Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving!

Scripture tells us that all good things come from God (James 1:17), and this certainly includes the amazing food that we will all be having this weekend!! This time of year, we pause to reflect on what we are grateful for. This year, I am especially thankful for each of you and for all that you do the kingdom of God! May the Lord abundantly bless you and your ministry. May He expand your boundaries and protect you from the evil one. And may He receive His due glory for the incredible love that He showed through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. God bless you and Happy Thanksgiving!!

Follow on Twitter @SeanBuono

This blog has a focus on small groups, men's ministry, and youth ministry. Join us for the journey by subscribing and sharing this post!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Leadership Gifts vs. Leadership Roles

What is leadership? Some say it is a gift, while others say it is a role. The truth is, they’re both right! However, the two are not the same. Within the context of ministry, this is an excellent conversation that applies to both existing leaders and prospective leaders.

Leadership as a Gift
1 Corinthians 12:7 helps us understand that every person possesses within them a spiritual gift that can be used to help bless the Kingdom of God. Another way of helping us understand this incredible verse can be noted through a quote from author Henry Blackaby, who says that “A spiritual gift is a manifestation of God at work through you.” The spiritual gift of leadership is indeed one of the gifts that can be given to us through the Holy Spirit. Those that exhibit the spiritual gift of leadership have the ability to cast their vision, encourage others, and organize a project plan to assist in accomplishing a mission. Author John Maxwell often equates the term “leadership” with the term “influence,” and this ability to utilize one’s influence can be exhibited from any level of seniority within an organization. While having the spiritual gift of leadership can assist in leading groups within ministry, it is not a requirement to lead a group successfully.

Leadership as a Role
There are moments in our lives when we are placed in a role of leadership within our day-to-day activities. If anyone has ever become a parent, they quickly realize that they have now become a leader for their children, regardless of their level of readiness. If the company we work at needs a new product launch to be coordinated successfully, we may be tapped on the shoulder to see the plan through, even if our job title is not “Project Manager.” Likewise, if our church has an opportunity to expand and grow in an area that has huge potential for ministering to an unreached group of people, God may call us to help stand in the gap. In order for us to be able to identify and raise up new leaders within our church, we must focus on presenting ministry opportunities as leadership roles, instead of opportunities that require the individual to exercise leadership gifts.

Leading the People of God
We must not forget the commonly known phrase that the Lord equips the called instead of calling the equipped. Leading a group within the church does not mean that the spiritual gift of leadership must be required. If this was true, then those who do not possess this spiritual gift would become discouraged from stepping into a leadership role that allows them utilize their spiritual gifts that they do have. After all, Jesus’ disciples did not all have the gift of leadership. Nevertheless, they humbly took on leadership roles that would eventually help spread the good news of the gospel to the ends of the Earth. Are there any individuals in your group who are potential candidates to answer the call to fulfill a leadership role within the church? Help explain to them that the Lord has given them unique giftings that are meant to bless the Kingdom, and that the resources of the church will be made available to help them succeed in their leadership role in the best way possible.

Follow on Twitter @SeanBuono

This blog has a focus on small groups, men's ministry, and youth ministry. Join us for the journey by subscribing and sharing this post!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

3 Ways that Small Groups Grow

Two weeks ago, we spoke of when small groups have too heavy of a focus on one type of growth, and why a balanced method is encouraged to healthily grow the small group ministry. This week will be a prequel to that discussion, where we will back up and discuss what it means to have inward growth, outward growth, and a third type that was not previously mentioned: upward growth.

Growing through Deeper Relationships
What sets Christianity apart from any other faith is the acknowledgment of the relationship that we have with our Lord. In no other religion do we see the Creator loving his creation so much that He comes down to Earth to sacrifice Himself in the most striking display of unconditional love. This magnificent type of love is echoed within the community of believers and it then naturally spills over into the world. Sharing a meal, attending a Christmas party together, or going to the park, are all opportunities that allow us to take the time to experience fellowship within the group of individuals that the Lord has assembled together for that day. By spending time in community, we have the ability to experience a sliver of the infinite relationship that God experiences with Himself within the Trinity.

Growing through Outward Invitation
There is an inability to restrain the love of Christ. It is impossible, for it is so good that no evil could never stop it. Because it is impossible to contain God, it is inevitable that the church will intersect with the secular world on many fronts. When this occurs, do we let Christ speak through us, or do we attempt to win man over with only our own means? If in our groups we practice the inward growth that was mentioned above, then the world will see the love of Christ on full display. Indeed, if we are unable to sustain genuine and nurturing relationships inside of the church, then we will unfortunately have very little to share with the world that can offer anything better than what it already has. By reaching out to the unchurched or the nonbeliever, we have the ability to incarnate the message of God and extend to them as an invitation to experience the love of Christ through a thriving small group.

Growing through Upward Reach
While other faiths set a goal for the individual to become empty, or infinite, or possibly even a god themselves, Christianity is the only faith that claims that we are unable to achieve salvation by our own works and also that grace is sufficient. While we grow deeper in a relationship with God, we learn to hear His voice and trust Him more. By trusting Him more, we are able to more easily be obedient to His will. And as we become more obedient to His will, we see Him work in our lives in more powerful ways than ever. Proverbs 9:10 says “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” By reaching upward to the Lord and learning more about who He is and what He has done through His Son Jesus Christ, it helps give the small group more incentive to place the Kingdom of God first in our lives in all that we do, giving God all of the glory and honor that He deserves.

Follow on Twitter @SeanBuono

This blog has a focus on small groups, men's ministry, and youth ministry. Join us for the journey by subscribing and sharing this post!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Creativity and Youth Ministry

While an understanding of creativity has traditionally been to celebrate differing viewpoints and expressions of one’s faith, the postmodern interpretation of creativity in the West has slowly been transforming into a movement that is attempting to establish a monopoly in the marketplace of ideas. Buzzwords like “diversity” and “tolerance” are now at times ironic terms that take on meanings quite opposite of their original definitions (especially when a person’s viewpoint is ever deemed to be counter-cultural to the popular viewpoint of the day).

It is in this landscape that our youth are living in, where in order for their creativity to be celebrated, it must acknowledge that everything and anything is morally okay, as long as it doesn’t impede upon the values of the others. Anything less than this is militaristically renounced and labeled as offensive. At best, your voice will be drowned out by individuals who have more followers and who express their viewpoint louder than yours; at worst, you will be shamed, verbally assaulted, ridiculed, or possibly threatened. Today’s youth have a keen awareness of this delicate situation, for they live it every day online and in their schools. But what does this mean for the church and for our youth ministry through the lens of creativity?

            Creativity is a gift given to us by God. No other lifeform on earth possesses the creative capability that humans do, because we are the only ones made in the image of God. Just as God created the world and everything in it, we have been given the ability to take what has been made available to us by God and create new concepts, structures, and new technologies. Not only does our mind have the ability to ponder about what we can do in our future, we also have an imagination that helps us get there. This level of creative freedom is to be celebrated, for the diversity of God’s creation alone reflects this. It is through our church and our youth ministries that we can provide an environment through which our teens can freely express this God-given freedom.

            With today’s youth understanding more than ever that they have the power to be content creators, the youth ministry can become a viable forum for students to share their creativity. In elementary school, we are encouraged to explore our artistic side by drawing pictures, creating a sculpture in art class, or writing a poem. However, students are no longer receiving these types of assignments in high school. Instead, the arts are seemingly placed aside within the education system as we grow older. Through opportunities like spoken word, drama, art, poetry, or more, the youth ministry can allow its students to recapture a facet of their imaginations that used to be so widely celebrated when they were younger.

There are many ways to make room for creativity to flourish among our students. For example, perhaps the youth ministry can set up a pumpkin carving evening during the Fall, or work together with the worship team to have a multi-sensory worship experience that invites students to openly craft while the worship team plays. Perhaps the student body would take delight in the occasional “improv night” where the youth ministry invites students to the stage to spontaneously act out Christian-themed scenes with goofy props. Should there be a handful of students that are exceptionally passionate about creative arts, there may even be opportunity to organize and run a student-led stage production that sells tickets and gives opportunity to raise money for the youth ministry.

The youth ministry can provide a unique opportunity in the lives of students to express their faith through a bold medium that is energetic, vibrant, and in the moment. It is an area that may likely be lacking within their lives; if executed strategically, such a youth ministry may satisfy a creative hunger that the students never realized they may have had.

Follow on Twitter @SeanBuono

This blog has a focus on small groups, men's ministry, and youth ministry. Join us for the journey by subscribing and sharing this post!