Month: March 2014

5 Ways to Make Your Sermons Stick

Preach is a skill.  One that can be improved upon with practice and experience.  As Oscar Wilde puts it, “Experience is one thing you can’t get for nothing.” While this is true, experience is not the only way that we can improve.  Another way is to improve is to learn from someones else’s experience and then apply learned principles to your actions.  Preaching is also a miracle of God.  One that can not be improved upon with practice or experience.  It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through the life of the believer that our sermons stick to anyone, which is essentially the first point of this article.  Check out this post on the Resurgence blog from Adam Ramsey about how to “Make Your Sermons Stick.”

5 Ways to Make Your Sermons Stick When Preaching to Students

5 Ways to Make Your Sermons Stick When Preaching to Students

Adam Ramsey »

The high calling of every parent and preacher is to faithfully pass on the baton of faith to the next generation. Here are five ways to make the message stick.

Over the past decade, I have had many opportunities to open the Bible and preach to young people in a huge range of settings and cultures. While I have previously written on some of the most common ways I have bombed a sermon (and seen many other young preachers do likewise), I have also learned some helpful practices along the way that can help your message stick.

The gospel is the power

These practices are intentionally pragmatic, but they are of little use if the message being preached is anything other than the gospel. Only the gospel—the good news of the finished work of Jesus, on the cross, in our place, for our sins—has the Spirit-propelled power to make dead hearts live.

Keep Reading…

4 Tips for a Trip to a Third-World Country

The last two years Crossings has been able to send some of our summer staff to Haiti for only the price of a plane ticket.  It is just one of the many perks of working for Crossings as a summer staff or beyond.  David Rouse, Quinton Matthews, and I lead the first trip in 2012.  It was one of the most fun and impactful experiences I have had in a long time.  I really, really enjoyed it.  The trip itself was incredible.  I have traveled to Haiti before but on this trip we accomplished some great work, I got to see areas of the country I had never seen, and we got to serve for a day in an orphanage.  Not only that, I got to experience it with two very good friends.  It was a great trip.

Last year I was not able to go, but sent this advice to the staff that were going.  I think it is applicable to any trip to a third-world country.

I know this is an older video, but it still get’s me fired up every time I watch it.

Just wanted to encourage each of you as you prepare for your trip to Haiti. A few tips for those on this trip.

1. Be ready for God to change you.
The impact of this trip will hopefully follow each of you for the rest of your lives. It is my prayer that you will be changed. That God challenges you in ways that you do not expect and convinces you to make changes in your life. The Lord is going to do incredible things through each of you while on this trip. Much like summer, the impact you can make largely depends on your willingness to be used by God. BE OPEN to what God might be calling each of you to do.

2. Get past the poverty.
Get past the fact that these people live in poverty and see their greater need for Jesus Christ. The poverty is always difficult to experience and see. Don’t walk away from this trip only being thankful for all of your stuff. Get more out of it than that.

3. Love kids
You will be in contact with kids who literally do not know what it is like to have loving parents or to be loved by anyone at all. You will work with orphans and children who have great needs. Show them the love of Christ through the time you spend with them. Make them feel loved.

4. Soak it up
Relish ever minute of your time. Do not sit on the sidelines. Experience everything.

I wish I was going with you all. Last year I got to go on this trip and it was literally one of the best trips of my life. I can’t wait to hear all the stories when you guys return. God Bless. Be safe. Have fun!


What to do about World Vision?

I shared a couple of posts on Facebook today about World Visions decision to hire homosexual employees. It’s easy to say that I personally do not agree with this decision. It is much harder to decide what we are going to do about it. I do not want to end our sponsorship, but I also don’t want to support this decision. Please pray for all of those faced with this same decision. Pray for wisdom, grace, and discernment.

The Sanctity of Human Life


There are times in history when today we look back and ask, “What were they thinking?”  The Civil Rights Movement is one of those times.  It is easy to look back today and wonder why the church didn’t take a stronger stand or why they didn’t take a stand at all against racial injustice.  It simply boggles the mind that followers of Christ didn’t see the sin of considering someone less valuable because of the color of their skin.  When confronted with this fact, many from that time simply do not have a good answer.  They feel remorse for their lack of action, but it simply didn’t even occur to them that it might be wrong.  Racial segregation was such an integral part of their culture they were blinded to the fact that it was wrong.

I believe that we are in a similar time of crisis in our culture today as we are faced with the issue of the sanctity of human life or more clearly stated legalized abortions.  I personally feel that there is not a greater cause in the United States of America that our generation faces than the issue of legalized abortions.  Below are a few statistics I gathered to give perspective on the amount of death that is caused from legal abortions.  It is my belief that we will one day look back at this issue and wish we would have taken a stand, much like the generation before us, against the legalization of murdering babies.

As followers of Christ we do not have the option to remain neutral about this issue.

Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church, shares an incredible message on the Sanctity of Human Life.  As he expresses, the sanctity of human life based on the Bible as the ultimate authority should compel Christians to do something about this incredibly important issue that is literally killing millions of babies each year. Sermon linked below.

The Village Church

The Sanctity of Human Life – Matt Chandler

There have been approximately 60 million legally induced abortions in the U.S. since 1973—nearly the current population of California and Texas combined.

How does this compare with other tragedies in human history?

World War I – 15 million soldiers and civilians killed

World War II – 71 million soldiers and civilians killed

Holocaust  – 11 million Jews killed

Hiroshima and Nagasaki – 250, 000 killed

All US soldiers since American Revolution – 1.3 Million American soldiers killed

Legal U.S. Abortions since 1973 – 60 million babies killed


Will you do something?

Will you remain silent?

Will you regret your silence?

Will you regret your disobedience?

While these questions are relevant to the discussion, our regret is not the reason for action.  While our children or our children’s children might ask us these questions, that is not the reason for action.

The reason for action is because babies are being killed and it is wrong.  It does not please God and our indifference is allowing it.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” – Jeremiah 1:5

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” – Psalm 139:13 – 16

“You shall not murder.” – Exodus 20:13

PluggedIn – A great resource for parents and leaders

PluggedIn is a Focus on the Family publication designed to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving families the essential tools they need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which they live.

Many parents and youth leader already know about the Christian movie review website called PluggedIn.  It is a great resource for finding out which movies are age-appropriate for children and teens and which movies are not.

What PluggedIn has to offer:

Reviews – PluggedIn reviews Movies, TV shows, Music, and Games.  They also promote a site that reviews books.

Resources – Movie Night, Family Room, Culture Clips and a Blog

Content Access – PluggedIn helps you get the content you want by utilizing social media, podcasts, and mobile apps.

Leading student, whether that be as a parent or youth leader, is a full-contact sport.  It requires effort, hard-work, tenacity, and a willingness to get dirty.  Doing your homework before letting students watch a movie, play a video game, listen to an album, or watch a show on TV is a necessary evil in today’s culture.  Students are like sponges and they are absorbing their world view, religious beliefs, and character from their families, their leaders, and the media.  This is a fact.  PluggedIn helps parents and leaders face that brutal fact and equips them with information to help them navigate the influential waters of media and entertainment.



While this is a sub-section of the overall purpose of the site, I listed it first for a reason.  If you are the parent of teenage boy and increasingly even girls, the amount of time spent playing video games is growing rapidly.  While a movie exposes students to unwanted content in the form of actors/actresses.  Games expose students to unwanted content in the form of first-person experience.  Gamers are acting out these unwanted actions and behaviors as they play endless hours of the games.  As parents and leaders it benefits us to know what our students are acting out in the form of a video game.


This is the obvious one.  Most of us know that you can come to PluggedIn and search almost any new release movie and find a review.  What you might not know are the elements in which each movie is reviewed.

Each movie is reviewed on the basis of 6 elements or content features.

1. Positive Elements
2. Spiritual Content
3. Sexual Content
4. Violent Content
5. Crude or Profane Language
6. Drug and Alcohol Content
7. Negative Elements.

Each review also includes a short summery and a conclusion that gives a recommendation as to how to navigate the decision making process of watching the movie.


Album and songs are both reviewed.  The basis on which they are reviewed are Pro-Social Content and Objectionable Content with a Summary Advisory for parents at the end.

TV shows

Shows and even individual episodes are reviewed.  These reviews are in the forms of summaries, which require a little more digging to figure out what they are saying.  None the less, they are incredibly helpful if you don’t want to spend the time watching the show or the season to understand what is going on.


Book reviews are found on a related site call While the index is not as exhaustive as PluggedIn, it is still a great resource to find out what books are saying.


Family Room

The Family rooms combines all the elements in the resource section onto one page.  From the Family Room you can find the blog, Movie Night, Podcasts, and other great articles from PluggedIn.

Movie Night

This is a great resourced created by PluggedIn.  Movie night picks appropriate movies for parents to watch with their kids or teens and then provides summaries and follow-up questions to discuss.  The movies that are targeted towards kids provide themed activity sheets.  The movies for teens provide discussion questions and talking points to discuss after or during the movie.  This great resource promotes watching movies together as a family.

Culture Clips

This section of the site points you to the current issues of movies and media.  It will have the most recent movies listed, the most recent shows, and if there is a current event, it should address it.  This page tackles the hot topic issues of each week.


The blog is full of articles and opinion from the guys who manage and create the content for PluggedIn.  This is like an expanded version of the culture clips or the culture clips are an abbreviated version of the blog.  Either way you should find great content about various topics related to media and even other topics.

Content Access

How can you get access to all of this great content?  PluggedIn has made it easy.  They have provided multiple avenues for you to download, listen to, and interact with their site.  Below you will find links to each of these avenues.  I personally listen to the podcast and use the app to access online reviews.  The two-minute Podcasts keep me up-to-date on the latest movies while I drive to work and the app gives me easy access when I want more content from my phone or tablet.

Social Media

Mobile Apps


How to Thrive in College

My one thought from college: I had so much free time.  I thought I was busy, but looking back I had more free time than have ever had since and will ever have again, hopefully.  College students – use your time wisely.

How to Thrive in College

by Alex Chediak

College should be a temporary season of academic preparation and personal growth to propel a lifetime of effective service to God and neighbor. It should be a launching pad into all that goes with responsible Christian adulthood. Yet for some it’s a time when they abandon the Christian faith, displaying that they never really belonged to Christ (1 John 2:19). For others, their faith remains intact, but they waste their college years with video games, partying, and other frivolities — an expensive vacation funded by Mom, Dad, and (often) debilitating student loans.

Today, seven out of ten high school graduates immediately go on to college, but about 30% will never become sophomores, and almost half will not have graduated even six years later.1 Many who do graduate move right back home with their parents, assuming little responsibility and armed with little ambition for Christ.

 Own Your Faith

I’m convinced that you should not just survive college but thrive at college. Don’t just maintain your faith, but really come to own it — growing thick, strong roots (1 Timothy 4:12). Don’t just perpetually visit churches but find one to join — one that clearly proclaims the gospel, practices vibrant worship, and welcomes you into authentic iron-sharpening-iron community. You need a good church off campus as much as you need strong Christian friendships on campus.


Wanting God’s Best for Your Children

Abby and I are first time parents with two incredible boys.  They are now approaching 3 years old.  We are just like most Christian parents in that we want to express God’s love to our children as early and as often as possible.  We read the Story Book Bible to them at bedtime.  We pray before meals.  We take them to Sunday school.  We are doing our best at figuring this out as we go. Not perfectly, but intentionally.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Matthew 7:7-11

We all love to give gifts to our children and the knowledge of Christ is the greatest gift of all.  The idea that God loves my children more than me and wants to give better gifts than I do, blows my mind.  The love for your child is an incredible thing.  And think, God loves them more.

So what is our role in spiritual discipleship for our kids?

The full scope of that question cannot be answered within a single post, blog, or even a single book.  Ultimately, I think it starts with being intentional.  Not perfectly, but intentionally. Intentionally sharing the Gospel with your children.  Intentionally reading and pointing them to God’s Word. Intentionally praying with them. Intentionally taking them to church.  Intentionally talking to them about their relationship with God. And intentionally being a living example of the Grace we have received.

Orange is a ministry philosophy that focuses on ministering to the family as a whole.  In student and children’s ministry, that means spending as much if not more attention on parents.  This is not a new philosophy, but Orange has done a very good job of packaging, communicating the essentials of this philosophy, and providing resources.  Below I have highlighted a post from Orange Leaders that I think helps at attacking the question of our role in spiritual discipleship for our kids.

Wanting God’s Best for Your Children

©2012 Jim Wideman Ministries Inc

Wanting God’s Best for Your Children

Psalm 112:1-8 (NIV) tells us: “Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, 
who finds great delight in his commands. His children will be mighty in the land; 
the generation of the upright will be blessed. . . . Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever. 
He will have no fear of bad news; 
 his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. 
His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes.”

This is hard to walk out as a parent, let alone lead other parents to walk this out for their families. The world can be a cruel place, it can be an unsure place. This is our time but they are hard and troubling times for the church.

A large percentage of Americans believe it will get worse before it gets better. When you look at what’s happening in the news, on TV and even in the church it’s pretty scary out there but it’s times like these that makes us ask the big question: Do you really believe and practice what you teach and preach? As for me, I BELIEVE THE BIBLE!


Keeping A Small Group “Dialed In”

Small groups are essential for discipleship.  It is only through relationships can students truly experience biblical discipleship within a student ministry.  This requires committed adults who will invest their lives into the lives of students.  These adults, while committed, may not feel equipped at leading a small group.  One major concern with new or even veteran small group leaders is keeping their students “dialed in.”  The guys at YM360 posted a great article with 6 tips on how to keep students “dialed in” to discussion.

Check out YM360 for other great articles and resources.

YM Essentials: Keeping A Small Group “Dialed In”

by: Heather Johnson

My first attempt at discipleship, years ago, was a bit rocky. My small group was made up of 7th grade girls. They were great kids, but they couldn’t sit still to save their lives.

One particular girl was notorious for bringing some type of toy or gadget to each group meeting.

I specifically remember the week she brought bright colored duct tape. Throughout the course of the meeting she continued to add this touch of flare to the chairs, the walls, and even to the other girls. Toward the end of the meeting (about the time I’m feeling like a total failure), she proceeded to tape her mouth closed. Because this obviously limited her breathing ability, she panicked and ran out into the hallway with all of the girls chasing her and screaming.

I finally managed to regain some sort of control, and we closed the night in prayer . . . one of the only spiritual elements of the entire hour! Though this particular incident was somewhat isolated (and extreme), the students’ limited attention span and lack of focus was fairly common from week-to-week. What I learned with experience is that this is, of course, common in most groups of teenagers, especially younger ones.

What are some key approaches for us youth workers to keep your group “dialed in”?

The following suggestions are by no means the only answer, but simply a few of the principles that have helped me rein a group back in.


5 Things Small Group Leaders Should say to Parents

As a follow-up to last weeks post, 1 Goal and 5 Ways to Enrich Your Small Group Time, I wanted to include a great post from What is Orange about what small group leaders should be saying to parents.  Small groups are essential to Gospel relationships so we should work hard to improve them as leaders.  Orange has multiple posts on the subject.

Orange is a ministry philosophy that focuses on ministering to the family as a whole.  In student and children’s ministry, that means spending as much if not more attention on parents.  This is not a new philosophy, but Orange has done a very good job of packaging, communicating the essentials of this philosophy, and providing resources.

I could simply give you the 5 things, but then you would be tempted to not read the entire article, although that might be what you do anyway.  I would encourage you to read the article and look around the Orange Leaders blog.  It is full of other great resources.  Next week I’ll look at the question, “What is my role as a parent in spiritual discipleship of my kids?”

Five Things Small Group Leaders Should say to Parents

by Jeff Brodie

Rethinking the Way we Communicate to Teens

Parents don’t walk around over-encouraged. They just don’t. Most parents feel like they aren’t doing a good job of raising their kids. Parenting resources make them feel guilty, and the Facebook feed of their friends’ seemingly perfect families doesn’t help. It’s isolating. For some families, the only time they hear from an adult who knows their child is from the principal or the police.

Here’s the truth we need to remember: Kids are an incredible gift, and hold unlimited potential to impact the world around them. Their parents are their primary influence, and Jesus is their only hope.

A number of years ago, I realized the Small Group Leaders in our student ministry had very little contact with parents, so we started to create events that needed the Small Group Leader to call the parent in order for the event to succeed (sneaky, I know).