Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What's happening during Elevate service on Wed. nights?

"ELEVATE" is our mid-week youth worship service that
meets from 7:00-8:15 PM almost every Wednesday night in the Youth Ministry Center.

Elements of Elevate: live music (cranked up!); games; fellowship (Warm Fuzzies); Video illustrations; Testimonies; & a relevant message from the Youth Pastor.

Message Topics: I try to provide messages that are current with the culture in which youth find themselves. I always use the Bible as my main text, but often use video clips from YouTube or an appropriate clip from a movie that will enhance what the Lord is saying through the text. (NOTE: I always preview these clips to ensure they are appropriate).

Since the end of January through the end of March, I have focused these messages around specific passages that promote honoring God with our bodies, renewing our mind for good, turning our eyes from worthless things, and guarding our hearts above all else. The theme of these messages has been called, "The Purity Code". Originally, the goal was to offer a 2 week focus on the "True Love Waits" emphasis around Valentine's Day. But, I discovered a resource that took the beauty of TLW but focused upon the whole of the matter of dating, love and the "s" word.

An interesting discovery: The first session of the Purity Code was a survey of the opinions of the youth. I asked the kids to stand as a large group in the center of the room and then I had 2 adults with signs...one sign read "I agree" and the other read "I disagree" (These adults stood at opposite sides of the room).

I then asked the kids questions and they were to move to a place in the room with their appropriate answer. If they agreed with the statement they would move closest to the adult with the "I agree" sign. If they disagreed they moved to the adult with the "I disagree sign".

The questions ranged from "I love the Georgia Bulldogs (Or the Tennessee Vols)" to "I believe in true love". One question revealed an interesting phenomenon..."The Bible speaks often about love, dating and sex." A majority of the kids answered "I disagree". Only 2 youth answered "I agree". Amazing....here we had a room full of 45 young people and only 2 of them believed the Bible had something significant to say about the topic!

The Big Reveal: Over the next 10 weeks I showed the youth several passages that deal with the subject either directly or indirectly. I emphasized the four parts I mentioned in the "Message Topics" section above. The sessions revealed over 30 passages of scripture that speak to the topic. I continually referred back to their original answer that the Bible didn't contain much on the topic and emphasized that, in fact, the Bible has much to say about the topic. My prayer is they will walk away with the knowledge that God's Word applies to life. They can read and study it and they will find it to be the source of life and help them as they live for God.

The Pledge: As I type this article, I have the pledge on a certificate that the kids will have an opportunity to sign and take home (I will keep a copy for myself). The pledge reads as follows:

The Purity Code Pledge

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore, honor God with your body. -1 Corinthians 6:19-20

In honor of God, my family, and my future spouse, I commit my life to sexual purity. This involves:

*Honoring God with my body.
*Renewing my mind for good.
*Turning my eyes from worthless things.
*Guarding my heart above all else.

If a youth so decides, they can sign the pledge and hopefully keep it. I've emphasized repeatedly that its just a piece of paper. It takes a heart commitment to see it last. The Bible can help you fulfill this pledge. Jesus must be your Savior first and foremost. And, the church is committed to helping you.

Special Note: Why? Why emphasize the love, dating and sex theme? I understand the question. The answer short and simple - I believe the Lord guided me to teach this emphasis. But, also, I read the studies and the articles, both of secular nature and those of the Church. Kids are experimenting with sex, many of them before the 4th grade, without proper adult input. If this is true, and I believe it is based upon personal conversations with other ministers and also education professionals, this means I am dealing with kids some 2-8 years removed from the 4th grade. Most of them have had little to no parental or adult guidance on the topic. A precious few have and I hope your kids are part of the few. But, I was inspired by the Lord and through the Bible to teach these truths.

Never did I discuss anything sexual other than asking kids to postpone sex until marriage. I stayed focused upon God's Word and the teachings there. Where there needs to be specific sex education, I leave this to you as the parent. I urge you to start talking this over with your kids if you haven't already. If I can help, please feel free to contact me.

What topics are coming up in "Elevate"? I am taking the youth on a journey....the Gospel of John! John is an awesome book on the life, miracles, teachings, trial, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I will be teaching a systematic series of messages from the book that will take us into the summer. Please pray for me as I study, but, more importantly, for the kids as they hear the messages and apply them to their daily lives!

May God bless your family and may our kids be found pure in Jesus!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tommy's Top 10

Why do we do the things we do? What is the process by which we choose one event over another? What influences the decisions to offer a particular program, activity, or special event?

These are all questions I hope you are asking when it comes to your kids. I hope you don't simply drop them off at the church hoping maybe they'll get something for coming. Youth need to know certain things before they graduate high school. The youth ministry is purposefully designed around ten top things we want to see accomplished in the lives of the kids. Some of these directly influence their lives and other do so indirectly, but all of them are designed to bring about a particular result.

I recognize you may not want to know the "nitty gritty" details of why we do what we do. So, I've recently designed a simple format that helps to clarify our purposes. They are not in an chronological order. Some of them are emphasized more than the others at different times, but they all are things we would like to see accomplished...they would leave us with a sense that we are being successful.

Anyone can plan stuff to fill a calendar. That's easy to do. And in this day and age I receive more emails and junk mail from thousands of organizations offering things to do. The scary thing is that I actually have seen church youth ministries operate under a "cram-the-calendar full of stuff" ideaology. God is not a God of disorder and His ministries have no right to behave in a disorderly manner.

Well, enough philosophy. Here is the top ten things we are trying to accomplish for the Lord.

Based upon a foundation of prayer...we desire to:

1. Reach as many youth as possible to surrender to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
2. Train and equip Christian youth to live for and follow Jesus with their lives.
3. Create a weekly program where Christian youth can worship Jesus and bring their friends to hear the Good News about Jesus.
4. Teach the Bible to youth...a comprehensive approach that guide youth to know God's Word.
5. Build significant relationships between youth and the youth ministers (Adult workers).
6. Build a connection between the church congregation and the young people.
7. Raise awareness of the youth ministry to the church congregation.
8. Build meaningful relationships with the youth ministers to equip them for ministry.
9. Connect with the parents of youth by partnering with them in raising Godly children.
10. Instill in youth a vision for missions and global development with a Kingdom perspective.

Now, if you can bear with me a little bit longer, I'd like to give examples below of how specifically we are doing these 10 items right now within the programs, activitiies, and events:

Based upon a foundation of prayer (Shout PMI - you'll learn more about this later)

1. This is a part of everything we do...constantly giving youth chances to make Jesus Lord.
2. DFG - its solely about seeing them grow in their faith
3. Elevate youth worship on Wednesday nights
4. Sunday School, every Sunday at 9:30-10:25 am
5. Using youth ministers as chaperones to Summit, camp and other key events.
6. Personal salvation testimonies from adults to youth at Elevate.
7. Bulletin ads, speaking to age groups within church about youth ministry.
8. Salt dinners (these are lunch meetings with youth ministers for encouragment and planning)..
9. Recently we offered the "Parent Fuel" course in Life University.
10. MissionLab New Orleans and volunteering to work church VBS.

If I could sum up in one sentence what these top ten things are, I'd say the following (in fact, you'll see this one sentence on almost every piece of paper that comes out of my office...so, next time you see it, you'll know that one sentence actually represents ten goals we hope to achieve):

"To create life change in youth through Jesus
so they can become life-changers to the world for Jesus."

Thanks for letting me take all this time and space to let you know about the Top 10! Its really important to me that parents understand the bigger picture and just not receive info about event details, costs, etc. We've certainly not arrived where God would have us be, but we are on the right path. I cherish your prayers and always welcome your involvement. God bless you and your family for Christ!