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Getting Paid to Beat Students

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Author: Joe Banks
Youth Pastor: Jerseyville First Assembly of God

Let’s face it, there is that 1 student (or 10!) who we wouldn’t mind taking behind the church and beating the devil out of him. Then, in honor of a classic double beating, proceed to beat Jesus back into his empty soul. There are many Wednesday nights where nothing would feel better, but we all know the beds in prison just don’t cut it. All joking aside, the trouble is many of us are, in fact, beating our students without even realizing it.

The month following graduation from Central Bible College, I learned a valuable lesson that has been the bedrock of my life and ministry ever since. I discovered the difference between a shepherd and a hireling.

This lesson came alive to me like never before on a back road in Israel, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Our bus pulled to the side of the road as we watched a “shepherd” run in circles while yelling at, whipping, and dragging the sheep he was paid to take care of. A couple days later, I witnessed the exact opposite. Again, our bus pulled to the side of the road as we watched this shepherd walking slowly in front of the sheep as they followed closely.

Honestly assess your leadership style and current ministry practices. Use the following list of warning signs to consider whether you display characteristics of a hireling.


You find yourself yelling at your students all too often to gain control.

You use your “authority” as the pastor to manipulate students.

You are at the core of your ministry and find yourself bragging about how many students you have, getting jealous if a student likes another leader better, or having to be the center of attention in every room you’re in.

Your ministry would fall apart or be a disaster if you were not there.

You are not willing to do certain tasks such as plunge toilets or pick up trash because “you’re the pastor.”

You continuously make fun of and tear down students just to make other students laugh.

You do just enough during the week to get by for service.

You are no longer investing in your students, whether spiritually or emotionally.

You are no longer attending to your students (i.e. sporting events, band or choir concerts, hospital visits).

You give all your attention to the group of students most like you while virtually ignoring the rest other than a quick hello or a fist bump.

You take the credit when all is right and shift the blame on others when things go wrong.

If you identified any number of these practices as being part of your ministry approach, evaluate the motivation for your behavior. When you are ready, implement the following principles to ensure your students are being cared for, guided, and protected by a loving shepherd.


Deposit more emotional, physical, and spiritual “currency” than you withdrawal. Think of each student as a bank account. For every withdrawal, you need 10 deposits.

Establish the bus principle: If you get hit by a bus on the way to your service, the service could still thrive without your presence. Get others involved!

Work like it depends on you, pray like it depends on God. Earn it!

Be a servant leader who is willing to do any task regardless of how meaningless it may seem.

Give away the credit, take the blame.


There are no perfect people. We all have leadership flaws and character traits we would rather not see displayed. However, it is crucial for each one of us to humble ourselves and begin taking the necessary action to become a shepherd whose voice our sheep will know and want to follow. This will change everything!

“The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” John 10.3-5


Reality Check

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Author: John Hailes
Children’s Pastor, Stone Creek Church – Urbana, IL

Last week I came across a pretty familiar sight…Justin Bieber had made the news once again.  However, this time it wasn’t for smuggling a monkey on a plane or stealing a camera from the Paparazzi but it was for his criminal arrest for DUI. I think it’s fair to say that it’s a headline we have all been waiting for. After all if our news sources are even a fraction of the truth then we have followed him on this road for quite some time.

However, as I pondered this news it wasn’t long before I felt sadness come over me. I’m NOT an avid “Belieber” if that’s what your thinking, I just couldn’t dodge the question;  Is Bieber a ‘blown up’ reflection of what we see happen in our teen society all the time?

Here we have a child/young teen who became famous for singing worship/Christian songs.

(Check the last 2 minutes of this video; your impression of Mr. Bieber might change.)

He challenged the World with his moral stances and he proclaimed Christ even into his teen years. Yet slowly but surely he became secluded from the Christian community, fell into the wrong crowd and began making mistakes. All the while the Church just sat back, watched, judged and were entertained; as the devil snatched another teen.

When I see his story play out, I don’t often dwell on his mistakes or his actions…I often wonder what mistakes we made and whether we let him down. Of course he played a major part…but didn’t the church just sit back and watch? It’s a story too often told in the media (Katy Perry & Jonas Brothers)…yet we always play the same role with the same lines.

I can’t help but think that there are “Justin Biebers” in our Kids & Youth Ministries…teens who used to passionately seek God but now barely attend church…I often wonder if WE let them down…Are our ministries or churches making mistakes…


-Do you concentrate on ministering to people with your programs or with your time?

– Do you give most of your time to developing PEOPLE or PROGRAMS?


–          Does your ministry place people on a road that will take them closer to Christ?

–          Are you more focused on getting people to your service than growing them while they attend your service?

Having CONCERN instead of ANGUISH

As a teenager I was deeply challenged by a video of David Wilkerson preaching about the Call to Anguish. It is a video that I often return to that I can always be sure to give me a REALITY CHECK.

A concern is often superficial and quickly forgotten; but anguish is a deep pain that consumes us. I often pray that God would break my heart for the children of my ministry just as God broke the heart of Nehemiah for Jerusalem.

–          Do you cry out to God for those entrusted to your care?

–          Have you asked God to break your heart for the children/teens in our society?

Life Lessons: The Life of a Bi-vocational Pastor

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Author: Gary Blanchard                              
Assistant Superintendent, Illinois District of the Assemblies of God

I am frequently questioned about my 17 years as a bi-vocational pastor. The most frequent question asked is “how did you do it?”  My usual response is “I don’t know how I did it.  All I know is that God provided what I needed during that time.” But that response never satisfies those looking for practical answers.  I’m currently serving as an interim pastor for the second time in two years.  I’ve compiled a short list of reminders that helped me then and are helping me through this season. 

1. Be disciplined. With my full time day job at the District, I’ve set aside every evening for study and sermon prep.  That means “turn off the TV!” I’m hoping this assignment will be over by hockey season; but if not, I’m prepared to sacrifice my hockey viewing for sermon prep.

I’ve also found it helps to get up early. It sounds silly, maybe even scary to some but consider what can happen if instead of watching reruns of old movies you went to bed at a reasonable hour allowing yourself the ability to wake up early. Waking up before anybody else allows you time to pray, read God’s word, study and focus on the logistics of the day.

2.  Keep promises no matter how small. Talk is cheap. Meaningful relationships are built on doing what you say you will do. A key component of effective ministry is trust. Trust is based on your ability to keep your word and produce.

Keep the promises you make to your children, your spouse, your leaders and anyone else you say yes to. Often times we need to get better at saying no.

For all the years I was a bi-vocational pastor Anne and I were always faithful to our date night. I also promised my children that I would save a special time for them every Saturday. So with three kids, they each had their special Saturday every month, and on the fourth Saturday of the month we had a special time together.

3.  Don’t be afraid of or embarrassed by failure. I recently read where Sir James Dyson creator of the famous Dyson vacuum made 5,126 prototypes of his vacuum before he found the right model.  Here’s a quote from Dyson; “There were 5,126 failures. But I learned from each one. That’s how I came up with a solution. So I don’t mind failure. I’ve always thought that schoolchildren should be marked by the number of failures they’ve had. The child who tries strange things and experiences lots of failures to get there is probably more creative.”

I’ve made my share of mistakes. Outreach events that failed, sermon series that fell flat and jumping on the bandwagon of the latest trends only to discover they didn’t work in our ministry context. With each failure came a well learned lesson in what doesn’t work.

4. Ask questions…lots of them. When I first started in ministry I didn’t ask questions.  I didn’t ask questions for two reasons; I was embarrassed to ask something that someone else might find so basic and I was arrogant enough to think I knew how to do it better than anyone else. I personally experienced the definition of insanity that describes insanity as doing the same thing over and over again only expecting different results every time. When I reached the point of honestly admitting I had no clue what I was doing…I started asking questions…lots of them. The answers produced the best advice I ever received.

5.  Be honest about your current reality. Of all the suggestions this one is probably the most difficult to fulfill. You’ll never get an honest evaluation when you’re the one writing your own evaluation reports and press releases. Find friends who will be honest with you.

At one point in my ministry I asked some college students who were attending our church on a regular basis to evaluate what I was doing. The conversations were brutally honest. I didn’t like everything I heard. It forced me to change, stretch and grow. As painful as that experience was I’m thankful for it and would do it all over again.

6.  Be a good steward of your time. Time is valuable…don’t waste it.  Keep track of the things you do in the course of a day.  Include the time spent on the web, games played on your phone or iPad and all of the other things that so easily distract us.  Those are valuable hours of productive time lost.  Regain them.

7.  Don’t try to do it alone. We need one another’s support and encouragement.  We all need a Nathan in our life; someone who isn’t afraid to confront us with truth and encourage us when needed.  Find a trusted friend with whom you can be open and transparent.  Find a trusted prayer partner who will correct when needed, encourage when needed and will be there to pray with you.

Originally published for the July2013 iLink©.

Welcome To Your Blog!

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Dear Leaders,

Welcome to your new blog! This is a platform for children’s and youth leaders around the state of Illinois to express their heart, their concern, their wisdom, and their vision for ministry  that we might join forces to accomplish a common goal: to help those around us know Christ. One of the most neglected resources that one can have is the knowledge of his fellow man. We hope to extract that hidden information, so that we can all be a little smarter. We will be posting two blogs a month or more from various leaders. If you have something you think is worth contributing, e-mail Kimi at

We are looking forward to launching soon!

Thanks for checking it out!