This past week I was at the Grand Rapids marathon watching my lovely wife run a half marathon! Ross Slagh took over for me in Sunday school, and the students continued our Gospel Project curriculum! Make sure to encourage them to be diving into their daily discipleship guides!!
Youth Group was a little intense this week. Last week we were answering some questions from our question box, and the concept of election came up. One of my goals as a youth pastor is to try and attack any question our students have in an age appropriate way and in the right context. Generally, this is not a question I would have tackled in a youth group setting, and I doubt I ever will again. It's fairly intense.
Before we can even begin to touch on what election is, we have to agree on three general premises; God is real, God is good, and the Bible is His word. We also have to have some idea of what Calvinism and the RCA believe as a whole so that we can see where election fits in that system. The 5 points of Calvinism are often written as TULIP. That acronym represents 5 tenants that form the basis of our systematic theology.
T stands for total depravity, or the idea that humans are completely dead in their sins without Jesus Christ.
U stands for unconditional election (our main talking point this past week), and simply means that God chooses to save some people without looking for certain qualities as a condition to save them.
L stands for limited atonement (also called particular atonement) and suggests that Christ's blood is 100% effective for all who He intended to save. This means that Christ died for His elect, and though His death is sufficient for all, it is not necessarily effective for all. This is a pretty divisive point.
I stands for irresistible grace, and essentially says "If God's grace is extended to you, there is nothing you can do to resist it."
P stands for perseverance of the saints, reaffirming that those whom God calls, justifies, and accept Him are secured in Christ.
If you want to see these points explained by smarter people with scriptural support, this is a great link!
If you want to see Calvinism compared with the other major (and opposite) view, Arminianism , click here!
All of this conversation kind of tiptoes around the concept of predestination and man's free will, so here is a helpful link looking at that as well :)
I shared this with the students, but its really difficult as a youth pastor to know if certain topics "land" well with students. This is undoubtedly a heavy and heady topic, but when 50% of students are leaving the faith after high school because we don't discuss the hard stuff, this becomes a priority. Even if this only serves as an introduction to systematic theology, and there was 5% comprehension, it was valuable. Every person at some point in their faith journey will encounter opposition or doubt, and it takes a strong foundation to stand in the midst of that. Hopefully this past Sunday was one more piece of that foundation for our students.
This would be a great thing to keep talking about at home! Theology isn't as scary as we typically think and even when it cannot provide satisfactory answers, we can stand assured that God is good and loves us dearly. In the midst of our quest for understanding, we have to remember that if we could completely understand God, He wouldn't be God!
Have a great week!
Good morning parents!
This past Sunday, we returned to our typical schedule, but not our typical location! We are going to be in the FLC until the flooded room downstairs has a new floor! We also started our new curriculum from the Gospel Project in 2 Kings! It's an adult curriculum, but I think that our students are more than capable of handling the material. This curriculum is also unique in that the group discussion guide also has 5 daily devotionals that I have challenged our students to complete. They only take about 5 minutes!
At youth group we spent some time talking about some of the questions that were in our "question box." We talked for a while about what happens to Christians who commit suicide and some other related tangents. These are pretty massive questions, so I hope that you are able to talk with your students about some of the things they might have learned or some things they might be struggling with when they get home from youth group.
Couple of quick things to make you aware of - Our Chili cook-off fundraiser is right around the corner, as well as our fall service retreat! More info and sign-ups are all available under our Trips and events tab!
Thanks for taking time out of your weeks to see what we are up to!
Have a wonderful Tuesday! (Or whatever day it happens to be when you read this :)
This past week we finished up our conversations about worship with Jordan and next week we will begin our "regular" Sunday school again!
At youth group we spent some time playing nine square, talking about life, and learning about temptation. When we see Jesus tempted in the desert, it is clear that Satan exploits Jesus' weakness. He has been fasting for many days and Satan strikes when Jesus is most vulnerable.
We see that same pattern in our lives. We are often most tempted in the places we are most vulnerable, and I suggested that social standing might be the center of most of our student's day-to-day temptation. We do many things we know we shouldn't in order to fit in or feel like we are a part of a group. We desperately want to belong and are willing to sacrifice our values in order to do so.
We also talked about how one of the greatest ways to combat temptation was living in a vulnerable and honest Christian community. All people struggle with "ugly" temptations and fall into sin. The darkness can't stand the light though, and when we take our shame into the light of God's forgiveness and Christian accountability, those sins begin to lose their power. People trapped in addiction and sinful cycles can begin the process of breaking them if they are willing to die to themselves and bring their sins into that light. The only problem is that we are proud creatures, and Satan knows it. One of the hardest decisions a Christian has to make is to struggle corporately. We want others to think good things about us, and admitting our sins is not something that we look forward to doing.
I encouraged your students to find accountability partners and look for ways to be in deep relationships with peers who are willing to struggle alongside them. Its often hard for a high school student to feel a sense of accountability with a parent, but you can set an example by talking openly about the ways you struggle. This flies in the face of common wisdom that says "Parents should be perfect role models," but we all know that isn't possible anyway. The humility that would be demonstrate in you sharing your struggles would be something that would set an example for your students, just like Jesus did when he washed the disciples feet. Both actions lower a figure of authority into a place of humble leadership. Would you be willing to share and pray with your student this week?
Thanks for checking in as usual! Have a wonderful week!
Good morning friends!
This past week we continued in Sunday school with Jordan and spent some time reflecting on theology and its relationship with the liturgy of our worship. I hope that this is something you can attend with your students and keep talking about as you go home! We have one more week of the Worship workshop before we begin 2 Kings!
In youth group we spent some time going over what a burden for the lost looks like. Following up on last weeks lesson, we thought about what a changed life in Christ looks like. I found myself desperately trying to communicate a reality that cannot be known without experiencing it. There is an overwhelming joy and passion that is found in Christ and just like Zacchaeus, a single encounter is enough to radically change a heart.
I challenged our students to examine whether or not they had allowed their encounter with Christ to truly change their lives. How was their day to day different because of Christ within them? Honestly? Specifically, how do you feel about those who do not believe now that you have Christ? I feel like this is a good "heart check" question, but especially in a family context. I think it would be incredible for you as a parent(s) to reflect on that question yourself and then bring it up with your student. There may be some things that you do that your kids may not know about because of your faith. Setting that example and being willing to talk about why you live differently might be a push for your child to dive deeper into their personal relationship with Christ. Spend time in prayer with them. Earnest, beautiful and thankful prayer.
As this year continues, I would love to see students and parents grow closer to God together. I know that a weekly reminder is a good thing, but nothing compares to daily interactions from parent to child. Even if your student doesnt have a perfect relationship with you, or it feels like nothing is happening, I would encourage you to give it a shot. Try praying with your child for a month. Ask them about what they struggle with in life and faith. Push deeper into their hearts and try to understand their world and their thoughts.
I'm still convinced that Jesus is moving in a big way in Zeeland. My heart is full and excited, and I can't wait to see where He takes us this year!
This past week we Joined Jordan for another round of his worship workshop! Two more weeks and we start walking through 2 Kings with the Gospel Project!
Youth Group was great! We are seeing a lot of new and consistent faces and its FABULOUS! We talked about our preference vs God's purpose for our lives. There are a lot of things in life that we (often selfishly) want, but God may have other ideas. For example, I would love to have a brand spanking new 2018 C7 Corvette. I would be over the moon driving that car. Unfortunately, when I die my car wont come with me. Many of the things that we pursue in this life are temporary. We search for a happiness or fulfillment that can't be found in temporal things, and rarely take a long view when it comes to our eternal joy.
We reflected on how God has a purpose for each and every person alive. That person will experience incredible fulfillment and joy when they live into the calling that God has for them. The hardest part about this truth is that discerning God's plan for our life is not exactly straightforward. A fabulous follow up question for you at home would be "What do you feel God is calling you to in life?"
That's a HUGE and very open question but it might lead to some great discussion! I hope you all have a wonderful week!
Good morning parents!
We had a fantastic first week in the high school youth group!
We are joining Jordan and the adult Sunday school class to talk about worship and the way that we think about it! The students are excited to move back to our own program, but this is a conversation
Good morning parents, and welcome to the parents of our incoming Freshmen!
Last Sunday was the final Organic Outreach Class and we talked about simply sharing the Gospel. We tend to over complicate what it looks like to share our faith, and Kevin encouraged us to not overthink it. He shared 7 strategies for naturally sharing our faith. If you didn't get the chance to attend and these updates have sounded interesting, feel free to reach out to me for a copy of the book this class was based on!
We received very positive feedback from the adults about our students again. I am truly blessed to lead the group that I do, and seeing them (despite preferring our normal Sunday school) engage with these past two classes has been awesome.
Our final IMPACT was a celebration of everything that God has done over the past year, as well as a time for the upperclassmen to let the incoming class know what our high school youth group is all about. I'm always touched by the way that our current students describe youth group and the kind of relationships they have with one another. We welcomed over half of the incoming class and were joined by Christy to talk about the kind of things that they can expect from our weekly events. It's always exciting to have new students come in :)
From this point forward, the incoming freshmen are invited to our weekly stuff! We have Wednesday coffee at 2:45, Fellowship Fridays at my house from 6:00 till 11:00 pm, and all sorts of other fun stuff throughout the summer!
Again, I hope to have that schedule set in stone very soon.
Thanks again for a fantastic year, and keep checking for more updates through the end of the schoolyear!
Good morning parents!
This past week was a doozy. I'm sure most of you have heard what we have talked about at IMPACT, so let me quickly talk about Sunday school first!
Kevin talked to us about having conversations with unbelievers and how we don't have to proselytize to be effective evangelists. Lots of conversations will happen naturally if we are loving the world like Christ, and we can be an incredible witness for Him every day. Only one more week of Organic Outreach!
This was also day 2 of In God's Image for 2019. We talked about dating and how Christ followers should assess the relationships they are having with the opposite sex. We touched on how pornography is no longer considered a primarily male problem, and how we have ways to help with that as a church. And with topics like this, there was definitely some disagreement. Here is what I proposed in a nutshell. Buckle in :) (if you don't have time to read it all, just hit the bold stuff for an idea!)
Students today live in a world that is saturated by sex. Sex sells products, it indicates desirability, and it has become more normalized than ever before. Imagine that every child born from this moment forward were to have glasses that overlayed their vision with entertainment and advertisements. By the time these babies grew up, it would be seen as normal to have these glasses, and comparatively weird if you did not. I imagine it is not all that different for our students right now, with things like social media and the advertisements that surround them. Why does this matter?
If you were to be one of those children who was given glasses at birth, you wouldn't even know that what you were seeing or experiencing was not "normal" by the standards of the previous generation. I think that I sounded a little crazy to our students this past Sunday, because I was trying to point out the not-normal nature of what they call dating.
Maybe I am naive to think that things were not this way when I was in high school, but it certainly seems that the term dating now encompasses a set of societal expectations that are pretty different from when I was in school (less than 8 years ago!) Students profess love to one another regularly, probably without any idea of how God designed love to look. Kissing seems more casual and doesn't seem as shameful to do in public. Heck, the musical the Zeeland High Players just put on decided to forego stage kissing and just have the actors kiss for real. Students who are in a dating relationship today are expected (or feel expected) to give one another a fairly high level of physical affection. This was the case for me as well, but it seems like it is more intense now. As I walk through the halls at the high schools, there are students doing things with one another that I wouldn't have dreamed of doing with my significant others, much less in public.
So I began our lesson last week by asking why we date. We date people to get to know them, to figure out what we like in future partners, and to enjoy the feeling of being desired. I threw a curveball, and asked students why we couldn't get everything that present day "dating" has to offer without the exclusivity and expectations of a dating relationship? After all, you don't need to be dating to get to know somebody, or even identify things that you are attracted to in them. And if all of those things are possible without the possibility of heartbreak and the reality of physical temptation, why would you place yourself in a commitment like that?
An exclusive relationship ends one of two ways, no matter what; either you break up, or one member dies. So as we think about that in the context of dating (even high school dating), there are some questions that naturally are raised. Questions like "Is this person someone who I can spend the rest of my life with?" and "Would I want this person raising my kids someday?"or "Does this person challenge me to be a better follower of Christ?"
At this point you may be thinking "Noah, they are just kids, chill out man." I wouldn't blame you. It's possible that even you as a parent might disagree with what I told the youth two days ago, and that is okay. Maybe my perspective and intent would be helpful. I remember the regret I had over emotional and physical steps I took toward girls that would not ultimately become my wife. I remember the conversation that I had with Dynelle after we started dating (after getting to know one another as friends ;P) where I told her that there were certain things I would not be able to do with her for the first time. I was devastated. I want to protect our students from that same devastation. Culture is getting more and more casual about sex and physical affection by the day. If my encouraging students to ask these hard questions early prevents them from falling into the mindset or trap of casual sex or physical affection, I will have succeeded.
Even rereading what I just wrote sounds harsh, but I think reality is harsh sometimes. The notion that the person you begin dating at 15 will be the same person at age 25 is ludicrous. High schoolers need to grow, and hopefully they are growing with a strong system of support and not basing any of their worth on a dating relationship.
If you've made it this far, you're a trooper. I feel a little like I just word-vomited a lot of thoughts on a page, and I could have missed something or come across as rude when I did not intend to. If there is anything you want to clarify, tell me, or just give general feedback please email me. I would love to hear what you all think of this (specifically the fathers who don't want their daughters dating until 30, I feel like we would get along.)
In God's Image is always hard to do well. How can I properly stress the importance of healthy relationships without coming off as a prude and remaining helpful? I hope at the very least it has caused some conversation at home this year. If it hasn't, ask your child what they thought. It might be interesting :)
Next week we are inviting the 8th grade students to join us for IMPACT and our end of year fiesta! After that, all incoming freshmen will be invited to all summer events that will be on the calendar later this week!
Thanks again for keeping up with what we are talking about. Ill throw my lesson plans here again so you can see the madness that is my lesson planning style, and see the heart behind it all.
This past week in High school, we continued our journey through Organic Outreach with Kevin Harney. This week we were challenged to be praying for people, as well as with them. There is incredible power in prayer that we can tap into. We are presented with opportunities to pray for and with others every day, but our own shame often gets in the way. Kevin challenged us to look for those natural opportunities to pray for others and to act on them when they present themselves.
Impact was the first week of In God's Image, and we covered what I would call the "basics." I will attach a copy of my personal lesson plans so you can see my notes and everything if you would like! We talked about how God made men and women differently, how we think and process differently, and how we work well together as a result. We talked about the covenant of marriage and how seriously God sees the joining of man and woman, and how special the creative act of sex is within the context of that relationship. We addressed how sex is supposed to be a good thing, and how the church has maybe not done the best job of talking about it openly in the past. We also touched on homosexuality and non-binary genders and how we are to respond to them as Christians. We have split into different gendered groups in the past to talk about dating, but I don't think we are going to this year.
We will instead be focusing on taking a "long view" of dating, and how to protect yourself as well as your future spouse. I may be biased, but being a lunch supervisor at the high schools has made me acutely aware of all the pressure students face to be in relationships. So much of what I see will surely be regretted later in life, and nobody seems to be talking about the lasting damage that physical intimacy can cause.
Alongside dating, we will also be addressing pornography and its affects on the brain, as well as its effects on relationships. There is no greater problem within the modern church, in my opinion. It is destroying our young people and compromising otherwise healthy marriages. Here are some statistics that might help open your eyes to the severity of the problem:
What has historically been regarded as a male-only problem is very clearly not any longer. We will be tackling this head on next week as well.
If you could be praying that God works as we have these extremely important discussions, that would be fantastic!!
As always, thank you for stopping by!
If you would like to join us in prayer this week, you can find our prayer requests HERE! Thank you!
Good morning parents!
This past week in Sunday school, we were challenged to pray with unbelievers. That may sound crazy, but Kevin was quick to show is that we have opportunities every day to invite those who don't believe into prayer with us. It struck me that someone who is willing to invite unbelievers to pray with them probably needs to be comfortable with a lot of other things first. They need to be comfortable praying with other believers. They need to be comfortable praying aloud. They need to be comfortable praying at all (and a shocking number of believers are not), and they have to believe that prayer is worth it. We live in a culture that feeds off embarrassment and makes us feel badly if we do something that might mar our outer facade. Prayer is a good thing, but public prayer tends to be something that even the most devoted Christians shy against. Our challenge this week was to become a better pray-er. Maybe that just means praying personally. Maybe that means praying aloud just by yourself, but whatever the case, it cant hurt any of us to talk to Jesus a little more this week!
During Impact we continued our BASIC series by Francis Chan, and we focused on fellowship. Something that is completely unique to the Christian experience is the idea that all those who believe are co-heirs and our adopted brothers and sisters in Christ. This is an incredible gift if we lean into it. Being able to know that a group of people see you for the value you have in Christ and not for your faults or the things that you offer them is a beautiful and foreign thing in today's world. The fellowship we have with one another here on earth is just a foretaste of the fellowship we shill share when Christ returns, but it's still a beautiful gift we should lean into.
Next week we will be starting In God's Image! We will start be recognizing that God made men and women differently before spending some time the next week breaking down what that means for dating as a Christian!
Thanks for stopping by!
I'm Noah. I do High School things. Expect this page to update every Tuesday morning!