Archive for July, 2008

New Youth Ministry Launched!

Last night we put to rest the old identity of the youth ministry formerly known as The Mix. It was morbid and awesome all at the sametime!

Why was it morbid? Because we did an actual funeral for the old identity. The leaders all wore black, we had a makeshift casket and everyone got flowers to put in the casket as a way paying their “last respects.” Our worship leader even sang “Amazing Grace” as we put the flowers in the casket. Some kids got teary! It was morbid, but it was awesome.

Then we discussed some of the history of the youth ministry from its conception to where it is now. After that we launched the new direction where we believe God is bringing us.

We presented it not as a youth group, but a youth church! And not a youth church that’s going to be hidden in the corner of the street singing happy songs about Jesus – but a youth church empowered by the Holy Spirit that lives as a culture. A culture that inspires an entire movement based on 3 basic principles.

When I say culture, I don’t mean color or race or ethnic background or hip-hop or goth or emo or anything like that. When I say culture, I mean the underlying ideas or principle that govern us and push us. Eveery city has a culture. Despite what people look like or their ethnic makeup or their music/fashion expressions – there are ideas and principles that they all hold. For example, if you go to NYC and say you’re a Yankee fan – you’re not going to make too many friends. Its in them. Detroiters have this unique sense of pride about being from Detroit. And don’t you DARE say you are from Detroit and not actually be FROM Detroit. Grand Rapids is not Detroit and a Detroiter will call you out if you try to say they are the same. That Detroit pride is in us. Its our culture – white, black, hispanic or arab – its in us.

Link. Love. Live. Those are the three core principles that will drive us in our youth church from here on out. Link to God, Love people and Live a life that serves the world. Those are our core cultural principles.

The new name – The City.

The excitement amongst our youth is almost tangible. Last night, I think we saw the begining of a movement…

Tonight’s the night! Change I believe in

Well, tonight is the night! Tonight is the night we announce the changes we are doing as a youth church. We launch the vision, direction and new name of the youth ministry.

Yes, we were scheduled to do it last week but there were tornadoes that touched down in the area so due to inclement weather, we cancelled last week’s service. I HATE cancelling. We’ve only done it twice in our almost 6 year history and this was the first time we did it because of imclement weather. The other time was because the burner on the furnace went out and it was 17 degrees outside.

So, pray for us tonight and I’ll share the news with the rest of you tomorrow.

Tonight marks the end of one era and the beginning of a greater era.

Greater things have yet to come, greater things are still to be done in this city!

(I love that song)

So, here is the last time (and for most of you – the first time) you’ll see this logo for our youth ministry.

Sometimes ministry is not neat

About a year ago, we started thinking and planning some of the changes that needed to be made to increase and improve the reach of our youth ministry. After surveying the needs of our church and our community as a whole, we eventually decided on a church model that I originally rejected for our church. But, my heart got soft to the spiritual needs of the people and was really led to go with this particular model.

I looked at a few other churches that were doing this model and it seemed to be working fairly well for them. But I noticed something – it seemed to all fit nice and neat for them. Ages, programs, processes, etc all seemed to flow pretty neatly for them. I looked their application and started to examine this in our own environment and came to a quick conclusion – “We can’t do it the way they do it.”

Not too long ago, I asked someone who does the ministry model we’re adopting about how they meet a particular need that is DEFINITELY going to be needed to pull off our own execution of it. His response to how to meet that need was simple – “We don’t.” I was floored because I thought about all of the people that wouldn’t be reached if we didn’t deal with this issue in our setting and said to myself “How are you not meeting that need?!”  Then I was reminded that the needs in my community are different than theirs.

Sometimes ministry is not neat. There are some needs unique to where you are that don’t neatly fit into what has been done before. Maybe your youth ministry needs to find an approach to deal with child care so that you can reach young single mothers so that they won’t be kept at home because their mom won’t babysit while they go “have fun at church.” Maybe you have to find security for your settings because you’ve been reaching out to current and former gang members. Maybe you have to plan a small group for the cheerleaders at a particular school because 6 girls on the team got saved but can’t make it out to the other planned small group nights. Maybe you have to have a leader in another community to deal with the day to ministry to some of the kids because they live much closer to them than you do and you can’t get to them because of time and work schedule. Maybe you have to stop calling your youth church “student” ministry so that you can reach the people who aren’t students. Or stop calling it “college” ministry so that you can reach the 20 year old who isn’t in school but works a full time job making $38,000/year.

Sometimes ministry is not neat. Embrace the mess so that we can reach some messy people.

No “Student” Ministry For Me

I have never embraced the term “student” ministry for a myriad of reasons. I won’t list them all (mainly because I don’t have the time and neither do you), but I will mention a few:

1. The people I minister to are more than just “students”. They are leaders, artists, musicians, sport players, gamers, skateboarders, bike riders, employees, sons, daughters, boyfriends, girlfriends, drivers, cheerleaders and SCORES of other things than just the title they hold from 7-2 Monday through Friday during the Fall, Winter and Spring. They are so much more than students, so I won’t let their day jobs become their label.

2. Some of the people I minister to aren’t “students” at all. I mean, how do you invite the 16 year old drop out to “student” ministry if he’s not a “student”? If you say “welcome to our student ministry” they’ll think they’re in the wrong place because they aren’t students. What do you call it during the summer? Most people aren’t even in school, so how is it “student” ministry?

That’s just the REALLY short list. I have not and will not embrace the term “student” ministry for our church. We’re a youth church. I’m okay with that for now. For me, works better and is far more reaching than “student” ministry.  You might like “student” ministry and live in an area where you can reach “students.”

If you call your ministry “student” ministry – more power to you. Let it roll. But when you drive passed the projects or the trailer homes tomorrow and you see the drug dealers, drop outs and drug users that aren’t “students” at any school and you wonder “what can I do to reach them?”, don’t be surprised if they don’t accept your invitation to your “student” ministry.

Youth Ministry as we know it is about to change FOREVER!

Ladies and gentlemen, the future of youth ministry as we know it is about to change FOREVER!

Accoriding to a report published on MSNBC, last year there were over 4.3 MILLION births – more than 15,000 more than the number of children born during the “baby boom” of 1954.

So, if over 80% of people make a decision for Christ before they turn 18, we have 17 years before the majority of these 4.3million+ people make up their minds for eternity! Couple that with the 23milliion+ teenagers (kids age range 12-19) currently in America alone (that doesn’t even count the rest of the world) and you will realize that the future of youth ministry is about to change FOREVER!

I’m reminded of Luke 10:2, when Jesus said:

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.

Stop apologizing!

Doing hip-hop music is a real blessing. Especially for me because I’ve seen my music be widely embraced people who don’t normally listen to hip-hop. When I look at the people who have been purchasing my music, some of the people are 52 year old WOMEN!

Its  encouraging to see hardcore rockers and emo lovers tell me “you music really touched me” or “that song ministered to me.” Whether I’m in the hood, the burbs or the sticks – I’ve seen the music music ministry cross generational, denominational and color lines that some of my contemporaries haven’t been able to cross.

With that said, I feel the need to speak to my more rock influenced listeners and the people who oversee the venues where the rock listeners congregate (i.e. suburban youth pastors). Please, STOP APOLOGIZING! Yes, I know most of the crowd is white and yes I know they may be slightly rhythmically challenged and they don’t know what to do when the music comes on. THAT’S OKAY! They usually catch on…usually. And if they don’t…its still okay. Maybe they can’t move to “Masses” but they can sit and be ministered to by “After The Pain.”

Besides, TRUST ME, when I go the hood and do music – they don’t know what to do either! Most people in the hood are used to dancing in an a way that isn’t necessarily appropriate when we’re doing music that glorifies God. The way you dance to Lil Wayne or Kanye is NOT the same way you move in church.

And if I do a set NOT in a church?! Forget it. People are too confused to even dance. “Did he just say Jesus?”

So please, if you or your people don’t have enough rhythm to look “cool” while listening to and enjoying the music – its okay. Be off beat. I’m convinced people are just so excited they are dancing to the rhythm of the song that’s coming up. So they aren’t off beat, they’re just one song ahead of everyone else. 🙂

Lastly, let me tell you a secret about me…I’m the last of 17 black men with no rhythm! Ask my wife. When we try to dance in our living room – I’m off. When I’m using my hands on stage, its not because I’m trying to look cool – I’m trying to keep the rhythm! LOL!

So please, stop apologizing. They are in GREAT company when they aren’t on beat.

I gotta be me

Okay, so you may or may not have noticed a change in the tagline to my blog. It used to say “Where leadership, culture and ministry collide.” Now it says “Where culture and youth minsitry collide.”

Why the change? Its simple – I gotta be me. When I first started blogging, I was reading guys like Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschel, Ed Young, John Maxwell and other leadship insight people. So, I wanted to be more like them. Small problem…I’m not them.

Leadership – as much as it intrigues me and as much as I desire to be a better leader – is not my area of expertise. I’m a 28 yr old youth pastor with just under 6 years of experience. I don’t have much to say about leadership without regurgitating someone else’s words mixed in with my own small experiences. While I DO THINK THAT TYPE OF VOICE IS VALUABLE IN A NON-MEGACHURCH OR GIGACHIRCH SETTING, I don’t thinnk I’m that type of voice. Atleast not yet.

I do music and I’m a youth pastor. I’m a student of culture and its potential impact on ministry. Fashion, art, music and entertainment – I know that stuff. I know how to see the leverage, the dangers, the benefits and all of that on youth ministry. So why not talk about that stuff? Its what I know.

And no, I’m not trying to be Tim Stevens. This is going to be VERY different.

GenCon Day 3

The 3rd and final day of GenCon was a blessing. The day kicked off with the leaders’ session wtih Benny Perez, Apostle C and Jude Fuquier. Benny did a VERY insightful session called “8 Things Your Pastor Needs From You.” His perspective is unique. Currently (and temporarily) he is both the youth pastor AND the senior pastor of the church he planted in Las Vegas, NV. My Blackberry is struggling to handle all of the wisdom shared in these sessions. That’s why my battery isn’t doing so well.

I missed Apostle C’s session trying to make sure that everything with my music was okay before it went on sale that afternoon. Jude’s session was great. He did the same thing he did at the Awakening Conference last year, but it was good and well worth repeating – emphasising the power and need for prayer in our youth churches.

After lunch came the afternoon session. It was kind of cool in the fact that it was Awakening part Deux since I rapped in place of the typical worship set with the Generation Church band (who ROCKED ALL WEEK by the way) and then Mike Servello did the message.

The set went INCREDIBLE! I kicked it off with a fun video intro and went right into “Masses.” Then, I played a video that segwayed into “After The Pain.” From there we transitioned into an a capella singing of “How Great Is Our God.” To see 1,200 young people with their hands held high in worship was amazing. Especially since we doing hip-hop in Utica, NY and people were captivated by the message and the music and it allowed them to flow so easily into worship. Then I played a video testimony of a  young man’s journey to Christ and closed with the song “Hope.”

Then, after the session – the debut of Life Support went on sale. The first run has been dedicated to the change happening in our youth ministry and the cards have the new youth ministry logo on it. (More on that tomorrow) The sales went pretty good. But it wasn’t even the sales that got me, it was the teary eyed, excited young people who came to the table to tell us how much they were blessed and encouraged by the message of the music. And the teary eyed ones were the guys! I don’t do well with autographs but I signed some anyway. That’s always weird for me…

Jude fuquier closed out the conference with a message about BEING the CHURCH! Indescribable without taking another 500 words.

All in all, the conference was great. Some good insights and rapping in upstate NY went waaaaaaaaaaay better than I thought.

Well, I’m off. I have to get prepared to unveil the new name and direction of the youth church to our youth ministry tonight. Pray for me.

AND shoot me a line if you are interested in pruchasing the new music!

GenCon Day 2 (part 2)

So, the afternoon session kept things moving with a great message from Steven Furtick. Really encouraging stuff and the PERFECT speaker to combat the after lunch conference session sleepiness. He’s a phenom of a speaker and he knocked it out of the park.

The expectations were high come the evening service. The people were ready to receive a something from God. Worship was incredible. Me, I was nervous. Why? Because I knew that I had to do a song for offering, that’s why. Now, allow me to explain my style of hip-hop so that you can see why doing a song for offering presented some challenges for me on the surface.

For one, my brand of hip-hop requires your attention because I’m actually speaking to you during the song. Second, I usually ask for your participation in doing the song. Third, I work better feeding off of the crowd and its hard to do that when the closest person to you is about 40 feet away! Noone moves during offering and noone is paying attention because they are figuring out how much money they can give and still money left over for dinner. NOT TO MENTION, I was doing a BRAND NEW song that night –  a chorus I made specifically for the conference.

So, I go up after Mike Servello introduces me. The crowd – unconcerned with guy on stage as they were waiting to see when the bucket is going to reach them. So, I decided to take the time in between the people  waiting for the bucket and actually receiving the bucket to teach them the chorus of this song that I had just written. Sound man then starts the beat – and the song begins.

Try this on for size – a rap song about laying down your life and and giving the glory to God. Yeah, kind of NOT the typical self consuming message of hip hop but that’s what happens when you get a youth pastor to rap. The song went over VERY well as people young and old kept repeating ‘Lay It Down.’ Seeing Jude Fuquier, Buddy Cremeans, Benny Perez and about 1,300 other youth and youth pastors shout about laying it down was a sight to see. ESPECIALLY in upstate NY.

Benny Perez brought the message and it ROCKED the place. I think 85% of the place came down for the alter call for this message.

Okay, that’s all I got in me for this one. Check back for day 3. I released the CD and they decided to do my 20 minute set in place of worship. Powerful!

GenCon – Day 2

Okay, day 2 of the Generation Conference was INCREDIBLE!

While my brother in law Isaiah was at the Auditorium for the main session with Mark Schilling and Apostle C, my wife Nichole and I were in the leadership sessions with Craig Groschel, Mike Servello, Jr. and Steven Furtick.

1st off, I was REALLY looking forward to this session as Groeschel is one of my personal ministry heroes. (When I told him this, he told me “you need to find bigger heroes!” I found that to be a pretty humble response)

 Craig kicks it off talking about 5 things he’s learned being in ministry. Of course he dropped WAAAAAYYYY more than 5 things on us. My Blackberry is still buzzing out of control because I placed this much wisdom in my notes section of the phone. Here’s just a few things from the session:

Remember God will bring the resources (both human and financial) at the right time

Don’t over-estimate God’s short term plan and don’t under-estimate His long term plan.

The small numbers are not your fault. The large numbers are not to credit. Trust God and His plan during both high and low times.

The death statement always begins with “they won’t.” Its not that they won’t, its because you haven’t!

Delegate authority, not just responsibility.

There’s SOOOO much more I could say but this would be a LOOONG entry.

Steven Furtick didn’t really give much “leadership” insight so to speak, he just preached and encouraged. He was honest by saying he didn’t have the experience to share the type of stuff Craig shared – “so I’m just going to encourage you!” He went on to share about increasing your capacity and preached from 2Kings 4. The woman with the oil and the vases during the famine. You know the one. He pointed out that the oil stopped when she ran out of vases, when she ran out of capacity. If she had a higher capacity – she would have had more oil. I honestly zooned out for a while after that because my mind began to travel on that thought. I preached to myself inwardly for about 5 minutes. Then I was back. GREAT session.

Can’t forget about conference host Mike Servello’s session. He talked about God giving us a compass and not a map for minsitry. We’ll get there in different ways, but there are some things we need to always point towards. The 2 things he pointed out were the presence of God and evangelism. There are 3 more and I hope he puts them up on his blog. He’s shared them with me before, but I hope he shares them with everyone.

Okay, I’m done on this part. I’ll recap the afternoon and evening later today. I had a different experience of rapping during offering. That was new…check back later today for the update.

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