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An Open Letter about College…

Dear Parents of Teenagers,

It’s just your friendly, neighborhood thirty-something youth worker here. I know that some of you are already planning and saving for college for your teenager. I applaud you in that. I know that for some of you, getting your student into the “right school” is a huge stress. I get that. As another person in your student’s life that cares for them, I want to share something that can help. It doesn’t look like what everyone else in society is doing, and it may seem a little strange, but there is much about following Christ that fits both of the preceding statements.

As a youth worker, my calling is to help you as parents fulfill Deuteronomy 6:4-9. I am on your team. My job is to help you speak God’s truth into the lives of your students. To “be in their corner” when maybe no one else in their life seems to be pointing them to truth. I am here to help.

A couple of first questions:

1) Do you want to see your student prepared for life after college and succeed in their early adult life?

2) Do you want to see your student start life after college without being shackled by piles of student loan debt?

Any parent that cares for their child is going to answer “Yes!” to both. So let’s approach this in a way that can reduce your stress and help equip your student to boldly chase what God has called them to do in their life.

Is your child cut out for college? I do not mean this in the least as a rude, condescending question. The fact is that some students have passions wired into them that require little or no post high school education to make their life. Pushing someone like this into a four-year college is a waste of time and money. For example, My older brother is a welder. A very good one. He won a contest in high school that gave him a lot of free tuition at the local community college welding department. He has worked at several companies (his current one for several years) and has made a life for himself. He has worked on VERY LARGE mining equipment to make repairs or help fabricate replacement parts.

Maybe your student just needs a certificate from a local trade school to do what they feel led to do in life. Give your student permission to prayerfully go this track. If they decide later that a college degree will enhance what they are already doing in their career, You can cross that bridge when you get there.

Time is not of the essence. In the rat-race of essays, guidance counselors, admissions personnel, and slick college marketing packets, It’s so easy to see those “4 year degree tracks” and get sucked in. I can tell you from experience, that if your student makes their degree in 4 years, you should applaud them. However, more and more students are extending that time for good (and not so good) reasons. Some are changing majors midstream, deciding that they course they had set from day one of college was not going to work. Others are taking a lighter load in order to work, so they can graduate with less student loan debt. I did both. I finished my BS in 6.5 years, graduating with Magna Cum Laude (Second highest honors) with only $10,000 in student loan debt… From a private university! There is one key that made this happen.

Imagine the job interviews… “So you took 6 or 7 years to finish college, but worked like crazy to fund it so you could have the degree in your hand with zero debt?”… “That’s the kind of work ethic we need here!”… Hired!

Utilizing the Community College System. My first three years of that time period was spent in theivy techCommunity College System in Illinois. I was able to take classes that would transfer to several different Bachelor’s Degree tracks for a fraction of what it cost at a State University. I was able to live at home with parents and commute, saving room and board. I was also able to schedule classes where I could take 15 credit hours in two days a week (long days, but it worked). By doing that, I was able to work a significant number of hours at my job, allowing me to “pay as I go” as I completed the first portion of college. Things like English, Math, Literature, and Business classes all transferred to the Private University I attended. In fact, I brought in a two year degree in Business, which allowed me to only have to take one more class to fill out a Minor in Business Administration!

In Indiana, they have done a great job aligning the community college with the state schools to allow the students to do a 2+2 for many majors. They take two years of community college to get general education requirements, then they go to a state university to complete specialized majors. They have made satellite learning centers all over the state. In fact, there is even one where I live in a town of 2500 people.

Check what will transfer. My wife took a little different path than I did, with similar results. She had her mind on a teaching degree. She started in Community college, but discovered that only the classes she took in her first three semesters were going to transfer. So instead of “wasting” a semester to get a two-year degree before transferring, she transferred to the four-year university at three semesters, and completed a Bachelor’s degree in 5 years, while working part time. She planned ahead for what was coming up, and worked her plan.

Don’t pay for the name.  There are many that would argue that degrees from prestigious colleges are worth more. That may be the case for a Princeton/Harvard/Yale/Stanford, but beyond that, I call “Hogwash”. Employers seeking a degree in the field are going to look at how you did in class and whether you went to class, instead of where you went to school. There are many schools that feel that they can charge a premium, just because of who they are (or were). This is not just state schools. There are Christian Colleges that also do this.

Would I love to see many students get a Christ-centered education, so they can be prepared to be a generation that changes our society? Yes. Would I like to see that at the expense of them spending the first 20 years (!) of life after college paying off student loan debt? No.

Parents, I want to see you and your family be different. In a way that honors God with the resources He has blessed you with. I want to see your students leaving the nest in a way that they can follow the dreams that God has placed in their hearts to serve Him in vivid, society-altering ways. These are decisions that can affect whole family trees.

Let’s do this.

Signed, Your Youth Worker.

 would you like to know more? Dave Ramsey has some excellent tips here on college…

 

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Brent originally published this post at his blog, MinistryPlace.net

Back 40 to 10/40… The Bhutanese Refugees of Rochester

This weekend, my wife and I are on a scouting trip for the missions team at our church. We are in Rochester, New York, with a pastor that ministers to a church plant founded and full of Bhutanese refugees that have been relocated from Refugee camps in Nepal and India to the US by Catholic Charities. There are approximately 3-5000 in the Rochester Metro Area, and many thousands more in other parts of the country, such as about 10,000 in the Atlanta area.

We got to meet with one of the Bhutanese pastors at the Plant yesterday. His family was brought to Christ by the efforts of William Carey in the village in India where this man’s great grandparents lived. His grandparents were some of the first Christians in Bhutan. His father died as a martyr for the faith there.

This young pastor planted 11 churches and a Pastoral training center in the Bhutanese refugee camps before coming to the US. He turns 35 this year. This young  pastor was one of the first 5 Nepali-speaking Christians in Rochester. He voluntarily relocated his family there, because there was no Bhutanese pastor in the area.  There are now between 200-300 Nepali-Speaking Christians.
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We were taken to a “Home Fellowship Meeting”. The best way I can describe it is how I would envision a house church meeting in another country. We were taken to an apartment in a Government-Assisted housing unit in downtown Rochester, where we entered an apartment packed with Nepali speaking people. There were probably 40 in a 15×10 living room praising God, reading scripture, and one young man shared a message from the Bible. He spoke for a couple minutes in English, then repeated the thought in Nepali. It was amazing. This man works as a translator for one of the hospitals in Rochester to translate Bhutanese patient care needs to English speaking medical personnel.

There was so much that we experienced. Pray for the refugees as they adapt to the changes they face by being relocated to a new country and culture.

 

Brent originally published this post at his blog, MinistryPlace.net

Turkeys, Hot Dogs, Teenagers, The Gospel.

frozen-turkey

Ok. I will try and explain this the best I can….

Yes, we bowl with turkeys in the church fellowship hall. Yes they are frozen. Yes, the trustees know about it. Yes, students from all over come to find out if we are really using turkeys. Yes, we use the opportunity to share the Gospel.

I have had more conversations like this in the last four years than I can remember. It always seems to be one of those above answers coming out of my mouth. I would not trade it for anything. This event reminds me more of the ministry of Jesus than many on our youth calendar.

– It sounds totally outrageous. Check.
– It sounds completely out of character for our church to do. Check.
– People show up that would maybe not otherwise even set foot in a church. Check
– People show up mainly out of curiosity. Check.
– The people present are pointed to Jesus. Check.
– It’s something that hasn’t been done before in this area. Check.

It sounds cheesy, but you would think that we might serve turkey at Turkey Bowling. Nope. We serve hot dogs. mainly because it gives the students something they didn’t really expect. Secondarily, because you can feed a lot of students for cheap with hot dogs. However, there is always a second thing the students don’t expect when they attend turkey bowling. We intentionally program the event where they come face to face with the God of the universe that loves them. Not in a pushy, overbearing way, but in a blunt, direct, unmistakable way.

This year, that Gospel presentation is going to come in the form of the MyHope with Billy Graham Film called “Lose to Gain“. It is a very well done film that weaves together the story of three people that thought they had everything, everything left them empty, until they found Christ. It is a powerful film geared toward youth and young adult/college age groups.

My challenge to you is to ask yourself some of the above programming questions on some of your upcoming events. Do they look like the ministry of Jesus?

Brent originally published this post at his blog, MinistryPlace.net

Pilot Project: Adopt a Neighborhood…

This school year, our students have decided to try something new. They are adopting a neighborhood to “Gospelize”. This is a “multiple-touch” evangelism project that is designed around building relationships in the community.

We will be doing multiple service project days, where we serve the people of the neighborhood for no cost to help them with their homes. We will also be prayer walking and doing a spiritual survey over the course of the school year. In the spring, we will be doing a block party at the park that is right next to the neighborhood, for the purpose of getting the children there pre-registered for VBS.

The response by those in the neighborhood seems to be overwhelmingly positive. This week, we dropped off a letter at each house in the 9 block area describing the service day, and that our group would be in their neighborhood several times over the next few months. It details that our group would not be seeking or taking donations, and that we just wanted to get to know those in our community. many were very thankful that we are going to do this.

There is a lot I like about this project. I like that it is more personal than knocking on a door and leaving a tract or confronting them on the doorstep. This is an intentional relational approach that fits well with a lot of the other things we are doing this year in the youth department.

The last part of this project is the interaction with other believers. This project is not about us. It is about Christ and HIS Kingdom. We came into it prepared to meet other believers in the neighborhood. Our group wants to be there as an encouragement to help that believer have the boldness to walk next door or across the street and share the Gospel. There are students from other youth groups that live in this neighborhood. We plan to welcome them to come alongside us in anything we do in their neighborhood. Not for the purpose of growing our numbers, but because we are on THEIR turf, where they live. We are only guests. We want to equip them to continue the work.

Pray for these students, that they will experience what God has planned for them, 9 Blocks at a time…

– Pastor Lacy

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Spiritually Mature Parents = Spiritually Growing Teens?

In our High School Sunday School Class this week we talked a little about a phenomenon that can easily occur in the American church “culture” – misplaced reproduction. You see, the Great Commission (or THE Cause as Dare2Share calls it), directs each of us to make disciples –> we should make more of what we are. The American Church has done that well. Unfortunately, we have not made what Christ has called us to make…Maybe…

  • We’ve been called to make disciples that make more disciples, but we’ve sat in the pews, and made more people that sit in the pews.
  • We’ve been called to go into all the world to make disciples that are willing to go anywhere for the cause of Christ, but we’ve stayed in the church building and brought in more, and made more people comfortable to stay with us.

A wise pastor once said that sheep make more sheep, shepherds make more shepherds – we make more of what we are. Pastors should make more Pastors, Missionaries should make more Missionaries, Committed Church members should make more. As a Youth Pastor, I’m working on making more people that are committed to taking Christ’s message to a lost and hurting generation of teenagers.

What are you reproducing?