Youth Week 2014: How the Gospel Changes Everything

I am really excited about Youth Week 2014 this year.  This year it is July 29 - August 1 from 6 - 9 PM every night at Forest Hills Baptist Church.   Youth Week has become an annual event in Wilson County where middle school and high school students gather for a week of worship and seeking after God. Best of all, we are able to offer this event free to anyone who wants to come. If your in Wilson and want to join us click here to pre-register and let us know your coming.  It takes just a couple minutes to do.

If you are like me, you want to know before hand what all is going to be available. Well your in luck, I'm going to give you a sneak peak of whats to come.

Main Sessions

Stephen Combs and his crew will be leading us in worship each night.  Here is the line up for our main worship sessions.

Monday: How the Gospel Changes Our Past. Daniel Ritchie

Tuesday: How the Gospel Changes Our Hearts. Justin Deeter

Wednesday: How the Gospel Changes Our Relationships. Jeff Smith

Thursday: How the Gospel Changes Our Lives. Chris Dunn

Friday: How the Gospel Changes Our Purpose. Brad Perry

In addition to our main worship sessions, each night we will have different breakout sessions available for students to choose.  Each night you can only go to one breakout session, but the good news is that each session will be taught twice.  On Wednesday night we have a special pastor panel discussion to answer students questions.  Here are the breakout sessions options for this year.

Monday/ Tuesday Night Breakout Sessions

  • Why are there so Many Denominations: Justin Deeter
  • Is God's Word Reliable?  Dr. Rob Pochek
  • How to Stay Christian in College: Jack Norris
  • How the Gospel Changes Peoples: Brad Perry
  • How the Gospel Changes Relationships: Jonathan Brooks
  • Mundane Missionary: Daniel Heath
  • Singing Through Suffering: Chris Scott
  • Redefining Beauty (Girls Only): Penny Jordan
  • Dealing with Doubt: Paul Batson

Wednesday Night Panel Discussion

Chris Dunn will moderate a panel featuring:

Dr. Rob Pochek, Jonathan Brooks, Daniel Ritchie, Brad Perry, and Justin Deeter

Thursday/Friday Breakout Sessions

  • How Can I Read the Bible for Myself? Justin Deeter
  • How the Gospel Changes the Way You See the World: Chris Dunn
  • How the Gospel Changes the Way You Use Social Media: Theresa Mathis
  • The Gospel and Abortion: Heather Ritchie
  • Sharing Your Faith with Other Worldviews: Brad Perry
  • How to Share the Gospel and Not Seem Like a Jerk: Daniel Ritchie
  • Man Up: Biblical Manhood: Nate Geeting

And More...

As you can see it is going to be a great week. I didn't even mention the different mission projects going on this week.  You will hear about those on opening night! I hope you plan to make it out to all of Youth Week, if not I hope you cannot make it out for a few nights.  There is nothing like gathering together with hundreds of other teenagers worshiping the Lord together. Our prayer is that this week will be used by God for your own growth in Christ as it equips you to see that the Gospel really does change everything.  So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and Pre-Register.

If interested in checking out the content from the past weeks, just check out the following links:

Content from Youth Week 2013

Content from Youth Week 2012

5 Potential Dangers of Youth Christian Camps

I wrote earlier this week on some of the benefits summer camps can offer your youth or children’s ministry. Often times they do provide great opportunities for discipleship. However, despite their benefits, summer camps have potential to be dangerous. Most of these dangers can be avoided by selecting a good camp and through some careful pastoral care along the way. Yet, these potential dangers must be spotted less they because to cause destruction in the spiritual lives of your students. So to help I’ve identified five potential dangers of youth summer camps.

1. The Christian Bubble

One of the dangers of Christian camps is that it is a week long Christian fantasy world. It is a bubble and while in that bubble it is easy to live for Jesus because everyone is living for Jesus. Many young people can become adapting to the Christian camp bubble and can often put on their Christian mask to fit in with the crowd. In addition to the temptation to hypocrisy many Christian young people have a hard time adjusting going home at the end of the week.

Many of these young people live in difficult situations such as unchristian homes and lost friends. Sometimes a Christian camp is like training a solider at a kids laser tag party. At the Christian camp it is easy to follow Jesus. Everyone is doing it, no one is trying to hurt you, and it is a lot of fun! However the real Christian life is a spiritual war zone with real danger and temptation lurking in every corner. Many students fail to make any real changes in their lives when they get home because living for Christ is much more difficult in the battlefield of life than the laser tag game of Camp.

2. Spiritual Manipulation

This one varies from camp to camp, but spiritual manipulation is common and a regular occurrence at many of them. Because the students are in the Christian bubble and emotions are running high, it is easy to twist some one’s arm into making a forced decision for Christ. With loud worship music and a dynamic speaker who cares more about notches in his evangelistic belt than your students, spiritual manipulation is common. Unfortunately in our pragmatic church culture we are so tempted to forcefully fabricate a work of God so we can feel better about ourselves. All the while we miss that conversion is a great work of God. It is the Spirit who saves, not us. As a result no amount of manipulation will ever bring someone to Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who converts as we faithfully proclaim the Gospel and call for a decision, which camps should do. Yet I want my students to respond to Jesus not to the camps “worship experience”.

Another danger of the heavy spiritual manipulation at camps is their tendency to cause the faithful Christians in your group to doubt their salvation. I can’t tell you the amount of counseling I’ve had to do with some students who evidently follow Jesus who begin to question their salvation. The perseverance of the saints is a wonderfully encouraging and comforting doctrine, yet the spiritual manipulation tends to just damage the faithful Christians and often fails to see genuine conversion in the lost.

3. Conviction is Confused by Emotionalism

I had one of my students tell me one time “Why does this girl get emotional and cry every year at camp only to go back living in sin as soon as she returns home?” Camps can be very emotional experiences. The last night at camps tend to be the most emotionally intense. It is so easy to confuse an intensity of emotion as a true spiritual experience. Yet an intensity of emotions is no sure sign of a work of God as Jonathan Edwards helpfully explains in his book Religious Affections. Similarly, Thomas à Kempis said:

“Don’t think highly of yourself, or consider yourself to be especially loved if you have strong feelings of devotion or sweetness, for it is not by these feelings that a true lover of virtue is known. Nor does the spiritual progress and perfection of a man consist in these things.”

Heavy emotions are an unreliable sign of true spirituality. As a result biblical, Holy Spirit wrought conviction is confused by emotionalism. Many students might be heavily grieved over their sin and weep, then they find themselves engaging in the same lifestyle as soon as they get off the church bus at home. Yet the Scripture is clear that “Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” (2 Cor 7:10) True biblical sorrow and mourning over sin leads to repentance. An emotional experience at camp that doesn’t lead to true repentance isn’t godly grief but a wordily grief that produces death.

4. A Perpetuation of a Roll Coaster Christian Life

Many Christian young people (and adults!) immature in their faith often find themselves living an a spiritual roll coaster. Their spiritual life tends to center around big Christian events that lift them up to the mountain of spiritual ecstasies then real life hits and they go into a spiritual valley of disobedience only to zealously look for the next event, camp, or program to take them to the spiritual mountain top again. This is spiritual immaturity. How do I know? Because I’ve been there.

I’ve heard many a student say to me, “I can’t wait to get to camp this summer so I can get right with God!” Wait, what? Do students really think they can only follow God or experience the joy of His presence at camp? Unfortunately many do. Camps can perpetuate a roller coaster Christian life in which young people look to the next camp, retreat, mission trip, revival, or ski-trip to pump them with enough Jesus to make it to the next event. They hope the momentum of the last big event carries them up the hill to the next one.

This sort of inconsistency long term can be very damaging to our spiritual lives. We must help our students learn how to follow Jesus every day and not depend on big events to get them through. We must teach them the discipline of studying the Scriptures, the habit of prayer, and the priority of regularly attending worship and participating in the life of the Church.

5. A Cynical Attitude Towards the Home Church

Camps are purposefully contextualized to the generation they are trying to reach. As a result the songs, style, and format is uniquely geared towards communicating spiritual truth to that age group. Many young people greatly connect with the modern style and then get frustrated at their home church. You may hear comments like, “I wish our worship band was like this” or “I wish our pastor told more funny stories like that speaker does” or “I wish we had cool LED lights in our sanctuary”.

Camps can create a cynical attitude about the home church. We must remind ourselves and our students that what unites a local church together is not worship style, preaching style, or worship technology but the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We should teach the importance of local church who exists for their discipleship and to send them out on mission. Keep an ear out for any cynicism about your church and quickly squash it with the truth.

There are Benefits, but Be Cautious

Camps again can provide wonderful opportunities for discipleship, yet there are some potential dangers which leaders should be aware. Camps are often a mixed bag and it takes a youth leader with a pastors heart to help shepherd his or her group towards the Gospel while correcting any errors that come along the way. I pray that as many of you may be taking your students to camps this summer that the Lord moves powerfully. I pray that the Gospel is heard, believed, and treasured. I pray that your lost students would be saved. Summer camps are used best as a catalyst for long term discipleship and life long mission. Don’t squander the opportunity and carefully disciple your students not only at camp, but especially when you return home.

Are there any dangers I missed? How can we best minister to our students to avoid these errors? Love to hear you thoughts in the comments below.

6 Ways Summer Camps Disciple Students

It is now June and that means camps are beginning to start up. The Christian camp world has become a wonderful opportunity to get students away for the purpose of discipleship. I spent many years attending camps, working on staff at camps, and taking youth groups to camps. I have such fond memories of these camps as they provide so many opportunities for discipleship.

Yet these camps require a huge investment. Not only do they tend to be fairly expense, averaging around $300 a person for the week, but it is a huge time commitment especially for your volunteers. Is the rewards worth the investment? Is the spiritual fruit of camp worth the cost? I certainly think so. Let me give you six reasons why you should be taking your children and youth to such camps this summer with your Church.

1. Camps Provide a Week of Separation from the World

Camps are one massive spiritual bubble for the week. The student is completely separated from his or her normal setting. They are away from their parents, their routine, the TV screen, and their normal friends. When a person is participating in or surrounded by such worldliness on a regular basis there is often a dullness and unresponsiveness to spiritual truth.

The great thing about camp is that it gets students away from the noise of their life so that they might focus their attention on Jesus Christ. That separation attenuates their ears to what God is speaking and teaching to them.

2. Camps Build Unity in your Group

Church unity is a constant struggle in most congregations. Youth group unity is just as difficult. Cliques and groups can so often form which divide students rather than unify them. Many of our students may not even like hanging out with each other. Yet, when you get them away for a week and they have no choice but to hang out with one another, it is amazing how friendships develop and grow. The cliques tend to fade and a unity in the Gospel grows.

In this sense camps can be great team building opportunities drawing your group of students together for the mission of God when they arrive back home. It is always wonderful to see the friendships that began at camp grow into a strong biblical relationship of accountability and spiritual growth.

3. Camps Provide Opportunity for Conversation

In my experience, students tend not prefer to talk much about spiritual things when they are at the church. (Isn’t that strange?). I find that before a church service or afterwards many are largely closed off or disconnected from deep conversation. Yet, when you are at camp and you are sitting on the bus, it is amazing how quickly the conversation turns to spiritual matters. Camps provide great opportunity for pastors and volunteers to disciple students. It provides a great atmosphere (since you are always together), to chat, talk, discuss, and pray. If pastors and volunteers capitalize on this opportunity it is amazing to watch the fruit from these conversations.

Last summer I was with the students from our church at camp and the power went out in the whole camp for about an hour at around 9 PM at night. Cell phones were dying and there wasn’t much light to see so everyone just sat around and talked. Participating in these conversations brought me great joy. I’d walk around and hear a group of our students talking about youth ministry, scripture, and sharing the Gospel with their peers. That sort of chatter is sweet music to any pastors ears and camp provided an opportunity for that to happen.

4. Camps Allow Leaders to Model Mature Spirituality

Discipleship does not happen in a sermon but through relationships. When you are living every moment that week with your students they have a unique opportunity to watch how you live. They can watch your life and see what it looks like for you to do a quiet time, to pray, to listen attentively to sermons and bible studies, or to sing and to worship with the band. If leaders steward this opportunity well they can demonstrate to their students what it looks like to faithfully follow Christ.

5. Camps Engage Students in Worship and Preaching

The programing at most camps are top notch. The quality of the band or the pastor tend to be very high. All of the worship and teaching is geared towards students. As a result it is often easy for them to connect and respond too. Our Sunday morning services cannot just be youth rallies. We must contextualize the Gospel to all people in our church and our community. Yet, to take a week and have the Gospel contextualized specifically to them can be very beneficial.

6. Camps Provide Great Evangelistic Opportunity

The Lord often and regularly saves students at camp. It is not unusual to see some lost students in your group come to faith in Jesus Christ. This is what we long for isn’t it? The separation from the world and the focus on worship and teaching is often used by the Spirit to covert and save. Having conversion take place at camp also provides a wonderful opportunity for pastors or leaders to disciple, follow up, and train while they are still at camp. Seeing God move and save is what so often makes camps a place of joy and tears as we worship what God has done in the lives of our students.

A Myriad of Opportunities

Camps really are a wonderful tool for training your students to follow Jesus. The spiritual fruit to be reaped is enormous in these unique, once a year opportunities. If you are taking a group of students to camp this summer, treasure these moments and do not squander the opportunities the Lord will present you with while at camp.

Yet, camps also have some potential to be dangerous for our students. Not only have I seen great spiritual fruit at camps, I have witnessed many dangers that can be harmful to our students. Later this week we will look at some potential dangers of summer camps.

If you are pastor or leader at your church, how has summer camps helped you make disciples? Is there anything missing from this list? Share with us in the comments below!

Youth Ministry: Daycare or Boot Camp?

Teenagers are fascinating.  After spending five years in youth ministry, they never stop amazing me. So often we write off students as dysfunctional, clueless, and rebellious.  However, over the course of this summer I've been amazed by students who take on responsibility, demonstrate the character of Christ, and serve in ministry at their local churches. Here are a few things that have just left me in awe of God this summer.

  • At my last church, the current youth ministry leaders are students in their late teens who I discipled and trained.  They are currently doing all the teaching, planning, organizing, and ministry.
  • Students at Forest Hills Baptist Church have given up their summer for ministry.  Whether it is visitation, making decorations for VBS, teaching children at VBS, or leading Bible Study.  They keep stepping up to the plate taking to heart 1 Timothy 4:12.
  • Last week was Youth Week 2013: The Search for Truth. After asking several students from different churches what their favorite part of the week was, I kept getting the same answer: The Breakout Session. Now if you click through and see all the breakout sessions that were offered, they covered some deep and difficult issues.  Classes like "How to Share the Gospel with an Atheist" or "Biblical Womanhood" or "What is Truth?" The amazing thing is these students loved these deep classes.  They want to be grounded in what they believe.  They want someone to treat them like adults and engage deeply and honestly about difficult issues.
  • As I'm serving as the Interim Senior Pastor/Youth Pastor at FHBC, a team of six students have stepped up to help plan, lead, and organize the youth ministry for the fall.  They will be doing things from managing our youth twitter to teaching on wednesday night.

Who says students are spiritually incompetent? This summer I have seen God use young people powerfully. As Alvin Reid says, we must learn to Raise the Bar for our youth ministries.  When we disciple young people with the truth of the Gospel and train them as leaders and then empower them for leadership, I believe young people will continue to surprise us.  I praise God for His work in these students lives.  One of the ways I measure "success" in my own ministry is when disciples I've trained start making other disciples.  That is happening, and it is incredibly humbling.  As I sit back and watch God work in our church and these students lives, I'm humbled at the power of God who takes the unexpected and does the remarkable.

Churches must begin to look at their youth ministries not as an adolescent day care services but a bootcamp preparing young people for advancing the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

  • Daycare babysits kids and keeps them out of trouble. Boot camp pushes, trains, and equips.
  • Daycare treats kids as consumers, always entertaining. Boot camp is hard work and teaches discipline.
  • Daycare prepares you for nothing. Boot camp prepares you for war.
  • Daycare is a waste of time. Boot Camp has a mission and purpose.

What kind of youth ministry is your church building? Are you baby sitting students until college or are you equipping the future ministry leaders for the decades to come? Are you just fostering the poisonous atmosphere of consumer Christianity or are you training soldiers for war?

I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

 

Youth Week 2013 Sermon Video and Audio

Last week was Youth Week 2013: The Search for Truth.  It was a great week in which churches from around the city of Wilson gathered to worship Jesus Christ and seek out the truthfulness of Christianity.  My good friend Daniel Ritchie already wrote a fantastic blog reflecting on the week called Churches Loving Other Churches. Each night we had a different speaker answering a different question during worship.  If you would like to relive youth week 2013 or see it for the first time, these sermons are for you to use and share with others.

Night 1: "Is There a God?" - Brad Perry

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqi_7XY9Tu4

Click Here for just the audio of this Sermon

 

Night 2: "Can We Trust the Bible?" - Daniel Ritchie

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFHQcJ5f1vI

Click Here for just the audio of this sermon

 

Night 3: "Who is Jesus?" - Justin Deeter

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zViXo4AeS-U

Click Here for just the audio of this sermon

 

Night 4: "Is Jesus the Only Way to God?" - Joe Strange

httpv://youtu.be/V0Q1eHFrP9A

Click Here for just the audio of this sermon

 

Night 5: "What Does it Mean to Be a Christian?" - Jeff Smith

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDoKuoWPoSs

Click Here for just the audio of this sermon

 

End of the Week Video

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4L_FaI7QZVU