The Greg Stier Youth ministry Podcast
episode 23 | November 2022
Why Soul Care is so important to Ministry with RJ Koerper
In this episode, Greg sits down with former Global Action Dean and professor at Colorado Christian University, RJ Koerper. They discuss Greg’s time as a student at CCU, as well as the importance of soul care and burnout avoidance in youth ministry. Greg and RJ also speak with youth leader, Pauline Ebert, to follow up on the discussion.
0:00:04.9 Greg Stier: Hi, welcome to the Greg Stier Youth Ministry Podcast. I believe in the power of the gospel and the potential of teens, and I also believe that the best way to get teens to grow is to get them to go. I encourage you to subscribe to this podcast, rate it, review it. Really encourage it. Spread the word in your youth ministry circles about the Greg Stier Youth Ministry Podcast. Our vision is really to help youth leaders win, win and disciple more teenagers, see their youth group grow with new disciples, and to see every teen everywhere hear the gospel from a friend. Today I’m really excited. We have RJ Koerper, who’s the Dean Emeritus of Global Action’s GLOMOS International Faculty. He previously served as President and Vice President of Curriculum and Development for Global Action. He spent 29 years as a faculty member and Head of Youth Ministry at Colorado Christian University. In addition, RJ has 30 years experience as a therapist in private practice. Now semi-retired, RJ enjoys hanging out with his family, which includes his wife, Ermie, his kids, his five grandkids, as well as running and cycling. RJ, welcome to the program.
0:01:16.8 R.J. Koerper: Thank you so much, Greg. Good to be here.
0:01:17.9 GS: Yeah, so you and I have a history. I was a sophomore in college when I went to Western Bible, which eventually merged with Rockmont, became Colorado Christian College, and now it’s known as Colorado Christian University. And, man, I remember going into your, I think it was youth ministry philosophy class, and back a freshly minted just out of a fundamentalist church and pretty intense. What was it like having Greg Stier, I’m afraid to ask this, as a student in your college class.
0:02:02.9 RK: Well, how much time do we have?
0:02:05.3 GS: Oh, oh.
0:02:07.5 RK: There are stories. I won’t go into that, but yeah, I think you described yourself as intense. I think that’s probably an understatement, Greg. You and I joked about this. I think you were in the wrong profession. You should have been a therapist because you could have had 20 clients an hour.
0:02:29.3 GS: Just keep cranking them through.
0:02:31.1 RK: Yeah, yeah. It’s like they come in, tell you, start crying, and you say, “Well, stop,” and then pay you and then move on to the next one.
0:02:38.5 GS: Exactly.
0:02:41.8 RK: Yeah. Truth on one end and grace on the other end continuum, when we first met, you were heavy into the truth, and I think they’re often very confrontive, very challenging, which putting it positively was a good thing, but you were also very eager to learn. I loved having you as a student because you were a challenge, but I say that in a good way. But yeah, you were intense, very intense.
0:03:12.4 GS: I remember, RJ, I think the first class I took, the very first day of the very first class, there was a guy who was saying, “Yeah, this gospel we preach, it’s too easy. We need to have full surrender. If you’re not all in, you’re not really a Christian.” And I turned to him. I don’t know if you remember this. I said, “Yeah, I think we should take the book of Galatians and just rip it out. We’ll start our own religion, you and me,” and you were like, “Well, okay.” [chuckle] That was day one, day one. Pretty intense. But I also, I remember learning so much, RJ, coming from this fundamentalist background that was very list driven. And it may have been in that same class where you gave us a project that changed my life. You said, “Write down your top five priorities in order of their priority.” So I wrote God, family, ministry, friends, work. And you said, “Now, put down how much time you spend in each in the average day. Be honest.” And I did. And God was 10 minutes in my devo. Work was eight hours, school. Now, reorder your priorities based on what you spend the most time doing.
0:04:32.5 GS: And number five being what you spend the least time doing. And I did and my countenance dropped and you said, “How many of you feel guilty?” And hands went up everywhere. You said, “Because you’ve bought off on the myth that you are in the center of your circle and God is just a spoke.” But when God is in the center of your circle, everything’s worship. And that changed my life. That changed my life. Just that illustration. And so I’m so grateful not just for that, but for all the, just well balancing, theologically solid, inarguable, yet very relevant truths that you taught, not just to me, but to so many that went through the youth ministry program. So thank you for your investment.
0:05:23.3 RK: Thank you, Greg. My pleasure.
0:05:25.1 GS: So let’s talk a little bit about the three legs of the youth ministry stool, because I know that’s something you talked about quite a bit. And I just was familiar with one leg, evangelism, outreach, that part of it. What are the three legs of the youth ministry stool?
0:05:48.9 RK: Yeah. We talked about this at length and I tried to defend it biblically, all three legs biblically. That youth ministry, in order for the stool to stand, you have to have three solid legs. And obviously the first one is that our youth ministry has to be biblically sound. One of the things, Greg, that I’ve told you this through the years is that Dare to Share has always unapologetically have been committed to God’s word as being authoritative. And because that’s our marching orders. If we don’t allow scripture and its authority, especially in this postmodern world that we live in, we’re in trouble. So that’s probably the most important leg of the stool. But there are two others that are, I believe, crucial. And one of them is to be culturally relevant. I think Paul demonstrated that. I think Christ demonstrated that in his ministry. His spoken down to earth stories and ways that were very relevant to the culture that Christ lived in. And I think that’s absolutely critical of our ministries. We have to be culturally relevant. And that means that we know the isms that are impacting our teens and know how they think and that we know the culture.
0:07:04.5 RK: And the other one is that we need to be sensitive to meeting the needs of our teens. I think sometimes we’re insensitive and we just pound them with the truth or we entertain them when we aren’t aware that our kids are lonely and they’re depressed and they’re anxious. And we need to meet our students where they’re at. And it’s one thing to be need sensitive, it’s another thing to be need controlled. Christ said this, and I believe in John 12, he said, “The poor you’re always gonna have with you.” In other words, kids are always gonna have needs. That’s where we need to balance with understanding what our mandate is as Christians. We grow our students and we send them out. So there’s a balance there. And sometimes we do better at one than the other. And when we do, we run the risk of either creating a social club or a fundamentalist group or a therapy group. And we need to be balanced.
0:08:08.6 GS: Yeah, I think that’s true. And what I love is they all three work together. And that’s what I’ve learned over the years is you can be biblically solid, you can be culturally relevant, you could be need sensitive. And you start seeing how these work together, it becomes a powerful, powerful thing. For instance, I just wrote a blog last week on six ways that evangelism helps teenagers develop on a maturity level. And I’ve seen it in my own daughter, Sharon, her faith, she’s a very shy person. She’s never the center of attention, but Sharon, her faith so consistently has actually helped her become more bold and has given her more confidence as she’s learned how to depend on the Holy Spirit. And that these areas of social development, emotional development and spiritual development often go hand in glove. I remember when you talked to us in youth ministry, you used the example of Jesus in Luke 2:52. He was 12 years old. He grew in wisdom and in stature in favor with God and man. And he grew physically, spiritually, relationally, intellectually. And you really talked about making sure all those are balanced, not just in our lives, but also with our teenagers.
0:09:34.0 RK: Yep.
0:09:35.4 GS: Yeah. So, let’s talk a little bit about that and emotional health, especially when it comes to youth leaders. How important is soul care, which I know is a big, big passion for you. How important is… What is soul care and why is it so important for youth leaders to pay attention to, not just for their students, but for themselves?
0:10:02.4 RK: Yeah, and I could easily spend all of our time on this one because I could probably write the book on how not to do soul care just because for so many years in my own ministry, I was driven by my own inadequacies, my own fear, my own performance-based… I tend to be a perfectionist. And so, for a lot of years, I spent so much time and it’s ironic because I used to teach this, you remember the class I taught, you’ve got to take care of your personal life. And yet, I wasn’t doing it as much as I needed to in my own life. And eventually, I crashed and burned. So part of this looking back for me is, and part of the reason for my passion is that I wish I would have back then spent the time that I needed to, to focus on my private world and my own relationship with Christ as being first and foremost and my primary relationships, my community, my friends, my family as absolutely crucial to my own soul care.
0:11:07.0 RK: And part of it for me too is basically what I’m doing now. I’m still in youth ministry, but now I’m working with third and fourth generation youth leaders, some of them my former students that I’m still meeting with, some regularly and some just on occasion, who are sharing their own battles with their own soul care. Some of them have experienced a failed marriage or a failed ministry. And some of them, just a lot of them have just been burned out. You read the stats on how many pastors, for example, are leaving the ministry and it’s not good. And I think part of that has to do with expectations, but also part of that has to do with just not being able to say no. And it’s learning to say no to some good things, to say yes to some better things and some of the best things. Just this morning I was reading in Luke 6, where Jesus would spend all night in prayer. He did that before he chose his disciples. And there was such a balance there because he took care of his own soul and then he went out and called his disciples, a pretty big deal.
0:12:15.6 RK: He wasn’t holding a seminar. He just was praying and spending time with the father. So to me, the soul care, your relationship with God and your primary others, it sounds really simplistic, but it’s really hard to do. So often we get caught up in the ministry aspect of being in the word. And I get that, you’re preparing your message. Some days you’re just one day ahead of your students. But to spend time in the word for yourself so that you’re coming from a place of overflow rather than from your own deficit motivation is just really, really important.
0:12:56.0 GS: I think that’s true. And one of the things I’ve noticed is my best sermons are devotional to me first. In other words, I’m exegeting them first for myself and how they apply to me. And then when I preach it, I preach with passion because it’s already convicted me, transformed areas of my life and now it’s overflow, as opposed to just…
0:13:24.0 RK: Yeah, and… Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.
0:13:25.0 GS: No, that’s alright.
0:13:27.4 RK: And it’s… You’ve led it. It’s the difference between microwaving and crock-potting, sometimes we microwave, we grab a quick devo or we quickly say something that may be spoken to us that morning, and that’s not a bad thing, but it’s a limited thing because sometimes we need to let it sit for a while in our own lives because God in the whole process of rhythm and pacing, he’s got some things for us to experience first with that text before we can pass it on.
0:13:57.6 GS: So what would be some specific ways youth leaders can really work on soul care? You already gave one, pray all night.
0:14:10.5 GS: Start there.
0:14:12.2 RK: Okay, that’s one.
0:14:14.5 GS: But what are some specific ways? So the youth leaders listening to this and it’s like, “Okay, what do you mean by soul care? What can I specifically do?”
0:14:25.2 RK: I think one thing you can do, and I’m mentoring a pastor in Texas right now and he’s struggling with this. We’re talking together about this, and again, I’m a New Testament Christian, but what about the principle of Sabbath? I wonder how many of us really take a day off seriously. We speak about it, but for the original intent of Sabbath, I just wonder what would happen if we were to really seriously do that? So that’s a very practical thing. If you can’t do a whole day, at least do half a day where you turn your phone off, where you’re unavailable. Ironically, or curiously, the pastor that I’m referring to is taking an entire week off in Estes Park and he’s not doing anything but his own personal soul care. And I think every youth guy, every pastor, every person in ministry needs to do a week long every year.
0:15:25.8 RK: And that’s as much about your ministry as it is about you. Because we just, as churches, we’re guilty of just burning out our leaders. And I can understand why so many are leaving. The expectations are absurd. I think to have good input, you can be very creative with audio books and with other forms of being able to take in, to where you’re just doing it for yourself. You don’t have any intention to preach from it. Sometimes you will, but you don’t have to. I think sometimes a youth worker needs to have good people inside the ministry and outside the ministry, just regular people who can speak into them and remind them that there’s a level of normalcy out there that they need to be reminded of. Because sometimes the world of ministry is so weird. It’s really weird because you’re in the fishbowl all the time and it’s not normal.
0:16:26.6 GS: Yeah. And I do think that’s… Taking Sabbath, making time to rest… We live in Colorado, you and I both do, and it’s a beautiful place to go hike and just get out in nature. And a lot of people, they’re like, “Man, how can you do your schedule?” ‘Cause I travel all the time, I’m a traveling evangelists. And I’m like, “I take time. I take time when I’m somewhere, like to hike or to go out and see, to rest. I got a morning rhythm, two hours every morning. I lock it in. It’s what I do every day for my soul, my body, my soul and my wife, my wife and kids.” If you don’t take that, if you don’t take vacations, getaways, we used to early on when we were married, we couldn’t afford anything. So we said, “Okay, we’re gonna find a way to do a $500 vacation So we got two tickets to Vegas. Don’t judge me.
0:17:35.4 RK: I’m not judging you.
0:17:37.3 GS: We got… But we rented a car ’cause there was only 129 bucks each, rented a car, drove to San Diego, sat through a 90-minute timeshare presentation, stayed two nights, three days, drove back to Vegas and flew right back home. And we had a blast.
0:17:55.8 RK: Absolutely.
0:17:55.9 GS: And making sure you have time for a vacation with your family, retreat, whatever, make it work because that’s gonna give you longevity, which is, I know we’re all gonna talk about that first, but you were gonna say something.
0:18:07.7 RK: Yeah, as you’re talking about, especially about family, you probably remember this from, again, philosophy of youth ministry, but I used to quote Howard Hendricks, who I heard one of my all time favorite teachers who said this, he said, “If your Christianity doesn’t work at home, don’t export it.”
0:18:23.2 GS: Oh, there you go.
0:18:25.3 RK: And I thought, “Yeah, that’s pretty good.” That’s pretty good.
0:18:27.0 GS: That’s pretty good. Wow.
0:18:32.0 RK: So, time spent with family is never wasted. Never wasted. I don’t care if you’re just hanging out, watching the Broncos. Well, maybe not the Broncos, but some other team like the Buffalo Bills, Pauline. [chuckle] It’s never wasted because you’re making deposits in the relationship account. And that’s never a waste.
0:18:53.5 GS: Yeah. Amen. That ties in with my next question. What does it mean to take a long view of youth ministry and how do you help youth leaders do that?
0:19:04.1 RK: Yeah, I think that’s an important question. Let me start with an illustration of that. Boy, this past week I was just absolutely shocked and deeply saddened. One of my youth groupers from the 70s, that’s the decade in which I cut my youth ministry teeth as a youth pastor in Billings, Montana. I had a gal in my ministry named Pam and this past week she suddenly in her early 50s passed away.
0:19:39.5 GS: Wow.
0:19:40.6 RK: And it was a shocker. It was actually the result of an emergency surgery that went sideways and she just… She died suddenly. And that just kind of brought everything into focus because I think we all know the stats on youth ministry, especially on retention on the sustainability of youth ministry is not very good. The average life of a youth pastor in the church is still not very good. So when I say long view, I mean a couple of things. I mean, how are we looking at our students? Are we looking at them as a number, is that the metric that we’re measuring our youth groups by? How many kids are coming? Or are we looking at them as disciples in this journey, in this lifelong process of being a disciple, a lifelong follower of Jesus Christ? And that I need to look at myself and take a long view as well. What’s gonna help me to develop a sustainable ministry regardless of whether or not God calls me to something else or whether I’m gonna stay in this for the long haul? And I look at Pam’s life, for example, and she’s doing well, thank you.
0:20:57.8 RK: She received a well done, thou good and faithful servant because she was that to her family. She was a primary educator in Pahrump, Nevada, right outside of Las Vegas. And she lived well and she died well. So at the risk of sounding a little morbid, I need to look at my kids that way. How am I investing in their lives so that they’re in this for the long haul? And that’s a huge paradigm shift for some youth pastors because that means you’re gonna build deeply into their lives and that’s all about relationship. Greg, this is a conversation you and I have had for years, the importance of relational ministries with your students.
0:21:48.6 GS: Years ago I wrote a book called Ministry Mutiny and it’s about a youth leader that wakes up one day and realizes he’s stuck in a youth ministry model that’s non-effective. His kids are self-absorbed narcissists and he’s not really making a difference. He’s actually appealing to their narcissism by the way that he does youth ministry and he’s gonna quit. And he goes to one last network meeting with other youth leaders, meets an older youth leader named Tony who’s been in it for 25 years. And he confides in Tony and Tony says, “Hey, before you quit, give me eight weeks. I have eight principles I wanna teach you how to commit ministry mutiny.” And he goes, “It’s a mutiny not against ministry, but against the principles of ministry that have kept us down. And how do we really have that long view of impact and transformation?” And really unpacking that, that these kids are not numbers, they’re people. And Spurgeon said, “If you had the opportunity to reach somebody when they’re 70, you may have 10 good years of ministry out of them, but you reach a child or a teenager, their whole life is impacted, their trajectory of their whole life and how many lives that they’ve changed.” So it’s so important that we take that long view of ministry. I fully, fully agree.
0:23:16.6 RK: Yeah, and I’m currently working with a youth worker in another country and his kids are now teenagers. And he talked about being a part of the youth ministry program and he’s not just ministering to the kids outside of his home, but he gets to minister to the kids inside his home. And I just, when we talk every couple of weeks, it just brings a huge smile to my face to see the investment that he’s making in his own teenagers and the difference they’re gonna make at multiple generations. That’s what this ministry is all about.
0:23:54.5 GS: I love it.
0:23:54.6 RK: This is not meant to be a one and done at all. A couple of years ago through him, I got to meet several of my great grandchildren in Christ. And that is a blast. I know you’ve had that experience too, but it’s a blast. Because you just see what the Holy Spirit has done from generation to generation to generation. And that’s not about us, it’s not about us.
0:24:21.9 GS: No, no. We’re jars of clay, but God loves to use those broken jars. One last question. How can we help youth leaders stay true to the gospel through the years after facing some failure and disappointment? That’s a loaded question.
0:24:39.9 RK: That is definitely a loaded question. Well, I wanna just clear the air by saying this. Youth workers, you will experience failure and disappointment. That’s par for the course. That’s God’s plan for your life. I agree with Gordon MacDonald who said that we don’t spend enough time on a theology of failure. And I would tend to agree with that because scripture is full of it. And I think it’s full of it for a reason. And that, coming back around, that’s, for many of us, and I’m a good example of that, when I accepted Christ as a senior in high school, I knew how broken my life was at the time. And my grandpa was dying of stomach cancer. My mom’s alcoholism was full blown. And boy, I heard the gospel for the first time, I was off and running. But as the years go by, the desire to share kind of cools off because we relegate the gospel to information. And we lose the want to part of it because we become settled into our kind of routine and our Christian bubble. But as we experience some of our own failure and as we re-experience the power of the gospel and not only having saved us in the first place, but it continues to save us.
0:26:09.2 RK: I get excited about that because God continues to do for me what I cannot do for myself. As I know my own brokenness that’s before me every day, I get excited when I think about that Jesus still saves. And I’ll share that with anybody that’s warm and moving when I have the opportunity. But again, it’s for so many and I think the statistics bear this out, we become so comfortable and I think part of that is because we’ve misunderstood the gospel, that’s one. And two, we’ve misunderstood ourselves and what the gospel has done for us. Does that make sense?
0:26:47.4 GS: Oh, totally. I think of my daughter. She’s 18 years old. She’s a senior at Faith Christian Academy. She’s doing her Capstone project as an album. She’s gonna write and produce and she’s been writing these songs. And this one song she wrote is called Save Me Again. And she says, “Save me again, save me again, save me again.” I go, “Kailey, theologically you’re saved once.” She goes, “No, dad, no. Yeah, we’re saved once and we get eternal life, but he saves us again and again all the time.” And I got rebuked by my 18-year-old daughter theologically.
0:27:29.2 GS: Well, technically, I thought you were talking about justification. Anyway, I didn’t.
0:27:33.6 RK: Well, and hang on, Greg. The other piece is that, I think sometimes, and you already know, I’m preaching to the choir when I say this, but boy, there’s nothing like going out, sharing your faith and seeing someone come to Christ because God has used you to bring them to Christ. And then God continues to use you in discipling them and seeing their lives being transformed by the gospel. That’s about as good as it gets.
0:28:00.5 GS: Well, and I do think, RJ, as we talk about soul care, I have one book I wrote that never got published, but it was all about a youth leader that was burned out that needed soul care, needed marriage help, needed everything. But one of the things he needed was a gospel advancing disciple making philosophy because it gives you like in Waterboy, tackling fuel. It gives you… Man, when you see someone come to Christ, a teenager reach another teenager with the gospel, it gives you the reason to keep rolling. So I think there’s some way where a gospel advancing disciple multiplying does become part of our soul care because we’re seeing God do his work in us and through us.
0:28:43.9 RK: Yeah. And again, you can’t really pass on what you don’t have yourself.
0:28:48.4 GS: Exactly.
0:28:49.7 RK: I remember… Greg, you remember this well when we did that youth conference at the Cove in North Carolina.
0:28:57.6 GS: Oh, yeah.
0:28:58.5 RK: And you had that great idea to take all of our student leaders to downtown Asheville in the middle of the rainbow conference. And here’s all these Satan worshipers. And that one guy that I’m convinced was demon possessed. He was chasing the kids off with a broom. And they asked me to intervene, but by the time I intervened, the kids had already shared their faith with this guy and he was calmed down. And I thought, I wonder now looking back, I wonder talking to some of those kids, the difference that that made in their lives.
0:29:29.4 GS: Oh, yeah.
0:29:30.5 RK: Because they were literally on the front lines.
0:29:31.6 GS: Yeah. Builds their faith, makes them dependent on the Holy Spirit. Well, RJ, we’re gonna kind of transition here, but I just wanna thank you for the investment that you have made in so many and in me. And I know for years upon years, no Dare to Share conference ever hit the ground until it went through your… I say, “What do you think of this?” We would have our annual meeting and you took me through and gave me ideas and still a mentor to me today. And so I’m super, super grateful for you. But right now we’re gonna bring in a youth leader that has been just overhearing this. Pauline Ebert, Pastor Pauline has been in youth ministry for about seven years. She worked full time as a paramedic for many years before committing her life to reaching lost souls with the gospel. She lives with her husband and three kids in upstate New York, serves as a youth pastor at Fusion Community Church in Cobleskill. Did I say that right, Pauline? Did I? Is that right? How do you say it?
0:30:33.8 Pauline Ebert: Yes, that’s right. Cobleskill.
0:30:34.0 GS: Yes. All right. And I’ve known Pauline for quite a while and really appreciate all your passion to see… You can see the map of upstate New York behind you because you wanna reach it with the gospel. So thanks so much, Pauline, for coming on board and just wanna kind of open it up to you. Just any questions or comments or thoughts based on what RJ has shared?
0:31:00.5 PE: Yeah. I have a few comments and a couple of questions. But first I just wanna say, this is a very timely discussion that we’re having. And honestly, if we’re completely honest, it’s always a timely discussion because I think this is something that we all run the risk of burnout at all times when we’re in ministry because, frankly, if the devil can’t get us to sin, he’s certainly gonna get us busy, and then we’re gonna have all of our priorities in the wrong path. So one of the things that was brought up, Greg, you were called eager to learn, and I think that that is a pivotal attribute for youth leaders to not only be able to have longevity but impact with youth ministry because the generations are constantly changing. The culture is constantly changing, but the word is never. So having the eagerness to constantly be learning of how to reach the next generation is extremely important. As we talk about soul care, managing the expectations. My goodness, I remember when I first came on with youth ministry and I don’t know how many people are listening or feeling the same way, but everybody has an idea for what you can do with your youth ministry.
0:32:22.9 PE: So they wanna pass on the idea and not actually come alongside of you and participate in that. So I remember the first year I decided I was just going to take the reins and do what the youth leader before me did and see how that went. I would not have made it that first year had I not managed the expectations, learned the boundaries of how to say no and actually to have a very focused ministry. Like, what did that look like? So the seven values of the Gospel Advancing Ministry really helped me hone in to have boundaries for me as a youth leader and my other youth leaders to be able to have a very great focused ministry. It allowed me the privilege to say no to good things to do better things that were much more fruitful for our ministry. And it also saved me from the extreme burnout of trying to do all the things in that church turn of one event to the next event. And I’m like, wait a minute, I thought I was supposed to be a pastor, not a party planner. [chuckle] So it really helped me with that. And I really highly recommend that. And even seven years…
0:33:34.7 GS: Real quick…
0:33:37.1 PE: Go ahead.
0:33:38.1 GS: Just as you’re thinking about that, I’ve never quite heard it put that way is they really become a grid for what you say no to and what you say yes to. And that’s good. I don’t know, RJ, if you have any comments on that, but I thought that was pretty profound.
0:33:56.8 RK: Yeah, I absolutely agree. And again, it’s the difference between this helps you to take the long view of ministry. And sometimes we have to… Part of this is about ego. We have to say no to things that our ego would tell us to say yes, because someone might be better than we are. Oh, well, get over it. And again, it’s about pacing. It’s about pacing and pacing well. Jesus did that. He paced.
0:34:34.8 GS: Amen.
0:34:37.1 RK: Sorry, I didn’t mean to… I get preachy. When we’re talking about this stuff, I get preachy.
0:34:45.6 GS: So Pauline, go ahead.
0:34:47.3 PE: It goes back to a bold vision focuses it. So that value really has helped me in my ministry to really kind of narrow in and kind of keep us from being too burned out. What is it that we are doing? Well, we would want to see all the teams in our community reach their peers. So is this an activity? Is this an event that will help them do that? Will it equip them or will it send them to do that? And so if it doesn’t align with one of those two, that really has helped us to be able to say no to some really good ideas and yes to the best. And the other things was, I actually flirted with a little burnout this summer, feeling like I was carrying the weight of everything. So as you guys were talking, RJ, it was very affirming to me to remember that why, why did I get involved in this to begin with? What is my testimony? What is my story as to why I am here? And that really kind of basically recentered me again and saying, yeah, this is all fluff that I am getting frustrated over and I need to really honestly take a look at… I wanna make an impact because I know what it would have been like when someone was talking to me when I was a teenager and the impact that they made in my life at that particular time.
0:36:09.4 PE: If I had not had them, where would my life be now? So I wanna be able to give that back ’cause God gave that to me, I wanna give that back. So there is my why. And so I had a couple of questions for you. So you had mentioned about the Sabbath. And so what suggestion would you give a leader who says that their ministry is about people, some of whom are personal friends, how do you take a Sabbath or a sabbatical but not leave the people who you are shepherding out in the darkness?
0:36:50.5 RK: Well, great question. And I guess I think about that in a couple of ways. To me it’s not about abandoning the people that I am shepherding, it’s taking the time I need so that I can shepherd well when I am with them. Because maybe on the short term if I am there for them 24-7 and they all have my red phone, but that’s not sustainable. So that’s what I would say. And if someone says that to me, I would say to them, I would say, “Well, let’s go back to Scripture. Let’s take a look at what Jesus did. Let’s take a good look at the principle of the Sabbath. And on the other end, let’s look at why you are doing what you are doing.” Boy, if someone is just so intent on ministering and they can’t say no to their ministry, that’s a serious red flag for me. And they can give all kinds of biblical reasons, but I think sometimes they are just not being honest with themselves.
0:38:05.7 PE: That’s it, that’s it. Another question that I had was, sometimes as a youth leader you can be biblically sound and discipling teenagers in their need, but how do you recommend for a leader to be most culturally relevant to their ministry?
0:38:22.6 RK: When you say their ministry, elaborate on that a bit.
0:38:27.6 PE: When I say their ministry, say world ministry versus urban ministry, whatever the context might be.
0:38:35.2 RK: Yeah, I think that’s where, especially if they are much more invested in the culture than you are, and now I am speaking from my experience with Global Action, is that I am working with our pastors around the world, so I don’t know what it means to be culturally relevant in India. But I do know what our biblical mandates are biblically, to make disciples and to minister to the needs of kids. So I ask a lot of questions and I do more brainstorming with them through processing with them than giving them answers, ’cause what do I know? I have been ministering in Latin America for years and years and years now, and I told this to my Latin American director at the time, I said, “Gloria, the longer I am in Honduras, the less I know about the culture.” I think sometimes as Americans, we do what one guy talked about, we do parachute ministries. We drop in and think we know what we are doing. We don’t. I have no idea what it means to be culturally relevant, but I can ask questions and I can help them connect the dots. And then together we can pray about it and brainstorm together with our peeps. And they are doing that in India. It’s really cool to see.
0:39:54.6 PE: Okay. All right. So to brainstorm with our teenagers for how to reach their peers to the best that we can reach them.
0:40:03.6 RK: Yeah, and brainstorm with the leaders in that culture. Yes, and work together. Yeah, and you be the catalyst to that. What I love and what you were talking about earlier, I love the fact that Dare to Share is a values-driven ministry. You guys always come back and because you’re values-driven, you are asking the right questions. Not how many kids came to this meeting, but let’s come back to our mission. Has this program, has this event accomplished our purpose? Those are the right questions and if we don’t ask those questions… So those are the kinds of questions you can pose to your youth leaders.
0:40:43.1 PE: Yeah, that’s extremely helpful. Thank you for that. One of the questions that we have been asking lately is, do you see God moving? And to the point of soul care and some of the things, whenever we do an event, and RJ, you and I were talking about that before the podcast, was sometimes we see the devil really start attacking just before God’s gonna do something amazing. And just before we did Dare to Share Live 2022, we started seeing the exact same thing. There were a lot of things that were falling through, the band couldn’t play, there were some issues here, there, everywhere. And so we all earnestly sought God and interceded in prayer and we anointed every chair in the auditorium with oil. And afterwards, I asked the question again, do you see God moving? And everyone was elated and just rejoicing of just how incredible… This was the best Dare to Share Live event that we’ve had in the five years that we’ve been hosting. And we didn’t have a band and there was a whole lot of issues and we had to pivot in several different ways. But we did over 70 acts of kindness. There was five gospel conversations. There were three baptisms that night and one student gave their life to Christ. And so it was… We’re still on that high today.
0:42:04.2 PE: So again, it revitalizes our why. It definitely encourages us and it energizes us to really go out and, again, just keep that energy going and to be fully motivated to reach more and more and more students.
0:42:22.9 RK: And a comment on that, Pauline, and that’s awesome. That is so great to hear. And those same kids are gonna talk about this 20 years from now as being pivotal in their lives. And that’s one of the questions, Greg, that you and I had tossed back and forth asking was, how has Dare to Share changed through the years? And that’s been, I think, a substantial way that when you guys first started, it was the big event, the big events were, which I don’t wanna say that that was a bad thing, but I think it was a limited thing. And the direction that I’ve seen Dare to Share go through the years is that it shifted to a more discipleship model and an organic model because as you build into the lives of the teenagers, the programs, the tools in our toolbox, which are awesome, they become contextualized in the context of relational ministries. And that’s both this way and it’s this way.
0:43:19.1 RK: And part of the this way thing is the spiritual warfare. And a lot of youth workers are clueless about warfare, spiritual warfare. I think CS Lewis was right when he said that the devil loves two extremes. He loves it if we ignore the devil and he loves it if we just think that everything’s a demon. Both are extreme and both are imbalanced. No, we need to understand that the weapons of our warfare are spiritual and we need to know how to pray and we need to know how to take our stand. But there’s not a demon around every bush.
0:43:55.0 GS: Yeah. Well, hey, I had to cut this short, but this has been really, really good. Pauline, great questions and comments. RJ, great insights. And thank you both for coming to be a part of this and just giving great input for youth leaders who are listening. And RJ, tell us a little bit about the ministry that you’re involved with and how people can find out more.
0:44:23.8 RK: Yeah, you can go to our website, globalaction.com. We are a ministry. Putting it simply, we train pastors in hard places around the world. And we do that by providing them Bible college level education. Most of them are bivocational and they come to our school once a month, we have them drink through the fire hose for three days on a particular topic and then we send them back out. And we’ve seen the results of this, for example, in Ukraine where we’ve trained over 1,000 pastors. And you cannot believe what they have done and are continuing to do to minister to the people in their churches. They’re taking their own families, dropping them off at the border and going back to shepherd their flock. So we’re just praising God for that and continuing to pray for their safety.
0:45:13.4 GS: Yes, amen. So, globalaction.com to find out more about Global Action, great ministry.
0:45:19.1 RK: Absolutely.
0:45:20.5 GS: Pauline, you’re running a gospel advancing disciple multiplying ministry in upstate New York. Keep at it, and both of you, thanks again for your great insights and great interaction. I want to remind all the youth leaders again, subscribe, rate, review this podcast, spread the word. We wanna build a network of gospel advancing leaders and remember that a thriving youth ministry is a gospel advancing one. Thanks for tuning in.
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