Contact Mel at: Mel@visionforyouth.com
You can download my informational flyer at: www.GoingOnForGod.com – Click “Virtual Seminar”. Thanks.
Contact Mel at: Mel@visionforyouth.com
You can download my informational flyer at: www.GoingOnForGod.com – Click “Virtual Seminar”. Thanks.
I’ve seen so many posts on various social media outlets recently that the Coronavirus pandemic gives Christian parents the opportunity to truly disciple their own kids. Several posts list ways church youth workers are partnering with parents for the spiritual benefit of the kids. In some cases, those situations may indeed be true. However, since there is a growing number of broken and dysfunctional households in this country, the opposite may be happening instead.
Putting kids in overwhelmingly negative home situations for extended amounts of time during this Covid-19 time period may actually accomplish adverse and undesirable results. Almost every church youth worker I have spoken to personally in the last several months has agreed that they have an increasing number of children and teenagers in their churches from non-traditional households.
If your church is reaching out to unchurched and unsaved kids in your community, you undoubtedly have young people in this same situation. I hate to say this, but it may not be always a good thing for them to spend extra time at home.
Just this week a friend of mine who is a police officer near a large city told me that one of his biggest concerns during this pandemic is the potential increase of domestic frustrations and violence. Since most kids are out of school for prolonged time periods with no return in sight, there may indeed be young people that are a part of our ministries from negative and maybe harmful home environments.
Youth workers and other church leaders should think this through immediately. How can we reach out to the kids in our communities who may need the most help, and how can we minister to the kids in our church who are from those non-traditional, broken, and dysfunctional households? (For more information to ministering and reaching out to dysfunctional households see: https://blog.youthspecialties.com/5-big-ideas-for-ministry-to-increasingly-dysfunctional-households/.)
It is obviously true that your church probably can’t do everything that other churches may be trying to do right now. Your church needs to determine what specific things you can do well, and then create a way to implement those specific ideas. It’s really important for you to get the leadership team from your church on the same page.
Your expertise may be not high-tech where you can provide high quality video productions every day, but you may be able to use Facebook Live and your iPhone to provide the live streaming of your church’s Sunday morning service. Your church probably will not have the resources or personnel to do everything well, so it’s important to select and then execute the ministry strategies that you can do well during these difficult days.
It is very important for all churches to utilize both high-tech and low-tech ways to communicate with their people and with their communities during this pandemic. The hurting and struggling households in your church’s general area need to know that your church is concerned about them and that you have a specific plan in place to reach out to them. Churches must figure out what they can do to minister and reach out – and then launch a plan to implement those specific things.
Once you have worked with your leadership team to identify what resources you have to offer, you’ll need to develop a specific plan of how to effectively communicate what you are doing. It really doesn’t do any good for you to offer helps to hurting and dysfunctional households unless you can effectively communicate that those resources are available. Each church will need to figure out how best to communicate your contingency plans and action steps to the people you are trying to reach. If your church has decided to live stream your services, how will people know that you are doing that and where specifically can they locate that feed? For example, I just learned the other day of a church that prepared “care packages” for residents of a nursing home in their area only to find out that the facility would not allow outside groups to distribute anything to their patients.
It might be worth it to invest in new signage, or to pay for a community-wide mailing, or to insert an ad in the local paper or on a local radio station to communicate what specific endeavors your church is doing during this crisis. Current demographic trends indicate that your area probably has a large and growing number of hurting and non-traditional households. It will be crucial for your church to communicate what you are trying to do.
You have probably seen a wealth of practical ideas that have been posted on social media recently touting projects churches are undertaking during the Cororavirus situation. That’s great – and church leaders, maybe especially youth workers, are to be commended for putting their creativity to work. But, let me emphasize one other area of caution here. Don’t forget that the grand mission of the church is to fulfill the Great Commission (see Matthew 28:19-20) and to equip the saints to do “the work of ministry” (see Ephesians 4:11-16). In other words, to borrow a phrase I’d heard often in recent days, “the church must be the church.”
Churches must look for ways to continue accomplishing the purposes of the church, like fellowship, worship, giving, preaching and teaching of Scripture, serving, and outreach. Just because our churches can’t gather on Sunday mornings doesn’t mean that we should cease to fulfill our God-given mission. Churches will need to think through creative and effective ways to share Christ’s love with a needy and hurting world.
It’s really important to remember that none of us are superheroes with superpowers. It is imperative that we involve others in whatever our churches decide to do. Overloading our pastors, youth pastors, or our team of other volunteer youth workers right now is probably a long-lasting mistake. Don’t forget that their lives are probably in chaos now too. On the other hand, some of your church people may have extra time on their hands and they may be willing to get involved. Of course, it will be very, very important for you to do all you can to keep your volunteers safe and heathy. Our authorities have instituted “social distancing” for a reason and that is to protect people from spreading and catching this virus.
Our pastors may not be tech experts and they may not have the ability to serve as activity directors, or idea generators for parents with kids who are out of school. That’s why it is so important for your church to institute a plan to creatively involve volunteers to help with the variety of projects you want to implement.
The key here is to realize that each local church has a multitude of resources available to help non-traditional and dysfunctional households in the community in addition to the pastoral staff. This can include Godly older people to serve as mentors, and a team of other trained professional who could provide counseling or that could provide tangible physical assistance. This also might include the production of quality helps and resources to distribute to hurting community members.
I’m sure that you have noticed that so many of the recent social media posts have presented ways for churches and youth groups to communicate to people who are already a part of their ministries, and obviously that is important. But we cannot fail to take this opportunity to reach out to our neighbors and communities which contain a host of struggling households during these difficult days of anxiety and fear. Some churches are helping local school distribute homework and meals, others are taking small care packages to seniors, some are opening their buildings for small prayer meetings, and others are offering family and personal counseling sessions. I just heard of one church that is offering “drive in” movies and music in the church parking lot. There are many ideas out there. The key is to prayerfully consider what your church can do to reach out to the needy and hurting people in your community.
Have you ever read about Shamgar in the Bible?
He was one of the deliverers of Israel, and although only one verse in the Bible is given to his major accomplishment, his story is told to us in Judges 3:31, “Shamgar the son of Anath, who killed six hundred men of the Philistines with an ox goad; and he also delivered Israel.”
We’ll get back to that victory a little bit later. But there is one other passage in the Bible that gives us some more background information about him. Later on, the book of Judges cites “the Song of Deborah”. In one stanza of that song there is also a brief reference to Shamgar. Notice Judges 5:6-7, “In the days of Shamgar, son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were deserted, and the travelers walked along the byways. Village life ceased, it ceased in Israel…”
Certainly, there are some parallels in that narrative to life today. Highways were empty, travelers had to sneak around, and their sense of community life “ceased”. In this time in the history of the nation of Israel the people were hiding due to what one commentator called “raiders” or thieves.
The nation needed a deliverer – and God raised up Shamgar. His name was probably Egyptian in origin and the text tells us that he was “the son of Anath”, which meant that he was perhaps from that lineage and may have been somewhat of a “mercenary” who changed sides to help protect the children of Israel.
This is where the story of Shamgar gets interesting. His weapon of choice in this incredible victory was an “ox goad”. Shamgar used what he had in his hand. The ox goad was a familiar farm implement, which means he was probably employed as a farmhand, working for someone else at the time. This tool was usually a long, pointed stick with two basic purposes. One was to “goad” or prod the oxen into moving through the plowing fields and the other was to sometimes clean the plows from the clumps of dirt and perhaps manure that tended to build up around the blade when plowing.
Shamgar had an ox goad and he used what he had in his hands for God, and God used him to accomplish something very special.
We are living in interesting times. Almost everyone I talk to uses the word “weird” to describe our world’s reaction to the current Coronavirus crisis. Churches have canceled their services, schools are closed, and grocery stores are running out of basic supplies. Church leaders and youth workers are certainly wondering what to do now. What do the times demand of us?
My advice is to do what Shamgar did. Use what you have!
Today we have computers, cell phones, and other means of technology. We have some tools we can use. We have the means to communicate with others – and we can do things with individuals, and we can meet in small groups. We can still minister, and we can still reach out. So, we should utilize what we have to accomplish what God has called us to do.
We don’t need to hunker down. We don’t need to retreat into our homes in fear. Ministry now will demand some creativity, some initiative, and some new looks. But it can still be done.
I’m sure that no one expected Shamgar to win with his ox goad, but he accomplished something great for God.
Like the ending of the Song of Deborah says in Judges 5:31b, “…let those who love Him be like the sun when it comes out in full strength.”
It was a summer day following my sophomore year in college, and I was sitting up in my hospital bed after waking up from surgery from an athletic injury. I admit that I was feeling sorry for myself that day. I was in a “poor Mel” and “my life is terrible” mood. My right arm was bandaged to my chest because of my shoulder surgery and my left hand was also bandaged due to the intravenous fluids’ hookup after the surgery.
On the hospital tray in front of me was a plastic cup filled with ice chips – and my open Bible. It’s a long story that I won’t go in to here, but my Bible was turned to Hebrews 12, and here’s what I read, “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens…”
That day, sitting alone in a hospital room, God used His Word to literally change the complete direction of my life. I had been living completely for myself, only prioritizing my own goals and plans. Even though I had put my faith in Christ as a child, my life up until that moment was quite focused on me and what I wanted out of life.
God spoke to me that day! No, not in an audible voice – but, His Words were loud and clear. God loved me enough to have something better in store for me than a life for myself. I was discouraged because I didn’t see God’s hand in this. That day it all changed. God loved me enough to work in my life. This surgery was not what I wanted, but it became the catalyst for real change in where I was headed.
I began to sob, not because I was “discouraged” by my life’s circumstances, but because I saw that God loved me enough to “chasten” me and that He had something better for me. That day I confessed my selfishness and admitted to Him that I had been wasting my life. That hospital room became “holy ground” for me as I dedicated my life to Christ and committed myself to follow His will.
Friends, I get it that my life’s story is no big deal when it is compared to the stories of many others, but it is what happened, and this was what God used to help me commit my life to Him and to do His will. My decision that day was to quit wasting my life and to use the rest of my life to make a difference for eternity instead of living focused on myself. And, I’ve tried to do that ever since.
It’s Thanksgiving season, and I can’t begin to express my thankfulness for my wife and family – and for the many years of satisfying and meaningful ministry that He has given us. Sure, we’ve had our ups and downs along the way. Everyone does. But we’ve lived our life trying to see God’s hand in what He wants us to be and to do.
As we’ve sought to do God’s will, we realized that God had wanted to use me to impact the next generation – and to do whatever I could do to utilize my gifts and abilities for that purpose. That’s why I’ve spent the last 45 years of my life actively involved in various aspects of ministry to students – and that’s why I began to focus my writing and speaking ministry to help motivate and encourage as many young people as possible in their walk with God. My ministry has been one of challenging them from the Scriptures not to waste their lives, but instead trying to help them to commit to doing the will of God.
In my personal bio on Twitter, I wrote that I am an “observer of cultural trends”. I have a compelling desire to be someone that makes the biggest difference that I can for eternity. I can’t do everything, but I want to do what I can to impact lives of the next generation. So, I became a youth pastor, a college instructor and administrator, a leader of a youth ministry organization, and a writer and speaker to do just that. My motive has been to observe where cultural influences are headed and to use my God-given gifts to do whatever I can to impact the lives of young people through those trends for eternity.
That is exactly why I’ve written my books, Inter-Generational Youth Ministry and Going On For God. I noticed cultural trends and wanted to do what I could to help people with those things. I wrote books on mentoring and discipleship because I wanted to help others also impact the next generation; and my kids and I put together a booklet on helping young people make Biblical decisions for the same reason.
That summer day in the hospital room was indeed a “holy ground” experience for me. Every now and then I drive by that hospital and tear up a little bit again because God used that place to change everything about Mel Walker’s life. I know this story is no big deal, but now you know why I do what I do. Thanks for reading.
Here are some quick reviews of my top 5 list of significant books that I read this summer. Each of these books has helped me think through key issues related to church ministry and today’s culture. I’d love to know what you’ve been reading, too.
Fellow youth workers and church leaders, I would like to ask you a serious question – and, please make an honest evaluation of your ministry.
Are your teenagers more loyal to your youth ministry than they are to the church as a whole?
If they are, it’s no wonder so many teenagers quit participating in church following their days in youth group. Let’s remember that youth ministry was never designed as a terminal program – with a specific ending point for the students to be finished and then walk away.
Here are 5 things that any church can do to help build loyalty to the church as a whole:
These 5 things are just recommendations, but I think they are very practical and workable in a church situation – and I think these strategy suggestions will help build loyalty to the entire church instead of just the youth program.
May the Lord bless you as you seek to implement these concepts into the fabric of your church!
The rise of “spiritual orphans” in our communities is a reflection of the true state of the family in today’s American culture. I define this category of student as those who have come to Christ, but who do not have the spiritual support system in place to grow in Him, or they are young people who do not have any Godly adult influences in their lives.
According to a recent national survey, almost 65% of Americans come to Christ between the ages of 4 and 14[i]. This is an important reality for any church to think through. If your children’s ministry and student ministry are reaching young people for Christ, you undoubtedly have connections with spiritual orphans as a part of your ministry.
Plus, we are living in a culture today where most likely the “good, Christian family” does not exist. According to recent statistics, more and more couples are living together without being married; the number of single-parent homes in the US is growing dramatically; there is a changing definition of “family” and there is a growing number of households in America that do not fit the classification of a “traditional” family; and the number of dysfunctional or fractured families is also increasing[ii].
Theologically, of course, there’s no such thing as a spiritual orphan:
Humanly however, the likelihood of us having the opportunity to minister to spiritual orphans is great. If we are seeing kids come to Christ, there will be several of them who are from households with very little Godly influence. This fact presents our ministries with a huge responsibility to help these young people become assimilated or integrated into the Christian community.
Ministering to “Spiritual Orphans” –
Here are 5 strategic suggestions for your church to consider:
May the Lord
bless you as you seek to reach out to the “spiritual orphans” in your
[ii] A great resource on the current state of the family in the US is: Households of Faith, by Barna Research. https://shop.barna.com/collections/family-kids/products/households-of-faith
[iv] See Mentoring the Next Generation: A Practical Strategy for Connecting the Generations in Your Church, by Mel Walker, published by Vision For Youth Publishing, 2019. https://goingonforgod.com/product/mentoring/
[v] See Inter-Generational Youth Ministry: Why A Balanced View of Connecting the Generations is Essential for the Church, by Mel Walker, published by Vision For Youth Publishing, 2013. http://intergenerationalyouthministry.com/the-book/
[vi] See Going On For God: Encouraging the Next Generation to Grow Up and Go On For God, by Mel Walker, Published by Vision For Youth Publishing, 2108. https://goingonforgod.com/product/going-on-for-god/
“Now also when I am old and gray-headed, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come.” Psalm 71:18
According to the US Government’s Health & Human Services Department we live in a country with a dramatically increasing population of older people. At this moment, almost 50 million people in the United States are 65 years of age or older – and that number is expected to grow significantly over the next several years. This demographic trend will definitely impact church ministries and programming as we consider how to reach and serve this growing cohort.
Even though most of us have been raised believing there is a considerable “Generation Gap”, I am absolutely convinced that the different generations in the church need each other and that both sides of the generational divide actually want the same things in the church. Younger people and older people alike desire to serve and worship God in a local church environment that honors God, that teaches and preaches the life-changing Word of God, and that effectively reaches out to the unsaved and un-churched members of the surrounding community with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Bible teaches the unity of the Body of Christ (see Ephesians 4:11-16) and that older people can and should mentor and encourage young people in the church (see Titus 2:1-10). Today’s young people need Godly and loving encouragement from the older people in the church – and actually current research points out that this generation of young people is very, very receptive to building close relationships with older people. (See https://www.barna.com/research/multigenerational-friendships/?mc_cid=5df38c9891&mc_eid=bfbee3c1fa.)
If you, like me, are one of the “older” generations in your church, please join me in doing all we can to encourage emerging generations to grow up and go on for God. Here are 5 simple things older adults can do to minister to younger people in church:
Pray for them
I highly encourage senior citizens to pray for their church’s younger generations – specifically, by name! It’s probably easy to obtain a list of their names from your church’s youth workers. Take each one to the Lord individually. God will begin to put a burden on your heart for them. You will be amazed at how external things fade away as you pray specifically for them and their spiritual growth. Once you have developed the habit of praying intentionally and individually FOR young people – then take the opportunity to pray WITH them. You will be amazed at how receptive today’s young people are for a time of special prayer with older people.
It’s also important for the older, established people in the church to actively and purposely encourage them in their walk with God. Take the Biblical examples of Barnabas and Onesiphorus to heart. They were exceptional encouragers. Today’s young people hear so much criticism and negativity. Let’s change that trend in the church. Imagine the positive influence you could have on your church’s teenagers and college age young adults just by being a verbal encouragement to them. Ephesians 4:29 puts it this way, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” Older people should take the initiative. Just say an encouraging word or two to young people in the church foyer or hallway. Believe me, it will be greatly appreciated.
Tell your story
Today’s youth love stories. Most of the recent blockbuster movies have been epic tales told as stories. God uses human interest, real-life accounts of real people to touch the hearts of others. I think this is the idea behind the truth in Psalm 78:1-8. Older generations were instructed to tell the next generation “the praises of the Lord. And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done….” So that, “They may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments.” This generation loves “God stories”. Seniors should take every opportunity they can to share what God has done and is doing in and through their lives. Practical ideas abound. Invite young people over to your home and take the opportunity to share your testimony with them. Take a few young people out for coffee. Today’s young people love to connect with older people. I strongly recommend that churches use this as a ministry advantage. This simple action step will help break down the Generation Gap.
Minister alongside them.
It should be the standard norm in your church for each ministry position (ushers, Sunday School teachers, VBS leaders, work days, etc.) to include a mentoring relationship with a younger person. Our churches must be intentional about becoming inter-generational. So, if you have any kind of ministry position at all in your church, why not invite a younger person to serve alongside of you? Even if you are not a ministry leader you can still minister with teens by asking them to help you bake cookies to encourage someone in the church, or to go with you to visit a shut-in. The key is to demonstrate your desire to serve the Lord to emerging generations.
I believe that every mature Christian in the church should have growing mentoring relationships with younger people. This is the Biblical pattern (see 1 Thessalonians 2:8 and Titus 2) and it should be replicated throughout our churches today. Over 90% of today’s young people have indicated that they would appreciate an older mentor. Yet, most adults feel like they don’t have time to so something like this. Friends, I have said for years that true mentoring is not necessarily a commitment of extra time. It is doing what you already do, just doing it with someone younger. The best mentoring takes place at church by the way. Begin this Sunday by building intentional, growing relationships with younger people.
It makes sense for older, spiritually mature people to be intentional about personally ministering to younger people in the church. Let’s bridge that Generation Gap!
Youth room. Church kids. Snacks. Games. Praise band. Youth speaker. Small groups.
How long has church youth ministry looked this way in America? I am 41-years-old and it’s been this way since I was in youth group… and possibly before. I was in youth group in the 90’s, specifically from 1990-1996. I have also traveled extensively and observed many American, church youth groups since graduating from Bible college, and almost everyone has looked almost exactly like mine did.
If your church youth ministry still looks like this, should it? Are you content with where it is currently, or do you dream of and pray for more?
Many, if not most, church youth ministries right now are in decline. A good number of churches have even decided against paying a full-time youth director. Middle school ministries are doing better, but high schoolers are checking out due to busyness and simply feeling too old for youth group.
Would you like to experience growth, both numerical and spiritual? Reach your community? See students embrace real, radical relationships with Christ? Watch them become disciple makers and world changers for Christ?
The following are five, strategic changes to implement in your church youth ministry this year to create a “city on a hill” culture that shines a light in your community, and not just in your youth room:
By Kristi Walker – CrossWay Church in Berlin, Germany
Let’s face it, a lot of youth workers sometimes view parents as almost one of the necessary evils of youth ministry. A friend of mine took a survey a few years ago in his network of approximately 400 youth workers. He asked them to name the biggest concerns they faced in local church youth ministry. The most listed answer was “parents of teenagers.”
Here are 5 basic ways that parents of teenagers approach youth ministry. It has been my experience that somewhere along the line all youth workers will face parents in each of the following categories: