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


Blown Away: The First Five Hours In My New Ministry

July 7, 2011

I’ve had many memorable moments with students in the past. All of these youth have impacted my life in a major way, as I hope that I have with theirs. I will cherish some of these memories for the rest of my life. As some of you know, I have recently been hired by a new church after a long (in my eyes) 14-month hiatus from youth ministry. It wasn’t my choice but it is what it is and I feel that God definitely had a reason for taking me out of full-time ministry for that amount of time. I won’t touch any more on that for now but rest assured that I will definitely be writing about it as soon as I can. Anyway, I got hired at Doylestown United Methodist Church on June 12, 2011 and my official start date was to be July 1, 2011. I left Belle Vernon, PA on June 30, 2011 and headed down Interstate 76 (the Pennsylvania Turnpike) to start my new life and new ministry. On my way there, I stopped at a huge Christian music festival called “Creation” that my new youth group and leaders were attending. And when I say “huge,” I mean 82,000 people HUGE! Creation is a four or five day festival. I only planned to stop for one day to get to know some of the youth and leaders that would be my new family. Stopping at Creation was key and had potential to be an extremely beneficial way to begin my new ministry. The reason for this is that I will be taking 39 of those students on a High School Missions Trip on July 10-15 and then 20 or so more of them on the Middle School Missions Trip on July 24-29. So breaking the ice, getting to know them, and getting them to know me was an extremely important thing that needed to be taken care of as quickly as possible since there is no youth group and no other way for me to meet/get to know them before the trips. I was blown away as soon as I pulled up in front of our groups’ camp site.

Looking down on Creation Fest from overlook mountain...

As I was driving the two and a half hours it took to get there, I couldn’t help but to feel nervous. I wondered how well the students would like me, if things would be awkward because no one knew me and I didn’t know them, would they want to meet me, would they be mad/hurt that I was the guy replacing their old youth pastor, etc. All kinds of scenarios were running through my mind but the conclusion that I came to was that I would have to just leave it in God’s hands and wait and see what would happen. And that’s exactly what I did. There was nothing else I could do.

As soon as I stepped out of my truck, I got “attacked” by my new youth group. All of the kids that were there (some were at concerts or at the various other attractions that they had at “Creation”) swarmed to me around my truck and started to introduce themselves. They were excited to meet me and it was such an amazing, warm, and welcoming feeling when all I expected was shyness and awkwardness. I was so blown away/overwhelmed with joy because of this. This took away all of the nervousness, uncertainty, questions, and broke the ice. I was able to focus on building relationships with them the rest of the time since this initial part was knocked out by them. God’s hands were definitely all over this and I am so thankful for that.

A small group of my youth on overlook mountain...

There was one other amazing thing that these students and leaders did for me that I didn’t quite pick up on right away. As I was meeting them I noticed that they all had some form of a temporary or henna tattoo on them. Some had them on their necks. Some had them on their arms. Some had them on their stomachs, backs, legs. And one even had so many of them on one arm that it looked like a sleeve. I noticed it but I didn’t put much thought into it because I was so amazed at how awesome these kids were. Later that night at one of the sessions/concerts one of my leaders was talking to me and she asked me if I noticed everyone’s tattoos. Then it hit me: it wasn’t just a coincidence! She told me that they planned it and all of the kids and leaders wanted to make me feel comfortable (since I have tattoos) so they went out of their way to put all of those tattoos on…AMAZING! I ended up staying for two nights because my students wanted me to stay longer.

So if all of this awesomeness took place within my first 5 hours of being there, I can’t wait to see what else God has in store for me, this youth group, and this church. It’s going to be good!

–          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

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

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