THOUGHTS

Some of my thoughts and musings on faith, life and ministry. All that is posted here are of my own opinions and do not necessarily represent any organisation, church or ministry that I am a part of/affiliated with. 

Should I Stop Going To Church During Exams?

As you enter a stressful season of tests, assessments, exams and deadlines for assignments and projects it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the stress of expectations placed by teachers, parents and even ourselves. Most people would think then "OK - I better focus on doing my work and studying and cut down on other things during this time." 

Naturally, we would choose to minimise activities associated with leisure (Social Media, Movies, Games, Hobbies etc) - which may even include church. I can understand why - exams and finals can be extremely stressful (I often have nightmares of going into an exam hall being absolutely unprepared). The last thing I want to do is to guilt trip any one into coming to church, however I do feel that skipping church during exam season is not a good thing. Here are some thoughts:

1. Church is not just "any other thing" that we do. 

Going to church and being in a community of believers is part of our worship and relationship with God. By all means cut down on entertainment and distractions - but don't cut down on God! God can be our source of strength, comfort, peace and even discipline - we need more of God during times that are tough and when pressure is high, not less of Him! 

 

2. There is ALWAYS enough time.

I am of the firm belief that if God gave us 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week - there should be enough time for us to get what we need done. It is a matter of priorities, discipline and boundaries. Plan out your week efficiently, set aside time for what is important and here's a great tip: get off social media, put your phone away and even stay away from the Internet (if possible)! You will be amazed at how much time can be wasted on social media... get rid of distractions and get organised! Let's be honest - if you feel like you hardly ever have enough time, it isn't because you have lack of it; it just means you need to maximise your schedule or that you are taking on way too much.

 

3. Learn to praise with your problems and move with the mess.

I don't want to sound like a doomsayer, but as you get older life actually gets harder and most of the time pressures increase rather than decrease. I am not downplaying the effects exams can have of us, but if we do not develop a habit of putting God first in the midst of exams life is just going to give us more and more reasons not to in the future. Jobs, bills, kids all can contribute to "good reasons" why we cannot make it to church - hence all the more we should make a decision while we are a student to make God our first priority and not our last resort. 

 

Now, I am not trying to imply that we should rock up at church NO MATTER WHAT. I am sure there will be genuine emergencies or compulsory activities that would force us to miss church from time to time - but it is a conscious decision on our part not to make skipping worship and being in community a habit. 

Its not like God NEEDS us there. God will still be God even if we don't show up, and His power and presence is not dependant on us. 

Acts 17:24-25(NLT)
24 “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, 25 and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need.

I may not be sure of many things in life, but one thing that I am absolutely certain of is this - those who choose to honour God will never lose out in life. 

Psalm 55:22 (NLT)
22 Give your burdens to the Lord,
and he will take care of you.
He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.

Here's a prayer for you to pray if you are going through exams and finals:

Dear Lord Jesus,

Please be with me during this season of exams. Lord I ask for your divine favour and blessing to be upon me, that you would give me your peace, wisdom and strength throughout this time. I pray that I will not be anxious, but help me look to You in all that I do. Protect my health and my mind as I prepare, and give me confidence when I am doing the papers. Thank you for being such a good God and Father, and help me to always put my trust in you and you alone. All this I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Teenagers: Why You Need To Attend Youth Meetings

NarrowStreet ! 

NarrowStreet ! 

Are you a teenager and are wondering: why do I need to be a part of my church's youth? Can't I just go for the church's services? Maybe you are a leader/pastor and you want reasons to encourage those under your care or those you are trying to reach out to. I offer some reasons below. 

Before I do, I understand that some churches may not have the resources to start or sustain a youth ministry: and that is OK. I am writing to those who already in a church with an existing youth program.

1. IT IS BIBLICAL

Acts 2:42 (NLT)

The Believers Form a Community
42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper[a]), and to prayer.
Hebrews 10:25 (NLT)

25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

The Bible does not suggest that a Christian should be part of a church, in fact it is IMPORTANT that a Christian does. It is only through a community that one can truly flourish as a believer. Do not be misled into thinking that you can grow alone. In fact, Christians who refuse to be a part of any community often have issues in themselves that they have to sort out. 

Churchgoers are like coals in a fire. When they cling together, they keep the flame aglow; when they separate, they die out.

- Billy Graham

 

2. JOURNEYING WITH PEERS IS MORE ENJOYABLE

Anything done with friends is automatically more fun and meaningful.  We go to the movies, meals, play games with friends... so why not grow in faith together as well? Youth is a great place to share dreams, ideas, hopes, struggles and fears with people who are going through the same stage of life.

Heres the thing: it takes effort to make meaningful friendships at youth. I hear many say: "I get along with my school friends much better than my church friends." Want to know why? You probably spend at least 5 days in school but only 1 or 2 in church... so of course you would be more familiar with your school friends. All the more reason you need to be at youth REGULARLY. 

School friends are great, keep them by all means; but some of them may not be Christians and cannot help your grow in Christ. Make the effort to connect with more people your age at church! 

 

3. THE MESSAGES ARE MOST LIKELY EASIER TO UNDERSTAND

Have you ever been to the main service and have absolutely no clue as to what the pastor is saying? You are not alone. Most church services are more geared towards adults, it is just the way things are. It defeats the purpose of going to church if you go home learning nothing. 

I am going to safely assume that your youth pastor will at least be a whole lot more understandable, his messages are more applicable and hopefully he is funny as well. But, if you say that the messages in youth are too shallow or you often learn nothing then...

 

4. SERVE! 

Romans 12:11 (NLT)

11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.

If you think yourself as more mature than others in the youth group, then you really should consider serving as a leader. We are called to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20), and I am guessing as a young person you would not feel comfortable fulfilling this commandment on adults. 

The youth group is a great place for you to develop your gifting and abilities. There is a saying in my church, that TASK = C.A.S.K (Character, Attitudes, Skills, Knowledge). Every task that you do whether big or small is an opportunity to grow in C.A.S.K. 

Serve in any capacity that is needed, not in the avenue which you want. Do not only go for positions of "glamour" or serve to get attention, but do it because you love God and want to grow. We should always desire for others to see Jesus and not for others to see us through our service. 

Serving can be done in a variety of ways: setting up the hall, playing in the worship team, leading a small group, welcoming new people, taking care of younger ones in the group, making sure your pastor has water before he preaches... anyone can serve!

 

Hope this clarifies some things, have a blessed week ahead! 

 

Growing A Youth Ministry

What does it take to build a strong youth ministry? Some say it's all about the program: vibrant worship, relevant preaching, cool giveaways, epic games and so forth. The content of your program does matter of course, but it is not the be all and end all. I would suggest that one component is extremely important: Relationship.

Let's put it this way: imagine you were invited to a party in which you had to put up with bad food, poor choice of music and maybe some lame attempts at getting a game going. All these things you will forget and forgive eventually when the party fades into memory, but one thing that might stick longer is: if nobody talked to you at the party.

The horror! Imagine yourself standing in a corner trying to look like you are meant to be there or getting introduced to a bunch of people who do not really seem keen to hang out with you... how awkward! I'm not sure if we realised this, but this often happens to a lot of people who come through our programs and churches. 

Having a cranking program but no follow up can be counterproductive, and the most effective way of making someone come back is to make them feel welcomed. This to be honest, takes a lot of intentionality. When I first took on the youth ministry I am in, the one thing I had to do was drill into my leaders that they needed to break out of their cliques and to start looking out for people. 

So apart from just focusing on getting the worship, the games and the preaching right; make sure you (and your leaders) put extra effort into befriending and connecting with both existing and new people.

One problem that many ministries face is that they can become so comfortable and familiar with the usual regulars that newcomers find it hard to fit in. This too takes intentionality to overcome (I actually forbid my leaders to hang out with their friends during youth, they can do that on their own time). 

We have to remember that people matter more than the programs, and discipleship is most effective when done via relationships. Build a culture in your ministry where people are cherished and celebrated; where everybody who walks through the door feel like they belong - then your ministry will definitely grow!