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Enneagram 9s in Youth Ministry

First off, I’d love to give a shoutout to all the enneagram 9’s out there reading this post. Second off, I’d love to tell you how much I relate with you in the work that we do in caring for people. Technically speaking, I am a 9w8, but most often than not I am a pretty high 9 and tend to carry the weight of what other people are dealing with in their lives.

Throughout these last 11 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, in which we’ve all had to pivot and do ministry differently in some respect, it’s no secret that people are dealing with a lot. When I say a lot, it tends to be pretty heavy stuff people are dealing with. The amount of times I’ve heard people say, “We’re broken…” “This has been so hard on our family…” “Could you pray for us… we’re dealing with…” The list could go on-and-on. As I said before, people are dealing with heavy stuff.

In conversations with families throughout the last several months, sitting and just hearing people talk about what they’ve been going through personally or as a family, I walk away from every conversation, every meeting… and just feel… heavy. I feel the weight of what people are caring. As a Pastor that cares for people, I’m sure you feel that even if you’re not an enneagram 9, but as an enneagram 9, I feel as if I’m sometimes hit harder by some of those conversations.

Personally even, you may feel worn down, beat up, exhausted, emotionally uninvested, etc… after what these last 11 months have dealt us, but keep in mind why you do what you do. You do what you do because you care for people. The conversations where someone pours out their heart to you, the coffee meetings where someone tells you what their son or daughter are dealing with, the meetings that leave you feeling heavy… they all matter. Keep you mind on that, and keep doing the work of caring for people where they are.

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8 Things To Remember When Engaging Next Gen on Mental Health

According to a recent Barna study, half of 18-year-olds in the U.S. report feeling anxiety and fear of failure1 and about 40% said they often felt sad or depressed, while slightly fewer young people said they felt lonely and isolated from others (34%)2.

The church in America is undoubtedly doing better engaging the ever-growing anxiety of younger generations, but we still have a long way to go. We used to largely ignore it or spiritualize it away — meaning the only response to mental and emotional health was to read the Bible and pray more (among other disciplines). This isn’t wrong — our spiritual disciplines play a very important role in mental and emotional health — but some have clinical struggles that need additional attention.

Don’t underestimate the power of open, honest and vulnerable dialogue with the youth in your church about their worries, anxieties and fears.

Here are eight things to remember as churches start these conversations:

  1. Develop proper biblical teaching on the role of emotions and thoughts in our walk with Jesus.
  2. Cultivate an atmosphere in our churches that makes it safe for people to share their struggles.
  3. Leaders, be transparent about your own struggles in this area. This gives permission for others to do the same. They won’t do what their leaders aren’t willing to do.
  4. Make emotional and mental health a part of your discipleship process and leadership pipeline.
  5. Teach about God’s common grace of doctors, counselors, medicine, etc. God can still get the glory, as these means of healing are provided through His common grace.
  6. Keep trusted resources, books and articles as ready references for your people.
  7. If possible, have a trusted counselor or counseling center to which you can refer people. If you jump into this conversation, people will likely ask you where they can go to get help from a counselor.
  8. Preach the power of the gospel. There is popular statement with young adults – “it’s okay to not be okay”. This is a good starting place because it encourages transparency and honesty. But we must realize this statement is just a starting place. The gospel goes further than that. The gospel teaches: it’s okay to not be okay, but it’s not okay to stay that way when there is another way. Jesus is The Way. He loves us so much He wants us “just how we are,” but He also loves us so much that He won’t leave us that way. Now, is the time to get help, and to begin to move forward!

Check out Shane’s new book, 9 Common Lies Christians Believe: And Why God’s Truth is Infinitely Better.

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Giving an Effective, Online Gospel Invitation

The COVID-19 pandemic has created unique circumstances and its share of difficulties. This crisis, however, has also created its fair share of people looking for a solution to their fears, struggles and hopelessness and that brings the obligation on our part to clearly share the hope of the Gospel. 

In a time when the church is gathering digitally, there are many guests and online visitors joining us who are hoping to find hope. Over the last four weekends, the church has moved completely online. Many pastors, next gen leaders and evangelists have reported they’re preaching the gospel to a greater number of souls than normal.

One of the key aspects of serving this new audience well is giving an effective gospel invitation online. Here are several applicable practices to keep in mind:

Keep it Fueled with Prayer

Pray, pray and pray some more. You are desperately in need of the Lord to speak through you in a way that transcends video screens. In many homes, there are hard hearts sitting and waiting to be broken by the Spirit. Prayer is the fuel for every aspect of the preaching ministry. Only He can touch those hardened hearts.

Keep it Biblical

Every Scripture expects to be preached in light of the Gospel. Every Bible communicator should have expectations upon themselves to deliver the Gospel every week to those who are logging on to watch their messages. Most likely, every time you preach online, you will have people watching who are spiritually lost. Be sure to tell them how they can be found. Especially in these times of hopelessness, people are looking for hope. And, we know, hope has a name – Jesus. Your church members are sharing your feed on social media. They’re inviting their friends and family to church. If we take sharing the Gospel online seriously, then people will take seriously the task of inviting the lost to tune in. In fact, your whole sermon should be a gospel invitation.

Keep it Short

Most communicators are preaching online messages in the 25 minutes to 30 minutes range. Your invitation to respond to the gospel should be short and concise. Get to the point of what you’re asking them to do, and get there quickly. Something about preaching to a camera in an empty or near empty room can cause us to lose confidence. Often, our default as communicators is to ramble when we’re short on confidence. The longer we talk about responding, the more confusing we become.

So, spend as much time preparing for the invitation as you do the sermon. Just like you already know where you’re going in your sermon, you need to know where you’re going in your invitation. Then, get there quickly. There are too many potential distractions on the other side of that video screen – kids, a neighbor starting their lawnmower or even an oven timer. Every second is valuable. Use each one wisely. 

Keep it Understandable

Be clearin what you’re asking them to do. If you’re confusing in what you’re saying, then you will cause confusion in what they’re responding to. Can the eight-year-old in the living room watching with mom and dad understand? Can the sixth-grader watching with her older brother understand? Nothing stops people from action faster than confusion. Not too long ago, I saw a sign at an airport that read, “Moving Propellers Rip Off Heads.” That message was clear. It definitely caused me to respond and take caution.

Keep it Moving to a Next Step

Every gospel proclamation has three responses: surrender, rejection or a request to hear more. You see those at the end of Acts 17. For two out of three of those responses, there should be a biblical, short and understandable way to move to a next step of surrendering to Jesus by hearing more of what that looks like.

Here are a few common ones being used right now:

  • Create an virtual decision or connection card anchored to your website
  • Use a texting app. For example, text SURRENDER to 333777
  • On Facebook Live or Instagram Live, encourage people to Direct Message (DM) the church’s or ministry’s social media page
  • Have a dedicated phone number they can call right then

Whatever your preference, do something, and be clear in what you’re asking them to do. The method doesn’t matter nearly as much as asking people to respond with faith in the gospel message they just heard. It is imperative, however, that there is a plan for immediate follow up. There are only a few things worse than someone surrendering to Jesus and no one following up with them. Most people are home and on their digital devices, so be sure that someone connects with them for follow up while the Spirit is moving.

George Whitefield famously once said,“Others may preach the Gospel better than I, but no one can preach a better Gospel.” It is still true today. Others may be better at presenting the gospel online, but no one can present a better gospel.

Shane Pruitt is executive director of next gen evangelism at the North American Mission Board

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Show Them Jesus

The call has gone out. The stage has been set. Through your obedience to the will of God for your life, you’ve accepted the call to step into the world of Youth Ministry. Welcome.
It doesn’t matter if you’re just now starting out in Youth Ministry, or if you have several years of ministry under your belt. The call is still the same.

As I sit here at my desk writing this post, I can’t get my mind off of this topic. I thought about writing something funny and uplifting for you to read, but I can’t shake this feeling, this simple but yet incredibly important topic to remind you, to remind myself to keep leading by example. During these crazy times we find ourselves living in, we are still called to Pastor a group of young people. Uncertainty is everywhere we look. The Covid-19 virus is threatening our globe, the roller-coaster of a stock market is effecting jobs and 401K’s, schools and businesses are being shut down, and young
people are questioning whether they will even have a future after all of this. Youth Pastor, it’s time to show them Jesus.

Now is the time to boldly walk into your calling. Now is the time that we as Youth Pastors, we as youth workers walk in Godly confidence to lead a group of young people through this current global crisis, to lead them to a relationship with Jesus Christ. You have been placed where you are at in your ministry for such a time as this. We have been placed among this generation as leaders, as examples of who Jesus is, for such a time as this. It’s not that we have forgotten to do this; this is just a reminder for us as Youth Pastors that we never forget our calling, that we never doubt God as we follow and trust Him and as we lead our youth groups to do the same.

Youth Pastor. Youth Worker. We need to live so openly in the love and grace of Jesus Christ that it gets the attention of our youth groups and the attention of this younger generation. Your youth group, this younger generation, needs to see the love, grace, and strength of Jesus in action.

They aren’t going to be able to see these things through what the world has to offer them. We have to be the ones to step boldly into our callings and show them Jesus through our actions.

I know these are uncharted waters for us all. None of us have travelled the path of a Pandemic, or have led a youth group while being quarantined or while on lock-down. However, we can still lead, we can still encourage, and we can still show them Jesus through all of this. I have heard many people over the last few weeks talk about using this time to create and start new things for themselves and for their youth groups. I encourage you do that; don’t wait until you are able to gather back together to do things. Use this time to better yourself so you can be better for your youth groups and this generation.

Think about this for a moment. While Paul was under house arrest, he wrote the 4 “Prison Epistles.” (Ephesians. Philippians. Colossians. Philemon.) In a time that he couldn’t be in church with them. (Sound familiar?) In a time that his current situation wasn’t very positive and bright. (Sound familiar?) In a time that he was on lock-down. (Sound familiar?)

Even during those times, he created content, he encouraged the church, and he still got the message to the people there.
We even find that he wrote to the church in Philippi telling them to follow his example, as he was content in his situation. Telling them to follow his example, as he trusted in the Lord to bring him
through his situation.

We as Youth Pastors need to do the same during this time. Trust in the Lord, lead by example, engage with your young people, and show them through your actions that you are trusting in God through it all.

Be Jesus to this younger generation.
Be Jesus to the world around you.
Through your actions, Show them Jesus.

This is your time!

Guest Post: Stephen Newton

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The Second Cross

Have you ever had a thought come across your mind, and think… “is this heretical?” No? Just me? Cool…cool cool…coooool.
 
It was a normal Wednesday night, we had just wrapped up a series in our midweek about being All In. How we need to be living first for Christ. One of my students came up to me in the back of our youth room and asked to chat in my office. Jonah is the kid that every youth pastor dreams of. He attends everything, has an infectious joy, engages in the conversation, desires to grow in his relationship with Jesus, he is a student leader. Honestly, he is the kid you hope grows up to take your job from you. But he walked into my office and he was frustrated. He started talking about how he felt like maybe he was missing something. He was asking questions like why do I feel stuck. And told me how he thinks he maybe hit a wall? Something needs to get shaken up, there has to be something more, right?
 
But wait, this was the kid who “got it?” How could he be asking these kinds of questions?
 
The internal monologue in my head was saying, “Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap!” What was I supposed to say to him? Then I realized I think I had a similar experience in my life. It is not a perfect science and I have by no means done major research on this. But I have observed in my time in ministry there is oftentimes this wall that we hit in our faith. We meet Jesus or those who grow up in e church we start to make the faith our own. He begins to transform our lives. We begin to implement this new way of living. Regularly attend church, worship, prayer, reading the Bible, following Jesus’ commands, you know WWJD. Then maybe 5-7 years (at least in my observations) into this new life of following Jesus it was like a wall!
 
This point can be frustrating for many people., I know it was for me. It can be a moment where many students either lean into God for their relationship or some walk away from faith because they did “all the things” and this feeling of, “did I miss something” causes doubts.
 
I looked at Jonah and said I don’t know if you hit a wall. I think you maybe hit the Second Cross? He looked at me with a confused look. I wondered if I just spouted off some new false doctrine. That “oh crap” monologue started in my head again. But then the Holy Spirit took over. Many of us when we learn about Jesus we love the idea of the First Cross. Jesus Christ became man, lived a perfect life and died in our place on that cross because he loved us. That is good news! We love the First Cross because all we have to do is accept it. Thank you, Jesus! Then because of that cross, we can live a life of gratitude and obedience to Jesus.
 
But then we come to Second Cross. What is the Second Cross you’re asking? Put down the pitchforks and torches. I think the Second Cross is the one Jesus is referring to in Matthew 16.
 
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”
Matthew 16:24-26 NLT

 
See there is a cost to following Jesus. In our youth groups, I hope we are actively teaching people the Gospel of Jesus. And the Bible is clear that accepting Jesus is a free gift that we cannot earn. But Jesus is making it very clear to us here that we must die to self. We must take up our cross and follow him. There comes a point in all of our lives where we have to ask, are we living for ourselves or are we living for Christ? Galatians 2:20 is my life verse. It depicts how I want to live my life.
 
My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 NLT
 
This verse is my understanding of how we address the coming to the Second Cross. Do we have this understanding that when we say yes to Jesus we are pledging our life? Following Jesus is not an upgrade to our life, like a new update on our iPhone. It is a dismantling of self and saying I am living for something greater than my own life.
 
So the question I often find myself asking is this.

  • Am I teaching students that to follow Christ is to deny ourselves and live for Him!
  • Am I living that out in my own life?


Could part of the reason we see so many fall away from the church is that we are not actively preparing our students for the call of the Second Cross? May we never be people who teach all about the benefits of following Jesus while leaving out the cost of following him.  

Jonah looked at me across my desk and just simply said, “huh, so my life isn’t about me anymore?” Bingo, so simple, yet so profound. This life we are living now has been ransomed by Jesus. When we truly grasp that…that wall ceases to be something we get stuck at but it becomes a cross that we take up, deny ourselves and follow after Jesus!
 
Keep going!

Guest post by: Tyler Roland