Thursday, January 2, 2014

Lock-ins, Shepherds, and Investments

So I had no idea how much I missed my family until this past week when I went back to motherland Arizona for Christmas. I flew down and surprised my beautiful girlfriend by popping out of a box and spent the week with her family and my family in the beautiful Prescott countryside and the vast steel jungles of Phoenix. It had been.... Goodness I can't even think how long it's been since I had actually spent time with my family. Is it soft to say that I missed hugging my mom?

Whatever

I'm soft.

Anyways! I'm writing this on January 2nd. I'm not at my usual table because there is a large group of people sitting there, but hey, I get a little life spice tonight by sitting at a new table.

So I don't know about ya'll, but I'm tired from last week. I feel like it's been months since we had regular youth group, but this time of year is always psychotic.

I was just talking to a youth pastor buddy of mine last week. He's been in youth ministry as long as I have. When I mentioned our Lock-In, he threw his head back and laughed at me.

I was confused.

"What?" I asked him.
"Brah, that's suicide. Don't do that."
"Ya well we did it last year, and we're doing it again."

Apparently there is some terrifyingly terrible mojo that comes along with having a youth Lock-In. But I guess I missed that seminar.

The time spent with the youth is so valuable. I love hanging out and being goofy with them.

I feel like that is when the most impactful ministry happens. When a student can genuinely see that you genuinely care about them and find them valuable, they see the glory and love of the most high God radiating through you.

And that's rare these days.

I'm still pretty young, so I remember my teenage years. The only people that I felt valued me were Mr
Heintz, my English teacher, Mr. Mayorga, my history teacher, and my parents. The other thousand people I bumped in to in the halls saw me as invaluable,
                                                           dirty,
                                                               useless,
                                                                   stupid,
                                                                       ugly,
                                                                           burdensome.
And this isn't a bash on public school. I grew up in public school since kindergarten, and I ain't never seen no bad with my learnin'.

The more time I spend with my students, the more I realize that I need to spend more time with my students.

The youth these days don't need more books to read or camps to get swept up to; they need to see Jesus through people that care about them.

Youth ministry is the response to a call for help. Youth ministry is not a Jesus-themed baby sitting service to give to relief to frustrated parents. It is a complimentary discipleship ministry meant to reinforce and solidify the teaching of Godly parents, or to provide students without Godly parents a means of experiencing the greatness of God and perfection of God's Word.

And the Lock-In was rad.

The goal of the Lock-Ins is to make awesome memories that last until next year. I think we accomplished that.
Sure, I didn't sleep at all.
Sure, I was grumpy in the morning.
Sure, it was hard, but was it worth it?

Totally.

The intentional interaction and relationships built in those fourteen hours will last forever. When I am old and crotchety, I will remember the night that Noah unpeeled a banana with only his feet and that Seth and Andres were the fastest wheelbarrow team I have ever seen.
I'll remember the night that the green team bet all of their points on the Daily Double and failed epically. And I will also remember that they won.
I will remember the time that Ashley lifted her leg above her head to prevent Elijah from stomping her balloon. And I will remember that Elijah stomped it anyways.

Ministry is about serving with the specific purpose of honoring and magnifying the Most High God. Ministry is a state of the heart that forces you to see others that way that God sees them. All of us are God's created beings created to love and honor Him, we are invaluable,
                                                                          redeemed,
                                                                               loved,
                                                                                   forgiven,
                                                                                      beautiful,
                                                                                          perfection,
                                                                                              to die for.
And if we can somehow create that impression in our students, then not only are we accomplishing our goals as followers of Christ, but we are giving these students a glimpse of God's glorious light that can only be experienced when we are living within the will of God.

For the longest time, I felt personally responsible for the amount of salvations we saw every week at camp. I was the one teaching on stage, I was the one in charge of the counselors, I was the veteran. I put the responsibility on myself. I saw the amount of raised hands as my rating as a teacher and leader.
Looking back, ya, I was wrong. But I put so much pressure on myself. I would tell myself "If you mess this up, some of these kids may never hear the gospel." and that is not healthy.

Our job is not to save kids. That's God's job. It is a work of God's power and His alone.
Our responsibility is to teach the Word, make disciples, and baptize. And that is such a relief.

God knows which students are going to accept Christ and which are going to become missionaries, and which are going to become politicians, and which are going to be good parents, and which are going to prison, and which are going to be actors and which are going to have five children, and so on and so forth.
God created them.

So badly we want to see all of our students and children flourish and thrive within the Word of God and grow up to be revolutionary followers of Christ that shake the world up for Jesus. I know I do.

As followers of Christ, essentially, we are to live out the teachings of the living word of God and be Christ to those around us.

1 Peter 5:1-11  So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed:  (2)  shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;  (3)  not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.  (4)  And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.  (5)  Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."  (6)  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,  (7)  casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  (8)  Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  (9)  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.  (10)  And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.  (11)  To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Peter saw the importance of leaders and teachers spending time with their "flocks". 

The reason I love the imagery of the shepherd with his flock is because a shepherd would not only tend to his flock on Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights. He would spend hours and days and weeks tending and
protecting and feeding his flock. Shepherding was not a part time job. It was hard and dangerous and taxing on the human body and mind.

Peter painted this picture for every pastor, teacher, youth leader, elder, parent, minister, and pretty much anyone who has responsibility over a "flock". 

Today's youth are not the church of tomorrow: they are the church today

Sorry for the late post.





Nate T B