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The normal paths of healthy growth are impassable

By Nehemiah No Comments

There is one thing to remember as you plan and schedule your launch for First Priority.  You have a date in mind, plans in place, and people interested, but have you inspected the ‘walls’?

11 So I went to Jerusalem and was there three days.12 Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem. There was no animal with me but the one on which I rode.13 I went out by night by the Valley Gate to the Dragon Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire.14 Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but there was no room for the animal that was under me to pass.15 Then I went up in the night by the valley and inspected the wall, and I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned.16 And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, and I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, and the rest who were to do the work. Nehemiah 2

Did you see it? The walls were so broken that the normal paths of travel were impassable.  The same may be true for students in your community.  The normal paths of healthy growth, development, and learning are broken.  Does Sarah really care about chemistry if dad beat mom the night before?  Will Steve really get the most out of the youth ministry tonight if his best friend that day tried to commit suicide and only he knows?  Examine your community’s walls!  Get with the guidance counselor to see what the students are dealing with in school.  Set a meeting with local law enforcement to see what they are getting in trouble for on Friday nights and what their parents are getting arrested for.  Dig around, but do it quietly and with humility.  Your heart is passionate and concerned for the status of the community.  As your heart grows more desperate for the Lord’s movement in your schools, you will begin to see the overflow of sharing the First Priority vision with those you talk to everyday.

Peace.

Checklist to see Students Reach Students at School

By Nehemiah

If you are like me, you make a check list of things you need to accomplish for your day, week and year. We at FPOA use a program that allows each of us to create their personal task list that stares us in the face until we go after it and get it done. Nehemiah had a list. When the king asked him what he wanted he listed it off.

Nehemiah 2: 7 I also said to him, “If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? 8 And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal park, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?” And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests. 9 So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king’s letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me.

Don’t let the summer slip away into fall and have your students who made spiritual commitments at camp to influence their schools forget and do nothing. Students need guidance and direction.  They need reminders and easy, short goals.  They need you to organize the rebuilding of the wall!  Below is a “Schedule for the Day” (it’s really more like 1-3 months) for you to use in getting a movement going in your area.

1. Pray and Fast – Nehemiah had a burden for the community

2. Learn First Priority – God laid a plan on Nehemiah’s heart.  What’s your plan?  First Priority is church united to influence.

3. Build a Team – Nehemiah didn’t do it alone; you don’t need to either.  God wants to give lots of people joy, let him.

More details are available in our First Steps Guide.  For a free copy, email brandon@fpofamerica.com

Keep Fishin’.

Nehemiah’s Prayer for Your Community

By Nehemiah No Comments

Will you pray with me for your community?

“O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of ________ your servants, confessing the sins of the people of __________, which we have sinned against you.  Even I and my father’s house have sinned.  We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses.  Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’  They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand.

O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”

I ask that you print this prayer out and pray it every morning as you look ahead toward your day rebuilding the spiritual walls of your community through First Priority.

In Christ,

The FPOA Team

As I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days

By Nehemiah No Comments

And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame.  The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.”  Nehemiah 1:5

Let me rephrase that for ministry today: “The remnant in the __________ school in my community is surviving, but is in great trouble and shame.”  The body of Christ is alive, but it is shrinking while the overall student population is growing.  Even at that, the ‘Christians’ are becoming Samaritans (if I may stretch the analogy).  Let me explain.  My middle child (daughter) turned 10 in July.  She had a sleepover at our house with six friends.  Let me tell you that the conversation was eye opening.  I didn’t realize that we are sheltering our kids.  Ten year old girls with iPhones, playing mine craft at will, watching Usher on Saturday night live, and Barbie has been turned into a zombie!  What has America come to??  Barbie?  Is nothing sacred anymore? (note sarcasm)  Know that this is not all of them, but it is the popular culture creeping in younger and younger.  These are ‘Christian’ girls being raised in ‘Christian’ homes.  Where will the ‘cool’ conversation be by the time they hit high school?  I think I know, because I hear it in the music and watch it in the movies.  Nehemiah and I reacted the same way.  Here is how he reacted:

As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. Nehemiah 1:6

How do you react when you see popular culture creeping younger and younger?  What can we do about it?

Thinking out loud,

Brad Schelling, Mark Roberts, Brandon Starnes

First Priority of America New Start Team

Don’t read this if you are comfortable in your ministry

By Nehemiah No Comments

I hope this writing finds you doing well and enjoying the spiritual fruit that ministry in the summertime brings with it.  While schedules are often sporadic and lack a ‘normal’ weekly routine, they also bring opportunities for extended periods of time with students at camps, retreats, mission trips, boating at the lake, and the like.  Many of those opportunities have special times to share the gospel of Christ built in.

In the First Priority world, we hold high value to Paul’s word given to Timothy: “Entrust (the gospel) to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”  This summer, you have seen students accept Christ, share Christ, help others in the name of Christ, etc.  Students took ownership of their faith under your leadership.  Can that happen this fall at school too?  We believe that it can.  This starts with you entrusting your students to influence their school, helping them take leadership among the single largest (yet unorganized) group at their school: the Christians.  While it is lots of work to lead a mission trip for a week in the summer, the results are always amazing.  God moves.  The same is true when you send your students on a nine-month mission trip to their school this year.

The first step is to set a goal.  Make it specific.  Put it on the calendar.  Tell someone.  Here is the idea: My goal is to get three churches to start the First Priority club at _____________ middle school by October 1.  Then call us and share!  We will celebrate with you, support you along the way, and help you navigate the issues others have had to deal with as well.  If you do not make it specific, on the calendar, with other people, your chance of seeing the students at the ____________ middle school finding hope in Christ this fall is slim to none.

Praying for revival,

Brad Schelling

Uniting the Local Body of Christ to Influence the School with the Gospel

By Nehemiah No Comments

It has been said that ‘timing is everything, but it’s not the only thing’.  Remember that as you continue to follow God and walk into this new school year.  As the year starts, there will be moments filled with pressure to speed through to an ‘end’.  Whether your end is to launch three new clubs, get your Initiation Team together, or get through the Vision Casting so you can get on with the rest, take your time and remember your goal: the Hope of Christ in Every Student.

Your goal is not to start a club; students have lots of options for those already.  Your goal is not to network youth ministers; there already is a ‘National Network of Youth Ministry’ that gathers them together because they are youth ministers.  Business Leaders definitely do not need another nonprofit knocking on their door.  But students do need eternal Hope.  The only way to reach them all is with a united church effort in your community.  Is anybody organizing them?  That is why you are where God has placed you.  He has given you a burden; not for another thing to do, but to work this plan.  Your end?

Uniting the Local Body of Christ 

With a Plan of Action 

To Influence the School 

With the Gospel.

That’s it.  Period.  You do not start clubs.  Sure, you may be actively involved in one, even Nehemiah worked on his part of the wall.  But Nehemiah’s success wasn’t in his ability to lay bricks, it was his vision for the big picture and willingness to be used by God to bring his people together for a common purpose.  If not you, then who?

Schedule for the Day

 

Amber is not your typical parent

By Nehemiah

Amber is not your typical youth group mom. She had recently gotten involved with the youth group at her church as her oldest son was entering into middle school.  As Amber’s involvement grew, she began to notice that her son’s influence for the Gospel was playing a far greater role on his school campus then it was at the church.

When her son began to take advantage of that influence, Amber began looking for a way to plug in there as well. This was a significant decision by Amber and her son because their school was labeled “one of the most high risk schools” in the state of Florida. Her son helped launch a First Priority club at their school in his 7th grade year. Amber chose to plug in as the club’s “campus coach” and began finding herself at the school a lot. At first, the club was small with 15 kids attending; however as his classmates began to take note, the club’s size and influence began to grow.  By the end of their first school year, the club was seeing 60 students attend each month. Many of those attendees had made first time decisions for Christ at the club or a secondary event sponsored by one of the churches who had students involved in that club. They were then being plugged back into the local churches for discipleship.

One of those decisions was made by a young man named Aaron. Aaron was a 16-year-old student, in his third year of 8th grade when Amber first met him. Amber got to know Aaron at the school and trust built between Aaron and the students in the club.  Amber learned about Aaron’s background and how the current administration viewed Aaron’s schooling future; it was not bright. The administration has had so many students like Aaron, coming from very broken homes, often with parents who do not have the skills to engage their teenage kids. Aaron had also been told by a judge that this school year was his last shot. If he did not stay out of legal trouble, he would end up in jail, forced to get his GED. Aaron’s lack of hope intersected with Amber’s hope in Christ for Aaron and a lot began to change.  Amber began to rally individuals for tutoring and mentoring from the local churches in the area. It began to make a difference in Aaron’s grades.

In December, Aaron made the choice to attend church for the first time. He was invited by one of the First Priority students to participate in a youth group Christmas event. Though Aaron was nervous, as the event ended, he did something that neither he nor Amber expected. There was an offer to accept Christ’s gift of salvation, and Aaron accepted it. It was a huge moment.

As the school year continued on, Amber kept up with Aaron and his grades. And as the year was winding down, the club had their last meeting together. One of the students came running in late to the club. “You have to see Aaron’s grades, you’re not going to believe this.” Aaron however refused to show anyone. Amber finally convinced Aaron to show her his report card.  To her amazement, this third year, 8th grade student, had gotten straight “A’s”.  Amber asked Aaron why he was so nervous. He explained that where he lived, in the neighborhood, if they found out, it could cause him trouble that he was excelling.  Though middle class mom Amber could not relate, her trust built with Aaron caused her to trust deeply. They agreed that they would celebrate him quietly and not make a fuss.

Amber, however, went home and made a huge fuss over the Lord. God has been so faithful to allow her son’s influence at his school and her partnership with that to bring the Hope of Christ to the lost, broken, and hurting. Amber is still involved with her three kids’ schools and is seeing the Gospel bring influence on a daily basis.

Finding Fulfillment this 4th of July.

By Nehemiah

Thanks to Brad Schelling, I had the opportunity to be the speaker last week at “HIS Work Camp” in Knoxville,TN.  (I’m sure he was biting his fingernails when I got up to speak!)  HIS Work Camp is a mission opportunity for the Reformed Church in America of the Great Plains Region. What a great group of people! There is hope for our country. I was so impressed by the maturity of these students and their passion to change the world. The 9 churches represented traveled 20 hours to bless the lives of hundreds in the Knoxville area. The reason I am sharing this with you is to let you know that I have never been a part of anything like this. When God created man, he gave them a job. I believe that all people were made to work and when we are not working, it robs us of the blessings of God. Work gives us a sense of responsibility and accomplishment. Not only did these students work and work hard, they served people.

There were 14 different work projects. A foreman and a team of students would go work all day at a home where they did all kinds of home improvements. The families that own the homes were there the whole week interacting with the students. The day would end each night with a service, which I got to speak at. The hearts of all were in tune to hear from God. The incredible combination of work, serving, and hearing from God made for an incredible experience.

As the week drew to an end, I realized why I loved this camp: It reflects First Priority!  We equip students to work.  As leaders, they serve their schools and the hearts of the students by sharing the life-changing message of the Gospel.  It is through this work that God brings joy to believers’ lives.  It gives us a sense of accomplishment in leading and emotion beyond words when we get to partner with the Creator of the universe to change eternity forever.

Lets keep working until He comes.

Keep fishing,

Mark Roberts – Vice President – First Priority of America

First Priority is like John the Baptist…

By Nehemiah

In a lot of ways, First Priority is like John the Baptist.  Matthew 3:3 says this, “For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.'”  First Priority is a strategy for the local church.  Like John the Baptist, we are pointing the way for the church to legally reach teenagers and influence the school with the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Many people believe (falsely) that it is illegal to speak the name of Jesus in a public setting like a middle or high school.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  The government of the United States cannot dictate religion, so when a student enters the halls of a school, they are not required to leave their faith at the door.  They can share the gospel with their peers and with their teachers.  But, many do not get up and share Christ alone; many people do not do anything on their own for the first time.  It is done with a friend.  This is where the adults come in.  We must work to organize and help them create a space, at school, to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with their peers.  Adults have a [legal] role to play!  Teachers cannot preach to students, but they are required to be present for the First Priority club.  Over the last 11 years as the faculty sponsor, Sam saw more than 400 students receive Christ in his classroom.  This was not because he was sharing the gospel, but because as a teacher, he opened the room to the First Priority club and watched students share Christ with their friends.  Youth Pastors train and equip the [teenage] saints for works of service week in and week out at their programs.  First Priority gives them a place to implement prayer, evangelism, and come back to church for discipleship.  Parents pray.  I believe that.  What if the parents prayed together?  After all, what we are talking about is spiritual, not physical, mental, nor emotional.  Let’s gather and open the heavens for God’s work to go forward at your child’s school.  And let’s not forget the leaders in the community.  Whether you lead in business, government, or non-profit, you are a valuable piece of the First Priority puzzle.  You create longevity and structure for ministry to happen not just at one or three schools, but in every middle and high school in your region.

Long story short, the Good News found in Jesus Christ is shared at public middle and high schools every day that they are  open.  Will you play your role and help it in yours?

Taking one day at a time,

Brad