What Is Our Youth Group NOT Advertising?

 

What does this sign say? More importantly, what does it NOT say and do we put out things about our youth ministry just like it?

Clearly, the grocery store is going for price point sale. We have cheap stakes, they are not the best steaks, but they are the cheapest. Do we “sell” our youth ministry in a similar fashion? Do we say things like “We are a fun youth group!” We use that to get kids to come and hope they stay. It may be true that our our youth groups are fun but is it a bait and switch tactic?

Jesus told people up front, this thing called discipleship, it’s tough. Now, I am not in favor of pinning a visitor to the wall with an all nothing proposition on their first visit, but I wonder how much this proposition comes up at all in youth groups.

I also do not think we should advertise our youth ministries as the cheapest faith in town, “Come on by, we won’t make you angry by challenging you or preaching the gospel, but heck we’ll have fun.”

What do you think? Do you think youth ministries still practice bait and switch tactics and is this hurting youth ministries (and churches) in the long run in making disciples? Tell me what you think.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Youth Ministry Diagnostics, Plus A Free 17 Point Inspection Tool

Oil change places have a great selling point, they will check X amount of things on your car for one price. It sounds invasive. It sounds like they’ll take the whole thing apart and put it back together. We feel pretty safe because they will check x amount of things.

The rub is, when they check x amount of things, that means it may cost me more money. It may cost me a fuel filter or windshield wiper, but that’s o.k. if I really need them. Sometimes I say no, but it always cost me later if I do.

Today I’d like to offer you a free inspection tool from time to time. This resource is 17 Point Post Youth Meeting Checklist broken into three categories, People, Program, and Personal. It’s helped me reflect on what is important (people), what I can get better at (program), and what to take to heart and what not to take to heart (personal).

When was the last time your did an inspection on your youth ministry? Do you know what to look for? Do you need some help? Give me a call and I’ll be glad to get my overalls on and take a look under your hood.

 

 

 

Five Places You Could Be Instead Of Your Office

 

I used to like being in my office, until I figured out I was being ineffective in my ministry and sheltered from those who I need to spend time with. If I am not in my office, here is where you may find me and you may want to join me

 

1. I am with other church members, including my Pastor

I may be having lunch, dinner, or breakfast with all kinds of people. Why? Because I want to hang out. I want them to know the real me. The best way to do that is to not be in my office, but to be where they are. I may be playing golf, eating, or something else but I am trying to get know my congregation so I can share my vision and passion for young people. I am also listening for red flags about the ministry and for needs our youth group can meet for that person.

2. I am at the library or coffee shop thinking

“Thinking?” you say? yes, thinking. I need think time. I need time to process what God is saying to me through His Word and prayer. My to do list is not as important as my think list. I need time to think about that kid, that parent, that staff member, and that challenge I am facing. Can’t I do that in the office? Not me. I need the change of atmosphere.

3. I am at the thrift store.

Why am I at the thrift store?

  • I am building my library cheaply with good books
  • I am find cool things such as games, trophies, and more to use with our youth ministry
  • I am finding whacky costumes and hats
  • I am finding weird giveaways for the next game night. 
4. I am home
I lived for too long, living out of my car and my office and letting my house get wrcked. I go home occasionally for lunch or otherwise to do laundry, dishes, and general clean up, so the burden is not completely on my wife. My home, and yours, is more important than the office because the people we love the most live there.
5. I am working
You mean you are working and not in the office? That is right. Shuffling papers is not my style and is not very productive. It is an illusion of real work. More people work out of the office than in these day. Check out the Mobile Work Force InfoGraph from Mashable. I am
  • I am taking pictures and posting them on Facebook
  • I am textting kids and parents
  • I am sending e-mails 
  • I am creating
Could I do this from the office? Sure, but it cuts down on my being able to multi-task effectively.
Do you have office hours? What are they?  Do you have an office?  Are you in it too much? Where do you go when you are not there and is it productive? Let me know, I’d love to here about it.

Breaking Down The “Why?” Question In Our Youth Ministries

 

I have been reading the book Start With Why By Simone Sinek. The focus of his book is in the title; that people are more about why you do something than what you do or how you do it, so why don’t we start with asking why before we create another ineffective program? I used to think that if I told kids what we did (events, fun, concerts, etc.) and how we did it ( with energy, lots of give aways, food, big crowds) they would be sold, come to the event, and then stick around for a while. Had I stuck to that premise only, I would have left youth ministry a long time ago. The what and the how no longer excite me, but the why is still what has kept me going.

I think most of the kids have stuck with me in the ministry for a while because they know I do not do it for the money, fame, and glory because their isn’t any. They stuck around because I cared about them enough to hang our with them, share the truth with them, and from time to time, discipline them. They figured out that the Why? under current of my life was to see them become fuller followers of Christ while they were under my watch. They knew I was with them for as long as I could be, and I never gave up on them so long as it was within my power.

This does not mean my WHY was not without a few faults. I would slip from time to time back into what we do and how we do it and make that the focus. I would sometimes not do relationships very well, but the kids hung around anyway, God bless’em.

So, how do we take the translate the meaninglessness out of our what and how of youth ministry to give us a compelling story instead of an invitation tag line or bumper for the next video of a  program we’re pushing? I recently re-thought out our worship band and this is my why, what, and how of our youth band. I recently sent this to our band leader.

 

WHY do we have a band? – This is purely philosophical, but if we cannot answer the why then the what and the how do not matter.

Why do we have a band?

  • Because it allows young people to use heir gifts and talents to glorify God rather than be spectators.
  • Because young people need peers to model what worship is. 
  • Because, if we do not create an atmosphere of worship, with the best that we have, that lifts God high, we will never see students step out in faith and worship God in the fulness of the Spirit. 

Simple right? This is WHAT the band is going to do

1. Practice become worship leaders to their peers to the throne room of God, in band practice.
2. Grow deeper in their individual walk with God because of their commitment to worship
3. Become the best they can be at their instrument and vocals.

More simple, right?  This is HOW we are going to do it: We will

1. Expect them to be at practice and on time. Let’s have a few weeks of grace but the rule in the past is: If you do not practice with the band, you do not play with the band that following week. Let’s stick to that.
2. Create an environment of innovation. No idea is too crazy, no song to stupid, no combination of instruments too ludicrous. In other words, if they have an idea, let them share it, weigh it against the feedback of the rest of the band and what you think; and if it is doable, run with it. This means:

a. If someone has a solo, either instrumentally or vocally let’s figure out how to fit that in (special, offering, communion, closing, etc.)
b. Mentor and challenge kids to step up. Don’t let talented kids hide. Encourage them to step out. Really focus on certain kids to be lead worshippers. Here is a four step process I use when mentoring

I do it you watch (this might mean you show them how to pray out loud, move in the Spirit, etc.)
I do it you help (give them opportunities to do what you just did)
You do it and I watch (take the training wheels off and let them ride, even if they crash, they learn something)
You do it I train someone else ( Once that person has to confidence to do it, let them do it and move on to someone else all the while being available for feedback, etc.)

3. We’re going to bang the drum in all these areas. We will  say it, write it, practice it, show it, paint it, sing it, or any other method that will keep our WHY at the forefront.

4. We will start each practice with a short devotion about worship, more story driven than principle driven but not leaving out either. The devotion will be short with interactive (open ended) questions and we will let kids struggle with the answers to  “what does this mean for me personally?” and “what does this mean for us as a band and a youth ministry?”

5. Recruit fantastic musicians and singers, from inside and outside the church, to mentor our kids in their instruments and vocals.

 

That took me about 15 minutes to think through and write out. Feel free to steal it, rework it to make it your own, or come up with your own.

 

Part II Coming Soon: Steps To Coming Up With Your Why Statement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is There Hope For The Un-Relational Youth Pastor?

We all know that youth ministry and ministry in general is driven by relationships, but what about those of us who are not anti-social but growing relationally challenged? I will say that early on in my life I felt like I had to be the life of the party and entertain everyone around me, now that I am older I don’t feel the need to do so, but I look at relationships, especially with young people differently.

I grew up an only child, so I am used to having alone time. In fact, the older I get, the more I like to be alone. I like to read, study, you know, all those things many of did not like when were younger. How has my relationship style changed with students and just about everyone else? Here are a few things I am practicing:

  • Shorter burst of relational time but more meaningful.
  • Say things that matter and skip the fluff.
  • Longer periods of quiet and reflection so when I do jump in to the thick of it I am charged and ready for it.
  • More texting (short encouragements).
  • Less Facebook time (especially chatting)
  • More meal time with students.
  • Not feeling guilty if I am not always there.
  • Letting others step into the spot light.

These are not just tips from a guy who is growing older in his profession, they are nuggets for anyone who thinks they have to be “on” all the time. I don’t think am losing a step in the area of relationships but as choosing my steps more wisely.

Do you struggle in building/maintaining relationships with students? Tell us about it. Have some more tips for the relationally challenged? Share those too.

Why Youth Pastor’s Are Not (Real) Missionaries

 

 

I’ve heard through he years that youth pastors are like missionaries. I used to think that was true, but upon reflections, I find it is only partially true.  I just got back from Phoenix and our National Fine Arts Conference and District Council for my denom. I talked with my friend and missionary Larry Henderson. Larry and his wife Melinda are missionaries to the Canary Islands.

Larry was helping with a booth to support missions in Europe where only 3% of the population is Christian. We started talking about what is working in youth work in the Canary Islands and guess what? It’s no shocker, it’s relationships. They gather kids up weekly and play soccer and then share the gospel or invite them to a bible study. The whole thing is relationships.

Now, we , as youth workers, do share some similarities with missionaries

  • We work in a foreign culture (Two Words : Lady Gaga)
  • We have the occasional language barrier (brush up on your lingo here or here)
  • We face cannibals on a weekly basis (Don’t laugh, you haven’t seen my youth group)

We are missionaries in practice, up to a point. The differences are many

  • Missionaries are revered for their sacrifice to live in another country ( I am over 40 and culture is officially another country to me, I want a cookie)
  • Missionaries are supported financially. (Need I say more)
  • Missionaries are applauded for reaching those God forsaken pagans (we are asked about that strange kid with the purple hair)
  • Missionaries garner prayer support (prayed for any other youth workers lately)
  • Missionaries are invited to share stories from the front lines. (Can you name the last time you were invited to share what God was doing in the youth ministry with your congregation?)
  • Missionaries can try anything that might reach the indigenous people and they don’t get fired if it does not work. (We get yelled at because the music is too loud)

What do you think,  are youth pastors true missionaries? Should youth pastors move to being independent contractors (ala Young Life and YFC) and we just tell churches, we’ll work in your community but don’t tell us how to do our job? If only 3% of the teenagers in our country were Christians would the roles of youth pastors change? How?

 

Get Fired Up! Way To Go Life For Youth Camp!

 

 

Hey LFYC Campers!

Forst let me say I love you guys! You were a  great group this year and God did some amazing things in our midst and in our hearts. I hope the week was a powerful for you as it was for me. As I promised here is a bunch of  the stuff I used this week like the Bad Evangelism video and the video, our Alabama Disaster relief. Oh, and even the Oliver video clip

Here is a list of the songs we sang this week

Christ In Me

Tell The World

Trading My Sorrows

Happy Day

Nothing Is Impossible

One Way

What The World Will Never Take

I Am Free

Your Love Never Fails

Mighty To Save

Our God

Love Like Fire

Father Will You Come

You Never Let Go

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rascal Flatt’s I Won’t Let Go

If you have pictures or video from the week please send it to me at thedproject@me.com

You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+

Don’t forget to download the 40 Day Sweat Club devotion. If you are needing more devotions please check the free resource. page.

 

Good Youth Ministry Begins With Asking Why

 

 

I have been reading a book by Simon Sinek called Start With Why. It is a marketing/leadership book for businesses but it really challenges the reasons why we don’t ask why and why we should be asking why more. The premise is simple: People are not attracted to what we do or how we do it, but why we do what we do. He challenges us to always begin our endeavors with Why?

For youth ministries, this means getting away from selling our long list of programs to students and getting down to telling a better story of why we created the programs in the first place.

Let me offer seven questions we should be asking about our youth ministries and ourselves:

1. Why do I do, or still do, youth ministry?

“Because I am called” or “Because I can’t do anything else” are both sad answers and do not inspire anyone. Dig deeper.

2. Why do I preach what I preach? 

“It’s my job” is lame and keeps you from changing the way you lead your group. Dig deeper

3. Why do I have daily devotions and prayer?

Is it because you feel guilty or you think God may punish you if you do not? Reflect not on the what or how long, but the discipline itself. Healthy youth ministry begins with healthy leaders.

4. Why do we meet?

If you can answer this question, programming will be a breze.

5. Why do we have small groups?

By asking why, we eliminate false answers such as “Because everyone else has them”

6. Why do we have outreaches?

Is it about the numbers? Go deeper and you’l find a better reason to reach our to your community.

7. Why do I do or should I do family ministry?

We do not ask this questions often enough because many ministries do not do this well, so we don’t ask.

Asking why makes us uncomfortable and it should. It reveals how little foundation we have for doing what we do. Asking why makes us unhappy in the short term but if we ask and reflect on it, it could lead us to reformulating what we do.

We cannot coast along in youth ministry with out asking why. If we’ll start with why we may just avoid the disappointing question, “What happened?”

Which of these questions challenge you most?

Is there a why question you have been pondering? Tell us what part of youth ministry we should being asking why about.

 

Do Mega Youth Groups Have A Mega Responsibility?

 

 

I got a call the other day from a mega youth movement in our city. They were inviting me to an end of school rally. I appreciated the call and thanked him. A few days later I received another call inviting me to the same event. I had been thinking about mega-churches and mega youth movements and their responsibility to the rest of the body of believers within the community.

Mega churches are, dynamically, like Wal-Mart. When a Wal-Mart moves into a community , it has an adverse effect on mom and  pop stores, usually resulting in them closing. Mega-churches have a similar effect. I define a mega church or youth ministry of over 100, since the average church congregation is about 100. Wal-Mart has no responsibility to mom and pop stores, but what if they did? What if they shared marketing secrets or better customer service tips? This would level the playing field to some degree and then it would be up to those owners to change to get a chance to compete within the market place.

What if Mega-Churches or groups did the same? Rather than gutting our youth ministries or young adult programs and saying too bad, teach us how to thrive. Now, I know the mega’s have events that equip the body. They host larger speakers, conferences,  and concerts that smaller groups could not afford. That certainly helps, but there are some other things I’d like to see them do.

I’d like to see mega movement youth leaders and youth pastors

  • Join a local network- Many times these leaders will say they do not have time. Bunk! Come hang out with us.
  • Teach us something- Share what you know with us. Teach us how to draw students or have an awesome camp.
  • Partner with us- Bring your awesome drama team or band to our group.
  • Reach out to us- I want to hear from you, not your people. Mega groups draw criticism because of isolationism. Break down the walls.
This is not sour grapes, just an observation. I am also not a spiritual socialist, believing all things should be equal among us.  I think Mega youth groups have a mega responsibility to the rest of the body within a community, unless they want to be Wal-Mart.  At the very least, don’t ignore us. We may be mom and pop churches but we have purpose. Invest in us, build relationships with us, and then let us stand on our own and we ‘ll see what God will do. Next time, don’t call me to come to your event, call me to come into relationship with you.
What do you think? Do Mega-Youth Ministries or movements have a responsibility to the rest of the body within a community or is it all cut-throat and the strongest survive? Tell me what you think.

6 Things I Do The Week Before Youth Camp

I am heading off to our summer camp next week and I thought I’d pass along a few things I do that make my life easier:

  1. I meet individually with students who I think might cause me a problem. I challenge them to step up and lead or give them a job for the week, such as watching out for younger students to make sure they’re not picked on.
  2. I over communicate with parents about any changes.
  3. I make sure every kid has signed our camp standards covenant
  4. I think of a surprise or bonus I can spring on the kids that week. It could be as simple as candy bars or free t-shirts.
  5. I make sure my Pastor has a count and a list of campers so he can pray for us individually
  6. I meet one final time with parents right before the trip for about 10 minutes to challenge them to prepare a home where they can live out the things they have committed in their hearts to Christ.

Do you have a list of things you run through to make your camp run smoother?  Share them with us.

Oh, here is a free Generic Camp Covenant I created for our group. Enjoy.

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