Stepping out in faith!

Posted: February 27, 2016 in Uncategorized

Have you ever felt like God is leading you in a direction but you don’t see how you can accomplish the goals he has set before you? I’ve found myself in that situation many times. People always say that God can provide you with everything you need but it can be hard to believe that when you are in that situation. I’m reminded of a time when I told my wife I could never be a youth pastor because I didn’t have the time, discipline or money to go to school for it. Well, God told me to go back to school. He provided a way. The G.I. Bill changed so that it would pay for housing allowance right around the time I went Bach to school. But sometimes He waits until we take a step in faith before He shows us how He will provide.
Recently, someone told me asking “how” is silly because the how, is where God reveals His power.
The situation I’m going through now has once again needed me to step out in faith. As it becomes more appropriate I will share details, but it has been amazing to see how God is moving things into place. I look forward to the final results.

Keep me in your prayers.

OK there is no Youth Pastor school that I know of.  Any class I’ve taken on the subject of youth ministry tends to deal with the subject from a big picture frame of mind.  This is good but what does a new youth pastor need to know to survive in this ministry.  I do not claim to be an expert on the subject but I’ve been doing youth ministry for six years.  This doesn’t sound like a lifetime but when you look at the sad reality that most youth pastors don’t last two years, I find that I’m somewhat of a veteran.  That being said,  I’ve compiled a few tips and methods I use to make youth ministry work for me.  I hope they will help you too.

  1. Be real – Sure everyone starts off by telling you to be real.  You don’t need to fit a certain image to work with youth.  I don’t dress like a youth pastor.  I wear whatever my wife lets me get out of the house in.  The outward appearance is not as important as the relationships you build with the young men and woman that God put in your life to minister to.  Open up to them.  Don’t be afraid to share your mistakes with them.  Don’t be afraid to not know an answer right away.  sometimes showing them how you deal with a tough situation will help them more than just giving them the right answer.
  2. Be a little crazy – I know what you’re thinking. “Chuck, you just told me to be real and now you’re saying be crazy.  I’m not crazy so how can I be both?”  Well you can still be yourself and be crazy.  What I mean by being a little crazy is don’t be afraid to make a fool of your self in the name of fun.  Half of youth group conversations are centered around recapping old memories of things the group did together.  Youth will want to come on the next winter youth conference at the beach if they hear the epic stories about you diving into the freezing cold water head first.  Who wouldn’t want to see that?
  3. Have a game – At any youth event there always seems to be some down time.  This can be some valuable time.  Be ready with a Game that can be played by any number of people.  Each youth group tends to have its own favorites.  Some games need nothing at all.  While some need some supplies.  At a recent conference, they kicked us out of the building to setup for the next session.  We found ourselves outside in the cold and everyone was looking to me for a way to stay warm.  I pulled a small Frisbee made out of the same material hacky sacks are made of and shouted Ultimate Frisbee!  Next thing you know we had a pretty awesome game going along with some other groups.  Don’t be afraid to play along also but also keep an eye out for those who aren’t playing.  Maybe they have something on their mind and this is a great time to talk while everyone else is busy.
  4. Bunny trails aren’t always bad – A lot of times, in the middle of a lesson, the group will go off on a tangent which is completely off topic.  This could be because they have lost interest in the subject at hand and need a short break.  It’s not a bad thing to let the conversation wander a little.  Sometimes you find yourself dealing with an issue that the youth are actually going through.  Spend some time on the issue.  Let them know that their thoughts are important.  If you find you are off topic and just talking about sports or pop culture bring the conversation back.   The important thing to realize is that following a lesson plan is not as important as building relationships.  Yes we need to teach them about Christ, but we can teach them in our actions more than with a lesson.  If we are living out what we are teaching them, then our actions and our stories will teach them.
  5. Just hang out – Just hanging out with a young person does so much for your ministry.  If you only see them during Church activities they will put you in the same category they put a teacher from school.  But if you hang out with them and see movies together and play games you will build a relationship where they feel comfortable opening up to you.  They rarely open up on a Sunday morning in front of all their friends. It’s those times when you are playing cards or video games that you’ll hear them say, “can I ask you a question?”
  6. Don’t joke too much – This is the one I struggle with the most.  I love to joke. I find it helps lighten the mood when things are getting to tense.  Just be careful who you are joking about.  If you joke about the youth, some will laugh but others will feel attacked.  You should avoid joking about anyone you are trying to minister to.   Even if the person you are joking about can take a joke and they think it’s funny, others who aren’t as familiar with the group may be afraid to open up for fear they’ll be attacked.  The obvious next person to joke about is yourself.  the problem here is if you always joke about yourself, why would they take you seriously.  I find the best way to joke is to joke about the situation someone is in rather than the person.  You may even want to  interchange who is in the situation in the joke.  An example, two high school students and I were on a mission to get drinks in a hotel we were staying at recently.  After finding no success in the hotel we opted to walk to the nearest 7-11.  about half way there I noticed one of them left their shoes in the room.  Instead of joking about him forgetting his shoes, we came up with this crazy plan about what we would tell someone if we were mugged.   Something along the lines of “not again, they already took his shoes.”  We chuckled about it all the way there and back and when I offered him my shoes I became the guy robbed of his shoes.  Situational not personal
  7. Text is best – Today’s young people see it as a major faux pas to call someone.  They feel much more comfortable texting you.  I’m from a generation that thinks face to face is most personal and a phone call is a close second.  Not so with this upcoming generation.  So often then have texted me questions they wouldn’t ask in person.  I even had a middle schooler text me once asking how to deal with the sin that gets between him and God.  It was a long conversation, but worth every hand cramp.  I never thought I would be texting a gospel presentation to anyone but that was the way he felt most comfortable asking the question.

I hope this list helps any one getting into youth ministry.  It’s not about how old you are or how cool you are.  Young people see through that and aren’t impressed with insincerity.  Fortunately, I’m fairly young and pretty cool on top of everything else. I have seen less cool people do what I do.

Recently a group of Pastors I’ve been meeting with were talking about a soup kitchen they help out at.  I was invited to come and given the opportunity to share a message with those who come to eat.  The message is given before the meal line opens up so it tends to be a quick message.  Anytime I speak in front of a group of people I scan the room and look for what I call friends.  A friend is someone that seems engaged in the message I am presenting and is making eye contact with them.  I bounce around from friend to friend so I don’t seem like a weirdo.  On this particular occasion, I only really had one friend.  It was a small group and one gentleman sitting dead center in the room was leaning forward and looked incredibly interested.  After the message we all grabbed some food and I went over and sat with my friend.  I was so excited.  I assumed I had said something that reached this guy and I would have sparked an interest in God in this man.  As I began a conversation with him I found out that He too had been recently ordained.  Great.  I was able to get a fellow minister excited about God.  Not exactly the grand slam victory I hoped for.  I ate with him.  He too was looking for an avenue to help serve the local hungry and homeless.  I found it ironic that we both came to meet homeless people but only meet each other.

As the soup kitchen came to a close, I was saying goodbye to my new friend when a man standing just to my right, fell to the ground in a coughing fit.  I wasn’t sure what to do.  I was the first person there but I had no idea what to do.  with the help of another man, I pulled him to his feet and grabbed him a chair.  He was surrounded by people who knew him and I was unable to do anything else for the man.  I finished making my rounds and saying my goodbyes when I noticed the man was sitting alone.  I went over and asked him how he was doing.

He was an older man, probably in his 60’s, with a short grey beard.  He never took off his jacket and he had a shirt tied around his head for a hat.  I could tell he was homeless, but he wasn’t what I’d expected.  I sat down with him and listened to his stories.  He introduced himself with his street name and told me how he’d earned it.  At one point he started cursing and acted as though he was wrong for cussing in a church.  He’d lived an interesting life his father and brother were in the Marine Corps and He grew up around Marines.  The fact that I was a Marine made him feel comfortable opening up even more.  It provided a common ground for us to talk about things and though he didn’t serve I could relate to having a father in the Marine Corps.  He’s shared with me about his time in prison and told me about the struggles of being an older man with health issues living on the street.  He wasn’t a fan of the local shelters because he didn’t think they were safe.  He never told my why he went to prison or how he ended up on the street, but I never asked.  Even though I rarely said anything, he told me he liked talking with me.  I guess it’s nice to just have someone listen to you sometime.

His leg, which he hurt when he fell, was feeling better but I still couldn’t let him walk out of there.  I offered him a ride to where ever he needed to go.  He gladly accepted and he offered to introduce me to his ol’ school friend in the hood.  Why not?  we go in my car and drove off.  I was worried he would at some point ask me for money or ask me to buy him something.  Turns out he actually had more money in his pockets than I did.  He asked me if I would take him to the liqueur store.  I would normally have a problem with this, but i wasn’t there to judge and he wasn’t asking me to buy anything for him.  I went with him into the store and he was very well received by the clerk.  He was just like any other customer who frequented the store.  I followed him to another shop where he bought a pack of the good cigarettes.  It turns out he was celebrating with the Christmas money his brother had sent him.  We got back in the car and we drove into the ‘hood.

I find places called the ‘hood to be very interesting places to visit. I feel strangely comfortable in them.  I find that people who live in them are not much different from the ones that live in my gated community.  if anything they are more social and welcoming.  We pulled up to a house and I could tell that no one was expecting me.  I got out of the car and and my guide introduced me to his friends. I shook each ones hand and looked them right in the eye.  They were very friendly and quickly over looked any differences we might have.  They invited me to come back when ever I wanted to come.  I felt like I was one of them.

My new friend, was quick to share his brand new bottle of whiskey and cigarettes.  It surprised me that someone in his situation could be so hospitable.  He was very protective of his things but he was also very generous.  As it came time to part ways, my new friend offered to buy me dinner.  I declined his offer because I  had to go home, but he gave me a can of tuna which I gratefully accepted.  Why is it that this man who had so little could be so generous when so many with much more can be so stingy?

He may have been a little rough around the edges but this man had a generous heart.

It’s not about me.

Posted: November 18, 2012 in Middle School Ministry

I know it’s not all about me.  At least I like to think I know it’s not all about me.  One thing I find as I work with youth is that it’s easy to get caught up in pride.

In the church world we tend to over focus on numbers.  If we have a big group we must be successful.  If we have a small group we often say things like, “we’re more about spiritual growth then growth in numbers.” I feel we don’t always believe that.

My group is not large by any means but we have experienced some growth recently.  I have gotten some compliments because of the growth.  I must confess, I don’t always point the praise to God.  I convince my self that I’m just trying not to be “holier then thou,” but to be honest part of me wants the glory.

I am finding that the ministry is most successful when I rely on God instead of my own skills.  A recent example comes to mind.  Each Wednesday night the middle school croup meets up at our barn. I prepare a lesson each week and also put together slides to show with it.  I put a lot of effort into it.  I feel I have some PowerPoint skills and I find myself trying to showcase them.  One night I didn’t have the slide together in time and went without them.  Students were just as interested if not more in the lesson.  I have discovered that some of the night’s I felt the most discouraged, where some of the most effective evenings.

God has called me into ministry.  I need to remind myself, He didn’t bring me in  because He needed a skill I some how brought to the table. He called me because He wanted to use me.  If anything, He is showcasing His skills by working out His perfect plan using a flawed person like me.

 

 

Long overdue update!

Posted: November 18, 2012 in Back to School

Well I started this blog over two years ago to record my wild adventure of going back to school.  I quit my job to follow God’s call to school for the ministry when my wife was pregnant with our third kid.  Let’s just say I got busy quick. I couldn’t justify updating a blog when I had absolutely no time.  I was a full-time student and working two part-time jobs.  One as a head cashier at The Home Depot and one waiting table and bar tending at Ruby Tuesday’s.  Some days I would go in to the Depot at 5 a.m. and leave the restaurant around 11:30 at night.  The next day I would have a full day of school.  Then we added an extra mouth to feed when Russell was born on 10/10/10.  Eventually I gradually moved toward having a part-time Job at the church as the middle school director.

In May of 2012 I finished the journey that started way back in 2003.  I graduated from Valley Forge Christian College with a B.A. in Christian Ministry.

Since then I enrolled at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary working toward my M.Div. (Masters of Divinity)

I am very excited to see what God is doing next in my life.

Heading back to school!

Posted: August 15, 2010 in Back to School
I went to a youth event recently.  It was our end of summer bash.  I originally thought it was weird that we would have our End of summer bash in the Middle of August.  Then it hit me tonight as I was talking to a recently graduated youth who’s leaving for College in a couple of days. This was the last time the group would be together as it is.  It made me think of how important it is to work wit the youth.  In a week another group of kids will go off into the harsh world.  I think of all the things they will face on their own.  I’m thinking of the situations where they’ll be tested by peer pressure or their faith will be challenged by a professor who believes that God doesn’t exist and that anyone who believes in Him is simply naïve.  I pray that the ideas and values we have taught them and modeled for them will stay with them.  Most of all I pray that they will take ownership of their faith and grow deeper into a relationship with God then they have ever been.  Most, being separated from their parents for the first time, will have the awesome opportunity of truly trusting in God for their basic needs.  I pray that none of them do as I did when I left my youth group to enter the harsh realities that the real world brings.  I know what peer pressure can do.  It can take you from being that kid that is reluctant to do what he knows is wrong and turn you into the guy that’s actually pressuring others into giving in just like him.  While it was a little different for me, I didn’t go right into College. I did, however, join one of the craziest fraternities in the world. I left High school and entered the U.S. Marine Corps right out of High School.  Now many years later I’m going back to school at the same time as the former kids in our youth group.
While similar, I’m in a much different place then the youth.  I have a whole different set of obstacles to deal with.  I get the awesome opportunity to Trust in God’s provisions in a several ways the younger students don’t have to worry about.  I have to trust  God that He will provide for me and my wife and my young children.  Oh and We’ve been blessed with another mouth to feed coming up in early October.  From a worldly wisdom perspective, I’m out of my mind.   In a time where people are unable to Find work I’ve decided to leave my job with great health benefits and enough pay to take care of all my bills.  I’ve decided to go to school full time at a local Christian College.  Up until now I’ve been taking online classes and they’ve been great but I don’t feel I’m learning as well as I could in a class room environment.  Also against worldly wisdom, I told my boss months ago that I was planning to leave them.  Everyone I’ve ever spoken to on this subject has always advised that you shouldn’t tell you’re boss you’re leaving until you everything lined up.   I had no idea where I would work but I knew one thing with great confidence.  I knew that If I’m following God’s will, He will provide me with everything I need to fulfill it.  So far it’s been amazing to watch God work.  I submitted resumes to several companies that give Health benefits to part time employees.  Only one called me back.  I went through a phone interview and two in person interviews.  It was in this last interview I confirmed that the insurance would not  be available during the time the baby would arrive.   I drove across the parting lot and applied in a restaurant that  worked for when My wife and I had our first child.  I knew that they had benefits and that they would start immediately.  They’re not the best but they’re better then nothing.  I walked up to the door right as they were opening.  I couldn’t have timed it better if I had tried to plan it.  One of the employees was walking to the front door to unlock it just as I got to the door.  Even though it’s a different location the I had worked at before.  I knew the waiter who opened the door.  I told him why I was there and he said he would go get the manager, whom I also used to work with at the other location.  He told the General manager and within Days I got job offers from both places.  While they’re not the best Jobs in the world God gave me two Jobs in the same parking lot and that are more then willing to work with my school schedule.  I’m currently looking at my last week in “good job” and I’ve completed all the training and will be able to transition smoothly into my new class and work routine.  I’m not sure if this is what God have ultimately in store for me or if this is just what He’s given me so that my wife will feel confident in what he’s doing.  In addition to what He’s already given me He’s presented me with the opportunity to interview with a different Church for a youth pastor position.  I interview next week.  Even if I don’t get the Job I’m confident that God has already provided for me and my family as we go through this transition.  I know I have a wild ride in store and I look forward to it.  I can’t say that at times I haven’t questioned my own sanity but also can’t deny all that God has given me in spite of the fact that I don’t deserve any of it.
I can’t wait to see what else He has in store for me.

First Post

Posted: August 8, 2010 in Uncategorized

Hey world,

My name is Chuck,  This is my first post and I’m new to the Blog thing.  To be honest the idea of sharing personal thoughts and information to the world scares me.  My current profession, which I’m actually leaving soon to study for the ministry, is a collector at a credit union.   I know in the collections world we use information that people put on the internet to track them down and find payments.  It’s amazing what you can find out about a person with a quick Google search.  That being said, I hope to be as transparent as possible and will be extremely surprised if anyone finds any interest in what I have to say about anything.  Thank you for reading and God Bless.

 ~Chuck