Friday, February 22, 2013

Bible Study: Dead in Sin (Real-Life Zombies)

For my Practical Skills for Youth Ministry class this week, we had to write a Bible study and present it to the class. My friend Jim was particularly excited about the zombie theme of this, and it went over quite well as a message shared this Sunday at youth group, so I decided to share it with everyone here.


  • (Trailer for “Warm Bodies” zombie romance movie)

Zombies and Scripture? Colossians 2:13-14
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.

  • What does it mean to be dead in sin?
  • What does it mean to be alive in Christ?
  • What happened to our sins?

Deeper Look:
·         Where would you consider yourself to be spiritually? Are you lost in your sin, like the zombies before Julia appeared? Are you being healed, like R and the others were? Or are you completely alive and spreading that healing to others, like Julia?

The Next Step:
·         What can you do to move from your spiritual state to the next one? If you’re a “total zombie” in your sin, will you allow God’s love to heal you like Julia’s love healed R? If you’re alive in Christ, how can you spread that love to others this week? 

      As usual, feel free  to adapt and share this as the Holy Spirit guides you. Have a wonderful week!

     God''s blessings,

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Theme Night: The Walking Dead

Purpose: To teach students what it means to be “dead in sin”, invite those students that are not Christians to accept Christ, and encourage those students that have accepted Christ to share their faith with someone who is dead in sin

Challenge: If you’re “the walking dead”, we invite you tonight to accept Jesus into your life and become alive in him! If you’re not dead in sin, you know someone who is. Show them what it means to be alive in Christ this week through your words and actions.

Trivia: Zombie

Message: Dead in sin, alive in Christ


  • Zombie Balloons: One player—the Zombie—will not be given a balloon. All other players will be given one balloon with a piece of string to tie around their ankle. Players are given a 45 second head start to hide from the Zombie. The Zombie is released and has to make other Zombies by popping other players’ balloons. Once a player’s balloon is popped (either accidentally or by a Zombie) they become a Zombie and begin to pop other players’ balloons as well.
  • Zombie Grins: One person is 'IT', and the others must sit or lay as motionless and expressionless zombies. The person who is 'IT' must do whatever they can to make the zombies smile, giggle, or wiggle in any way without touching them! When 'IT' gets a zombie to wiggle, giggle, or smile, that zombie then joins 'IT' in trying to get others to smile, giggle, or wiggle. The last zombie wins!
  • Zombie Mafia: Like the regular Mafia game, but put a zombie twist to your narration!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Importance of Christocentric Programming

A lot of people, when they think about youth groups, think of flashy lights, fun videos, and often dangerous or disgusting games. While these can certainly be a part of youth programming--though I hope the dangerous games are not--they fall flat when Christ isn't the center.

 Youth ministry is intended to draw youth into a relationship with Christ or to help youth grow in their faith. Youth programming is a method for achieving this ministry, but often we turn programming into nothing more than games. We hide behind words like "outreach" and claims that we're "trying to draw students in" and "don't want to drive them away with Bible-thumping." But if we water down the Gospel or ignore it completely in our programming, aren't we standing in its way?

Isaiah 55:10-11 carries a promise that we too often forget in youth ministry:

"As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."

Wherever God's Word is preached, it will achieve His purpose. When we preach the Word, when we declare the Gospel, only those hearts that God hardened like Pharaoh's will be turned away. We are not called to force the Law down students' throats, but when we declare the state of humanity to be in bondage to sin and share the message of the saving grace through Christ Jesus, we cannot push students away. The Law will convict, and the Gospel will comfort.

The games are fun. The videos are great. The fellowship is necessary.  But if Christ isn't the center, it echoes the cry in Ecclesiastes: "Meaningless, meaningless...everything is meaningless!"

How can we fix this fatal flaw in our programming? In each and every thing we do, we will preach Christ crucified. That's the reason all the theme nights I post on here center around the message. That's the reason each night has a Gospel focus. And where I fail, I ask my brothers and sisters in Christ to hold me accountable, and I will do the same for you.

"When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power." 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

This is my calling. This is my desire. This is my ministry.

God's blessings,

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Value of Relationships in Ministry

One of last year's Grass Lake volunteers developing relationships with the youth.
A wise man once told me (as his mentor told him) that youth ministry takes three keys: relationships, relationships, and relationships. Last night in my Practical Skills for Youth Ministry class, the professor shared the same three keys, and I wanted to share with everyone this week how that impacted me.

The first reason relationships are vital to youth ministry is because God set it out for us in His plan. Our God is a relational God. The Trinity is inherently relational, three persons, one substance, in eternal relationship with one another. Likewise, God created man to be in relationship with Him and with one another. Throughout history, He has sought out a personal relationship with mankind, beginning with Adam and continuing through the present, and when that relationship was broken at the rebellion of man recorded in Genesis 3, God provided a way for us to return to that relationship through Jesus. Following the restoration of that relationship, Christ sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in relationship in us, and we are told to share the Spirit with others by making other disciples. Members of the Church, also, are told to build relationships with other members, and to bring more people into the Church to grow and build more relationships

When a mentor or leader understands how to make a student feel safe and loved, the impact on that student’s life increases exponentially. In a congregation setting, this helps students who might not connect to other adults feel part of the congregation, and they develop a sense of ownership and belonging in the congregation. Building these relationships and interacting with youth in this way is not something time-specific or quantifiable—it should be a twenty-four/seven availability for students, and time spent seeking out students and actively developing the relationships should be the primary focus of all programming.
Establishing relationships with parents is equally as important as establishing relationships with students, as parents must have trust in those associating with their children in order to allow leaders to have time and interaction with their children. Also, when one can minister to parents, one can also minister to their children, as parents (or guardians, in many contemporary cases) are the single most important and constant influence on the development of faith for a child or adolescent. Establishing a partnership with parents of youth allows for a more complete and effective ministry which will last longer than simply developing relationships with youth.

In youth programming, the best way to incorporate one-on-one relationships is by establishing openness and trust through casual activities such as youth nights, retreats, and lock-ins. These events should, of course, be Christocentric, in order to establish Christ as the head of any relationship, but not intimidatingly so—not in a way that would drive students away. Once casual relationships have begun and students begin to trust their mentors and leaders within the youth ministry, deeper relationships can be developed through more spiritually intense Bible studies, personal interaction and conversation, and small group meetings, which also focus on Christ and continue the development of Christocentric relationships with the students.

Within a congregational setting, youth and adolescents often feel as if they are left out. Without having a sense of ownership, they feel too old for children’s ministry and too young for adult ministry, and the youth group often feels completely separated from the church itself. However, when students develop personal relationships with older leadership within the church and develop a sense of meaning and purpose within the church, they can begin to feel as though their participation in the church matters—as it does. Developing relationships with the youth is vital to helping them establish their sense of purpose and become an inherent and vital part of the congregation, and more importantly, part of the Bride of Christ.

 Have a great weekend!

God's blessings,

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Theme Night: Why Bad Things Happen

Sorry I'm a few days late on this one, folks. It's been a crazy and somewhat painful week, as you'll read in the message at the bottom. I don't generally provide a message, but this was really heavy on my heart, and I feel God calling me to share it with as many people as possible, as a means for Him to share His Gospel. Anyway, please personalize the message to what's relevant in your group, but as usual, you are always free to use anything from my posts as a source!

God's blessings,

Law: Sickness, pain, and death in this world are unavoidable due to the fallen state of sin.
Gospel: Even if God doesn’t heal our physical bodies, He has prepared a path for our salvation through His Son Jesus.
Life Focus: When going through trials in this life, remember that God works “all things to the good of those who love Him.”

James 5:13-16 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Trivia: Book of Job

  • Trash Can Game: This life pulls us into sin, and the only one we can trust to keep us free from that sin is Jesus.
  •   Mafia: Tie this game in with an opener reminding students that because of sin, people hurt each other, people falsely accuse one another, and people die. Encourage students to think during the game about where God is in the middle of all that suffering--make sure, though, that you answer that during the message.

  • Video: “Even If”, Kutless

This week’s theme means a lot to me. I found out this past week that my great grandma, age 90, is severely sick and likely won’t be with us much longer. When things like this happen—as I felt when my grandpa was diagnosed with cancer, or when my cousin died in a house fire, or my family was moved away from my hometown to follow God’s calling in the military—it’s easy to be angry with God. We need to remember, though, that even in the midst of this pain, God hasn’t abandoned us. In fact, it’s just the opposite. He tells us in Romans 8:28 that He is working all things “for the good of those who love Him.”
It doesn’t always feel like God’s working things to our good. In the physical world, with our minds limited by our human nature, we can’t see the big pictures. We hold on to passages like James 5:13-16 or Psalm 91:16, and say that God has to make it better. We figure that if God knows what’s best for us, He won’t let us hurt. How could pain be what’s best for us?
The problem with this mindset is that we don’t always know what’s best for us. In the same way that a two-year-old thinks that what’s best for them is to eat a cookie, we think that what’s best for us is to be happy, or at least comfortable. But that cookie won’t help the child grow and be healthy, and we can’t grow spiritually if all we get are spiritual cookies—happiness, earthly healing, and comfort. By taking us out of our comfort zone, letting us feel pain, letting us experience suffering, God is testing us and refining us “as gold is refined by fire.”
Does that mean that God isn’t going to heal my grandmother? What about the promise in James 5? He promised that “the prayer of faith will heal the one who is sick”, right? But earthly healing and spiritual healing aren’t always the same thing. God can use earthly healing to bring someone to spiritual healing in Jesus, but that’s not always the way He works. When He calls my great-grandma to Him, He hasn’t broken His promise to “heal the one who is sick.” He’s brought her true healing, lasting healing—spiritual healing. He brought her to faith in Him many years ago, and when she dies He’s fulfilling her faith by drawing her to Him in the healing that will never end.
He acts in the same way through our lives here on earth. When bad things happen in this world, we need to hold on tight to the promise that “God works all things for the good of those who love Him.” Then, even in the midst of all the pain and suffering we experience on this earth, we know that “even when the healing doesn’t come”, when we don’t feel God’s love or see Him working, He’s working that everyone would be given the opportunity to come to faith in Him and experience the spiritual healing that never ends.