Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Do-Over!

Wow! May 11 marks my 6th year of ministry at Chattanooga Valley Baptist Church. The years have flown by and the ministry experience has been adventurous to say the least. If I had a chance to start over to make our youth ministry more effective, I would do the following things:

Youth Ministry
- I'd streamline the ministry to make it most effective. While I am hesitant to strip all we've done to bare bones ministry, I am willing to make all the complex items more into a simple ministry process.

Everyone likes simplicity -- just take a look at the most popular Internet search engine, "Google", and see the simplicity there; or, take a look at one of the most popular magazines for women, "Real Simple". These are only a couple examples, but the more I look around I see simplicity taking over in the midst of all the complexities of our modern world. Our youth ministry should follow suite.


Now, how does a youth pastor evaluate what we've done for the past 6 years and simplify? One thing is for sure...its not simple to simplify anything. Its much easier to simplify from the front-end, rather than to simplify midway through something. I think I'm correct when I say Matthew Issennock was the first full-time youth pastor at CVBC. Of course, great leaders served prior (including the incredible ministry of Ronnie & Flavia Fleming and others prior to them). And I've been here six years. Obviously, CVBC youth ministry is in mid-swing for sure!

But, as I look around, I see the need to simplify scream to me from every angle. First, I find it interesting to read the paper or see news clips online and then read the bible as it refers to the last days prior to Christ's return for the Church. While I'm hesitant to say we're in the midst of the last days and Christ could return today, I can identify with the concept that we are in the fourth quarter (I don't know how long this quarter lasts, however). I'm reminded of how Paul, the Apostles and the early Church fathers all thought Jesus' return was in their time -- and that was over 2,000 years ago! People thought Jesus would return during every level of change in the history of the world (the Dark Ages, the Crusades, the Industrial Age, for example). Plus, any wacko leader in the world caused the Church to proclaim the end of the world (Hitler, Stalin, and the like). Still Jesus has yet to return. Today, we all refer to the postmodern era in which we find ourselves or we cry out that the end is near when people like Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden and worldwide terrorists attack us. And most recently, people have said the world's end is soon because of the strife occurring on the Mexican/American borders in Southwest USA. Again, I do not know, but I am more willing to agree this is all the fourth quarter and the Church had better get set for the final whistle!


A second reason we need to think about simplifying our youth ministry is because of the "busy-ness" level of the average person in NW Georgia. Certainly there was a time when our culture sought the church calendar first before planning their own calendars. Churches in the 1970's and 1980's can recall when no businesses were open on Sunday mornings and certainly no recreation leagues would offer games or practices on Sundays. Even blue laws were in place, and, in some communities, alcohol sales were restricted on Sundays. That was then. This is now. As much as we might be frustrated with the culture of today we are still called to minister in its midst. Instead of complaining and fighting and making it an "us v. them" mentality, perhaps the Church could simplify to become all things to all people and still reach some (I believe this is a biblical principle!).


A third reason for simplifying our youth ministry would be the "burn-out" factor I am witnessing among faithful church members. While it is true that 20% of church members do 80% of the work in the church (perhaps it would be closer to 90%) we must make our ministries simple in order to not cause burn-out with our volunteers. Everyone is busy and to be a part of a church that demands even more is killing us. The Church ought to be careful if we want to see our people remain fresh and productive as ministers of the Gospel.

Therefore, since Jesus will return one day, because people are busy, and because church members are burning out, I suggest our youth ministry become simple. Simple is not simple. It won't be easy. It may not be popular. It might bring change (And being a change agent in a church could spell out death to a pastor's influence in a church). It could draw criticism. People may get angry.

Or, there could be the beginnings of revival in the church! Maybe people will fall in love with Jesus once again! Maybe people will become excited about the more simple approach and become infectious leaders and participants! Perhaps young people will not fade away when they get their driver's licence! Maybe young people will get saved! Imagine them growing in their faith and literally walking with Jesus the rest of their lives! See them involved with the church's ministry for years to come! Imagine their commitment to purity! Watch them raise their children in the ways of the Lord! See them as they marry Godly spouses! Imagine!

Its time to stop imagining. Its time for action. And here it is spelled out below:

CVBC youth ministry will become simple by focusing on three processes:
  1. Leading kids to faith in Christ for salvation, church baptism and membership.
  2. Discipling kids to live for Jesus for the remainder of their lives.
  3. Involving kids in ministry and missions.

The funny thing is this changes nothing by way of our present programming. Wednesday night "Elevate" worship service is designed to point kids to salvation in Christ. Sunday School and DFG focuses on discipleship & outreach. The "Top 10" items in an earlier post still apply. The only change that is needed is a strategic move to begin ministry and missions teams. And part of the missions team begins with a trip this summer to New Orleans and another mission trip to Costa Rica in summer of 2010. We need to make ministry teams that reflect the bible...care groups, evangelism teams, ministry to the down & out in our area, welcome teams, worship teams, drama teams, etc.

A change that will impact us is to ensure our special events and activities are limited to the three processes. For example, Summit is linked to discipleship because it is a discipleship retreat. Youth Camp is both outreach and discipleship. MissionLab is a high school missions team. But, a game night just so we can play "Chubby Bunny" won't fit (although playing "Chubby Bunny" at Elevate does fit -- do you see the difference?). We don't need to plan anything that doesn't fit into the parameters of the three processes. If it doesn't fit, don't convict (oops, sorry, I know this isn't the OJ Simpson trial, but it does make a point -- only events and activities that support the three process should be scheduled).

What's craziest is that going simple for us is not far off. Its more of an attitude shift than it is anything else. Imagine Sunday School leaders who understand that their class is one of the most important tools we have that will reach kids for salvation and prepare them for discipleship. And imagine DFG leaders who understand they are responsible to give kids practical instruction in living for the Lord. And imagine scores of kids involved weekly in ministry and missions teams that are serving people inside and outside the church.

Volunteers are key, but instead of needing adults to work in 10-12 programs, now we are simplified to having one of three options: Sunday School, DFG, or leading or co-leading a ministry/missions team. That's all! Every week, volunteers would serve in one capacity. Of course, I have some training to do...helping teacher organize a Sunday School class where the Bible is taught primarily. Creating DFG leaders who understand their main role is applying the Bible to kids lives in their studies. And working with ministry/missions team leaders to ensure they are the best they can be.

Three processes, little change in present programming and special events, creating a mindset that realizes simple is better, and a ministry that is growing by leaps and bounds because now we offer a ministry similar to that of Jesus himself. I for one, am pumped and think this is going to change the fabric of CVBC youth ministry!

One last focus before I sign off...these three processes cannot happen without prayer and without parental support. Prayer is the most important. You will be hearing in coming weeks how the entire church will be able to pray for all of our young people from middle school, high school and college.

Parents, I need you too. You! If you are a believer and willing to help, please contact me. You are the most influential person in the life of your child. Not me! But, together we can see to it that our kids live for Jesus for the rest of their lives! Please contact me if you are willing to help.

May God bless Chattanooga Valley Baptist Church generally and the youth ministry specifically!!

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