Don’t Let #2017 Get Away With This …

I have a resolution for YOU and ME.
 
This year, 2017, let’s work to make our relationships better.
 
Seriously people.
 
We are SO lame sometimes when it comes to relationships.
 
It’s not that hard, people.
 
How many times has a friend or family member said “Hey, let’s talk soon?” Or “Let’s do lunch soon, k?”
 
And it never happens.
 
Good intentions, yes. But it doesn’t happen as much as it should.
 
It’s 2017 people.
 
We have phones (connected to our heads at all times!), the internet, vehicles, and SO many other means of getting us face to face with someone or ear to ear in mere seconds.
 
There is no excuse.
 
You are NOT that busy.
 
I’ve reached out to people on numerous occasions (sometimes for an ENTIRE YEAR) about talking with me. Did I say a YEAR? Yes.
 
And just today someone vented to me that they are weary of reaching out to someone who has told them several times over a 3 year period that “they’d like to get to know her.”
 
Did I say 3 years? Yes.
 
The busiest person I know (I’m talking the leader of a Company…family man… wears about 15 more hats than I do kinda guy…) gets back to me within 24 hours when I reach out to him. Every single time!
 
“Relationships are the most important thing to us,” we say.
 
Let that sink in for a moment.
 
What means the most to people on their death bed? Their relationships.
 
And we let dumb stuff and silly stuff come between us.
 
We grow apart.
 
We isolate ourselves from each other.
 
And yes, make lots of lame excuses.
 
If someone means something to you, let them know.
 
If it’s important to you, make time for it. Make time for them.
 
You are not that busy.
 
It can be done.
 
Don’t let 2017 divide us like 2016 (and so many years before) did.
 

What God Told Me About Donald Trump

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Less than 48 hours ago God spoke to me about Donald Trump.

Before I share this, let me just say, I know some people reading this don’t believe in God, some don’t understand how God speaks, and others will doubt that God said this [to me] at all … but it’s my experience, my testimony.  Just please honor this, if you would, and hear me out.

I’ve actually always had a hard time describing what it’s like when God speaks to you.

Even as pastor and Bible college graduate, I’ve had a hard time explaining the voice of God. But, I’ve always explained [the voice of God] this way to people: when you hear it, it’s undeniable.  It’s like hearing your mom or dad speak to you.  You KNOW their voice.

So, less than 48 hours ago I believe God said this to me:

Rally as many Christians world-wide, as possible, to pray for America. Pray for healing.  Pray for unity. Pray for Donald Trump and all newly elected leaders for 21 days.

Immediately I was humbled.

Anytime God speaks to you it should humble you.

Then I realized something remarkable.

Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States on the 20th day of January.  His first full day of his Presidency will be on the 21st day of the year.  There’s your 21 days.

So immediately I sprang into action.

I shared the word with a few close friends.

And then recruited them to help me get as many people to commit to prayer for the first 21 days of the year as possible.

If you want to join me for 21 days of consecutive prayer, to God, for America, and for our newly elected leaders please visit www.TwentyOneDays.org.

MinistryDownloads – BOGO Offer!

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BIG NEWS from MinistryDownloads.com.   We’re offering a BOGO Deal for the next 3 days!  You can BUY a Resource Bundle for yourself and then GIFT one to another friend\youth worker\church leader!  It’s been exciting today to see leaders gifting other pastors. Don’t miss out on this opportunity!

Hurry, this offer ends Wednesday, December 7th, at 11:59PM EST.
Go [here] to MinistryDownloads.com

Voting Isn’t All That Matters Tomorrow

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On this final night before the Election (thank God!), I am so sad at
what shape our country is in after this election. I think the candidates
we have chosen reflect where we are at as a nation. It’s rather
pathetic. In fact, tonight on CBS News, Bob Schieffer said “It’s like
our country is under a curse, based on the candidates we have.”

Honestly, I hate the way elections go for us. We’ve been enduring this
cycle now for 2 years…and when you think about it, we are picking
a president at this point based on who smears their opponent better.

People have bought into this negative speak. I’ve tried to be careful
of what I’ve said, when I’ve said it, but I’ll admit it’s been difficult.
Some people have been down right cruel and I’ve had several people
say nasty things to me (personally). Which is quite ironic, considering
most of these same people are quick to call out Trump (for example)
on the nasty things that he has said. Hypocritical much?

So today I’ve thought about our election process. Weird, I know.

What would it have been like if we had nominees who shared their
policies a year out (2 years is too long, right?) and then spent the year
on a “Do Good” campaign … and after that year we compare what each
candidate did with their time & resources for one year (coupled with
their policies) and cast our vote then? Think of all the $$$ the candidates
raise & pour into negative ads alone? These dollars would be spent doing
good! Wow. What that year could do for our country would be AMAZING.

We really need to rethink our democracy.

With this said, VOTE. Get out tomorrow and VOTE.

I’m not voting for a candidate. I’m voting strictly on policy. Both
candidates are flawed (some people are still in denial about that),
so either way this election goes, as I see it, we still need to depend
on God’s guidance for our president-elect and the direction of our
country.

Voting tomorrow isn’t all that matters though.

As one of my friends put it today: “It matters more how I treat people
tomorrow than it does how I vote. It matters whether I love the unlovely,
respect those who disagree with me, help the helpless, honor my wife
and my kids, and act toward the person who cuts me off in traffic. That’s
how the world is changed. One loving act at a time.”

And tomorrow, regardless of how the election goes… let’s just agree to
move forward and be better (especially better to each other!) We need
each other and we need God.

May God have mercy on us. May he guide our country. May he keep
people from acting fool after tomorrow’s decision is made. And may
God bless America again.

ReVamp Your #YouthMin Outreach!

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Just 5 years ago I signed on to help Water Mission International raise awareness about the need for clean water globally. It was incredible to work with this organization to raise support and also help meet the needs of those who suffer daily due to lack of clean water.

Water Mission, a Christian nonprofit that builds safe water solutions in developing countries and disaster areas, now invites your Youth Group to participate in an exciting new learning experience this Fall – Project Disaster!

Think about this … If a natural disaster struck your hometown what would your students need to do in order to survive? Water Mission wants you to take a look at your Fall or Spring calendar and consider an event or series of events to help your students get a taste of what it’s like to survive should disasters strike and what refugees worldwide experience every day.   You can choose among 9 different activities, depending on length of your event (day, evening, or even overnight events) — much like a 30-hour famine experience — where students experience firsthand what a refugee or survivor might go through to meet their daily needs like food, water and shelter. And Water Mission wants to help you with the planning too!

Check this out ... You can get a FREE PLANNING KIT from Water Mission (includes T-Shirt, Wristbands, & Materials!), and you’ll also be entered to WIN A FREE International Trip to see the impact of safe water firsthand! Go [here] and sign up now!  Amazing!

5 Ways to Reach Students with #PokemonGO

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Whether you care personally about the latest phenomenon in the #PokemonGO app or not, this is a pretty big deal.  Churches are beginning to see random passersby show up on their doorsteps because of this app!   The popular video game app mixes augmented reality with a form of geocaching and has literally swept the nation.  In fact, nearly 35 million people are using the app now… surpassing popular platforms like Twitter.

In our latest podcast, This Week in Youth Ministry, I interviewed Nils Smith, VP of Social Media and Innovation for the Dunham Company (TX) about how to leverage this game to reach students for Christ. [Click here] to launch and listen in iTunes now.

During the show I shared 8 ways churches can capitalize on PokemonGO. I referenced an article [here], which includes all 8, but I’ll share a few here with you.

5 Ways Churches Can Reach Students with PokemonGO:

1. Check Your Church on the Game – The first thing you want to do is download PokemonGo to your smartphone. Begin to familiarize yourself with the app and check to see if your church is a “Pokestop” or “gym!”  If you are in a larger city you might have more foot traffic, but knowing if your church is a stop or gym will give you a better idea of how to engage people who come by your church!

2. Create a Welcome Area for Players – Churches who are intentional about reaching people will take this opportunity to interact with the public.  Check out what Kyle’s church did.  Kyle shared [this] with our Facebook group. It’s a welcome area for players where they offer free snacks and prizes too – brilliant.

3. Post About it on Social Media – There’s already a buzz about #PokemonGo online, so why not join the conversation? If your church is doing something unique (or really anything at all!) share it on your social media.  This will create more interests in your ministry.

4. Bring Pokemon to Your Church – You can actually lure people to your church or ministry by creating a “Lure Module” that will draw in Pokemon to Pokestops for 30+ minutes! Check out this article in Forbes that I just read about how to lure more people your way!

5. Let Your Students Shine! –  One thing Nils & I talked about on the podcast is this is a great opportunity to let your students lead. Your students will know more about this app\game than you.  Why not host a night soon where you allow a couple of students to teach everyone how to play and equip them to reach their friends!  Giving your teens a chance to share will create a buzz in itself and create interests in your ministry.

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7 Prayers You Can Pray for Your Mission Team

This summer your students and adults may be embarking on a mission trip (whether short term or long term) and it’s important to cover this experience in prayer.  Today I thought it would be helpful to share a number of things you can specifically pray for as you prepare:

7 Prayers You Can Pray for Your Mission Team:

1. Pray for the spiritual preparation of your team. Mission trips are not for the spiritually weak—they require recognition of the spiritual war we are facing. Pray that your teams will be spiritually prepared for the work and war they are sure to face. See Paul’s prayer for spiritual boldness in Ephesians 6:19.

2. Pray for the financial support of the mission team. When Jesus sent out his witnesses, he told them to trust the provision offered in the villages for their wages and sustenance (Matthew 10:9-10; Luke 10:4-8). Pray that God would meet the financial obligations of each team member and mission trip.

3. Pray for the health and safety of the mission team. Traveling to your mission destination can drastically affect the health and strength of mission team participants. Getting sick is just a normal part of travel (particularly if you are going international). However there is precedent for praying for the health and safety of mission teams in in travel. Pray that your teams will experience safe travel and health protection while on the mission trip.

4. Pray that the mission team will not let the platform take the place of the mission. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus commissioned us to make disciples. That’s our mission. Sometimes need-based ministries (like construction projects, etc.) are the “platforms” that give opportunity for mission trips… and these projects can quickly become the measurement for success. Pray for your team— that the focus would be disciple-making, even while working through projects and platforms.

5. Pray for the flexibility of the mission team. Sometimes our mission plans require revision and flexibility. Acts 16:6-10 records Paul’s prevention by the Holy Spirit of going into Asia and the Macedonian call. Mission teams must learn to trust God’s plan, not their own, and be spiritually discerning. Pray that your teams will be flexible in their planning and discern what God wants to accomplish on the mission trip.

6.  Pray for the spiritual wisdom and loving service of the mission team. One of Paul’s prayers for the Ephesian church was that they would grow in spiritual wisdom and depth of love (Ephesians 3:14-20). Mission team members need an abundance of wisdom and love, and God desires to provide it. Pray that your team members will be abundantly wise and discerning as well as filled with love for those whom they will serve and share with.

7. Pray for the spiritual development, strength and growth of the churches and organizations that your teams will work with. Paul encouraged, commended, challenged and prayed for the churches, elders and leaders of the Ephesian church before he finally parted ways with them (Acts 20:17-38). Mission teams are only a part of God’s ongoing work in the world. Churches, organizations, pastors and believers across the globe will continue God’s work far longer than a mission team serves on a mission trip. Pray for the partner churches, pastors and organizations to have strength, growth and success in fulfilling God’s disciple-making mission in their own context.

#SelfieForTheSwag

Today is #NationalSelfieDay.  Not really sure why we have a “national” day for this… but hey, we’re game for fun here!   If you’ve been listening to the Podcast the last couple of weeks, we’ve been encouraging our listeners to upload a selfie of where they listen to the Podcast!  And we thought we’d make it interesting and award FREE SWAG at random to folks who upload those selfies!   Take a moment, today, upload your selfie … and we may be sending you some FREE SWAG soon!

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Summer Events on a ShoeString!

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 2.19.32 PMToday on the Podcast I interviewed my friend, Lars Rood, author of Youth Ministry on a ShoeString about how you can do lots of great summer events on the smallest of budgets! You can listen [here] on iTunes or catch it here on the podcast site. For my blog readers I thought I’d share a few of the ideas shared on the podcast here, and add a few others as well:

Meet Me at the Movies:  Teens love movies.  Actually, we ALL love movies!  It would be super easy to promote to your students that you’ll be meeting at a certain movie, at a certain theatre, at a certain time… virtually any planning and a great event!  OR you can set-up a projector and screen in the church parking lot or at someone’s house and host an outdoor movie event.  Both work great! (*Note* Listen to the podcast episode for this one as I share a marketing idea you can couple with it!)

Park Day:  Nothing says cheap and easy quite like a park day.  Just literally promote to your students that you’ll be hanging out at the park (be specific) on a certain date at a certain time and show up!  Tell everyone to bring frisbees, a football (etc), and snacks for some fun!

Fast Food Fridays:  Several consecutive summers in a row I hosted a “Fast Food Friday” for my students.  I literally just sent out a mass text (and posted online) that we would be meeting up at Chick-Fil-a (provided the location information) at a certain time. Easy peasy!

Bigger or Better:  I love this scavenger-hunt-type game.  You split students into teams and send them out with a small item (just like a paper clip or a pencil) and ask them to stop by homes in friendly neighborhoods (church members or not — at your own discretion) and ask if the homeowner\friend has something they can give them that is bigger or better than the current item in their possession.  It’s so much fun to see what teams return with at the end of the night.  Of course, the biggest or best prize wins! So much fun!

Mall Madness:  Students love the local mall.  You can set aside a time to meet at the mall and just disperse into teams to shop and enjoy the mall!  You can also set aside a specific time to meet up in the food court to eat together (fun!)… and if you want to make it even more interesting you can add a scavenger hunt of some sort while you’re on-site.

What cheap\easy ideas are you planning for this summer or have you beta-tested? Share in the comments.

3 Benefits of Teens Telling Their Story

At the beginning of 2011 I felt like God was telling me to step away from the microphone and allow my students to pick it up. It was a very odd message, I thought, but essentially God was telling me to allow teenagers to speak to their peers.

Soon after I met with my team of student leaders and told them I wanted to create a series called “STORY” and allow students to tell their stories each week.  The leaders LOVED it.

We ran the series for longer than 6 weeks (our longest running series of all time actually). And God used it.

Here are a 3 quick benefits of allowing teens to tell their story (as I see it):
  • Teens can communicate to their peers – The second teens grab the mic they have an instant audience. Their peers listen to what they have to say.
  • Teens invite their friends – You could get Justin Bieber to show up to your meeting and there wouldn’t be as much excitement as you have when teens get to share. They invite their friends to hear their story. I recall a young lady was scheduled to share her story (during our series) and she told me before our meeting “I invited the whole city!!!”  Simply awesome.
  • God uses their story – Students invite their friends, they have a chance to share their faith, their struggles, and their hopes and dreams too. God will use it.