I know some in the youth ministry world are against short term mission projects. They say things like the people don’t need your help, or if you don’t have a long term relationship nothing really changes. Going to some far off place is nice but you have needs in your community that should be served first. I have a different view on these types of trips.
About a week ago I spent 8 days with students, parents and 300 other kids I had never met before to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the community of Prince George, Virginia. This is my 12th week long mission trip as a leader. I did 4 as a high school student and one trip for 3 weeks in high school as well. I can say without a doubt I am a week long mission junkie. I love it and honestly the couple of summers I didn’t get to do it my whole year felt off somehow. You may be thinking how can one week of service really do that.
For the last 13 years I have gone on these trip through an organization called Group Mission trips. They are a fantastic organization to work with mostly because they do two things really well. First the work is all set up. They screen residents, plan the jobs we will be doing, and provide directions for all the projects. This is no small task. I have never in 13 years had an issues with work not needing to be done or trivial. We make a real difference in the lives of those people we come in contact with. Second they help my students and I get out of our comfort zone through breaking us up into crews of kids we have never met before. It is a brilliant system because if doesn’t just get you to meet other students. By taking you out of your comfort zone it helps students and adults to have confidence to get to know others in their own youth group. I cant say enough about the system and what they do.
Lastly Mission trips like this put everything into perspective for me as a follower of Jesus. You see when you get to know a resident for a week you get to know them and their life story if you are willing to listen. You often hear stories of brokenness, death, and sin. You meet people who have never had anyone to listen to them, people who have never heard anyone care for them for no other reason that this guy named Jesus. It is truly a powerful experience. These experiences help put life in perspective for me. It helps me walk back into my community and have empathy for my neighbor. They help me see all people as if they were Jesus.
So today as you walk around, take the time to hear your neighbor, hear the person who is next to you in line at the grocery story and care for them. Ask how you can help. Share about this Jesus guy who helps you get through this life.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Matthew 25:34-35 NIV
Over the 12 plus years I have been serving in ministry I have been amazed by many different peoples generosity. This Sunday was one I really needed. You see this past weekend I was sick. I mean dog tired sick. I have run my body ragged between a trip to Disney, VBS, Hosting a day camp and strategic planning. My body has literally been saying to me “Steve just STOP IT or else”. I was sick all weekend and Sunday morning I just wanted to lay in bed. I had been literally coughing all night and hadn’t slept except for about 2 hours from 8 AM-10 AM. I was miserable when I walked into St. John but I was there to help lead the service. In all honesty I should have stayed home, but God had another plan.
To open the service I made a few announcements. The most important one to me was a need we had for donations for a couple of our students who needed help to be able to attend the mission trip this summer. Throughout the service Jesus gave me the voice and allowed me to avoid coughing uncontrollable during the prayers and other parts I had to lead. It was truly a miracle that I made it through the service. Praise God He is faithful to me and got me to the other side so I could see His great goodness. I am so glad I was there because I got to see Jesus move.
At the end of the service I had three people I come forward and ask what they could do to help. One even wrote a check for the amount we needed for two of the students. I was amazed. I know I shouldn’t have been amazed but God brought those people forward to help reach a need for our young people. I should never be surprised by the generosity of Gods people for His mission. I am so glad Jesus brought me to that moment. I got to see Him work.
Today as you may be feeling down, or tired, or broken be reminded that Jesus is continuing to work in the lives of His people. He is working to bring about His good and we are blessed often when we can see it. My prayer for you today is that you see Jesus work his miracles working in your lives.
I am tired. I have been busy these last few months. I haven’t written a blog post is over 3 months. It has mostly been due to being busy and tired. I often forget about how tiring ministry can be. We can be tired because we are overworked, or struggle to find purpose. Most of all I think we are tired because we grow tired of sharing Jesus. We forget our joy in sharing the story of Jesus and his forgiveness. We do this because we lose focus on what we are doing in ministry.
yesterday however was a fun and exciting day. I am a Star Wars fan. I really enjoy the fun of the light sabers and music, and the wonder we see in those films. I had the joy of leading chapel yesterday. I handed out light sabers to the ushers at chapel and I had them play Star Wars music for chapel as the kids walked in the room. It was a great moment watching many of the kids come into chapel excited to see what would be done today. We of course didn’t put our primary focus on Star Wars. We focused on Jesus. We used Star Wars as a way to share Jesus with students. We used light sabers to foscus kids on the light of the world. We had so much fun as a group. What I noticed most today was the joy I had in sharing Jesus with kids. Too often we forget about this joy because we are so focused on work to be done, or the projects to be completed. We focus on the conflicts in our churches or the pain being caused to us by our sin.
Those things above don’t go away when have are good days but when we can focus on sharing Jesus we see God working in the lives of people we can have joy. So let us instead focus on sharing Jesus. Let us never grow tired of sharing Jesus.
For those of you who are reading this and aren’t full time ministers. I would challenge you in your daily life, when you are feeling tired, to focus on the joy of sharing Jesus. We all are busy with life but if you can focus your time on sharing Jesus in our work, family and daily lives we can find joy. We may be tired today but let us all never grow tired of sharing Jesus with everyone we meet.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:29-31 NIV
We all have scars. I have a few from ministry. Some of those scars are seen and others are right in the middle of my face. But scars can be a good thing if they are done for the sake of the Gospel.
This past week we had an amazing VBS. We had more kids attend VBS this year than any of the past 5. We capped it off by collecting 545 items for food pantries in our area. This led to my most recent scar. I told the kids if they collected 500 canned goods I would jump into a pool of ice. It was going to be awesome. The kids were cheering, and excited when we brought them out to watch it. They were cheering me on. I thought the worst that could happen was get some bumps or bruises jumping into the kiddy pool. I leaped and was in the water. The pain wasn’t that bad but when I came out of the water I saw blood. My wife gave me the look that said “you did something very wrong to your face.” She grabbed my hat off my head and shoved it into my face so the children wouldn’t be further traumatized. It was not my best moment in ministry. Something that seemed so promising had gone so bad in a matter of seconds.
But I wouldn’t change a thing. I did get bandaged up and was able to walk back inside and share with kids I was alright and lead them in a prayer. One of the themes for the week was Jesus heals us and so I tied it all together. It turned into a good moment to share Jesus. I am someone who will jump in a pool of ice water if I think it will let me talk about Jesus with a kid. Heck the scar was a great story in the ER when I got my 11 stitches. I got to share Jesus with a doctor, nurse and three paper work people. I don’t mind the scars in ministry because another family, kid, student, adult or whoever got to hear the good news of Jesus. They got to see some crazy grown kid stand up and share Jesus. Who knows if they will ever be a believer in Christ. The Holy Spirit does that work anyway. I never even know if the scar is worth it.
I do know this however, I would take all the scars in the world if it meant one more kid or family might know Jesus. So for all of you in ministry, either volunteer or paid professional lets make more scars so others can know this Jesus who loves and cares for us. Lets tell the world even if it means some pain and scars.
Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Psalm 51:8 ESV
So I cant sing. I am actually maybe the worst singer ever. This past Sunday my wife commented to me that I should try not to sing out because I could scare the people around me. (this was in jest) Once when I was in college at chapel I sat between two choir members and they both asked if I could stop singing for one of the verses because I was so off key it was throwing them off. I am bad and I know it. On occasion at Church I leave my mic on and others know it, but I still sing. This blog post has nothing to do with others joking comments. I don’t think anyone of them was seriously asking me to not sing just having some playful banter.
I think everyone should sing in Church. I think everyone should be an active participant in the worship service. I sit in the front row of Church and often sit where I can see most of the men and women in my Church skipping the singing part. This by the way has nothing to do with contemporary or traditional worship services. Sure sometime the key for the song is unsingable or the hymn uses words no one understands or can sing. We may have many reasons people don’t sing but if you are not doing it because you are an awful singer please listen up.
The saddest reason I think people don’t sing is because they think they sound terrible. They are afraid to sing out because they don’t want to be embarrassed. Well let me tell you something I know as a youth guy. Your kids are watching. Your boys sitting in the pew are watching you mom and dad. They are watching you and thinking Dad thinks this Church thing is dumb, so we think it is dumb. Mom doesn’t sing so we can check out of this Church thing. Please, please, please sing. Mom, dad, grandpa, and grandma please sing. It is better for you to be involved worship, but most important it shows those young people around you that you care about this Jesus. I know you know and love Jesus. I really want you to show that to others by being involved. Sing loud and praise the Lord.
In college my favorite line a friend Rev. Dave Herald and I used to say. “If you have a good voice sing loud and praise God…If you have a horrible voice sing loud and get back at him!” Enjoy God’s gift of song, sing to the lord and receive his blessings through the worship services. Help lead by example to our young people that this Jesus who came and died for us is worth giving praise in response to his good gifts.
Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Psalm 95:1 ESV