Friday, October 15, 2010

Ministry to Youth

Dan Stockstill, Ph.D., Harding University

Note: The following notes are from three sessions on youth ministry that Dr. Dan Stockstill presented at the Harding University lectures, Sept. 2010. I am presenting the notes here as I wrote them down - in a very simple, outline form. I hope they are useful. And thanks to Dan for his great class.


The challenge for teens - they don’t know how to grow up. What is adulthood? There is no definition. It is subjective. It is not discussed in detail in scripture. It is an assumption.

Many churches see the ministry of the youth minister ending at high school graduation. But, where do they go next? Many churches do not have a college ministry, and they may not feel like they fit in the adult class or programs.

When does a teen become an adult? "I am an adult when I say I am an adult." We may say they are adults when they are ready to accept the privileges and responsibilities of this life stage.

Alvin Toffler -

Historical periods -

1) Agrarian Wave - 3,000 BC to 1700 AD
The male became an adult when he could run the farm
The female became an adult when she could bear offspring and manage the home.
Adulthood was achieved when one could function as an adult.

2) Industrial Wave - 1700 AD to 1950
Adulthood - when you could get a job.

The Agrarian model was communal - running a farm contributed to the larger clan.
The Industrial model is individualistic - stand apart from others.

In the Industrial model you buy a house, but not on the farm. You have separate living arrangements. Also, there was a move from barter to money.

3) Informational Age - 1950 - 1990
Information is key.
Education now emphasized. The GI Bill gave a new perspective on what it meant to be an adult. A watershed event was mandatory high school education (1875?). In 1904 the word adolescence entered the English language.

In the Agrarian model everyone had to farm. The value was in having children, because then you had other hands to help on the farm.

The Industrial era saw the development of an upper elite. The elite had education, leisure and time to think. These privileges were for only a small percentage.

In the Information age, the longer you go to school, the longer you put off adulthood.
High school - college - graduate school.

In the Agrarian model you had to toil or perish.

4) Digital Wave 1990 -
Industrial wave - accumulate information
Informational wave - control of information
Digital wave - information is for everybody.

What does it mean to be an adult?
When they want to be.

How do we help them?
Extend family support until they can make decisions.

In our culture what defines adulthood? Independent decision making, responsibility, managing finances, relationships (how they are formed, maintained, kept)

The Generations
GI Generation
Buster (Gen X) - in the middle
Millenials - about age 30
Digital - about 8 years

The Industrial approach no longer applies.
This model segregates and separates; divides and conquers.
When used in churches this segregates and separates by age, grade, gender, etc.
Smaller churches group a wider array of ages by necessity.

A mission - reach the ones that don’t fit.

Our definition of adulthood affects how we interact and what we expect.
Ministry that segregates creates competition.
Isolation by generation creates generational competition over resources, time and recognition.

System - when one part suffers it all suffers. It takes a village to create a community where it is safe for a child to become an adult. Loving, nurturing. This environment doesn’t exist elsewhere.

The model of youth ministry for the last 40 years has been to keep good kids, good kids. We have had activities, trips for them. The unspoken message is that kids go on mission trips, to youth rallies, etc., but adults don’t - "This is what I do as a teenager, but it is not what adults do."

Teens go on mission and fun trips. But, from about age 15 to 25 many of them become inactive. During the years 25 to 35 many become active again, but often in other religious groups. We must build intergenerational bridges.

Questions of Adolescents (but, is really true of our whole life):
1) Whom Am I?
2) What is my community?
3) What is my purpose?
When we are young we ask these questions in the security of the home.

Congregations must ask these questions of themselves, too. Must ask about our identity, community, and purpose in ministry.

Interaction - invite people to mission trips who are not part of the teen generation.
Kids want to be respected.
What do we owe the kids at church? Mark 3 - Jesus asked, "Who is my family?"

How divisive can we make our body? How do we do outreach to connect with those not in our church? What we win them with is what we win them to.

The pursuit of a youth group is not necessarily the pursuit of a youth group in Christ. If a youth group is valued only in the box - class, devotional, leading singing - it is not big enough for a kids to give their lives to. Christianity is not defined by the box.

We need to concentrate on what goes on outside the box - ministry to the world. That will make what goes on inside the box more relevant.

Who is weak? Weary? Wounded? What are we going to do about it? If we focus on the box - our own little group - that is self-serving. It promotes narcissistic values. The end result of narcissism is self loathing. They end up hating what they should love.

Images of church/worship:
1) Water station in a marathon race. Refreshing.
2) Family meal - talk about your day. But you don’t spend your whole life at the table.

Adulthood is not the certainty of a final decision, but the certainty of direction.

Are we giving teens tools to
1) Handle their questions
2) Place them in community?

The single most significant cry of teens over the last 60 years has been "I’m lonely!"

Most teens feel like an island in the sea. If they feel that way when they graduate high school, they will not be an island in the sea, but a boat in the sea, blown about. (Who knows to what they will be tossed and finally feel connected?)
Stuff today - like plastic. Not quite as good as the original stuff, like Facebook.

Three key questions of pre-adults
1) Who Am I
- Giftedness
- Becoming
- Christ’s

2) Community
- God
- Authority
- Same gender
- Opposite gender

3) Pursuit of purpose
- Mission
- Sustaining
- Equipping

How you define adulthood has a lot to do with how these questions are answered.

Be patient and persistent
Are challenging a cultural norm
Will take extended energy before change that norm.

How do we help young people become adults as God intended them to be?
Cultural norm - minor/adult. Age limit. Not always valid.
An adult who is weak or immature may need more legal protection than a minor.

The church must encourage and equip.

1) Giftedness.
The age of the individual and connection to the body may not be otherwise where we expect them to be.
Giftedness is not an arrival but a process.
Grow like Jesus. In one year, will we be more like him?
Governing question - what can I do to please him?

2) Becoming
Purity, community, sin

3) Christ’s
Be more serious in how we do church.
It is Christ, first, last, always.

1) Authority
All of our authority is reflective, none inherent.
We all answer to God.

2) Relationships
Same and opposite gender.

1) Mission - pursuing what God has left us to do.

2) Sustaining - supporting those doing mission - uphold their hands.

3) Equipping - getting people ready.

Generational segregation leads to generational competition. How overcome?
1) Listen to one another’s stories, so they become our stories.
Kids should hear stories of grandparents - dating etc.
Teens would be amazed at struggles of grandparents.

Find ways for table time to be table time.
This is more important than the number of songs and efficiency of delivering.
Hurts, helps, challenges that brothers and sisters have faced, are facing, will face.
Share stories. Start with our stories.
[Blog article - Granparents - tell your stories to your grandkids]

2) Organize the learning of life skills.
Find projects to work together. Not church supporting teens doing it, but church doingit together as a group - young and old. Can be highway cleanup.
When people work together, they begin to work together.

Think about intentional bridging.
Mix and match instead of segregating.
Parents and teens open Word together.
Family devotions - can’t jump start. Equip.
Everyone in congregation has something to do. Ex. A 4 year old can pick up bulletins lying in pews.

Tom Sawyer - getting people to do job. How?
1) Make it appear it takes someone special to do it.
2) They invest themselves to make it work.
3) He projects an image they buy into.


Do not be negative, be positive.
Not a public speech, but a personal connection. "I need help with this."
Thousands heard Jesus, 120 (or 12) changed the world.

Mentor. Mark 3:14. To be with him, 3:6
Try to get adults to help teens.
Get teens to help adults. Prayer.
(Tutor sewing. Make bags for single moms)
Find something for everyone. Good at counting? Count kids on a trip :)

God’s grace is without limit, his gifts are without limit.
Gifts - find someone who is good at finding people’s gifts.

Things we can do immediately
1) Integrate teen and parents of teens. Small groups.
2) "Teen explosion" - break up. Have to sit with someone you normally don’t.

3) Be willing to learn from others. "I want to learn your songs" instead of "I want you to learn my songs."

God sets the orphans and widows in family. (cf. Psalm 68:6)
Mentoring - woman-teen girl; man-teen boy
The only work is to pick a mentor. Do stuff together. Whatever the lady wants to do with the girl, or man with the boy.

On new kids who are destructive to the building - "If we let them abuse our stuff like they abused Jesus, then we are starting to live like Jesus."

Everyone is worth something and Christ paid the cost.

Dan Stockstill


Working from some of the suggestions by Dan, I have begun setting up mentoring relationships in our church between adults and teens. Some of the following materials and ideas are to be shared in a meeting with the mentors before they begin meeting with their mentoree. I’m still working on this, and will make changes/additions as they develop.

For mentoring program:
1) George Smythe article on respecting teens
2) Mentoring purpose statement
3) What mentoring is:
4) Mentoring form
Date _______________________
Nature of visit ___________________________
To commend ______________________________
To be concerned about _____________________________

(3 on a page)

5) Assessment form
Name of Mentor _______________________________________________
Name of Mentoree _____________________________________________
Number of visits _______________________________________________
What were some good things about your visits:

What are some things in the life of your mentoree that we need to encourage (e.g., pursuing their education, work habits, relationships, self-esteem, etc.)

1) All good kids. Not trying to help them overcome criminal orientation (that we know of)
2) Light-hearted, fun. Just trying to get to know them better; connect.
3) Guidelines:
A] Lunch, dessert in your home, attend sporting event together.
B] Talk. Some openers -
How was your day?
What is your favorite sport? What do you like about it?
What is your favorite subject in school? What do you like about it?
Have you thought about going to college? Where?
C] Key off of their answers for further conversation.
Tell part of your story.
If they talk about struggling in school, tell them about a struggle you had in school.
If they are heart-broken over a relationship, tell them about a dating struggle you had.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Baptism and Identification

Matthew 3:13-17

Jesus came to John to be baptized and John was reluctant to do it. "I need to be baptized by you," he said. "And you are coming to me?"

I understand John’s hesitation. John baptized for repentance and the remission of sins (Mark 1:4). Of what sins did Jesus have to repent? What sins did he have to wash away? None. So why be baptized?

John felt confused and unworthy. "I need to be baptized by you!" John is a great guy! He proclaims the Word. He is the forerunner of Jesus. But is he worthy to baptize Jesus? He didn’t think so.

Jesus said: "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness" (V.15). "It is proper" means God wants it. It is to "fulfill all righteousness" means it is doing God’s will. But why, if Jesus has no sin? In his baptism Jesus is doing something important in relation to his Father and to us.

Jesus is identifying with God and his purpose for life.

God always calls for his people to declare their allegiance to him. "Chose you this day whom you will serve ..." (Joshua 24:15). God gives his people numerous ways to identify with him - the moral laws, ceremonial laws and cleanliness laws. All of these were for his people to tell the culture around them, "We belong to God." Anyone in the gentile nations could look at a faithful Hebrew and say, "They don’t live like us. They live for their God." That is identification.

Jesus’ baptism did that. Jesus was saying, "I belong to God. I humble myself to his will and his ministry for me." It was bold commitment and humble obedience. God responded with lavish praise to his son’s baptism:

"As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." (16-17).

Humble obedience pleases God whether it is rendered by Jesus or by us.

Jesus is identifying with his people.

In baptism Jesus identified with everyone else who was baptized. "Jesus thereby shows his solidarity with his people in their need."3

Jesus’ ministry was one of humble obedience. He walked among people and bore their struggles. He wept with them, struggled against the religious establishment with them and listened to them. Jesus healed people. He bore their sin on the cross. Jesus also took on the humble, obedient nature of a servant in baptism. He had no sin and no rebellion but he identified with sinners and rebellious people.

To fulfill all righteousness Jesus was baptized. Jesus was the unique son of God, born of a virgin. He was a powerful worker of miracles and the triumphant king. Jesus was also a humble, obedient servant. Jesus’ humility and obedience beckons us. Jesus calls us, even today. "Follow me. I obey the Father. You, too, can obey the Father."

Our baptism.

John baptized people for repentance and remission of sins. Later, Jesus’ baptism would be for this but would include the dispensing of the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:16). Today in baptism we receive the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit. In baptism we experience what Jesus did.

Like Jesus, when we are baptized we identify with God. When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit came upon him. When we are baptized the Holy Spirit comes upon us (Acts 2:38). When Jesus was baptized he was identified as the son of God. When we are baptized we are identified as sons of God (Gal. 3:26,27).

Secondly, when we are baptized we identify ourselves with other followers of God (Acts 2:41; 1 Cor. 12:13). We don’t live the Christian life alone. We identify with other followers and live in community with them.

The Optimist, Rotary and Kiwanis clubs all have initiation rites for new members. The ceremony welcoming new members has nothing to do with the cleansing of sin or recognizing passage from rebellion to humble submission to God. But their initiation ceremony does offer a chance for the new member to identify himself to and with the group. After learning about the club a person may decide, "I want to be a part of this group." The initiation ceremony becomes his or her opportunity to officially identify themselves as a club member.

Members in these clubs receive a pin and new member packet recognizing their status in the club. Jesus’ baptism accomplished that ... and more. Jesus received the accolades of heaven: heaven was torn open, God manifested himself in the form of a dove that descended upon Jesus, and the voice of God spoke affirmingly. Now, all who so desire can have fulfilled in their hearts what Isaiah prayed for years ago: "Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down ..." God has torn open the heavens and he has come down in the form of Jesus, the dove, and the spoken word. The dynamic for this revelation of God is the baptism of Jesus.

I’ve never performed a baptism where the heavens opened, a dove descended, and the authoritative voice of God spoke from on high. But I know from scripture that any baptism today performed as scripture teaches is no less significant in what it offers to our lives: identification with Jesus and his people.


The following story isn’t about baptism, but it is about identification. I think it captures some of the thought of what it means to identify with Christ and others at a deep level. To identify with us, Jesus not only submitted to baptism, he submitted to emptying himself and leaving heaven to dwell for awhile on earth. He deprived himself and suffered for the sake of those he was seeking to redeem. Some of that is captured in the following story.

John Austin is 13 year old living in Hong Kong. Last week he was in a bike accident and received a corneal scratch. His eye bled and he had to go to a top pediatric ophthalmologist. The doctor told John’s parents that the scratch will heal and the blood clots drain. The blurry vision will go away and John will eventually see clearly again. But there is more to the story.

As John was suffering with his painful eye he received a text message from a Japanese girl and classmate of John’s. She wrote,"I know I am not a Christian, but I want you to know that I have been praying for you."

John Austin was thrilled and told his mother, "You know Mom, as bad as this is for me, it would sure be worth it if my friend came to know Christ because of my pain."

I would say this young man knows something about identification with Jesus and his people. He is willing to suffer for the kingdom, like Jesus, and he is willing to suffer for the redemption of others.

I think the Spirit of God must still be saying, "This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased." Anytime we so identify with God’s purposes and God’s people the heart of the Father is pleased.

(You can read about John Austin's story at Everyday Adventures in Faith).

Warren Baldwin

Friday, October 8, 2010

Two Problems with Forgiveness

Two Problems With Forgiveness
Micah 7:18-20

Read Micah 3:1-5. Where is God? How do we know he is there, especially when evil things are going on as described in Micah 3?

Micah 3 affirms that the way you treat others has removed you from God. If you treat others abusively, you can call God, but will get a busy signal.
V.1 - You will know justice (but not in a way they will like!)
V. 2- You hate the good and love the evil. You tear the skin from off my people
V.3 - You eat the flesh of my people; break their bones. You chop them up like meat in a pot, like flesh in a cauldron

Micah is describing cannibalism. Are they literally cannibals? Probably not. This is likely a reference to how they are abusing people, usually financially. Micah 2:9 says they drive women from their homes; deprive children of their inheritance. We use the term "skinning" people in reference to financial abuse.

But in ch.4 God doesn’t completely give up on people. This describes how life could be if people followed God. Ch.5 offers a prophecy of a king to be born in Bethlehem. Israel is called to be a good force in the world.

What does God expect of us?
Ch. 6 - Summons to court. God goes to court with Israel to see who is right. Israel is found guilty. Ch. 7 - Lament. Micah is waiting on the Lord. And the people need forgiveness.

Two fundamental problems with forgiveness.
1) We confuse our inability to forgive with God’s ability to forgive.
2) We sometimes don’t feel forgiven because we don’t feel good enough to be forgiven.
Feeling forgiven is a major issue in forgiveness.

(Stories of hurt and forgiveness.)

Micah 3:1-2 - If anybody should be forgiven, it is certainly not these people! These people are like cannibals. That is how they are described. But God is bigger then any of our sins. And this chapter is not the last word in Micah.

Micah 7:18b - God delights in being merciful; forgiving. This is a great verse to memorize - God does "not stay angry forever but delights to show mercy."

Seven affirmations about forgiveness: Micah 7:18-20
1) God pardons us. 7:18b
Pardon means "to lift off." God lifts off our sin.

Overview of Leviticus
1] Chs. 1-15 - about worship (sacrifices)
2] Chs. 17-27 (the end) - how to live after forgiven.
3] Ch. 16 - Other chapters revolve around this one.

Ch. 16 is about the Day of Atonement.
Atonement is about forgiveness. Ch.16 is about how their sins are forgiven. Two goats are brought forward. One is sacrificed. Then the sins of the people are place on the other goad. The sins of people are taken off - lifted off - and put on back of the goat. The goat is then taken to the wilderness. V.20-22

2) God forgiveness us. 7:18b
Forgiveness means he passes over transgressions. Remember the plagues on Egypt. Pharaoh’s heart was hard. The most severe plague was death. Blood placed on door post - death passed over. Same terms.

3) God does not stay angry forever. 7:18c
Exodus 32:27-28 - example of the wrath of God. He kills the Israelites with the sword for making and worshiping golden calf. About 3,000 killed.

Exodus 34:6 - the love of God. "The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin." Then, 7b reminds us that God will punish the disobedient and unrepentant. 34:6 - "Slow to anger." Literally translated as "Does not have long nose." Something concrete to explain an abstract concept. The Hebrews believed anger originated in the nose.

4) God delights in showing mercy. 7:18c
Word for mercy is chesed. Means steadfast love (ESV); mercy (NIV). Good translation - loyal.

In Hebrew this word is void of emotion. Has nothing to do with how we feel. How we feel does not matter; not a part of chesed. Chesed is an act of the will. A decision to be with someone. It is an act of God’s will to be loyal to his people; to forgive them.

5) He has compassion on us. 7:19a
Compassion is gentleness. Another concrete word - compassion refers to a woman’s womb. The verb means, "show compassion." The imagery in Hebrew - the way a woman feels about her unborn baby in her womb is how God feels for us.

6) He treads our sins underfoot. 7:19b
It means he stamps sin underneath him.
Ancient practice - soldiers would walk on the corpses of those they killed. Showed complete triumph over their enemies. That is what God does to our sin. He destroys it; stomps on it.

7) God throws our sin into the depths of the sea. 7:19c
Exodus 14 - God parted the Red Sea. When Egyptians tried to cross, were drowned in the depths of the sea. God takes our sins to the deepest part of the ocean and drowns them there.


Here are seven positive affirmations about how God handles sin in the one who is penitent. Seven is a complete number. Means God has done everything to remove our sin from us.

Remember the two fundamental problems with forgiveness.
1) We confuse our inability to forgive with God’s ability to forgive.
2) We sometimes don’t feel forgiven because we don’t feel good enough to be forgiven.
Feeling forgiven is a major issue in forgiveness.

But, we must also remember ...
God forgives, not because we are good enough, but because he is good enough.
1) God’s forgiveness involves forgetting.
2) God’s forgiveness involves grace. God is good enough.

If you are struggling with feeling forgiven, God says, "What you can’t forget I can’t remember. What you are not good enough to do, I am."

What freedom from guilt and shame God gives us!

Note: Dr. Harold Shank of OC presented this lesson at the Kansas Men’s Retreat in September, 2010. These are his notes that I took, with some of my thoughts added in. It was an excellent lesson that I wanted to share with you.

Warren Baldwin