Five Apps for Devotions

 

 

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In today’s digital age, we really don’t have an excuse for not reading the Bible regularly.

Maybe that sentence strikes you as odd. Isn’t it because our age is so digital with so much to do and so many distractions that we have an excuse for not finding time for devotions?

Nope. Because the Lord has given the church a blessing buried in the midst of the technological busyness.

Apps that can aid our time with Him.

You can either let technology drive you away from the Bible or you can let it drive you toward the Bible.

Here are five suggested apps to help in your regular Bible meditation:

  1. unnamed-1ECHO. Do you feel like you tell people you’ll pray for their heavy need and then promptly forget it? Use your iPhone that you’re carrying around anyway to make sure you don’t forget your brother’s burden. Simply pull up this app and plug the name of the person and their request. Then set up notifications on your phone to have the app remind you to pray at certain times. During your devotions, pull up the app and press “Pray Now.” Requests will come randomized that you can pray through.
  2. yv-logoYouVersion. Perhaps the first app you should download when you get a new phone – it even looks like a Bible! Besides being a great app to use to read the Bible wherever you are, it can also be a great resource for short devotionals, accountability (you can add friends just like Facebook!), and highlighting verses you want to reference later. But my favorite function of this app is at the bottom center – the “Play” button. It’s only available for some versions (like KJV and ESV), but it’s extremely helpful as a supplement to your devotions. On your way to work or on a run, after a good time in the Word, you can pull up that chapter you read and listen to it once more. Repetition aids learning, especially if you’re an auditory learner.
  3. unnamedSpotify. Maybe this one comes as a shock to you. But godly music can be a great part of devotions. Spotify is great because it allows you to find any song and listen to it, along with a shuffled collection of similar songs. For instance, I often hear a song we sang together in Sunday worship, and I’ll look it up on Spotify. If I like it enough, I’ll buy it. No matter which, I find that listening to good, godly music uplifts my soul – especially if the lyrics are rooted in Scriptural truth.
  4. bhcoverBible Hub. This is an oft-neglected but great resource in both app and browser form. Reading a passage you don’t understand? Pull up this app, punch the passage in, and read it in a host of different versions. Then scroll down to consult some classic commentaries. Still confused? Look at the passage in Greek! Best of all, it’s completely free!
  5. downloadPower Off. Okay, this isn’t an app. Rather, it’s the absence of apps. Simply hold down the lock button and slide to turn it off. It’s really quite easy – but it’s very hard to do. Text messages, emails, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, the world beyond – they call to us from that small little screen. But if you’re really serious about devotions and getting quiet time with God, you will prioritize undistracted fellowship with your Creator. And getting texts every second won’t be as important to you as getting messages from the Almighty God. So turn that phone off, get an old-fashioned paper copy of the Word, grab some coffee if needed, and dive deep.

Make devotions a priority. So much so that it dictates what apps are on your phones…or when your phone is on at all.

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A Friend of a Millennial: Two Ways to Make Your Church More Millennial-Friendly

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Trending Topic: #ReachingMillennials

I love my generation. We have the iPod, iPhone, and iPad—and soon we’ll have computers that fit over our eyes (hurry up, Google!). We have texting at our fingertips—even while driving! We have our own new Star Wars—or at least we will soon (we don’t claim those prequels as our own). We have angry birds and sometimes angry protestors. We have some awesome people like Tim Tebow, Josh Hutcherson…Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus…

All right, so we got our negatives as well as positives. Frankly, I don’t know which we have more of. Most of our greatest gifts are also our greatest weaknesses. Our technology and love of it enables us to connect with more people—but also disconnects us from the people around us. Our social media enables us to experience more diverse cultures—but also causes us to doubt all universal truth.

It’s many of these weaknesses that get unnecessarily emphasized by the older generations of many churches. But the fact is that ALL generations have pluses and minuses. Our goal as the body of Christ is to create an environment in our assemblies where each generation’s strengths can be best used without drawing out another generation’s weaknesses. Unfortunately, I—and many of my fellow millennials—feel that our churches are not employing the millennial generation in the ministry as they should.

The need is dire. And the data is clear—especially the research done by Pew this year—millennials are leaving church in droves. Soon, it’ll be one third of all millennials who are uncommitted to a religion! Apparently, there is something wrong—either with the millennials or with the churches. Obviously, much of the blame lies at the feet of my uncommitted, pluralistic generation—I won’t deny that. However, some blame could be laid at the feet of the churches and their leaders who are failing to outreach to millennials in their ministries.

I understand their dilemma. They don’t want to drive away the older generations by overemphasizing the millennials and their desires. Some churches have done this—and the research shows that millennials don’t even like this, much less the older people! We want a church that is real—not one trying to be “cool.” But at the same time, we want a church that is relevant to our generation—and that’s not a bad word! We want a church where we can grow, thrive, and hone our spiritual gifts to be used for the glory of God. We want a church that takes the Gospel and communicates it in our cultural context without compromising the truth. But sometimes that’ll take alienating the older generation to accomplish that.

But not always. There are two simple things that each church could do that would encourage millennials to participate in the ministry without alienating the older generations.

  1. Become more visual.

Our generation is a visual generation. Duh—we stare at screens most of the day! We are obsessed with movies and TV shows—just research how many hours we spend “binge-watching” or how quickly a new trailer will start trending on Facebook. We also love art—of any kind! We may not be pumping out Raphaels, but we enjoy the modern art on display in coffee galleries. We like searching Pinterest for new “artsy” ways of renovating normal things, and we obsess over new Broadways. Like every generation of all time and in all places, we like STORIES.

Telling stories is one of the best ways of communicating truth. Don’t believe me? Well, the very Son of God employed story most often to communicate His message of the kingdom—we call them “parables.” Too often, our church services are focused on two things—music and preaching. And both are Biblically required—preaching especially! But it’s interesting to note that Christ did not go around Galilee with a traveling choir! Instead, He walked around telling fictional stories (and yes, preaching).

And Christ is a great communicator to the millennial generation. No, we shouldn’t transform our services into “storytime.” But we should use all venues available to communicate to millennials, as well as the older generations (who also love stories). Perhaps this looks like cutting the music service down a few minutes to have time to show a relevant video that ties into the sermon. Perhaps it means forgoing the usual “cantata” and instead having a drama or video made or produced by millennials in your church.

Millennials could we wasting away in your church with many talents and a passion for communicating truth via story. You may have a great cinematographer or actor or writer or artist in your church just waiting to employ their talents as a method for communicating Gospel truth. Or they may not have even thought of using their talents in such a kingdom-building way! No wonder—they think that church and their future work are totally unrelated fields because they have never been given an opportunity to use their “secular” talent for a “spiritual” purpose.

You can give them that chance. Make your services and programs less about structure and traditions but rather about communicating the Gospel through all available mediums—including the one that touches millennials the most: the visual.

  1. Become more relational.

Millennials are a relational generation. We perceive everyone on the same playing field—leaders should not be high and lofty, but rather act like “one of us” who struggles but has found a measure of success. The older generation may think this will lead to a lack of respect for authority—but it’s quite the opposite. Millennials respect a leader more the more he makes himself “relatable.”

Millennials crave relationships. We may try to put up walls through “impersonal” communication forms like texting or social media, but we love communicating overall and feeling like our voices are being heard, for good or for ill. We want to be “listened to.” We have some good ideas—and some bad ones too. Yet, I’ve found that once you’re in an organization for a while, you get caught in a rut and cannot see how to initiate reform. But when someone from outside—with “wide eyes and bushy tails”—joins the organization, he can often see what needs to be fixed and is full of ideas to do just that. Millennials are quick (perhaps too quick) to give these new people power to implement change and in the process drive away the old members. But I do think more of a balance can be maintained where we take ideas and insights from all members, including millennials—with a grain of salt!

Beyond this, millennials also want to feel like they’re being invested in. That the leaders and older members of the church actually care about them. First things first, that they actually know the millennials’ names—they’re not just another face in the pew, even if they only visit during the school year. That there are adult members who know not only their name, but also their interests, their prayer requests, their financial needs, and their relationship status. When a millennial needs counsel, he should feel like he can go immediately to a leader in his church and ask for advice—without having to explain his whole backstory to someone who barely knows him! There should be at least one adult who has invested in each millennial who can offer advice—even if it’s not requested. The church should be the first place they run to for counsel—not Facebook, Google, worldly TV shows, unsaved friends, or bloggers.

What does this look like? My favorite word: “mentoring.” One-on-one, over coffee, over current issues, over recent sin struggles. Time and time again, week by week, over fun and over failure, over dreams and doubts. You want to know the cure for millennials leaving your church at a rapid pace? One simple solution: get to know the millennials! Invest in them—so that they have to step over you if they’re going to leave the faith.

This is my passion in life. This is what I come back to over and over again. I know I’ve blogged about it a lot—and I hope I die blogging about it! Because this stuff is important. Nine out of ten millennials who leave the church never had a mentor at all, according to Barna (see infographic below). That’s some frightening data. That should compel action.

Millenials_Infographic_SLICE_2_REVISED

It’s not going to be easy. It may upset some older people. But I highly doubt implementing these two “simple” steps will cause any older people to leave your church. But not implementing them has already and will continue driving millennials out of your church. Older people will not object to more visual media—so long as it doesn’t detract from the Gospel, but rather boldly proclaims It! And they certainly won’t reject pushing for more investment in millennials—in fact, they should be leading the charge on that! And if they are opposed to that, then it’s time to confront them about that sin.

Sin. That’s pretty harsh. This isn’t just my opinion, though. I have no authority to address this subject, nor the experience or wisdom to solve the problem. I take into consideration the passage that warns not to “rebuke an older man sharply” (1 Tim. 5:1). But I take the approach of the second half—“appeal to him as you would to a father.” So I appeal to you, in Paul’s later words to the same man, to “entrust to faithful men” what you have heard (2 Tim. 2:2). I urge the under-shepherds of Christ to “shepherd the flock of God” (1 Peter 5)—which includes millennials! I encourage everyone to take another look at Christ—and another and another! Observe how He ministered to people—old, young, Jew, Samaritan, sinner, self-righteous, dead, or alive. And imitate Him.

After all, He knows how to keep millennials in your church. He loves millennials. He died for millennials. He’s a friend of millennials. Are you?

-M@

Over My Dead Body: How to Stop Millennials from Straying from the Church

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Trending Topic: #JustinBieber

Justin Bieber. What a way to start a blog! Never fear. We won’t discuss the pop singer in any depth. But he’s a good illustration of what I want to say…

The singer of my own generation was trending this week. No surprise, he’s always trending—mostly for bad reasons. A little while ago it was actually a good thing—he said that he wanted to “honestly live like Jesus.” However, his definition of “living like Jesus” must be different from the Biblical definition because not a few weeks later (this past week) he was trending because inappropriate photos surfaced of him relaxing on vacation in a Caribbean island with a girlfriend who’s a model. I wish I had never even heard of such vile, worldly information—but alas, in my search for a trending topic to discuss on my blog, I encountered the story. Shudder!

Don’t think I’m turning this into a celebrity gossip site. I cite that story to illustrate my broader point. Think about Justin Bieber’s life story (but not too for too long). Apparently, he grew up with at least a Christian mother. Perhaps he even went to church in Canada. But something happened along the way. And now, his attendance at church and his Christian actions in general are as sagging as his pants. Why? Well, I can’t read his mind (and don’t really want to), but I may suggest one cause. One factor that may have led to Justin’s “fall” from Christianity.

Justin was mentored by a worldly mentor. After some initial YouTube success, he was taken under the wing of a famous fellow singer who mentored the young boy…and drew him into a world so evil that it choked the life out of whatever Christian beliefs he had.

I wonder what would have happened if Justin had had a similar mentor—but one that came from a Christian background. Someone from perhaps a church in Canada—a youth pastor, a godly older man or college student, who took him under his wing to teach him Scriptural principles. What would’ve been Justin’s story if he was mentored by a Christian instead of a celebrity?

Justin’s story has become too many millennials’ stories. I’ve heard—and even seen—it happen over and over again in our churches. A young man or woman goes off to college and goes off the deep end. They abandon the church for a fraternity or faithless friends who seem so much “cooler” or “caring” than any of the Christians they know. They term all church-goers as “hypocrites” and engage in all the hype of hipster culture. They leave parents and pastors with broken hearts, wondering what caused these seemingly “perfect” kids to stray from the faith.

I can tell you one big reason. As a millennial, I feel very strongly that one of the key reasons my generation is leaving the church is because of a lack of godly mentors. I feel so strongly about this fact that I wrote a whole three-month long blog series about it entitled “Mentoring Millennials.” I won’t rehash all the stuff I hammered away there, but I think the subject is so crucial to our current Christian climate that it deserves a second reading. It deserves the attention of every member of the older generation. It’s become one of my all-compelling passions in life…

In fact, I feel so compelled by this topic that I want this verse to define my life: “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all” (Phil. 2:17). This is Paul (no surprise) writing to the Philippians while in prison. And he says he cares so much for their spiritual well-being that he will be willing to be “poured out” like a drink offering in order to see them saved and continuing in their faith. He wanted to mentor these people with the intensity of a professional sports player—he wanted to “leave it all out on the field.” Give up all in order to see people saved and matured.

Or, to put his words another way, he wanted them to leave the faith only “over my dead body.” That’s the mentor’s call. If young people are going to leave the church, let them! But in order to do so, they should have to run over a dedicated mentor who they know loves them and has invested countless hours into their spiritual life. No, you shouldn’t physically bar the doors of the church (fire hazard!). But as an analogy, be the door that a millennial has to push through to leave the church. Force them to shoot you down to get out. If they stray from the faith, let them have to not only abandon their parents, their church, and their childhood…but also abandon a dedicated and loving mentor.

People WILL stray from the faith. That we cannot help. People left the Philippian church—Paul is perhaps writing about such people in Philippians 3:18-19. And Paul wept over them! He did all he could to keep people like Demas from loving the world and leaving the worship of God. We can’t help it. But if young people are going to leave the church, let it be over our “dead bodies.” Let our lives be so invested into them with spiritual wisdom and quality time and godly advice and Scriptural principles and Spirit-led living…so that when they leave, they have to rip out part of their lives out in the process! And even, rip out part of ours…

It’s hard. But it’s worth it. Souls are worth it!

Ministry is not about preaching in front of thousands, being a well-known Christian blogger or evangelist, having the leadership positions. All these things aren’t necessarily bad—in fact, the Bible commands us to preach the Word in a church context. But no doubt Justin heard many sermons in his lifetime. And he still walked away. But did he have a one-on-one mentor?

It took me three long years, but I think God has finally drilled it into me. A lot more ministry happens over a cup of coffee in one-on-one conversations than happens from the church pulpit.

Ministry is about people, not positions.

Ministry is about people—and yes, people are messy! Especially immature millennials—like myself! But don’t let that intimidate you. The threat of rejection and the messiness of humanity didn’t stop Christ from stepping into our mess—and dying for it! So let’s step into the lives of those around us and INVEST. Mentor. Be the person in a young person’s life that stands between them and the world and shouts, “Christ is better!”

Maybe then we can avoid more millennials becoming like Justin Bieber.

-M@

Fan the Flames

Mentoring Millennials

Tip #10: Encourage Them (2 Tim. 1:3-14).

Camping in the wilderness of Colorado was one of my best memories growing up. We camped mainly in an area known as “Dead Man’s Road”—a charming name for a charming section of state forest that was free game to anyone who wanted to camp there. All you had to do was find a spot with a fire ring (or build one yourself) and set up shop for a night or two of no toilets, no showers, and no electricity (unless you’re one of those wimps who bring an RV). We had our favorite spot—we called it “Grandview,” because of the beautiful vista it sat on, looking across to what we called “Vader Mountain” for its similarity to the Sith Lord (I don’t think that’s what the Native-Americans called it). Well, about midday, when the morning’s fire had died down to just embers, we decided to go exploring, assured that not even the local bear would want to steal our lawn chairs or tents.

But when we returned, another type of thief had been at work: the wind. That vista had been visited by a strong gust, which knocked one of our chairs into the fire pit. That same wind also “stirred up” those embers so that the chair was a mere skeleton of its former glory when we returned. It was one of our favorite chairs too…

Paul uses that word picture of fanning flames in the beginning of his second letter to his mentee Timothy. In chapter 1, verses 6-7, he says, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

Paul had started the letter by reminding Timothy of his history—of the faith of his Granny Lois and mom Eunice which had led little Timmy to Christ. With that background in mind, he tells Timothy to become an arsonist—to fan into a blazing flame the gift of God in his life. Paul had recognized Tim’s future talent many years before, when he recruited him in Lystra. Now, some years later, he was still encouraging him to work on that gift—to stir it up to greater deeds of faith. Why?

Well, apparently Timothy struggled like a lot of us do…with a lack of courage. Perhaps he was a little shy and did not take readily to the bold street-corner preaching of the Apostle Paul. Perhaps sharing the Gospel or encouraging a wayward congregation did not come naturally to Timothy. But he still had a gift. God had given him an ability beyond his own and also an opportunity in Ephesus to preach and lead—and he was to blow hard on that talent until it burst into a forest fire!

Paul goes on to tell him not to be ashamed of the testimony of Christ or of Paul himself, now a prisoner of Rome. He spoke of the One Who by grace saved us out of death’s grasp and then turned to give death the death blow. How could we be ashamed of such a Savior? Paul declares boldly in verse 12, “I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.”

And he wanted Tim to have that same boldness. He told him to follow his example and be perfectly willing to suffer for the Gospel. Which begs the question—can you say the same to your mentee? Can you urge him to be bold for the Gospel, even if it means jail time—which is looking increasingly likely in modern-day America (just ask Kim Davis)? Can you show him a good example of someone who’s bold in their faith, without that spirit of fear that grips so many?

I hope you can. If so, then the next step is to encourage your mentee. By and large, he’ll probably grow up in a country that is a lot different than the one you’ve known. Persecution is not a patient beast. It’s coming fast and furiously through the halls of our courts and Congress. Are you preparing your mentee to meet that beast face on? Are you showing him what it’s like to live in such an environment? Are you investing in the next generation—because we so desperately need it! Oh, we’re going to face things that are SO tough—fear and discouragement like no generation before has ever faced! And we’re not ready for it…

We so desperately need older people to show us the way ahead in these trying days. We need to see Boomers and Xers standing up for God. We need encouragement to go on for Him. The persecution may not come in your lifetime, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be concerned about it. Because it most certainly will in the next. What are you doing to encourage millennials to face it?

This week, do something with a millennial to help fan their gifts into brighter flames for God that rage against the darkness of this world. Be that spark in a young life today.

-M@

Goooooo

Mentoring Millennials

Tip #7: Be Supportive (1 Tim. 3:14-15)

“Whooooo-hooooo! Goooooo Chargers!” Such were the cries coming from the sidelines at a volleyball match. You would’ve thought this guy had never been to a sports game before. You would’ve thought he had an unending voice box and no max volume. With his thick Western accent, he crooned and cawed at his team—the team my sister’s team was playing against. So not only was he cheering the other team, but he was also extremely vociferous in doing so—if you catch my drift. This is the kind of guy you don’t want to invite to your Super Bowl party. “Nice hit! Nice serve! It’s okay—you’ll get it next time! Gooooo Chaaaaaargers!”

Now, if you tried doing that at your mentoring sessions, it probably wouldn’t work so well. If every time your mentee says something good or shows signs of growth you yell, “Woot-woot!”…then you probably won’t have very many mentees (millennials also don’t like to be embarrassed in a Starbucks). But there is a sense in which you should be cheering on your mentee. Not vocally—but just with your simple presence.

I mean by being your mentee’s biggest fan. Now, I know that’s their parents’ job. The mom is supposed to yell hysterically from the stands when her “baby” gets fouled while the Dad’s supposed to stand up and play Donald Trump to the ref. And you shouldn’t try to replace the parents. But there’s still room for you to play a supportive role as a mentor. If you want to build trust with the millennial generation, one sure-fire way is to be their fan.

What will that look like? Well, it doesn’t mean you’re out to boost their ego, like many worldly wise guys may suggest you do. “Tell them they’re awesome. Call them the greatest.” Blah blah blah…

But it does look kinda like what Paul did with Timothy. In 1 Timothy 3:14-15, Paul told his young mentee, “Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that,  if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”

Paul was writing this first letter because he didn’t know when he’d get a chance to come see Timothy in Ephesus, and he wanted to make sure he taught him how to train the church members. Paul was passionate about training young men for ministry—he longed to go visit Timothy and teach him in person (the preferred way). But since he could not, he had to settle for second-best—a long letter. Paul understood the importance of supporting his young mentee. He didn’t send him out on his own with no help as he pastored this hefty assembly. No, he wanted to provide all the ammunition young Timothy might need.

And so should you. Support your mentee. If they are competing in some competition, particularly if it has to do with the ministry (Bible quiz or the like), then you better be there with bells on! You could even help them prepare for that—what a great job for the mentor. Or, if they are going to be teaching or preaching for the first time, try to be there in the audience, smiling back. And afterward, be sure to come up to them and compliment them on a job well done. Of course there will be faults that perhaps you may need to discuss—but seek to build them up and remain as positive as possible.

Even if they are playing a sports game, what better way to show you care than to show up and cheer them on (just don’t do it too loudly or too often!). Who knows? Perhaps Paul surprised Timothy by being in the stadium audience when he went out to compete in a chariot race. “Gooooo Timothy!!!!” Or maybe not…

-M@

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Mentoring Millennials

Tip #5: Persevere (2 Tim. 3:10-15).

One of my new favorite movies is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. The entire movie is, as you can imagine, a very bad day! A kid decides he’s had enough with his family being so happy while he suffers in middle school, so he makes a wish that his family could understand his pain. Well, sure enough, Fate twists its crotchety hand and messes up his family’s day. His father lights himself on fire while wearing a pirate costume at a job interview. His sister loses her lunch during her play performance. His mother gets Dick Van Dyke mad at her. And his brother knocks over all the trophy cases in the school after his girlfriend breaks up with him. It’s hilarious—but at the same time, so pitifully true to my life! You ever feel yourself having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day?

Such days will come to all of us—I guarantee it! Or wait, my friend Paul guarantees it! And believe me, that poor guy knew what a bad day was like! In fact, he may be the King of Bad Days. In 2 Timothy 3:11, he talks about his persecutions that Timothy observed—you know, when he was stoned and left for dead? #NBD

But he doesn’t end with the list of places he’s been attacked. He finishes with, “And out of them all the Lord delivered me.” Paul was confident in God’s provision, come what may. But note how he continues:

“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them…”

Continue! So Paul urges his young mentor Timothy. Come rain, hail, snow, snakes, cockroaches, and the devil himself…you just keep going with the things I’ve taught you! Why? Well, because Paul had showed him how to do it! Paul had endured all that kind of stuff—yes, and every godly person will. He had made it—and so could Timothy!

That’s the kind of example you should set with your mentor. We millennials often get discouraged—this persecution thing isn’t confined to any certain generation. ALL godly people will face it. You need to prepare your young mentor for it. And how can you expect him to continue in the midst of threats when he’s seen you cave yourself?

Not to sound like a stalker, but we’re watching you. We millennials are watching you older men in the ministry—we want to know how you hold up under pressure. We want to know if you cave in on doctrine. We want to find a good example of perseverance. So do it! Keep going when trials hit—and they will, below the belt! Keep pressing on—keep moving forward—keep continuing (is that repetitive?). You can do it!

Oh, wait…I’m not the one to give you a pep talk. But I know Someone Who can. Someone Who endured this whole long race of life, with trial after trial and no water breaks…and then sat down at the right hand of the throne of God! Talk about a success story! The Bible tells us, in Hebrews 12:2-3:

“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.”

-M@

Starbucks Sit-Down

Mentoring Millennials

Tip #2: Invest Time (2 Tim. 3:10-11).

Relationships take time. If I had a dime for every time I heard that in a message, I’d buy Apple (or at least one Mac). But it’s a very true statement—if it were possible, it might be the truest statement around.

Mentoring relationships take time as well. A LOT of time, in fact. If it weren’t a Biblical mandate, I’d tell you to choose carefully whether you’d want to get involved in it, because it can eat up your schedule.

One of the things millennials dislike about the previous generation is their lack of time. The older guys seem so busy. When we email professors, we can’t believe they could be too busy to email back. When we tell them to change a grade, we’re offended if they don’t do it right away. It’s true that we think the world revolves around us.

But it’s also true that the older generation is too busy. Too “crazy busy,” as Kevin DeYoung puts it. Yes, you’re probably busy with a whole mother-lode of good stuff—counseling meetings, sermon prep, visiting hospitals, providing for your family, and on and on. But sometimes we can be less busy than we currently are. Everything you’re doing may be “good,” but it may not be “best.”

Here’s something “better” that you can do this week: invest in a young ministry guy. Start and continue a mentoring relationship. So clear your schedule and plan to sit in coffee shops for several hours on end discussing things that may not seem that important to you!

“Ya, right!” you say. I would agree. It seems impossible. But if you’re really serious about investing in the next generation, if you really want to see your Gospel work carry on through the years, if you really want to see the Kingdom of Christ grow in your community in the next decade, if you don’t want ministry to fail…it is a NECESSITY. Suddenly, that meeting over the Easter program seems a little less important.

Here’s some practical ideas for shaving down your schedule to make room for mentoring:

  1. Try fitting mentoring time over top of your other regularly scheduled stuff. Like, if you have to prepare a sermon, prepare it in a coffee shop next to a young man and get his input. You can also use that time to show him how to structure sermons (more on that in a future tip). Or, you can invite him over to dinner with your family—you have to eat at some point, anyway.
  2. Delegate, delegate, delegate! I’m starting to think that the single best trait of a leader is proper delegation. Instead of being in control of every business meeting possible, let the assistant pastor take some. Let your secretary handle that paperwork. Let your wife mow the yard (just kidding).
  3. Create a hierarchy of priorities. Arrange each day according to Biblical mandates for what must get done. Obviously, Bible reading, prayer, and family time are near the top. But shortly below that should come mentoring time. Creating a sermon PowerPoint or meeting with the music pastor can be closer to the bottom—no offense to music pastors everywhere!

The point is that you’re trying your best. Maybe you’ll have to bail on one week because you’re flooded. That’s all right. Just don’t make it a habit. We’ll understand if you have to skip one week, and we’ll appreciate that you’re at least trying.

I would recommend at least a once-a-week meeting with your mentoree. Pick a specific time that you’re free (if there’s any) and plan on a specific place—preferably a low-key place like Starbucks. After all, you’re addicted to coffee anyway—might as well meet a young guy while you’re there!

Paul didn’t mentor Timothy by sending him letters every now and again. At least, not initially. No, he decided just to take Timothy with him—to every town and adventure he encountered. You might not have that luxury to spend every waking moment with the mentoree. But regular time, week-by-week will add up to a lot of time spent.

In 2 Timothy 3:10-11, Paul writes, “You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me.”

The question is—how could Timothy “follow” Paul’s teaching, conduct, aim in life, etc., if he wasn’t spending time with him? How could he even know it unless he spent a lot of time with the Apostle? That’s my point—how much time should you spend with the millennial? Enough so that they will know your teaching, conduct, aim in life, faith, patience, love, steadfastness, and yes, even persecutions. Timothy observed Paul day-in and day-out. Do you have a Timothy doing that in your life?

So schedule a Starbucks sit-down. And don’t forget to show up!

-M@

Ball’s in Your Court

Mentoring Millennials

Tip #1: Reach Out (2 Tim. 2:2).

Before I started dating my girlfriend, we were in the stage that millennials call “talking.” You guys probably get really confused as to what we mean by that and why there has to be so many stages to a relationship—frankly, we don’t understand it either. But that’s just how we are. Anyway, while we were “talking,” we suffered a communication breakdown. You see, she was trying to figure out if I liked her—if I was truly interested in her. Now, I thought I was making it abundantly clear—I was buying her food left and right and spending a lot of time with her and taking her to plays…surely, she should know that I’m falling in “like” with her! But…she didn’t. Because for her (and most women), she can never know for sure unless the guy tells her himself. Thus, the infamous complaint of wives that “you never tell me you love me!”

And the response: “I told you when we got married and if anything changes, I’ll let you know!”

Gentlemen, we should know better. So, I told her that I really liked her. And that settled it.

I think a similar breakdown in communication has occurred between Gen X and Gen Y. Boomers and Millennials. You see, we millennials would really like it if you older guys would reach out to us. If you would ask us to coffee or invite us to sit down in your office or invite us to dinner. But you guys don’t believe me—even now, you’re probably laughing and thinking, “Young people don’t want to even talk to old people!”

Au contraire! Though on the outside, we act like we can’t stand the sight of you guys (something we should probably adjust), deep, deep down we really long to be mentored. We long to have a strong relationship with an older man, full of wisdom, advice, and counsel. We’d love it. In fact, many of us may indeed pray for it for many months—and yet nothing ever happens.

The ball is in your court, Boomers. You make the first move, Xers. Though there is place for younger people reaching out for the advice of the older people, yet I think the typical route is for the older to reach out to the younger. Don’t believe me? Let’s look to Scripture.

2 Timothy 2:2 will become somewhat of our “theme verse.” It reads: “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Paul puts the ball in Timothy’s court for “entrusting” what he’s heard to “faithful men.” The question is—how did Paul get the ball in the first place?

For that, we go to Acts 16. Timothy was a young whipper-snapper—a new convert in the city of Lystra, where Paul had come on his first missionary journey. Now, en route to a second journey, Paul returns to his old stomping grounds and finds there this young guy. The Bible says he was “well spoken of” by the Christians in that area. Paul had lost his previous young companion, John Mark, who had abandoned him and Barnabas on the first journey. Maybe some of you have been hurt and embarrassed after taking a young man under your wing—only to find him betray the faith. But Paul is not too wounded from a previous young man to not take a second. The Bible says Paul “wanted” Timothy to come with him, and so he “took him.” And thus began one of the greatest mentoring ministries in recorded history.

Are you ready to begin such a relationship yourself? It doesn’t matter what your past with young men has been—if you’ve failed them or they’ve failed you. If you’ve been in ministry for any number of years (and remember, Timothy hadn’t been there long when Paul wrote him 1 Timothy), you have experiences and wisdom that we millennials desperately need. No, we won’t come crawling to your office door and beg for wisdom. You have to initiate the relationship.

So grab your phone. Better yet, use texting, Facebook, or email to find a young man in your church right now. Someone who’s “well spoken of” by your members. That young guy who helps take the offering or sings in a special group from time to time. The one who plays guitar for the teens. The one who made a decision to dedicate his life to full-time service—talk to your youth pastor about that. Certainly, if there are college guys in undergrad or seminary studying Bible, that’s an obvious place to start!

And don’t shrug off the guys who seem “good.” Rather, those are the guys you should be investing the most time into! Sometimes I feel that pastors look at upcoming young men and see some who are doing well and think, “They’re fine on their own. I’m going to spend my time on the one who’s rebelling and is a mess.” While you shouldn’t neglect the struggling, don’t neglect the ones who appear to be “under control” either. Odds are, they’re struggling too with secret sins and broken dreams—they just don’t show it. They’re too prideful to blatantly rebel. But they still need your attention.

Every millennial needs a mentor. Even more so, every ministry-minded millennial needs a ministry-minded mentor—one who reaches out to them and asks them to coffee. One who isn’t afraid to get to know them. A potential Paul who’s not too scared to start.

Ready? Type in your Timothy and press, “Send.”

-M@