Youth Ministry

Youth Ministry From Scratch: Part 2 (Not Complicated)

In the last post, I laid out 3 compelling reasons why you need to start a youth ministry from scratch in your local church. But if you’re like me, you probably already know why. Many of us don’t struggle with the motivation. Instead, we’re clueless of what step to take.  This leaves us in an emotional state of limbo, desperate to make an impact, but feeling lost and confused when it comes to making that difference.

Youth Ministry is hard, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Yep, ministry in general is difficult, and youth ministry can be especially messy. You’re dealing with hormones, questions about life’s purpose, conflicts with parents, peer pressure, experimentation with lots of stuff, and limited understanding of spiritual issues. Before you run away screaming and pulling out your hair, get this: It doesn’t have to be complicated.

Most of my vocational ministry experience has been as a lead/senior pastor. And in that time I’ve created some pretty complicated systems. Stupid me. Lots of times, dealing with adult ministry or even church-wide ministry can be difficult. Different challenges present themselves for every ministry. Even the simplest small group model still presents challenges to me (What do you do with the kids? How do you create a reporting system to measure metrics?).

Youth ministry, especially from scratch, does not have to be complicated. In my next post, I’m going to share 3 steps on how to do youth ministry from scratch. But, for now, let me share with you 3 reasons Youth Ministry doesn’t have to be complicated, and could be the simplest ministry you start.

3 Reasons Youth Ministry Doesn’t Have to be Complicated


1. Students Have Basic Wants


Now, I’m not calling Students basic, which is apparently a new insult among Generation Z. No, I’m saying students have a simple hierarchy of needs, that most of the time has yet to be complicated by the pressures or expectations of adulthood.

If you give students a place to hang out, be real, have fun, and free food, they are going to come back. And they are going to open up to you. And you can open up to them. There are fewer expectations with student ministry. As long as you have pizza, no one is complaining.

2. Most Students Have Simple Schedules


What? Adam, are you feeling ok? Students are on the go all the time! Yes they are. But for the most part, compared to adult schedules, they are easier to move around. See, much of the activities students are involved in (sports, 4H, scouting organizations) are voluntary organizations.

What I am getting at is this: while students are busy, they have fewer life-essential demands on their time than most adults do. Most students aren’t having to work 40 hours a week. Some are, but its not that common. Most students don’t have to come home from work and try to raise their kids. Let’s be honest, when homework is done, its time for Netflix or massive online gaming.

Students have hobbies, but they can be flexible with their time.

I guess what I am trying to say is that it’s easier to get students together at a certain time than adults. While this is not always the case, I have found it to generally be true. I rarely have an issue getting many students to show up for youth group as opposed to trying to get adults to show up for small group.

3.  Students Value Authenticity


Sometimes in ministry, we get so focused on the production, the show, the flash. And yes, the church down the road from you may have fog machines and guitar led worship. They may sing their own worship songs with some awesome graphics on the screen. Good for them. Seriously. Celebrate that students are engaging elsewhere.

Our church doesn’t have the budget for that. Or the volunteers gifted in design who have 40 hours a week to devote to the team. But what we do have: authenticity.

Students like the show, the production. Who doesn’t? But when the shows over, they want some to see someone genuine. I’m not saying you can’t be authentic if you have the “total” ministry package. I’m saying without authenticity, everything else falls flat.

Our church isn’t the cool church. It would be nice if we were, but that’s not us. It would be fake to try that in our context. And it’s hard work being the cool church. Very hard work. In our youth ministry, we have some students who attend the cool church but still participate in our youth ministry. Why? Does the other church lack something? I don’t think so. But they found something here in our context, and I think they connected because of our type of authenticity.  

Being genuine is free. Sure, it means you have to vulnerable, but the payoff is worth the risk. Being real with students is going to attract and keep them, and most importantly, DISCIPLE them more than focusing on the big event or the big show.

Youth ministry is difficult. But for the reasons I outlined above, and more, it shouldn’t be complicated. Provide a safe space, show love, and be real. Next post, we’ll dive into 3 steps to starting Youth Ministry from Scratch. As always, leave a comment and share this post with others. 
Youth Ministry

Why You Should Start A Student Ministry from Scratch: Part 1

Why You Should Start A Student  Ministry from Scratch.


Pastoring a small church in a rural setting presents several challenges. Some are unique, others, common too others in different settings. One of the biggest among those is having the right staff in place to do the kind of ministry you feel called to do.

If you’re like me, you may feel that you have a certain type of gifting and that means you only do certain things. For me, that would be communicating. I believe, as introverted as I am, that I have been given talents that help me in public communication, so preaching and teaching are a natural fit for me. Because of my introversion, building relationships with students doesn’t seem like a successful venture.

So what do we do? A lot of us would like to wait for the perfect person to come along who can lead our student ministry. The 25 year old Bible College graduate with a spouse and 1.4 kids who is as active as they were when they captained the football team in high school and as mature as the 65 year old lead elder in your church. Oh, and they will work 20 hours a week for free, attend local school events, plan a lock-in, and get your kids signed up for camp.

In 13 years of vocational ministry, I have never met that person. And if I would have, I doubt they would come work with me for free.

So the only two options we are left with are:

  •  Give up on the idea of student ministry.
  •  Start a student ministry from scratch.
For the person who takes Jesus’ words seriously, the first option isn’t an option. So, we are left with the latter. But how on earth are you supposed to do that? You’re a small church, with limited resources, and even less time.

Before we can get to the how, we need to understand the why.


Here are 3 Reasons to Start Student Ministry from Scratch


1. You Have to Start Somewhere

You have to start somewhere. I know we all have dreams of having a student ministry with 45 students and 5 committed volunteers. But unless you leave your current church to serve at another congregation with an existing student ministry, you have to start from scratch.

Yes, it’s going to mean lots of hard work. Trial and error. Ups and downs. Wins and losses. You get the picture. But think of it this way: you get to create the culture of what can be a thriving ministry.

Yes, you’re going to spend hours in prayer and preparation. But think of what the harvest could be like! Think of the impact you can have on students and their families. Student ministry isn’t glorious. It’s messy. If it a breeze, you would have found the perfect leader by now.

So it may be awkward if your first gathering only has 4 students. Mine had 2. But trust me when I say that when you have 8 students the next week, you have a feeling that God must really be at work.

Every thriving student ministry had to start somewhere. And so do you.


2. Student Ministry is Vitally Important to Long Term Spiritual Health.

Student Ministry is vitally important to long term spiritual growth. For who? For everyone. Yes, student ministry isn’t just to keep teens engaged in church for a few years before they graduate high school. I started thinking about all the people that can be positively impacted by student ministry:
  • Students (obviously)
  • Schools (stop complaining about your church not being in the schools if you don’t have a student ministry)
  • Parents (we don’t think about this one enough)
  • Siblings
  • Volunteers (they need to hear the messages and lessons too)
  • The Church (students are the church of the future, they are part of the church NOW)
The list could go on and on. Student ministry isn’t a babysitting service. It is not purely a fun time. It is a ministry as much as anything else a church engages in, maybe even more so.

Study after study shows many of our young people will leave the church after high school. Some will return, many will not. And even for those who come back, should we be content with their wandering?

The seeds of truth and love we plant in student ministry bear fruit. Often these are the life lessons that will cause the prodigal to return.

3. Students Need Jesus

This may sound like an obvious oversimplification, but its true. I’m 32. Students today face far more temptations with much more ferocity than I did when I was in their shoes.

Generation Z (those born from 2000-present) will be the largest generation in American history. Yet, percentage-wise, they will likely be the least churched generation in American history. We should weep over this. But here’s the kicker: students are also more open to spiritual things and conversations than their parents or grandparents.

In other words, we can change their future. Well, Jesus can, but we can be the instrument that changes them.

Students face a myriad of challenges, from the continual breakdown of the family, the availability of pornography, drugs, and the last thing they need is for the Church to just sit back and watch them head down the path to destruction.

Student ministry is hard. But it’s worth it. And God will give you what you need.

You need a student ministry? What are you waiting for?

Faith, Songs, writings

Master, Savior, Friend

I used to write a lot in my “younger” days. Mostly sappy stuff to impress girls with how sensitive I was. Yeah, I burned most of that stuff.

But writing is often how I process things. I’m a visual guy, so while I may be a speaker by profession, I often manuscript out my talks, speeches, and thoughts before hand.

But I’m learning that writing may also be one of those ways that I draw closer to Christ. Today as I was cleaning up around the house, in the peaceful quiet of a fall afternoon, some thoughts just came to me:

Jesus is so much! He’s my King. He’s my Redeemer or forgiver. And He’s also one who cares. He’s my Master, Savior, and Friend.

Proverbs 18:24 (ESV) says, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Emphasis mine) Jesus is that friend. And for some reason lately, that particular attribute of Christ has meant so much more to me than it has for a long time.

So to took out a word doc and typed what just came to mind and then edited it for clarity’s sake. Maybe this blesses you. Maybe it inspires you. Or maybe it does nothing for you. Either way, here ya go:

There’s a name that I call
When I’m just about to fall
There’s king who left heaven for me
There is One who won’t delay
He’ll guide each step of the way
He’s my master, my savior, my friend

Chorus:
So I cry Jesus, lead me
Jesus, forgive me
Jesus, come lead me home
I will love you
I will obey you
I will always draw from you.
You’re my master, my Savior, my friend

You lead me from empty cisterns
That no water can hold
You bring me to fountains with water untold
You renew, You restore
You’re the Way, You’re the Door
You’re My Master, My Savior, My Friend
(Chorus)

 There are days I am afraid
That I’ll lose my way
But You come and lead me towards home.
You bring light, You bring life
You lead us on through the night
You’re Our Master, Our Savior, Our Friend

(Chorus)

Bridge:
So We cry, Jesus Lead us
Jesus forgive us
Jesus, come lead us home.
We will always love you
Help us to draw from you.
You’re Our Master, Our Savior, Our Friend.

No matter what we go through
The same old same old or brand new
You will center us in your will
So be our Master, lead us onward
Be our Savior, forgive us forward
Be our brother, our closest friend

(Chorus)

Uncategorized

My Battle Part 1

I actually created this blog to share this story. I have wanted to share this story for a long time. I have found many reasons why not to share this story. Many things have caused me to not want to share this story. But I am going to share a story. 
Disclaimer: I do not share this in any way to gain some form of sympathy or attention. I am not jumping on any sort of a bandwagon of people who are exposing dark parts of their lives. I will also not share everything. But I have 2 reasons to share: 1. I want to get out my story of what God has done in my life & what He can do you in yours. and 2. To help remove the stigma that surrounds what I am going to share.
I have been blessed so much in my life. Blessed with a family and friends who love me, but I have depression.
No, I don’t mean just “Oh I feel sad today.” When I was a small child, around 5 or 6, I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, but after counseling and medication I wasn’t improving and my parents still struggled with understanding me. After a few more sessions of counseling, I was diagnosed with depression. Again, even with this diagnosis, I was blessed to have some great doctors and counselors. I was so fortunate to have Dr. John Kelley who pioneered Child Psychology at I believe WVU… A fantastic man… But I digress. (My ADD kicked in… ha)
I don’t want you to think I am blaming my mom and dad for my problems. That’s what sucks about the type of depression I have. It does not make sense. If I could tell you one thing about mental illness it is this: It does not make sense. I was blessed with a close knit extended family growing up. While because of that I experienced a lot of death, I also experienced a lot of love.
But even though I grew up with a loving family, even as a kid I felt alone. I mean at a gathering with all my cousins, I felt alone. Again, it doesn’t make sense. Growing up, I felt different. I felt alone. I know that I wasn’t the only one with problems. But I felt alone.
 I’d love to be able to point to one issue and say this is why I have felt depressed. But there isn’t a single issue that has made me this way. Sure, there are a few events that have negatively shaped me, but I tend to be melancholy by nature. Again, it doesn’t make sense.
Now, some of you may think this is a spiritual issue. And I would agree with you. But I know the depression I battle is not because of some sort of demonic oppression, or some kind of spiritual deficit in my life, at least not entirely. There is a spiritual component to the depression I deal with, but even when I am doing great spiritually, I can still feel depressed.
And some people know I have had this battle. But the vast majority have no idea had difficult it has been.
When I was a teenager, I refused to deal with life and various complicated issues and I thought about death continuously. I felt unaccepted by my peers… Which is ironic because while by no means the most popular kid in school, I was friends with just about everyone. I realize now how superficial those relationships were.
I don’t know why I would feel this way. I just did. I’m not asking for your sympathy. It’s just something I had to go through. I was suicidal at times. How serious was I? In hindsight, I just don’t know. I know that I wanted to die. I know that I wanted to stop feeling so down, so unloved, so useless. I felt my life had no meaning or purpose. I tried it. Several times. Either I never had to courage to “do it right” or the hand of God intervened or perhaps both.
When I was 17 I was finally baptized (I had become a follower of Jesus at around the age of 6). My pastor at time showed me acceptance. His family opened their home to me and I felt like I finally had friends I could be real with. People who I knew accepted me as I was. I grew to love them all as my own family. 
It’s not that my own family didn’t love me. It’s that I was scared what they would think of me. In my family, I was taught to believe that I came from a good line of hardworking people who had made something of themselves. My grandparents and great grandparents were respected pillars of the community. How could I be messed up and let them down? 
Fast forward to College. I attended Bible College at Ohio Valley University. Nice school. Fantastic professors. Fellow students: mostly ok. But I didn’t fit in. I was an outsider. I came from a different theological background and never found a niche. I’m not blaming the school or the system. I recognize that it is my responsibility to find a niche in which to thrive. What sucks about depression is that you lack the willpower to improve your situation. I would go to chapel, and leave inspired and excited to serve Jesus but completely lack the drive to grow enough to deal with parts of my depression. Even while seeking professional help, I would struggle to get out of bed. It wasn’t so much that I was lazy. I was scared. I was alone. I didn’t want to “adult” any more.
2nd Semester of college my roommate moved into another dorm. It was the middle of the school year and I was alone in my room almost anytime I wasn’t in class. Which is crazy. There I was being alone because I felt alone. Say it with me: Depression doesn’t make sense. I was heading into a dangerous spiral. I noticed it. No one else did because I didn’t have the guts to reach out. Soon after a girl I went to school with died in a car accident. We weren’t that close, but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back so to speak. I, a Christian man with so many blessings, would break down and cry in the middle of the day. About nothing. I would cry myself to sleep at night. In the Bible, Job’s wife tells him to “Curse God and die.” I tried that. But I wasn’t going anywhere.
Finally one night I had a late heart to heart with a friend. I poured out my soul to him. I shared all the sinful things I had done and hidden. All the guilt I carried. All the sadness I felt. And he responded and said God loved me anyways. That he was my friend regardless. That he loved me no matter what. Oh, I cannot tell you how my heart soared!
Within 2 months I became the pastor of a very small struggling church. The perfect place to see if I was truly committed to ministry. What seemed like the toughest 8 years of my life was really just preparation for my future ministry. I worked hard to grow that church, I prayed. I preached. I trusted God. I invested my own meager salary back into that church, People came. People began to follow Jesus. Then something happened. I don’t know what it was. Maybe I made mistakes. Maybe it simply wasn’t God’s will for that church to grow. But I lost two very dear friends who no longer came to church there. People who I thought had my back began to attack me without cause. Maybe I lead out of anger. Maybe my determination led me to respond in un-Christ-like ways. I don’t know.
I knew God was calling me somewhere else. So after 6 months of prayer and seeking God’s will I resigned and lost half of my family’s income. But I knew God had a plan for me.
The past 2.5 years I have been back at my home church, where through a strange series of events I pastor a church I never thought I would, and I love it.
But I still battle depression. I am surrounded by people who love me, and yet I still feel so very alone. There are times when driving down the road I still will break down. But praise the Lord, those are fewer and far in between. I truly believe that depression is a battle I will have my whole life. And I have now come to terms with that. I think that it has made me a better pastor, a better husband, and a better friend. I long for authentic relationships. I do my best to empathize with others.
I can truly see how God has used this for God.
But I still battle. I’ve been suicidal since my teen years. It makes no sense. I have an amazing wife, two incredible daughters, and some very special people in my life. But I battle nonetheless. 

My name is Adam, and I have a mental illness. It makes no sense. But with God’s help I am fighting.
Faith, Life

Welcome… Let’s Try This Again

Let’s Try This Again…

After reading the blogs of several of my friends I have decided it is time to try this blog thing again. So here we go. Fasten your seat belts. Welcome.
I’m not new to this blogging thing. I did it before. You can click on my profile to view my previous blog “Out of Eden”. It was a double play on words– my name being Adam as well as the fact that at the time I was the pastor of Eden Church.  Because SO MUCH has happened in the YEARS since I last blogged on Out Of Eden, I thought I would start afresh instead of trying to fill in all the gaps.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with me, lets get to a few basics. My name is Michael Adam Edward Will, but please call me Adam. I never really liked my first name and have rarely used it except for legal and/or identification purposes. And please, don’t call me Mike. Whenever I hear Michael Will, I usually think of my father, that being his name. Fun fact- There has been a Michael and an Adam Will in every generation of my family as back as about 1650. As far as the Will’s that I am in close connection with, I am the only one with either. But anyway…
My wife Christina and I recently bought our first home, which happens to be just down the road from my family farm where I grew up and my family has lived for nearly 200 years. I am surrounded by my history, which in some ways is haunting and yet encouraging at the same time. The geography reminds me of some things in my past I’d rather forget, while I am also reminded of how blessed I have been. 
So let’s try this again.
I like that idea of trying something again. Don’t you? See, whether it’s blogging, marriage, finances, or any aspect of our lives, we make mistakes and want to start over again. That’s why I am so grateful that Jesus offers us second chances. As I get ready turn 30, I have been evaluating many life choices and priorities. I have been blessed to be the owner of a small business that is really starting to take off, at least for me. I have two beautiful daughters. I have a wife that loves me unconditionally and makes  me want to be a better person. Life is full right now. Maybe too full. So if nothing else, maybe this blog will help me to sort life out and hopefully provide some entertainment and encouragement along the way.
So Welcome- Let’s Try This Again.