Friday, May 22, 2015

5 Inspired Lessons for 21st Century Youth Pastors

We live in a time when the church is radically changing, a reality no more evident than among today’s youth.
With social climates changing faster than ever, it’s, no doubt, becoming harder for youth pastors to keep pace with modern issues affecting the emerging generation.
Yet, while the challenge may seem intimidating, truth is: when we seek to better understand the times and how God uses them to guide us, we can discover powerful truths and applications.
Thus, in the spirit of stirred insight, here are five inspired lessons for the 21st century youth pastor…
1) Understand the boundaries of social media
It’s no secret 21st century youth live and die by social media. In fact, many of your youth probably define their identity with how many Facebook likes, selfie comments, and Instagram followers they have.
102112907-181215447.530x298As a youth pastor in my 20’s, I get how recent technology has transformed the communicational landscape for better and for worse.
But while using multiple social media outlets to reach a wider audience can be helpful, I’ve also realized how important it is to set boundaries by asking the question: “How can I encourage people in a way that points them to God’s love as opposed to online fulfillment?”  
Whatever approach you use, the important thing is to a) manage your time wisely so you can minister effectively and b) be consistent in encouraging youth through social media and face-to-face interaction.
2) Don't take peoples’ prolonged absences personally 
If you’ve been in ministry long enough, chances are you’ve noticed some families “peacing out” for extended periods of time without any communication. When this happens, normally my first instinct is to wonder what went wrong; however, I’ve found it’s critical to not take absences personally. For one thing, just because you’re a minister doesn’t mean you're entitled to know every intimate detail of a person’s life.
Furthermore, commitment can’t always be measured in attendance. The reality is life gets crazy and for some people a brief breather from church can benefit them depending on the circumstances.
As pastors in these situations, it’s always best to not take offense, reach out as best you can (with no hidden agenda), and put the control in God's hands. 'Cause believe me...if someone smells the lasso, they’ll run the other way.
3) Integrate youth leaders into communication
One of the most exhausting tasks of any youth pastor is getting every youth on the same page concerning the “what & when”.
But again, when we ask the question, “How can I reach more people with the love of Christ”, we discover how empowering youth to reach out to their peers can actually improve communication.
In my youth group, peer leaders are given contact lists and make weekly calls, while I focus on communicating with parents. In this way, the responsibility is shared and youth learn to not only be disciples, but disciple-makers.
4) Don’t stress about relationships
iStock_000019810928XSmallIt’s inevitable. At some point, boy meets girl, boy asks girl out…and before you know it…bam! You have a dating relationship on your hands, along with endless gossip fodder. Now, I confess: I still have a lot to learn about teaching biblical relationships, but I also know relationships will happen. As a youth pastor, my role is not to parent but to partner with parents and hold my youth accountable to the standards of their home. Not only will this establish trust between pastor and parent, but it will empower the parent to love as Jesus loves and the youth to love what Jesus loves. Not to mention the door will be opened for healthy dialogue to take place regularly.
5) It's not about quantity, but quality
Today, people often measure success in terms of size. “How big is your youth group” is the question I’m most frequently asked. Honestly, this drives me crazy. Why? Because it’s not about quantity as much as it’s about quality! Remember the purpose of church is community1, not filling a seat with a body or building a mailing list. If you ask me, I’d rather have ten passionate youth who understand the Spirit-led life, versus fifty youth looking to be entertained on their weekly pit stop. ‘Cause bottom line: pastoring youth is all about cultivating a Gospel-driven culture, not an agenda-driven ministry2.
1) Specifically, community extending the territory of God’s presence
2) Cultivating a place where God’s presence can be known (i.e. demonstrating heaven on earth) is our purpose. Thus, it doesn’t make sense to elevate any pursuit above serving the body in a way the Kingdom is expressed.
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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Flash Weather: April 25, 2015 Stormchase Recap

Chase #: 1
Date: Saturday, April 25
Locations: West Point, Leitchfield & Brownsville, Kentucky

SetupAn area of low pressure approached the Ohio Valley from the northwest on April 25th.  Ahead of it, a strong warm front sharpened across southern Indiana and central Kentucky.  South of the front, sunshine broke out and helped temperatures surge into the 80s, while north of the front temperatures were only in the 50s. At one point, there was a 40 degree temperature difference across the state of Kentucky from north to south!  This strong front helped to focus severe thunderstorm development in the late afternoon and evening hours.  Many of the storms that formed were rotating single storms, known as supercells, which dropped VERY large hail in some locations.

Story: To start our chase, Lyssah & I targeted Elizabethtown, Kentucky, smack-dab in the middle of the greatest tornado threat zone.

Riding along a northbound warm front, we noted dewpoints increasing with temps holding steady around 80° as we crossed the stateline. With winds howling out of the south/southwest and adequate shear aloft, no doubt, conditions were ripe for explosive development; however, as we entered Elizabethtown at 3:45 PM
CDT, the radar was still painfully quiet, thanks in part to a stubborn capping inversion. Despite the cap, we knew once it eroded, severe supercells would flair up all around us. Thus, we decided to chillax' at Elizabethtown until further notice.

After a brief breather at Elizabethtown, Lyssah & I noted some action developing to our northwest. In response, we headed up 31W to intercept. Minutes later, as if on cue, a Severe Thunderstorm Warning went up for Hardin County.

As the cell builded, I noticed high DBZ's forming at the cell's core, suggesting decent hail potential. In response, we positioned ourselves 5 miles north of the 60 turnoff near West Point.

The storm would eventually lay down some quarter-sized hail, granted many of them (like the ones in the picture) partially melted by time of picture's take.

As we carried on, we decided to head west on 60 towards an organized QLCS rather than chase individual cells increasing to our east. Now, I'll hindsight, I probably would have chosen an eastbound track if given a second chance, as this would have positioned us towards the greatest hail growth zone; however, at the time, I felt a westward chase would ensure we'd have a higher probability of encountering some type of severe weather.

  Photo by Cameron Fry (taken 7 miles north of McDaniels)

So we pressed west on 60, made a left onto 259 near Breckinridge, and turned our attention to an approaching squall line with potential embedded rotation; however, with the open road taking us into very rural territory, we decided to take shelter at one of the few non-residential establishments with covering...a small Baptist church between McDaniels and Leitchfield.

Interestingly, this would turn out to be a blessing in disguise (or bummer...depending on your perspective), as our fifteen minute reprieve would ultimately delay us from experiencing the worst of the storm (granted at the time, we weren't aware of this). For as the QLCS matured into the next stage of its life cycle, an impressive hooking signal began to show on radar. Yet, with the most intense action shifting to our south, we decided to relocate.

After passing through the cities of Leitchfield on route to Brownsville, it wasn't long before the National Weather Service in Louisville issued a Tornado Warning for Edmonson County. Unfortunately, the lack of a quality signal following the warning issuance delayed my radar app from loading between 7:27-7:32 PM. Ironically, my LTE would kick in as we exited Leitchfield, with a new radar update revealing a classic comma-shaped bowing echo (i.e. a derecho with a possible spin-up tornado along its northern flank).

At this point, I quickly realized we had stumbled into a near-jackpot situation (at storm chasing standards) we were right back in the thick of it!

However, as we continued our southward track, I realized the odds of catching a potential tornado were growing less and less, as intense rains and the dark of night slowed our speed...not to mention, if we hadn't stopped at the church, we would have likely been ahead of the bow echo by a couple minutes as opposed to behind it.

By the time we entered into the Tornado Warning
polygon, the storm had started to weaken...and as we passed the northern townships of Brownsville, we noted moderate wind damage to trees and street/business signs, most likely due to strong straight-line/downdraft winds trigged by the collapse of a tornado. (Note: After reviewing the NWS damage report issued on April 26, we realized how the damage region we saw on 259 lined up well with an appropriated tornado track, had the twister stayed on the ground longer).

With the bow-echo continuing its deterioration into 8:00 PM, Lyssah & I decided to head towards Bowling Green on route to Nashville, as stunning lightning displays flashed overhead... doubt, a fitting end to a memorable day of stormchasing.

Photo by Landon Hampton


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