Advice To a Former Student

One of the joys of student ministry is that, sometimes, we get to see the results of our labor. This isn't always immediate. In fact, most of the time, it takes years.

One former student of mine is now a youth pastor himself! (This makes me feel both immensely proud and incredibly old.) Of course, every student chooses their own path.

I got a message from one of my former students a few weeks ago saying that, in recent years, he had "fallen out of faith" and asking for some advice on how to begin the spiritual growth process again.

What I wrote him isn't revolutionary, but I thought I'd share it here just in case you had a similiar situation.


Student Discipleship Resources

In our student ministry at Trinity, we have three main programs.

First, is our MidWeek worship service.  This is our "front door" program that we encourage students to bring their non-believing friends to so that they can get a taste of what church and God are all about.

Second, is Sunday School. Sunday School is where our students are divided into grade groups (6, 7-8, 9-10, and 11-12) and delve deeper into God's Word.

Finally, on Sunday evenings, we have our discipleship groups. Discipleship groups are divided up by gender and by high school and middle school. This is where we hope to train our students to tell others about their faith.

A good way to look at these three programs is through the lens of the SBC's "KNOWN" strategy: Our ministry exists to help students know Christ (MidWeek), own their faith (Sunday School), and make their faith known (discipleship groups).

This semester, we've begun using two resources that I wanted to pass along to you. One is the curriculum that we're using in our groups. The other, a series of youtube videos that could be used by anyone at any time!


Resources For Worship Leaders

I love leading worship!

To be able to express my love for God though music and song, and help others do the same, is a beautiful thing!

Since taking on leadership of our student worship ministry, I've been introduced to some great resources for worship leaders that I wanted to let you know about. Check them out!


Things I Love: Series 4

For some time now on my twitter, I've been posting a series of tweets about things I love. I figured I'd collect them all in one place (along with making some of them into links). You can check out the entire series by clicking here. I mean, this way, if you ever want to buy me a gift, you can. After all, my birthday is next month.

  • Vol 20: Skinny Ties, Tiny Wings, Cake (the food and the band), THOR, Air Conditioning, My iPhone, Nachos, Amy Poehler, Sonic Ice, Coke Zero, Bananas

  • Vol 21: SC State Fair Corn Dogs, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Candy Corn, iOS5, Sanuks, My Birthday (10/27), Diet Dr. Pepper

  • Vol 22: Late Night FRIENDS Reruns On Nick At Nite

  • Vol 23: Mio, Dunkin Donuts' Hazelnut Coffee, Wheaties, Rocky 3, the MyFitnessPal app, Canoeing, Oak Valley, Jeopardy, Tacos

    Question: What are some things that you love?

  • 9/05/2012


    I love stories.

    I'm especially moved and inspired by stories of teenagers using their passions or resources to change the world by helping others. Austin Gutwein is a great example of this. But I wanted to let you know of another story that I just found out about two days ago.

    Two years ago, Hart Main was just 13 years old when his sister started selling candles for a school fundraiser. Thinking that the candles she was selling were "really girly scents", he wondered, "Why don't people sell candles with scents that men like?" Out of that idea, ManCans was born.


    STUDENT ministers

    My boss, Bryant, has a great story of how, when he was in high school, he started attending our church. Half of it involves a cute girl talking to him. But the other half (the half this post has the most to do with) involves two other high school guys talking to him, and visiting him at his home.

    Because of those two guys (that were his age) and the way they showed care for him, he knew that our church was a place he wanted to be. They also created in him a value that we are now trying to create in our ministry.


    The Music Guy

    I've been absolutely blessed to work with some amazing people in my career. And I've done my best to learn from every one of them.

    Since moving back to South Carolina and starting my job at my home church, I've, once again, been given more than I deserve in coworkers. (Two guys I'm on staff with were members of the youth group with me in middle school and high school. I've known one of them since I was 2!)

    A little under two months after I started, our church hired a new Music Pastor. His name is Jeremy Hansard and he's become one of my absolute favorite people to work with.

    He's also started his own blog! I was originally going to point you there so that you can download a song he wrote for a children's music camp, but I see that he's been writing a little more since then. Check him out at jeremyhansard.com and, if you're in children's ministry, download and use his song!


    Psalm 112

    I turned my life over to God almost 22 years ago.

    I felt called to serve Him vocationally about 17 years ago.

    I began my education to serve him 14 years ago.

    I began my training almost 9 years ago.

    And I started my first pastoral job a little over 7 years ago.

    In all that time, I've been told of the importance of spending time in God's Word. I wish I could say that, for the whole 22 years, doing that has been a priority to me. But, to be honest, it hasn't. But I can say that, as an adult (and as a vocational minister), it has.

    One thing that's always amazed me about the Bible is how God speaks to me so specifically through it. Now, I don't mean specific as in "to me only". I mean specific as in He speaks to events or relationships or troubles in my life. He doesn't speak to me in the form of general "fortune cookie" advice. He goes straight for my heart.


    Sometimes Simple Is Better!

    I'm a big fan of programming. And I've had the opportunity to work in two churches where programming is done big and it's done well!

    But this summer, at Trinity, we decided to simplify things a bit. Two of the things we're doing are as simple as can be but have been BIG hits!

    Here they are. Use them if you want to!


    Embrace the Curl

    Lately, I've been thinking a lot about contentment. It's not necessarily that I'm discontent, but more out of self examination and reflection. It's always good to be asking yourself if you like where your life is, where it's going and, of course, examining both in light of God's Word.

    My present examination reminded me of a big lesson that I learned about contentment a few years ago.


    Water, Water, Everywhere

    Not arranged in order of deliciousness.
    I moved back to South Carolina on December 17, 2008. Which means I've been back in the motherland for almost 4 years. When I moved back, I'm sad to say, I kind of let myself go (fitness wise). Looking back, I think it was a combination of feeling down, being without a job, and all of the delicious southern food I had missed out of for the 6 years I lived in Southern California.

    As a result, I put on some weight. 

    But, earlier this year, I decided I had had enough! So, as I did back in 2006, I joined a gym and started to watch what I ate. 

    But, I am doing one thing differently this time around.


    Love Does: A Review

    I've mentioned Bob Goff here, on my blog, before. I've learned a lot about following Jesus and loving others from his musings on twitter. I'd definitely encourage you, if you have a twitter account, to follow him. Lucky for us, Bob decided to write a book.

    From his twitter account, it was easy to see that Bob was a man of deep compassion, love, and action. Many adventures (or, capers, if you will) were hinted at, but left unexplained thanks to the 140 character limit. Bob's book, Love Does, pulls back the curtain, allowing us to gaze in wonder at a life lived full throttle for Jesus.

    I've already written one post on something I've learned from the book. Here's a few other quotes that stuck with me:


    The Best Movies of 2012 (So Far)

    I see a lot of movies. One year, I saw 64. (What can I say? I had a few free tickets.) Because of this (and because I like to talk about movies), I get asked for recommendations all the time.

    So far, this year, I've seen 20 movies.

    And out of those 20, here are the ones I can solidly say you should see...


    Learning to Manage a Weakness

    I'm a pretty observational guy. Like Monk, sometimes it's a gift and sometimes it's a curse. The gift part of it is that I'm usually self aware enough to notice when something's off in me.

    For instance, I noticed quite a while ago that I'm impulsive. And this character trait bleeds into almost all areas of my life. Everything from grocery shopping to relationships to time management. It's easy to see how this can be a weakness. In fact, McGill touched on this a little in a great little blog post. But, part of the joy in getting older (or "growing up" if you don't like to think about age), is that you learn more about yourself. You learn more about how you are you.

    Is it possible to use something that you've discovered in yourself to be a potential "weakness" to your advantage?

    That's exactly what I've learned how to do. And here's how...


    Worship Songs We'll Be Working On

    Yesterday, when I posted on our summer camp experience, i toughed very briefly on the worship band that leads us every day. What I didn't say about the worship was how much it inspires and fuels our ministry during the school year.

    Two summers ago, as we sat in worship every night at Summersalt, my students would giggle at how, during the songs, I'd be bent over my moleskin notebook, furiously scribbling down the lyrics to songs so that I could look them up later. We would then use those songs in our own MidWeek services.

    Well, this year, the same thing occurred. (Only, without the giggles. Mainly since they were expecting it.) I also asked each of our students (especially our student worship leaders) if they would let me know which songs they really liked at camp, so that I could use those as well.

    So I wanted to provide you with a list of which songs we'll begin work on soon:


    A Few Thoughts About Summersalt (Our Summer Camp)

    For the second summer in a row, we took our students to summer camp at Summersalt. And, while originally, I selected Summersalt as our camp mainly for convenience (we've got connections that allowed us to register late last summer and it's only an hour away), after year two, I'm sold.

    Summersalt is a camp put on by the youth ministry department of the South Carolina Baptist Convention at White Oak Conference Center. Not only was this my second summer taking students from Trinity, I went as a student when I was in youth group here, so it holds a special place in my heart.

    Here's a few quick thoughts about why I love it:


    Church > Sports?

    This past Friday, as I was doing a little pre-camp shopping for essentials (a man needs his cliff bars and 5 hour energies), I saw my friend, Steven, tweet this:
    "Is there ever going to be a day (especially in OC) when church will take priority over sports for students? -@StevenOrel
    (By the way, Steven co-writes a great blog called Gen To Gen YM. Click the link to check it out!) This reminded me of a ministry story from a few months ago.


    Summer(salt) Camp

    This coming Monday we'll be leaving to take our students to summer camp for the week. So there won't be any new blog posts during that time.

    But if this year's camp is anything like last year's, you'll want to be following me on twitter just for the quotes from our students. You can follow me at @joshtreece. I'll be posting from there every day.

    Also, I mentioned in this post last week that there was a story of how my heart turned from not liking leading worship to liking it, and that I'd post that story later. Well, as I scanned through past posts last night, I saw that I had already written it! You can read that story here.

    See you guys in a week!


    Questions To Ask Before You Kill a Program

    This past week, I had to pull the trigger and kill a program in my ministry. But it wasn't a hasty decision. It was about a five week process of evaluation, questions, and discussion. I'm always bummed when something that I start doesn't work out the way I planned, but I'm excited to refocus my energies for the future.

    Here are some questions that I used in my evaluation process:


    What I'm Reading

    Bill Hybels once said that leaders are readers. I couldn't agree more!

    I've been a regular reader for some time now. My normal practice is to read a book a month, and to alternate between reading a book for fun and one for learning. But in the past year, I've had to pick up the pace due to my job.

    Here's what I'm reading right now:

    Question: What books are you reading for learning or for fun right now? 


    Leadership Training

    Lately, I've tried being a little more focused in what I'm posting. This has resulted in mainly thoughts about ministry (to students in particular) and leadership. I'm sure this will drift a little, as my life has other facets to it. As I've spent more time on the blog, I've taken to reading some of my old posts. Three specific ones prompted me to revisit them. And that got me thinking...


    Kind Words Spoken

    I love Bob Goff. And I don't mean that in a general "I love tacos" kind of way. I mean genuine love. Is it possible to love someone you've never met? Sure it is. The truth is this: I may have never met Bob in person, but through his twitter feed (link above) and book, Love Does, he has had a deep impact on my life.

    This past Friday, as I was reading a chapter from the book on how words can impact us, I came across this quote:
    "Words spoken by kind people have the ability to endure in our lives."
     This reminded me of something that happened early last year.


    Student Worship Leaders

    I mentioned in a post a few days ago how part of my job is to oversee worship music for our ministry. This is more that a little ironic to me, considering that 10 years ago I hated leading worship. (How my heart did a 180 is a story for another post.) But, in this particular role, I've found tons of joy that I didn't know I could. And all of that joy has come from helping students learn how to be worship leaders.


    Curious Josh: Spell It Out

    I used to write a series of posts that allowed me to explore all of the weird things I'm curious about. Want to read some of them? Go here.

    One of the twitter feeds that I follow is from the magazine, Mental Floss. And their twitter is full of tons of glorious trivia facts. (You can follow them at @mental_floss.)

    For the past week or so, they've been tweeting (and instagramming) the meaning behind popular abbreviations, initials, or acronyms.

    The one that caught my eye was that ZIP code stands for Zone Improvement Plan.

    Want more? Check out all 31 of them compiled here. And BTW (see what I did there?), this would make an excellent up front game for your large group gathering!


    Leadership: Moving From a Boss to a Guide

    I've had the joy of working with (and for) one of my lifelong heroes for the past 8 months. One of the things I love about our partnership is that, even though we've got a lot of differences, we still work really well together. In fact, I've learned a lot about leadership from him.

    Here's the biggest thing:


    An Idea For Motivating Your Student

    Not too long ago, a mom stopped by my office to ask for advice in dealing with her son. She told me about how tough of a time she was having getting him to do his homework, chores, and basically listen to what she said.

    She didn't go for my idea of using a soda can with a few pennies in it. (Even after I told her I had seen it work on a cat.) But I listened to her, prayed with her, then said I'd talk with her son to see if I could make a difference.

    A few months later, I came across something that I thought could potentially work with this particular student.


    Honoring Your Graduates

    I've been on staff at three churches in my professional career. So I've seen graduation weekends done a few different ways.

    Here at Trinity, they've been doing the same thing since I graduated high school. But, this year, we decided to switch things up a little bit. Here's what we did:


    Looking For a Service Opener?

    I love new ideas. Whether they're totally new or just new to me, new ideas bring about new thinking and new thinking brings new perspective.

    So, I thought I'd leave an idea here that I have loved for the past 9 years.

    If you're looking for a creative way to open your large group gathering, this has worked for me!


    Worship Songs We're Loving

    I love stews. Seriously. They're delicious. I especially like the ones where all kinds of flavors and ingredients blend together to make one tasty treat.

    My job is a lot like a stew. I have a lot of different responsibilities (some completely unrelated to others) that come together to form my ministry life. One of those responsibilities is that I oversee the worship through music part of our ministry.

    I'm always looking for new songs to introduce to our students and appreciated this post on Griff's blog listing what songs HSM and Geoff's ministries are loving right now. So I thought I'd weigh in with what songs we're doing at MidWeek right now that seem to be working.

    In no particular order...


    Tips On Planning Your Summer Calendar

    It's a little tough to believe that we're almost done with May! As we're staring down the barrel of summer, there's something that all of us have to do (or, hopefully, have already done): PLAN!

    One of the things that I've learned that parents appreciate from me as a leader is a calendar that they can refer to during the summer months. Now, there's a thousand ways to put together a calendar. So I won't bother with trying to name the "X Best Ways to Plan Your Summer Calendar". Instead I'll just give you some principles that we used to plan ours.


    Summer Camp Cheat Codes

    I was born in the eighties. As a result, I grew up playing the original nintendo entertainment system. Shout out to that orange duck hunt zapper. Well, as any good eighties kid knows, there was a secret code that worked on many games that could, if inputed correctly, help you get a leg up on your game completion.

    "Up, up, down, down, b, a, b, a, select, start" was known as the "Konami code". It could grant everything from extra lives to extra energy to extra power ups. But, no matter what this cheat code gave you, there was one thing you always gained: progress.

    One of the things that I love so much about taking students to summer camp (or any other kind of extended retreat) is that it allows you to leap ahead in your relationships with students. Lots of time spent together + fun + late night talks = earned trust. Earned trust = relational progress. Relational progress = the ability to speak into a teenager's life.