A Teacher’s Advice on Starting the School-Year Well

 

School DoorThe following is advice from my wife (a teacher at a public Middle School), with some elaboration from me (a youth pastor). Hopefully this will prove helpful for students and parents at the beginning of the school-year.

1. Be Organized
It’s the number one thing for success. Even more than being really smart! I’ve seen a lot of disorganized smart kids struggle because they didn’t keep track of projects and assignments. And I’ve seen a lot of organized kids get excellent grades because they were organized and kept on top of their work.

If there’s one piece of advice about school that I’ve learned through experience (high school, college, and grad school) it’s this… you won’t become a good student by accident. 

2. Show grace to teachers who have bad reputations
You don’t want the teachers to hold your reputation against you. Don’t do the same to them. Give them a shot… you might find out that you really get along with him/her! C

The Christian life is one filled by grace. We need to receive it. We need to give it.

If you want to be Salt & Light (Matthew 5:13-16) in your school, then treat your teachers differently than everyone else. Show them respect and give them the grace you’d like to receive.

3. It’s ok to be “the Christian kid”
Be the Christian kid. It’s only awkward if you make it that way. But if you’re confident in who you are in Christ, then own it. Be different. Sure, some people might treat you differently or give you a tough time, but most people will just accept you for who you are if you’ve accepted you for who you are.

The Apostle Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for all who believe” (Romans 1:16). Honestly: are you ashamed, or are you proud of the gospel? Do you get embarrassed when people find out you go to church and youth group? Are you ashamed of Christ, or are you living on purpose to make Christ known?

4. Learn to say “No”
You can’t do everything you want to do. The sooner you learn that, the better. You don’t need to keep playing soccer because you always have. You don’t need to join that club because all your friends are. You don’t need to take that extra AP class. You don’t need to go out with your friends to that movie.

Remember this: every time you say “Yes” to something, you’re saying “No” to something else. You cannot go to the movies and spend all your time with your friends and still have time to get that project done. You’ve put it off long enough. You need to say “No, sorry. I have a project I need to work on.”

You can only spend time once. Learn to say “No” to things because you’ve said “Yes” to more important things. Take some time to figure out what your priorities are, and then choose how to spend your time and energy.

One of our youth leaders is also a teacher, and he added a sixth word of advice:

6. Be a Leader
You can be a leader, or you can be led. Choose to be an influencer. Don’t follow the crowd.

Think about your friend groups and look around, asking, “Who’s leading who?” and “Do I want my friends leading me, or should I be leading them?”

Finally: Remember your worth comes through your identity in Christ, not by your grades or accomplishments. Work hard. Study hard. Be smart. But do those things because you’ve been accepted by God. So many teens do those things in order to prove their worth. You don’t need to do that. Live in the freedom of God’s grace, knowing that you don’t need to live under insane amounts of pressure to perform.

 

Your Life Proves Your Faith

Meet Rick: Rick grew up attending church with his family and still considers himself a Christian even though he doesn’t go to church anymore. He tries to do his work well, is kind to others, and he’s a ton of fun to be around. And while he says he believes the Bible is the “Word of God” he says there are other paths to God and has jumped on the “open and affirming” movement regarding sexuality. If you looked at Rick’s life, you’d see someone who is a good guy, but not much different from anyone you’d meet who does not identify as a Christian. When asked if that’s a problem, Rick sees his similarity to others as a good thing because it shows that Christians are just normal people.

How do we make sense of things when what someone says they believe doesn’t line up with their life? More specifically, what happens when someone claims to be a Christian but the Bible doesn’t seem to have much of a say over their life?

People will always believe your life over your words because your life proves your faith.

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Fighting Temptation or Fighting God?

When you’re spacing out in class… what do you think about? When you’re laying awake at night and can’t sleep, what are consumes your dreams: video games, music, your friends, a “friend,” good grades, sports, achievements, or some other fantasy?

Those dreams and desires say a lot about who we are and what we desire.

Mark Twain said, “A human being has a natural desire for more than what he needs.” Whether it’s money, food, pleasure, whatever… we want as much of something as we can get.

But when good things becomes obsessions, they begin to control us. They become obsessions. We can even become prisoners to our own desires. We need to learn to say “No!” to ourselves, keeping good desires within healthy boundaries while refusing to entertain our bad desires which can cause us harm.

The Fireplace
If sex is like fire, then marriage is the fireplace. When fire leaves the boundaries of the fireplace, don’t be surprised if you get burned. See other posts from this conversation: Sex, Intimacy, & Healthy Boundaries, and  Secret Struggles & Building an Army (because no one needs to struggle alone). 

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Sex, Intimacy, & Healthy Boundaries

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be having a conversation we’ve named, “The Fireplace.” Here’s the idea: Fire in your fireplace gives light, heat, and it can even cook your food. But when the fire leaves the fireplace, you’re going to get burned. It may not burn down the house completely, but it’s going to cause damage.

Sex is like fire – when boundaries are removed, there is great potential for it to cause harm and damage.

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The Role (and Danger) of Fun in Youth Ministry

In some youth ministry communities, fun and games is becoming a four-letter word: avoided, forbidden, wrong. As if fun is something that no serious youth worker would encourage.

Fun is not the enemy. I don’t know anyone who thinks it is. But I do know a lot of people who are suspicious of “too much fun.” I see this youth pastor often who is highly suspicious of ministries with “too much fun.” He makes some good points, but I often feel conflicted about whether or not I listen to him too much. There are other times when I think he’s sharing his concerns because I myself am guilty! Afterall, where exactly is that line between healthy-fun (which provides fertile ground for relationships and cultivating trust) and entertainment-driven ministry (where fun overshadows everything else you’re attempting to do). In the midst of my struggles with this youth pastor’s concerns about too much fun, I can’t just ignore him… because I see him every time I look in the mirror!

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How to be a Strong Christian

This is the fourth message in our series “Think About It: Christian Cliches… what’s this even mean?” Other messages in the series include “What’s it Mean to Invite Jesus into Your Heart?” “It’s Not My Gift” and “Let Go, Let God.” 

Think about the strongest Christian you know. What is he or she like?

When we think about strong Christians, we think about someone who knows the Bible inside-out, who is bold about sharing their faith, whose prayer-life is something we could only imagine having. Essentially… we think about a Christian ninja. And we know that does NOT describe us!

But what if being a strong Christian is about something else? What if you don’t need to be a Christian ninja for God to use you?

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Think About It… Let Go, Let God

I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but cliches make me as sick as a dog! People who use them need to wake up and smell the coffee. I don’t mean to open a can of worms, but we really need to think about all these cliches.

Cliches might communicate something true, but most of the time they’ve either lost their meaning or they’re just plain confusing. Sometimes we need to stop and ask the question, “Is this even true?” This is the first week “Think About IT!” taking a second look at Christian cliches.Think about it

 

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