The Greg Stier Youth ministry Podcast
episode 27 | August 2023
The Church needs accountability Featuring RJ Koerper
How do churches keep themselves accountable?
RJ Koerper is the Dean Emeritus of Global Actions international faculty, and has spent 29 years as a faculty member and Head of Youth Ministry at Colorado Christian University. In this podcast, RJ Koerper and Greg Stier discuss the importance of measuring biblical outcomes in youth ministry. They emphasize that focusing solely on metrics like attendance, buildings, and finances falls short of the true purpose of ministry. Instead, they advocate for measuring outcomes that align with biblical principles and the goal of making disciples.
RJ Koerper highlights Colossians 1:28 as a key passage that encourages making disciples who are fully mature and capable of sharing their faith with others. They discuss how effective ministry should lead to transformed lives and a culture of discipleship, presenting what ministries should shift their focus to in order to accomplish this.
Keep in touch
Subscribe to monthly podcasts plus weekly tips and inspiration that will help you build a Gospel Advancing ministry.
0:00:00.0 Greg Stier: I mean, what does it matter if they’re sitting and watching in the church service in their Sunday suit, or sitting and watching at home in their underwear? They’re still sitting and watching. They’re not engaged.
0:00:11.6 RJ Koerper: There’s no accountability, there’s no integration, there’s some really enjoyable information, if I can put it that way. Until you build a culture within the church that provides for that, we’re gonna continue to develop a mile-wide ministry that’s only about two inches deep.
0:00:29.1 GS: All right. Welcome to the Greg Stier Youth Ministry podcast. I believe in the power of the gospel. I believe in the potential of teens. I believe that the best way to get our teens to grow is to get them to go, to go and share the gospel. I encourage you to subscribe to this podcast. Rate it, review it. Spread the word because it’s time for a revolution in youth ministry. Tell every teen everywhere. Here’s the gospel from a friend. Really excited about our guest today, RJ Koerper. He is the Dean Emeritus of Global Actions International faculty. Previously served as President, Vice President of Curriculum and Development for Global Action. He spent 29 years as a faculty member and head of youth ministry, at the youth ministry department at Colorado Christian University. And by the way, I trained under him at CCU. So if you don’t like my youth ministry philosophy, blame RJ. Now, he’s somewhere retired. RJ enjoys hanging out with his family, which includes his wife, Ermie, his kids and his five grandkids, as well as running and cycling. And RJ, welcome to the podcast.
0:01:32.6 RK: My pleasure, Greg. Good to be here.
0:01:35.7 GS: And I was an easy student, you would say, right? Just the quiet.
0:01:39.6 RK: Oh, you were just very quiet. You just sat there dutifully taking notes. I never had an issue with you. The only time I would call on you was to open or close in prayer because you were so Godly.
0:01:50.4 GS: That’s right. That’s right.
0:01:51.1 GS: I remember the very first class I was in with you. Some guy was going off on a turn or burn gospel. We’re making it too easy. If you’re not willing to go all in, you’re not really saved. And I… My first words in your class, I turned to him and said, yeah, why don’t we just take that part of scripture we don’t like, like the book of Galatians and tear it out, and we’ll start our own religion, you and me. And you were like, well, let’s pray. [laughter] Remember that moment?
0:02:17.8 RK: That’s right. That’s right. Yeah. I do actually. I had some therapy to try and forget it, but it’s still…
0:02:27.1 GS: Oh, we had a lot of good times in there. I put the fun in…
0:02:30.2 RK: Yes, we did.
0:02:30.6 GS: I put the fun in fundamentalist. I’m just telling you that right now.
0:02:34.3 RK: Yep, you did. You did.
0:02:35.3 GS: Hey, I’m So glad that you’re here, RJ. I respect you so much. Not just as a CCU Prof, but for literally decades after we started Dare 2 Share, you were the first one to see our curriculum, our conference themes and notebooks. I just remember sitting down with you and running these thoughts by you because I really wanted a balance and biblical approach. And I’ve not really struggled much with the biblical approach, but I’ve struggled a lot of times with the balanced approach, and you really helped, I think, helped shape Dare 2 Share. So I thank you for that.
0:03:17.7 RK: You’re welcome. It was a joy to see how God has been using Dare 2 Share through the… Not just the years, but the decades in a profound way, and continues to use them.
0:03:27.3 GS: Praise the Lord. And we’re right in the midst of our gospel advancing Seven Values podcast series, and we come to one that’s really important. It doesn’t sound super exciting, that if you have a gospel-advancing ministry, biblical outcomes measure it. But it’s really, really important to measure these biblical outcomes. So, here’s my question. When we talk about outcomes in ministry and measuring success, people are really asking how many people are coming and what events are you doing. Based on the idea of biblical outcomes, what are some examples of things we should be measuring and why are things like attendance are not the most important measurements?
0:04:11.0 RK: Yeah, I’m gonna address that question in two parts. The first goes back to the fact that we are measuring our effectiveness by how many people are coming. We talk… We often talk in churches, sometimes tongue in cheek about the three Bs, the bodies, buildings and bucks. And I don’t wanna absolutely throw those out because they’re legitimate. They’re legitimate outcomes because they’re easier to measure. But if that’s all that we’re measuring, we’re coming up far short of what I believe to be our biblical outcomes. Paul said this in Colossians 1:28, that he admonishes and encourages and teaches all people to present every person complete in Christ. And I don’t know of a better outcome than that from a biblical perspective, that God is calling us as youth ministers to be part of the process of making disciples who then in turn go out and make disciples.
0:05:22.0 RK: This has always been the Jesus way. So what we should be measuring is how effective we are in reaching people for Christ, and how effective are we in making disciples for Christ who are in turn making disciples? It sounds relatively simple. And at one level, it is. Jesus showed us the way with the 12. I think of Robert Coleman’s classic book, the Master Plan of Evangelism, where he outlines the stages. And since then, there have been a number of takeoffs on that, but it basically comes back to that, are we making disciples? And evangelism is a key part of that process, getting kids to share their faith. And you and I have had this conversation for years, about what’s our role as youth workers with our teenagers? Do we have them come to the large group meeting, and then we preach the gospel or are we equipping our teenagers to share their faith with their friends?
0:06:24.2 GS: I love that, RJ. And it’s interesting, Colossians 1:28-29, it’s my favorite passage of scripture. I love that passage of scripture.
0:06:34.9 RK: Really?
0:06:35.5 GS: When I was 12 years old, at my little fundamentalist independent fundamentalist Christian school, I preached my very first sermon on Colossians 1:28-29.
0:06:45.3 RK: No kidding.
0:06:46.4 GS: And I’ve used that as an example of our vision of Dare 2 Share is every teen everywhere hearing the gospel from a friend, so we proclaim him, admonishing everyone, teaching everyone with all wisdom. I’ve never really thought about it in the terms of biblical outcomes, but you have both quantitative and qualitative. He wanted everyone, right? That’s that quantitative. Qualitative, he wanted a mature growing, fully discipled.
0:07:16.4 RK: Fully discipled. Yep.
0:07:18.2 GS: That’s great.
0:07:19.1 RK: Which just by nature of the concept is not just a disciple who sits, but disciple who goes out and makes other disciples in connection with what Jesus’ final commandment to the disciples in Matthew 28.
0:07:33.9 GS: Amen. It’s an activated discipleship. If we measure the things… Here’s another question. If we think… Measure the things that truly matter, how does that impact our approach to ministry and the things we prioritize?
0:07:47.2 RK: Well, it’s gonna affect us both in two ways. One is if we’re… Let me use this word picture. We’re using a different yardstick, we’re using a different yardstick to measure the effectiveness of our ministry. Because of that, now we’re starting to ask different questions. Instead of just asking, well, how many kids came to our youth group event the other night, we will start… If we’re measuring the effectiveness of our youth group along the discipleship continuum, then we’re starting to ask questions like how well are our kids modeling Christianity to their friends who are coming to the event? How clearly are we presenting the gospel? How are we using that event as a springboard to help our teens to share Christ with our friends? The whole line of questions now begins to shift. And it’s not easy because now we’re asking some really hard questions that are gonna require some constantly coming back to our biblical priorities. What is our biblical priority? Is it building bucks and bodies or is it discipleship and the whole process that includes evangelism?
0:09:01.9 RK: When you first sent me, at first glance, you look at the term, biblical outcomes and that sounds like you better offer warnings not to drive or operate heavy machinery. But in my opinion, Greg, this is probably one of the most important things that you can ever discern and determine as not just as a youth pastor, but as a pastor. And I used to… And if you perhaps recall that we… When we talked in foundations of youth ministry so long ago, that I would tell you guys as students, at the front end, you better be in agreement with the philosophy of ministry of your senior pastor or you’re not gonna last long.
0:09:42.8 GS: Yeah.
0:09:43.0 RK: And if it’s… If these outcomes in the church are not biblical, then you better be looking for another job.
0:09:50.3 GS: Well, sometimes if they are biblical, you may have to look for another job, because if you’re making and multiplying disciples and bringing in those students that don’t look like typical church kids, but they represent sometimes, to the older in the church, the dangerous kids, for whatever reason, then that could get you fired too. But it’s…
0:10:14.5 RK: Absolutely.
0:10:16.3 GS: So important to really try to get aligned with your lead pastor. Debbie Bresina, who’s our president at Dare 2 Share, she was teaching a session on biblical outcomes at our Gospel Advancing summit. And someone asked, how would you define biblical outcome? She goes, “Well, biblical outcome is what comes out of your youth ministry.” That senior, when they graduate, what do you want them to look like? What do you want to come out of your youth ministry? And identifying that, defining that, and then kind of tracking it back to what do we need to do to get there.
0:10:50.8 RK: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s moving back, thinking back, but then moving forward, that is absolutely critical, as you know, because how many of our youth groupers we lose upon graduation that don’t… May never come back or a small percentage come back because we haven’t effectively equipped them to go to their universities, to go into the world, who are grounded biblically, to continue on in their discipleship journey. So to me that’s absolutely… That issues alone is hugely important.
0:11:29.4 GS: And I think it’s real… That’s, again, score a point for evangelism. When students are articulating their faith, what I tell people is by the time I was 15 years old, I had already had a thousand gospel conversations where the arguments of the philosophy 101 prof at the typical liberal university would’ve dismantled me as a freshman in college. I had those conversations as a teenager because our youth leaders put us in positions to have those conversations but we also had the safety net of going back to our youth leaders and saying, “Okay, we gotta ask this question. How do we answer that?” And we’re able to unpack that. So by the time I graduated… And I wasn’t the exceptional kid, it was the youth ministry philosophy that all of us would have these conversations. And you formed your belief system in the midst of those kinds of conversations so that when you left, you were ready.
0:12:29.1 RK: Yep. Yep.
0:12:31.0 GS: So as we talk about this, RJ, when we talk about really making sure our… The biblical outcomes that we’ve identified match kind of our senior pastor and leadership team, so we’re walking in alignment, how would you recommend youth leaders approach their senior pastor about wanting to change what is evaluated, or measured in their ministry? Because I’ve seen this, especially post-COVID, kids aren’t coming back like they were, generally speaking. And so how do you…
0:13:05.2 RK: Nor are adults and nor are adults.
0:13:08.9 GS: Nor are adults. You bet. But oftentimes, it’s not the youth leader that’s evaluating the senior pastor, [chuckle] it’s the senior pastor that’s evaluating the youth leader. How could they approach them effectively to really talk about, hey let’s start measuring the right things.
0:13:24.5 RK: Well, that sounds, and it is negative because we aren’t getting a return like we did, but on the other… Let’s flip that around, that’s also probably very positive because if we’ve lost a lot of people because of COVID, and I think, COVID was a prompt for that. But when people started looking at their services online, oh my gosh, that’s… Let’s just, it’s real easy to do that. So I’ll just hang out in my living room, and I’ll watch this service and then that’s good. But again, that’s kinda typical of the culture that we live in and how we set up the programs in our church. And I don’t wanna over-generalize here, but this is an opportunity for us now to take a good hard look at what our biblical outcomes are and how… And as importantly, how are we reaching those outcomes? Is it with the big service? Are we… What are we doing to create…
0:14:23.1 GS: You know it did… Just to interrupt real quick, ’cause I think it’s brilliant. I mean what does it matter if they’re sitting and watching in the church service in their Sunday suit, or sitting and watching at home in their underwear? They’re still sitting and watching. They’re not engaged.
0:14:43.2 RK: Exactly. That’s exactly right. There’s no accountability. There’s no integration. There’s some really, enjoyable information, if I can put it that way. But there’s not the integration and there’s not the… As in there’s not the accountability. And that’s where, until you build a culture within the church that provides for that, it’s just gonna go on being the same. It’s gonna be… And again we’re gonna continue to develop a mile wide ministry that’s only about two inches deep.
0:15:16.0 GS: So I think the opportunity specifically for youth leaders, ’cause the other thing has been, in the ’80s when I was in youth group, I mean, you had Wednesday night free. Now, so many students are in sports, there’s post school, there’s a… So the question is how do we… Maybe a biblical measurement is how do we activate them on campus? How do we activate them as missionaries on their sports team? How do we engage them where they’re at, which can tie in with digital discipleship, which can tie into, hey, get a Bible study going with your teammates or in your drama team or whatever, and here’s the tools and resources or things like that.
0:16:00.3 RK: Yeah, absolutely. Again, because you’re… And this is what I love about scripture, is that the New Testament has given us the biblical outcomes, but has not given us that one, two, three, four, five, because every culture is different and every time period is different. And that’s as unique and creative as the Holy Spirit is. But as long as our outcomes remain the same, the methodology is gonna shift.
0:16:27.7 GS: Well, and…
0:16:29.8 RK: And it’s gonna even shift within the same culture as time goes by.
0:16:34.1 GS: Yeah. And we’ve seen it. I think one of the challenges youth leaders tend to do youth ministries like we’re still in the ’80s. And we’re not. It’s a whole different culture now than it was 40 years ago.
0:16:49.7 RK: Yes. So because of that, if we can build and build a culture, and that’s super important. I want to come back to the issue with the senior pastor, and this is a perfect opportunity for the youth pastor to approach the senior pastor, who are perhaps struggling as a church with attendance, with finances, with post-COVID ministry to review, re-look at at what our biblical priorities are, what are our primary values as a church? Call them outcomes, call them values, but what hills are we dying on as a church? And then, if we need to let’s reinvent the wheel. And that’s as creative and as exciting as the church, what might happen in Oklahoma City is going to be different than what happens in Billings, Montana.
0:17:41.2 GS: And I love the fact that what we know, we know what we’re going for. Colossians 1:28-29. They’re growing and they’re going, and then we just kinda track it back and adjust our strategies to always get as many as possible.
0:17:58.0 RK: And when you talk about evaluation, even within my current field which is education, people get really nervous about evaluation. Well, that means you’re gonna be critical of something I’m doing. Too bad, get over it, because if we’re gonna be in ministry, we have got to have thick skin at so many levels. We’ve gotta have thick skin. And again, it’s not about us. If I’m doing something that needs to change or an area that I need to grow in, praise God. That’s an opportunity for me to die to myself and listen to somebody else who has a better idea.
0:18:34.1 GS: And I think also when it comes to your lead pastor as well as your biblical outcomes, I remember there was a… One youth leader named Peter, and I’ve been trying to get him out to our full week training event Lead The Cause, ’cause it’s intensive in how to build a gospel-advancing youth ministry culture, a student leadership training, kinda next level. We do it every summer. And finally, he came out.
0:18:58.7 GS: And Within like the second day, he’s like I have to stop everything I’m doing in youth ministry. I have to recreate everything. I go, hold on, hold on, hold on. Let’s crawl, walk, run this thing out. You need alignment with your pastor. You need some coaching. So I connected him with Mr. Bill, Bill Froin, another student of yours. And Mr. Bill coached him. And over the course of a couple of months, he was able to implement a lot of the changes because he had a different, he got a different view of what I want my biblical outcome, what I want my students to look like, and he began to trace that back and got alignment with the lead pastor in the whole process. And it was way more effective than just stopping everything you’re doing and starting again.
0:19:42.7 RK: Absolutely. And this probably is not a direct… In direct relation to what we’re talking about, but I think indirectly, I think it’s just as important. And that’s talk to your parents. I mean this, to me… What do parents want their teen to look like when they graduate from high school? What are the five values, moms and dads, that you’re trying to teach your kids? And again, when the youth pastor aligns with the parents and the parents capture this vision, especially in the culture… Social media culture that we live in, it’s gonna take every one of us to continue to challenge our kids to live a biblically sound life.
0:20:24.6 GS: Yeah. And I think part of that… I fully agree with that. I think part of that is really making a case to your parents and your pastors of the importance of evangelism in the discipleship formation process. I just don’t think that’s talked about. It’s viewed as an… That’s something that happens with some kids or maybe later down the road, but when evangelism is put, like, hey one of these five things needs to be activated evangelism and here’s why.
0:20:52.1 RK: Yep, yep. Yeah. And there’s so many reasons behind that from a personal perspective as to the value of that. ‘Cause you, you can’t share what you don’t have yourself. Yeah. And it exposes the level of maturity in kids and their level of involvement and how the gospel has changed their life.
0:21:13.3 GS: Yeah, that’s right. It makes it very personal. What specific methods have you used to make sure you keep the right things in front of the people you lead and remind them of what’s most important to measure?
0:21:26.4 RK: Well, I think, and Greg, you guys do this really well, you’ve gotta create a common language so that when we talk about… When we use a term, everybody knows what it is. And that way, you’ve got a culture that’s already built in. So whenever you’re using the same language, it kind of automatically brings you back to what your vision is, what your values are. So that’s one piece. I think you’ve gotta have… You have to build evaluation consistently into your ministry. And that means that we’re always holding up the right yardstick when we get together. How well did we do with dot, dot, dot? And always have probably some of the same simple questions. And as redundant as that sounds, it’s absolutely crucial because the, here’s the deal is it’s real easy to have what I call vision drift.
0:22:23.6 RK: You just kind of get away from what’s most important and because sometimes the culture… Like COVID, that’s now we’re… It’s something else now. So with vision drift or with vision expansion, that’s the other danger, is that now we’re adding all these things. Well, these are good things, but they’re not great things. So let’s build in the kind of evaluation tools that will help us always keep it before us. So that your staff knows, your kids know that this is what we’re… This is how we’re measuring success.
0:23:03.9 GS: You know. I remember when I was a youth leader, it was a kind of a part-time… $100 a month. I’ll never forget that. ’cause they threatened to fire me at times. I’m like, oh, I’m gonna lose my $100 a month job.
0:23:18.2 GS: Really, please. No. But at Community Baptist Church. And I remember we added something in, and it was a Friday night outreach. And of course, it was an acrostic, big risk, which I’m still proud of. Believers in God reaching into Satan’s kingdom. I don’t know. It’s sad to me that acrostics make me so happy. But we went out every Friday night and we reached… Went to the mall. That one addition of taking a group of students out infused so much life and so many stories into Sunday morning Sunday school, into our Wednesday night youth group meetings because it created this spiritual momentum, and it created a little bit of spiritual FOMO, ’cause the students who weren’t part of it, felt like they were missing out. And it actually ended up being one of those things we had to do now because it really produced that excitement. Do you like the name? Do you like the name, Big Risk is my question.
0:24:29.4 RK: I’m just gonna let that sit, Greg. I’m just gonna have this look kind of awkward moment here.
0:24:34.8 GS: Okay, perfect. Perfect.
0:24:36.6 RK: And how many awkward moments have I shared with you through the years?
0:24:39.7 GS: Oh, that’s right. So many.
0:24:40.3 RK: This is all part of Grace.
0:24:41.0 GS: This is one of many.
0:24:43.1 GS: One last question I have for you. And for the youth leader who’s trying to implement this concept of measuring biblical outcomes, where would they even start?
0:25:00.7 RK: Yeah, that’s… And I hesitate because you can jump into the deep end of the pool and meet right out of the gate with your senior pastor. But I wouldn’t do that. I would start maybe even meeting with a like-minded youth worker, youth pastor who shares your… Who shares that kind of same vision. You guys build this together. You guys think through, you guys do some reading on biblical outcomes. Again, Coleman’s book’s a classic. There are a number of… Disciple Shift is another good book on that. And these are tried and true methods so that when you eventually can go to the senior pastor, you’ve got a strong biblical case for that. And again…
0:25:40.8 GS: Let me insert this real quick RJ, ’cause I think that’s really important, that one of the secret sauces at Dare 2 Share is we don’t just present a thought or idea. We try to wrap it around a biblical truth. And maybe even that Colossians 1:2… I should blog on that. Colossians 1:28 and 29 on kind of becoming a basis, a skeletal framework for our biblical outcomes that we can begin with.
0:26:14.7 RK: Yeah. And a couple of cautions here. Develop a solid biblical foundation for yourself as before you, but when you do speak to the senior leadership, be very humble, ’cause that’ll let… And hide behind scripture. Say, can we look at this together? And ask a lot of questions when you’re doing it so that maybe in the discovery process, you guys can hear… That person can maybe go, yeah. I think these are some things we need to really think through.
0:26:49.5 GS: That’s so important, that’s so important, RJ. ’cause I’ve… We’ve seen youth leaders over the years get… They read Gospel Eyes, they get all excited to go back and inform their lead pastor, we’re doing everything wrong. We need to blow this thing up. And I’m like, oh man. Don’t do that.
0:27:06.4 RK: Yeah.
0:27:06.7 GS: Let’s talk about this. And I, my assumption is this, when I’m talking to a lead pastor or a youth pastor, that down deep inside, there’s a gospel ember that may have cooled down a little bit, but if you can find it, fan it, and fuel it, then they’re back in. Like yeah, they get excited about that stuff, that conversation.
0:27:27.5 RK: Yeah. And if you can go in with a list of questions that you guys can discuss together. The other pieces is the change comes very slowly and it just… It takes a while. I am currently part of a… What I call an evangelical episcopalian church, which sounds almost contradictory, but they are solidly biblical. But the pastor, the lead pastor there is really trying hard, he and the executive pastor are trying really hard to build a vision for this very philosophy of ministry that we’re talking about. But it is slow. Especially when you’ve got a denominational tradition that is more liturgical than it is evangelical. So that’s not a… I hope I’m not sounding critical, but that’s been a… That’s an ongoing challenge and that’s okay. That’s okay, if you can get there. If you can get there, and give your… It’s gonna take time.
0:28:27.0 GS: Yeah, I really think it’s important. We remember, Galatians 6, that in due time we’ll reap if we don’t give up. And I really feel like a lot of times youth leaders, they need that tenacity and that perseverance. And we need to be praying and tearing down strongholds, that 2nd Corinthians 10, tearing down strongholds was… Paul was talking about some of the mindsets that were in the Corinthian believers that needed torn down to take captive of every thought. And that takes strategy. I know… I was in construction for eight years. You don’t just tear something down ’cause it can fall on you and kill you. You have to be careful how you do that. And it’s good advice.
0:29:10.7 RK: Yeah, and one of the questions, and I did wanna address it. I know our time is getting short but I wanted to address… The question was presented in a email that was sent to me. How have your views of what is important to measure change through the years? And it’s got… And my response to that is that it hasn’t changed. And the reason it hasn’t changed is because it’s biblical. And as long as you stay true to the word. And the other piece with that is that I’ve been in this long enough to know that a lot of my kids, a lot of the students that I ministered to are now in their 50s and 60s. One even turned 70, he’s a kid outta my college and career group.
0:29:51.2 GS: Wow.
0:29:52.4 RK: And to see them over the long haul, and see how they’re… I’m thinking of a kid who came to Christ, at my Belleview Acres church, in Littleton, right down the hill from Western Bible College, Belleview Acres, remember that. And he came to Christ through our… We developed a son life type approach to ministry. And he came to Christ, and he’s now in his 50s. And he just came through a battle with stage 4 cancer. And yet, he’s walking with God, he staying true to his faith. He’s still walking the walk.
0:30:31.8 GS: Yeah.
0:30:34.0 RK: And bottom line, that’s… It’s not how many we start with, it’s how many we end with. And discipleship, relational discipleship is that starts with… And again, evangelism is woven through that whole process.
0:30:50.7 GS: Yeah. And you could see the sizzle of sometimes just a large group have fun approach that’s got no discipleship depth. It can, I don’t want to just dog that because I’ve seen large groups that actually have strong discipleship strategies along with it. When that happens, it’s awesome. It’s a sizzle and a stake.
0:31:06.0 RK: Absolutely. Absolutely.
0:31:07.1 GS: But if it’s just a sizzle, and that can happen in a smaller group too, you may get more kids in the short run, but in the long run, the disciples that have made disciples that have made disciples that end number of impact is, I believe, what God’s counting. Not just how many show up on your Wednesday night.
0:31:27.7 RK: Yep. Agreed. And that, again, comes back to what yardstick are we using to measure our ministry effectiveness.
0:31:35.4 GS: The words of the great theologian Kenny Rogers. There’ll be time enough for counting when the dealing’s done.
0:31:42.7 RK: Amen. I just had a flashback. [laughter] Thank you for sharing that, Greg.
0:31:47.1 GS: All right. We’re gonna bring in our youth leader expert, Carrie Evans. Carrie was a full-time youth leader for 13 years, Family Ministry Director for two. She also served as a leader, youth volunteer, has been involved with churches of various denominations and sizes. She’s currently serving as Dare 2 Share’s content coordinator in the Ministry Advancement Division, where she gets to fulfill her passion for encouraging and helping youth leaders. We love having Carrie as part of the team here at Dare 2 Share. Carrie and her husband, Harley, have been married for nearly 25 years and have identical twin daughters.
0:32:21.6 RK: Wow!
0:32:22.3 GS: Yes. Awesome.
0:32:23.6 RK: Awesome.
0:32:23.9 GS: Hey, Carrie, welcome to the podcast and I’ll turn it over to you to talk to RJ and ask questions or make comments.
0:32:31.3 Carrie Evans: Okay. Thanks, Greg. Yeah, great stuff. I just wanted to say I really loved the conversation. And one of the things that you said, RJ, that I really love that was just a small part, but was just being open to evaluation and humility. And I think one of the roadblocks to this particular value is fear, honestly. I think that there’s a lot of youth leaders that are scared, quite honestly that maybe they’re not that effective. And so to… I’m just wondering what you would say to them if they’re struggling with, do I really wanna put statistics so to speak, out there to measure, because maybe they’re not gonna look so great, or make me look so great. And if there is this piece of the Holy Spirit, is at work. And so we all know that, but what would you say to maybe a youth leader who was just fearful of that evaluation piece that you mentioned?
0:33:25.6 RK: That’s a great observation, Carrie. And I’ll… Let me put my therapist hat on for a second. What I would do with that youth work is I say, bottom line, youth pastor, what are you afraid of? Because for some, it’s job security. For some, it’s criticism. For some, it’s rejection from their kids. I mean, there’s a bazillion. So I would pursue that with them first to find out what’s going on. But if we can identify some of that, ultimately, fear is something that’s not gonna go away on its own. You have to lean into it. And so that’s where your trust in God and saying, you know what, if we’re gonna do this the way God wants us to, then we’re gonna have to just lean into that fear and do it anyway. Oh well, lots of youth pastors, some of them who are fear-driven, have a strong ministry of grace, but not a ministry of truth. And as ministers, as youth ministers, we need to be like Christ and be full of grace and truth, both.
0:34:30.1 CE: Yes. Yeah. That’s really good.
0:34:34.4 RK: And he or she doesn’t have to start in the deep end of the pool. You can start them in the shallow end of the pool. And again, just help them to rethink their biblical philosophy of ministry. And once you’ve got that aligned personally with what you know God wants you to do from his word, you’ve got the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s got your back.
0:34:54.5 CE: Yeah. Yeah I agree. I think I loved… Another thing that stood out to me in the conversation was, it kinda ties in with this perfectly, is just the idea of keeping it really simple, especially when you’re starting and there’s this old engineering principle and it’s acrostic Greg, KISS, keep it simple, stupid. I don’t know if you’ve heard that.
0:35:11.2 GS: Yes.
0:35:11.3 CE: But it’s an acrostic, another acrostic for you. Although we probably don’t wanna… Maybe we could come with a better word than stupid. We probably don’t wanna call each other stupid. But it’s a great principle, to keep things just super simple, especially as you’re just diving into these values. I just wanna encourage our youth leaders out there. Like for me, when I very first started implementing this in my youth ministry, I just started with literally just how many times are we praying for those who don’t yet know Jesus by names specifically. And that’s a pretty simple thing to measure and to kind of build into your programs. And so I just wanna encourage youth leaders to not overthink it, just keep it simple. I think that was a really great theme you shared all throughout. Did you wanna say something?
0:35:54.2 RK: Well, and I’m simple and I have to, and my bent is to overanalyze. Especially as a therapist, I’m going way too deep in the weeds. And once you’re deep in the weeds, it’s hard to measure anything.
0:36:06.1 CE: Yeah.
0:36:06.2 RK: It’s so convoluted at that point.
0:36:10.2 CE: For sure, for sure. Yeah. I noticed too that there’s such a great connection between kind of what are your goals or what we call our bold vision. And you have to be able to measure things to know whether or not you’re moving in the right direction towards those things. And so I was really struck by that and just how sometimes I think in ministry, both youth ministry and really any ministry, there’s this conversation about qualitative things and quantitative things. And can we really measure the work of the Holy Spirit, if you will, and is that biblical or not? And just, I think there’s some debate about that. And as far as people coming to Christ, obviously, we don’t control that, but we play a part in sharing the good news, of course. And so what would you say to someone that’s just kind of wrestling with that a little bit, like this whole, what can we really measure and is it… How do we go about that when there’s qualitative things, quantitative things, and all of that?
0:37:12.4 RK: Yeah, my initial response to that is I think sometimes people use that as an excuse not to evaluate. Well, we don’t evaluate here. We just let the Holy Spirit lead well. I will send you back to the book of Nehemiah. He evaluated.
0:37:28.8 CE: Yeah, that’s true.
0:37:31.3 RK: But again, I think we have to be careful of… I think there are some things we can evaluate, like time spent in scripture, for example. And again, there’s always that balance between are we being religious or are we being… What’s the fine line there? And sometimes there is a fine line there. But I think… And these are issues you’re always gonna have to be revisiting. But…
0:38:00.5 GS: You know, I was gonna jump in real quick. My quick response is there’s a whole book in the Bible called Numbers. [laughter] It has nothing to do with my point, but it’s just kinda cool. No, My wife, last night, retired. She had a retirement program for 29 and a half years.
0:38:18.0 RK: Wow.
0:38:18.7 GS: At the same school, Campbell Elementary. She told me, she said, Greg, we do objective analysis of where kids are at with English and Math and all these subjects. We also do a subjective analysis. That subjective analysis is attitudinal, and it’s more how they approach their work. And both, we have to bring those both together. And I think things like reading your Bible, sharing the gospel… Because you can have a kid that reads their Bible, shares the gospel, is involved in ministry, but is a jerk.
0:38:52.9 RK: Right.
0:38:53.2 GS: Right?
0:38:53.6 CE: Yeah, we all have those.
0:38:53.9 GS: And I think being that objective and subjective kind of coming together that, hey, we’re really strong and the discipline is really weak on love.
0:39:04.4 RK: Well, in character, yeah.
0:39:05.5 GS: Yeah.
0:39:05.6 RK: And I think there’s some metrics you can use to measure humility, for example, or patience, for example.
0:39:12.9 CE: For sure.
0:39:13.5 RK: Or kindness, for example. And I think it’s important to visit those, not legalistically.
0:39:20.3 GS: Yeah.
0:39:20.6 RK: But I think biblically. And I think it’s doable. I think as hard as that is, I think it’s important.
0:39:30.3 CE: Yeah.
0:39:30.5 GS: It’s great.
0:39:31.1 CE: For sure. Yeah. Some other things that I know we love to measure from… That were more quantitative in nature was just how many students were sharing their faith actively. And we had a time dedicated every week where we would just sort of invite anyone who had a story to share about sharing the good news with the whole group. And that was just a simple way, just another encouragement for our youth leaders. If you’re struggling with, how do I get started from a quantitative standpoint, I love what you just said, RJ, about qualitative, but from a quantitative standpoint, that’s a really simple way to kind of like, get a pulse on and/or even take… Sometimes we would have somebody literally take down the information as it was being shared so that we could kind of highlight that, celebrate that at the end of a couple of months or whatever, say, hey, collectively we’ve shared the gospel, you know, whatever it is, a hundred times.
0:40:20.9 CE: And have a big party about that or something. And it’s a joy. I think sometimes with this particular value, it can bring up, like I said, fear and nervousness, but it’s really a joy to see and a… All that God is doing in your midst. And so I just wanna encourage those out there to really look at it a little differently maybe. I don’t know if you’ve probably experienced that as well, RJ, just the joy of seeing some of those biblical measurements, just… And what God was doing.
0:40:49.6 RK: Yeah. And I think, and I used to teach this, and I, again, I think it’s… I think it’s still important. The difference between terminal thinking in ministry and relational thinking in ministry. If we’re thinking relationally, time in scripture, time in prayer, you can either think terminally about that. That’s a box to check. We can think of evangelism as a box to check, or is this about relationship? Is this about being sensitive to the needs of your students at school and knowing how to address those needs with the gospel? That’s a relational approach to ministry. And Greg, you and I have had many conversations through the years about that.
0:41:29.7 GS: Yeah. And I fully agree, and I think, you know, one of the things as we’re kind of talking about just in general, biblical outcomes, one of the original biblical outcome when it comes to growth was always baptism. Baptism was a measurement of that. And I think baptism is not just because kids came to Christ as a result of they were born and raised in a church, that’s obviously important. But also ones that kind of come from outside, as well. And then new conversion growth, like what percentage of my group came to Christ from students engaging their friends with the gospel, with the gospel invitation to the youth group and then follow-up conversation, or maybe they had that conversation at school. All these things are good for us to wrestle with.
0:42:21.7 RK: Yeah. Let me expand that, Greg. How much of church membership, for example, is because people have just switched churches rather than they’re there at the church because an adult has reached them for Christ and they’re now coming to the church.
0:42:34.6 CE: Yeah.
0:42:35.5 RK: So these are… Yeah, that’s it.
0:42:37.1 CE: Yeah.
0:42:37.6 GS: And that’s a really large reason for a lot of church growth and youth group growth, is they’re just coming to a different… As opposed to us going out and really engaging the lost, finding that one lost sheep and bringing them in.
0:42:49.8 RK: Yep.
0:42:50.2 CE: Yeah.
0:42:50.7 RK: Yep.
0:42:51.0 CE: A lot of churches get excited about that, which is kind of sad. You know what I mean? The fact that they’ve taken believers from another church, and it’s like, wait, wait, let’s get perspective. And I think it comes back to what you said right at the beginning, RJ, just how effective are we truly in reaching people and discipling people? It’s as simple as that, right? And so it’s just keeping our eye on that and remembering that I think throughout everything that we’re doing, and I love that. Again, I just wanna say like how closely that ties in with the bold vision that we’re pursuing and how just linked those things are, and how important it is to really kind of just really regularly, probably daily, if not weekly, remind ourselves of what are we trying to really do here?
0:43:34.6 CE: It reminds me of when, Elijah was kind of hanging out in the cave and hiding and God was like, what are you doing here? I remember one time I heard Greg speak and he was sharing that passage, and God just struck my heart. And it was this moment in my minister, I thought, what am I doing? What am I really trying to do? And I just think that’s just such a great question for us as ministry leaders to just always go back to and really pursue God’s heart and biblical things as we’ve been talking about. And what is it that really God is asking me to do in this ministry? And essentially it’s just that simple. Let’s make disciples who make disciples. Right.
0:44:14.2 RK: Yeah.
0:44:15.8 GS: Yeah, great stuff. Well, hey, RJ, Carrie, thank you so much for being a part of this podcast. And Carrie, thank you for all your hard work as a youth leader and at Dare 2 Share. And, RJ, thank you for the investment you’ve made in me personally and so many other youth leaders across the nation and around the world. And you continue to make that investment. So thank you.
0:44:40.4 RK: You’re welcome, Greg. My pleasure. Thanks for having me. Carrie good to dialogue with you.
0:44:45.0 CE: You as well, RJ. Thank you.
0:44:47.7 GS: Alright, Youth Leaders, thanks for tuning in. And remember that a thriving youth ministry is a gospel-advancing one.