Every youth pastor I know wants better for their students' relationships than just texts from iPhone to iPhone, or the "look-at-me!" world of Snapchat. Ira Glass recently did a short segment on This American Life right at the top of the program that offers insight into the bizarre, yet real world of Instagram comments, and how our students handle them. Every youth pastor needs to take 10 minutes and listen to this.
The past few days in the Jacobsen family have been fun. Sunday evening at Harvest Naperville's HSM we finished up a series called #nowtrending, where students had the opportunity to ask any question about faith, God, or the Bible and we'd do our best to answer it. The overwhelming question students asked was this: "What does the Bible REALLY say about Same-Sex Attraction?" So that was fun.
And then on Wednesday, Kristin had the privilege of teaching high school girls about lust at Aurora Christian School, and following her message, I gave a message to the middle school students on the same topic.
The messages were good. They were deeply biblical, full of compassion, conviction, and hope. Jesus was the hero. But the response was very mixed. And so it caused me to reflect on the issues surrounding teaching hard topics in student ministry and I've been challenged by this one thought:
You can attack the dragon of culture all you want, but until you win a heart, you can't win at all.
I received this e-mail from one of our small group leaders after our discussion on Sunday night. She wrote,
This was an interesting meeting to say the least. We had half of the girls who were very vocal about being pro-homosexuality. The other half felt like it should just be accepted because it is so prevalent today. Unfortunately it did not seem like their opinions changed much after the lesson. I believe they pretty much shut down and were not receptive to hearing another point of view.
This should solidify in pastors the need to address tough topics, for sure. Culture is big, it is pervasive, and it is collective. Our students default to the societal norm if we don't put before them God's wisdom.
Yet, our aim isn't to overthrow culture, it's to win hearts.
This is what my wife has taught me so well, and is why she's naturally a better communicator than me. Watching Kristin prepare for her message to these girls was a bit like watching a friend train for a marathon - there was a lot of questioning, a lot of discipline, and a lot of anticipation. But what I love about what I saw in her is this - when she takes an issue, she wraps her heart around it so she can connect God's Word to the heart of her listeners. And it's warm, personal, true, honest, and convicting.
It's easy to get sidetracked on the logic, clarity, and urgency of the message. But when I can let God use my heart in preaching, communication results in change. This was a super timely reminder for me... "out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks."
This past weekend, a crazy generous family in our church and youth ministries opened their lake house for us to use as a retreat center. We had the idea to do a leader retreat months ago, but couldn't figure out how to get it in the budget, so we actually gave up on the idea. Two days later, this couple came forward and asked if we'd be able to use their new place. #TheLordProvides.
We brought up as many as could make it for a day and a half of team-building and training as we prep for the fall. It was an awesome time of getting to know each other's personalities, stories, and what makes them tick. The weekend looked something like this:
Friday Night, carpool up to the lake house in as few cars as possible. Get to the lake, head to the beach, build a fire and make s'mores, worship, pray, share, encourage. This is the Facebook post from 1:10am...
Saturday morning, we had a time of solitude and reading. Leaders spread all over the house, woods, and beach to spend time alone with God. This was probably the best part of the morning for most people... sitting on the shore, taking in the beauty of Lake Michigan, and being refreshed. The Summer has really been a roller coaster of wins and losses, and taking time like this recalibrates my heart.
Mid-morning consisted of vision, training, and program specifics. I'll be posting more on that in the next few days. But the biggest win for me was having my friend Jason Robinson up with us to talk about his life's work of mentoring. It was a super clear picture of the way God gives people gifts to be used in the church, and he gives those men as gifts to the church so it can be built up. All of our leaders are gifts to us, and Jason helped highlight that clearly.
Saturday Afternoon we hit the beach, rented some wave runners, and just played. It was an excellent opportunity to relax, play, and laugh.
And then we headed home, really ready to take on the fall together and help student meet Jesus.
This was the first time I'd really taken time and invested the effort into a leader retreat, and I'm confident this will be a consistent part of our ministry planning over the next years. The only word I can use to describe what happened is ACTIVATE. Our leaders have been on our team for a few years, and I get this feeling after the training we did and the time we spent that they feel activated to do ministry. They've come forward and asked if they can be used, but we've gone beyond "using" people for ministry, and this weekend we saw God activate people for ministry.
What do you do to get your leaders activated in your group?
For the past five years we've run a summer internship program at Harvest Naperville. We've been so blessed to find a handful of the brightest and most quality college students looking to explore church ministry. The really cool thing is, almost all of our interns have gone on from their summer with us to serve Jesus in the local church, some even our church.
So this year, to cap off a summer of sweat, tedious labor, early mornings and late nights, we took a little bit of time as a team celebrating these interns by a day of wake boarding at West Rock Wake Park. It was a ton of fun as we just kicked back today, but was a great time to hear what impacted them the most this summer. We'll miss these guys when the fall hits!