Youth Workers, It’s O.k. To Be Happy With Your Numbers

 

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I don’t know the last time (if ever) anyone told you that it’s o.k. to be happy with your youth group numbers, but it’s o.k.. I’m happy with the number of kids in our youth ministry, right now, because that is who God has given us. They are fantastic kids on a journey with God. Yes, even the ones not practicing their faith the way I think they should. I am thankful for every kid who shows up. I haven’t always been like that. i used to commit the cardinal sin of say at the beginning of a meeting, “Where is everyone?” I had to stop doing that. To be ungrateful or unthankful for who is not there is to poke a finger in the eye of the students who are there.

Jesus had a set number of students. He had 12, 70, and a few more, but that was over a course of three years. In addition, he had a bunch bale on him ( John 6:60-70). Toward the end of Jesus’ ministry, He thanked His Heavenly Father for what He gave him,  “I have revealed you[a] to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word” John 17:6

Are you ungrateful for what you do not have? Then beware the three dangers the road of ungratefulness leads us to.

1. We put the kids we do have on a guilt trip for what we don’t have

This is not to say we should nor exhort our kids to share the gospel or invite their friends to church, but, we can lose the ones we have if we think their only purpose is to build our youth ministry. We can only offer opportunities for kids to engage and if they come up short we know where they’re at spiritually and that should prompt us pray for them and help mature them where we can and where parents give us permission.

2. We can become users and abusers

If we become so numbers driven, we’ll start to use kids in ways they were not meant to be used. Challenging kids to step our of their comfort zones is one thing, making them join the drama team or some other team just to bolster the group is not fair to that kid. Let kids find their natural God-given talents and work your growth strategy around that or create a new one. Forcing kids into our man-made molds and models is spiritually unhealthy for them and for us.

3. We could  become bitter when God does not “bless” our plan or outreach 

We are real quick to blame stuff on God when it’s our fault or we may blame ourselves over and over again but neither of those is a healthy position to take. Maybe we come back from a conference with a new plan or idea and when it does not work, somehow it’s God’s fault, as if God owes us a large youth youth ministry. A + B does not equal C in youth ministry. There are many lives with many destinies in our group. God will bring to us who he bring to for His glory, not ours.

“But what if my job depends on my numbers?” Then do a gut check. Ask yourself

1. Am I doing everything I know how to do to reach kids for Christ?

2. Am I trying  to learn or recruiting others who know more than me to help the youth ministry reach out?

If you are dong all you can do, relax and be thankful.

if you are looking for some outreach material that works, I recommend

The Hunger and Thirst Games, Rivals: A Three Week Sports Themed Outreach, and a bunch of great ideas from Jonathan McKee on his site

 

 

Is Your Mentor Calling You To Adventure Time?

 

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“Follow me and I will make you fishers of men”- Jesus.

I’m a sucker for anyone who can say, “I’ll make something of you.” Maybe this is why I got sucked in MLM (Multi Level Marketing) for a time. When you meet a millionaire who says they can make you make money and that I could make other people make money, I was intrigued. But, as impressed as I was, shockingly I was not motivated to make money. Money was too small a prize.

I left college after three months because academia and the whole college vibe felt homogenized and safe. To be really honest, I was bored. Maybe this is why, at 20-21 years old, I shipped myself off to a year long discipleship school called Masters Commission 3,000 mies away. The adventure of driving across the country in a my Ford Galaxy, with vinyl seats, no air, across Texas should have been enough adventure. What I loved about my year in Phoenix was that i did not know what was going to happen next. One day we were doing outreach in the barrios the next were visiting nursing homes. Our leader, Lloyd Ziegler, was wild and frenetic and you never knew what he was going to say or do, but you knew it was going to be fun and full of adventure. I loved it. It was, maybe, the best year and education of my life.

Jesus said., “Follow me and I’ll make you fishers of men.”. The four disciples, who were fishermen by trade, possibly thought, ” I’ll catch men? O.k., not my speed by I’ll go with it.” or “What do I do with these men after I catch them? Do I clean them, cook them, and eat them?” They left fishing and went on a journey, an adventure.

There is something in a man’s heart that leaps for joy when someone says, “I see potential in you.” That’s what Jesus saw in all he called. He said, “I find you worthy of my time and company.” Jesus calls us to a one on one mentorship when He calls us to follow him. He mentors us through His Holy Spirt who is the Master Mentor

  • He will guide us into what is true (John 16:13)
  • He speak was is true and not just the wisdom of the day (John 16:13)
  • He can tell us what to look for down the road (John16:13)

As youth workers, we call kids to a great adventure in knowing Christ. We take them on mission trips, camps, retreats, events, etc. all for the purpose of “talking with them along the road” – Luke 24:32  I think many kids reject our call to Christ because we lack adventure. Much of what I offer, in the way of outcome, is in the small end of the pool.

So, if you’re looking for a ministry mentor, take a tip from some young men who who were willing to leave all to follow Jesus.

  • Look for a mentor who offers a skill (I will make you).
  • Look for a mentor who invites you to, and can deliver on, an adventure.
  • Look for a mentor who excites and scares you.
  • Look for a mentor who leverages every resource they have to offer you God-Moments

Maybe this is why I have not found a mentor. I haven’t found the right ministry mentor because the rewards offered are too small. The calling too tame. Yesterday the Holy Spirit made me turn my car around to go to a gas station where I had been stopping to get coffee a few times a month, to talk with, and eventually pray with a woman who was going through a hard time. I am thankful for a God who still mentors us with nudges towards adventure.

When was the last time a mentor challenged you?

What was the most exciting/scary thing a mentor ever asked you to do? How did it go?

Click HERE to go to the next post in this series: 6 Youth Ministry Coaching/Mentoring Sites To Check Out

 

You Do Have A Choice: Quitting, Pivoting, or Persevering

 

Let me begin by saying, I am totaling ripping off the title to one of my favorite business podcasts of late called Fizzle. I must warn you though, if you listen, it will have some salty language sprinkled through-out. That being said, the podcast rocked my world in two ways.

1. It made me think about our ministry

The podcast made me think about quitting, pivoting, and persevering in ministry; and not just youth ministry but the ministry of blogging (do I do that? Let me know) or You Tube videos, or whatever I do. Ministry has many outlets and I like to take advantage of as many of them as I can.  It keeps me from becoming stale.

The topic of quitting, pivoting, and persevering made me think about youth ministry programs and attitudes I need to quit. One such attitude I need to quit is creating something that’s my idea vs God’s idea. Not all good ideas are God ideas, they’re just my ideas. Whether I can create a program does not mean I should create it. I think if I would just follow the Spirit’s rhythm, the dance would go much smoother.

There are some things iI need to pivot in. Pivoting is simply a shift in a another direction. Worship is an important value of our youth ministry. We have had a band for the the past three years and now we sing to videos. To some that may look like a step back but in reality it is a pivot. We couldn’t just raise up a band. The talent pool was just not there. So, instead of just not doing worship, we do worship videos and the kids are highly engaged.

I have a retreat weekend coming up that we have tried to pull off for three years. This may go back to creating something I want vs the Spirit, but retreats are something I think students need. I tried to design the retreat to fit with the culture I live in so kids would adapt to it much easier. If this year does not work out the way i planned, I will pivot, not quit. I will change locations, model, or whatever. If that does not work out, I will just have to quit this type of retreat and do something else.

Finally, there are things I have to persevere with, or push through. Students taking leadership and ownership of their ministry is  a drum I will bang loudly and often. There are times in the those programs that I will have to pivot because of the number of kids interested or not, but students leading is something I will never quit.

2. Disciple Project Ministries, The Blog

This piece you are reading is only one piece of Disciple Project Ministries. Like I said earlier, I do You Tube videos, I give away freebies, and I have my own youth ministry store. I don’t do all of these for applause or for, God forbid, money, because there isn’t any. Not for a small time blogger like me. But, I persevere. Why? Because I think I have a voice, a point of view, an opinion worth sharing, not arrogantly but gracefully.

I am deciding to pivot in my blogging, God knows I have thought about quitting, by expanding the conversations beyond just youth ministry. I feel like my writing has become myopic over the past year, and If I feel that way, then my readers may feel the same. I find Jesus and faith in a lot things, music, movies, etc. and I want to talk about those things as well and how we, believers and youth workers,  can use them to surf the culture versus being drowned in it.

For those that read this regularly, and I have no idea who you are, I hope you’ll enjoy some of the changes. If not, there are plenty of other great youth ministry blogs out there to enjoy. For those who stick around, I want to have a caffeinated (stimulating) conversations about life, ministry, culture, the church, politics, and all those other things that make us human. I hope you’ll grab a large latte, double shot, and join me.

How about you, are you feeling the need to pivot, quit, or persevere in some aspect of your life or ministry?

What things do you need to quit in your ministry?

Where do you need to persevere?

Where do you need to pivot, change direction?

Leave me a comment below. I’ll choose the most caffeinated (stimulating) comment and send you a Starbucks (or whatever your favorite coffee is)  voucher.

Let’s begin.

 

 

 

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Take PrIde In What and Who You Lead

 

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It’s easy to think you are failing in youth ministry. If you think

  • My group is not big enough
  • I’m not reaching enough kids
  • Our meetings are a mess
  • My volunteers won’t step up
  • My Pastor doesn’t back me

Then yes, by these standards, failure is easy to embrace.

It’s also easy to take pride in what you lead, If you think

  • We’ve come a long way
  • We are in a process
  • I am learning from my failures
  • These students are still coming in spite of everything
  • Some of these students are getting this!

Tell your youth group you are proud of them in spite of imperfection.

Be proud of those kids who are are taking baby steps in their faith.

Be proud of yourself, because you are sticking it out when others are bailing.

Jesus is proud of you and that’s enough. After all, you’re His kid.

What If We Were Georgia Tech Passionate?

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I saw this video this morning and now want to go to Georgia Tech. I don’t want to go to Georgia Tech to be an engineer. I want to go to Georgia Tech because of this guy who addresses the incoming freshman at Georgia Tech (and maybe because he said I could build an Iron Man suit if I wanted to.).

Can a youth ministry that has money, facilities, and a full time youth pastor fail? They can and it maybe because the person leading it is not passionate enough. There is no substitute for passion. Take my budget, my facilities, and my church credit card, but do not take my passion.

The young man in this video is passionate. As  I heard one newscaster say, “it reminds me of a moment in Revenge of the Nerds where there is this epic moment and then people did not know what to do with it. There are a few claps and then a roar.” Fair enough.

This is an Engineering School. It’s math and science. I hate those things, because I am not good at them, but Nick Selby, (the guy in the video) makes me want to at least try to attend.

The Gospel is filled the passion. Jesus was passionate about life, redemption, and His Father. What if we presented the Gospel the way this young man shared his passion for Georgia Tech. What if we shared our passion for the ministry the way this young man did? You don’t need the music, although it might not hurt, but you did need a strong conviction and passion share it.

Tomorrow: You Can Do That!

Take this test and leave your comments below

On a scale of 1-10 What is your passion level

a) for Jesus Christ

b) when you preach

b) for the ministry

c) for your favorite sports team

Any differences?

What do you do to get your passion level up?

What Kind of Game Are You Playing In Youth Ministry?

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I have been a gamer for a long time. I loved video games growing up but have shifted to table top games and board games. As I explored the world of games beyond chess and monopoly, I learned there were different kinds of games.

There are competitive games like chess and Connect 4 which pit one person again another and there are cooperative games like Pandemic, Castle Panic, and Forbidden Island.

In competitive games there is only one winner. Two teams play, one team wins. There is a losers. In cooperative games everyone plays together to achieve something. There is one goal, one win, and if the group does not achieve the goal, together, the group loses and the game wins.

The church is a lot like tug of war. It’s both competitive and cooperative. There are teams of people pulling and tugging on a rope with a red flag in the middle. That flag could be doctrine, rules, who gets to use the fellowship hall, and how you should do youth ministry. The problem is that the tug of wart is never ending. Each side is always gaining new members and neither side weakens.

The Dangers of Playing Competitive Games                                                        (including tug of war, no matter how many people you have on your side)

  • The risk of breaking community
  • Damaging the Church’s reputation
  • Arrogance if you “win”
  • Bitterness if you “lose”
  • A weary and jaded spirit

There is no win in competitive game mode. Quit that game now. You are the youth pastor. You have little power, or control. What you do have is prayer, a servant spirit, and God almighty to deal with those who turn your ministry into a competition of money, space, or power.

Look at the results of competitiveness in Scripture

1 Corinthians 4:6 ESV

“I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.”

The Rewards of Cooperative Play

  • Life is good
  • Things get done
  • The majority of people win and win the right way
  • Increased strength of vision

32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.  Acts 4:32-35

What Does It mean To Win?

“to win means to accomplish something significant, to purposefully overcome a testing situation and make a mark. It’s to positively alter the state of the game and know that you did.” – TadHD Kelly

Decide, as a person, and as team , on what the “win” is and get rid of anything that works against the win.

Exercise

What is does a win look like in your life?

What does a win look like in your ministry?

What is working against the win in either area?

Where are you playing the competitive game?

What steps can you take to you turn the competitive game into a cooperative?

Want to read the first post in the this series? Click HERE

Youth Ministry: You Play To Win “The Game”

 

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Some people will not appreciate this post because they think I am reducing youth ministry or ministry to a game. That is not my intent but rather to make similarities between ministry and games or gaming. As pastors, (and all Christians) we ought to take the gospel and our calling very seriously, but that does not mean we are aren’t in some kind of game mode at some point in our ministry. The point of this post is to help you decide what the “win” is your ministry and go for that. If you’ll take this post for what is is, the rantings of a crazy man, and not a theological treatise your head won’t explode and ruin your day.

Onward.

It’s Football season. I love football. I love college football. I am an Alabama fan by marriage and a Notre Dame Fan by heart. In the pro’s I am Giants fan. I don’t believe we watch games to see teams tie. We watch to see who the winner will be. If you want to see a game without winners and losers start your own Upward Basketball Channel.

I like winning. It beats losing in my opinion. Herman Edwards says it bests, “You play to win the game.”. The big question in life, as in ministry, is “What is the WIN and how do I get it?” If we can define what the win is over all and the smaller wins along the way that lead to “the big win”, then we will be much more focused and satisfied people and ministers.

This is a longer post than usual so take moment to enjoy this before continuing

This series of posts are inspired by an article I read called: What Games Are by Tadhg Kelly  over on Tech Crunch. I will be quoting some of his article and some of his sources as well.

All this week I will be discussing how to find The Win in our youth ministries. I will be breaking this weeks posts into smaller thoughts?

What is a win in a youth meeting?

What is a win in Evangelism?

What is a win in Discipleship?

Defining the win in life and ministry

Gaming Your Youth Ministry With A Clear Conscience

Today, I want to focus on Youth Ministry as game.

Think about it. Do you count your students every week? Why? Because we’re playing a mental game. More equals better and less than last week is viewed by some as #fail.

Students are not points on a score board, and should never be treated as such, but the weekly head count is one way we decide whether the youth meeting was a win. We often break down that win into smaller wins:

How many visitors did we have?

Did the visitor come back?

Was that certain kid there?

The danger, of a mental game like this, is that we equate God’s blessing with the numbers, derive our self worth by those numbers, or define our competency as a minister by those numbers. Numbers do none of these. Numbers are only one factor in the big picture of the game of youth ministry. But, they are numbers none the less and numbers are a part of the game.

Social Media apps like Foursquare or Get Glue give us badges for checking in or achievements for unlocking certain levels. We’ve been doing this in youth ministry for years. Pack a pew, bring a friend get a __________ ( slice of pizza) bring the most friends get a __________ (car?). Contests, and the like, are part of the Youth Ministry landscape and are neither good or bad, but they are part of gaming in your ministry.

Football, like life, is four quarters. You may be a rookie and working out the bugs of your ministry in the first quarter or you are like me, heading out of the locker room to start the third quarter of life and ministry. No matter where you are in the mix, if you are playing with passion and playing to win, you are playing “the game” correctly.

Tomorrow:  What Kind of Game Are You Playing?

How do you define “win” in youth ministry?

How do you define “win” in your youth meeting?

How do you find yourself “gaming the ministry”?

 

 

 

 

Why I Love Doing You Tube Videos For Youth Workers

 

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If you have never seen any of my You Tube videos let me share what they are about. I have 4 Playlists on my YouTube Channel.

Real Time Training: Tips and Tricks For Youth Workers – When I get an idea or think about principle that may help you, I do a quick video and pass it on to you.

More Than A Youth Room: Designing Your Space On Purpose – Does your youth room need some help? Grabs some ideas from 9 video focusing on youth room elements.

The Tuesday Panic: Ideas For The Less Than Prepared Youth Worker – Over two hours hours of videos offering ideas for sermons, bible studies, game idea, and message illustrations.

Off The Shelf: Reviews and Interviews About Youth Ministry Resources – This channel is focused on bringing youth workers interviews with ministries that could add value to your youth ministry and my thoughts on resources I think are worth using. Close to three hours of interviews with authors, ministry founders, and resource reviews.

Check out a few video and if you like them hit the thumbs up button and then hit the subscribe button so you’ll know when I post a new video.

If you are wondering why I put so much time and effort into these videos, let me start by tell you why I don’t create You Tube videos for youth workers

1. I’m uber-good looking and I want everyone to know it.

2. I have tons of time to waste.

3. I enjoy all the comments, likes, and accolades.

I am obviously not doing it for any of these reasons, so why then?

1. I love to communicate new thoughts, ideas, and strategies to youth workers who can’t get it any other way. 

I don’t know how many youth workers are in Merica’ (that’s America for you who have not seen this video or know the definition) or the rest of the world for that matter,  but my guess is there are a bunch or youth workers who cannot get to a youth conference but still want some training. If a youth worker can easily access a video on their computer or phone and can walk away with one good idea during their busy day, good for them.

2. I enjoy the creative outlet.

I never want to become stale in my knowledge of technology or in my creative endeavors so You Tube offer me the chance to grow in both.

3. It helps me in my communication skills

You may not know this but I used to do radio back in the day. I co-hosted a show called The Saturday  Night House party for six months where we show cased new Christian music in the 90’s. I enjoyed the experience quite a bit but the show was short lived. Let’s just say we were ahead of our time.

If I have a subject and a time limit, I have to cut to the quick and get to the point. Youth workers, of all kinds, are busy people and I want to make the few minutes they do have for training short, simple, stout with tips and information.

How about you, do you look for youth worker training from You Tube?

What videos have you found that have helped equip you for youth ministry/ministering to teens?

Bringing Back Fire To Your Youth Ministry

On my You Tube show, The Tuesday Panic, I share some thoughts on a message I am going to share tonight about the Fire and  the Passion of the Holy Spirit . You can watch the video below

In light of what I said on the show, and still believe, I have mixed emotions and today I want to expound on the subject of the post camp Christian life and ask you a few questions.

Here was my “in house” talk with campers:

Imagine a caveman who hears or sees other tribes of people not only surviving but thriving because they have an advantage: Fire

If that caveman (men, women) wants the same for their tribe, they must leave their tribe and go looking for this fire.

Failure to bring back fire means

– Their tribe cannot cook their food
– Their tribe has no light at night
– Their tribe cannot stay warm in winter

Bringing back fire was critical for them and is spiritually critical to us. Without the fire of the Holy Spirit and His passion for Jesus Christ, our youth ministry and church:

– Cannot grow because we do not share the fire
– Cannot love each other because we don’t feed the fire
– Cannot fight our spiritual battles because we don’t use the fire.

I encourage kids to bring back fire, not only for them but for the whole tribe.I want/encourage/desire to show a similar amount of passion they showed at camp, but that may not be fair of me.

I don’t think that a kid that comes back from camp and doesn’t save the whole neighborhood isn’t saved or didn’t experience Jesus. I think there are other traits to the Christian life beside enthusiasm, like a deeper love for others and great understanding of grace and mercy. Enthusiasm for God seems to be the preferred trait among us Pentecostals.

What I have noticed in the Pentecostal churches I’ve worked in, is that the physical, demonstrative, display of the faith is what is valued most, so that’s what I’ve encourage in teens; but for teens to show an authentic, passionate fire we must teach them to stoke that fire through prayer, the Word, and action (loving each other, etc.).

1. Do we focus too much on getting teens to show an outward display of faith and not enough on the less seen qualities of the faith or are they indistinguishable from one another?

2. Are our expectations of what God does or should do at youth camp or retreat unfair to the teen who must live that out?

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Hoping Against All Hope Is Not As Easy As It Sounds

 

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  Ready for a little weekend inspiration? I know I am. All people,especially ministry folk, are over-taken by desperate feelings and hopelessness from time time. We hope life will get better. We hope things will change. We hope our families will come back together We hope our kids will return to the Lord. We hope our ministries will grow. We hope we get a raise. On and one this darn thing called hope keeps cropping up and it usually shows up during difficult times. David went through a desperate time as seen in Psalm 3 In Psalm 3, David wrote: Lord, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me. Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah. But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.Psalm 3:1-3 K.J.V. Moses had to stay hopeful against all hope when Egyptian armies chased after him and   the Red Sea was the only way of escape. Daniel had to stay hopeful against all hope that he would not get eaten by a lion. These guys made hoping look easy, but we know it could not have been easy all the time. We are only human. It’s not whether we experience discouragement or hopelessness, it’s not a sin to experience these things;  it’s whether we remain in that sate of hopelessness that determines our outcome. There is zero guarantee that life will work out the way we thought it should go. In fact, I am pretty sure my life will not turn out the way I thought it should but my hope is not in my life plan, but in God’s plan. Matt Chandler has a funny take on life not working out like we thought it would and I agree. Have you been hoping against all hope lately? What keeps you going? Is life not working out the way you thought? How so?