’ve had a few days to think about it, I realize that it was for selfish reasons. I love YS the way it is and the way it has been since I have started coming to their conventions. I did not want to see change, and I honestly (along with other youth workers) thought that it was going to be a change for the worse. But after doing some searching around on the internet and reading some of my youth ministry friends’ blogs, I found a very encouraging note about the deal between YS and YouthWorks. It comes from YS’s Online Marketing and eCommerce guy, Adam McLane. Adam said this:

“So the news is out. I am very happy the news is out. When I saw the presidents of Z and YW together yesterday I really hoped that the news would come out. It was a very exciting/somber (and a bunch more adjectives/adverbs) moment to be a part of. For me, the bottom line was that the news was getting out and that is good.

The people at YouthWorks are good people. (That’s been clear in the blogs/twitter/Facebook) The people at Zondervan are good people. (That hasn’t been clear, but trust me when I say that they are good people, too.)

Now… this weekend isn’t about Youth Specialties, YouthWorks, Zondervan, or even me. It’s about serving and encouraging youth workers!”

To see someone on the inside of Youth Specialties say such encouraging words is a great thing. It certainly changed my outlook on the whole deal and now I am hopeful for the future of the company and conventions that I learn from, grow during/from, and love so much!

It backed up Andy Stanley’s message that uncertainty is always going to be a part of ministry. My post about that message can be found here.I don’t know what the future will hold for these two companies, for the conventions, and for the thousands upon thousands of youth workers who attend the conventions each year. But I do know that it is a necessity for us to pray for them. So regardless of our negative thoughts/opinions on the whole ordeal, let’s leave it up to God and start/continue to pray for it and all the people that are involved!

–          paulg


Uncertainty, Clarity, and Flexibility…

November 21, 2009

This is part two of my day one blog. Later on in the day, at the Big Room event (the main session where everyone is together), Andy Stanley brought an excellent message about uncertainty that I will not soon forget! Now I know that Andy usually preaches pretty fast, but what he brought was like a machine gun with the trigger held in. It was non-stop goodness. I typed over four pages of notes on my computer and my fingers were aching afterwards.

Andy started off by giving us the following statements: “I may be in charge but I don’t always know what to do. I may be in charge but I don’t have all the answers. If I knew what was going to happen, then I’d know what to do. Every leader to some extent is clueless (we just don’t want the people following us to figure that out). When it comes to leadership, there is so much uncertainty and it never ever ever goes away!” He went on to say that we will always have limited information and we will never know what the future holds. And then he had us repeat the following statement: “I will always be uncertain, I’m certain of it!”

One of Andy’s main points was that we will always face uncertainty as leaders. It is a normal and permanent part of leadership. If everything was predictable then there would be absolutely no need for pastors (leadership). God always got the best mileage out of uncertainty. When God does amazing things, it usually isn’t during a day when nothings is going wrong…it’s usually when there is some degree of uncertainty.

In the midst of uncertainty, Andy said that there are two things we should turn to: clarity and flexibility. In times of uncertainty there is a need for leadership to retreat back to being clear and flexible. Clarity trumps uncertainty in an organization every single time. When times are uncertain in our local church, family, organization, etc…that is the time for the leaders to step up and be absolutely crystal clear about what God has called us to do. Clarity in the time of uncertainty is what positions and surfaces leaders in an organization. An illustration of this comes from the scriptures in the transition between Moses and Joshua. Joshua was good at wondering because his mentor was (Moses). And then God wanted him to lead an army into battle. Talk about uncertainty!

Joshua had no clue what to do so he told the people that there is stuff that he doesn’t know, but in three days they would be crossing the Jordan and taking the land that God has promised them. That’s leadership in uncertain times! It’s the definition of pure leadership! Next, Andy gave us a quote/philosophy/vision from Steve Jobs (former owner of Apple) that said: “We’ve got to focus on what we can be good at and stop everything else…we are going to build easy to use computers.”  Steve Jobs did what every leader has to do in times of uncertainty. He stepped back into what he knew for sure…stepped back from the numbers and chaos of a hurting/dying company and reinvigorated them!

What has God called us to do in our ministries? What has God called our student ministries to do in our communities? What has God called our church to do in our community or our world?

Andy said that clarity in times of uncertainty will move your organization forward. You don’t have to have a cute phrase for your vision, but you also shouldn’t have a huge paragraph. We need to figure out what the one thing that God has called us to do is. For Steve Jobs, it was to build computers that are easy to use! Certainty around the calling of God is extraordinarily powerful, and that’s where we have to retreat. It has to be crystal clear what God has called us to do, in our mind and on our lips!

Next, Andy talked about flexibility. In times of uncertainty, there needs to be incredible flexibility. Plans change, but vision should stay the same. What Andy said next was great. He said: “Fall in love with your vision, but date your plans. Marry your vision and just fool around with your plans. You’ve got to stay extraordinarily committed…plans are going to change!” If we ever confuse our vision with our mission, we are sunk…because plans WILL fail!

Another quote that jumped out at me was: “Fundraising is a plan; church planting is a mission and a vision…if you get them confused, you’re in trouble!” We can’t abandon the mission and vision because of a failed plan.

We must help our leaders, elders, and deacons to understand the difference between vision and approach. Approach may change numerous times…plans change…but vision always remains the same! Andy says we need to be stubborn with our vision and flexible in our plans.

There was so much good content in Andy Stanley’s message to youth workers but one of the most important things that I snagged up from it was what he said about leadership. He said that leadership is not about making decisions on your own, but standing up and owning the decisions as a team. He went on to tell us about the wisest man in the world (Solomon) who had the most to say about seeking counsel from others. Even though he knew the most out of anyone ever, he still saw it wise to seek the teams’ advice on things. Leadership is about owning decisions once you made them with a multitude of wise counselors, not alone!

–          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


Ministry Envy…

March 29, 2009

Two years ago at the National Youth Workers Convention in Atlanta, Georgia, I attended a general session where Doug Fields spoke on the topic of “Ministry Envy.” I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the last week or so about how I used to view things in youth ministry as opposed to how I currently view them. I am a totally different youth worker now than I was back then. And that is a good thing…

When I think through my career thus far in youth ministry, I realize that I have been very envious at times. If I would have let that envy continue, it could have destroyed my future in youth ministry. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, ministry envy is simply being envious of other youth pastors, youth workers, or youth leaders. It is seeing the awesome things that they do (teach, lead games, perform skits, write, preach, relate to students, lead Bible studies, etc…) and wishing that you could be as awesome or as good as they are. It is seeing a youth worker that you view as better than you are and getting upset with and down on yourself.

I’d love to say that I never struggled with this, but that would be a lie. I’d love to say that I only struggled with this with youth leaders that I didn’t know (those I read about or saw at retreats or events), but that would also be a lie. The truth is, I was envious of the way that many of my close friends and co-workers did ministry. I wanted to be like them and do the things that they did. I wanted to be the kind of youth leader that they were/are.

If I could talk to myself then as myself now, the conversation would look something like this…

Me Now: “If you want to be like them, what is that saying about the youth leader that God created you to be? Aren’t you, in essence, saying that how God created and gifted you isn’t good enough?”

Me Then: “You know what Paul from the future? I think you are right! Maybe I shouldn’t waste my time trying to be like them and just focus on the skills and abilities that God gave me to do youth ministry.”

Me Now: “You sir, are a genius!”

Me Then: “Yeah, that’s true! Before you go back to the future, do you have anything else to tell me?”

Me Now: “Yeah, don’t try to tow an empty u-haul trailer early in the morning on February 5th, 2009. If you turn around when it starts snowing like you think you should, you won’t get into an accident that results in your truck being totaled!”

Me Then: “Thank you kind sir!”
So…as you can see from the conversation I just had with myself, I learned to overcome ministry envy. The session that I attended on this topic served as an eye-opener for me. I never knew that I had this problem and I am very glad that I found out earlier rather than later.

Now, don’t get me wrong…It is ok to see what others do and to admire those things…and maybe even steal a few of them (a.k.a. borrow some ideas from them). But it is not ok to do everything in your power to be like them. It is not ok to obsess over how good they are and beat yourself up for not being able to do what they do.

Everyone is geared differently. I am geared to be a different kind of youth leader than my friends, co-workers, and mentors. I can’t be like them in some aspects because God made me to be me. He geared me to do ministry the way that He intended, not the way that I think I should do it.

I’m glad that God created me to be me.

– paulg


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