Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
These are the words I’ve been reflecting on for the last few weeks, as I’ve been preparing for our series in the book of James in Student Ministry. These are the words I’ve been trying to figure out how to teach to a group of students who I’m sure are all facing varying trials in school, relationships, and/or at home. “Count it a great joy…whenever you experience various trials.” On its own, this seems like really bad guidance. “Oh, that thing you’re struggling with? Get excited about it!”. You go around saying that to someone without any context, you may as well present them your jaw for a good ol’ punch.
But what we need to remember is that we are not facing these trials on our own. God doesn’t say to us, “Okay, now, go through this really hard thing, I’m gonna sit here and watch, make sure you survive!” No, as we know from the Great Commission, that we’ve been reciting together as a church, Jesus finishes his time on earth by saying, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”. Jesus is with us.
When we’re going through that trial, he’s standing there with us. He’s encouraging us and speaking to us to persevere. He’s given us His word to use as a backbone for our defence. We see Jesus, when he was tempted in the desert, he doesn’t overcome the adversary alone. He uses scripture to stand firm. And we also need to. God is with us. When we’re going through trials, God, in His grace, is saying something like, “Okay, you’re going through this hard thing, but don’t fear, I’m with you, you can overcome this, with my help”.
Now, I don’t wanna cut Jolene’s grass, but Hillsong released an album this year that had a song called Another in the Fire. And I want to leave you with it. When you’re going through something difficult, whatever the circumstance, remember that you are not alone. As it says in the song, “Should I ever need reminding, how good you’ve been to me. I’ll count the joy come every battle, ‘cause I know that’s where you’ll be”
Mike Sanders, Youth Director
Have you ever heard the song Magic Power by the Canadian band Triumph? It's a great song, I'd recommend it. In this song, we hear this message about the magic power of music. About how it has this ability to change our mood, pick us up at the end of a long day. The second verse says:
She's had a rotten day, but she hopes the DJ is gonna play her favourite song. It makes her feel much better, brings her closer to her dreams. A little magic power makes it better than it seems.
Now, perhaps this song is elevating the power of music to heights that make music a small-g “god”. But it's also speaking a lot of truth about the power that music can have in our lives.
These last few weeks at Student Ministries we've been looking at the students' favourite songs. We've been taking a hard look at the lyrics, and asking the question: when we sing these songs, what is the message we're projecting to others? When I sing these lyrics, what am I saying about who I am, about who God is, and about the world we live in? Then once we've answered those three questions, we take a step back and look at the truth, and so far, the truth has presented a very contrasting worldview than that of these songs.
It's a practice that I am hoping to ingrain in the minds of our students, but I think it's a skill we could all use, because music is catchy, and it drives us. We could be out for a walk, and someone is cranking a tune from their garage or their car, or we see it in a movie or tv show. Then it's stuck in our brains, and we start to hum it or sing it to ourselves, then, we're the ones cranking it from our garage, or our cars as we drive. And on the surface, it seems harmless, you're just enjoying a song. There's a lot of really catchy songs out there that are just a blast to listen to. Songs that make us feel good, pick us up after a long day at work, or that are singing about something you're going through. But, a lot of our favourite songs, are painting a picture about who we are as individuals that is self-centered, or about a god that is so careless or powerless, or about our world that has no hope, and we really ought to be more careful before we put songs like that on repeat. Sure it's got a great beat, but these themes and ideas can trickle into our worldview if we aren't paying attention.
Now, maybe you're sitting there reading this and thinking “Geez Mike, way to be a bummer...”
Please understand that music is one of my favourite things that God has gifted us with. I have whole mix CD's that are filled with songs that are fun to drive to. There are songs that when they come on the radio I smile because I just love that song. I got a playlist on my phone that is just classic 70's and 80's rock songs that remind me of childhood, and my dad playing rock radio stations on long drives. There are songs that I get to the end of my workday and they're like a little reward on the drive home. Music is incredible, and I thank God every day that he's given us this beautiful gift of rhythm and beat. All I want to make sure we're doing, as a church, and as Christians, is to be wise about what we're consuming, and the subsequently sharing with others. Recognize that a lot of the secular music we enjoy, has this false idea about humanity, about this world, and about the God that we serve. And go into this music knowing the truth about those three things. Because, I'd argue that music does have power, and I urge us to be using that power to glorify God.
Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:16-17)
Mike Sanders, Director of Youth
Ever since I first stepped into my role, I have been blessed with my leadership team in Student Ministries. The three existing leaders were great – they taught me all about our group, and helped me get acclimated to our ministry here at Calvary. Over the last year we've added a more fantastic leaders who have helped to run games and serve as small group leaders, and who live out their faith alongside our youth.
Unfortunately we've had to say goodbye to a few – one moved away, and two others just welcomed a new addition to their family. And while saying goodbye may seem like a bad thing, I am excited for where God is taking them and about whom God is going to bring in to fill the gap.
You may be reading this and thinking, “Youth ministry is great, but I'm too old.”
Or too young, or too inexperienced, or I don’t know enough about the Bible to teach it…
If that's you, I want to stop you right there, and tell you that none of your objections are what youth ministry is about.
- You're never too old to serve our youth, because our students need to see people 40+ living for the LORD.
- You're never too young to serve our youth (unless you are a youth). Our students look to people in their 20s and 30s as examples of how to live out your faith once you’re no longer a student.
- You'll never have enough experience to serve in youth ministry because it’s an ever-evolving field. Experience is not required to be a leader; you just need a passion for youth and a desire for them to see Christ. The experience will come as you serve.
- Being able to teach the Bible is not a requirement to be a leader. You are a Christ-following role model for our youth and you have something to offer, no matter what your level of knowledge. But if you're really concerned about a lack of Bible knowledge, this is a great time to pick up your Bible and read it.
Here’s the pitch: Our Student Ministries needs another female leader. We have a lot of girls in our group, and I'm looking for someone to serve who has a heart for God and cares about the next generation of believers.
Youth ministry is hard, don't get me wrong, but oh man is it rewarding! There are some nights you’ll leave here thinking, “What are we doing here?"
Believe me, you will.
But then you will have a night where something great happens. A kid quotes Scripture or tells you about a book of the Bible they've been reading, or you have a bit of advice or knowledge you can pass along that you didn't realize would help a student. It is so rewarding.
If you attend the church and you want to have an impact on the spiritual lives of our students, please send me an email, find me at church on Sunday, or give me a call. Let’s talk about our awesome students and how you can get involved in serving.
Youth Director, Calvary Burlington
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Mt. 5:13-16)
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