Christmas in Disguise: Week 1

christmas-in-disguise-messySunday night, we kicked off a brand new, two week Christmas series with your students. “Christmas in Disguise” is designed to talk about the stuff we don’t often talk about around the holidays – the messy stuff. It is all about those awkward moments that don’t feel much like the hope and joy that Jesus brings into the world.

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them, “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I will bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies go heaven – praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

– Luke 2:8-14 (NLT)

We get caught up in Christmas as well decorated, beautiful trees and impressive outdoor light displays. Real life brings mess. Angels announced Jesus’ birth to shepherds in the field with dirty, smelly sheep because he meets us where we are. Jesus, the Prince of Peace – willingly laid in an animal feed trough because he is willing to step into our messes.

The beauty of Christmas is that God stepped into our messy, selfish world to pull us out of the dirty, messy lives we live. So many of our students are facing our unmet expectations or the weight of their mistakes. They wonder if they are enough. They wonder if God has a place for them – if he even knows they exist.

As parents, we have an opportunity to set the tone this Christmas. Can we take away the pressure? Can we be agents of the true peace and hope that Jesus brings for our teens? That is my prayer for all of us this Christmas.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Comment below and let’s begin a conversation, encouraging each one another in parenting our students.

– Jason

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FAQ | How can I help?

Parenting teens is hard work. When I was 22 years old, fresh out of Bible College, I lived in this dream world. I remembered my not long abandoned teen years like some dream sequence in a movie. In this dream, I was a perfect child. My parents never had to discipline me and I never caused them any strife. The teen years were easy!

In those early years of student ministry I would watch the parents of our students and think – “What is wrong with those parents? They just don’t get it!” Fast forward 16 years later and both of my kids are in our #stumin. AHHHH! Parents in 2000 – I’m so sorry! I feel ya now.

Parenting teens is SO hard. There’s no book in the New Testament called, “The Teen Years.” Man, what I would give…
We’re all different. Every parent. Every teen. Everyone. Different.

Here is what I know – we need one another. Our teens need committed adults who love them and reenforce that they are made in the image of God…and are not their parents. Our #stumin needs parents who are committed to reinforce the truths that we are speaking into your teens. Our #stumin works best when we (student ministry adults and parents) partner together to disciple our teens.

How does this work?
1. Commit to getting your student to our events. It is next to impossible for your teen’s small group leader (SGL) to build a relationship with them if they don’t show up. Your teen’s SGL is showing up for them – make sure your teen shows up for them.

2. Pour into someone else’s teen. Pay it forward. We need SGL’s who love teens to walk alongside them and do for them what someone does for yours.

3. Pray. Nothing we do as parents or #stumin leaders should begin before we pray. Pray for your teen, your teen’s friends, your friends’ teens – all teens everywhere. Pray for your teen’s SGL. Pray for their family and their impact on students.

None of us have it all. We need each other.

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Where do we go from here?

70% of students will leave the church for at least one year after leaving our student ministries, regardless of how involved they have been (http://feeds.feedburner.com/cnlpodcast – episode 69).

Let that sink in – 70%…

Two things come to my mind, knowing that:

  1. Why do I even try? Seriously, if you are invested in NextGen and student ministry, the question is real.
  2. Can we do ANYTHING to combat this?

The good news is, we can cut that number IN HALF if their small group leader “goes with them to college.” What does that mean?

The one half statistic holds up, if that high school small group leader sends their freshman in college/out on their own students one text per month in that first year. They stay engaged with just one text per month. That’s why we try.

As student ministry and nextgen leaders, we cannot disengage just because our local school system tells us our students are done. The discipleship of our students and the future of the Church depends on it.

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2016:Discovering more of God

Over the past several years, as New Year’s Eve approached, I would pray and consider a word that I thought that God wanted to work in and through for the year to come. This year, I’m doing something different. As I prayed, I felt like God was asking me to focus on Him more – that leaning into Him will pull the veil on discovering more about me.

So, over the next year I am committed to spending time focusing on the names of God. I want to learn as much about Him as I can. Revealing truth about God will reveal truth about me – his creation.

I invite you to join me as I walk this journey.

 

What’s our end-game?

My ministry to students has changed in the last year or so. 

Before I had a teenage daughter in my ministry I looked at parents differently. I didn’t understand why it was so hard. Discipling their teens, that is. Now that I come from the other side of this scenario, I understand the struggle.

handmade-791693_640Often, as I spend time with my kids, it becomes easy to throw a bunch of things out there, not knowing exactly what the target is or looks like. What am I really trying to accomplish as a parent? As parents, we have to know what our end-game is. Is our goal to have culturally well-rounded students? Are we cultivating star athletes? What about Christ-following, Gospel centered, Kingdom focused young adults? Is that our goal?

In the book, “Almost Christian: What the Faith of our Teenagers is Telling the American Church,” a social study of Mormon students shows that one of the difference between Christian teens and Mormon teens is how their parents approach parenting.

Parents take to heart their responsibility to get their young people ready.

I say I take this to heart. I say I know what my priorities are as a parent. The more I look critically at it, the more I realize that I can easily prioritize my kids extracurricular activities over their discipleship. I look at all the things I didn’t do as a teen or ways I wished I had succeed and didn’t. I have a knack for making people I love in my own image – or the one I wish I had.

We generally approve of teenagers who let us socialize them into younger versions of ourselves.

Ouch. The question has to become what the writer of Proverbs says –

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

How can we raise our students to a genuine, life-changing relationship with Christ? Maybe it begins with us finding our own genuine, life-changing relationship with Christ – so we can raise them in the way THEY should go and not the way we went or wished we’d gone.

My One Word for 2015

Several years ago, I gave up on resolutions. I never kept them and there were always too many to really attain. The list gets so long and honestly a year is just too short. If we look at our lives with real clarity and understand how discipleship really happens, we realize that God doesn’t ask us to get it all together in a 365 day period. That’s just not how our walk with Christ operates.

ow14_250x250_custom_250x250Since I started really, prayerfully considering the one thing God wants me to focus on each year, I’ve been able to recognize God’s hand shaping my life. One Word flies in the face of the typical year end look at a long list that had more unattained than accomplished – more regret than growth.

The greatest example of this came in 2014. God moved and shaped me more in 2014 than in any year I can remember, but I don’t believe it is because 2014 is the first year He actually moved in me, but because I was actually looking for Him in a quantifiable way.

For 2015, I began to pray and seek God in where He planned to devote His energies in my life and not just where I wanted to see him move. The word the came to mind was “invest.” As I prayed and thought through it, I wasn’t satisfied that “invest” focused closely enough where God wanted to be in me in 2015. As God stretched and pulled at the word “invest,” He placed the word “devote” on my heart. “Invest” has a strong financial connotation in our culture, while “devote” is a personal, deeply relational word.

Devote: give all or a large part of one’s time or resources to (a person, activity, or cause).

In the book of Acts, we are told that the Church, “…devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” The Church gave themselves to the mission that Christ left to them. In Romans 12:10, Paul tells the church in Rome to “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

Devotion is the Biblical term for personal investment. We are called to give of ourselves so that others might grow. We are asked to give ourselves fully to God. He wants our devotion to Him first and to others second. How often am I devoted to me and my agenda? How often do I devote my resources to the cause of me?

In 2015, I will seek God to become a more committed follower of Christ. I will seek God to become a more devoted husband. I will seek God to become a more devoted father to my kids. I will seek God to become a more devoted pastor, who gives time and resources to see those I lead become devoted themselves. The thing I know in all of this, is God is able and willing to lead me here.

One Word 365 – 2014

My One Word for 2014 was “New” and my prayer in choosing that word was that God would “make all things new in me” in 2014. God answered that prayer BIG TIME.

ow14_250x250_custom_250x250I got married in 2014. Gina and I have been navigating “new” for the last 8 months. It has been an amazing journey together and I don’t want to fall into ordinary. I want to continue to move and grow towards stronger, deeper and new with her.

With marriage, comes all the new you’d expect. I moved into a new community, neighborhood and home in 2014. It has been awesome to grow relationships with new family that I’ve added this year. I love my new family.

We also entered into new relationships with a small group in 2014. This group has become some of our strongest friends and where God has provided our core support system. God used these relationships to introduce us to Tony, the Campus Pastor at Austin Christian Fellowship – Brushy Creek.

This last fall, God opened a new door to a new full time ministry for me at ACFbc with Tony. Watching God move on our behalf has been truly amazing and a blessing. God answered my prayer in 2014.

Last December, I felt like God was stirring and moving in a new way and I resolved to pray for that movement in a big way and that is just what he did. I can’t wait to see what God does in 2015. I’m praying for God to lead me to pray with boldness again in this new year!