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You’ve already written, signed and dated the letter. The Board of Elders have read and accepted your letter of resignation and within a few days you receive a written response outlining in detail your…transition out of the youth ministry. Now you find yourself standing before the congregation on a Sunday morning just minutes after the Senior Pastor closed the service in prayer about to make your “announcement.” With your wife by your side, a written statement in your hand, and a slight case of nervousness you announce to everyone that you are leaving the youth ministry at [your church name] because God is calling you to something or somewhere else.
As youth workers and youth pastors we have all faced this difficult task of leaving a ministry, and it never seems to get easier. The easy part of making the transition is the logistics. Making sure the teens personal contact information is up to date and all important files are current; such as a budget, medical release forms, etc. This is the logistical stuff.
But what about the relationships you’ve built with the teens and their parents. The hardest part of making a transition is how it affects us as youth workers, the teens and their families emotionally. So how do we make the transition a smooth one? What do you do when one of your students buries their head in your shoulder with tears pouring from their eyes and they’re pleading with you not to leave? It’s moments like those that rip our hearts out and bring us to the edge of changing our minds about leaving. Then we are quickly reminded it’s not our will but God’s will that we’re following.
I won’t promise you I’ll have any one proven method. I’m not offering a youth workers guide on the topic of facing the emotions of your transition. What I am providing is my own experience and how God has used me to make those transitional times just a little easier.
Be honest and open – I have met many youth pastors/workers that kept their change in venue a secret from the teens and their families for their “emotional protection.” Then within a few weeks of leaving they decide to tell the teens and it’s like dropping a bomb in a crowded city square. In one situation my wife and I knew several months before making our final decision that God was speaking and leading us in another direction. After spending time in prayer we decided to share with our students our heart. So at a Wednesday evening meeting during our prayer time I let the teens know that God had placed in our hearts a new calling and that we were praying seeking God’s will. I not only wanted my students to know the truth, but I also wanted them to know how to pray for our ministry. We wanted to include them in the process. We wanted them to know God was calling us to go, where we were being called, and what would happen when we arrived.
From the very beginning we were honest, we were real. Over those next several months we kept the lines of communication open. Anytime there was a change or progress was made, we made it a point to once again include our students in the process and made it a matter of prayer for the entire group. By the time my wife and I knew God was, without a doubt, moving us on to another ministry our students took the news better then my board of elders. Sure tears were shed, but our students learned over those months from prayer, the teaching of God’s Word, and honesty, to accept God’s will in the life of the Ford’s.
Youth ministry is also about building solid relationships not only with your students, but their parents as well. Over those months of praying, searching and waiting we met with the parents and shared the same information with them as we did with their sons and daughters. We could have easily planned and scheduled a parent’s meeting at the church, tried squeezing it in at the end of a morning service as everyone is shaking hands, or called them on the phone. Instead we chose to meet the parents in their homes. By including the parents from the beginning it provided them with the truth of our ministry and gave them the information needed to not only support their son or daughter, but also know how to pray for the teens, leadership and us.
Does Christ give us an example? Absolutely! In Matthew 16:21 Jesus predicts His death for the first time. “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” The phrase “from that time one” marks a turning point in Christ’s ministry. Well before his trial and crucifixion “Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go.” Jesus was preparing them for what was about to happen. There was going to be some major changes in His ministry, and Jesus held nothing back from His disciples. Jesus told His disciples three important points; first He told them He was leaving, second He told them where He was going, and third He told them what would happen when He arrived.
I don’t want you to misunderstand, God’s timing is very important. You don’t want to jump the gun. If God has only knocked but has not opened the door, then sharing with your students at this point may not be the right time. Only through prayer can you be sure. Ask God to reveal to you the right time. We must be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading. When Jesus revealed the life changing news to His disciples you can be sure the timing was perfect.
It is important that we be honest with our students, adult leaders and parents and include them in the process when God begins to call us to “go.” Remember you’ve worked hard to build trust and respect, and to build godly relationships with your students. By keeping things a secret for the “emotional protection” of your students it will only cause emotional pain and make your transition harder.
Making the transition from one ministry to the next doesn’t have to be difficult. When making the transition there are many steps that need to be taken, but it begins with being honest and open.
There is a big difference between arguing and defending…
Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. – Jude 1:3
As a country we’ll defend our freedom. As a community we’ll defend against crime. As parents we’ll defend our children. As husbands we’ll defend our wives. And as individuals we’ll defend our reputation. But when it comes to our faith all too many times I’m seeing people back down by taking the politically correct route of defense or worse yet wave the white flag of surrender and not say anything at all. And speaking of politics, some Christians seem to be more passionate about defending their political party or agenda then they are in defending their faith. We’re beating each other verbally all in the name of…politics?
On Sunday’s we’ll show up for church praising and claiming victory to the roof top in Jesus’ name, but on Monday cower in our cubicles the moment a co-worker confronts us with anything religious, biblical, or related to our faith. In the comfort of our church buildings we talk a good talk, but the moment a false teacher slaps us in the face slandering our King, misquoting scripture, and twists the truth we go silent all because we don’t want to offend anyone.
COME ON! Seriously!? (sorry had to get that off my chest)
No wonder our teenagers are confused and lost. How are they going to be equipped to live for Jesus if they can’t defend their faith? How are they going to share their faith for THE Cause (Matthew 28:19-20) if those (adults) who are suppose to be leading the battle are running in retreat like the Israelite army did against the Philistines? What example are we setting?
There is a big difference between arguing and defending and it’s time we CONTEND for the faith. For example; I will not ramble on and on and on via Facebook , my website, or in person with someone choosing to pick a fight for the sole purpose of slandering my beliefs because they are looking for a license to sin and choosing to deny Christ.
For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. – Jude 1:4
But after some dialogue if I can clearly see they will not back down or quit I’ll withdraw from the conversation, but NOT without first defending my faith using the clear message of the gospel. Then I’ll pray for that person asking for their heart to be broken to see Jesus. You see, by using scripture, withdrawing from the conversation in a quiet loving way, and praying for them I’m not backing down nor have I argued with them. Rather I’m stepping aside to allow a strong and powerful Hero to push the front line…the Holy Spirit.
Does defending my faith mean I’ll be beaten verbally and maybe even physically? I’m sure of it. But if I’m going to claim that Jesus is my Savior and King and be obedient to His Word then I MUST defend my faith.
Paul suffered in many ways. Just read 2 Corinthians 11 and listen to Paul go through his resume.
“I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.”
In Acts 14 Paul is taken outside the city of Lystra and stoned. Afterwards he gets up and goes back into the city. Talk about being committed at defending the faith.
“Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city.” – Act 14:19-20
Compared to what Paul and the apostles faced, a verbal slap in our face today is nothing. Like Rocky barely flinching after taking a punch in the jaw, facing his offender and standing firm, it’s time we defend our faith. In Jude 1:3 God urges us to contend for the faith. It’s time we equip teenagers to defend their faith using their scriptural arsenal rather than waving the white flag of surrender, tossing out opinion bombs, or rolling out tanks of useless arguments.
“urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.”
The following is a fictional message. It’s written from the view of a teenager to a Facebook friend. Imagine for a moment receiving this letter in your Facebook Inbox either from a friend or student in your ministry.
Dear Facebook friend,
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately and I don’t get it. One day you’ll post a bible verse as your status or quote something from a Christian book. You’ll wish me a happy birthday by sending me a virtual stuffed animal or “mystery” egg. Whatever that is.
You’ll invite me to join your “Hug a Friend Day”, “International Answer the Phone Like Buddy the Elf Day”, or my personal favorite, “I’ve Lost My Cell Phone #’s So Text Me Ur’s Day”. Seriously?
You’ll send me invites for your “Can We Find 1 Million Christian’s on Facebook” group, “Being Conservative” group, “Sarah Palin for President” group and “One Million Strong for Obama” group. You want me to join your Farmville, Yoville, Fishville, or your Mafia. And you expect me to get to know you by filling out some social interview survey.
But the one invite I get from you often is the one that baffles me the most. You keep sending me an invite to join your youth group fan page. How can I be fan if I’ve never been there? Did you ever think about inviting me to come to your ACTUAL youth group?
You keep telling me it’s not about religion and that’s it about a relationship. But…if it’s about a relationship why haven’t you invited me to your youth group or church? Why haven’t you told me about this Jesus you SAY you have a relationship with? And if connecting with what you call “non-believers” is SO important, than why am I just one of your 500+ Facebook friends that you never actually speak to or see in person? Doesn’t your Jesus tell you to love others? So how is sending me invites to something in the virtual realm showing me love and pointing me to the eternal realm you say you’re living for?
Your confused Facebook friend,
Ezekiel 2:1-2; He said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.
When God speaks are we allowing the Holy Spirit to move us in such a way that we snap to our feet like a Marine at morning roll call? How about when we hear the truth of the gospel being preached, can we honestly say “I heard him (God ) speaking to me?”
Being a native of the NJ/NY metro area I have seen my share of street preachers. Most of the time as I walked the streets of the city I would do everything I could to avoid these overly hyper shouting radical men on a soap box (sometimes a bucket). To me they seemed to preach a message of doom and gloom pointing fingers at everyone walking by calling them sinners and screaming of our need to repent before God’s great and mighty punishment. And I was not the only one walking out of the way to avoid these guys. Some people would actually walk across the street and down the other side. Others, like me, would skirt by really fast glancing over but doing everything possible to NOT make eye contact. At that time in my life they seemed strange and even borderline nuts making me wonder if they needed to be committed or have been in the past. And let’s face it if I ran into one now on the streets of Harrisburg, PA I would probably still think they were a little…crazy.
Or is it something else? Maybe we’re uncomfortable with true street preachers because some are willing to be radical for Jesus, live what they preach, obey God, and have extreme faith. They are willing to preach whether people will “listen or fail to listen.” (Ezekiel 2:5)
And come to find out as I study Ezekiel guess what, he served as a Jewish “street preacher” in Babylon for 22 years, telling everyone about God, salvation, and calling them to repent and obey. Not only that Ezekiel “lived” what he preached and preached in some very radical ways. If you think standing on a soap box screaming to passer-by’s is odd. How about lying on your side for 390 days straight eating only eight ounces a day that is cooked over cow poop (oops…I mean manure). But this is exactly what God asked Ezekiel to do and no matter how strange it seems he obeyed. (Ezekiel 4:4-8)
So based on these facts if Ezekiel was preaching on the streets of NY or even Harrisburg for that matter I’d probably avoid, as well as treat him as a certifiable nut case because it’s uncomfortable and out of the box. God may not ask you to do anything as dramatic and crazy as eating food baked over cow poop, but if he did…would you do it?
I am finding this extremely radical street preacher is exactly what I want to be. Funny how what I once avoided is what I’ve been striving to become MORE of. God wants us to live outside our comfort zone, preach His Word whether people will listen or fail to listen, live what we preach, and obey Him whatever, wherever, and whenever he asks.
Originally published on 1/23/2007
Last week one of our students who had been absent for several months (since August) finally returned to our weekly youth service. Through emails, phone calls and visits; my wife, leadership, youth and I reached out to this student in an attempt to bring her back. Today we are thanking and praising God that she has returned.
However, during those months I heard negative comments regarding our attempt to keep in contact with this one student. Some kept asking why we were relentlessly seeking her out. I was even told that I was “nuts” and was “wasting my time” with a “teenager who doesn’t care.” No matter what, it never deterred any one of us from seeking out this one student.
So, why did we relentlessly seek out this one student? It’s simple really; God tells us to. Don’t believe me? Take a look at Matthew 18:12-14 (NIV); “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.
In these verses Jesus is referring to believers, those who wander from the church family or youth ministry, our own. Unfornanutly some have misinterpret these verses to mean the unsaved. But how can someone who is unsaved wander away or stray. An unbeliever doesn’t have anything to stray away from. Clearly God is commanding us to go after, seek and find those who leave out our back doors.
I recently read an article in which they discussed why people leave the church. In the article a pastor was quoted as saying; “We’re not doing enough for those that come in our front door, and we’re doing nothing for those going out our back door.”
We need to pay more attention and get more involved in the lives of our young people so we don’t allow them to stray away. However, I believe many spend too much time in the church taking care of “stuff.” You know, making sure everything is in place, the “right” people show up, and things look just right (logistics). It’s like the story of the parents who were too busy getting ready for their dinner guests to notice that their three year old son wandered out the back door heading straight for the pool.
When it comes to your youth ministry or even your church family as a whole, is your back door unlocked and your children wandering away? If so, “go to look for the one that wandered off.”
About a year ago after concluding my last sermon at a youth retreat a student approached me and shared the following; “Thanks for speaking at our retreat and taking the time to talk with me last night. But mostly I thank you because I’ve been exposed to Jesus in a way I’ve never known before. I’ve grown up in church all my life but for the first time ever Jesus is real.”
Over the past year I took that one small phrase “exposed to Jesus” and have allowed God to use it to build a new purpose and ministry that is still developing called…Xposed2Jesus.
Who Xposed2Jesus is…
In the past several years I’ve had the awesome opportunity to speak at many youth retreats, camps, churches and youth conferences throughout the Mid-Atlantic region and now into the South. But in recent months God has used my wife and several close friends to push (encourage) me to pursue a more devoted and driven speaking (preaching) ministry. “The Lord has blessed Brian Ford with a spiritual gift that is totally amazing. He engages young people from the start, challenges them to strengthen their relationship for Christ, and equips them with tools to witness to their unsaved friends.” This statement from a youth worker humbled and blew me away and was just one more tool God was using to create Xposed2Jesus.
So who is Xposed2Jesus? We’re a small staff of two; a veteran youth worker with a passion is to communicate the Word of God in a relevant way so as to equip teenagers to live their life fully committed to Jesus. And his wife with a desire to see God use her husband to impact the lives to students wherever he may be sent. She also handles the prayer department of the ministry and we’re looking for prayer warriors. So if you’re looking for a ministry to join we’re hiring. The pay is cheap, nada, but the long term reward is priceless.
What Xposed2Jesus is NOT…
It’s simple; we’re NOT another free youth ministry resource site. But if you’re looking for that kind of site then I encourage to check out www.studentministry.org. My good friend Tim Schmoyer is providing awesome resources for youth workers, especially for those with two years or less experience, and be sure to also check out the YM Mentorship Team as we’d love to help you grow spiritually in your personal and ministry life.
What Xposed2Jesus IS…
We’ll be more focused and devoted to equipping teens to live for Jesus. We believe teens want and need to be exposed to biblical theology so as to deepen their faith as well as equip them to share their faith. This will be accomplished in two parts; first, our main goal is to actively preach the gospel in a relevant way to students at retreats, camps, churches, youth events, conferences, etc. and equipping them to make disciples that make disciples. Second, we’ll focus on training youth workers to do the same within their youth ministry and churches by continuing an active role with the LISM YM Mentorship Team as well as other means as God continues to lead, mold and evolve the ministry of Xposed2Jesus.
Students need to be exposed to the truth of the Gospel in a way that is relevant to their life, circumstances and culture. They need leaders who are equipped to expose their students to biblical truth rather than feel good fad driven object lessons. Students need to be exposed to THE Cause and become passionate about sharing their faith in Christ. They need to be exposed to the needs of those in their immediate circle as well as those around the world. They need to be exposed to the love Jesus has for them and love him and others in return.
“I thank you because I’ve been exposed to Jesus in a way I’ve never known before.” That statement from a student just over a year ago is what’s driving the WHY behind Xposed2Jesus.
So if the ministry of Xposed2Jesus and Brian Ford match the type of speaker you’re looking for, then fill out our booking request form and let’s talk. I’m looking forward to meeting you and your students, but more importantly I’m looking forward to your students being Xposed2Jesus and spreading THE Cause wherever they go.
For the most part, if given a choice, the average person whether adult, teen or child will NOT get up early on a Saturday morning. But when I was a kid there was one thing that could get me out of bed early…”The Justice League of America & the Legion of Doom” cartoon.
I would rush through breakfast just to get a front row seat on the floor of our TV room to watch my favorite superheroes battle against Lex Luther and the Legion of Doom. My favorite superhero out of all the Justice League heroes was the Green Lantern. Green Lantern’s power ring gave him great control over the physical world as long as he had sufficient willpower and strength to wield it.
Today, teenagers need a hero. Not a hero from American Idol, Glee, MTV Music Awards or from the sports arena. They need a real hero that will lead them to THE Hero.
This real hero is known to spend countless hours building his/ her strength by reading THE Hero’s book (the bible). They often go off to their fortress of solitude to speak (pray) with THE Hero to debrief and ask deep questions. They face difficult challenges from the villain (spiritual warfare) that continues to attack them and the students they love, but will not back down, and no matter what this real hero always talks (evangelism) about THE Hero and how to live for Him. And their goal is to train (discipleship) their students to become heroes and join THE Cause.
These real heroes aren’t concerned whether their hideout (the youth room) has the latest of technology or the best theme music. As a matter of fact, these real heroes prefer to spend more time outside the hideout on proven training grounds (mission trips, community service projects, youth training events, etc.) only to return to the hideout to regain strength (biblical teaching).
These real heroes go straight to the action. They can be found at school sports events, the local mall and/ or more frequently…a local coffee shop. They don’t keep bankers hours and can sometimes be found rescuing a student at all hours of the day or night.
So…are you a real hero to your students? And are you getting your power from THE Hero?
“By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.” – 2 Peter 1:3
As youth workers we need to remember that our ability to minister to students does NOT come from us, but rather from his divine power. Everything we need in youth ministry God has given us.
Without his ring the Green Lantern was powerless, but even with it, unless he possessed sufficient will power and strength he was still powerless. When it comes to your students do you have the willpower and strength to rely on his divine power?
Jesus is THE Hero and he wants you to become a real hero to your students. So don’t be like Johnny Storm; the self-centered, overly cool, trying to hard, Human Torch from the Fantastic Four. That style of hero will NOT lead your students to THE Hero.
A friend sent me this link, funny stuff!
I appreciate some things the “Emergent Church” movement has to offer, such as a strong focus on social justice. But there are many things in the movement that worry me greatly, such as the deconstruction of absolute truth, and little emphasis on the forgiveness of Christ.
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I love my in-laws. In fact, we have a great relationship, and I’ve enjoyed not only marrying their beautiful daughter, but becoming a part of their family.
But every family has it’s quirks, and one of the Jones quirks is their toaster. It always makes me smile.
Toast is the most popular breakfast item in the Jones household, and they have one of those long toasters that holds four slices of bread at a time. The trick is getting it toasted just right.
Since time began, every morning after the toast pops up, Mom or Dad Jones would press the level down again because it’s never quite finished the first time. Then usually mid way through the 2nd cycle, they hit the cancel button and the toast comes out just right.
Why not just change the settings on the toaster to make it toast more the first time? Well, the toaster fits neatly in the corner by the stove, and in that position you never see the dial because it’s pressed up against the wall.
For a while they even forgot that dial existed, and when I discovered it I was forbidden to touch it. That’s because the dial is set to the lowest possible setting. The whole family has an ingrained habit of toasting everything twice. If anybody changes that dial and forgets to set it back, tomorrow morning the toast is going to get burned.
So when you talk to my wife about toasters, she thinks about her family’s toaster that she grew up with. In the same way, when she began to learn about her heavenly Father, she thought about her own father (fortunately she had a great example).
My point is this: Every family has it’s quirks. Do you know your students’ families? Have you taken the time to try to learn about their past?
In youth ministry, so much of our students’ perception of God is put through the “filter” of what they learn at home, whether good or bad. If we don’t take the time to learn what “filters” they see the world through, we may not know what they need so that the seed of God’s Word falls on good soil in their lives.
Take time to ask questions about your students’ family and past, and then listen. It’s an easy task, yet one with great rewards.
“But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Matthew 13:23
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