English: A Whirly Pop lollipop.

A couple of months ago, I took my family to the Indianapolis Zoo.  The animals were all out and entertaining to both my boys.  Jack, who is 3 years old, had one of the best times of his life!  Little did I know, Jack was going to give me a great example to understand the lure of sin than I had ever experienced.  Since we made the trip down from Alaska to Indiana, it was only right for us to visit the gift shop.  There were so many things that grabbed my attention, but Jack became fixated on a particular item: a HUGE lollipop!  “Daddy, can I get the sucker?” is something that I heard all over the gift shop.  Honestly, of all the items he could have picked I didn’t think this was even close to the best.  Yet, he wanted that lollipop in a bad kind of way.  Being the “Dad of the Year” that I am, I bought the lollipop for him with one condition: he had to wait until we got back to Grandma’s house to eat it.  He seemed to understand the agreement pretty well though I could tell it was killing him to wait.  He held onto that lollipop with a death-grip and even pretended to lick it as we drove back to Grandma’s house.  The 20 minute drive must have seen like an eternity to him because he just couldn’t wait to taste it.  A few times I heard him ask Karlene, “Mommy, can I eat it now?!”  We finally made it to Grandma’s house and Jack exploded with excitement.  When we got into the house, I couldn’t unwrap that lollipop fast enough.  Jack’s eyes grew bigger and bigger, as he clapped while jumping with excitement when I handed him the lollipop.  I stood up and struck my “Dad of the Year” pose as he took his first taste.  “YUCK!!” Jack yelled as he spit a piece of the lollipop out of his mouth.  “Oh, it can’t be that bad,” I said to him as I picked up the piece before it became a permanent fixture on my Mom’s kitchen floor.  After he tried it a second time he promptly handed it back to me and said, “I don’t want it!”  Then he ran away.  Naturally, I tasted it next just to make sure he wasn’t making it up.  He was right.  The $6 lollipop would have been better served as a desk ornament than something that you would put in your mouth.  I laughed as I tossed the beautifully colored, yet tasteless lollipop in the trash.

 

I bet you can relate to this.  Sin packages itself in such a beautiful wrapper, but inside it is full of disgusting and horrible taste.  If we are really honest, often we look at sin and it appeals to us, draws us in.  Then we take a bite and realize that our imagination got the best of us as we suffer the consequences of that sin.  Don’t believe me?  Just read about Adam and Eve in Genesis chapter  3 when they fell for the forbidden fruit that looked so appealing, yet cost them (and us) everything.  Maybe what we need is clearer vision.  Instead of looking at the appeal or tempting power of sin we should look at the benefit of following God’s commands.  Psalm 34:8 tells us, “Taste and see that the LORD is good…” (NIV).  I would guess the opposite of that would be, “Taste and see that sin is disgusting” implying NOT to taste sin due to its horrific consequences.  So, as Jack taught me, sin is like a lollipop…

 

Corcovado jesus

As a Christian, I love everyone. This doesn’t mean that I have to accept when others mock Jesus Christ with a hate message. I am ready to take a stand against a very vocal minority who are bullying their way into our society. In this article, an atheist group led by David Silverman has erected a billboard in Times Square depicting Jesus with the quote “Keep the Merry. Dump the Myth” The company that received funds and allowed the billboard was Lamar Outdoor. To quote their spokesperson, Hal Kilshaw, they “have not received any compaints over the Times Square billboard.” So, in their opinion it must be ok in our “open-minded” and tolerant society to mock Jesus Christ publicly. I challenge everyone to repost this and then to email Hal Kilshaw with your complaint of how you disapprove with the billboard. hkilshaw@lamar.com

Will you take the time and stand up for true & fair tolerance?

More importantly, will you let your voice be heard for Jesus?

I dare you to do this.

My name is Adam Meyers. I am a Christian, and I approve this message…

English: Shakespeare's Globe Theatre A beautif...

In college I had an incredible professor and mentor in Richard Major.  As I studied Theatre under his wing, he constantly reminded his students that, “You are only ever performing for an audience of One.”  Initially I did not know what he meant until he explained it.  Being on stage beckons the actor to try and impress or woo the audience members, and can quickly lead to selfish motives and accolades.  But Prof. Major reminded us that every time we stepped out onto the stage, the only audience member that matter was God.  He is our audience of One.  If seemed simple, yet profound all at the same time and has greatly impacted my life since being guided by Prof. Major.  Here’s how I have applied that principle to my life today:

Pleasing God, Not Man

Galatians 1:10 says, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (NIV, 1984)  It is easy as a youth minister to begin seeking the approval of “man.”  This can come in the form of pleasing students in the youth ministry, parents of students, or the leaders of the congregation.  As I have fallen into this trap before, it is important to review what we do as youth leaders and consider for WHOM we are really trying to please.  In reality, when we seek to please God in our ministry, the approval of others will follow…sometimes.  We should never compromise our 1st priority in ministry to meet the needs of mere man.

Striving for Excellence

“Performing” for God will help us keep in perspective how important our task is.  As an actor, it can be easy to fall in the trap of giving less effort during a performance when the audience doesn’t seem to be engaged.  With God as the primary focus though, we should seek for excellence in all that we do.  Why would we try and give God a half-hearted effort?  By focusing on an audience of One, we keep in perspective the importance of what we do for Him.  As noted before, your attitude in excellence for God will reflect of what others see in your efforts.  Truly it is a win-win situation.

Others will Let You Down

God has a way of always being there and being consistent, humans have a way of being fickle.  If your first goal in ministry is to please others instead of God, then be ready for the roller-coaster of disappointment.  At times, people will throw you on their shoulders and give you high fives.  At some point though they will let you down when their support wanes.  You can’t please everyone all the time…it is impossible.  With God as your focus in ministry, you will ride out the the waves of approval/disapproval as God sustains you through them.

Take an honest evaluation of your ministry/life and see who you are trying to win the approval of…is it God…or is it man.  At times, I have tried seeking only the approval of man and MAN did it hurt!

English: The Back Judge picks up a penalty fla...

Where has youth ministry gone wrong in the past?  Better phrased, where have I gone wrong in youth ministry in the past?  One of the most obvious answers is this: as youth ministers we are NOT the parents.  I can never take the place of any parent of the youth who are in youth group, nor should I want to.  Still, there are times in ministry where we must be cautious as to not overstep our boundaries.  Here’s three ways in which we can do this:

Know the parents of your youth

Yes, I am guilty of being lazy when it comes to personally knowing the parents of the youth in youth group.  This is a mistake I have made in the past that I continue to try and improve on.  By knowing the parents, personally, we can know their parenting style and their boundaries for their children.  We are not always going to like the parenting style or boundaries, but it is important to uphold them as long as they are not bringing physical or emotional harm to the youth.  It also works to your advantage when you are dealing with a youth an any situation when you know the background and environment they are coming from.

Engage the parents of your youth

It is one thing to know the parents of the youth, and it is another thing altogether to engage those parents.  This can work in so many different ways that will help enhance your ministry to youth.  Purposefully seek out parents of your youth in the hallways between services (without the youth there) and compliment their child.  There’s nothing better than getting praise about your son or daughter!  If you know of a situation in a youth’s life, don’t hoard that information, but share it appropriately with their parents.  They have more access and influence in the life of their children than we ever will.  So bring up that fact that Johnny’s heart has been broken and that it appears to be affecting him.  There’s a chance that Johnny’s parents are not entirely aware of the situation, and believe me, they want to be!  Also, include you parents in your ministry.  They don’t have to become your support staff (though that is great too), but they should know that the door is open for visits and there’s always extra help needed at events.  In essence, you begin equipping parents to do more ministry in their home as you expose them to it in youth group.

Support the parents in their role

One time a youth came to me after youth group and asked if they could spend the night at their friends house that night, which was a school night.  I told her that it was her parents decision to make.  She continued that her parents decided that I could make the decision for them, so of course I said….YES!  Her mother met me in the hall and was shocked by my decision.  I asked if she left the decision to me and she said that she had, BUT she was sure I would say no.  In other words, the mother wanted me to be the bad guy.  Parents need to parent, and we need to support them in that role.  Never should we allow exceptions to rules/expectations that parents have set in place for their children.  If texting isn’t allowed in the home, then we shouldn’t turn a blind eye in youth group.  If video games are not allowed by parents, then that youth shouldn’t be invited to the “gaming” all-nighter.  NEVER pit a parent against their child as the bad guy.  So how does this relate to my earlier example?  The parent entitled me to the option to make the decision.  Had I known for a fact that she didn’t want her child to spend the night, I would never have recommended it.  So, I was encouraging, through my decision, the parent to be the parent.

We won’t always get it right in youth ministry, but we should never intentionally get it wrong.  I wouldn’t want any other person taking my place as father to my two sons, and I respect that same thought for every parent who has a youth in the ministry here.

English: Indianapolis skyline on the night of ...

English: Indianapolis skyline on the night of 10/03/2010–taken from the top floor of the Methodist Hospital south parking garage. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I write this post today with enthusiasm, with accomplishment, and with urgency.  Today marks the seventh year that I have served as the full-time youth minister at Kenai Christian Church.  I am not pointing this out to brag, but I am referencing it because I want to continue to serve in full-time youth ministry and encourage others to do the same.  So, if you are in ministry either as a paid or volunteer leader then here are three areas that have helped sustain me so far.

God First – God Last

In everything that I do in youth ministry, I start and end with God.  This includes everything from choosing curriculum to planning an all nigh lock-in.  No, I don’t sit in the corner meditating until God appears in cloud to hand me my list of activities, but I do pray about those decisions.  As youth leaders we need to point the youth in the direction of God, so why cut God out of the decision making?  Often through prayer and study I have had fresh ideas on what to do in the ministry.  Also, I never try to “back-door” my plan in hopes of not getting caught for doing something stupid.  You can never go wrong consulting God with all your plans in youth ministry.

Network, Network, Network

Have you ever felt alone in youth ministry?  I have.  That is why I was excited to discover of the culture of networking in youth ministry.  This is possible through national networks such as NNYM and Youth Specialties Network and local networks like the one that I am currently Overseer of, KPYWN.  When you engage in a network of of youth workers, you will find people who understand your triumphs and struggles, your joys and your pains.  Our local network is great for worshipping God together, fellowshipping with on another, and most of all praying for each other.  There is strength in numbers, so don’t go it alone.

Get Training

In February of 2011 I attended the Simply Youth Ministry Conference in Chicago.  Before I left, I told my wife that when I got home I was either going to leave youth ministry for good or continue to press on.  I obviously decided to press on.  The conference was so amazing as 3,000 youth workers from across the globe came together to worship God, to fellowship, and to train together.  The combination of main sessions, encouragement, and classes that were offered helped remind me to stay true to my calling.  After all, not many of  us chose youth ministry as much as youth ministry chose us.  I am excited to go back to SYMC in February of 2013 in my hometown of Indianapolis, IN.  This is a tool that I recommend all youth workers tap into as I promise it will produce results in your life.  Fyi, I am not receiving any compensation for this plug, but use it to help others know of a great resource.  If you can, put it on your calendar to attend now!

How about YOU?!

I would love to help you in any way that I can to stay true to your calling in ministry.  Please let me know how I can help.  I would love to pray for you, or give you some advice that I might have based on my experience so far in youth ministry.  It is my desire to continue on in this field till God calls me home!  I hope you will do the same.

No time to be busy

Posted: October 25, 2012 in Hard lessons
Tags: , , , , ,

ImageThe hardest lesson I have learned in youth ministry so far has been to stop being busy.  If you look at my desk you would see a pile of “paper responsibilities.”  Yes, they are important, but not as important as the lives that I encounter everyday.  One day I was too busy, and I paid dearly for it.  It was a hard lesson that I will never forget.

Her name was Judy.  She was a young girl full of energy and love.  Some of her peers treated her differently because she was loud and unique.  My wife was her teacher in the 6th grade, and she came to youth group occasionally.  Whenever she saw me, Judy would run up and bear-hug me (not allowing time for the awkward sideways hug).  Her smile was bright and her voice echoed down the hallways of her school when she shouted, “Mr. Meyers!!”  If she spotted me anywhere; the school, the grocery store, in youth group, etc. the greeting was the same.  She never was too busy to drop what she was doing to make me feel important.  If only I would have learned from her earlier…

One day I was visiting her school to mentor three young men.  I was in a rush because, well, I was too busy.  I had a retreat to lead that weekend which came with more responsibilities than normal, and I just had to get back to the office quickly.  As I was exiting the school building I saw Judy standing in the cafeteria at the microwave heating up her lunch.  She didn’t notice me, if she had she would have screamed my name and run 100 miles an hour to give me her usual bear-hug.  In that split second I made a decision that I regret to this day…I turned my head and walked out the door thinking, “I’ll say hi to her on Sunday.”  For Judy, Sunday never came.

The retreat was AMAZING!  Lives were changed for the Lord, fellowship was great, and the youth reconnected with God in ways that only a retreat can accomplish.  In my mind, all the busy-ness had paid off!  We headed back to the church building following services on Sunday.  I walked in with my head held high as the weekend was such a success.  When I saw my wife, I knew something was terribly wrong.  As I approached her she told me the terrible news: Judy, along with her siblings and mother died in a fire over the weekend.  I felt like I got punched right in the gut.  The whole weekend didn’t matter to me anymore…what mattered was acknowledging how selfish I had become.

I was too busy.  I thought that I had time “tomorrow” to show Judy the love she had always shown me, and I was just too busy.  I’m not sure if I have ever cried harder in my life, but I realized I needed to change my priorities in ministry.  It is still a hard pill to swallow, yet through it I have learned a valuable lesson: as youth ministers we truly have “no time to be busy.”

Luke 18:15-17