Monday, December 3, 2012

The End of the Wanna Be Preacher

I started this blog a while ago to chronicle my search for a position as a youth pastor. Then it turned into a youth pastor resource blog. Then I stopped writing on it altogether. I am here to announce that this blog has come to an end.

Yesterday, I went from being a wanna-be pastor to being Reverend Jonathan Pearson. My church decided it was time to ordain me to the ministry and we had a special service. As a result, I am a "real deal" pastor at this point.

I am planning to begin a new blog shortly, one that is a little more suited for my new chapter in life. Please stay tuned. If you have been a reader, I thank you.

God bless,


Friday, November 23, 2012

Posters for Our Advent Series in Awakening

I have been really trying to improve my Photoshop skills as of late. While I don't have a full version of Photoshop, my copy of Photoshop Elements 10 seems to be able to handle what I have been wanting to do. Here are some examples of the promo pieces I made for each lesson, beginning on Wednesday, November 29.
I would love to know your thoughts.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Book Review - The Pleasures of God by John Piper

John Piper is a very smart man. This is extremely evident in all of his books. The sentence structure is complex and Piper makes arguments that leaves the average person scratching his head in bewilderment. Dr. Piper also knows his Bible intimately. He has probably forgotten more of the Bible than I will ever know.

I recently had the opportunity to read The Pleasures of God by Piper. In this book, Piper makes the argument that God takes pleasure in a number of things, including His Son, His creation, and in the prayers of the righteous, among other things. The chief argument of the book, however, is that God takes pleasure in His own glory because to take glory in anything else would be considered idolatry. Because God is the Ultimate, for Him to find His pleasure and enjoyment in anything else would be idolatry.

While I very much enjoy learning from Dr. Piper and his teaching has had a profound influence on me and others that I have learned from, I do have issue with his belief in election. I will readily concede that there are verses in Scripture that would imply that some individuals are chosen for salvation and others were created for destruction. However, I do claim to be smart enough to understand how this works. I think it is a beautiful idea that God would choose me, but I have a difficult understanding why some folks would be made for the simple purpose of sending them to Hell.

The entire book is not about this topic, but because it is such a central part of Piper’s belief system, it tends to work its way into all that he does. For this reason, I had a very hard time working through the book quickly. I often put the book down to ponder what I read or because I was unhappy at some of the implications.

For those readers who are of Piper’s stripe of theology, this will be a very enjoyable book. It portrays our God (backed up with Scripture) as a glorious God worthy of our praise. For those who believe a little differently, this book will be a challenge. That being said, there is a lot that can be learned and gleaned from reading The Pleasures of God. One thing I left with was a conviction to learn my Bible even more. I want to be able to recall the passages with the relative ease that Dr. Piper demonstrates.

I was provided a copy of The Pleasures of God as a part of the Blogging for Books program. I was not required to give it a positive review.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Unstoppable by Nick Vujicic

All of last year, the art teacher at the school I work at had pictures of this guy named Nick Vujicic. They were strange pictures of a man who had no arms and no legs on a surfboard. Honestly, they were a little hard to look at. However, as I learned a bit more about him, I realized that the story of Nick Vujicic was one worth knowing. Here is a man who is faced with incredible obstacles (I mean, he has no arms and no legs), but he is doing some amazing things for God.

Recently, I was asked to promote his new book Unstoppable. I have not read it yet, so I cannot endorse the content entirely. However, as you will see from the video below, this is a story that everyone should become familiar with. If a man can overcome a disability as severe as his in the name of God, just think about what those of us who are whole can do with a little bit of faith.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Here's What You Missed - Awakening, September 12, 2012

If you weren't in Awakening last night, here is your quick recap of the night's events.
  • Announcements: Money for Awakening Fest ($30) is due THIS SUNDAY! Please give the money to Miss Cheryl. See You At the Pole is two weeks away. I hope you are making plans to be there. Don't forget that Youth Alive is this Sunday at 5 p.m.
  • Missions Trip: We are taking a missions trip to Pittsburgh in June 2013. Applications were distributed. Please take some time (a lot of time) to pray over the application and talk/pray with your parents about the trip. The cost is $350, but do not let money be the reason you don't go on the trip. Applications are due October 14. If you did not get an application, see Pastor Jonathan. We also watched a video of the trip in Pittsburgh last year.
  • Bible Study: We continued our study "Life in 6 Words" with Our. This was a discussion of our role in the mutiny called sin and how all of us are responsible for sinning. Greg and Prop did an excellent job of explaining the concept of "federal headship."
  • Next Week: We will continue to study "Life in 6 Words" with Sins. Our memory verse is Romans 3:23.

Can't wait to see you next week in Awakening!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

My Ministry-related Prayers

I was cleaning the carpets last night. It is pretty monotonous work, so I had a lot of time to think. I began to think about the things that I would like to see happen in my ministry, be it youth group, children's ministry, or just the ministry in general. I understand that some of these things that I am praying for are pretty far out there, things that may never come to fruition. No harming in asking, right?

So, without any further jibber-jabber on my part, here are my ministry prayers.

  • I am praying that my youth group would grow to at least 30 students by May 2013.
  • I am praying that I would have the opportunity to lead at least 5 students to Christ by May 2013.
  • I am praying that we would have a minimum of 30 children in Children's Church by May 2013.
  • I am praying that there will be at least 200 people in the church service each week.
  • I am praying that our weekly offerings will go over $10,000 in tithes and gifts.
  • I am praying that we will have the volunteers to start a Wednesday evening children's program in September 2013.
  • I am praying that more people in the church would develop a servant's heart and become involved in the ministry of the church.
  • I am praying that the youth department will one day have its own facility. Not just a room or a basement, but its own building.
  • I am praying that the opportunity for me to go on staff in a full-time capacity occurs in the very near future.
  • I am praying that my students in the youth group will be sold out for Christ and will begin telling their friends about Jesus.
As you can tell, I have a lot of things that I am praying for and, actually, this doesn't even begin to scratch the surface. Youth ministry is a job that rises and falls on prayer. I just pray that I am doing enough.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Why Are So Many Christians So Eager to Defend Pornography?

A little while ago, there was a huge uproar in the Christian world about a movie and a series of books, both of which were highly inappropriate and dealt with lust and sex. I wrote a post about my thoughts on both.

Now, knowing that the movie contains a good deal of nudity or implied nudity and the books are full of very explicit sexual content between two individuals who are not married, you would think that it would be a no-brainer for Christians to avoid these things. I mean, yes, it is true that all things are lawful for us, but even Paul recognized that not all things are beneficial. Sadly, though, this was not the case.

In a forum for youth pastors, I came across an individual who was in youth ministry who had gone to see the movie and was adamantly defending her decision to do so, saying that she saw nothing wrong with it and that her husband was fine with her going. Does anyone else see a problem here? This is a woman who works with teenagers, defending a movie that she had no business seeing. That would be like me encouraging my students to watch American Pie or something similar.

Another bizarre event took place when I posted a link to an article about the books and asked folks to read it, just to get a different perspective on what they were reading. I received an email blasting me for posting the article, claiming that I was being judgmental and judging peoples' marriages. Please note, I did not make any accusations or even say that people shouldn't read the books. I merely offered the article as a different perspective.

I think this is just proof of the hard work that youth pastors have to do. We are constantly crashing into a popular culture that glorifies sex and is doing its best to normalize sexual behavior of all types, including things that previously were not even discussed in private company. Even sadder is that many parents are reading those books or watching those movies, completely oblivious to the impact such decisions will have on their children. I mean, if mom can read it, why can't I read something similar?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Youth Ministry Cheerleaders

Youth ministry is hard work. It may look like it is nothing but pizza, video games, and road trips, but, trust me, there is a lot more that goes into it. There is the overwhelming weight of knowing that you will only have some kids in your youth group for a year and others for six years. There are those nights where you have a ton of students in your youth meeting and other nights where you are bombarded with the excuses as to why they won't be there. And then there are those students who just don't care about the things of God at all. You will cry and plead and beg God to change their hearts, but nothing happens.

And these are just the normal things of youth ministry. It is a sad reality that many youth pastors will deal with death, suicide, divorce, and teen pregnancy. Ministry is hard work.

Because of this, every youth pastor needs a cheerleader. No, I don't mean someone who will follow you around chanting your name and saying "U-G-L-Y" to that lady in the church that is giving you grief. You want someone to encourage and provide support when things are at their darkest.

I am lucky. I have several youth ministry cheerleaders. My wife, Tina is a big youth ministry cheerleader. I know that she will be there to make sure that I am taking care of myself and provides encouragement when I am beating myself up over a decision. Another of my cheerleaders is Carrie. Carrie has been my biggest supporter since the day I was hired on staff. She is full of ideas and a great sounding board.

Please, I beg you, if you do not have a cheerleader, pray that God will provide one for you. You will burn out very fast if you don't. If you are a parent or a member of the church, please consider rallying around your pastor or youth pastor. Too many people are willing to share their negativity with the pastor, but not as many are willing to encourage them.

Take a look at the note that Doug Fields wrote to Josh Griffin as a great example of cheerleading in youth ministry.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Some Cool Swag from Liberty University

As some of you may know, I am a graduate of Liberty University. Okay, so I did it through LU Online, but I have spent a lot of time on the campus. I am a big fan of Liberty and am very glad to be associated with such a great school.

A few weeks ago, I contacted the Alumni Affairs office to see if they could send me some stuff to help promote the university to my students at church. I was hoping for a pennant and some posters, but that is not what I got.

Instead, as you can see from the picture, I received two pennants, two large posters promoting College for a Weekend, a stack of flyers promoting the same event, and two alumni decals to put on my car. It was pretty impressive and I was very excited to receive it. I'm still holding out hopes that I will find some cool Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary merch in my mailbox one day, but this is still pretty cool.

My hope is to be able to take a couple of the students down to Lynchburg to visit the campus sometime this spring. We are still working out the details and praying that more upperclassmen become a part of CTBC Student Ministries. Until then, I am going to keep promoting the school to my freshmen and middle schoolers. They have to go somewhere, right?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Greatest Story Ever Told, That's Hardly Ever Told

In our youth group service, we recently started going through Life in 6 Words from Dare2Share Ministries. This is a series on the Gospel in which Greg Stier and Propaganda take the letters of GOSPEL and use it to explain the Gospel. I have been praying about this series for some time and am looking forward to the awesome things that God is going to do through this study.

Here is the introductory video that is basis for the study. I recommend you watch it multiple times because it will shake you to the core every time you watch it.

I will be posting a review of the series shortly.

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Ups and Downs of Being Bi-Vocational

I am a bi-vocational pastor. For those of you who may not understand that terminology, it essentially means I have two jobs. I have a full-time position as an elementary school teacher and a part-time position as a pastor at Charles Town Baptist Church.

There are positives and negatives to being bi-vocational. I would like to point out, however, that I am not complaining. I am very grateful to the opportunities that God has provided for me by letting me serve as a bi-vocational pastor.


  • Being in ministry is hard work. Some may wonder why this is a positive, but, for me, it is. I need to have that constant pressure to make sure that I am performing. I am easily distracted, so the requirements of ministry are good for me to make sure I am getting things completed.
  • Having a day job provides me some stability. Jon Acuff addresses this issue in his book Quitter. As a teacher, I have a stable paycheck and good health insurance that doesn't cost me as much as it would if I were to pay for it another way. This is really good because I have a houseful of children.
  • Working as a teacher keeps me in touch with the lives of real students. As a youth pastor, I get to see my students on Wednesday nights and Sundays at church. Of course, being at church, they are on their best behavior (at least we hope). Being with students all day at school, I get to see them at their best and at their worst. It keeps me fresh in regards to the issues and joys and pains that students experience.


  • Being in ministry is hard work. The astute reader will notice that I am using this point twice. Being a pastor is very draining and requires a lot out of a person mentally. We are made aware of the ugly side of life on a regular basis.
  • There is a large time commitment. I often find myself feeling guilty because I am not spending enough time doing on job or the other. There are so many things that I want to do as a youth pastor, but am unable to because of school commitments. I also find myself thinking about one job or other when I am with my family. I know it drives my wife crazy when I am with her, but not really with her.
  • I can't give 100% to either jobNo matter how hard we try, it is impossible to give more than 100% effort to anything. If you divide that between two jobs and a growing family, there is a great deal of frustration because you can't do more than you already are.

My goal is to turn these negative aspects into positives. I spend a good deal of time in prayer, asking God to make being bi-vocational a thing of the past. I do know, however, that I will continue to do this until the end of the school year. With that knowledge, I am doing what I can to put things in place to make full-time vocational ministry a reality.

The Lord is going to do great things and I can't wait to be a part of them.

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Celebration - The Ten-Foot Ice Cream Sundae

I read somewhere that every youth pastor should keep a journal of how their activities went. I have yet to do it, but here is a recap of our activity from August 25, 2012. We built a Ten-Foot Ice Cream Sundae and the students had a blast.

We began the activity with some social time. After getting everyone settled, we watched two videos. The first was for a new series we will be doing in Awakening (our youth group service) called "Life in 6 Words." This series is a break down of the gospel and is designed to help students learn to share their faith. The second video was a promo for See You At The Pole. My prayer is that we will have a large number of students from our church participate and I am pushing it as much as I can.

After watching the videos, I spoke for a few minutes, using Acts 17:26 as my text. It is my desire for my students to see school as a mission field and I urged them to understand that, based on that verse, God chose this time and this place for them to live because of the awesome plan He has for them.

While we were watching and talking, the adult leaders were putting out the ice cream. I purchased a rain gutter from Home Depot and five gallons of ice cream from Wal-Mart. The leaders filled the gutter with the ice cream and the students then put toppings on the ice cream. Everyone then grabbed a spoon and dug in. Some students used chocolate syrup, sprinkles, and lots of cherries. One student brought bacon bits, but we gave him his own bowl.

Overall, I think the event was a success. We had about 20 students participate, including 11 of our students, 7 visitors (some unchurched, some from other churches), and 2 graduates saying goodbye to the student ministry program. I shared the gospel and will continue to pray that hearts are changed. I am looking forward to doing this event again in the future.

Here is a picture of the aftermath of the ice cream when all of the students were finished eating.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Book Review - Firing Jesus by Greg Stier

The other night I had the opportunity to be a part of a webinar hosted by Greg Stier, the president of Dare2Share Ministries. At the end of the webinar, we were given a link to download Greg's new book Firing Jesus.

The book is a modern day telling of Christ's ministry. It involves a youth pastor named JC Davidson and the church elders who either oppose or support the work that JC is doing with the youth group of the church.

An emergency meeting is called because some of the elders are opposed to the radical changes that JC is making to the youth department, including telling the students that they needed to get serious about what was going on. The elders proceed to run through a litany of complaints against JC, including his willingness to call the untrained, his extreme nature toward prayer, and his radical nature. Interspersed throughout this story are testimonies of individuals who are involved in the story, including a former bully, an elder's son, and a rich family.

Firing Jesus will change the way that youth pastors look at their ministry. It is a tough book, one that will call you to reexamine the way that we are doing ministry. Are we calling our students to a higher standard or are we simply trying to get them into the building in an attempts to boost our own egos?

It was a short read, one that took me about 30 minutes or so to read the entire thing. However, it was chock full of great stuff and it is a book that I would highly recommend. In fact, you should probably get several copies so that you can share with others.

Please visit Dare2Share Ministries if you would like to learn more about Firing Jesus or you would like to purchase a copy for yourself or your team.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Free E-Book - Firing Jesus by Greg Stier

I had the opportunity to participate in a webinar hosted by Greg Stier, the president of Dare2Share Ministries. I will be sharing some of the notes that I took during the webinar in a later post, but I wanted to get this into your hands quickly.

Not only is Greg the president of Dare2Share, he is also a prolific writer. His latest book is called Firing Jesus. The idea behind Firing Jesus is whether or not Jesus would make it as a youth pastor in many of today's churches. While I have not had the opportunity to read the whole thing, I have read the first two chapters and it is really good stuff. The book is fairly short (about 112 pages) and many have told me on Twitter that they read it in one sitting.

Because Greg is so gracious, he gave me permission to give out the link for the book. If you would like to get a free copy of Firing Jesus, you simply need to follow this link. In return for the book, you simply need to give them some information and get signed up for their newsletter. Dare2Share is an incredible ministry and their newsletter is always backed full of great stuff.

Go here to get your free copy of Firing Jesus.

If you have never taken the time to read Greg Stier's book Outbreak, I highly recommend you do so. It will give you a passion to train students to share the Gospel.

Why I Will Never Apologize for Reaching Out to Young Men

I was recently caught up in a disagreement about my desire to train and reach young men, as well as to develop adult male leaders. This is something that I will never apologize for doing.

this does not mean that I am a misogynist or that I believe women are inferior to men. God has blessed both men and women to serve the Body of Christ; we are all blessed to have different roles and abilities that have been uniquely given in order to complement those around us.

I will reach out to young men because I believe that God has called them to lead the church. We need young men who will step up to that responsibility. Too many men in our society (and church) have shirked their God-given responsibility to serve as leaders. I want to reverse this.

I will reach out to young men because God has called them to lead their families. While they may not have family leadership responsibilities yet, the training in the Bible they receive will assist them in the future.

I will reach out to young men in order to train them to be an example to others. I desire a student ministry that is a shining light to the dark world around them, and I want to see the young men stepping up and leading that charge.

I will do these things, but never to the exclusion of the girls. I will seek to disciple and train the young women to be godly young women. Of course, I can only go so far because I am a man. I can, however, train the young men to be godly men.

I will never apologize for doing that.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Why I Am About Numbers in Youth Ministry

A comment was made to me the other day that, as a youth pastor, I put a lot of emphasis on numbers. And it is a fair statement. I do emphasize number, but never to the detriment of the students who are currently attending.

Here are some reasons I put an emphasis on numbers.

  • Larger numbers of students mean more students are hearing the Bible. The more students we have in attendance, the greater the chance of growth in Christ.
  • Larger numbers mean more opportunities to share the Gospel and see students come to Christ. Statistically, there will be unsaved students in a large group. The larger the group, the more unsaved students we may encounter and the more opportunities we will have to share Christ with them in our youth group setting.
  • Larger numbers mean more students missionaries in our schools. As a youth pastor, I cannot be in our public schools (well, I can because I am a public school teacher, but that's another story.) As we see our numbers increase, it increases the number of students who are being trained to reach their friends.

So, yes, I put an emphasis on number. It isn't about me or my ego. It is all about reaching a generation for Christ.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

How Facebook is Saving My Soul...Well, at Least My Sanity

Unless you've been living under a rock (or a teenager), you are probably on Facebook. It is an incredible tool for youth ministry, but that's not what I wish to discuss. Facebook is helping to keep me sane.

Here's what I mean: As you probably know, I recently started a position as the Associate Pastor for Children and Youth at Charles Town Baptist Church. This is in addition to being a full-time teacher, a husband, and the father of four little boys. As a result, things have gotten extremely hectic. There are good days where I want to conquer every mountain in West Virginia. Then there are days when it feels like the wheels have come off and I'm not doing anything right.

Through Facebook, I have made a number of connections with several youth pastors around the country. Some of them are in Virginia, some are in Texas, a couple are in North Carolina. These are guys who I have never met in person (looking forward to when that can happen), but I know that I can send them messages or call them when I need some encouragement. They are helping to keep me sane.

Two of those guys are Josh Evans and Austin McCann. Both of them have blogs that you should be reading if you are involved in student ministry at all.

Facebook is saving my soul...sort of. Thank God for Facebook.

How are you using Facebook to help your sanity?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Review of The Dark Knight Rises

I have been a big fan of Batman ever since I saw the first movie with Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson. I saw all of the movies, except for that dreadful one with Uma Thurman and Arnold as Mr. Freeze. I was especially enamored by Christopher Nolan's take on the character beginning with thrilling Batman Begins, continuing with the gut-punch that was The Dark Knight, and now concluding with The Dark Knight Rises.

A lot has changed in Gotham City since the Joker came to town and Harvey Dent was "murdered" by Batman. There is a city-wide holiday in Dent's honor and a law that allows certain criminals to be locked-up much easier. Some people still hope for the days of Batman, but to many, he is nothing more than a bad memory.

It is not my desire to recap the entire movie, so let me get to what I want to say. First, it was great to see some of the old characters return. I enjoyed the performances by Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, and Michael Caine. The inclusion of a new character, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, was also well-done. I am a big fan of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and he did not disappoint. I am also a big fan of Tom Hardy, but his portrayal of Bane was wasted on him. He wore a mask the entire time and I'm not entirely sure that it was even his voice.

There were a great number of teaching points in this film. There were incredible acts of bravery and loyalty, even by the villain. Many individuals were willing to lay down their lives in order to save others, even when moments earlier they were turning tail to run.

The movie also had much to say about the current political environment of our country and what may happen if we continue to allow politicians to use their rhetoric to tear us apart. I don't know if this was intentional or just me reading into it, but I was surprised at the result. From my perspective, Christopher Nolan did not have nice things to say about socialism and the whole Occupy Wall Street movement. These would make great discussion points as well.

Overall, I loved the movie. I know that it is the end of the trilogy, but it ended extremely well. While it was probably the weakest of the three films, it was still an amazing movie and worth the 2 1/2 hour length. I don't know if I can recommend it for general consumption based on the amount of violence and the callous nature in which some characters treat human life, but it is highly entertaining and thought-provoking. Knowing that some (or most) of your students are going to be seeing the film will lead to some great discussions about the film and how such attitudes can play out in our Christian lives.

I would also recommend that you check out the resources provided by Dare2Share in regards to The Dark Knight Rises

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Notes From Awakening, July 18, 2012

In case you were unable to attend or did not fill in your answer sheet, here are the notes from Awakening on July 18, 2012.

What Does the Bible Say about Facebook?

1. God wants us to use social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) for His glory.
1 Corinthians 10:31 - So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

2. One day, we will have to explain our actions, even what we do on Facebook.
Romans 14:12 - So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

3. We can use social media for good or we can use it for evil.
Romans 6:13 - Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

Application: How are you using Facebook and other social media? Are you using it to tear others apart or to build them up in Jesus? Are you pointing others to Jesus through your Facebook?

I would like to offer a very special thank you to my friend Austin McCann for his help with preparing this lesson. Austin is currently the student pastor at Courtney Baptist Church in Yadkinville, NC, and a really great dude. Thanks again, Austin.

The Hate-filled United States Will Destroy our Children

We live in a world full of hate. In a time when we are told to be tolerant of each other, I think there is more hate now that I ever remember. Hate is everywhere...and most of it is done in the name of tolerance.

  • Black people hate white people.
  • White people hate black people.
  • Conservatives hate liberals.
  • Liberals hate conservatives.
  • Some "Christians" hate gay people.
  • A lot of gay people hate Christians because of the actions of the "Christians."
  • Just about everyone hates the President.
  • "Christians" hate Muslims.
  • Muslims hate Jewish people.

The list goes on and on. There is no end to the amount of hatred that is found in the world. And, quite frankly, it is completely ridiculous. If we continue to hate each other, we will destroy our children.

Romans 2:11 states "For God shows no partiality." No group is better than the other. We are all, whether we want to admit it or not, sinners. Every one of us is a wicked, condemned individual who on our best day deserves to go to Hell. With that in mind, there is no room for hate. There is no place for looking down on someone because of the color of their skin or because of their religious choice. We can disagree and we can believe the other person is wrong, but there is no place for the hate and rhetoric that our world is full of.

And we wonder why there is so much violence and bad behavior with students today.

What is my suggested solution? Prayer and a whole lot of it.

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. - 2 Chronicles 7:14

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lust Is Still Lust - Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about the dangers of lust, both for young men and young women. I'm not so naive as to think everyone agreed with what I wrote. I would like to share a few statistics that I found to show why this is such a huge issue and one that we need to take seriously.

  • 93% of young men and 62% of young women are exposed to porn by age 18.
  • 70% of young men and 23% of young women have spent more than 30 minutes looking at porn in one sitting. A large portion of those have done it on more than one occasion.
  • Large numbers of young men and women have seen horrific sex acts, including bondage (the subject of the very popular books I referenced yesterday), rape, and child porn.

While I could continue to lay down an argument against porn and lust, my purpose is to show that this isn't something to be toyed with. It isn't something to laugh about and pretend like it is not a big deal. Lust is a huge problem. When students are spending significant periods of time looking at pornographic material, it is no longer a joke.

It is deadly serious.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Lust Is Still Lust...Even When Girls Are Doing It

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. - Matthew 5:28

In the world of youth ministry, lust is a huge issue. Youth pastors are constantly hammering the boys to keep their eyes in their heads and not to think dirty thoughts about girls. They are also constantly hammering the girls about modest dress and making sure that they are not causing their Christian "brothers" to stumble by the clothing they wear. And this is not without a good reason. Like I said, lust is a huge issue. Porn addiction is extremely prevalent in young men...and young women.

There has been a great deal of controversy of late about a series of books that detail a very graphic sexual relationship. I have not read them and have no desire to. The controversy arises from the fact that many women in churches are reading these books and talking about how much they enjoy them. To me (and many others) this is the equivalent of a guy openly discussing how much he enjoys looking at Playboy or some other porn magazine.

The same thing has been done with a movie about the world of male strippers. Again, I have not seen the movie. But imagine the backlash that would arise if the boys in our youth groups were openly discussing a movie about female strippers or porn stars. We would have them and their parents at the altar confessing before the band could play the first chord.

I guess what set me off (and caused me to write this post) is my sadness over what I perceive to be a double-standard when it comes to lust. For some reason, it is horrendous when a young man talks about sex or posts a picture of a girl in a bikini on his Facebook, but many will give a pass to a young woman who posts pictures of half-naked men. I can't tell you how many Christian women I know who post inappropriate pictures and clips to their Facebook pages and Pinterest boards.

The book of Proverbs talks about adultery being like taking fire into your jacket. You aren't going to escape without getting burned. Our young men are bombarded with sexual images and many are falling into the trap. Our young women are having the same thing done to them, but no one seems to be making a big deal about it. It is a big deal!

Lust is lust, regardless of who is doing it. Men, we do need to be careful about what we are looking and watching. We need to be careful where we allow our thoughts to go and we need to capture every thought for the glory of God. But at the same time, women, it is important that you are doing the same. Just because a book doesn't have pictures doesn't mean it isn't causing you to lust. And the excuse of "Women aren't turned on by visual images" doesn't really hold water in this argument. If that was the case, the movie about the strippers and the pictures on Pinterest wouldn't be so popular. There is too much at stake to even allow the smallest amount of lust into our lives.

John Owen, a Puritan preacher, had this to say: "Be killing sin or it will be killing you."

Friday, July 13, 2012

Being Disappointed by Your Students

Even though I haven't been a youth pastor for very long, I have already learned that one of the difficult parts of being a pastor is the disappointment that is bound to arise. This is especially true when it comes to students. Sometimes you will think your students are genetically predisposed to disappoint you. They will lie to you (even when you've caught them red-handed). They will do some of the most stupid things you can think of. They will fail to keep commitments. Your students will disappoint you.

Here are a few things that I have had to remind myself of. Hopefully they will help you as well.

  • Don't take it personally. In most cases, your student didn't mean to disappoint you. He/she probably didn't do it out of spite or maliciously. The disappointment you are feeling was not done by the student to hurt you. He/she probably didn't even have you in mind when he did it.
  • Remember, he is just a student. Even when your student does the stupidest thing on the planet, you need to remember that he is just a student. You and I both did some really idiotic things. I once jumped up and down on a table in the church lobby singing "Dude Looks Like a Lady" by Aerosmith. I also blew up some mailboxes with firecrackers after being dropped off at a friend's house following a youth group event. Did I disappoint my youth pastor? Absolutely, but he didn't hold a grudge because I was only a student. Remember that when your students are doing similar things.
  • Continue to love your student. There are going to be times when the disappointment you are feeling is going to run deep. When you are called to the hospital in the middle of the night because one of your students has alcohol poisoning. When you find out that one of your students is expecting a baby. When a student lies to your face about what you saw on her Facebook page. When this happens, remember that you are there to love your students, just like Christ loved you. Enough said.

I am finding out that being a youth pastor is one of the most challenging and enjoyable professions there is. But just like any profession, there will be dark days, especially when that darkness is brought on by one of your students. Bathe it in prayer and remember what you have been called to do.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Tips for Using Humor in Youth Talks

It's always a good thing to make students laugh. When you get them laughing, they are much more likely to listen to what you have to say. That's why even the most serious movies have humorous parts. What are the two memorable parts of The Avengers? Those funny scenes with the Hulk.

However, it's not easy to use humor in your talks. Some people can do it, some people need to practice. Here are a few tips to remember when you are using humor with your students.

  • Make sure your humor fits the occasion. Some people try to use humor just to use humor. I once heard a sermon where the speaker spent 10 minutes telling jokes that had absolutely nothing to do with his message. I'm not sure if he was nervous or what, but he lost a good portion of his audience before he even got started. If you have a humorous story, make sure it fits the flow of your sermon and not just being used to kill time.
  • Make sure that your humor is appropriate. This should be a no-brainer, but you would be surprised at how many people don't get it. Your students don't need to hear your sexual innuendos, your political jokes, or your slightly off-colored comments. Yes, most of us have middle-school (and high school boys) who love the sound of bodily functions, but they are best to be avoided. Remember, when you stand in your pulpit or platform, you are representing the Almighty to your students.
  • Make sure you can pull off the humor you are attempting. You might think you are Mitch Hedberg or Jim Gaffigan, or even Dave Chappell, but you aren't. And since you aren't, it's best not to try to act like them. Just be yourself and attempt humor that fits you. If you can't do it, don't attempt it. You'll just look foolish...and not in a good way.

Hopefully you are attempting to use humor in your youth talks and sermons. There is no better way to win over a crowd. Just make sure that you are using the humor correctly and in a God-honoring manner.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Book Review - A Radical Idea by David Platt

I recently finished the booklet A Radical Idea by David Platt. Platt is the pastor of a church in Alabama, as well as the author of Radical and Radical Together, both of which have been bestsellers and have had a profound on the way that many do church in America.

The booklet A Radical Idea is a short consolidation of the ideas that were presented in Radical and Radical Together. Platt is seeking to convict individuals of the way that most view the church. Instead of viewing church as a gathering of individuals who are equipped to serve and minister to others, many view the church as an opportunity to be ministered to and to bring their friends so that they can be served by the professionals who run the church. Platt wants to turn this idea on its head. His desire, using Scripture as his basis is to have the pastors equip the people of the church to mobilize and serve those around them, sharing the Gospel as they go.

Most, if not all, of the material presented in this short booklet was culled from his previous two books. As such, if you have read Radical or Radical Together, very little of what is presented here will be new or groundbreaking. These booklets are, however, an excellent introduction to the writings and ideas of Platt. It is my belief that they would serve great for a discussion group or a discipleship program. I would suggest them, but not in place of the full discussion provided in the full texts.

I was provided with a free copy of A Radical Idea by Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for a review of the book. I was asked to provide an honest review of the work, not necessarily a positive one.

You can read my review of Radical Together here.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Youth Ministry Games - Mystery Meat

To be honest, this game has absolutely nothing to do with the delicious canned meat product known as Spam. I just used the picture to get your attention. Clever, huh?

Mystery Meat is actually a game designed to get your students up and moving around. The goal is to have all of your students find their partners as quickly as possible.

Here are the items you will need in order to get the game going:

  • Note cards
  • A black marker
  • Tape

On the note cards, write the name of a fast-food restaurant (McDonald's, Chick-Fil-A, Burger King, etc.) and an item that is specifically found at that restaurant on another card. For example, one pair might be McDonald's and Big Mac or Chick-Fil-A and waffle fries.

Have the students line up and tape a card to each student's back. When the signal is given, students may walk around and ask Yes or No questions about their cards, but they may not look at the cards. Questions can include, "Am I served on bread?", "Am I opened on Sundays?", or "Am I made of beef?".

Continue the game until all pairs have been matched.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

I Can't Even Begin to Tell You How Exciting Last Night Was

Our church has Bible study on Wednesday evenings. At the present time, we have Bible study for adults and for our teenagers. There are plans to branch that out, but those things take prayer and time.

For the first two months that I have been on staff, our youth group has averaged about four people each Wednesday night. I am extremely thankful for those students and their faithfulness. Tonight, however, was different.

I have been teaching off and on, but I will be taking over the teaching full-time at this point. With that in mind, I began to make a concerted effort to invite the students out. I fired off text messages and Facebook comments, inviting all the students I have on Facebook. I was hoping for about 8-10.

Imagine my surprise when THIRTEEN students came in! It was incredible! We did some announcements, played a game called "Mystery Meat", and voted on a name for our Wednesday evening service. Our time together is now called, "Awakening!" After those activities were finished, we studied Colossians 5:1-17, looking at how we are free from the slavery of the law and how we should be sharing the good news of our freedom from sin.

Last night was a win for God's Kingdom. It was an answer to prayer. My heart is bursting with excitement. Our God is good!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Do You Remember Getting Your First iPhone?

Okay, I don't, but that's because I don't have an iPhone.

I do remember getting my first iPod Touch. It was a gift from a wonderful family who I had the privilege of teaching both their children. I remember thinking it was the most amazing invention on the planet. I spent all kinds of time reading about it, playing with it, downloading apps for it, loading music onto it. My iPod Touch was incredible. I was completely in awe of such an amazing tool. The day my iPod broke was devastating to me. I couldn't wait until the time came when I could purchase another one.

How many of you have felt the same way about something? Maybe it was a new toy. Maybe it was a new car. It might have even been a girlfriend or boyfriend. Everyone can remember something that they had or wanted that absolutely consumed them.

That is the feeling of desire we should be attempting to foster in our students. We should be teaching them the Bible in such a way that they are hungering and thirsting for more of it. They are so excited about hearing the Word of God that they cannot wait until Sunday or Wednesday and they are telling all of their friends about it and inviting them to church.

So why isn't that happening? Why aren't our students that excited about church and the Bible? Could it be that we don't exhibit the same desire we want from our students? Are we so consumed with the desire for God's Word that it is spilling out of us?

If not, let's start there.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Reflections on Spirit Night at Chick-Fil-A

This past week, our youth ministry partnered with the local Chick-Fil-A to host a Spirit Night. For those of you unfamiliar with Spirit Night, the concept is that Chick-Fil-A will allow your group to come into the restaurant for dinner. For every patron who purchases food and tells the cashier that they are with your group, your group will receive 15% of their bill. The more promoting that your group does in conjunction with the event, the more people who will attend and the more money your group will raise. It is also a benefit to Chick-Fil-A because the increase in business results in an increase in revenue.

We promoted the Spirit Night like crazy. Some kids from the youth group and I made a promotional video that we showed in church. It was a big success and we are still getting compliments on it. We posted reminders on our church's Facebook page and put a flyer in the church bulletin.

The night of the event, the restaurant was full. It was a wonderful to visit with families and to enjoy a meal together. There was a lot of laughter, smiles, and hugs. I am proud to say that the good people of Charles Town Baptist Church came out to support the youth ministry in a huge way. I was so happy to see so many of my friends there and it was obvious that they were enjoying themselves.

While I don't know the exact amount that our youth ministry was able to raise just yet, I am confident that it was a substantial amount and will go a long way to help cover the costs of the events we have planned in the coming months. I also received many positive comments from members of the church and I am confident that another Spirit Night in the future will be an even greater success.

If you haven't seen (and didn't follow the link above!), here is the video we made.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Youth Ministry Games - Blind Pudding Cup Challenge

When I was in college, I remember the campus pastor telling a story about a youth group game that he did where he blindfolded some students and had them feed bananas to each other. There was a serious point to the story, but I don't really remember what it was. Anyway, that story gave the idea for a great game. It is called the Blind Pudding Cup Challenge.

Here is what is needed for each team:

  • Two players
  • A chocolate pudding cup (other flavors can be used)
  • A plastic spoon
  • A blindfold

The players line up front to back. The student in the back puts his arms through the student in the front's arms. The student in the back is then blindfolded and handed a cup of pudding and a spoon. When the signal is given to begin, the student in the back must use the spoon to feed the pudding to the student in the front. Hilarity will ensue when the pudding ends up everywhere but inside the front student's mouth.

It might be a good idea to provide the students with aprons or shirts to keep their clothes from getting covered.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Giveaway Winner Announcement

I am happy to announce that the winner of the giveaway is Josh Evans. Josh left a comment and "Liked" the Facebook page. For being selected, Josh will receive a free copy of Viral by Leonard Sweet.

I appreciate all of you entered the giveaway. Please be on the lookout for more giveaways in the future.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Giveaway - Viral by Leonard Sweet

The other day I had the opportunity to read and review Viral by Leonard Sweet. As you may have read in my review, it was not exactly what I was expecting. That being said, there was still some great quotes and useful information in the book.

When I received my review copy, I was sent both a print version and an e-book version. I would like to give the print copy away to an interested reader.

This is a very simple giveaway. To enter, simply leave a comment below telling me how you utilize social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) in your ministry and how effective you find certain technologies. You will receive one entry for your comment. You can also earn additional entries into the drawing by Liking my Facebook page and by following me on Twitter. When you have done those things, please leave me a comment letting me know what you have done.

I will select one person at random to receive a copy of the book on Thursday. Best of luck and happy reading!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Chick-Fil-A Spirit Night Video

Our youth group will be hosting a Spirit Night at the local Chick-Fil-A in Ranson, West Virginia. The agreement that we worked out with the manager is for us to receive 15% of the money that comes in during our time. I believe this is a pretty standard policy. It is a great way for us to earn some money for our youth group without having to do a ton of work. We get to have a delicious dinner and enjoy each other's company while earning money. Our plan is to use the funds to help defray some of the costs of the summer's activities.

In order to promote the Spirit Night, one of my leaders, her daughters, and I shot a video. I need to give props to my friend Josh Evans for the idea of the video. We shot the video on my camcorder. I then took the footage and edited on Windows Movie Maker Live and added a few features.

You can watch the video below.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Book Review - Viral by Leonard Sweet

I was initially very excited about reading Viral by Leonard Sweet. As a youth pastor, I am very interested in ways to utilize and leverage social media for ministry purposes. Sweet uses his book to discuss Twitter, Google, iPhones, and Facebook in the text. He approaches each of these items from a Christian perspective, offering insight in ways that he believes they should be used in an attempt to bring about revival.

Dr. Sweet has a tendency to be a bit too postmodern for my liking. While I consider myself fully in what he calls the Googlers, I have difficulty with some of the things that Sweet discusses as the direction that Christianity needs to go.

Having said that, I did appreciate the metaphor that Sweet used in his section on iPhones. In this particular section, he describes the way that an apple is eaten whole and an orange is broken into pieces. This is a way that many individuals treat their Christianity and their lives. They break it into sections, keeping one part from another.

Overall, I believe there are individuals who will like the book, but it was not necessarily what I had anticipated. I was hoping for a more practical guide for utilizing social media. While this book touches on social media and Sweet's apparent love for it, this book fell short of what I was looking for.

I was provided a review copy of Viral by Waterbrook Multnomah as a part of their Blogging for Books program. I was not required to give it a positive review.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Why Do We Hate on Nicodemus So Much?

I had the opportunity to teach on John 3:1-10 the other during the Wednesday Bible Study. As I was studying and reflecting on what I knew about Nicodemus, I realized that very little good is ever said about Nicodemus.

Growing up, every time Nicodemus was taught about, it was always in relation to not being like him. I mean, the man went to see Jesus under the cover darkness. He was embarrassed to be seen with Jesus. Or was he?

Let's look at a few things about Nicodemus to see if we really want to be saying such negative things about him.

Nicodemus was a ruler of the Jews and a member of the Pharisees. He was a busy man and an important teacher. With that in mind, here are a few reasons that Nicodemus might have chosen to go at night.

  • Jesus and Nicodemus were important individuals. Every where they went, both men would have been surrounded by large crowds of people. There would have been little time to talk during the day. Waiting until night would have afforded both of them an opportunity to sit and talk without interruption.
  • Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin and a Pharisee. It is possible that Nicodemus believed that being seen with Jesus would have been taken as a sign that the Sanhedrin approved of Jesus. At this point, there was no real way of telling which way to go with Jesus. Nicodemus may not have wanted to lead others astray had Jesus turned out to be something untoward.
  • Nicodemus was concerned about what others would think of him. This is the reason that most Bible teachers and youth pastors focus on. We look at the night fall and say that Nicodemus was ashamed of Christ. This may have been the case, but we aren't sure.

I think the most important thing for us to take away from this discussion is not when Nicodemus went to see Jesus, but that he went to see Jesus. There was obviously something about Jesus that made Nicodemus curious, something that he simply could not ignore. Nicodemus chose to go see Jesus. None of his friends went with him. And Nicodemus left a changed man, changed enough that he stood up for Jesus in front of those very friends he was worried about earlier. Changed enough to take care of Jesus' torn and bloodied body after the crucifixion. Nicodemus was changed.

So, let me ask again, why do we hate on Nicodemus so much?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Sad Reality of Abortion

I know the other day I wrote that I was going to focus on all things youth ministry and attempt to keep that focus for this blog. However, as I am typing this, I am looking at my beautiful wife and my newborn son sleeping on the couch. I can't imagine a more beautiful picture and I am overwhelmed by the blessing that God has given me.

At the same time, I just read a blog post about a woman in China who was abducted and forced to abort her second child because she was in violation of the one-child policy and could not afford to pay the penalty. While I am not writing this to debate the morality of that policy, my heart is breaking for that family and for those who believe that abortion is a "reproductive right" and who will angrily argue for a woman's right to choose to terminate a pregnancy.

Please take a moment to visit the link below. I must warn you that the pictures are incredibly graphic and sad. You will see the devastating aftermath of abortion, forced or otherwise. The aborted baby's body was thrown on the bed next to the woman. With the exception of the fact that she is dead, the baby in the picture is no different than my son.

This is the reality of abortion, a very sad reality. A dead child and a heartbroken mother.

Here is the link. You may also want to visit here.

My Top Five iPad/iPod Touch Apps For Youth Ministry

One of the most important tools that a youth pastor can have is an iPod Touch or iPad. I have been blessed to have both. I purchased the iPod about a year or so ago, when the headphone jack on the first one went out. Additionally, the school I teach at has given a few of the teachers iPads to use in the classroom.

One of the things that youth pastors like to write about are their favorite apps. One time I wrote about my favorite apps for the Kindle Fire, but here is a list of the most used iPod/iPad apps in my ministry.

Evernote is probably the most important tool you will use in youth ministry, other than your Bible. Evernote is a storage system that you can access from nearly everywhere. I use to store my sermon notes, meetings notes, and blog posts that I see that I want to go back to in the future. I can type the notes on my laptop, save them to Evernote, and then access them on my iPad. The only downside is that you have to be connected to the internet to readily access your files, but this is easily solved by downloading your files before you get to an area where you may not have service.

I think Facebook should be pretty self-explanatory. I have heard that there are more individuals on Facebook than live in a lot of countries. That means your students are probably on Facebook. If you want to keep up with what is going on in their lives, Facebook will tell you. You can also use Facebook to send out events and announcements. This is a great app to have.

   Students love to see pictures of themselves, especially when they know that it will be posted on Facebook. Instagram is an incredible camera app that works with the camera installed in your iPod Touch or iPad. After taking the picture, you have the option of choosing various filters, applying a caption, and sending it directly to your Facebook account.

The Hootsuite app is essential if you are trying to update and maintain a personal Facebook page, a youth group Facebook page, and a Twitter account. Hootsuite allows you to link a number of accounts to it and you can update as many as you would like in just a few simple steps. Right now, I am able to update two Twitter accounts (@wannabepreacher and @ctbcjonathan) and both of my Facebook pages with one app. It saves me a lot of time.

I don't see this app mentioned often, but it is a great tool, especially when you need to learn a lot of new names and faces. While I have not figured out all of its functions, I do know that Evernote Hello allows the user to take a picture of an individual, attach a name, and write the location. My plan is to use it more extensively when our youth group has a number of guests coming in. I had a pastor who took pictures of individuals with a Polaroid camera, so he could learn the names and faces. This is the updated version.

There you go, my five favorite iPad/iPod Touch apps. I use most of these apps almost everyday and I believe that they have had a huge benefit on my ministry.

What apps do you use in your ministry?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Getting Focused on What's Important - Where I'm Going With this Blog

I started writing this blog almost a year ago. The idea was to chronicle and record the events that took place as I was pursuing God's call on my life to ministry. A lot has happened in the past year. I finished seminary. I was offered a position at Charles Town Baptist Church as the Associate Pastor for Youth and Children. My wife recently gave birth to our fourth child. It's been a really busy year.

While I had intended to write about my journey in pursuing ministry, I also managed to get off track. There was a time where this blog was a humor blog. I wrote about current events in the world of Evangelicalism. I wrote about my children. I wrote about music. Occasionally, I wrote about my pursuit of ministry. The blog was all over the place. I never really found my place or my voice.

With that being said, I am going to refocus the blog. I am going to make it primarily a blog about youth and children's ministry. My desire is to write about ideas related to ministering to students and to children, providing encouragement, resources, and training to other ministers who are pursuing God's calling as well.

I will still write about my children and my family, from time to time. God has blessed me with an incredible wife and four of the most amazing boys since Jacob's (I just hope they turn out better than those fools). My children do some amazing things and I believe that God is teaching me about ministry through them.

You can expect to find book reviews related to youth ministry. You can expect to find event ideas and reviews of resources. I promise that I will make a visit to my blog well-worth your time. If you feel that I am not upholding this promise, please contact me at or on Twitter at @CTBCJonathan or @wannabepreacher. Of course, positive comments are always welcome as well.

Thank you and I look forward to serving God with you in the future.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Guest Post: A labor of love: Parents develop Sunday school class for autistic son

I am "borrowing" this guest post from Benjer McVeigh. The topic is near to my heart because my church, Charles Town Baptist Church has developed something similar as a means of ministering to both students with special needs and to their parents.

If you would like more information about this ministry, please contact the church office at 304-725-5917.

This is a very important topic to make sure we have a handle on. I remember once my wife, Jennifer was a seminar leader for a day-long children's ministry training for our denomination. Her's was the last seminar of the day, and it was the only one she was teaching. A group of people from a church were collecting their things before the seminar was to begin, and she asked if they were leaving. Not realizing she was the one leading the last seminar, they told her, "Well, we don't have any special needs kids at our church, so this seminar doesn't apply to us."

I realize that not every church can perfectly meet every need of every person. However, I imagine that there's a reason that their church did not have any special needs kids; for parents of special needs kids who are looking for a church who will help them spiritually care for their children, it's very clear when a church does not have any interest in accommodating children or teenagers with special needs.

No matter what our church's size, budget, or resources are, there are things we can do to love those with special needs. Because many developmental disabilities cause a child or teenager to behave socially outside the spectrum of what we normally experience in our Sunday schools, small groups, or youth group meetings, children and teenagers with special needs are unfortunately treated--intentionally or unintentionally--as outcasts in some sense. Again, we can't meet every single need or spend the resources to hire a person devoted entirely to ministering to people with special needs. But there's always something we can do to partner with parents who have kids with special needs.

The article:

For the moment, there is only one Sunday school pupil in Room 120 at State Street Baptist Church, in Columbia, S.C., a 19-year-old young man who loves puzzles and songs and has painstakingly memorized the books of the Bible.

John Stack's autism and halted mental development set him apart. But his parents, Tim and Ann Stack, don't believe that should limit their son's access to Sunday school and the spiritual lessons that have been so important to him through his life.

The Stacks have developed a class for teenagers and young adults like John, people with special needs who require routine and repetition but who have "aged out" of traditional Sunday school classes.

They hope that soon John will have other classmates join him in Bible study.

"We had been thinking about this for several years," Ann Stack said. "He really towered over the other children, because they were third- and fourth-graders. Mentally he fit, but physically he didn't."

John Stack always had enjoyed Sunday school and church. For years, a church volunteer, Kathy Collins, served as his "shadow," attending classes with him and helping him follow the Bible lessons and craft instructions.

But the Stacks knew that John no longer belonged at the little tables.

"We just felt that it was time for him to move on and there wasn't another place for him to go," his mother, a retired school teacher, said. "We wanted him to continue to grow spiritually and in the church, and we just didn't see that that would happen there."

Benjer McVeigh is the youth pastor that currently serves as the pastor to students in grades 9-12 and their families at Washington Heights Church in Ogden, Utah. His blog can be found at

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

CTBC Youth Bible Study - Ephesians 6:12

I had the opportunity to teach the youth group of Charles Town Baptist Church. I've been listening to Greg Stier and modified one of the lessons that he was teaching as the basis for the lesson. The text began in Ephesians 6:12 and we looked at a number of the strongholds that keep individuals from coming to church or from becoming Christians. The audio (there is no video...yet) is below.

You can also download the handout from the lesson by clicking here: "What Are We Fighting Against?" (Just click the box to open the PDF file to print.)

You can download the mp3 here.

Why Your Students Should Emulate Tim Tebow When It Comes to Sex

Yesterday, I wrote about the scorn that Tim Tebow and Lolo Jones are experiencing because of their public decision to abstain from sex until they are married. As is quite evident, our culture is extremely sexualized. There are shows and movies that are devoted to nothing more than people having sex. Pornography has become increasingly prevalent, even commonplace. These things are no longer considered shameful. Our society has made sex the barometer for how a relationship is faring.

With that in mind, how do we, as youth ministers and parents, show our students that sex is worth waiting for? Here are some ideas:

  • Teach your students the truth about sex. Too often, sex is portrayed as being Shangri La, this wonderful, marvelous, can't-live-without experience and your life will not be complete until you've had sex. In reality, this is often far from the truth. Without going into too many details, sex is often not like what is portrayed on television or in movies. Students also need to know that life will go on even if they haven't had sex yet.
  • Don't scare your students about sex. When I was growing up, there was an entire cottage industry devoted to scaring students into not having sex. We were given tons of facts about pregnancy, STDs, and sexual assault. It was the equivalent of the Scared Straight program. However, as we all know, teenagers often believe that they are bulletproof. We don't need to scare our students with the scary details of premarital sex. We need to be open and honest about the realities of sexual behavior outside of marriage.
  • Teach your students what the Bible says about sex. Christians have a bad reputation for being anti-sex. People outside the church think that Christians hate sex. This couldn't be farther from the truth. We need to teach our students that sex is enjoyable, but that there is a very serious reason to wait. It has nothing to do with the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy, an incurable disease, or a lifetime of regrets. No, the real reason for abstaining from sexual activity before marriage is found in 1 Corinthians 6:15. Paul tells us that when we become believers, we are united with Jesus in His body. Our bodies are now His body. Paul goes on to say that when a person has a sexual relationship with someone, he becomes united with that person, essentially becoming "one flesh." We need to teach our students that when they have a sexual relationship with anyone other than their (future) spouse (after marriage), they are uniting Christ's body with that person.
  • Be there for your students. If a student makes a commitment to wait to have sex until marriage, there will be times of difficulty. There will be times where they are ridiculed, just as Tim Tebow is often ridiculed. There will be times where their hearts will break because a boyfriend breaks up a relationship because the girl will not have sex. As youth pastors (and parents) we need to be there to offer comfort and a listening ear.
  • Pray for your students. Spend time praying for your students to be strong in the face of temptation. It can be difficult for a student to say no, especially given all of the messages that are constantly bombarding them. Also pray for them as they deal with the inevitable heartache that will arise from their decision to wait until marriage.

Sex can be a wonderful thing. It is a gift that was given to married individuals for both pleasure and reproduction. Like any gift, though, it is for an appropriate audience, so to speak. We need to make sure that our students understand that God is not anti-sex, but that He has created it for a particular reason and we need to help them understand that reason. Doing so will go a long way to helping them wait for sex. Even when it is difficult.

What are you doing to help your students wait until marriage for sex?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I'm Tired of Hearing about Tim Tebow and Lolo Jones

Over the past few days, it seems like any time I turn on the sports station, I am hearing about Lolo Jones. For those of you who don't know, Jones is an Olympic hurdler who recently announced that she is saving her virginity until she gets married. This has been the cause of a great deal of ridicule. It would seem that no one on the radio can believe that an attractive young woman is capable of saving herself until she is married. If she is saving herself, then there must be something wrong with her.

Since she is a high-profile athlete who isn't sleeping with everyone who comes along and since she has made the public proclamation that she is not going to have sex until she is married, Lolo has been tied into Tim Tebow. Tebow is a quarterback for the New York Jets and an outspoken Christian. He has also made it clear that he is saving himself for marriage.

Frankly, I'm tired of hearing about it. Not because I don't appreciate the message that is being proclaimed and the fact that there are some heroes for young people to look up to. No, the thing that I am tired of hearing is all of the ridicule that is being heaped upon these two for their decision not to have sex. Enough already! It is sad that this is the world that we live in, a world where two people can choose not to have sex and they are considered freaks.

It breaks my heart, but it gives me the motivation to teach my boys and my students the way it should be.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Eight-Foot Ice Cream Sundae

One of the youth activities that I have done in the past and hope to do again in the future is the Eight-foot Ice Cream Sundae. With such an intriguing title, you are guaranteed to have a large number of students who want to participate.

To begin, you will need an eight foot piece of a rain gutter. Be sure to wash it out because even though there has never been any leaves or rain in it, there may be dirt and dust from the hardware store. Next, find a table big enough to support the rain gutter or you can use saw horses if you have them.

Begin to make your sundae by filling the length of the trough with scoops of ice cream. In the past, we chose to use Neapolitan ice cream (the vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry kind) because this gives all of the students a choice. After putting in the ice cream, we placed sliced bananas along the sides of the trough and covered the ice cream and bananas with whipped cream and chocolate syrup. The final step is to put on the cherries and the sprinkles. We stay away from peanuts because so many students have peanut allergies that they are best avoided.

When it comes time to eat, each student is given a spoon and told to find a place around the trough. We saved a spot at one end for those students who did not like the idea of the "community" bowl. This way there was a place to scoop ice cream out for the bowls. Otherwise, the students just dug in and helped themselves.

Like I said above, the idea of eating an eight-foot ice cream sundae can be a real draw for students. It is a great activity, lots of fun, and an easy way to have your regular students invite their friends to a ministry event.

What is the craziest food event you've done with your youth ministry?

Why I Decided to Quit Memorizing Scripture

Back in December, I made a list of goals for 2012. On that list was the goal to memorize the books of 1 John and James, as well as Romans 5-8. While I don't have the exact number of verses, that is about 300 verses, give or take. That's a lot of verses. Everything was going great...until recently.

I have been using a really great website called Memverse. Memverse allows you enter the verses that you want to memorize and brings them to you for review on a regular interval based on how you self-evaluate your performance. The higher you rate yourself, the longer the interval before you see the verse again. It is a great tool and one that I highly recommend.5:

The problem arose when I started to add too many verses to site. Instead of focusing on 1 John, James, and Romans, I was also attempting to memorize Ephesians 2, Isaiah 53, 1 Corinthians 13, Philippians, and a number of different chapters in Psalms. Needless to say, I was all over the place. I found myself dreading the daily review and it was consuming a large portion of my day.

While I don't think that I am through with memorizing Scripture, I have decided to take a break from Memverse and Scripture memory for the time being. I feel completely burned out and there is little joy in my study. I really think that I overwhelmed myself by thinking I could do it all. With the new ministry position, I have a lot that needs my attention and I can feel myself burning out.

Of course, there are still 6 months left in 2012, so I won't consider this goal a complete failure. It may just need some amending.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Yesterday Was a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Yesterday was a terrible day.

It started out fine, but quickly went awry. I shaved...but somehow managed to miss the right side of my face.

On the way to work, I stopped to get a cup of coffee and, upon exiting the store, noticed that my back tire was going flat. I had run over a nail or piece of metal. This is bad, but not nearly as bad as being told by everyone who was going in or coming out of the store that my tire was going flat. I drove to the gas station and discovered that a work van was parked in front of the air pump. After about five minutes, the owner of the van came out and told me that the pump didn't work.

I drove over to the gas station across the street and found that their air pump required 75 cents. Not having any money, I had to go inside and take money out of the ATM ($20 + $2.50 service fee). The gas station owner would not give change unless I bought something, so I bought a Cheerwine (delicious!). When I got outside, the air pump was also being used. However, the man using it was kind enough to let me use the remaining time from his 75 cents. I filled my tire and drove to work, praying that it would hold until I could get to a tire shop after school.

In the parking lot, I was nearly sideswiped (again) because the parents who drop off their students in the morning refuse to look to see if there is any oncoming traffic before they pull away from the curb.

I called a few places to see about getting my tire fixed, but was told that it would be several hours, even if it was just a simple tire patch.

End-of-year testing was stressful.

After a lot of pleading and maneuvering, I was able to get enough coverage for my students to allow me to leave school and head over to a tire shop in the middle of the day. I had to go in the middle of the day because I could not miss the staff meeting after school.

I ended up having to replace both back tires. I knew this was coming, but it always stings a bit when you have to pay $250 on something.

There was a lot of traffic coming home, but mostly because there were several police cars driving the same way I was going and everyone got concerned.

And, to end it all, the Check Engine light that I just had looked at came back on.

I have done a lot of complaining about my day. It was a terrible day. Fortunately, I serve a God that is bigger than my terrible day. He was there with me through the entire day, even when I was stressing and fretting. I was never out of His sight or His thoughts throughout all of it.

This song by the Supertones discusses this very thing.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Music Wednesday - This Changes Everything by Matt Papa

It used to be that I would post a music video here each week, usually a song that was speaking to me or had some particular relevance to my life. I'm changing it up a bit this week. I want to commend an entire album to you.

I forgot how I came to know about Matt Papa, but I am certainly glad that I did. His album This Changes Everything is one of the most incredible piece of art you will ever hear. The music is excellent, but it is the lyrics and subject matter that shakes me to my core every time I listen to it. I heard someone say one time that listening to a Casting Crowns song is like a trip to a spiritual woodshed. Matt Papa's music does that for me.

Please, do yourself a favor and get This Changes Everything. Listening to it prayerfully really will change everything.

Here is a taste just to get you started. And, you're welcome.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

FinishYear 2012 - Romans 5-6 in Tweets

One of my FinishYear 2012 projects is to memorize Romans 5-8. I recently completed a cursory memorization of Romans 5 and will soon be finished with Romans 6. I recently saw on Desiring God that they attempted to distill the message of Romans into 45 Tweets. While I would suggest that you read all of them, listed below are the tweets that were written for Romans 5 and 6.

Romans 5

  • Since we're justified by faith like Abraham was, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (#Romans 5:1-5).
  • God shows his love for us in that Jesus died for us, us sinners. Now enemies no more. Wrath no more. We are saved! (#Romans 5:6-11).
  • Jesus is the Last Adam, giving us the headship through which grace reigns. Eternal life, not death (#Romans 5:12-21).
Romans 6
  • We're done with sin. Now we're in Jesus, united to him in his death and resurrection, dead to sin and alive to God (#Romans 6:1-14).
  • The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (#Romans 6:15-23).