Youth Curriculum Review Series – Life After High School

Series:  “Life After High School”

Synopsis:  This was one of my all-time favorite series I have done with my students.  After all, what are you preparing your teens to do?  Face life after high school with a Biblical worldview, a heart for the lost, and a desire to live a life as a servant to the King.  This series got down to business of what life will be like after high school.  We discussed money, relationships, careers, temptations…we talked about REAL LIFE.

Special Features:  We brought in special speakers from programs like “5 Minutes for Life”.  Other special speakers included missionaries that spoke on their high school experience and a panel of youth leaders that answered questions about life after high school.  At the end, we brought in parents to help us with the “Real Life Experience”, where the students went through a graduation ceremony and went out into the real world.  It was all pretend, but we put them through college admission and job interviews, budget training, and even gave them jobs to complete.

Curriculum:

God’s Will:  How to Find It and Know it by Positive Action for Christ

This was the exact topic that I wanted to be the foundation of my talks.  At the heart of everything we discussed, we kept coming back to the idea of God’s will.  What is God’s will in your career?  Your relationships?  Your future?  This book is a basic framework that will help you find footing in this foundation and provide solid Biblical support for your discussion.  You will need to supplement and add to the material, but this less-known resource acted as a great resource through this series.

Senior:  Preparing for the Future by Lars Rood

Set up as a devotional for seniors transitioning into adulthood, the table of contents became my best friend with to use this as a curriculum resource.  Once I outlined my messages, I was able to take valuable nuggets of information with each small devotional.  This book was especially helpful in the conclusion and takeaway of the messages.  It provided dynamite discussion questions that added to the final moments of each series topic.

My Future by Mark Oestreicher & Scott Rubin

Our ministry context comprises of junior high and high school on Sunday nights.  That being said, I needed a resource that would add an element for the younger student.  They are not thinking too far ahead, but they should be. This topical resource allows the teacher to engage the student from the youngest age to the oldest.  These authors were spot on with the topics that needed discussed with students regarding their future.  This was another valuable resource for this series.

Bonus Video Suggestion:

Doing the Stuff – by John Wimber

 

 

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7 Reasons to be Thankful in Youth Ministry

What does a youth worker have to be thankful for?  Here’s just a start to the list.

7 Reasons To Be Thankful Youth Ministry  

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Book Review: Gaining by Losing

Book Review:  Gaining by Losing by J.D. Greear

The Good:

I’ve Got a Story for You.  Where does he find these illustrations?  These are stories that seem to come from the deep annals of history, but are so very effective.  Remarkable stories that I should have heard before, but are extraordinary and unique to the reader that introduces chapters masterfully.

Fresh & Biblical.  Possibly what stands out the most in terms of his writing style is Greear’s ability to take a familiar text and draw out fresh, practical ideas.  In so doing, he is able to stay true and Biblical, but still drive the point in fresh, powerful ways.

Fearless.  This man is fearless.  Sure, he admits times in the book where his faith was weak.  But his faith stood the test and was fearless in his pursuit to plant churches and spread the Gospel.  Honestly, it is as much inspirational as it is practical.

Gospel Living.  This man believes in the power of the Gospel.  It is a lifestyle, not a belief you put on your shelf and pull it out when you feel like perusing it’s pages.  Gospel is central, and may be the best articulation of the practical aspects of living out the Gospel.

The Bad:

Buckle Up.  More a warning than a “bad” review.  Get ready to move in a direction that you ordinarily would fear.  Don’t be surprised if you are inspired to do something great for God as a result of this book’s encouragement.

The Grade:  A+.  EVERY church leader should read this book.  It takes you to a new level of faith leadership.  What I mean by that is, it forces you to face your fears in ministry and pushes you to make that step of faith in your ministry.  The pages are full of inspiration, practical methods, and challenges to make each page turn an exciting adventure.  As William Carey said, “Expect great things of God, and then attempt great things for God!”  This book will help you get there.

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10 Lessons Learned from 10 Years in Ministry

Hard to believe…10 years of Youth Ministry.  Praise the Lord for his grace, for the patience of teens and their parents, and the countless times God has brought strength to my weakness.

And get this…my article on the 10 Lessons Learned from 10 Years in Ministry has been published by Youth Specialties.  Go check it out and be encouraged.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE.

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6 Tips to Build a Student Leadership Team

In recent years, I have found great value in having a student leadership team.  It’s not cliché, its true…Jesus spent additional time with a group of men to give them individual attention and help them reach their potential to start the early church.  In these student leadership teams, the goals are on a much smaller scaled compared to Jesus and His disciples, but the goal still remains to help them reach their spiritual potential and to be the next generation of leaders in the church.  Here’s some tips that have helped make the student leadership team a reality.

Ain’t No Such Thing as Small Potatoes.  Don’t be afraid to start small.  The first year I hosted a leadership team, there were only 2 participants.  Small is not always a bad thing.  Individual attention was given.  Questions were answered.  Real progress was accomplished in this small group.

Where do is sign?  Please make sure to have an application process.  You can’t just have a sign up list on the side of the youth room, and hope each person becomes a leader.  Have some requirements right off the bat like an application, and even an interview.  The requirement of the student leadership will be lofty, so the application process should not be just putting your name on a piece of paper.

Little Help Over Here.  Don’t be afraid to go find some help with leadership training.   May I make a suggestion?  The good people at LeaderTreks, particularly the 365 Leadership Training, is a great place to start.  Additionally, I scour the Christian leadership blogs, often sent to me by ChurchLeaders, and use the blogs as an opener to each of our meeting.

Thank You For Coming…Now What?  In addition to the leadership training curriculum and leadership articles, the key part of leadership training is the concept of “level above”.  It is a requirement for each participant to serve in the church in some capacity.  But that’s not enough to just serve in children’s ministry as a volunteer.  We take it a “level above” and require the student to teach or lead a portion of that children’s ministry.  If children’s ministry is not their thing, the requirement for volunteering in other areas of the church are go a “level above”.  We discuss each person’s individual assignments at the beginning of each meeting.

Put Them in the Game, Coach.  Part of training leaders is to give them opportunities to lead.  Sounds simple, but it takes some steps of faith, patience, and willingness to allow failure.  Sure, you could plan youth events easily by yourself.  But in leadership training, you must allow them to take the lead.  In the past, I’ve allowed students to plan events like the Christmas party, Super Bowl Party, and a Compassion International event.  But the doozy was the Easter Egg Hunt.  The teens were placed in charge, planned out the schedule, sought out volunteers, made phone calls, prepped the materials…it was their show.   Talk about a step of faith.  But let me tell ya, in the end, this was a valuable learning experience in leadership that was well worth the effort.

Personal & Prayerful.  Spend some time with them.  Ask for personal requests.  Invite them over for a lunch prior to the meeting so you can get to know the students.  Find ways to make the meeting time special so students want to come, and younger students have something they look forward to.

What do you do?  How have you built student leaders? 

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Are Today’s Teen’s Putting the Brakes on Adulthood?

Recently, I read an article that made a little too much sense in identifying the current teen culture.  A culture that is dominated by screen time, technology, and social media.  But, researchers are finding the behavior of these teens is somewhat tamer than previous generations, even those just decades ago.  Well, that’s good news, right?  Well, the bad news is research is also discovering the positive news of delayed rebellious acts such as alcohol and sex has a flip side.  The negative side is these teens are delaying other social aspects of adulthood such as vital problem-solving skills, conflict resolution, and relationship building.

Generally, this article is on to something that seems to be common within the current adolescent landscape.  Take a peek at the article and see if you agree, and maybe comment on what some solutions might be to the negative side of the culture swing.

Find the Article HERE

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Book Review: The Art of Neighboring

Book Review:  The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak & Dave Runyon

The Good:

Best Camouflage is Right in Front of Your Face.  I had a high school teacher that would repeat that phrase when he didn’t notice the person in the front row raising their hand.  It tends to be true in life.  We often neglect the things that are right in front of us.  This book is one of those obvious premises that is so clear in Scripture, but we often generalize it and walk right past it.  Love your neighbor actually means to LOVE…YOUR…NEIGHBOR.  Imagine that?

Uber Practical.  If you have read my reviews in the past, you know what a big fan I am of practical books.  Don’t just give me all the information and don’t give me pointers on what to do with what I learned.  Help this poor slow reader connect the dots.  And boy does this book do that!  It gives you numerous ideas and even personal examples on how to put the principles into practice.

The B-I-B-L-E.  Pathak & Runyon do a fantastic job of using Biblical examples, typically from the life of Jesus to drive each point home.  If I’m going to step out on a limb here and start applying these bold, but needed actions, it helps to have some Biblical support.

The Bad:

Huh?  One concern I did see was on page 174.  The paragraph under the heading “Find a Partner”.  With phrases like “all truth is God’s truth”, and listing of various religions as possible partners in “honoring God”.  Could cause some confusion and almost sounds like relativism.  I don’t think that was his intention, but did raise my eyebrow.  Basically, it was not a well-thought out idea and slightly tainted the ending of the book for e.

The Grade:  B+

Well thought out practical ideas that the church needs to hear.  You want to read books that change your life, and I can honestly say this book does.  It has convicted me in how I interact with my neighbors and in the month that I have been reading this book, I’ve met at least 3 new neighbors.  Sure, not astronomical numbers, but it’s a start.  Want to be a good neighbor?  I think even Mr. Rogers would tell you, try this book on for size.

 

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Book Review: On Being a Servant of God

Book Review:  On Being a Servant of God by Warren Wiersbe

The Good:

Grandpa Wiersbe.   You can imagine the words of this book coming from a grandpa, giving their grandson advice about ministry.  Maybe I think that because both my grandpa and my wife’s grandpa were in ministry for decades.  The advice is not in a condescending tone, but come across as loving and caring.  You want to get to the page to learn more, like you are sitting on your grandpa’s proverbial knee.

Quotes For Days.  This man has a quote for everything, and each one is dynamite.  Seriously, how does he do it?  Wiersbe doesn’t just reference one or two servant books and take some nuggets to build on.  No, he grabs quotes from deep in history, professors, old preachers, and the list goes on.  No stone was left unturned to drive the point home.

Ministry A to Z.  This is like the Amazon logo of ministry books.  It takes you from A to Z of every aspect of ministry.  Both practical aspects of ministry and also the personal/spiritual side as well.  Such wisdom in these pages from a man who has lived it.

The Bad:

Nada.  Nothing bad to report.

The Grade:  A+.  This book will be on my “read again and again and again” list.  OK, I don’t really have that list, but if I did, this book would be at or near the top.  So much wisdom and practicality to this book, where it walks alongside you in ministry and drops truth bombs on every aspect of your life.  It is a must read for all those that are going into ministry, non-negotiable.

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How To Get Parents on Your Team – Part 2

Last week, I wrote on the importance of being on the same team as the parents in your youth ministry.  I cannot overstate how critical it is to have a parental connection and partnership within your student ministry.  The trust and credibility you build with parents will only bring value and growth.  Parents will provide the support you need in various ways and you will be able to provide valuable insight and encouragement to their parenting journey.

Today, I’d like to share with you one practical method of getting parents on your team.  It’s not a trick or an ulterior motive ploy.  On the contrary, you hopefully have the same heart as the parents, and that is to see their child grow in their relationship with the Lord and reach their full potential of using their God-given abilities and gifts.

One way that happens is through Parent/Pastor Conferences.  You heard me.  Why can’t teachers have all the fun with parent/teacher conferences.  After all, aren’t youth pastors/workers/leaders also teaching their children valuable material (the most valuable actually) and need to give progress updates to the parents and find ways we can work together at church and home to allow the student to achieve continued spiritual growth?  In actuality, this meeting has more significance (no offense teachers, you are most appreciated), but not because of the teacher’s place in the student’s life, but because the church teaches about that which is eternal.Shouldn’t parents and pastors sit down and discuss ways they can partner with each other to allow the teenager to fight temptation, grow in their spiritual disciplines and gifts, and experience spiritual growth.  I can hear you scream YES from here!  So how is this done?  I’m glad you asked.

  1. Pick a date. Provide a date with a wide range of times.  Example – 3-7pm on a weeknight can allow families with different schedules to attend.  Provide alternate dates to parents so they can still have time to meet with you, but encourage the conference date as a primary option.
  2. Sign-up List. During your next parent meeting, explain the parent/pastor conference and pass around a sign-up list.  Follow up with parents that may not sign up, but this provides a good base of meetings right off the bat.
  3. Make it Professional. I had my dear wife make her famous chocolate chip cookies (this puts everyone in a good mood to start the meeting) and some coffee.  I set out two leather chairs in the lobby, coffee & cookies on a table, and a sign saying I would be with them in a moment.  This is not a silly exercise, we are talking about the spiritual condition of a human being.  Take it seriously.
  4. Have a Plan. For me, I kept it very simple.  In order to stay in my 30 minute timeframe, I had 4 categories:  Concerns, Strengths, Weaknesses, & Goals.  The parents talked and I also gave my input as well.  This plan worked well in this context and kept discussion on topic and with a firm direction.  **Make sure to have plans for each grade written down and ready to go.
  5. Make Prayer a Focus. We want God to be the main source and contributor to our discussion.  So we make sure to invite God right off the bat through prayer.  Then, I make it a point to have the dad pray at the end of the meeting if he is able to attend.  This is a subtle encouragement to allow the dad to take charge spiritually within the family.  It’s always a blessing to hear parents pray for the teens you serve and care for.

That’s it.  5 steps to conducting a parent/pastor conference.  Just another way to get parents on your team.  You will be pleasantly surprised at the value this provides in your personal ministry to teens, and in your relationships with parents.  Trust, encouragement, direction, blessing, and counsel all happens in 30 minutes.  Give is a try, and get on the same team with those parents.

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How to Get Parents on Your Team – Part 1

All this discussion about football & the National Anthem, I thought I’d find some comparisons to football and youth ministry.  It’s very common for a rookie in football to make…well, rookie mistakes.  A poorly thrown interception, a missed assignment, or a blown play.  The classic rookie mistake for a youth pastor is to neglect the parents.  Some young or inexperienced youth pastors might even go as far as to see parents as a hindrance or an enemy to their progress in ministry.  Not so!

My ministry philosophy is based on Deuteronomy 6:5-7.  The youth pastor needs to be the assistant coach to the head coach, the parents.  “The responsibility for raising spiritual champions, according to the Bible, belongs to the parents…the responsibility is squarely laid at the feet of the family.  This is not a job for specialists.  It is a job for parents.”  (George Barna, Revolutionary Parenting).

The goal of the youth pastor and his ministry team is to be an assistant coach to the head coaches, the parents.  It is the parents’ responsibility to raise the children, and the youth ministry should assist with that goal in various ways.  This assistance occurs through the teaching of God’s Word, spiritual counsel and encouragement, and prayer.

Alongside those essential spiritual actions, there are practical aspects that need to be brought to the table.  A good assistance coach will help in-game planning, go to the coach when they see a player struggling or injured, and help inform the coach where they lack the knowledge.  Youth ministry is no different.  The youth ministry team should help the parents game plan.  In other words, they should help them develop the spiritual goals for their child and allow the programs and teachings to aid in reaching those goals.  Also, it is imperative for the youth ministry to go to the parents when a student is struggling spiritually.  There will be times when behavior is inappropriate, words throw up red flags, or things are said in small groups where the parents need to be made aware.  Then, the youth pastor can aid in the recovery process.  Lastly, there needs to be parent meetings that include youth culture updates, upcoming event information, discussion/advice from other parents and other essential communication that will act as support in the parenting process.  After all, it is the responsibility of the coach for the team’s behavior, but the assistant coach has a vested interest in the outcome of the game.

You want to get parents on your team?  Make sure you are on their team first.

Stay tuned for next week – a practical way to get parents on your team that will only take about 30 minutes of your time.

 

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