How to Launch a Vision Night in your Student Ministry

How to launch a vision night in your student ministryBy Mark Etheridge

Perhaps you’re in a student ministry, and you sense your ministry needs more direction. I’m sure you’ve shared your heart with your students, but you’re not sure if they’re getting it, or you’re not sure how to get them more excited about what you’re doing. I would recommend doing something that I call a “Vision Night.” This night is designed to let your students what you’re all about as a ministry, and how that ministry DNA translates into real life. Here are a few tips to launch your ministry through a Vision Night:

  1. Be Prepared.

This is a crucial night that will set the tone in your ministry for the coming year, so make sure you’re ready for it! Ask God to give you wisdom and direction so you can lead the students He’s given you to shepherd faithfully and effectively. Begin thinking about core values your ministry should embody, and plan how you will strategically present them. Also, begin thinking about special pieces and people whom will incorporate into this night. I would suggest beginning the planning stages at least 3 months in advance.

  1. Promote this Night Like Crazy.

Make a big deal about what you’re doing! Vocalize to your students how excited you are about this, and what you believe God will do in and through them, as they are a part of this student ministry. As a way of promotion, I made a couple of basic promotional videos we showed in weeks leading up to this night, and then shared them through social media. I also kept continually talked about a surprise they would receive (which were t-shirts with our new ministry name and logo) with the goal of building anticipation and excitement.

  1. Involve Parents.

Parents are a vital part of your student ministry, and look for ways to involve them in your ministry, and specifically in your vision night. I held a parent luncheon the week prior. I explained to the parents much of what I would tell the students the following week. My goal was to provide full disclosure about our ministry, and how we seek to partner with them in the spiritual development of their student.

  1. Have Volunteers.

Volunteers are a crucial part of your night. It’s simply too difficult to do everything, so make you have plenty of staff and delegate responsibilities where possible. A night like this is also a great entry point for leaders. You may win some leaders over to your vision for your ministry on this night along with your students.

  1. Don’t Just Cast Vision, but Teach the Bible.

The goal of this night is to cast vision from where you are to where you want to be. Yet, don’t get caught up in just casting vision, and neglect to open the Bible and teach it. Make sure your vision casting is rooted in the Scriptures. Explain to your students how the gospel should shape and drive everything that you do as a student ministry. A faithful ministry application should flow from a proper biblical interpretation.

  1. Pray, Pray, Pray.

We all know that student ministry is busy! And with a busy ministry, it becomes easy to neglect prayer for your ministry. But we’ve got to remember that no soul can move from death to life without the power of our glorious God. No student’s life can continually be transformed into the image of Jesus without the work of the Spirit in their hearts. It’s God who changes lives, not us. Expect that, believe that, and be dependent upon Him as you launch.

  1. Be Specific, but not Unrealistic.

Set some achievable goals for your ministry. Explain to your students these goals, and how you will strive to achieve them. Challenge your students to the point where they will be stretched, but don’t give them a goal that’s out of their sight distance. Emphasize this is not something they do as individuals, but with one another as the body of Christ.

  1. Make it a Ton of Fun!

This is an out-of-the-ordinary night, so do something special! We decided to make a video introducing our new ministry name, logo, and gave out t-shirts! Afterwards, we went outside and threw a dance party! Do something fun, and don’t be afraid to step out of the box.

These are some things I tried to incorporate into our Vision Night to move our ministry onto the mission that Jesus has called us to. Because after all, it’s not about us, but it’s all about Him, and our goal is to make Jesus famous in all we do. Our ministry’s motto is: “Meet Jesus, Become Like Jesus.” Ultimately, we’re about seeing students come into a relationship with Jesus, and for them to then grow in Christ-likeness, all by the transforming power of the gospel. May your Vision Night be a catalyst God uses to see students meet and become like Jesus.

Mark Etheridge currently serves as Youth Pastor at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Pittsboro, NC. He is also enrolled at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in their Master of Divinity program in Christian ministry. You can connect with Mark on both Twitter and Facebook.

10 Books Every Pastor Should Read

10 books every pastor should readI came across a survey recently by the Barna research group. The survey consisted of several stats regarding pastors and the books that they read and purchase. On average, pastors purchase 45 different titles a year. That is considerably more than the average reader across the board. This statistic got me thinking about books and reading.

So, if you are a reader, this post is for you. If you are a pastor and not a big reader, I encourage you to begin reading. Reading is essential to good leadership. Here are the top 10 books that I would recommend for pastors to read:

  1. Gospel by J.D. Greear – J.D. Greear nailed it with this one. I am not sure that any book (outside of the Bible) has influenced my ministry as much as this book. It is saturated with the Gospel. It is filled with challenges for the reader to become Gospel centered in everything that they do. The Gospel prayer that is in this book is a prayer that all believers (not  just pastors) should pray daily. It is a great read, and I encourage you to check it out.
  2. Dangerous Calling by Paul Tripp – This is my most recent read. I seriously just finished this book last week. This should tell you how good it really was that it jumped to #2 on my list even though I just finished it. It is great! This is the best “pastoral” book that I have ever read. Tripp is not afraid to challenge the pastor in their personal life. Pastors, be prepared to wear your “steel toed boots” for this one. The highlights of this book for me are found in the chapter on the glory of God vs self promotion and self-gratification. I also enjoyed the chapter on how pastors live differently in the pulpit than outside of the pulpit to their families. This challenged me deeply.
  3. Deep and Wide by Andy Stanley – Pastor, do you want practical? Andy writes this book from a practicality standpoint and from a transparent standpoint. This book was difficult to put down. This book will challenge you to think about your church, its events, its hospitality, and its methods from  the viewpoint of a non-church goer. This book will challenge every pastor to be cautious of evangelism in every facet of the weekend worship services.
  4. Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem – This was a Christmas gift that I received last year, and it quickly became my favorite theology book. I love it. Grudem summarizes and condenses the different doctrines as well as anyone. Great read for deeper study for pastors.
  5. The Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel – This is a book that will challenge pastors to sincerely grow in their faith. It comes from the idea that many Christians say with their words that they believe in God, but deny Him by their actions. This book is not just for pastors, but for all Christians, but I still would add this to the list for pastors. Groeschel is one of my favorite writers out there. I usually try to read all of his stuff.
  6. Think Orange by Reggie Joiner – This book is a must read for all church leaders. It is a great read that will challenge the church to evaluate the family ministry dynamic in their church. All pastors should read this, and encourage their staff to create a family ministry culture from the nursery all the way up to the student ministry.
  7. Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger – This book is all about making disciples and getting churches to return to the Biblical roots of making disciples. Rainer and Geiger do a fantastic job with this book. The book will challenge readers to simplify their ministry instead of complicating it. Churches today think the answer to everything is another program on the calendar, and that is not always the case.
  8. Preaching the Cross by Mark Dever and others – This book is a great read, and I highlighted thoughts in this book as much as any other book. I received it from my cousin’s husband (is that my cousin now, I am confused) when I was ordained for the ministry. This book will challenge your preaching like no other book.
  9. Developing the Leader within you by John Maxwell – No other book has challenged me more in my leadership than this read by Maxwell (the man when it comes to writings on leadership). I have read several of his books, and this one is my favorite.
  10. Center Church by Tim Keller – This book is phenomenal. The main takeaway of the book is to do Gospel centered ministry right there in your own city. Usually churches are better about ministry across the world than they are in their back door. Keller nails it with this book.

[Question] What books would you add to this list? Comment below with your answer.

5 Ways to Start Making Disciples Right Now


Last time I posted, I highlighted three characteristics of a disciple-making church. You can check out that post by clicking here. Disciple-making churches are composed of disciple-making Christians. Unfortunately, some Christians have limited the ministry of disciple-making to a select few, citing a litany of excuses. Jesus clearly commanded all of His followers to execute His most basic command – multiply.

Today, I would like to challenge you to evaluate your personal disciple-making ministry. Are you currently engaged with others in order to help them follow Christ more closely? Are you becoming a more passionate follower of Christ yourself? Do you feel that you’re not gifted enough to make disciples? Does your hesitation come from your lack of Biblical knowledge? Consider the below ways to start making disciples of Christ immediately.

Connect regularly with new believers

One of the primary reasons that Christians are not making disciples is because they see little to no opportunity to do so. If you’ve been going to church for any length of time, you might think that everyone has been saved longer or that they are already in a discipleship program – and you’re probably right. Make it a priority to surround yourself with new believers and arrange life-on-life interactions.

If there aren’t any new believers around you, then make some! Start inviting others to follow Christ with you and encourage them that you’ll help show them the way. Your hunger to make disciples will lead to a hunger for lost souls.

Pray for the opportunity to make disciples

While this post should outline the ease of how to begin making disciples, it is certainly not meant to make light of the command. Jesus did not flippantly choose His disciples – it was a sincere matter of prayer. “Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself” (Luke 6:12-13).

Making disciples is kingdom business. If you pray for the opportunity to make disciples, the Holy Spirit will certainly answer.

Be intentional about “The Big Ask”

So many Christians desire to follow Christ more closely, but the simply don’t know how. Make the offer to be the one to help. Such a simple proposal is the foundation of discipleship.

You can’t disciple everyone, but don’t let that stop you from discipling anyone.  Sometimes people become paralyzed as disciple makers because there are so many in need that they don’t know where to start. As the Holy Spirit leads you to whom He will, realize He is building His kingdom, not yours. Even Jesus did not make disciples of every living person during His earthly ministry. He chose twelve and then even showed specific attention to three of them. The New Testament church was birthed out of His approach. Follow His example.

Focus on the Master, not the follower.

Believers often make the excuse that they do not have enough Biblical knowledge to make disciples. Everyone can relate to this fear, but at the core of this fear is self – not Christ. The purpose of making disciples is to help others look like Christ, not you. Also, a benefit of engaging in disciple making relationships is that you too will become a stronger follower of Christ.

You should actively strive to become a stronger disciple. But don’t let your fear derail your obedience to Christ. As you disciple others, you will fail. There will be questions that you clearly do not have answers for. Point to Christ. It’s not about you – it’s about Him.

Understand that making disciples is a journey, not a destination.

Often Christians are overwhelmed at the task of making disciples. This feeling is rooted in a misunderstanding of how to do so. Books, curriculums, and programs have convinced disciple makers that discipleship is a destination, not a journey. For example, if you complete a certain 8-week, three-year curriculum then you’re deemed a disciple. Let’s be careful not to cheapen the process of becoming a disciple to an award or a badge of honor. (NOTE: I’m not opposed to disciple-making curriculums. However, I would encourage it to be viewed as a part of the process, not as an end in itself.)

Realize that every follower of Christ is on a life-long journey to becoming like Him. Fortunately, He has called you to be a part of that process in other believers’ lives. Don’t miss out on the opportunity!

Andrew Hale currently serves as Associate Pastor of Education and Discipleship at Turning Point at Calvary in St. Augustine, FL. He is also enrolled at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in their Doctor of Ministry degree program. You can connect with Andrew on both Twitter and Facebook.

Signs Your Church is Experiencing Biblical Community

SIGNS YOUR CHURCH IS EXPERIENCING BIBLICAL COMMUNITYCommunity is important and healthy. Community is important to building a healthy church.

So, how do we evaluate if our members are experiencing true Biblical community? I want to share with you a few signs that you can look for to evaluate if your church members are experiencing Biblical community.

  • Members are meeting the needs of other members – Acts chapter two gives us a great description of community. One of the key components is found in verse 45. It reads, “And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” A good sign that a church is experiencing Biblical community is that the members are so concerned with the needs of people in their community that they are willing to give up something in order to meet those needs.
  • Members are hanging out with other members outside of your services - Pastors should be thrilled to see members posting on facebook that they are hanging out with other members. This is a good thing. Friendship is a result of community. Acts chapter 2 describes that the early church went from house to house  for fellowship. They were hanging out!
  • Members are unified under the common purpose – A good sign that your church is experiencing Biblical community is that the members share the common goal. The common goal is not the color of the carpet, the style of music, the preferences that we get so wrapped up in. The goal is reaching the city with the Gospel, and the church is unified on this goal.
  • Members are being discipled – Discipleship best happens in the context of relationships. How are your members being discipled? Are you seeing spiritual growth in them? Are you seeing people take the next steps. You need to be able to identify next steps that people are taking in order to evaluate the effectiveness of your discipleship program.
  • Members are concerned with the City – A great sign community is happening is that the city is a focal point of the members. They look at the city and are inspired to reach the city with the Gospel. They accomplish this mission more than talk about it. They actually get out and try to do this.

These are just a few signs that I have noticed  about a church experiencing community. What would you add to the list?

5 Ways to Hurt Your Pastor

5 Ways to Hurt Your PastorIn my ministry experience, I have seen people say and do things that can really hurt their pastor. Some of them do things unintentionally, and some (I believe) do things intentionally. We oftentimes view the pastor as a man who is not human, but we must remember that pastors are human and can hurt just like anyone else. We must be careful in the way that we treat, honor, and submit to their authority.

Here are a few ways that people hurt their pastors:

  1. Joke that the Pastor doesn’t have a Real Job – Here are some common phrases I have heard from pastors:  “I want to become a pastor, because that is easy.” “I want to become a pastor so I can sleep in and have an easy schedule.” I hate hearing people talk about how being a pastor is so easy. Yes, in some ways the pastors schedule is much different from the average position, but just stop with these jokes. It can hurt the pastor, and cause him to feel like what they are saying is true, and it is not. People say these hurtful things, and then expect that same pastor to be at their beck and call when they are in need.
  2. Tell the Pastor He is Overpaid – In my experience, very few pastors make a ton of money. Many of them sacrifice. Stop with these comments. They are hurtful. One of the most difficult things for pastors to have to deal with is their salary is open for all to see. This is often difficult and stressful for pastors, but it really shouldn’t be. Members make it stressful on the pastors because many think pastors are overpaid. When you say these things, it is hurtful to your pastor.
  3. Criticize the Pastor and his Family – I have seen people destroy churches because they criticize the pastor and his family to other members of the congregation. Regardless of how you feel about  the pastor, it is sin for you to criticize him to other members of the congregation behind his back. This is hurtful to the pastor and to the church. Also, lay off of his family. Nothing hurts the pastor more than when church members hurt the pastor’s wife or kids.
  4. Tell the Pastor He Takes to Many Vacations – I have heard this one from members of churches, but in reality they have not taken much more than the average employee. We have created this idea that pastors cannot take breaks or vacations. Look, they need breaks and vacations as much as you do. It is hurtful to tell them that they take too much time.
  5. Criticize the Church or the Pastor through Social Media – Social media is one of the greatest tools in ministry. I love it, and am a huge supporter of it. The fact of the matter though is that some people are not mature enough to use social media. That is the truth. Some cannot post without saying something negative about the church, the pastor, or another member in the congregation. Most pastors are on social media and see this stuff. It is hurtful to them and their ministry to see social media become a place where criticism happens. Deal with things Biblically and go to people  when they offend you, do not post it all over social media!

5 Things that can Ruin a Church

5 things that can ruin a church2I do not believe people come to church to ruin the church intentionally. From what I have observed in churches though, many can ruin a church or a ministry unintentionally. It might not be something that they set out to do, but it is something that they unintentionally may fall into.

Here is a  short post on things that can ruin a church.

  • Division among Members – This is an obvious one. Division can ruin any business or any church. People tend to believe 100% that they are right when they may be looking at their preference from a biased point of view. In order to offset division, members must be committed to putting other people ahead of themselves. When church is about  an individual and what they want, division will occur and it can ruin a church.
  • Lack of Support for the Senior Pastor – This is arguably the one that can ruin a church as much as anything else on this list. Pastors must do well to receive the people’s trust. It takes time. I get that, but people must be responsible as well for their Biblical mandate to support their pastor. Many times when people do not support their pastor, it is for preferential or traditional reasons.
  • Tradition – Pastors hear the phrase “that’s the way we have always done it” all of the time. This is a phrase that can destroy the church from being what God intends for it to be. Tradition can destroy the church. Your message never changes,  but your methods can and should. In my experience, people not wanting methods to change is more common than people getting upset over message changes. If your message begins to change, get out and find a new Gospel centered church, but embrace changing some of your methods to reach people in today’s culture.
  • Lack of Engaging the Youth – If you want your church to die an early death, do not engage youth. If you only cater to the older members, your church is headed for an early death. You must engage your teens and college students. Challenge them, train them, and allow them to lead and volunteer. If you do not allow the younger generation to be engaged in the church, they will leave and find a church that does allow them to engage, or they will leave the church completely!
  • Dictatorial Pastoral Leadership – We have talked much about how members can ruin a church, but pastors can ruin churches as well. Many times, the pride of pastors can enter the church and destroy it. Pastors, never forget who voted you into the position, and remember they can also vote you out. Do not be a dictator. Sometimes you have to put what you want to the side, and allow the members preference and desire to prevail. Do not come to a church to try to completely change the church. This is how pastors can destroy the churches.

Bottom line, to avoid any of these items, put other people before yourself.


3 Signs of a Disciple Making Church

3 Signs of a Disciple Making ChurchBy Andrew Hale

Make disciples – Christ’s last and greatest command. Why is such a clear command so difficult for many churches to perform? Several obstacles limit churches from their greatest potential in disciple-making, but one of the greatest is the lack of understanding how to make a true Biblical disciple.

For churches that have made Biblical discipleship a priority, the marks are obvious. This post will focus on three clear signs of a disciple-making church. While there are dozens more, these three are evident in every church that is making healthy disciples of the Kingdom of God.

Proper Definition of Evangelism

I have too often heard a church claim that they are strong in evangelism or strong in discipleship, but weak in the other. I wonder at what point in church history these two disciplines became mutually exclusive… Ed Stezter sees the two ministries as one in the same. In his book Comeback Churches, he says, “Comeback churches see evangelism as a journey, not a destination” (Stetzer, p.118)

The Greek word which evangelist/evangelism derives from is the word εὐαγγέλιον – meaning the Gospel. Contrary to popular evangelistic methods, the Good News of Jesus is not solely about punching your Get Out of Hell Free Card. Rather, the Good News teaches how to receive eternal life and start living it in Christ today – not just after this life is over. Evangelism is not merely about reaching the lost. It is the beginning of the discipleship process.

Intentional Emphasis on Relationships –

Healthy relationships within a church are imperative for effective disciple-making. Becoming a follower of Christ is not about finishing a curriculum or a program. It’s about working toward Spiritual Maturity through life on life interactions. While tools can assist disciple-makers in the process, they should rely on relationships more than materials.

Jesus made this characteristic of His disciples a huge priority. Everyone will know that you are My disciples if you have love for one another (John 13:35). Relationships should be of equal importance to His followers.

Effective Communication of the Role of the Holy Spirit –

Disciple-making apart from the power of the Holy Spirit is fraudulent.  In The Biblical Principles of Discipleship, Coppedge states, “The fact that the Jesus took so much time the last evening with His disciples to talk about the Holy Spirit indicates that He is vitally concerned that every disciple both understand the work of the Spirit and experience His fullness just as the Twelve did” (Coppedge, p.120).

Disciple-making churches purposefully submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit. If we spent as much time surrendering to the Holy Spirit as we do debating His role, our churches would be exponentially increased with disciples for the kingdom. The work of the Spirit is crucial to the disciple-making church.

Andrew Hale currently serves as Associate Pastor of Education and Discipleship at Turning Point at Calvary in St. Augustine, FL. He is also enrolled at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in their Doctor of Ministry degree program. You can connect with Andrew on both Twitter and Facebook.