I Love Summer Camp!

I don’t have a very good memory, especially in regards to my younger years, but one thing I do remember very well is summer camp. I remember the first time that I went to Summit Camp as a junior camper, I remember going to Boy Scout Camp, I remember my very first trip to the Wilds, and then my second trip, and then my 3rd, 4th, 5th… you get the point. Camp has always been such a special place to me. It is a week where I get to leave everything behind and go have fun and get reacquainted with God. There were definitely years where I was more concerned with having fun than hearing Gods voice, but the truth is, that when I was willing to listen, I always heard God’s voice the loudest and the clearest during summer camp.

11709405_10206886470623934_868633730376910525_nSome youth pastors talk about how much they dread camp, but I have always loved it. From the crazy long van rides, to 1,000,000 gas station bathroom stops, going to camp was always a highlight of my year. While I have not been a youth pastor since 2013, this year I was blessed with the incredible opportunity to experience all those wonderful moments at camp once again.

I was so blessed about 3 months ago when I was asked to consider being the camp speaker at the Midwest Baptist Fellowship summer camp program which was held at Sagmount Baptist Camp. I was thrilled at the opportunity and began counting the days. Before I knew it the time had come, and last week I got to spend the entire week with over 15 churches, and over 300 campers. It was a fantastic week. God did amazing things from beginning to end, and I was so honored that His incredible Grace would allow me to be a tool that He could use to impact lives.

Our theme was Called. Our theme verse was Romans 8:28. I preached both morning and evening of each day on topics including Salvation, Eternal Security, Servant Leadership, Holiness, Moral Purity, Bitterness, and Complete Surrender. It was an encouraging week, a week with lots of fruit. There were at least 15 students that accepted Jesus Christ, at least 15 received assurance of their salvation, around 10 surrendered to full-time service, and many many more made decisions to confess and forsake sin and make restitution between God and man.

Praise the Lord!

As an adult it is so easy to grow a cold and hard heart towards the voice of the Lord. One of my most consistent prayers is that I will always have a soft heart towards the leading of the Holy Spirit. I love how camp is often times like a heart softener. You go, listen, and be half way willing to change, and there is a good chance your heart will be softer towards the things of God.

Maybe it is time for some of us adults to go to camp for a week! Thanks for reading! What are your best camp memories? What are some of the things that God has done in your life over the years while at summer camp?

Life Lessons for the Week

Here are a few major lessons I am learning right now! They may help you as well. Read through them and spend some time thinking about any of them that will help you grow. Then after you are done, take some time and share a few things that have been on your mind lately in regards to personal growth.

MOMENTUM

I read a quote recently that says: “A weak leader with momentum, looks like a strong leader; and a strong leader without momentum looks weak.”

Personally it is so interesting in reference to my ministry. Right now our youth ministry is in a period of great fruit. We are experiencing the highest numbers and the greatest influence that I have seen in my ministry since I have been here. The question that one might ask me is: What are you doing differently? My answer: Nothing. I have been in youth ministry for 6 years and there have been many ups and downs. Right now things are definitely up. Is it because of my leadership style? I would say, no. It is because we have momentum. I have been thinking a lot about this, and I am currently trying to discover how to develop this same momentum in other ministries. I do not have all the answers regarding establishing momentum, but I know this, do what you have to do to get momentum and things will look up very quickly.

GRACE

I have an incredible leadership team that supports me in youth ministry. They are great for many reasons: These leaders build relationship with teenagers, they love teenagers, they love the youth ministry, and they are extremely faithful. But there is something about these leaders that has been especially encouraging and powerful as they have been involved in Suncoast Youth Ministry. It is that they are leaders with Grace. At Suncoast Youth Group we always define grace as “God giving us what we do not deserve.” The leaders of Suncoast Youth Group support the ministry and they support me with an incredible amount of grace. They understand that things do not always operate the way that they would prefer, but they show grace, and they support me anyway. Our leaders know me and all of my weaknesses and failures, and they support me anyway. They show grace and they look past themselves and their own preferences and comforts and they support both the youth ministry and the youth pastor with great grace. If every ministry of the church had such graceful leaders, the church would look very different.

PASSION 

I asked my wife this week what I am passionate about and she said that I am passionate about being passionate. I understand where she is coming from. Whether we are talking about my favorite restaurant, P.F. Changs, or my favorite drink in the world, Sonny’s Sweet Tea. I tend to be more on the passionate side of things. One struggle that I have been working with is that often my passion about something can be perceived as arrogance. Whether in casual fellowship, in praise team practice, or in staff meeting I have been told that sometimes I come across “more jerky” than I intend to. It is not my desire to be arrogant, or to be controlling, or in charge, but many times my passion gets the best of me, and I give off vibes that are not quite what I am going for. I read two great blogs recently that reminded me what the Bible says about this: James 1:19 “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath.”

I am working on balancing my passion with this verse. Let me be clear, I love being passionate, and this verse does not tell me to be more apathetic. For me, it says, be passionate, but use less words.  Listen more, and think through your opinions and your thoughts, and then share them with fewer words. I believe that this will be a huge step for me, not an easy one, but incredibly important for my personality.

WHAT ARE SOME THINGS THAT YOU ARE LEARNING RIGHT NOW?

POST THEM IN THE COMMENTS! Thank you!

Lee

Wilds or Bust!!

This is a blog that we wrote for our church last year to share specifically, how to pray for our teenagers and sponsors while at camp. The information is still completely relevant! Please pray for us! Thank you!

 

Well today is Friday and we will be heading to the Wilds in just about 48 hours. I cannot express my excitement in words. We have gone two other years since I have been the youth pastor at Suncoast Baptist Church, but for some reason there is a little bit more excitement this time than before. I believe it has something to do with the fact that God has really been working in our youth ministry and in our church for the last two months in a very special way, and I believe that God has been preparing hearts and futures for this week.

I have been begging our church to pray for our teens for the upcoming week and if you are reading this before camp, or during camp then I ask you as well to lift up this week of camp in prayer. Here are some things you can pray about.

Pray for Safety

We are leaving Sunday night after church around 9:00pm and we will be driving overnight in 4 large passenger vans. It is a 12 hour drive , so please pray that we will get to camp safely with no issues at all. We will leave the camp on Saturday morning around 8:00am and we will be driving all day long to arrive back at the church sometime around 10pm or so.

Pray for Good Attitudes

We are traveling for a long time with 49 people. There will definitely be frustrating issues and stressful situations, so please pray for our teenagers and our chaperones that we will all be long-suffering and very patient.

Pray for Tender Hearts

God will do the greatest work in the teenager that has the most responsive heart. I believe that God will change our teenagers and our church and our city if our teenagers will soften their hearts to the Lord and completely surrender to Him.

Pray for Salvation

We are taking several teenagers that have not began a relationship with Christ. Please pray (especially on Wednesday) that they will clearly hear the gospel and turn to Christ. PRay that their salvation will be powerful, memorable, and genuine!

Pray for God’s Calling

I believe that God will call some of our teenagers to attend Bible college, and some even into full time service into the ministry. Pray that our teenagers will see that not only as an option, but as an honor and a privelege.

If you have not been praying, please start right now. We are leaving in a short time, and it is going to be the best week of some of these teenagers lives. I know that the summer that I graduated from High School, I went to the Wilds, and that week was the turning point in my life. I know that God wants many more turning points this next week!

Thanks for reading! Now Pray! 🙂

A Refreshing Day… WITH TEENAGERS?!?!

Well if you were to ask a hundred adults how they would want to enjoy a  refreshing day, I bet none of them would say that they want to enjoy a refeshing day with almost 20 teenagers. Believe it or not, today I did just that. I know, it may be hard to believe, but I spent the day (from 10:00am – 5:30pm) with almost 20 teenagers and I had such a great time.

We decided to make MLK Day an activity to hang out with each other instead of sleeping in until 3:00pm.

The day started with a couple board games, then we went outside and played a huge game of basketball. After that we had lunch, then we talked about some exciting plans for our youth ministry for about an hour. After that, we went outside and played football for a while and then we came in and “Jammed” to some awesome music.

It was definitely an action packed day, which might make you wonder how I could call that refreshing. Well, the fact is, it was not physically refreshing, but spiritually and emotionally refreshing. I was able to spend the day with several great teenagers! They were so much fun to be around. We spent time talking about what we can to to make our youth group even better. We spent time learning some new things on the guitar and piano. We even spent some time recruiting a few teenagers into the Church Orchestra! (Yay! Jessica!!!)

It was such a delightful day!

It makes me wonder… WHY IN THE WORLD IS IT SO HARD TO FIND YOUTH WORKERS?!?!?!?!

God has truly blessed our church with some sharp teenagers and they are in some of the most important decision making days of their lives. I would think that if there were people who want to make a difference in someones life, that I would have a waiting list of workers trying to get in to work with the teenagers. But instead, I am with the teenagers each week, alone… Did you get that? 35 teens and one adult. Think about the impact that our church could have on teenagers, with just a few more adults. I am praying that God will provide some adults that want to get involved with some teenagers to encourage them and edify them in the Lord during some of their most difficult days…

Here are a few misconceptions that I believe keep people away from serving in the youth ministry.

1. Teenagers have bad attitudes.

Maybe your teenagers have bad attitudes, but honestly, most teenagers don’t. See, when my 2 year old son is around his mommy and I, the kid can be really naughty!! Seriously, but as soon as he is somewhere else, with someone he is not as familiar with, he magically turns into an angel. That doesn’t change when they become teenagers… Ok, well maybe they aren’t angels, but they do not hate everyone all the time. The way to get past the apparent attitude is to build a relationship with them… By the way: You are probably the same way, you are a little bit friendlier and warmer to the people who have formed a relationship with you.

2. Teenagers think that they are too cool for me.

No they don’t. They are so insecure that they ACT like they think they are too cool for you, but inside they know that they are not. What they need is someone who will build and edify and love them (unconditionally). If they are receiving the encouragement that they long for, once again, the walls will come down.

3. It is the Youth Pastors Job to reach our teenagers.

Wrong again. Sorry, but it is not. God says that it is the parents job, so parents… come get involved. I often hear the excuse that, “my teenagers don’t want me around them and their friends.” If they don’t want you around, there is probably a reason… Fix it! Stop nagging them, or getting on to them about being silly… Major on the majors and minor on the minors.

My parents weren’t perfect, but somehow… they were cool! And my friends loved having them around! Be cool Mom and Dad!  (not weird… that is embarrasing) Get involved!

4. I could never teach a lesson to teenagers!!!

You don’t have too!!  Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.” Many times, they are not listening anyway… they are watching… Be the real deal and it will rub off. That is better than any preaching you or I can ever do!

5. Teenagers don’t want to talk to me.

Yes they do… they are just insecure! So, stop being insecure yourself, and GO TALK TO THEM!!!!

6. I don’t know how to get involved.

I am so glad you asked… see the nearest youth pastor TODAY!!! and sign up! Get involved as soon as possible! Seriously! If you put it off, then you will forget about it and your youth pastor will continue to be all alone week by week! What a refreshing time you are missing out on!!! Get involved today!!!

What about Isaac?

I am reading through the Bible in 90 days with a few other people in my life and I have already been blown away by some of the things that I have seen and discovered for the first time, and I am now on Day 2. 🙂 The plan that I am using can be found HERE. As I was reading yesterday and this morning, I came across a new thought that I would like to share.

Last night I spoke to the teenagers about the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22. I thought about in a new dimension that I have never thought about before. It is easy to see that God was testing Abraham, after all the Chapter begins by introducing Abraham, and clearly places the main focus on Abraham.

I think that often times our churches tend to do the same thing that we do as we read Genesis 22. We focus on the older people, and the young person who is just as important tends to get overlooked. Have you read this story behind the eyes of Isaac?

God wanted to do great things in the life of Abraham and all of his descendants, and he used Isaac in that test just as much as he used Abraham. Yes, clearly the instructions were given to Abraham, but due to Isaacs respect, obedience, and willingness to surrender, God blessed their family line in greater ways than they could have ever imagined.

I believe that God wants to do something great in our Church, I believe that God wants to do something great in our local schools, in our cities and on and on the list goes, but what if He plans to use our teenagers to do it, like He did with Abraham and Isaac.

We look at the faith of Abraham in this chapter, which is absolutely amazing, but what about the faith of Isaac: the “lad”. Isaac needed more faith than even Abraham, after all, he WAS the sacrifice. (And he was simply trusting in the words of man, not the voice of God directly)

Isaac, a lad (vs.22), was a huge part in the blessings of his family, and the world as we know it. I assure you, had Isaac not responded with obedience, respect, and surrender, the story could have been very different.

How does God want to use our teenagers to accomplish great things? Last night I explained to the teenagers that God wants to do great things in our church and He may very well use them to do it. I explained to them that I want to invest my life into those teenagers that want to grow, that want to make a difference, that want to be used by God, even if it is just a few. The great thing is that there were three teenagers that came up to me after the service and said: Pastor Lee, I want to be one of those teenagers! How exciting!

So I end with this: Pray with me and for me, that I will be the mentor and the leader that these teenagers need to accomplish great things! Pray for these three names: Phillip, Michael, and Jon… Pray that more teenagers will tell God, I want to be used by you to do great things! Pray that these teenagers will be serious about their decisions!

Sorry that my thoughts were so “scatter-brained”, but I just had to share in some way what God has showed me and what he is beginning to do in the hearts and lives of our teenagers!!

I am not sure who you are reading this, but if you know a teenager, or if you are a teenager, you need to get this book: Read it and then come talk to me about it 🙂

Word of Life SUPERBOWL 2009

2009superbowl_logoOn Friday, Suncoast Youth Group loaded up the trucks, cars, and vans and headed to Orlando, for one of our favorite activities of the year. Every Fall, Word of Life hosts an incredible activity called the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl is an outstanding activity where our students have the opportunity to go to a Professional Sports Game, hear a clear gospel presentation, enjoy a youth rally with great games and prizes and then finish the night off with two great venues.

We have gone 3 years now, and this year I took a moment to stop and appreciate all of the effort that was put into making it such a great event. That is what I want to share on my blog today.

As a youth pastor, with many hats to wear, there is always pressure to come up with great activities. We have done many exciting activities at Suncoast Youth Group, and every single one takes hours and hours of planning and preparation (many of which can go seemingly unnoticed). Generally all that work goes into planning something simple like an Ice Skating Event, or a Scavenger Hunt of some sort. I can barely imagine all of the work that goes into planning the Word of Life Super Bowl.

To imagine an activity with a NBA Basketball Game, an Awesome Youth Rally, Bowling, Wonderworks, the RDV Sportsplex (including: Ice Skating, Broom Ball, Wally-Ball, Basketball, Inflatables, Dodge Ball, and even the Wii), Funspot (including: Go-Carts Everywhere, and every other fair ride that you could imagine), and enough Pizza for thousands of student and chaperones is quite a phenomenal feat!

Our teenagers enjoyed the Word of Life Superbowl this year even more than ever, and I, a busy youth pastor, want to thank you for making my job even more fun, and a little bit easier. Thank you Word of Life, Andy and Nancy Anderson, Chris Finchum, Marge Salemme, and all of the faithful servants and Word of Life students that made the 2009 Super Bowl so great! Thanks a lot! Your work has not gone unnoticed.

Thanks for making such an impressive activity where we can bring students to learn about Christ!

Suncoast Baptist Church

Great Time in Orlando

Today Pastor Chip and I drove to Orlando for the November BBF Meeting at Orlando Baptist Church. It was a great meeting, in fact it was probably the best meeting that I remember going to in quite some time. It was a great encouragement and also a great source of great mission ideas. Here is a summary of some of the information that walked away with. The second speaker was Kirk Nowery, and the information that he shared was fantastic. A few specific quotes that he mentioned are this:

“There has been no great cause ever accomplished by one single person”

“If you want to know what a leader is thinking: Ask him!”

“It has never been about you or I, it has always been about Jesus”

“You will only be as good as the team around you”

“Sacrifice: When you give up something you love for something else that you love more”

“Billy Graham said: The three keys to my success: Prayer, Prayer Prayer”

Kirk Nowery was a great communicator and a true blessing: I am looking forward to checking out a few of his books:

making the most of your life

revolutionary generosity  

After lunch, the youth pastors went into the OBC Solution Youth Room where we were encouraged by OBC youth pastor, Wesley Beacham. He shared a testimony about how God has worked in his life throughout the last few years. Wes shared personal lessons that he had learned about Ministry Success, Ministry Killers, and Ministry Fences. Wes shared how we can kill our ministry when we do not put our family first, and he also told us about a great book he finished reading called: “Running on Empty” by Fil Anderson. I am excited about reading it and learning first hand some of the things that he spoke so passionately about today.

I thoroughly enjoyed the meeting today including the speakers, my family (who were visiting Orlando, from Jacksonville) the youth pastor session, and all of the creative aspects of the meeting throughout the day, but more than all that, as usual, I really enjoyed the 5 hours of fellowship, brainstorming, vision casting, and dreaming with my pastor on the way to Orlando and on the way home.

We talked about several important and exciting things, including future staff members, future building projects, upcoming building campaigns, books, preaching styles, upcoming events and lots more. I really enjoy the monthly BBF meetings, but more than anything, I love the travel time with my pastor.