Recommended Sites for Youth Ministry Curriculum

3pic.001-001In my last post I shared some things I look for in a good youth ministry curriculum. As I mentioned in that post, there is so much youth ministry curriculum that at times it can be overwhelming  for the youth pastor or youth worker who is trying to find the right curriculum for their ministry. I want to make it somewhat easier by pointing you towards a few places that provide what I believe is some of the best youth ministry curriculum on the market right now.

Simply Youth Ministry. Simply Youth is by far the most popular place to get youth ministry curriculum. The thing I love about there curriculum is that they have something for everyone. Whether you’re look for small group curriculum, large group curriculum, Bible studies, devotionals, leadership training, they have it all!

Youth Ministry 360YM 360 has been my favorite place to get youth ministry curriculum over the past few years. I love the stuff that they have created in the past and excited about the stuff they are currently producing. They always create curriculum that is centered on Scripture and practical application. They also create great graphics, videos, and parent resources that go along with many of their studies. Definitely check out their website and see what resources they have that you can use in your ministry.

Word of Life Local Church Ministries. Word of Life has been around for decades and have been creating church resources for all ages. Over the past few years they have really been raising the bar and creating some incredible curriculum for students. They offer a year long curriculum package that you can use in your ministry year around and also shorter curriculum that you can use for a few weeks within your year. Click here to check out what they have to offer on their online store.

There are the three places I tend to go first when I’m looking for good pre-made curriculum. There are countless other websites and places you van get curriculum, but check out what these three sites have to offer. Where do you go when looking for curriculum for your student ministry?

How to Have a Effective Quiet Time

If you want to see growth in your Christian life, you must commit yourself to what we sometimes call “spiritual disciplines.” In 1 Timothy 4:7, Paul says to “train yourself for Godliness.” This isn’t just “try harder” and “try to be Christ-like”. This is a command to intentionally, whole heartily, give all of yourself to growing in holiness. It’s a call to enter into the process of sanctification that God is currently doing in you through the Holy Spirit.

But before we move forward and talk about the spiritual discipline of quiet time (you may call it devotions, Bible reading, etc.) we need to understand one thing about spiritual disciplines. It’s not the spiritual disciplines that sanctify you. Doing your quiet time doesn’t necessarily make you a better follower of Christ. Spiritual disciplines are the channels God uses to sanctify you. So doing a daily quiet time is a way you can expose yourself to God’s Word and a channel that He will use to make you more like His Son. Spiritual disciplines create conditions where God’s grace and sanctifying work can flow through you.

So what about quiet time? I believe one of the most important spiritual disciplines you can have in your life is a daily time where you read God’s Word and apply it to your life. Here are are a few thoughts on how to have a daily, effective quiet time:

Get a system. Don’t just open up your Bible and read the first verse your eyes see. Find a system that takes you through God’s Word in an organized fashion. If you don’t have a good system in place you will quickly stop doing your quiet time. There are many systems out there, but the one I use and recommend is Word of Life’s Online Quiet Time. It’s a daily quiet time system that take you through books of the Bible as well as a few Psalms each year. It’s totally online and it even has an iPhone app! It also allows you to keep a prayer journal and set up accountability (click here to check it out).

Find a consistent time. Once you have a good system that works for you, find a consistent time each day to do your quiet time. Having a time set aside each day will help you gain consistency in doing your quiet time. I have done mine at various different times through the years. At one time I did them in the middle of the day and at one time I was doing them in the morning. Currently I do them at night. Find a time that works best for you and stick with it.

Use study helps. Having a copy of God’s Word is excellent, but grab a few study helps to help you dive deeper into God’s Word. I would suggest getting a solid commentary that will go along with your Bible reading. I would suggest using the Believer’s Bible Commentary, Bible Knowledge Commentary (Old & New Testament), or the Wiersbe Bible Commentary. I have found these to be some of the most helpful commentaries and they offer a good balance between exposition and application.

Have accountability. If you want to get serious about your time with the Lord, ask someone to keep you accounatble. Ask them to check up on you regularly and especially ask about your time with God. Make sure they ask you are you doing them as well as what you are learning.

These are just a few thoughts on how to have a consistent quiet time. As I said earlier, it’s not a command from God to have a daily quiet time, but it’s a way we expose ourselves on a regular basis to God’s Word so He can shape us into the image of His Son!

Guest Post: Five Leadership Lessons that I Learned from Lincoln

I have always been fascinated with Abraham Lincoln. I first read about him in grammar school.  I remember my very first book and was intrigued with the pictures of a tall lanky young Lincoln. I was captivated as I learned about a boy from humble beginnings with a strong work ethic who defied the odds and changed the world.

Since that time I have read numerous books on Lincoln, perhaps more than on any other one individual. Even now I have two books that I plan to read this year. There have been 16,000 books published on Lincoln–125 on the assassination alone–more than any other American. It appears my fascination is shared.

There also have been volumes written about or extracted from Lincoln’s life on the topic of leadership. But, as I stated, I am intrigued by him and his abilities to lead. He even learned from those who were his greatest critics. So at the risk of redundancy here are:

5 Leadership Lessons that I Learned from Lincoln

  1. His leadership was a demonstration of his character. Repeatedly I have read how he was challenged, criticized or disregarded, but it did not change the way he led. Lincoln knew who he was and what he believed and acted upon it.
  2. He was not afraid to make the hard decisions even if they were not popular. His decision to abolish slavery was principled and costly, but he did not flinch.
  3. He was wise and mature enough to draw wisdom from everyone including his detractors and even his enemies.  I suggest every leader read Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin to see how Lincoln led with adversaries.
  4. His family was a high priority and had access to him. I remember reading accounts of his sons running into the Oval Office during “Meetings of State” to see their father and knowing they had that right.
  5. He never forgot where he came from which helped him maintain a keen sense of awareness of people. Even as President he was mindful of individuals and never seemed to be too taken with himself.

I do not believe Abraham Lincoln was the perfect leader. He did not make all the right decisions, but no leader does. His faith was important to him, but he was not the perfect Christian; however, his faith was one of the guiding forces of his life. I just know that every time I read another book about him I am inspired and challenged to be better than I am right now.

This guest post was written by Mike Calhoun. Mike is the Vice President of Word of Life. Mike has written many books and resources, most recent being 8 Reasons Why I’m Not a Christ. He also enjoys writing, teaching, and speaking. Click here to check out more of his thoughts on his blog.

The Hardest Person to Lead

In leadership, the hardest person to lead is not other people, but it is ourselves. We can see that even Paul faced the frustration of trying to lead himself well. In Romans 7:15, Paul says, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Even though Paul faced the struggle of trying to lead himself well, he knew the importance of leading himself well and what was at stake if he did not. In 1 Corinthians 9:27, Paul says, “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” We too, need to understand the importance of leading ourselves well and realizing what is at stake if we do not.

Personal commitments determine the direction I lead myself. The direction I lead myself determines how I lead others.

From the statement above, we see that personal commitments is the starting place of leading ourselves well. The results of leading ourselves well is being able to lead others well. In order to lead yourself well, you must be committed to six things:

1. Commitment to love Christ supremely (Matthew 22:37). In Christian leadership, it’s easy to fall in love with the work of Christ more than the person of Christ. We must make sure we love Christ more than everything, even ministry! Our commitment to love Christ supremely is the foundation and driving force to all other commitments. Without it we become legalistic.

2. Commitment to unwavering integrity (Proverbs 10:9). Is there an area of your life, if brought into light, would damage your testimony? In his book, Being Leaders, Aubrey Malphurs says that people don’t follow ministry’s mission or vision statement for very long, they follow you. Personal integrity is the foundation to leadership.

3. Commitment to live a disciplined life (Proverbs 6:6-9). One of the most neglected areas of many Christians life’s, especially Christian leaders, is physical discipline. We focus so much time on”spiritual disciplines,” which are important, we neglect physical discipline. We don’t take care of ourselves physically the way we should. We must commit to spiritual disciplines and physical disciplines.

4. Commitment to having a teachable spirit (Proverbs 19:20). Part of leading yourself well is being able to stay teachable. Once a leader a leader stops learning and growing, their leadership will level out. Leaders must intentionally seek Godly counsel, surround themselves with leaders who are better than them in certain areas, respond graciously to criticism, and read good books.

5. Commitment to personal accountability (Proverbs 27:17). You cannot lead yourself well alone. You cannot remain focused spiritually alone. You cannot live a holy life alone. You need accountability in your life! Who in your life asks you the “hard question”” or will tell you the honest truth? Awhile back, I wrote a post called “How Leaders Can Prevent Moral Failure BEFORE it Happens” and in that post I said one of the best ways to prevent moral failure in leadership is to have accountability in your life. The leader who does not have accountability in their life is asking for the enemy and their flesh to destroy their leadership position.

6. Commitment to push outside of your comfort zone (Matthew 14:29). Often, leaders tend to settle. Leaders must have a God-sized dream for their ministry or organization. A good question to ask yourself to see if you have a God-sized dream or not is this: Do you have it all figured out, or does your dream push you to your knees in prayer?

It’s important leaders take these commitments serious. Until leaders learn how to lead themselves well, they will always struggle at leading others well.

I do not take credit for the majority of these thoughts. Majority of this post comes from a workshop lead by Chris Finchum at a recent Word of Life Associate School Conference. You can find Chris on Twitter @chrisfinchum.

Choosing Curriculum

One of the things I am currently working on right now in my new student pastor position is choosing a curriculum for the student ministry. This is no small task and can be somewhat overwhelming when you start to discover just how much curriculum is out there for students. Because of the amount of curriculum out there, student pastors need to take time to look around and discover the curriculum that best fits you, your students, and your church. With all that being said, here are some questions to consider when your trying to choose a curriculum for your student ministry:

Does it have Biblical content? The first, and most important thing, you need to consider when you’re looking at curriculum is how much Biblical content does it have. Unfortuantley, there is a lot of curriculum that does not have a lot of Biblical content in it. I believe teaching God’s Word is the most important thing we do as student pastors. God’s Word will change students, so we need to make sure our curriculum has plenty of God’s Word built within in.

Do you want expository and topical? Personally, I lean towards expository teaching. I believe it’s the best way to teach and allows you to keep God’s Word at the center. Even with that conviction, I do not discount or throw away topical teaching. I try and throw in topical lessons and series from time to time and believe they have a place. Because of this, I try to look for curriculum that is a balance between the two. I usually use curriculum that is overall expository, but has topical lessons as well. This is sometimes a hard thing to find. But when your considering curriculum, decide what style of teaching best fits your style of teaching.

Does it agree with your overall church? You need to make sure the theology of your curriculum agrees with the theology of your church. Out of respect for your senior pastor and overall church, try and stay within the theological “circles” that your church is. I say this because you don’t want your students learning one thing in youth group and then another on Sunday mornings. You want your curriclum in the student ministry to compliment and agree with the teaching of your church.

Does it have good media? Some might think this is shallow, but this is huge! In our culture, student ministries need to invest in and have good media. That is why we need to make sure a curriculum has good media with it. Most good curriculums will have good media. Curriculum with good media built in will save you time, energy, and money. It allows you to focus on preparing the lesson rather than spending an hour making a PowerPoint and trying to find a video.

I hope these questions will help you as you look for curriculum for your students. As I said earlier, curriculum is a good thing and believe it you take the time to find the right one it will help your students grow and your teaching to become a vital part of your ministry. Here are a few curriculums I have used or am planning on using that you may want to check out:

Word of Life-This will be your more conservative theology type of curriculum. I lean more towards that, so this is a curriculum I have used and will probably be using more  in the future. Has a great balance between expository and topical and comes with a great media package.

YM 360-If you have not checked out YM 360’s curriculum, you need to! I am planning on using one of their studies in the coming months and have a good relationship with the guys over there. Their  stuff has a lot of Biblical content and comes with probably the best media stuff out there.

Simply Youth Ministry-The curriculum you get from this group will be more broad in theology than others. I have used a lot of there stuff and usually am happy with it. They allow you to edit it and make it your own which is a plus. Also, comes with top notch media.

The Gospel Project (Lifeway)-This is brand new and has not officially been released yet, but from what I can see it looks really good. It’s a Gospel centered and Bible based curriculum. Matt Chandler has been a huge contributor to this and I am looking at using it in our ministry.