Archive for the ‘small group’ Category

What Energizes YouI’ve always been fascinated by anything that teaches me more about myself. That statement may seem a little narcissistic, but it’s still true. Whenever I learn something new about myself, it’s like the moment I put my contact lenses into my eyes in the morning – everything in life is just a little clearer.

Lately I’ve been learning more about my personality through a couple different experiences. Here are just a few of those lessons:

  • My Myers-Briggs personality type (ENFP) was described by a certain personality test as a “planner of change.” The words planner and change don’t usually go into the same sentence or phrase. And yet somehow that’s an impeccable description of how I think. I am always thinking and dreaming of new ideas and ways of doing things. It’s truly what energizes me. (The same personality test, however, described the ENFP weakness as “lack of follow through,” which is also a painful truth about me!)
  • I love thinking, talking, reading, and doing discipleship. I hear that word and my mind begins to wander. I’ve seen it done well and I’ve seen it done poorly – which probably doesn’t actually count as “doing” it if it’s done poorly, as it’s one of those things that either happens or doesn’t happen. I have two new books sitting on my desk, and both have to do with discipleship (“Multiply” by Francis Chan and “Masterpiece: The Art of Discipling Youth” by Paul Martin). I contribute a lot of this passion to one of my mentors, Alan Briggs, who once asked me a simple question, “Have you ever been discipled by someone?” My ambiguous answer to that question led me on a quest to make sure every middle schooler that comes through our ministry can answer YES to that question one day. This discussion and quest is truly what energizes me.
  • Whenever I get to be creative with a sermon or sermon series, as well as finding creative games that get middle schoolers excited about being at church, I get energized.
  • When I get to go on date nights with my beautiful wife and serve Kingdom purposes alongside each other, I get energized.
  • When I’m around other people who are just as excited as I am about middle school ministry and discipleship, I get energized.
  • When I am writing and blogging simply out of passion and excitement for the subject instead of doing it for the praise and approval of other people, I get energized. (This should also explain my absence from writing for the last couple months. After realizing I was getting sucked into the praise and approval side of blogging too much, I needed to hit pause. That doesn’t energize me in the way I want to be energized. I’d rather write for the glory of God and to inspire others in their ministry with middle schoolers than for any other reason.)

So there you go. Those are a few of the lessons I’m learning about myself. Why did I write this for a middle school ministry blog? Because every middle school youth worker, volunteer, parent, and student gets energized by different things. One of the keys to leading well is tapping into the things that energize the people you work with and leaning into it for kingdom purposes. For example, I’ve learned that the 6th grade guys in my Life Group that I co-lead still very much like things like Lego’s and being creative. So last week at Life Group I had one of the guys bring a bucket of Lego’s. To start our time I asked the guys to build something that represented or symbolized their relationship with Jesus. Every single guy had an amazing creation and description. One guy built a Lego heart that didn’t quite connect at the top because according to him, he feels close to Jesus, but there’s a gap that still needs to be filled before he thinks it will be complete. He even put a Lego spider web in the middle of the heart to signify to gap he feels. Two words: creative energy.

What energizes the specific students that you are discipling? Whether you are parenting them or pastoring them, your students have things that energize them that you can tap into for kingdom purposes.

As promised, here is a weekly re-cap of my 6th grade small group. For a little bit of context, I lead over the whole middle school ministry at Southland Christian Church, but I have a huge heart for discipleship and investing in a few. So I have taken on a squirrely group of 6th grade boys with my co-leader Austin, and here is what went down last night:

Content: Last night we started the curriculum we will be working through for the first part of the school year. In the past I have written most of my own curriculum, but I have been thoroughly impressed with the Uncommon Junior High Group Study curriculum edited by Kara Powell. So we are using her Armor of God study for junior highers. I let the guys decide which book we would study, and I have to admit I wasn’t super excited about their choice. BUT after looking through it, I think the concrete language of armor will resonate with the guys’ 6th grade minds (and touch on the “manly man” theme). The first six weeks are the “Defensive Armor” listed of course in Ephesians 6:10-18. The first topic was the “Belt of Truth.” The big idea/takeaway for the guys was that the best defense against spiritual darkness is a clear understanding of what God says about himself, Jesus, salvation and life. It was a pretty abstract concept for 6th grade boys who have yet to gain the abstract learning capacity from puberty; however, this curriculum does a fantastic job of understanding developmental issues for this age group. As the night went on, we really seemed to come back to the mantra of “when in doubt about what’s true, go to the Word of God.”

Creativity: In line with the “belt of TRUTH” theme, we started with the classic icebreaker “Two Truths and a Lie.” Not only did we get to know some interesting facts about the guys. (Sidenote: One of them proudly told the group he has 3 girlfriends, but he decided to break up with two of them yesterday. Celebrate little victories, right?). We had planned another activity mid-lesson where the guys would answer true/false questions about TRUTHS by moving to the right or left side of the room (in order to get their whole body involved in the process), but they were so focused and excited about the biblical content that we didn’t need to. As a tangible takeaway for the night, I bought a belt from Goodwill for $1.50 and used a knife to carve in the words “Belt of Truth.” Then I took a marker and wrote a couple Scripture references with important truths and encouragement for the guys. Every week one of the guys will take the belt of truth home with him and either carve or write in some encouragement or verses, and then pass it on to another guy at the next small group. They seemed excited about it. We’ll see how much traction it gets.

Cool Moments: Middle schoolers constantly exceed my expectations. I had thought the abstract idea of holding on to absolute truth would be way over their heads, but they were tracking the whole time. It launched us into guys asking really deep questions like, “How do we know that our version of faith is true?” and “How do we know the book of Mormon isn’t true?” This led to some great discussion about the history of the Bible and topics like the Dead Sea Scrolls. I love their inquisitive minds. There were other innocent questions like, “How do we know which version of the Bible is true if there are so many different versions?” This led to some discussion about the original language the Bible was written in and how people might translate it differently, but the message remains the same. I love when middle schoolers ask those kinds of questions because topics like that don’t naturally come up very often. We take for granted how much they understand things like “NIV” or “NLT.”

Changes Needed: The discussion was so good, and the guys kept asking incredible questions, so we ran out of time at the end to do any kind of accountability or prayer request sharing. I’m wondering if we should move our prayer time to the beginning of our group time to highlight the importance of prayer and sharing.

It was really an encouraging night. I was reaffirmed that this is my favorite age group by far. The curiosity of a child + their emerging brains like that of an adult = great discussion.