Early on in ministering to youth and their families, I had a decision to make. When a conflict would arise with a parent and their child about how or what I was teaching, how would I respond?
Those of us who are in youth ministry, teaching, or other occupations that involve the children of others have to make the same decision. I know every case can be different. Of course, if we are dealing with a parent/child relationship that is outside the bounds of a biblically-based parent/child relationship, such as physical or sexual abuse, obviously we need to take measures to protect the child. However, I’m not referring to that type of situation.
As both a Christ-follower and as fifteen-year veteran of working with students and their parents, I would contend that we need to let the parents be the parents of their child and realize that we are only there to enhance the instruction that the parents are already teaching their child.
No matter how much we as leaders think we love and care about these children, their parents love and care for them more. If you don’t think that’s the case in certain situations, try to equip the parents to love their child more than you do. Of course with so many divided families in our world today, this is quite a challenge. If they don’t want your help, step aside and let them raise their child. We cannot force anyone to be taught. If people are not open to correct teaching, let the Holy Spirit do His work. Only a willing person with an open heart will accept the truth.
Case in point: Early on in ministering to students, I was blessed to be part of a ministry with people who understood what it means to reach out to the masses, to the wavering believers and unbelievers. During one school year in particular, we saw growth almost every single week and new students were always coming through the door.
(I would like to thank the people of Trinity Evangelical UMC in Upper Sandusky, OH for the opportunity to be their youth minister for almost ten years. I learned so much from them and was challenged and encouraged weekly to try new things and to bring the ministry to people rather than stay in our meeting place. Thinking outside-of-the-box is a much-needed, amazing practice. Two pastors that changed my life are Derik Hines and Marc Quinter. I love those guys!)
I was confronted with the dilemma mentioned above with one student in particular along with his father. This student had an odd last name and got picked on a bit for it. He also had a nickname that ended up sticking, so we all called him that. He was in eighth grade when he first showed up in our small town. Having come from a larger city, this guy needed some friends. As we built up our friendship, we realized we had a lot in common. I also realized that he was hungry to learn and was confused about what truth really was. His world had been turned upside down not only by the divorce of his parents but also by the fact that his mother had remarried and brought him to our little community. He needed truth and stability.
We quickly became friends, and I gave him a ride home after every youth group meeting. Almost every week in his driveway, we would sit in my vehicle literally for hours on end, talking about anything—especially spiritual things and questions he had about life. He became one of my disciples, but I also learned a lot from him. I was honored that he would want me to sink into his life.
I try to live my life in obedience to the Bible and believe that all of Genesis 1–11 is literal history. (Yes, I can back it up with solid information from the science world as well as biblical evidence, but that is not the point here. Just ask me if you’d like to discuss it further. I love discussing the issue.) I teach these truths as much as I can.
After a few weeks of teaching about a literal Genesis in youth group, this young man asked me my advice. He was learning what I was teaching and was beginning to see its truth and logic. He told his father, whom I had never met since he lived elsewhere, about what I was teaching him. He was not a Christ-follower and this student and I had talked about their relationship quite a bit. Needless to say, his father was furious about my teaching!
This young man told me that his father had called me many nasty names and forbid him to continue going to our youth group. However, the boy’s mother, with whom he lived, was ecstatic about the growth she was seeing in her son—not only in Christ but also as a human being.
What to do?
I had a decision to make. This son wanted to tell his father to leave him alone, for he believed that his father was wrong and I was right.
However, I knew this was an unwise response. Even though his father and I did disagree so blatantly on many things, I knew that he should not undermine and dishonor his father.
So I told this young man, “Your father and I disagree, and I don’t think he is right. But he is your father. God gave you to him as his son. No one loves you more than Jesus Christ and your mom and dad. Not even me. This might be hard to hear, but it’s true. Long after you graduate, your dad will still be here, but I probably won’t be. You need to honor your mother and father. I believe this is what God would want you to do.”
After some discussion, the young man agreed to honor and obey his father and try harder with their relationship.
Two years later we brought in a scientist who is a Christian and believes in the biblical account of Genesis as history, to speak at the church. Guess who showed up to listen to the talk? This young man’s father! The one who totally believes that evolution is correct and my teachings about Genesis were crazy.
Afterward, he came up to me and said, “We don’t agree on this subject at all, but thank you for loving my son and respecting me as his father. You can hang out with him whenever you want to.”
We finished talking, shook hands, and went our separate ways. I went down to my small office, shut the door, and began to weep with joy. Until that evening, I honestly didn’t know if I had made the right decision! I praised the Lord for His Word, His love for us, and for the Holy Spirit.
That night I discovered that, no matter what, I needed to teach children and youth to honor and obey their parents—even if we disagree. God is big enough to handle it.
For further reading, check out Ephesians 6:1–4 and Exodus 20:12.
“You stole our land, and I hate white people! Leave us alone!”
These words were quite a rude awakening to hear as the leader of our mission trip to minister to the homeless in Toronto, Canada. I can only imagine what the high school students thought who were with me.
The man who spoke those harsh words was a Native American in a wheelchair with a cast on his leg. He was a very large man who didn’t look, talk, or smell like the five students I had with me from a small town in Ohio. I pretty much had nothing in common with this man either. He was accompanied by a Native American woman who must have been his wife, girlfriend, or sister but I am unsure.
Before he told us to leave, we tried talking to them about life or whatever they wanted to discuss, but he was pretty angry at the world and put most of the blame on society and everyone else. He wouldn’t let us touch him and neither would his companion. I’ll just say this: witnessing to them about the love of Jesus Christ wasn’t going well, for they wanted to hear nothing about it. We did our best just to be civil and loving toward them but soon moved on.
After our amazing day at an intersection with a bunch of street kids (you can read about this in a previous blog), we needed to head back to meet up with our group. We only had about 10 minutes to make a 15 minute walk, so I knew we had to hoof it.
On our way, one of the youth in our group heard someone say, “Help, help us please.”
I heard it too and almost kept going, but the student stopped and looked so we all stopped. It was the Native American lady from earlier in the day. She said, “Ronnie’s hurt. He fell out of his wheelchair and I can’t get him back in it. He’s behind that wall and I think he’s hurt pretty bad. Please help.”
We all knew our group was waiting for us but it didn’t matter. Why else had we gone up to Canada in the first place but to show people the love of Christ? Our group would have to wait. We hoped they would understand.
Not only were we able to help this man into his wheelchair, but also they both were willing to have an enjoyable conversation with us. They were even receptive to hearing the Good News about Jesus Christ and His love for them.
We were able to pray with them and pray for the healing of Ronnie’s leg. We even were able to share some food with them as well. By both our actions and our words, we had the privilege of being witnesses.
Acts 1:7-8: Jesus said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Were lives changed on that trip? Yes! And I’m not just talking about the two people from Toronto. I’m sure that our interactions on that mission trip left a lasting impression on the hearts of the students just as they did on mine.
Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, April 11, 2011 0 comments
Due to the current state of the economy in the United States, in which funding seems to be drying up all over the country, many churches and ministries are trying to find places to cut spending. One area that churches seem to cut are youth group mission trips.
But I want to stress the importance of sending our youth out into the world on mission trips. A wise friend once told me that short-term mission trips are not only for the people you are going to see to tell them about Jesus, but also for the students and adult leaders that go on the trip. That intrigued me because I really didn’t understand what they meant until I saw it in action myself.
On a mission trip I led to Toronto, Canada, our whole group was pretty nervous. I think it was partly because I was leading my first mission trip, and many of the adult leaders didn’t know if I’d be a good leader or not. Honestly, I wasn’t too sure about it either. Would I be a good delegator and not micro-manage this trip, or would I need to have everything go through me? Did I train everyone enough for the trip? Were we really ready for this ten-day trip?
The answer to this last question was yes and no.
You see, we were trained and ready but then we needed to act! We needed to have the courage to do what we had been trained to do. We actually went onto the streets and not only found the homeless, street kids, and outcasts of society, but also sat down with them and listened. We touched them, gave them hugs, and shook their hands.
The small group of students that I had with me was a shy bunch that had major potential for leadership but needed to be challenged into action. As we walked the streets of Toronto, we came upon some street kids at a very busy intersection of the city. I think there were about five of us and about fifteen street kids. They didn’t look too rough, but it was obvious that we weren’t the type of people with whom they would associate.
After awhile, we struck up a conversation about what they were doing. When the light turned red, several of them would run out into the street and wash the windshields of the cars waiting at the red light. I asked them, “Why are you doing this?”
One of them answered, “We are working and this is how we make money. Want to try?” He shoved the squeegee (which was obviously stolen from a gas station) toward me. I looked at the students that were with me and saw that they were as freaked as I was. I grabbed the squeegee and said, “Sure.” I must admit I was thinking, “What am I doing? Am I being a good example right now?”
I was 28 years old and, I admit, was a little scared to run out into the intersection and wash a stranger’s windshield. But when I was done, the driver cracked his window open and gave me $2 Canadian. Then the street kids started yelling at me. I thought they were cheering me on, saying good job, but they were actually yelling at me to get my butt off the street because the light was about to change green. From what I had learned that day, most of the drivers looked at these kids as a nuisance. Thankfully, I made it off the street in time, and we continued to hang out with the kids for a few hours.
After the first hour, these street kids asked us what we were doing in Canada hanging out with them. I looked at them and said, “We came up here to spend time with people on the street and tell them about the love Jesus has for them.”
One of the street kids said, “You want to show us love, huh? Then go get us some bottled water because we are almost out and won’t be able to make any more money today.”
The students with me were all for that! In fact, they even pooled their meal money together to help these street kids. I don’t know how much money was made that day or if any of those kids ever turned to Christ, but two things I do know: 1) people learned of God’s love that day in and through us and 2) the group of students I was with, from a small town in Ohio, were changed forever.
James 1:27: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
I Corinthians 9:19-23: Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
Since God has put my family and me on this Worldview Warriors journey, there have been plenty of times when we have wanted to say, “Enough—we’re done!” However, God keeps showing us that this is not an option. We must stay the course and continue serving Him in this way. We are called to equip not only students but also their parents to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ, even if it isn’t comfortable or doesn’t bring happiness. No matter what, we are all called to rejoice and fully rely on God for our needs.
The following true story happened to us in 2009.
My family’s favorite meal is breakfast, and we especially love cereal, hot or cold. One morning my three-year-old daughter asked me for a bowl of cereal. I retrieved the bowls, spoons, and cereal and placed them all on the table. As I poured the cereal, my daughter asked for “nilk” [sic]. So I went to the fridge to get the milk, but there wasn’t any. Next I tried our beat-up, donated, second fridge in the garage to get our extra milk. (With 6 kids, we usually go through a gallon a day in our house.) Much to my chagrin, that refrigerator was also devoid of any milk.
I told my wife that I’d be walking down to the grocery store to get some milk for the morning’s breakfast.
I was taken aback by her reply, “Oh no, you can’t.”
She informed me that we had no cash and no money in our checking account to write a check. We were completely broke!
(Now I just want to be clear. We have no debt whatsoever and pay all our bills on time. Doing ministry is very challenging because there are times that it seems like our needs will not be met. We do not at all live an extravagant lifestyle and often go without some basics. But our needs are always met.)
On this morning, however, I disregarded my wife’s statement. “Yeah, whatever, I’m going to get some milk.”
But she held fast, “No.”
My wife looked at my daughter and me and said, “Well, let’s pray. Let’s ask God to supply us some milk this morning.”
I’m sure my face registered cynicism—“Are you joking?,” for my wife said, “Well, Daddy, you can just stay in here and have a bad attitude, but the kids and I are going to go into the dining room and pray.”
And that is exactly what they did. My wife and children sat down together at the dining room table, praying to the God of the universe, while I stood in the kitchen like a pouting child.
Then I heard my three-year-old daughter’s small, soft voice say, “Dear Jesus, we need some nilk. Please, Jesus, get us some nilk for our cereal. We really like nilk.”
I couldn’t hold back any longer. I started sobbing and joined my family.
About five minutes into our praying for “nilk,” we heard a knock on the door. I was honestly startled and looked at my wife in shock. Surely, this couldn’t be the milk we had been praying for, could it?
We opened the door to find one of our friends. She said, “Hey everyone, we’re going on vacation to Minnesota for the next three weeks. We have some extra milk and don’t want it to go bad. Do you need some milk?”
She held up three gallons of milk in her hands.
With exclamation, we told her what had just happened, and we all rejoiced together about how God had heard our prayer and laid it on her heart to bring this over to us at that very moment.
There is no way this was just a coincidence. And there is no way other than the prompting of the Holy Spirit that she knew to bring that to us. We still praise God for this memorable display of His provision. I would love to tell you more ways that the Spirit of God has worked in my family’s life.
I hope this story encouraged you to believe that God will supply your need. If you have faith in God, live it. If you do not have faith in God, please seek Him. He’s making Himself known to you: are you listening?
As you reflect on God’s provision in your life, read Malachi 3:10 and James 5:7-12.