Category Archives: Youth Ministry

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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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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What If I Can’t Afford a Mission Trip?

Let’s face it.  Mission Trips can be expensive.  Travel expenses, training materials, ministry supplies, possible medical expenses, meals, housing…and the list goes on.  Is the expense worth it?  Absolutely.  I’m on record that short-term mission trips can be once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to provide long-lasting spiritual life change.  BUT…there are times when the expense of a trip is simply too much.  So what do you do when you can’t afford to go on a mission trip?  To put it simply, look out your window!

Each year, we host a summer mission project for our junior high students.  It is a mission trip literally in our backyard.  It teaches them how to participate in a mission trip setting, and helps their love for serving others to grow. 

Below are some examples of projects we have done in the past or plan to do in the future that are inexpensive projects that can serve as your summer’s mission trip:

  • Landscape a neighboring apartment complex
  • Yard Work for elderly of your church
  • Help with end of the year cleaning at the local school
  • Plant a community garden
  • Trash pickup along the roads of your community
  • Free Garage Sale for community
  • Vacation Bible School Projects
  • Clean nursery toys
  • Church Spring Cleaning

That should get you started.  Even if you do international trips at your church, I strongly encourage you to try some community projects either in the summer or throughout the year.   After all, if you are not serving in the community you are in now, how can you serve in someone else’s community?

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Young People Need You

Think back to that person that invested in you.  Where would you be without those late night conversations, the advice over a milkshake, or the shoulder to cry on.

Take this man named Myron.  An ordinary guy who decided to invest in the next generation.  And now, while in the midst of a difficult time, he is reaping the reward of all those hours spent helping young people.

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My Top Two Mentoring Videos

Mentoring is a process that comes with a lot of meat on the bone.  It can be overwhelming to know where to begin and how this mentoring thing works.  Well, these two videos are a great place to start.  One is how to find a mentor, and the other is how to be a mentor…

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FREE Olympics Devotional

Last week’s blog post gave you a detailed description on how to host an Olympic Youth Event.  This week is your FREE devotional to use for the event.  It links the Olympics with the Gospel.  Hope your event brings students to Christ!

Olympics Devotional

Something very special happens every 2 years…what is it?  THE OLYMPICS!

When you think of famous Olympians, there are some names that come to mind right away… Michael Phelps, Carl Lewis, or Mary Lou Retton.

 

What about Derek Redmond?  Let me just tell you his story, and I think you will remember him.

He held the British record for the 400m at age 19.  He made it to the Olympics in 1988, but had to withdraw due to an Achilles injury.

In the course of the next 4 years, he had 5 surgeries and trained to become a favorite for the 400 meters in the 1992 Olympic games.

On that day in Barcelona, he stepped on that starting line wanting desperately to finish with a medal around his neck.  The starting pistol goes off, and the race is going great.  Derek is leading the pack as he passes the halfway mark, and suddenly he hears a pop that sounded like a gunshot.  His leg begins to shake, and he realizes he has tore his hamstring.

Some of you are getting the picture in your mind right now…Derek’s dad is watching in the stands.  He sees his son hurt from the top of the stadium.  He rushes down through the 65,000 people packed in that stadium.  He yells at the security guards as he races past them “That’s my son, and I need to help him”

You see, before that race, Derek made a promise to his dad that he was going to finish that race no matter what.  And his dad came onto the track, put his sons arm around him and together, father and son, they finish the race together in front of a roaring crowd.

 

What a powerful story, but is nothing compared to what I am about to tell you.

You see each one of us in this room is like Derek.  We try to run this life of ours and do our best, but in the end we will come up short.

Romans 3:23 – “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”  What that means is we all have made mistakes and we come short of heaven.

But just like that day on the track, we have a loving Father that wants us to finish.  As Derek’s dad came down from the stands, our Father in heaven, sent His Son down to this earth to suffer for us.  He died to pay the penalty for our sins.

Romans 5:8 – “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

That day on the track Derek’s dad said to him – I’m here, son,” Jim says softly, hugging his boy. “We’ll finish together.”

God is saying that to you today.  I am here for you, I died for you, and I love you.  Believe & trust in me today, and we will spend eternity in heaven together.  Will you make that decision today?  Pray to God & trust Him today.

 

Pray (Invitation Option)

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How to Host an Olympic Youth Event

Every 4 years in our youth group, we host an Olympic Games.  Before you think this is just an athletic competition, check this out.  This weekend is for everyone and each person on the team can contribute and have a great time.

Below is the schedule & events.  Enjoy!

Leaders arrive:  Set-up – Gym Games, Tables setup for eating

Students Arrive & Dinner Served

Gym Games Begin:  Around-the-World Ping Pong, Basketball Knockout, Finders Keepers

Devotional (short, but gospel-driven) – Next Week – FREE Olympic devotional on the blog

Instructions/Sign-ups for Water Games:  Teams sign up for water games quickly.  Instruct teens about NO Horseplay.  Respect of property, listen to lifeguard, no dunking underwater.  Safety.

Arrival at Pool (YMCA does pool rentals) & Change into Suits

Begin Water Games

  • Noodle Race – Race down to one end while riding noodle. Noodle must be between legs the duration of race.
  • Splash Contest – One person per team. Based on splash size & creativity.
  • Genie in a Bottle – Students spread out around area of pool. Teens turn around & close eyes.  Leader hides the 2 liter bottle in pool (filled up with water).  1st person to find-wins points for team.
  • Belly Flop Contest – No explanation needed, right?
  • Pearl Diver – 30 Seconds to dive and get as many coins as possible. Record $ amount of find, points awarded based on $ retrieved in the 30 seconds.
  • Underwater Talk – 2 Team members. Leader gives the topic to the team, and the word to only one team member.  Team member shares word under water.  If team gets it – points awarded.  (2 tries per team)  Example – Topic:  Food  Word:  Cheeseburger
  • Best Swimmer – Race to the finish. Extra 100 points if you beat Pastor Jeff
  • Synchronized Swimming – Each team must come up with a routine. Judged on presentation, creativity, & of course synchronization.
  • (If Time) Water Polo – Goals are trash cans or bowling pins. NO dunking or put into “penalty box”.  2 small time periods.  Winner of 2 games plays for championship.

Parents pick up at Church

Optional:  Sunday/Youth Night – Do a Game Show/Quiz Night for Final Competition & Prizes (Encourages visitors and those attending Olympics to come back!)

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