This week we have students and kids serving both stateside and international. This is so cool to see 3rd graders all the way up through graduated seniors taking the love of Jesus to many around the world, it’s one of my favorite seasons of the year. I’ll be going to Haiti, leaving here in a few hours. A really neat last minute surprise, my dad will be going on the trip with me! Stay updated on all our trips by following our picture blog HERE!
Driving up and down the highways of my city over the past two months I have been amazed at how many billboards look the same. The white, black and blue palates of color make up different questions, statements and a website link. Rumor has it, that this is the biggest billboard campaign the city of Austin, Texas has ever seen. With 1,834,303 people, the city of Austin and its surrounding suburbs, I believe God and His Church are on the brink of something BIG, making history for His Kingdom!
Explore God was an idea, a thought, a dream that became reality. Check this out, over 330 churches in the city are doing the same series, exploring the same questions, at the same time! “Explore God” Today marks the launch for 6 weeks worth of what can be life altering or discovering faith kinds of questions for those that might be far from God. The goal is that 100,000 spiritual conversations would evolve as a result of this series and church partnership to engage the city.
Each church has trained discussion facilitators to host small group discussion in their home, work place, or even a local pub. The point is not to convert or even argue about God, but to merely allow a safe place for questions and discussion.
My leaders and students are joining the movement. We kicked it off this morning with 160 middle school students, I’m excited to see what happens tonight with our high school students.
Would you take a moment to pray for the city of Austin? Pray those that are leading this movement but also those that might be intrigued by a billboard or conversation, that they would seek out the website and perhaps a church in their neighborhood.
Today’s Question: Does life have a purpose? Here was a quick intro video.
Many more questions, videos and materials for your church can be found on their website. www.exploreGod.com
This is in response to a former article I wrote on DIY Student Ministry. This is the ninth of ten areas that I’m covering in this series.
Nothing says, “I want to be in your world” more than a visit to the student’s school. Whether it be for lunch in the cafeteria or sitting in the student section at a football game – when you approach the school you approach where they do most of their life. Now before I get into this, we must make an observation…some schools are open and some are closed, meaning some schools will let you and your volunteers into the building for lunch with your students while others will not. There are some loopholes. Some campuses would like to make you think they are closed…start asking questions of where they need help or how you can meet with an individual student. The administration may start by asking you to fill out a volunteer application or have a written letter on file from the parent of the student you are meeting with.
When you get into a student’s world at school, you will better understand the crowd you are trying to reach on a weekly basis. If you lose touch of this, you diminish your effectiveness as a student pastor. You might as well be teaching an empty hallway.
When I was in Chicago the campuses were closed but I was able to apply for a mentor program that allowed me to get on campus and meet with students that needed help thinking through the process of going to college. This allowed me to see some of my students but also meet students I didn’t already know.
Here in Austin it’s a little bit of both, it’s actually not even consistent within each school district. I had a regular habit of visiting the closest school this semester until things got ridiculously busy. One thing I quickly discovered was that my HS group of 60 students represented 16 different high schools in the Austin area. Knowing that I barely had the time to visit one school, I knew that do-it-yourself student ministry would not have the impact that these students and schools needed from the church. I currently have one HS volunteer visiting (going through the application process) the school I was visiting and one MS volunteer visiting a MS just down the road. Slowly but surely I hope to get more of my leaders and volunteers to help build the bridge between the church and school.
Here are some ways to get started:
- Do a prayer walk. Pick a Saturday morning, invite your volunteers and walk the campus asking God to open doors (literally) for you and your team.
- Just do it! Try to meet with one of your students with lunch. Make sure to check-in with the office.
- Schedule a meeting with the principal, let him/her know that you and your volunteers are available for anything that they may need help with.
- Go to the games. Students love to be supported, make a sign, paint your face, make it memorable!
- Send a gift basket their way with a card in it on teacher appreciation day.
- Offer to plant flowers or do landscaping to make the campus a more enjoyable place, see if the garden center in your town would donate flowers and plants to this.
- Recruit specific volunteers to be the liaison for a specific campuses. Get this team together in the late summer to strategize and set goals for the school year. Talk about what success looks like.
How have you made a presence on your school campus? What is your success story of partnering with a local school?
This is in response to a former article I wrote on DIY Student Ministry. This is the ninth of ten areas that I’m covering in this series.
Now your speaking my language…hot pancakes. I’m not really a sucker for pancakes, but free hot food? Heck ya! Yesterday the student ministry at Gateway went through dozens of pancakes, probably a few hundred. Why? A touchdown had literally just been handed to us and I wanted to go for 2 rather than settle for a field goal. Let me explain. Gateway has done a phenomenal job of making me and my wife feel welcome to the church. This weekend we were introduced to 300+ volunteers and leaders at a conference and then again in all Sunday morning services yesterday, TOUCHDOWN! While we could have simply just expressed our gratitude we took this opportunity to welcome others!
“Come and eat pancakes with us after the service!”
We invited parents to meet us after service while also putting the ask out to anyone who may have the interest in serving students. What did we get in return? We have 22 brand new contacts that have expressed interest in serving students!
What did it take to make this happen?
- Approval from my supervisor and church leadership – don’t burn bridges, or pancakes for that matter!!!
- Prayer. I have been praying about this eagerly and with anticipation since it was a reality.
- Leaders/Volunteers giving some extra time, committing to more than one service – helping flip pancakes and talk with potential volunteers.
- 10 boxes of pancake mix ($1.34 a box), 3 bottles of syrup ($1.84 a bottle), a tub of butter (my buddy Jon found it in the fridge), two electric griddles from Wal-Mart (purchased them for our mission trip, they make a mean grilled cheese!)
- A clear invite – Are you a parent? Do you have an interest in serving in student ministry? Come have pancakes with us, we would love to meet you! Keep it simple.
- A contact sheet – collect contact information. Just because they grab a volunteer application doesn’t ensure they will be back.
- Volunteer/Leader Application.
The BIG idea: Do something out of the ordinary that involves free food and an opportunity to show others how they can get involved in your ministry!
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I knew that I was in for a busy first two weeks in Texas. Unpacking and planning out a mission trip lends to very long days along with meeting tons of new leaders and students. So, yes, I knew it would be this way going in, what did I do to prepare? I took the road to Bandera!
Before coming to Texas I coaxed my buddy Caleb in Chicago to join me for the Uhaul move and then join me for a motorcycle tour of central Texas. We both did a lot of riding together in Chicago and he had never been to Texas before. A good motorcycle ride is so refreshing and relaxing. I had a two day 500 mile loop planned out…unfortunately it was pouring rain the first day and we couldn’t get the bikes. So the second day we set out to conquer as much as we could…we ended up doing almost 400 miles in 24 hours.
We set out from Cowboy Harley of Austin each with a Harley and headed to San Antonio. We stopped in Gruene, TX for a coke and checked out the old dance hall. Our next stop was the Alamo, we did a quick tour and then had lunch on the riverwalk. We then proceed northwest out of San Antonio and took the road to Bandera. Our destination for the night was Garner State Park.
Bandera itself, claimed cowboy capital of the world is a pretty cool place to stop for BBQ or a quick fill up at the gas station, which I would highly recommend before entering the gauntlet to Garner. The road to and from Bandera itself is what I would consider a true beauty, I can’t wait to make the same time in the spring when all the wildflowers are in bloom.
Garner State Park is a gem and I can’t believe after all the years I have spent in Texas I had never been there until now. Located on the banks of the Frio River and underneath a picturesque canyon wall it makes a beautiful place to make camp after a long ride…I would recommend spring/winter/fall, the tent was a little warm in the middle of summer, but a morning swim in the Frio quickly made up for it! Out of Bandera take 16 to 470 to 187 to 1050 – this will take you right to the park. While this was beautiful ride I hear that the best riding in the Hill Country is called the three sisters…three separate highways just a little bit farther west from the park. You can read more about them at this link… http://www.hillcountrycruising.com/
The next morning it was a mad dash for Fredericksburg, Johnson City and back to Austin. While we didn’t get to ride the entire loop I planned out I think we saw as much of the hill country as possible and I think Caleb was pleased. I’m excited to make this ride again, while in the trenches of ministry now it was a good trip to make getting my tank refueled for the busy weeks ahead.
These are the city lights of Chicago…you can see a sprawling metropolis that goes on for miles. As my plane was doing a loop waiting for landing space at O’hare I was able to take in the city, pick out the skyline, particular buildings that were familiar to me and even cars on Lakeshore Dr. This plane ride was very different than many before. I have made this flight at least 20 times since going to school at Moody Bible Institute and then living in Wheaton, IL. This flight was different knowing that it would be one of my last times for a while flying into Chicago, Austin will be our new place of residency. My stomach was in knots knowing that I am leaving a youth ministry I love, people I have relationships with over 6 years now, and just the thought of boxing up our life and moving south some 1,000 miles was becoming more and more of a reality. Though I am incredibly excited about this transition and the team I will be doing life with in Texas, it’s still something hard to swallow. As I sat in my seat gazing out the window over Chicago city lights, I simply prayed, “God, give me peace…reveal yourself to me.” I’m not exaggerating when I say, not even a second later I followed out a well lit highway to see this sitting right below me….
I know it’s hard to make out but this is Wheaton Bible Church….just below the really bright light (that’s a new ballpark the city just put in). Out of all the lights that make up Chicago, God allowed my eyes to see this tiny spec on the map. Though a tiny spec on the map, Wheaton Bible Church along with Gateway Church in Austin are only two of thousands upon millions of shimmering lights that make up the celestial lights in the city of God! God brought abundant peace to my soul and amazing understanding to see how He works through his church body among the nations to build up His eternal kingdom. I cannot wait to get the bird’s eye view from heaven one day to see how the global church of history past has partnered together in building up the kingdom of God…one light at a time.
Paul’s words come to mind when he is encouraging the church at Philippi …
Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the Word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.
It has become more apparent to me than ever before due to my time of transition, we all have our separate church buildings, neighborhoods, and communities that we would consider our “church” home, but let us not forget the kingdom that we all share in building together. We are all batting for the same team. Hopefully one day you can share in the bird’s eye view, today you can only live intentionally in light of that day.
We’re moving to Texas! The word is out officially among both our current and future church homes…the transition days are very bittersweet, it continues to be an emotional rollercoaster. We are sad to move away from Wheaton Bible Church, our friends in the Chicagoland area, and the many memories and ministry experiences that God has created here over the past 6 years. While it is hard to say goodbyes, we are thoroughly excited and welcome the opportunity at Gateway Church in Austin, Texas! I have accepted the position of Student Pastor overseeing the middle school and high school ministry.
After a long interview process, much prayer, seeking wisdom from mentors, family and friends we are confident that God indeed has blessed mine and Calla’s calling to Austin. We are both looking forward to see how God will use us in this next chapter of life together.
Your prayers are appreciated during our transition in the weeks ahead!