Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Special Announcement - "Youth Empowered" Coming in 2020!

I am so excited to share the news for the upcoming release of my newest book, Youth Empowered!

In the last ten years, the church has seen a steady decrease in youth involvement and even an exodus of students leaving the church altogether. To properly address this, the church must embrace the calling to implement a different youth ministry model that is bold, attractive, winsome and effective.

Within an ever-shifting high-tech culture, students are finding it a challenge to make their faith relevant and tangible within a post-truth society. With the widespread use of technology and social media, youth ministry has inherited new layers of complexity that have never been witnessed before. Today’s youth are hungry for genuine truth that is just as relational and caring as it is honest and clear.

But how do we make such a drastic cultural change in the church while staying convinced that the roles of the parents and the youth pastor are just as vital as they ever have been?  The first step is to trust that today’s youth are just as effective in ministering to their peers as their youth pastor is. As students are given the opportunity to positively impact their world around them, they become inspired to explore their faith more within the environment of their youth ministry.

Youth Empowered is a book that will help guide parents and youth pastors to successfully mentor tomorrow’s church leaders by accomplishing two primary goals: To help church leadership minister alongside their students (rather than at their students), and to help their students learn how to utilize their spiritual gifts before they graduate (rather than hoping that they figure out how to get involved after they graduate from high school).

By challenging traditional models of youth ministry, this book will address varying strategies that cater to small, medium, and large youth ministries. As a result, Youth Empowered will assist any church navigate through the challenges associated with launching a student-led youth ministry, regardless of its current size.

Stay tuned for more information in the New Year! Please forward this post to a youth pastor or youth minister that you know so that they can subscribe and receive updates on this exciting resource!

Due to observance of the holiday, next week there will not be an edition of Focusing On Jesus. Merry Christmas and may God Bless you and your ministry!!

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, December 11, 2019

Stop Doing These 3 Things in Your Youth Ministry

13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.”  ~ Mark 10:13-16 (NIV)

When we speak to our youth, how do we fashion our words? In Mark 10, we see where Jesus understood how important it is to minister to the youth effectively and to build them up. Instead of rebuking the youth or turning them away, Jesus insisted that the young ones should have the ability to engage with Him. In this scenario, we see that the all-powerful and perfect Savior of our world showed us that we must not be a barrier between our youth and Christ. Check to be sure that these three areas in your youth ministry are not stumbling blocks that are preventing your youth from engaging Christ.

Stop Holding Back On Tough Discussions
Are your students trusted to be able to handle tough topics? They have seen and experienced enough of this world to know that they are no longer in need to be fed “book report” summary sermons on the Bible. They are ready for the real stuff. They are ready to digest the meat of the Word of God and determine what it means to apply it to their everyday lives. You can talk about drugs, sex, cyber-bullying, suicide, pornography, abortion, cutting, gossip and everything in between. If you don’t, the world will. More than likely, their friends are quite outspoken on these matters. In my experience of working with 7th and 8th graders, even these students are ready to join in on the conversation. After all, they are already looking up these topics online on their smartphones. These topics are important and real for today’s youth, and their understanding of them directly impacts their understanding of who they are in Christ.

Stop Talking Down to Them
Are your students respected and treated like adults? When addressing them or talking about them, do you or your leaders call your teenagers “kids”? These little things may not seem like they matter, but they are the small nuances that our youth pick up on. Today’s youth expect to have a place at the table to impact the world around them, and the words we choose can affect how the leadership perceives and treats their students. Calling a 17-year-old student a “kid” can be condescending and inconsistent with a youth ministry that wants to engage their students on an equal footing and in a respectable manner.

Stop Preventing Them from Owning their Faith
Are your students allowed to become involved in your youth ministry? The youth of today have come to the realization that they are no longer just consumers of the world’s information. They are also contributors. As a result, they increasingly view their world through the shared experiences of those around them. While this is most prevalent in the realm of social media, this can spill over into the church as well. Students want to impact the lives of those around them in a positive way, and oftentimes they are simply just looking for guidance to find out how.

But how can we do this? What can we do to empower our youth? I’m thrilled to say that next week we will be sharing a very exciting announcement to address this topic! Share this article with the youth ministers and youth pastors that you know so that they can subscribe and receive next week’s message!

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, December 3, 2019

3 Things New Believers Experience in Small Groups

As we enter a new year, some group leaders may be considering the idea of opening up their small groups and welcoming new members. Should you choose to open your group up, you may likely be introduced to a person who is a brand new believer in Christ. This season of a new believer’s life is crucial, and the Lord has chosen you to guide this particular person through their very first small group experience. As a new believer attends your small group, there are three key components that they will begin to experience:

Truth Through Community
In the information era that we live in today, we are not lacking in our access to information. Instead, where we are lacking is the level of relational connectivity through which truthful information is communicated. Truth is best conveyed through relationships and a small group becomes an excellent way to incorporate relationship-driven truth into a new believer’s life. In some cultures, a new believer may be ignored, shunned, or ostracized from their friends and family after they give their life to Christ. When the world mocks them or tries to shame them into remembering who they used to be in their old life, the new believer’s small group becomes a home base for them to receive more truth, a rock upon which they can anchor their new life to.

Sanctification Through Accountability
For the new believer, accepting the larger truth of Jesus as their Lord and savior is merely the beginning of the journey of being a Christ-follower. Indeed, helping a new believer to understand their faith, giving them guidance along their walk, and providing encouragement to them are all extremely important components to the overall process of sanctification. This ongoing process is the journey through which we become more Christ-like for the remainder of our time here on Earth, and small groups are a stellar way to assist the new believer in this realm. Through the vehicle of relational truth, small group members are able to minister to one another and create a system of accountability that challenges each other to grow in a specific area of their lives. Within the context of a small group, the new believer doesn’t have to drink from the proverbial “fire hydrant of holiness,” desperately trying to soak it all in and get it all right by tomorrow. Instead, they can come back the next week and continue to work at their faith (at the speed of which the Holy Spirit is moving within their lives).

Knowledge Through Learning
With there being an abundance of information that is accessible to us, we are tasked today with the responsibility of discerning that which is accurate and that which is not. For new believers that may be coming from a different faith or an atheistic worldview, the knowledge that they have may be misinformed or uninformed. Since small groups encourage dialogue to take place, a new believer’s pursuit of knowledge can be catered to their personal situation. From week to week, conversation has the ability to be based upon the circumstances that they are currently experiencing or the questions that they ask. As a result, the information about Christianity that they receive in the small group can serve as a backdrop for which their ongoing accountability can be placed against. In other words, the new believer will not only discover what to do today as a Christian, but also why they are called to do so and how they can get there.

We are all called to equip God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (Ephesians 4:12). By encouraging a new believer to join a small group as soon as possible, the church can help foster consistent spiritual growth and prepare the individual to eventually utilize their own spiritual gifts for ministry. When a new believer begins to achieve these three key components through their small group, they will then experience supernatural change in their life and the lives of others around them in a powerful way that reflects the incredible love of Jesus Christ.

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!