Nathan Schneider

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Family Ministry and God’s Mission

Genesis 12 marks a significant shift in the biblical narrative, from the beginning of our world (and its brokenness) to the calling of a man God promised to make a “blessing to the nations.” The man called of God was Abraham and the promise was through his descendants. The Lord, through an angelic encounter with Abraham makes the specifics of the plan clear:

The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” Genesis 18:17-19

As the church moves to a model of ministry more aligned to equip families, it must not lose sight of the ultimate goal. Although protecting our children and teaching them solid, moral values are noble tasks, they cannot be the ultimate motivation for our resurgence of intentional family ministry. The goal of partnering with parents has to be aligned with God’s design for families and discipleship: the advancement of the gospel to the nations.

It’s not that our intentions are misguided; they are too small in light of the God who thinks about and cares deeply for all people in every nation. Churches and leaders must think about encouraging parents toward a role grander than could be imagined by parents outside of God’s mission, which is attested to throughout the biblical narrative.

How can churches intentionally move parents to think more strategically about the way they raise their children to be missionaries?

  1. Teach the Missio Dei. Christopher Wright, in his book The Mission of God, argues that a central theme of Scripture is God’s mission.[1] From the original blessing to mankind to “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:28) to the command to “Go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19) to the promised, multicultural experience of worshippers of every nation and people group in heaven (Revelation 7:9-10), God is a God who thinks and operates globally. Our parents need to be inspired by this vision.
  1. Give Families Opportunities to Serve and Go Together. Operating as silos within the church will not result in shared experiences in the home. Children who participate with their parents will see that mission matters for their parents. Recently, a mom and her 13-year-old daughter went on mission together to South Africa. Upon returning, they were already making plans to return the next year. As they began check in at the airport the mom was restricted from traveling because her passport would expire too soon after returning from traveling. Having already made the trip together once, the mom (along with her husband) signed papers to release their daughter for travel. Now, at 14, she has caught a glimpse of God’s glory among the nations, first seen in her mom traveling and now, seen in her parents’ willingness to risk safety and comfort for the advancement of the gospel.

Family ministry models do not go far enough. Churches and ministries must think globally in their attempt to encourage parents towards greater faithfulness in raising their children.

[1] Wright says, “Mission is what the Bible is all about; we could as meaningfully talk of the missional basis of the Bible as of the biblical basis of mission.” Wright, Christopher J. H., The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 29.


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Summer Camp Recap

This has been a great week of camp!

This year, our student ministry planned a week in the summer that was unlike anything else. We combined worship services, team recreation, and an emphasis on local missions in our area. The result was our students growing in the Lord and advancing his gospel throughout our a neighboring community.

Our speaker this year, Philip McDuffie, who is a former intern with North Mobile’s student ministry, spoke this week about God’s sending nature. Our God is a sending God. Our students practiced this all week in various forms, working with a rehabilitation center, a campground, a local school, the local church, a ministry to homeless men, and in many other ways. We ended the week with a block party for the community that promoted events happening around the community at various churches. The students served faithfully and share the gospel boldly.

The end result of this week has been life change in the lives of people in this community and, hopefully and prayerfully, multiplying impact for God’s kingdom in this community for years to come. 

The students came back and indicated that this was one of the best weeks they’ve had as a part of our ministry. One student professed Christ after being led to the Lord by another student, other students share the gospel boldly, and all of our students served by stepping out of your comfort zone through various projects and canvassing the neighborhood.

This has been a great week!


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Youth Pastor Summit 2015 – Orlando

Student Leadership University hosted the Youth Pastor Summit in Orlando this past Monday and Tuesday. It was an incredible time of rest and sharpening. Below, I’ve provided some of the most helpful quotes from the speakers during the Summit.

Ben Trueblood, Director of Student Ministry at Lifeway Christian Resources

Ezekiel 33:1-10; Acts 20:18-28

Your job is to blow the trumpet. The Holy Spirit will do the convicting.

We are not here to give an opinion; we are to give the message that God gives with trumpet blast!

What is the content of our SOUNDING THE ALARM:

1. SOUND THE ALARM of God’s Plan of Salvation.

2. SOUND THE ALARM for People to Turn Back to God.

3. SOUND THE ALARM of Grace.

It’s not about students trying, but students dying and Jesus living through them.

4. SOUND THE ALARM of the Next Generation of Watchmen.

Coach Dru Joyce II, Lebron James High School Basketball Coach

The (athletes) we don’t hear about are the ones most important to me.

Jay Strack, President and Founder of SLU

I got tired of going to bed dry-eyed. I’m not going to be effective if I don’t have tears.

How are you going to accomplish your God-given task:

1. START where you are.

2. USE what you have.

Sometimes we worry about where we might get to that we don’t deliver where we are.

3. DO what you can.

Bob Goff, New York Times Best Selling Author

Matthew 18:2

I want people to meet me and see heaven.

God makes people. People make issues. But people are not issues.

Following Jesus is not the safe life.

Stop doing what you’re not good at, unless it’s relationships.

Become the humblest version of you.

A life of following Jesus means being available.

I think God wants us right on the edge of ‘Yikes!’

Ed Newton, Executive Director of the Lift Tour

Acts 8:26-40

1. Participation of a Servant

2. Pursuit of a Seeker

‘Everybody you spend five minutes with is a divine appointment with whom you have an opportunity to share Jesus with.’ Bill Bright

3. Power of Scripture

Teach students to memorize the Bible. The number one lost and found item in our ministries is Bibles.

4. Profession of Salvation and Baptism

During his breakout:

Little is much when God is in it.

Anyone can talk, but not everyone can communicate.

1. Theory of Communication

Intended meaning – (Verbal/ Nonverbal) – Perceived meaning

Redemptive communication is about the source (you), message (content/ the Word of God), channel (words), and the receiver (object of communication).

2. Truth in Communication

Revelation – Introspection – Application

We must address the mind, heart, and emotion.

Truth has to sink from your head to your heart.

Your ministry is not a funeral home (neat and dead). It’s a birthing room (messy and alive).

3. Treasure of Communication

You can have a skill of communication and not be anointed.

Living in sin is the quickest way to lose the anointing.

Anointing begins in the closet.

4. Temptation in Communication

God is using us to build His kingdom or we’re using God to build our kingdom.

There’s coming a time when you won’t be cool anymore. If you’re only preaching the Bible, you’ll never be irrelevant.

5. Trophy of Communication

New Testament preaching is not without invitation.

‘We’re not inviting people to a funeral, but a feast!’ Adrian Rogers

Your invitation should be clear, concise, and creative.

Doug Fields, Author/ Speaker

What is the one thing: Love the kids that God has entrusted to your care. When you love them, you disciple them; when you disciple them, they become evangelists.

We’re living a NASCAR lifestyle while trying to follow a Savior that walks.

Busy is the enemy of depth and faith.

Business is not a disordered schedule, it’s a disordered heart.

Where someone is busy, they’re broken.

There is one Savior and you’re not it!

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Radicalized Islam and Mission

This morning’s Briefing from Al Mohler, President of Southern Seminary, had the idea of mission as it’s theme. He begins his analysis of the news by looking at the story of John Maguire, a young Canadian who converted to Islam and became radicalized. He has since joined ISIS and appears in a video urging for attacks on Canadian soil. The questions to be wrestled with is this, “How does a young Canadian, who did not grow up in an Islamic family, become radicalized to the point of wanting destroy his own country?” The secular world does not have a sufficient answer to this question. A secular worldview, which prides itself on progress and the diminishment of religion, can not make sense of a young boy converting to a radicalized religion to despise his place of upbringing.

How does a biblical worldview shape the answer to the beforementioned question? Mohler’s response is to point us back to Genesis 1 and the Garden of Eden. We are not mistakes or an unintended consequence of a biological process. Human beings are the intentional design of a Creator and as created beings, we’ve been created for mission and passion. However, when this mission and passion are not directed toward the One, True God, we seek to fill that desire through other avenues. In the case of John Maguire, and a surprising number of other young people, the avenue is radicalized Islam.

Why is this important? Because our teenagers seek to live for something bigger than themselves and the thing that grips the hearts of the next generation will be the dominant pursuit of the future. This why instruction in the gospel and a biblical worldview are so vital to the mission of the church and each Christian family. We are not simply instilling good values, but we are furthering the mission of the church, which is to glorify Jesus and make disciples. Challenge young people with the only mission that’s truly worth the surrendering of their lives. It’s time to raise the bar!

Mohler concludes his bit on Maguire by giving this charge:

So, when you see the teenager sitting at your dinner table or in the pew next to you at church, when you look in and see the youth group at your church, when you look in and see high school students talking on the street corner, realize what you’re actually watching. You’re watching the future taking shape. Whatever rules their hearts, will rule the future.

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Making Student Disciples Who Make Disciples


Attractional vs. Missional

This has long been the debate in church culture. Student ministries have also had to deal with the question of which model is more biblical and more effective. The danger in answering this question is the temptation to move too far to one approach without seeing the value of the other.

Which model is more biblical? It seems that Jesus followers were passionate and excited about both. His followers were bold to share the gospel with others, but they were also excited to invite people to the place where others would share the gospel. A great example of this is found in the first chapter of John’s gospel.

The passage begins with Jesus finding a young man named Philip (probably around the age of a typical middle or high school student). Jesus invites Philip to become one of His followers and Philip responds by following. What’s great is what happens next. This is what John records happened next:

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

Philip is not one of the better-known followers of Jesus. In fact, he is often seen fumbling in a situation where he’s around Jesus. However, in this moment, being so overwhelmed by the good news of Jesus, he goes to someone close to him and tells him about Jesus. When this happens with a student in our ministry we rejoice. Nothing excites us more than seeing a student passionate about sharing the good news of Jesus, or even better, having the opportunity to see a student lead another student to faith in Jesus.

Nathanael didn’t immediately respond in faith to Philip’s gospel appeal. Instead, he expressed doubt. What did Philip do in response? He brought him to Jesus:

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.

Philip invited Nathanael to come see Jesus. This is the same thing that Andrew does only a few verses prior (John 1:40-42). These early followers of Jesus were excited about the encounter they had with their Savior and were wanting others to experience the same thing. They shared boldly, but also invited when opportunities were present.

The model of evangelism in the early church was centered on the good news of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ followers had been reconciled to God and as a result, could not help but become witnesses of the Jesus they had encountered.

This summer I witnessed a number of our students grow in their faith by becoming bold in sharing their faith and lead a number of their friends, and complete strangers, to faith in Jesus. However, I also saw a number of students get excited about what was going on at church and invite their friends, some of which came to embrace the gospel as a result.

The question is not, “Should a youth ministry be attractional or missional?” Rather, we should be asking, “How can we equip students who are passionate about sharing their faith with others as well as excited to invite their friends to church?” I give a few suggestions below.

Plan Strategic Outreach Events

Make it easy for students to get excited about inviting their friends by planning events that students would love to attend. When a student is growing spiritually at church, they will most likely be excited to invite a friend. However, this doesn’t mean that every student will want to attend. Outreach events that are planned with the unchurched person in mind will make it a little easier for students in your group to invite their friends. Make sure these events are not just “hangouts,” but strategic events that keep the main thing (the gospel) the main thing.

Set an Example of Personal Evangelism

Some student pastors see the gospel invitation at the end of messages as the extent of their personal evangelism. The problem is that students aren’t likely to catch your passion for lost in these moments. It’s one thing to offer an invitation at the end of a message, it’s another thing to engage with the lost in your everyday life. Let your passion be contagious by sharing stories of personal encounters with the lost and invite students to join you for planned moments of evangelism.

Provide Opportunities for Students to be Equipped and Share

Our church uses an evangelism presentation called Evangelism Explosion to train adults in sharing their faith. Many church members have been equipped to share the greatest story of all, God’s story, and we’ve encouraged students to participate as well. This past spring a 9th grader completed the course and ended up leading five people to faith in Jesus. Many of those witnessing opportunities came as a result of mission trips and other intentionally planned events.

Encourage Students to Lead Others

Share stories with your group of others in the group stepping out of their comfort zones and making a big impact. Tell a story of someone who was invited to church by a friend and came to faith. Take students on visitation and allow them to learn from each other. Allow those who have gone through evangelism training to train others.

As student pastors, we have been called to reach this next generation with the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, our calling does not rest on our ability to get everyone to the church so they can hear our gospel presentation (for which I am thankful). We have the unique privilege of sharing the gospel with students and equipping them to go and do likewise. Challenge your teenagers. You’ll be surprised at how bold and passionate they can be.

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Almost Christian

I just finished reading Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church by Kendra Creasy Dean, which elaborates on research done by the National Study of Youth and Religion. Dean begins the book by stating,

American young people are, theoretically, fine with religious faith – but it does not concern them very much, and it is not durable enough to survive long after high school.

Dean will go on to explain the faith that American young people are fine with, which she refers to as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. Dean argues that this is the faith of the majority of youth in evangelical churches. In other words, most students coming out of student ministries embrace a faith that has the following guiding beliefs:

  1. A god who exists who created and orders the world and watches over life on earth.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  4. God is not involved in my life except when I need God to resolve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

Obviously, the language we use and faith in action that we model for the next generation matters. We’ve been sending the wrong message to students: the Bible is all about you and the goal of life is to be happy. Dean uses the rest of the book to address possible solutions for this type of misrepresented Christianity, which include applications for student pastors, senior pastors, congregations, adult leaders, and parents. Her applications can be summed up by saying: we, as youth leaders and parents, must return to teaching God’s story (the biblical narrative) and cultivate within young people a consequential faith. Dean writes:

The gospel’s central message – that God loves us enough to die for us severs self-serving spiritualities like Moralistic Therapeutic Deism at the root. Christian identity comes from worshiping a God who loves us enough to suffer on our behalf, and who calls us to enact this kind of love for others: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

We must model and teach a faith that is centered on the God of the Bible and which points to our calling as missionaries in our communities for the glory of God. Our discipleship should focus on developing followers of Christ who are passionate about developing more followers of Christ. It is when we teach and model this greater story, the gospel and its implications, that students will be passionate about following God and modeling Jesus’ love to their friends, families, and world.

Recently, I came across this video which tells such a story:

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Biblical Perspective of Student Ministry

When it comes to a biblical foundation for ministry to youth, the Old Testament emphasis is on the family’s responsibility to educate.  The OT places the responsibility for teaching young people on the shoulders of parents and especially the father (i.e. Deut. 12:28; 29:29; Josh. 4:20-24; Ps. 78:1-8; Pro. 13:1; 13:24; 22:6; Joel 1:3).  Solomon’s proverb serves as a relevant summary: “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching” (Proverbs 1:8).

The most famous of all the Old Testament passages concerning ministry to youth is found in Deuteronomy 6, which includes the Shema:

1 These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you.

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates…

20 In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?” 21 tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Before our eyes the LORD sent miraculous signs and wonders—great and terrible—upon Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. 23 But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land that he promised on oath to our forefathers. 24 The LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. 25 And if we are careful to obey all this law before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”

Clearly, God intended for the parents to be the primary educators when it comes to the spiritual lives of their children.  The Shema commands parents of young people to devote their entire lives to God and use every opportunity to teach their children.  However, the Shema is also an address to community.  The Hebrews as a group shared in the responsibility of educating children in the Lord.  This point is made clearer in the New Testament.

It was Jesus that showed special concern for the care of young people by encouraging them to come to Him and rebuking those who would hinder them (Matt. 18:4-6; 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17).  He even says, “if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Mt. 18:6).  Again, God’s concern for the upbringing of children is made a priority and anyone who would hinder this would have been better off dead.  So, although the command to educate children spiritually is a command to parents, the community also serves as a either a support system or a deterrent.

Jesus goes a step further, though, in expanding the responsibilities to care for children when He distinguishes between an earthly family and the heavenly family or “the church” (Mark 3:34-35).  The implication of Jesus’ words is the placing of priority on the heavenly family.  The priority of those inside the church is first to others within the church.

Paul echoes this same thinking in Titus 2.  Here, Paul indicates that it is the responsibility of adults from within the church to educate younger generations.  He says to Titus:

3Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

6Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

Together, the words of Jesus and Paul suggest that young children be taught the things of God and this includes in the context of the local church by older, believing adults.  So, a biblical perspective of student ministry would indicate it is best for the spiritual education of youth be the primary responsibility of the parents.  These perspectives would also suggest the church’s role in educating youth is also vital.

Theologically, then, youth ministry is grounded in God’s mandate for missions.  In ministering to students the goal is to raise up worshippers of God.  That is what the church has been commanded to do by Scripture.  It’s done in the context of student ministry because of the cultural separation of adults and children.  Someone once told me, “Student ministry is a missional response to a cultural reality.”  This assertion that student ministry needs to be missional is grounded in the great commission and the principle of contextualization.  Christians are called to be active in the process of making disciples (Mt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15; Acts 1:8; 2 Corinthians 5:20) and with the cultural establishment of an adolescent age group, there is a need for relevant ministry directed toward youth.