Legacy Now - Jason Carr Writes

Exploring the collision of everyday life and an incredible God

Til The Whistle Blows

I can still hear my football coach saying it: “You play until the whistle blows.” If loafing at practice or caught in a game taking a play off, a player would hear something similar. Often coaches chose to add some choice words in there, but essentially they are always saying the same thing. The play is not over until it’s over. You know it’s over when the referee blows their whistle.

Simple, right?

Not so much. You get tired. You feel like your part does not matter. You don’t get the attention you think you deserve. You lose focus. It gets monotonous. So you take a play off.

I’m not just talking about football. This is true in ministry. We take plays off. We miss opportunities. We “kinda” prepare for that talk. We settle to get things done. We get tired of the same thing each week and dial it in and just get by.

Recently I talked with a student pastor experiencing that. His energy had tapped out. His motivation had waned. He knew he was not giving it his all, but frankly needed some encouragement.

How do you fix that?

It’s not easy, but there are some things you can do to keep playing until the whistle blows.

Focus on the end game. What you do now matters for later. Relational ministry (especially with students) is rarely tangible. But He is the grower, and our job is to plant well and trust Him. In the end, the victory is His.

Remember who you are playing for. He knows. He is with you. Your service matters to the Kingdom of forever. Reset your perspective.

Your value can’t come from man alone. Seek to sink your identity in the One who rescued you and gave you a new name. You are His son or daughter. Work from there.

Celebrate regularly. Choose to celebrate anything pointing to your vision and mission that is being accomplished or developed.

Trust relentlessly. Even when it does not make sense.

Be you. Kick comparison aside and focus on faithfulness. You’ll find freedom in your spirit there.

No matter where you are in your ministry, until He calls you home, the whistle has not blown yet. Don’t be discouraged in doing good. Praying that you serve well until the whistle blows.

Attendance Equals Interest?

Students quit coming so they might not be interested, right?

Not completely.

Attendance does not always equal interest. There are too many variables to consider outside of them just being there with you at group.

It’s easy to see students not at your program and take it personal. Remember, there is always a story deeper that what we usually see.

Take time to ask questions to those involved or engaged in your ministry. Often, you’ll discover there are school things that conflict. You’ll find family things going on with the student you were not aware of. You might even be let onto a blindspot in your ministry that you didn’t see.

I recently worked with a church that was planning on changing their weekly meeting time. It sounded great in the meeting. Even went over well in the volunteer meeting.

The parents and students? Not so much.

When they changed the time, their numbers initially dropped. The church realized that they needed to clearly communicate more often the reasoning and purpose behind the change. It wasn’t that students hated the church and didn’t want to come. They needed to know the why, to a degree they felt left out.

It’s also great to remember that there seems to be seasons. There are some seasons where you might have a great group of student leaders who really do a great job of committing and gathering. And then there are seasons when you pray for those students to engage in your ministry.

It seems like some churches can just open the doors and students just come running in and fill the room. That’s not always the case. In fact, most churches would be wise to invest time and resources in thinking about gathering outside of the weekly program.

Don’t forget about the power of social media to communication, cast vision, and help gather too. It’s a great resource for your ministry is your leverage it well. Pull your leaders aside and get their feedback. Survey some students. Let your ears and curiosity lead the way in times of wonder. What you learn might just help you understand what’s going on.

Moral of the story is don’t allow attendance fluctuations to discourage you from doing good. It might just be the thing that helps you reconnect or rethink about your ministry in a new and powerful way.

Scars Of Long Suffering

Have any scars? Of course you do. Some might be physical, but we all carry scars of relationships, unmet expectations, and the effects of our sin with us.

I’ve had a pretty crazy few years. In the midst of that I’ve come to understand the power of vulnerability and the power of community in a new way. I’ve also learned about the power of scars from long-suffering. Those are the scars built over navigating hard things. Some times it’s immediate, other times those things last a lifetime.

Some are self-inflicted, like the one I have on my knee from a careless childhood injury. Some are not, but they land on you anyway. Those usually are not cosmetic; they run deep into your soul and are supremely personal.

Recently I was spending time with a close friend whose world has been shaken by some hard news. One of the reasons I am able to walk through this with him is that I have scars I didn’t have a few years ago. Not proud of them, but God has used them as a key to open a door of empathy and care not only between him and me, but  also with those He allows me to come in contact with.

I once heard someone say that scars are beautiful. I thought that speaker was crazy. Now I get what he was saying. God has a way of taking our messes and mistakes and using them in ways that only makes sense in His divine story.

The hard part of scars though is that they can redefine who we are. We might even think that our scars define us. They might mark you, but they should not define us. That alone should come from your relationship with the One who can use the scars in amazing ways.

After 20 years of relational ministry, I am very aware that God can take our scars and use them—not only in our stories, but to help others redeem theirs. He’s good that way.

So I have to ask, what are your scars? Is it possible that He could use them as a key to a door you never imagined that leads you and others into a deeper relationship with Him? I think so.

Scratch that. I know so, because I have the scars to prove it.

Why 20?

Two weeks from this posting my ministry Legacy Now is hosting an event called 20: A Celebration. This past fall marked 20 years since the Lord led me to start an internship within student ministry. Crazy!

The idea to have the 20 event stemmed from my ministry board of directors and a conversation about longevity in ministry. The average student pastor lasts a little over a year at a church. He’s allowed me to work with primarily 3 ministries in the last 20 years. It was decided that 20 years in student ministry was worth celebrating, so here we go!

The event is going to be a special night. It’s really is two parts. The first part is taking time to honor His faithfulness over the last 20 years. I’ve asked some legendary friends who have been a part of that journey to share a bit. I’m sure the jokes and sarcasm are coming my way. And I can’t wait.

The second part is sharing about what He has me doing now with Legacy Now. We started 5 years ago this month. And it has been a ride I would have not imagined serving churches and leaders all over America. That’s a good thing. In the midst of that He continues to re-sharpen and focus what He has called LN to. That process has led to bigger dreams. I can’t wait to share that at 20.

So the event is part celebration, part vision. My heart for the night is simple. I have been and am praying that everyone who attends does not get in their car to go home and talk about me. I know, it’s my 20 year celebration. But I want those who attend to leave inspired knowing that He is faithful and hey, if He can use someone like me, He can use anyone! True story.

I hope you’ll consider joining us if you are in Atlanta. Tickets are free, but you need to RSVP to attend.

The event is going to be in The Attic at North Point Community Church on Monday night March 13th.

You can RSVP and find out all the details here: 20: A Celebration Event.

20 for 20 Part II

news_gallery_logo_3This fall marks 20 years of working in student ministry for me. Very thankful the Lord has allowed me to serve with so many for so long. I have learned a lot along the way. Still learning. To celebrate that, I am doing a few week blog series of 20 for 20. 20 things I’ve learned in the last 20 years of ministry. Today is the second one, enjoy!

1. When the Lord brings someone to mind, there is a reason. Follow up.
2. Students want to be challenged;, it happens best through relationships.
3. Invite your students into the mundane tasks and watch it become a memory.
4. Never assume someone’s spiritual maturity.
5. The basics still matter—prayer, the Word, and spiritual disciplines.
6. Sarcasm can ruin a vulnerable moment.
7. Every family story has layers. Remember that when you hear the students’ perspectives.
8. Choose to be above reproach, even if it’s awkward or weird.
9. Those you serve with in the trenches are important. Lean into them.
10. If it’s a big deal to your students, don’t shoo it away because it might not be for you.
11. Your students are not your accountability group.
12. Create easy- to- access touch points to hang out. For me, it’s primarily been chili and football and playing cards.
13. You need others investing in you if you are going to invest in others.
14. The enemy wants to steal, kill, and destroy. That includes your ministry and life.
15. Technology is a blessing and a curse; seek to use it well.
16. Meeting the kids of former students really puts it all in perspective.
17. You can only carry others’ baggage for so long. His burden is light.
18. Every student wants to be known and loved, just like you and me.
19. As generations come and go, Jesus stands forever.
20. God has been, is, and always will be faithful. End of story.

20 for 20 Part 1

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This fall marks 20 years of working in student ministry for me. Very thankful the Lord has allowed me to serve with so many for so long. I have learned a lot along the way. Still learning. To celebrate that, I am doing a few week blog series of 20 for 20. 20 things I’ve learned in the last 20 years of ministry. Today is the first one, enjoy!

  1. Stuff is stuff; one day it will all fade away. People matter forever.
  2. You will learn so much about yourself by leading others.
  3. Taking time to hang outside of group always make group time better.
  4. God does not need you, but He wants you.
  5. You are not their parent, no matter the family situation. At times you might be the influence they listen to the most.
  6. Seasons change, but you don’t have to lose the relationship.
  7. Don’t take it too personally when a student makes a mistake.
  8. You can’t save them all. You can’t fix a human heart. He can.
  9. Influence and truth do not immediately come to fruition. Don’t be surprised if it takes years.
  10. Your students will remember way more about who you are and what you did than what you said.
  11. Celebrate together. Mourn together. Grow together. Community does not mean just asking questions and meeting; it’s about life.
  12. Choosing vulnerability always opens the door for the next level of group growth, but there is a line of what to share with teenagers.
  13. Don’t assume they communicate with their parents.
  14. They are not “yours,” they are God’s. You’ve been trusted with them for a season.
  15. Some of the best conversations won’t happen at group. They happen doing life.
  16. If you don’t make yourself available, don’t be surprised if they don’t reach out.
  17. Learn to let go and trust Him.
  18. It’s not about you.
  19. The teenage heart is more fragile than it lets on.
  20. Legacy is forever. Groups are temporal. Lead with the end in mind.

Added Value

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I’m always looking for added value when I spend my money. For example, my local grocery store gives fuel points on gift cards purchased there. Those points are redeemable for discounts on gas at their fuel pumps. I now use gift cards from there often. Need to reload my Starbucks card? I visit the grocery store to buy a gift card and load it my account. Need something from an online store? I buy a gift card. If I’m going to spend the money anyway, why not get added value for that money and make it go further?

Many of us subscribe to that thinking in more areas than coffee and gas. We are always looking for added value in everything we do.

The church I attend is great at this. If you volunteer, you likely have a drawer full of church t-shirts. You didn’t sign up to get a t-shirt, but it’s added value to your service. Another church I worked with recently hosted their leaders for a great dinner and time to invest in them as followers of Christ. It was a way to give back to those giving to the ministry and add value to their service.

It is wise to consider how you can add value to those who invest in your ministry.

As a church consultant, I understand that. Often a church or leader will bring me in for one purpose, but I want to add more value than just that. That value might be a follow-up report. It might be an ongoing relationship and assistance. It might be helping someone consider things they were not even thinking about yet. It has looked many different ways, which is actually quite fun. It’s on me to add value to those I serve.

A church wanted me to serve them with some consulting, but they did not have the budget. They then asked me to speak at a retreat for their student ministry and then asked me to do some leader training and coaching while there. Boom. They were able to make it happen and I was able to add value in more ways than one. I loved that.

I’d love for you to think about how you are adding value to those who serve your ministry. Are you giving them the bang for their buck of serving?

At the same time, please remember that I am available to serve you as you serve others. I hope in doing so that I can add value to what He has trusted you with.

Take Courage

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God is really good, but the situation still stinks.

Ever said that?

I have—and recently. If you have read my blog over the last year, you know that I’ve been walking through some incredibly tough family challenges. When the craziness first happened, I operated on adrenaline trying to figure out how to function. As time passed, the tough stuff has become the new normal; my faith has grown substantially; and as hard as things have been, God has been really good.

It’s really a funny thing about faith. You discover it in new ways when things are trying. You discover things about yourself and God that you might not have wanted to know. At some point you are grateful for it, but at the same time wish you hadn’t had to go through the pain.

One of my best friends said it well the other night: “I just don’t get how Paul was always so upbeat when things didn’t go right. A lot of the New Testament he wrote while in prison. He was being punished for being obedient to God and he used that to point others to Him.”

Dang.

That is so true though, isn’t it? God has a way of using our messes to become our message and our brokenness to reveal His wholeness.

One of the amazing things about the history of the Christian faith is that it is stuffed full of people whose stories are as much tragedy as success. In the midst of suffering, they used tragedy to point others to the One who sustains.

That leads me to a question. How are you using your current situation? Are you busy moaning and groaning about it? Are you pointing fingers at the others who might have done you wrong? Are you mad at the world for not giving you what you think you deserve? It’s the human reaction, for sure.

Dig deeper. Let the anchor of faith hold in new ways to reveal to you that in the midst of hard times, God is as present, real, and faithful as He has been for all of time. He has not given up on us. He is not unaware of our present circumstances. He is in process of taking your story and, if we’ll allow, using it to point back to Him.

Those words don’t come easy, friend. I’ve lived though heartbreaking, life-changing challenges in and around my life. Yet in the midst of that storm, the Lord has been very present and standing on the water reminded us that we can take:  “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 13:27 NIV)

No matter your situation today as you read this, I pray that He takes the storms of your life and uses it to draw you closer to Him and tell the world that although things might be hard, He is still a good, good Father.

Why Hire A Consultant?

Hello I Am Someone Who Can Help words written on a nametag sticker or label, which could be worn by a therapist, consultant, doctor, or other expert who can solve your problem

You might be wondering why your church would want to hire a student ministry consultant. Here are some benefits I’ve seen that might be helpful for you to understand not only what I do, but others who serve churches too.

Fresh Eyes
We get so focused on what we know and what we have to do that it is easy to miss things. We are all uniquely wired and passionate. Inviting other eyes into your world is a healthy way to ensure you are not missing things. It also helps put focus on things that need some attention.

Confirming Eyes
We all want to know if we are moving in the right direction. It’s helpful to have someone validate, encourage, or direct our paths to help us do that.

Other Perspectives
A question I get often is this: how do other churches deal with this? I love being able to share ideas from different churches with each other.

Needed Ears
One of my main roles in working with churches is to ask questions and listen. I have a lot to share if needed. One of the most important things I can do is offer a set of ears that cares and wants to listen to where you are and where you want to go. I can’t help if I don’t listen.

Moving Forward
My heart is not to just see how things are now with your ministry. It’s to dream about what could be. With the tyranny of the urgent, we often get stuck in today. I’ve learned that part of my role is to help you dream about what God might want to do in your ministry longterm.

Utilize Them
Some of my favorite experiences have been when churches leveraged one thing to use for another. For example, I spoke at a student ministry retreat and while there they asked me to do a leader trading with their volunteers and meet with some key leaders. I loved that. They told me they did not have the budget to bring me in on a regular consulting trip, but could bump up a little more than they were going to pay their retreat speaker and use me for more than just speaking. If you hire a consultant, utilize them as much as possible.

There are many positives to taking the step to bring in someone to help you be the best you can at your ministry. As always, I’d love to serve yours. You can find information on that here.

Strong & Fragile

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Some things just don’t make sense.

It’s amazing how God made humans to be so strong yet fragile at the same time.

Those two things don’t always align. But when you take stock of your life, it makes perfect sense. He has made us frail to remind us that He is not.

Everyone has a story. Every story includes overcoming challenges. Every story includes failing them.

It demonstrates the polarities of God’s economy: you are often the most whole when you are broken.

Brokenness can be so fulfilling. I know, that doesn’t make sense—right? Not in a broken world, but in God’s completeness, it makes perfect sense.

In the last twenty years of ministry, I’ve heard countless stories that sound something like this: “If you would have told me that I could get through this, I would not have believed you.” Yet, in the power of His grace, we manage to carry on throughout the hard times. In fact, those moments become engrained in our story.

One of the special things about engaging in relational ministry with others is that you get to jump into the trenches of the stories of others. At times, that is a celebration. Other times, it’s a challenge to make it through the battle. Either way, it’s part of the opportunity of investing in others, helping them trust, and leveraging their story towards our Heavenly Father.

Many years ago I had to call a parent. I hated doing it, but I had to. A student had made an extremely unwise choice that threatened his life and the life of others. That student was mad at me and disengaged from our ministry. That hurt.

Much later on, I ran into him. He’s married now and has a family. He gave me a big hug and simply said: “Thanks for loving me enough to do the hard thing.” His story reminded me that loving, leading, and investing in others is not always easy, but in the end by His grace, it is always worth it. It does not always work out like that, but the results are up to Him, not us.

Redemption wins in the end. And it seems that often the path to redemption is paved in brokenness. As you engage in leading others, don’t run from the brokenness, run TO it and trust Him that He will redeem it in ways only He can.

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