teen ministry

Why did they become atheists?

He had Scripture. It was all right there, plain as day. He already believed in God, but had a hard time putting things together. Now, he wasn’t a dumb man. Not in the least! He was in charge of a very important governmental office – the treasury of a kingdom! You don’t get that job by being dumb. It takes intelligence and wisdom! But God’s Word… that was difficult to understand.

He was riding home from a religious obligation in Jerusalem. He wanted to know God more, so he read his Word. (Incidentally, the fact that he had a private copy of some of the Bible also spoke to this man’s wealth.)

He read from Isaiah: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”

Again, this man was smart. He knew how the world worked. He already believed in God; he didn’t suffer from a heart hardened against God’s Word. There was no language barrier; he understood the language. And though he was visiting from another nation, there’s wasn’t an immediate cultural barrier that kept him from understanding the words in front of him.

But he still didn’t get it. (more…)

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Connecting through Sadness

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Is it ok for Christians to be sad?”

The teens looked at each other and me, not sure how to answer the question. I sat somewhat in front of them, though we were really in a circle. We’d just finished watching Inside Out, and it was time to show them that it wasn’t just movie night.

And I took them to Psalm 13:

1 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

and every day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.

Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;

4 my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”

and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;

my heart rejoices in your salvation.

6 I will sing to the Lord,

for he has been good to me.

(more…)

“What does ‘Crucifixion’ mean?”

Christ crucified

“It says, ‘They crucified him.’ What does that mean?” The kid’s in fifth grade. He looks confused. He has no idea what he’s just asked.

I love teaching these teens. These teens in the center our congregation hosts and supports with three others from our city. Every day there’s a Bible study, and this week we’re covering Jesus dying on the cross. And many of these kids… they have no background in Christianity at all. They don’t know.

I described how they would send a nail between the two arms of the bone, locking it in place. I try not to get too graphic – these are kids, after all, but I also don’t want to pull my punches. A hard line to walk. (Sometime let me tell you about the fallout from the abortion presentation I wrote about last time.) I talk about crossing the feet and sending the nail between the heel bones.

We talk about the soldiers gambling for Jesus’s clothes.

We talk about Jesus, even in extreme pain, honoring his mother. “Who do you usually think about when you’re in a lot of pain?” I ask.

“Me?” one of the girls responds.

“Yep. Me, too.” I answer. “But look at Jesus. Who is he thinking about? Wow. Just wow.”

And they’re right there with me. (more…)

Ashes on the Cross

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“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.”

Yesterday at our teen center, I explained repentance. To a bunch of teens that had no idea that Noah was from the Bible a few months ago, to teens that have no experience at “church,” I told the story of David and Bathsheba. I talked about the depth of sin, the stunning revelation of guilt, the even more stunning announcement of forgiveness, and David’s reaction to all of it. And then, I explained how for many years Christians have shown the state of their heart – their complete sorrow over their own sin – by putting ashes on.

The teens wanted to put ashes on that second. (more…)

One-Minute Worship and the Teenager

Sometimes teenagers can be really stupid. I think you may know this. And yet, sometimes, God grants those teenagers some wisdom.

Today, for teen Bible study, I told the teens we were going to watch an entire church service. I asked them to look for:

1. Something that was right.
2. Something that was wrong.
3. Something they wanted to try.
4. Something they never wanted to see at our congregation.

And with that introduction, we watched this video:

Now, before anyone freaks out, the pastor did that as a joke. If you want more commentary on the video itself, check out the commentary from this excellent Bread for Beggars post.

So, what do you think the teens said? (more…)

Sin, Weakness, or Just Untalented?

“Would you say we’re good at being a family here?”

The church president nodded at my question.

“Families know each other, right?”

Again, the nod.

“How many of the confirmation students from about a month back can you name?”

Silence.

“If we want to retain teenagers, we need to build bridges. They need to know we care. That we’re family. It’s easy to give up a place as boring, but it’s harder to give up people. If we’re a Christian family, we have to be their Christian family, too.”

“Hey, it takes two! If they want friends, they need to come to me!”

I nodded. “I expect mature Christians to act with more maturity than teenagers.”

Well, he was unhappy with me.  (more…)

Apostle to the Teens

They look innocent, but trust me. They’ll rip the arm off a youth minister and devour it faster than you would think possible.

When a congregation in my church body wants to call a new minister, they put together a list of what their particular ministry needs. Usually a circuit pastor or district president will help in the process, though the bulk of the work needs to be done by the church council with input from other leaders within the congregation.

In other words, I really didn’t expect to be involved in the process for quite some time, if ever. (I have no intention of pursuing the position of circuit pastor, nor any other “high ranking” clergy; I simply don’t have the organizational skills.)

You’ve heard that thing about God laughing, right?

Tuesday I’ll be meeting with a few other men to draw up a call document. Our teen center, hopefully, will be getting its own full-time pastor. And now I need to sit down and figure out what exactly that ministry needs. I could rattle off a laundry list of necessities, but to rank them and really phrase them precisely? That’s a matter of skill that… well, apparently I’m going to be trying my hand at it.

First, he have the “Youth Minister Goatee,” because that makes him relevant.

I’m a little nervous about that, personally. God has greatly blessed the teen center and brought faith to a number of teens through that ministry. Teens are fickle, though, and it takes a special man to work with them. God must be laughing pretty hard, because I so didn’t relate to teens when I was one. And here I am, working with them on a regular basis as one of the pastoral advisors to the program.

I’m also concerned about the handoff; whenever the new minister arrives here, I’ll likely need to back off my hands-on involvement at least a little. Maybe it’s selfish of me, but I love working with the kids so much I don’t want to let it go. The teens are refreshing; I always know where I stand with them. If I say something stupid, they call me on it. I say something they don’t like, they let me know. My “normal” congregation? They’re not duplicitous, but they are adults and we adults like hiding our emotions to at least a certain extent, don’t we? Must be polite in society, mustn’t we?

I’m also a little concerned for the kids; even if the new minister is the apostle to the teens, well, teens are fickle. If it’s not the guy they’re used to, will they keep coming to the center? It’s a valid concern; after all, it’s hard to have a teen ministry without teens.

I’m also just plain concerned because… well, I don’t work well with others. Maybe this is just another way God is going to grow me, but like most Lutherans, I just don’t like change. And when it’s me changing?

And it starts Tuesday as I go to do my part in writing the call document. We want to get this right, and I’m a part of that.

You know that part of growing up where you feel like a fake? Where you expect someone to burst into your house and accuse you of making it up as you go? I had that feeling for a long time as a pastor. It still comes pretty often.

But now I’m doing something that most pastors don’t even get to do. And… who am I to do something like that? Who am I to figure out the qualifications for service in this setting, when I don’t even feel qualified to be here myself?

“And I ask God to help me.”

I need to go back to my ordination and be reminded: It’s not about me. My concerns? My worries? God’s bigger than any nightmare I can dream up. And he’s going to continue to grow me bigger, whether I want it or not.

What will come of a new minister here? I don’t know. But God does, and he’s got great plans.

I just have to hit myself over the head with a brick to get it through my thick skull.

Demons at the Teen Lock-In

You know what’s fun? Engaging teens where they’re at and in a subject they’re already interested in.

Devotion. Midnight. Teen lock-in. They’ve already gotten amazing nachos. They’ve imbibed deeply of home-made shakes. They’ve watched A Goofy Movie and played Rock Band and pool. And now, I gather them in front of a projector screen and play the following movie:

I ask: “Let’s pretend that was real. Let’s pretend it’s not faked. What could it be?”

Spirits.

Ghosts.

Poltergeists.

All good answers. I then ask: What does the Bible say it could be? Is there such a thing as ghosts? Ah, but “The body returns to dust, and the spirit to God who gave it.” We talked about how God immediately judges and sends to heaven or hell – no such thing as ghosts, at least not the way most people think of them.

But what could it be then, if it was real?

Demons?

Let’s watch another video.

“What was that?”

Kids are still busy freaking out. OK, wait a minute, and ask again. “What was that?”

“It was supposed to be a demon!”

Think about how powerful angels are. In the Old Testament, one angel – one! – destroyed an army of 10,000. That’s power. And demons are nothing more than fallen angels. They have that much power.

And they want to destroy you.

Why would they scare you?

They want to tear you away from your faith, and fear is a good way to do that. They want you to believe in ghosts. Why? So they can convince you of lies and eventually reject all comfort that God brings.

If it was you against a demon, one-on-one, who would win?

Yeah, you’re right. Not you. Unless…

Every time Jesus fought against a demon, who won? Yeah. Legion? History. Demon in a little boy? Gone for good. Demon in an old man? Toast. The serpent that Jesus came to crush? He’s flattened. The demons are already defeated. Jesus came to destroy the power of the Devil and all his followers. He claimed you for his own when he died on the cross – so they have no hold on you. You belong to Jesus, and he’s more powerful than they are! They’re on chains. They can go this far, no farther! Your only risk is if you wander inside their range, and that’s what they try to do when they frighten you.

But demons aren’t they only ones out there. Watch this video.

What was that supposed to be?

How do you know it was an angel? Because it was pretty, huh? It was bright?

You know, the Devil masquerades as an angel of light. How do you tell the difference?

Yep. By what they say. Does it match what God’s Word says? Does he accept worship from you or direct you to worship Jesus?

Good.

One more video. I’ll warn you, it’s intense. Imagine you’re the one filming this. What should you do?

Yes. Pray. Awesome. Turn to God for help. God says that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and affective. Are you righteous?

No?

What has Jesus made you? That’s right. He took your sins away. You’re perfect in God’s sight. You are righteous, so your prayers are powerful and affective. Use that!

Get together with other mature Christians who will have your back!

Don’t be alone. You’re never alone.

 

And here I got very quiet.

 

You know, you’re probably never going to face down a demon like that. More often, they’ll whisper lies in your ears. They’ll try to convince you you’re alone. They’ll tell you that you’re in pain that no one else has ever dealt with. They’ll tell you lies. Don’t believe them.

You are not alone. Jesus stands with you. You are not alone. No demon or devil, no power can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

You are not alone. You’ve been given a Christian family. You’re facing demons? Call me. Text me. Use me. Use the teen leader.

You are not alone. Don’t believe that lie.

 

And when I led the prayer… the kids that usually are so cool, so aloof, they came up to me. They trembled.

And I won’t report the conversations that followed.

Look, demons are real. They are very real and they lie to us all the time.

You. You are not alone. Jesus gives these promises to you as well. Nothing can separate you from him. Don’t believe the lies.

 

**As a note, I’m fairly certain that all these videos I posted and used are faked. I made that clear to the teens — but then, for discussion’s sake, I asked, “What if this were real? What then?”

And God Said, “You are mine.”

Water. Jesus’s promise. New life. Adoption into God’s family. Just like that.

Last Sunday I got to baptize a young woman. This past Thursday, I got to baptize two young men and witness a third be baptized.

How cool is that?

You might remember Dilemma. Well, it’s still dilemma’ed, because the girl in question wasn’t there Thursday night, when all this went down. The teen center is only open on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so… well, we may have to address this again next week. But now we have a plan.

We’re going to treat her like an adult and let her have the final say. We will emphasize that she still needs to respect her mom, and it would be best if she was responsible and tell her mom what happened. At the very least, she needs to be an adult and take responsibility for her actions.

Yet, if this is what she wants… good. We will share with her the same blessings we have!

But I want to back up to Thursday. At the beginning of the teen center, the director pulled aside a few young men that he knew were interested in baptism and asked if they wanted it that night. When they replied in the affirmative, our plan rolled into action.

Five o’clock: the normal time for their Bible study. I joined them. The director walked through what baptism is, who should have it, the blessings that it brings. Like normal, the teens talked through the bulk of the thing and showed little outward respect. Yet, when it was time to do some back-and-forth questions and answers, they knew what was going on. They had been paying attention.

Five minute break. Then, upstairs into the sanctuary. I had filled the font with warm water. I’d turned on the sanctuary lights. I lit the altar candles and the paschal candle.

The what? (more…)

Dilemma

A young woman, a minor still well within her mother’s care, desperately wishes to be baptized. Her mother has forbidden it.

Now, do I:
1. Listen to Jesus’s command to “baptize all nations” and baptize this young woman anyway?
2. Listen to Jesus’s command to respect parents?

Things to keep in mind: 

This young woman has saving faith. The Holy Spirit, through God’s Word, has created a love of Jesus in her heart. She is forgiven. She has eternal life already. She is a member of God’s family. Baptism, while an awesome gift, does not convey anything she does not already have.

This young woman is certainly not despising the Sacrament; this is not a matter of her saying that the blessings of baptism aren’t that big a deal.

Yet, baptism has very real blessings, even when applied after faith already exists. It is not merely a symbol; I Peter says “Baptism now saves you.” Titus calls it a “washing of rebirth and renewal through the Holy Spirit.”

Complications in this case:

The young woman and her family will be moving in about a month to a place where it will be very difficult for her to get to a church to worship or stay connected with a face-to-face Christian family.

Her mother does want her baptized; however, the mom is Jehova’s Witness. Because they deny the Trinity, their baptisms are not real.

Mom has a decent amount of pull in the community. This young woman came into contact with the Gospel through our Teen Center, which does most of its work with teens who had never before heard the Gospel. If Mom finds out we went against her wishes, it is realistic (as I know her) that she would then speak badly of the center to other parents, directly limiting the amount of Gospel outreach we could do.

Saying no to this young woman could realistically cause offense to her in the Christian sense; it may hurt her faith. At the very least, it would cause a very real struggle for her that may be unnecessary.

Things to bring comfort:

This young woman has saving faith. This is not a question of whether or not she goes to heaven. It is a question of whether or not we can participate in giving her this solid reassurance, this sacrament, at this time.

It is God-pleasing to obey the fourth commandment and honor parents.

It is God-pleasing to baptize.

Either way, we win.

To wrap-up:

What do you suggest? Do you have any advice or questions? Help me out here!