Thursday Morning Quarterbacking: The Post Youth Meeting Report

 

I have a love-hate relationship with Thursdays. It’s the day after our youth meeting and I am usually wiped. I spend most of my day fiddling around with things that don’t mean much. The time I do carve out of the day is filled with reflection. My motto: If the unexamined life is not worth living then the unexamined meeting is not worth having

In most pro and college sports, there is usually a day where teams watch game film. If you won, I imagine that day is about tweaking. if you lose, the focus about overhauling. Most post meeting days I am tweaking. This past Wednesday, i am in overhaul mode. There was so much I wanted to throw out, including myself.

Football teams breakdown into groups; offense, defense, special teams. Each meeting I break down youth meeting film into three categories

People

Who was there?

Who wasn’t there?

Who was new?

Who did I make a personal touch with?

Program

Did we start on time?

Did we end on time?

Did it run smoothly?

What worked?

What didn’t work?

Personal

Did I talk to who I needed to talk to?

Did I maintain an even emotional keel?

Did I make sense when I spoke?

Some Thursdays are better than others but I  am not looking forward to this Thursday. If you are interested in a deeper look into my post “game’ report/obsession pdf, just sign up for my Get it First newsletter.

What kind of game film do you look at the day after a youth meeting?

 

 

Are You Overexposing Yourself?

I examined my week and I decided I was spending too much time with kids. Is that possible? I think it is. I saw kids on Sunday and Wednesday, I had a student leadership meeting on Monday, I was taking homeschool kids to lunch, Facbooking, and on and on. I don’t think kids need us that much. It’s us who think kids need us that much.
I think overexposure:
  • Dulls our voice. They hear us all the time.
  • Makes us a buddy more than a leader.
  • Keeps us from being objective in some cases.
  • Keeps us from valuable think time.
  • Depletes us emotionally.

Examine your schedule. Where can you cut back on being overexposed? What do you think, can you spend too much time with kids?

Help! I’m Stuck and Nothing Is Working!

 

I recently had to postpone 2 events in the past two months because the sign up was not good. These were traditional events. a lock-in and a D-Now (Disciple Now). Students had helped plan both, but did not sign up. It makes a youth worker shake his head and question everything. Don’t. It’s the new normal.

Everything is optional to students. Music, events, faith. So, what is a youth worker to do? I have a few ideas, but I know what I am not going to do:

  • Freak Out– I’ve seen this before, not as bad, but I have, and you have too. You can handle it.
  • Check Out– Quitting is not an option, because the same youth group exists across town and across the nation. Same spirit, different faces.

What I am going to do:

  • Reach Out- I am going to start a new dialogue with parents, students, and the church, we’ll see what happens
  • Stick It Out– Students see enough adults a.k.a parents, who leave when times are tough. Kids are watching how we handle the tough times, and it may be the greater lesson.

Are you facing something similar? Don’t be like Job, sitting in an ash pile, scraping your wounds with pottery shards. Be like Paul, who was struck blind, clueless. He had to swallow his pride and allow the forces to lead him to someone who could help. Sometimes, we need to submit to the forces around us, when we have trouble leading ourselves. Don’t fight a rip tide, swim parallel until you are out of it.

I am swimming parallel in the Spirit this week, praying and fasting, relying on God to lead me, rather than myself. Do you have a similar situation?  Let me know your story. Pray for me and I will pray for you.

Resource: Insane S.W.E.A.T Club: 40 Days To A Leaner Spiritual Life

The old deodorant commercial says, “Never let them see you sweat” , but they didn’t work with teenagers. If the makers of that commercial knew how little time our kids spent practicing the basic disciplines of the Christian faith; they would know it was the youth workers who were sweating . Pew Research say that Millennial’s are confident, connected, and empathetic to social needs, but they fail to mention how biblically ignorant many of them are and, unfortunately, seem to be content with that.

Youth workers, like me, feel the weight to find new ways to get our teens to learn and practice their faith. Let me encourage you that whatever tool, resource, or curriculum you use with teens, it is ultimately the Holy Spirit that woos their heart. Hearing the Word of God in any context is another step to them responding to God’s call to walk in His ways. Be patient, and don’t YOU sweat it. God is in charge.

 S.W.E.A.T (Coming Soon) 

This resource came about from the inspiration of a late night t.v. info-mercial called the Insanity. Insanity is a 60 day workout that promises you will lose weight, give you great great abs, and transform your life. My thought was, why can’t we Bible Study be insane? Why do set the bar so low for them and applaud them if they read the Bible for five minutes a day? I think baby steps are fine for some,  but we live in an extreme culture, and for those kids who love a challenge, S.W.E.A.T is for them. If your students do S.W.E.A.T, they will not lose weight, or get great abs, but in 40 days God could transform their lives.

7 bonus ideas for using S.W.E.A.T can be found HERE

When A Student Leaves: Exit Strategies

 

I hate it when a kid leaves our group. When a kid leaves, depending on the kid, several bad things can happen:

  • We lose momentum
  • We lose other kids
  • We lose leadership
  • We lose workers
  • We lose a friend
  • We lose our job, if it’s a bunch of kids

Kids can leave for any number of reasons. I recently lost a kid, not because of our program, but because of a church/relationships matter. Many kids slip away into the night and we don’t find our for weeks that they’ve quit coming. What I respect about this student, is that they wrote and told me they were leaving. They told me it wasn’t anything  I did, but they had to follow their family. What I hate, is losing a student that has so much potential. I miss the fact that I will miss their spiritual journey; to watch them grow, fail,and grow some more.

Here are a few ways to prevent or manage the damage of a students exit.

1. Steady the teetering

If you have some students or parents on the edge, meet it head on. Begin a conversation about what’s going on with their lives, give them a chance to vent. Let them put their struggles on the table. Don’t flinch, listen.

2. Strengthen what you have

Make sure you are calling or meeting with kids beyond group time. We can’t just phone it in anymore. Try some unplanned, impromptu stuff like a lunch, one night camping trip, or a quick road trip. Building community and relationships have to move beyond the youth room.

3. When a kid leaves, find out why

I used to not care, no, really, I didn’t . I felt like it was on a kid if they didn’t want to be here. Now, I try harder to weigh each case and be more proactive. I sat down with a students once who told me they were leaving, I could not convince her not to leave. What I did challenge her to do was tell the group why she was leaving. She did, and it erased any speculation and chatter of why she was leaving.

4. Encourage kids to see the future

When a student leaves, and it could effect others, move quickly to rally the troops. Talk with them about the future and the vision of the youth ministry. Share with them how you see them making this happen and that they are valued.

5. Don’t close the door or give away their seat

Kids are fickle. Whether they leave by their own choice to another group, or whether it  be a heat of the moment decision or a gradual drift, keep communication lines open. I have had kids leave and come back a year later. I have kids who went to other groups but still call me when they have a problem. Just because a kid is not in your group any longer, does not mean God has released you from them or cancelled any future plans to minister to them. Oh, that girl that left my group and told the group why she was leaving? I am performing her wedding this year.

You can’t stop kids from leaving. It’s part of the job. We have to learn, as hard as it may be, not to take each one personally. We have to look to the Lord, who Himself had a mass exodus at a critical time in his life. Yet, we find Him visiting with those same disciples, eating fish and chatting around the fire about life. If He can do it, so can we.

Can You Pass The Purity Test?

 

I am a news junkie. I like to know what is going on. News organizations have started ramping up 2012 Presidential hopefuls for the Republican party. A phrase I keep hearing is “a purity code”. The various parties, both conservative, liberal, and tea, all have a code. They are asking “are they____________ enough to win” Fill in the blank: morally conservative, fiscally conservative, christian, liberal, etc. The problem is, no one can pass this test and win.

We in the church have our own set of purity codes. I am not talking about the code  or laws from the O.T., but the subtle codes we carry around in  our minds. We carry these codes for many of the spiritual disciplines of faith. Here is an example:

 

Did you have your devotions?

First we decide what that means to us and then it become the purity code by which to measure other people devotional time. Some of the factors that make up this purity code are:

  • Time (how long was your devotion? How long is enough?)
  • Did you memorize a verse
  • Did you sing and worship the Lord?
  • Did you pray, and how long?
  • Did you read the The Word? How long? (what is the appropriate time)

You could apply this to worship, fasting, bible study, church attendance etc.

A book that really screwed me up was Larry Lea’s Could You Not Tarry One Hour? It was the ultimate purity code for prayer and devotion time in 1987. Not that I am against praying for an hour or extending my devotional time, but it was the feeling of failure that came over me when I could not do the full hour. I tried and tried, and I always measured my time with God by the hour. I never seemed to enjoy God because I was always watching the clock.

I wonder how many times we put an “unfair” purity code upon students that only Pharisees intended. Ways we do this?

  • Do you speak in tongues?
  • Can you spit out the four spiritual laws? (nothing agains the 4)
  • Do you raise your hands during worship?
  • Consistent attendance in Sunday School, Small Group, Or Youth ( I am pro attendance BTW)
  • Do you share your faith all the time? (I am pro faith sharing)
  • Do you bring your friends to church? (I am pro invitations)

We use these “codes” to qualify leadership or sometimes to determine if a person is “really” saved. The challenge our youth ministries may be facing is an over codification of faith.

I am all for scriptural and some human standards, principles, evidences, but I have aversion to codes; especially if they are man made and locked tight to change. I guess we should all take a gut check and a Word check, and see if there are some secret, man made codes we have been using to qualify the spiritual lives of ourselves and our students. As we go, we we should remember that we ourselves cannot even pass our own codes most of the time.

“For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, “(NASB)

I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Galatian 2:21

“The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14

“Owe nothing to anyone–except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law” (NLT) Romans 13:8

Let’s enjoy the Lord and each other and “the code” will take care of itself.

5 Reasons I Squidoo And You Should Too

 

I started using Squidoo about 3 years ago. Squidoo was started by author and marketing expert Seth Godin. It was a fun hobby and challenge, but I have recently had some breakthrough ideas for using Squidoo for even more ministry purposes; like using it to build a platform for greater interaction between you, my fabulous blog readers, and myself. There are a lot of ways to use Squidoo, here are a few of my reasons:

 

  1. I like the game aspect.

I get points for

  • creating lenses
  • liking other people’s lens’s and having mine liked
  • commenting on, voting on, or participating on other people’s lenses

You can work your way to becoming a Giant Squid (50 lenses) or a Squid Angel where you can “bless” other lenses and give them extra  points.  I list some of my Squidoo Goals HERE

2.  I like the creativity it offers.

I am A.D.D when it comes to what I feel like working on at any given moment. If I have an idea for a lens, BAM! I can just jump over and make one.  Here is one I did after watching the T.V show The Cape. I thought it was lens-worthy.

3.  I am starting to figure out how to use it for our youth ministry

This is a challenge. When you are dealing with social media,  it’s easy to get your message out my tweeting or changing your status; but some times you need more information or want to have an ongoing conversation. Squidoo has some great tools for debate, voting, ranking etc. I started a lens for our College and Career and will have one for our youth and parents soon. The cool thing is, if you want to create a crazy lens of nothing but polls about Lady Ga Ga, you can.

4.  I am using Squidoo to compliment my blog and bless my readers and other youth workers

In the blogoshpere, there are lot of ideas. They offer are a view point of ministry, life, scripture, etc. but Squidoo keeps the conversation moving. you can comment on my blog and then take it on over to my Squidoo Lens, and you can debate, vote, and go as deep as you want. A good example is my lens on Youth Ministry Games

5. It keeps my writing sharp

The Squidoo community is a tough crowd. You have to step it up if you want to get a like or comment. I can’t just phone it in.  I like affirmation, and I get a lot of it from my Squidoo friends. I received a purple star (a big deal) for my lens called One Life Matters. Through my involvement in Squidoo, I have been able to share my passion for young people and the role youth pastors play in the life of the church.

This reason is not just a number, it is more than that. The Squidoo Community is fun, quirky, world-wide, and challenges me to be better.

So, if you decide to try Squidoo, let me know. If you sign up, tell them Paul sent you and they may give me a few extra points.

If you want to get to know me better, check out all my lenses here on my Meography.

Here are my Squidoo lenses that focus on youth  ministry or ministry oriented lenses. Come by and say hello.

http://www.squidoo.com/one-life-matters

http://www.squidoo.com/thecureforyouthministry

http://www.squidoo.com/fusion-college-group

http://www.squidoo.com/youth-ministry-games

http://www.squidoo.com/christian-parenting-class

http://www.squidoo.com/hopeforthebullied

Have a great week everyone!!

 

Is Your Youth Ministry Hiring?

 

Our nations unemployment rate is 9.8. That is a lot of people out of work. Just like our nation, our youth ministry has a spiritual and physical economy. We know when people are working:

  • Money flows back into the economy
  • Products get made
  • People are more satisfied
  • There is less crime
  • The government pays less in welfare

What does it mean, if our youth ministry’s unemployment rate is high? It means you have a possible mess on your hands. Kids without roles or responsibilities means:

  • You are working harder than you need to.
  • Your group is moving towards a spiritual welfare group, where kids come with hands out and hearts closed.
  • Kids are not discovering their purpose or calling through  trial an error.

Look at he parable of the vineyard

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard.

He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’  So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

We all have too many kids sitting on the side of the road. Many are their simply because we have not asked them to serve.  Think about a program you want to run or a job that needs to done, which kid can fill that role? The more you hire, the more you reap these  benefits:

  • You have kids taking ownership of their group
  • You will have less behavior problems
  • You have permission into their lives and can help equip them to do their role.
  • You build excitement.
  • Student feel fulfilled that they are making the program run.

Look around,  I bet you’ll find your next student leader standing right next to you.

 

What is your servant unemployment rate? How can you implement a strategy to get more ids involved? I will be publishing a page of ideas soon, and if you’d like to get it first, sign up for the Get it First newsletter in the top right of this page.

 

 

 

 

7 Reasons You Should Teach A Parenting Class, Even If You Don’t Have Kids

I have taught a few parent classes over the years. Some were well attended, others were not; but all of them were worth it.  Here are some reasons that youth workers of all ages and every phase of life;  from no kids to empty-nester grand parents should teach a parenting class.

  • Parents need a place of their own. This is an affinity group. It is a place where parents can share and see everyone else nodding their heads.
  • Parents need connection. They need to know and feel you care beyond the midweek program. You may want to have a parent co-teach the class with you. They can be the voice of experience and you can offer some cultural advice.
  • Parents need answers. Don’t assume parents know how to raise their kids with Christian/biblical values. The information you teach, may be the first time some of these parents have heard it.
  • Parents need to know they are not the only ones going through a difficult time. In fact, many parents, after hearing other stories,  may come out of your class being more grateful.
  • Parents need time to grow. Healthier parents = healthier community = healthier church.
  • Parents need to know their is a resource for them to turn to. It’s o.k. if you have a small class, it let’s the other parents know the church cares enough to have a class.
  • Parents need you to be real. They may see a speaker, a programmer, or a game guy. This gives you a chance to show the real you.

Here is an extra page I created with more advice and resources for youth workers and parents.

Buying Into The Next Level

Before launching anything, you have to have a certain level of buy in. Whether it is a small group, discipleship group, evangelistic event, or a leadership group you need kids to buy in. You have to have kids who are interested, that have some want to. How do we get that? How do we do that? We have to get students to buy in with:

  1. Hearts (they have to feel it)
  2. Minds (they have to think it will be worth it, and t will be)
  3. Souls (they have to believe it will affect their walk with Christ and could have a greater impact on the youth group and the Kingdom of God)
  4. Bodies (they have to show up, sometimes just by faith)

So, what can we do to help our kids buy into the next level of their spiritual growth?

1. Make it a practice of telling kids you believe they can make it to the next level.

The students may not be ready now, but they can be and will be if they know someone believes in them.

2. Invite kids to taste the next level.

Jesus invited Peter, James, and John on special trips where they experienced things (mount of transfiguration, personal prayer time with Jesus in the garden). Find ways to invite kids to experience that next level of maturity.

3. Cast a vision of what life could like for them at the next level.

Kids need to see what’s in it for them and for the Kingdom. I know we want every choice to be altruistic, but most kids don’t have that. Their choices can be Spirit prompted, if they can see it with the heart and their imagination.

Jesus painted great pictures. We can too.

  • Paint a picture of the rewards at the next level (eternity, crowns, presence of God)
  • Paint a picture of the consequences at the next level (they will reject or persecute you)
  • Paint a picture of the dangers at the next level (most guys are enticed by an element of danger)
  • Paint a picture of the joy they will experience at the next level (the positive emotions will keep them coming back to that level)

4. Tell them there is a task custom made for them at the next level.

Jesus told Peter “Feed my sheep”. You have to show young people that their are important things to be done at the next level and they can do them if they step out in faith.

5. Let them know they will learn something they do not know at the next level.

We have a responsibility (on a program level) to make each level interesting, challenging, and educational. The disciples went from fishermen to walking on water, healing the sick, experiencing the power of the Spirit, proclaiming the gospel to Gentiles, and ultimately, giving their life. We have to make sure each level is not just fishing in different lake but deeper lakes with bigger fish to be caught.

6. Pursue and Live At Your Next Level

Before we invite kids to the next level, let’s make sure we are heading to the next level God has for us. We can’t invite kids where we have not been or are not heading. They will know if we are stuck at or scared of the next level in our own lives.

Your Assignment:

  • Take your program apart into small pieces.
  • Divide it into levels of deeper maturity (where do you want them to go?)
  • Decide which kids to invite to which level. (invite them consistently)
  • What rewards and consequences await at each level?