Book Review: From this Day Forward by Craig and Amy Groeschel

51jXSfRHJwL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I try to read every Groeschel book that comes out. He has become one of my favorite authors. His most recent work From this Day Forward did not disappoint. In fact, it was a fantastic read. In his book, Craig and his wife Amy co-author the book. In each chapter, Craig writes and Amy closes each chapter with her thoughts. In the book, you will be laughing out loud at times, and at other times in the book filled with conviction. I want to share a quick review of the book with you:

The make up of the book is fairly short. It is an easy read. In fact, if you have read any of Groeschel’s books, you will find that they are easy reads. There are 171 pages in the book. Groeschel has a knack for writing with extreme transparency. When referring people to his books, I always note that Groeschel is the best story-teller that I  have ever read after. I do not think that I have ever laughed out loud and I do this regularly in his  books. Groeschel has a way of telling stories about he and his wife that you will relate so close with that it makes it quite humorous.

Let’s talk content. The content of the book is divided into 5 sections.
1) Seek God – This chapter was phenomenal. Every couple needs to read this chapter if they do not read the rest of the book. This chapter was about making God “the one.” We spend so much time in life searching for “the one.” The one that we believe is fate for you to be with. Well, Groeschel spends this  entire chapter challenging his readers to make God “The One.

2) Fight Fair – This chapter was my personal favorite. It was HILARIOUS! Craig and Amy did a great job being transparent in this chapter. They shared their struggles in which every couple can relate to. The theme of this chapter is to fight for resolution and not for the win. So many couples fight to  win the current argument. Groeschel challenges readers to fight for long term resolution which is much more important than the current win.

3) Have Fun – This chapter is exactly about the title of the chapter. Have fun! Enjoy each other’s company. God desires for you to enjoy marriage and the benefits of marriage. Craig addresses sexual fulfillment in this chapter. As a book review, I would say that he could have increased his discussion about sexual fulfillment considering that is what many couples struggle with, but he addresses it briefly in this chapter.

4) Stay Pure – I appreciate Craig’s chapter on purity. This is so important and so needed. Every male in particular needs to buckle up when he gets to the part where Amy asked Craig, “Was it worth it?” This chapter will convict.

5) Never Give Up – “Until death do us part!” Stick with it, make it work. This is the motivational style of Craig in this chapter. Don’t run when there is a problem. Fight to resolve, not to win. Never give up.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. I think it is one of the most practical and fun-filled reads for couples. My wife has picked it up and currently reading it since I have completed the book. I also would recommend this book to singles. Craig does a fantastic job addressing singles

craig-groeschelAbout Craig: Craig is the Senior Pastor for LifeChurch.tv and provides leadership and guidance for the church as a whole. Following a vision God gave Craig for a different kind of church, he and a handful of people launched LifeChurch.tv in 1996.

Note:  I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive/negative review.

 

 

Tips on Searching for a Youth Pastor Position

Tips for searching for a Youth Pastor Position Blog PostBy: David Sheldon

I believe that every person should do something that they love, and for me, that’s being a youth pastor. As a youth pastor, I work with some of the most incredible teens on the planet and love every minute of it. Well, most minutes of it. Sure, it involves a lot of late nights, exhausting trips, and random conversations about video games, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. When you watch a large portion of your group having a consistent quiet time with God, and they text you to ask what you, their pastor, needs prayer for, it makes you realize why you do what you do. Being a youth pastor is not an easy job, but seeing lives changed makes it all worth it. I am 24 years old and 11 months into my first full-time ministry position and one of the biggest things I have learned is that there is nothing quite like being a youth pastor. Very few people will understand what you do or why you do it, but maybe that’s what makes it so important. And when you desire this life, the life of a youth pastor, you desire a very noble task. Here are just a couple of thoughts on looking for a youth ministry position.

  1. Youth ministry will be your ministry.

This sounds very obvious but let me explain what I mean. As a youth pastor, teens will be your ministry. They will be your life. You will text them, talk to them, build friendships with them, hang out with them on the weekend, and the list could go on, but the point is that at the heart of all of this, is discipleship. Your goal as their youth pastor should be to help them grow into the image of Christ because of the love they have for God. I cannot stress how important this is when looking for a ministry position. When you are looking, always consider the kind of church you are looking at.

Do they have a solid vision?

Does the pastor preach the Gospel regularly?

Are they more concerned with their hearts than their appearances?

Would you raise your own kids in that church?

Will they be okay with how you do ministry? (Music standards, dress codes, rules, etc.)

Will you be excited about and enjoy worshipping in their services?

Will you be discipled by the senior pastor?

Your youth ministry will affect the church, and the church will affect your youth ministry. The question is, will they conflict or support each other. Please understand that there is no perfect church out there, but just make sure that you can effectively do ministry at the church you are looking at.

  1. Youth ministry will be your job.

Now, I certainly understand that in some cases, youth pastors are part-time or even volunteer, so this will not apply to them as much as it will to those seeking a full-time position. If you are looking for a full-time position, consider this: your ministry is your job. This fact plays out very importantly in searching for and accepting a position.

  1. Prepare an impressive resume. Just like any other job, you should approach the search process very professionally. Prepare a resume that looks professional and personal. When your possible boss has finished looking through your resume, you want him to immediately think of you as someone who is both authentic and qualified. Once you have this resume ready, send it out to every pastor and ministry leader you know.
  2. Be ready to wait. Finding a ministry position, just like any other job, takes time. Sometimes a position will fall in your lap, but most times it will be a very long process of interviews, visits, questions and answers, etc.
  3. Finances are extremely important. I know that you probably just squirmed in your computer chair, but please hear me out. The church has for far too long accepted the idea that youth pastors don’t need to make money because they are just a youth pastor. However, your ministry will be your means of providing for your family. I’m certainly not advocating that you demand an extravagant lifestyle, but simply that you consider the financial aspects of a job before you take it. Will your family be able to live comfortably on your salary alone? Will the church provide insurance? Will they match social security? Will they help you pursue a college or Master’s degree? I guarantee that this will be an awkward conversation if you have to bring it up, but you must bring it up. I would not recommend doing it at the beginning of the interview process (Unless they want to!), but definitely before you candidate.
  4. Hard work is a must. As a youth pastor, you are walking into a profession that has a lot of negative opinions. People in our own churches will think that we don’t have a “real job” or do anything all day long. To counteract this, I would highly recommend setting personal standards in place before you take a position. Set definite office hours and use the time to get as much studying and preparing done as you can. Show up early for services and youth group activities so that you are ready to go when the time hits. Be willing to help out with other areas of ministry that you have talent, as long as it doesn’t cut into your main ministry.
  5. Leave work at work. As a youth pastor, your wife will have to be very understanding. Youth ministry can happen 24 hours a day and there will certainly be times where you are pulled away from your family and personal time to do ministry; however, all of our normal ministry tasks (Studying, Planning, Etc.) should be done at the office. When we come home, our wives and kids should be the focus of our attention. I strongly encourage you to leave work at work as much as possible. Neglecting to do this will hinder your ministry by causing stress in your marriage. If your wife hates your ministry, you either need to change work habits or look for a new position.

If I had to sum up my thoughts with one sentence it would be some advice that I received when looking for a position. Ask A LOT of questions. Asking questions will go a long way to finding a good ministry fit for you.

David Sheldon currently serves as Youth Pastor at Freedom Baptist Church in Goldsboro, NC. He is also enrolled at Piedmont International University in their Master of Arts program for Biblical Studies. You can connect with David on Facebook.

Practical Ways to Connect with Parents in Student Ministry

Practical Ways to Connect with Parents in student ministry blog postBy: Mark Etheridge

The more I’m a part of student ministry; the more I realize the need to connect with the parents of my students. The emphasis on working with parents in student ministry is a recent trend, and I believe it is both healthy and biblical. When it comes to parent ministry, I believe there are two major objectives: Informing and Equipping. But then question that arises, “What does this look like in actual ministry?” This is a question I’ve wrestled with as a student pastor, and I would like to provide a few ways to help you connect with the parents in your student ministry.

  1. Hosting a Parent Luncheon

I’ve learned that parents love information. The more informed they can be, the happier they are. So when it comes to what your ministry calendar, remember this important fact. One helpful way to inform your parents regarding your ministry is to host a luncheon for them. Show the parents you appreciate them, and convey your ministry is a partnership with them in the spiritual development of their student. To begin the ministry year this past fall, we brought in a catered lunch for our student ministry families, and I proceeded to provide rationale for our ministry along with a fall calendar of our ministry events.

  1. Frequent Emails and Reminders

Not only do we want to continually inform and equip our parents initially, but we also want to sustain this practice throughout the year. One very helpful way of doing this is through frequent emails and reminders. It’s difficult to provide a formal meeting on a monthly basis, so I try to utilize emails to keep my parents in the loop as to what is happening in our student ministry. This gives a great opportunity to let your parents know what you are teaching on in your weekly gatherings, and allows you to help them know how they can personally be involved in the spiritual growth of their student. Also, this allows you to give all pertinent details for upcoming events.

  1. Making Them a Part of Your Ministry

Among the busy schedule of your student ministry, make sure to never neglect to give your parents the opportunity to be a part of what you’re doing. Never make them feel like they’re the outsiders. This could simply mean inviting them to a weekly gathering one night, or this could be inviting them to serve as a chaperone during one of your ministry events. Parents also make great student ministry leaders. Perhaps there’s a parent whom you sense is gifted in serving students. Invite them to be a part of what you’re doing! I’ve personally witnessed many parents who are excellent leaders in student ministry!

  1. Meetings for Special Events

When it comes to your ministry event calendar, you have the small-scale events, and the large-scale events. The large-scale events include things such as camps, retreats, and any other overnight trips. When it comes to these large-scale events, make sure your parents know exactly what their student is doing and what they’ll need to do it. I often hold parent meetings before these kinds of trips, because it’s important for parents to know exactly what will be involved, and how they will need to prepare, especially when it involves the student being away from the home one or more nights.

These are a few ways I’ve found helpful when it comes to connecting with parents in student ministry. The goal is to both inform them of what your ministry is doing, and equip them to invest in their students spiritually through your partnership with them. I would encourage you to continually think of ways to both of these, as we seek to raise up the next generation of faithful students who are rooted in the gospel, and then sent on mission into the world.

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.

What First Time Guests Look For When They Visit Your Church

What first time guests look for when they visit your church blog postEvery church in America wants guests to visit their church on a weekend. I do not know of any church who does not initially want guests to visit, but most churches do very little with the guests when they come. For most, they rely heavily on a “turn around and greet someone” moment in the order of service to attract guests. Some rely on having the guests stand or stay seated in a point of a service to attract them. This post is not necessarily about attracting guests, but it is a post from my observations of what guests need when they visit. This will help you with how you handle guests when they visit your church on a weekend.

  1. Guests want Acceptance – Guests need to be accepted regardless of who they are, what they look like, or the baggage that they carry. Guests should be feel accepted in your church.
  2. Guests want to enter quietly and leave quietly – Although they are searching for relationships and meaning in life, for the most part, guests want to enter quietly and leave quietly. They do not want to be embarrassed, and they do not want to be noticed by everyone. It is awkward for guests.
  3. Guests desire friendships – When guests enter a new  church with the thought of eventually joining the church, they want friendships. It is essential that you have friendly people who genuinely  care for guests be a part of your guest services team. Encourage your guest services team to connect with these guests during the week for dinner or coffee.
  4. Guests desire security for their kids – We started a new church recently and this is overwhelmingly evident. Make sure your kids ministry is done at a high level and is very secure.
  5. Guests want to be greeted, but not by 50 people – Some churches go overboard with their greeters and it can be overwhelming to a first time guests. Find the healthy balance, because greeters are important and essential, but do not overwhelm first time guests.

4 Levels of Events in Student Ministry

4 Levels of Events in Student Ministry Blog PostBy: Mark Etheridge

When it comes to events in student ministry, it can be a challenge to plan and structure a purpose for what you want to accomplish. When you’re driving in a car, it’s not enough to know where you’re going, but you also have to know how you’re going to get there. I hope to provide a grid that will help you develop a roadmap for events in your student ministry. This grid was first introduced to me by one of my college professors, Dr. Richard Brown, a youth ministry professor at Liberty University, and I have adapted his model into my student ministry event planning.

Every event our ministry decides to undertake always fit into one of 4 categories: Relationships, Evangelism, Disciple-Making, and Service. These are our four levels, or the four purposes we seek to accomplish. I should say our ultimate goal is always the gospel. We want students to receive Jesus through the gospel, and for students to be become more like Jesus because of the gospel. These four levels of ministry help gauge how we are striving to move the gospel forwards in the lives of our students.

Level 1: Relationships

I like to think of ministry events as an upside down triangle. You begin at the top with the entry-level, and seek to take a student further down the triangle on the path of a maturing disciple. The first level is an event that focuses upon relationships. This is a great event to meet new students, and it also gives the students in your ministry the opportunity to invite their friends who do not know Christ. This type of event gives new students the exposure to a Christian community. It allows new students to meet and hang out with your student ministry staff, along with other students in your ministry. Events ideas include: Concerts, sporting events, and game nights hosted by your ministry.

Level 2: Evangelism

Unlike the first level, this level directly proclaims the gospel of Jesus, and gives students the opportunity to respond to this message. This event also gives your students a chance to invite friends who are not Christians. This level builds upon the first, in hopes that students who came to your ministry in the past will now receive the chance to personally meet Jesus. When hosting or attending this type of event, make sure your students know the purpose! Tell the students in your ministry the goal is to see people meet Jesus, and encourage them to bring friends who do not know Him. Event ideas include: Student Conferences, Camps, and customized events hosted by your ministry.

Level 3: Disciple-Making

As students receive Jesus, the goal is to see them become more like Jesus. This level focuses upon students who know Christ, and desire to grow in their relationship with Him. Obviously, students who are not Christians are welcome to attend your disciple-making events, but this event is not geared towards them. In disciple-making events, we seek to intentionally invest in the students who know Christ, and are seeking to make Him known in their lives. Events ideas include: Retreats, Camps, and a disciple-making event hosted by your ministry.

Level 4: Service

The final level focuses upon service towards those in the church and the community. Service and disciple-making go hand in hand, and we desire to see students love Christ holistically, which includes tangibly meeting the needs of those around them. From my experience, students absolutely love these types of events! It proves challenging to get students excited about serving at the local rescue mission, or raking the elderly woman’s yard across from the church, but once students invest themselves in this kind of work, they often find it rewarding! This teaches students that following Christ is not only about going to church and putting in information, but it also about getting out of the church and giving out transformation! Event ideas include: Intentional sharing of Christ with others, partnerships with local Christian organizations, and meeting the needs of those within your church family.

As I plan our student ministry calendar, I always ask myself which of these 4 categories each event falls into. Strive for your ministry to embody both strategy and purpose. If you’re unsure of the purpose for your events, don’t expect your students to know it either. Beg God for guidance, know your purpose, develop a strategy, and pursue that goal as you seek for the gospel to take root and transform the lives of your students.

4 level of events in student ministry

 

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.

Book Review: Beat God to the Punch by Eric Mason

51DJFTjNf0L._SL500_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-big,TopRight,35,-73_OU01_AA300_Thanks to B&H Publishing for the privilege of receiving an advanced copy of the book Beat God to the Punch by Eric Mason. I had reviewed his last work entitled Manhood Restored and I was not going to turn down this opportunity.

Beat God to the Punch is a catchy title that grabs your interest. It immediately grabbed my interest in that I wanted explanation as to what the title meant. It seems like an impossibility from the title, and I needed clarity as to what the title meant. The book is all about living a grace filled life. Personally, the title could have been something totally different, because in the end, I did not get the correlation between living a grace filled life and beating God to the punch. I get the gist of the book, and I enjoyed the brief read, but I could not  adequately explain to you what beating God to the punch totally means. I recognize that it is found in the idea of submitting yourself to the Lordship of Christ, but the title was a bit off in its explanation found within the book. That is my brief criticism of the book.

The brief read is filled with grace centered content. The book is divided into  5 short chapters. 1) Crossing Paths with Grace 2)   Experiencing Grace 3) How Grace Works 4) Grace Recovered 5) Completing Work of Grace. Through these  5 chapters, Mason tackles the topics of Discipleship within the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Here are a few thoughts on the content of the book:

  • The book is a quick easy read – The book only has 108 pages  including notes. It is an easy read that I would recommend for you to pick up. Do not let the title scare you off. The content is worth it. I recognize that many Christians do not  have a great deal of time to devote to extra reading so this is a brief read for you.
  • The book is saturated with grace – If you want to learn more about saving grace, this book is for you. If you want to read more about sustaining grace, this book is for you. If you want a better understanding of demonstrating grace, once again this book is for you. Grace is found throughout the book as you saw from the listing of the chapters above. In fact, you could use this book as a theology book on grace. It carries many of the doctrinal and theological concepts of the grace of our Lord.
  • My personal highlight of the book was when Mason highlights the name for Jesus in chapter 3- How grace works. He lists  the many names of Jesus in the book, and it is quite overwhelming and humbling. You come to the conclusion that Jesus should be everything to us!

35243Eric Mason is confounder and lead pastor of Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He holds degrees from Dallas Theological Seminary (ThM) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (DMin). Eric and hhis wife have two children.

Go Purchase a Copy through Amazon here!

5 Essentials to Launching a Second Campus

5 Essentials for Launching a Second Campus Blog PostAs many of you know, my family up and moved from North Carolina 3 months ago to be a part of launching a satellite campus of Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, FL. You can read about the adventure and decision of going here. Well, we launched this past weekend, and it was a learning experience. This was the first time that Trinity had done this, that I or the campus pastor had been a part of this. So, it was new. Needless to say, we have learned….A LOT! I want to share with you a few essentials to having a successful campus launch. By the way, there are tons more so I recognize there are a lot more, but here are 5 to get you started. These are not in order of importance, but each of them are important.

  1. A Committed Launch Team – Our team has to be the best in the business (I am biased, I know), but seriously, they are! This made our launch successful. Our team is split into different categories. We have the nursery/Preschool, kids department, hospitality, the band, tech team, and parking crew. Each person has responsibilities and duties each week. It is hard work, but at the end of the day, they have the same mission. Teach and train your launch team to get the job done, but at the end of the day, it is all about the people who walk through the doors! Getting your team on mission is so important to being successful.
  2. A Campus Pastor who understands the DNA of the Church – At first, Trinity had looked into hiring someone outside of their current ministry to lead the campus launch. Then, it hit them that they needed someone who understood and knew the DNA of the Church. As I have been the family pastor, I could not imagine being over the launch, because I needed time to learn what made Trinity tick. It is best to find someone on your staff currently to start another campus.
  3. Equipped Ministry Directors – These are volunteers, but we added a Nursery/Preschool director, hospitality director, Elementary Director, Band Director, Parking Director, and Tech Director.  Each of these are volunteers, and over their specific areas as well as the volunteers in each specific area. It is essential to be successful that they are equipped, well-trained, and prepared to do a good job.
  4. A Supportive Sending Campus – This  meant the most to me! I did not know what to expect, but to have a main campus supporting what we are doing means the world! The texts for our services from the staff at the main campus is encouraging. The conversations and interest of the main campus staff is exciting! Our pastor is pumped and behind what we are doing. The main campus scheduled a send service and had our entire launch team come forward to pray over them. This is what it is all about. It is discipling a team of people to go out into a different area of the city and duplicate what they have learned!
  5. A Supportive Location – Many second campus’ begin in portable environments. Ours is currently meeting in a school. It is so calming to know that the school is behind what we are doing. The school  supports us and is working with us. This is important for those meeting in portable environments. It makes life a lot less easier for the entire team.

I am loving being a part of Trinity Oakleaf. I am learning a long the way, and plan on sharing many new exciting finds along the way.

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