Students Blog

The Unsuspecting Father

The Christmas season is full of amazing stories. Each year, we roll out the old favorites to tell and retell in growing anticipation of the Big Day. But of these Christmas favorites there is one story which always seems to leave me scratching my head in wonder year after year.

Through the Gospel of Matthew, we receive a unique recollection of the Christmas story through the eyes of an unsuspecting father. Joseph was a regular guy. Part of a family tree with roots firmly planted in his native soil, he had his own feet firmly planted on the ground. Joseph must have brought in a dependable income from his talents as a craftsman given his status as an expectant groom. Sturdy, stable, dependable, grounded. These are a few words I would use to describe the man about to take Mary as his bride.

Add a Little Christmas to Your Life

Shopping. Partying at school. Cooking. Wrapping. Baking. Decorating. Traveling. Getting together with friends. And that doesn’t even include the church activities, choir programs and special Christmas services.

It feels like time speeds up between Thanksgiving and Christmas and we move at a faster pace through the month of December, trying to do all we feel like we are “supposed to do” at this time of the year.

Added to our attempts to juggle all of the extra activities and events and responsibilities that Christmastime brings, we also must continue our regular tasks of going to work or school, buying groceries, doing laundry, and running the children from this lesson to that activity. No wonder it feels like everything is moving at warp speed to the point that when the New Year comes our December feels like a blur and we long for time to rest.

Does Prayer Really Matter? Really?

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? You close your eyes, bow your head, and before a word crosses your lips you start to wonder, “Does this prayer really matter?” I mean, since when have words spoken in private ever changed global catastrophes like the war in Syria or the refugee crisis in Europe? Is prayer even all that important?

Oh, my friend, it is so important. When we pray, we’re really doing two things at the same time. We are (1) cultivating our relationship with God and (2) refining our own hearts in the process.

We pray out of a concern for others and with the faith that the One we pray to can actually hear us and cares about us. It’s an exercise in faith, plain and simple.

By voicing our hearts to God, we also underscore how important our words are. Sometimes we find that all we need is to sit in silence, at peace in the presence of a God beyond words.

Prayer is also the first step toward action. How many examples can we find in Scripture where someone wrestled with God in prayer over something they knew they had do? Honestly, more than I’d prefer to count . . .

Ukuleles, Gratitude, and the Presence of God

There are certainly typical Thanksgiving week activities—traveling to visit family members, making pies ahead of time and putting them in the freezer, cleaning the house in preparation for company, and making gratitude trees, jars, leaves, banners, and so on—as a way to visibly express our thankfulness. And then there are the not-so-typical Thanksgiving-week activities. Like the ukulele concert I attended last night, for instance.

A friend of mine plays the ukulele and has taken group lessons the past couple of years. Each November the group has offered a concert. Several of us have gone to support our ukulele-playing friend, and to enjoy the concert of a group of 10–12 ukulele players. Not only do they play in concert, but they play fun, popular songs, including some oldies. Audience members are given lyrics sheets and invited to sing along. And to my surprise, the audience has enthusiastically participated in these concert experiences.

Leading Students with WMU in Mind

As you lead your student group, I’ll bet the last thing on your mind is the list of WMU objectives. Before you flip past it in your next WMU Catalog or Year Book, take some time to think through each one. You might be surprised how integral these points are to our shared faith.

Pray for Missions

When was the last time you led your group to pray for a missionary? What about praying for someone you knew needed to feel the love of Christ? Praying for missions is no small thing. When you bring these prayers and petitions before God, it solidifies them in your own heart and often motivates you to action.

Engage in Mission Action and Witnessing

As followers of Christ, our faith must move us to action. It’s never enough to simply “feel” for someone who needs Christ. Share that love with them, my friend! And help your students see that they too are a valuable part of the mission of God.

Thanksgiving Grace

It was the first year Mackenzie was going to sit at the “grown-ups” table at Thanksgiving. She had aged out of the children’s table following the last round of babies born in the family and more space was needed at that table. As the oldest grandchild, she got to move to the dining table first. She was excited to sit with the adults—even though their conversation would probably be pretty dull. Anything would be better than trying to play peacemaker amongst her cousins all through the meal.

Mackenzie couldn’t wait until it was time for everyone to sit down together. This year there would be no need for fixing her plate early so she could sit with the other kids. Mackenzie could imagine it all. This year, she’d be passing the piping hot bowls of mashed potatoes, green beans, and corn, along with the enormous platter of turkey and dressing. The table would be filled with the family’s Thanksgiving favorites, along with a beautiful centerpiece, lit candles, and a beautifully set table—all on Nana’s treasured tablecloth that had belonged to her mother and grandmother before her.

Prepare Students for a Postmodern Culture

As you work with students, you are inevitably facing attitudes and actions from them that are being formed through culture—the shows they watch, the music they listen to, and the people they follow on social media. So how do you equip students to live with a Christian worldview and be the light of Christ in their post-Christian/postmodern lives?

We’ve all heard the popular Christian phrase reminding us that we are to “be in the world, not of the world.” This phrase comes from Jesus’ prayer in John 17, where the night before His crucifixion, He prays for His disciples, sending them out to make disciples and asking God to protect them from the evil one because they “are not of the world.” This is a perfect framework for teaching students to live sent for Christ, helping them see how they can be a part of culture without owning the culture. Here are a few tips to guide you:

WMU Names National Acteens Panel

National WMU has named four mission-minded teens with outstanding character and credentials to serve as missions influencers on the 2016 National Acteens Panel.

They are Sarah Golden of Eastern Hills Baptist Church in Pike Road, Ala.; Hannah Hutton of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, Texas; Jemima Louis of Tallowood Baptist Church in Houston, Texas; and Ana Sandoval of Freeman Heights Baptist Church in Garland, Texas.

Acteens is WMU’s missions organization for girls in grades 7-12 to help them grow in their relationships with God and their peers. Together they live a missional lifestyle, develop leadership skills and become actively involved in ministry.

“Of all the things we learn, Acteens most importantly develop an ability to love,” said Louis. “The organization develops a love for serving, a love for others and a love for God.”

All four panelists have been involved with Acteens for six years and have demonstrated a commitment to service through the local church.

Hutton claims that being an Acteens member has helped her share the gospel within her sphere of influence.

Rethink Influence

If you were invited to be the leader of a small group at church or a task force at work, how would you respond? For some, the immediate response would be, “Oh no, I can’t do that; I’m not a leader!” Others might say, “Let me think [or pray] about it” and then come back with a similar response. Only on a rare occasion might someone respond immediately with “Wow! Really? I’d love to do that! Thanks for asking.”

Taylor Field reminds us in his book Upside Down Leadership: Rethinking Influence and Success that leadership is the ability to influence others. Regardless of how we respond to leadership opportunities, the truth is we all have the power to influence others. Think about the places we influence everyday: the decisions made in our families, our influence over policies when we go to the polls and vote, and the impact of our words each time we praise or tear down a friend or family member. All of these actions influence others and often reveal our ability—or lack of ability—to lead as we influence the world around us.

Making the Most of Your Students' Time

In some parts of the country we are finally beginning to see the first light of spring. Winter hasn’t been easy for many folks as record-breaking snow falls have blanketed the country. In the last few days I’ve had friends posting pictures on Facebook of their bare feet walking in the sand and of daffodils that have finally popped up above the ground. It’s nice to know warmer days are on their way.

With the coming of warmer days spring break is already on the minds of many—teachers and students alike. It’s the first real break since Christmas. And sometimes by the time it arrives we are limping along in desperate need of some down time.

For some folks, spring break is a time for family vacations to tropical places or maybe the last effort to enjoy the winter weather by going snow skiing. However, for most, it’s a few days to sleep late, read a book, hang out with friends, etc.

As leaders in student ministry and missions, how can you help your students make the most of the time they have on spring break?

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