Losing Students Without Losing Yourself

Youth Ministry in Motion Podcast Ep. 69

Show Notes

I just watched the season finale of The Walking Dead and it only confirmed that I may be the Morgan of Youth Ministry Apocalypse.

In the show, Morgan says, “First I lose people, then I lose myself.”

He simply means, “I try to protect people, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t protect everyone, change everyone, or save everyone.  When I lose one, I lose myself.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone into an almost depressive like state after losing a kid from our youth ministry. I saw their potential. I wanted to go the distance with them through high school and maybe even college. But, for one reason or another

  • family leaves the church
  • kid finds another youth group
  • sin gobbles them up like zombies

It doesn’t matter the reason, it just sucks. It’s hard not to take any of it personally, but caring too much can be ultimately, unhealthy.

There is no way around this. Look how many Jesus “lost” or left him. Judas, Peter, the rich young ruler, nine of the ten lepers, the rest of the disciples, and a bunch of no names who said they’d follow Jesus but wouldn’t because they couldn’t let go of whatever was holding them back.

That is not to say that a kids or family is leaving Jesus just because they leave our church or  youth ministry. That’s just arrogant thinking.

We’re all going to lose student, for various reasons. If you have a small youth group this is even harder because you feel like you’re losing a part of yourself and you feel hope draining away.

I have run the gambit of emotions from sadness, to depression, to anger, it feels very much like the death process which denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Denial – This cant be happening. I prayed. I invested.

Anger– God, this is your fault! Church, this is hour fault!

Bargaining – God, if you let them stay/bring them back I will…

Depression – This sucks. Ministry sucks. Teenagers suck. I suck.

Acceptance – I don’t know why this is happening, but it is. God, help me.

I have made a lot of kids leavings about me. Others have made it about me (It was your fault) and sometimes it was my fault. A bad decision or a bad attitude could have contributed to it. I’ve never gotten over the this process even after 30 years, but I have managed to put things in perspective so I can keep on moving forward.

These aren’t my kids

These are God’s kids. They are on loan to me for as long as He see fit. Yes, I have still have to do my best, but think there’s a providence in comings and goings. They are with me for a season, to do a work and then they are off.

They must grow

Students must grow. If I can’t help them get to where they need to be spiritually, relationally, etc. they must move on so they can. A few times I’ve asked students to share, with the rest of the youth,  why the were moving on. I thought this was healthy and gave the both the student and the group closure.

I have to grow 

I have to grow. I can’t be so dependent on a student that I forget the Lord. I’m not saying God purposely takes a kid out of my group to make me grow, but if it’s an idolatrous situation, God has no problem doing that. Most of the time though, when a kid leaves, for any reason, there is some reflection, prayer, and growth taking place in my life. Growth is a natural result of loss.

The ministry must change 

Every kid who leaves, leaves a whole. Sometimes a kid who leaves had an important role as a leader, tech person, etc. and, if you’re a small youth group,this is not an easy fix to replace. You are left hanging. So, you must either invest in another student and raise the up, if they have the inclination, or you must change the way you do things and sometimes it’s both.

This isn’t about me

In end, I have to say, this isn’t about me. Yes, I said above that sometimes it is, but most of the time, it is not. There are bigger things at play. God is moving, shifting, planting, and uprooting so He can accomplish His will.

To make it about me is super selfish, yet that is what I do. I work through my process and eventually come to my senses (like the prodigal son) and go home to my Father to heal up and get ready to start again.

The danger of all emotional attachments is that you’ll get hurt in the end. Ministry is often like that. Life is often like that. Jesus certainly felt it. Morgan’s choice, at the end of the episode was to leave, to walk away, to choose to be alone because losing people is just too hard. I feel you Morgan. I feel you.

But if I could tell Morgan anything I ‘d quote Alfred Lord Tennyson,

“It is better to have loved and lost, then never to have loved at all.”

We all  lose people, and yes, get lost in the process, sometimes, But don’t quit caring and don’t quit loving kids. Love is worth the hurt and, in the end, the only things that makes life worth living.

Can I ask you for a review? If you have enjoyed the podcast, would you consider giving me a review and a few stars over on iTunes? Thanks

 

Youth Ministry Round Up #7

 

Quotes

 

Articles

Justin Bieber Led Worship at a Coachella Event

A Free, Just-As-Good, Alternative To Photoshop?

What To Do When Everything Is Changing (Good for businesses, good for youth ministries)

Podcast

Great insight about being a surviving artist (KJ-52)

Losing Students Without Losing Yourself (Click here for the show notes)

Video

Is your youth group dying from low expectation? Brian breaks down on why the cost of faith should be high.

Great YG Countdown rom Delmar Peet

Real Doctor Reacts To The Good Doctor (TV Show) This would make a good parody video of a “Real” Christian Watching A “Fake” Christian and commentating.

Youth Ministry Round Up #6

Quotes

Almost every successful person begins with two beliefs: the future can be better than the present and I have the power to make it so. – Psychology Living

Articles

The Importance of “Hey, I miss you!” 

Christian group asks Netflix to pull ’13 Reasons Why’ after teen suicides

The Spiritual Practice of Humor 

Tipping Points In Spiritual Formation

Podcast

The Longer Haul: What to do with busy teens

Videos

Great series on Christian basics through drawing.

This is a fanatic testimony about acceptance and influence from a Youtube Creator. Pay attention youth workers, because they are paying attention to you.

Anyone else struggle with this? Fun opener for youth group.

My first live stream in a long time: Wednesdays at One

The Importance of “Hey! I Missed You”

I love telling kids I miss them. Now, I don’t necessarily like that kids were missing from the event or meeting but I love to tell them that I missed them. I know how it makes me feel when someone misses me. They are saying, “You are valuable. You presence is important and we know when it is not among us.”

If you are not telling kids they are missed, shame on you. You’re missing an opportunity to affirm a kids existence. You can take this to the next level.

I do my best to text parents the next day to let them know I missed their kids. I also tell them in person and they know me well enough that I’m not making a big deal about attendance. I am telling them that I value their kids. I have an opportunity to tell parents that I value what their kids bring to the youth meeting/ministry

Presence – They make a difference in our group

Leadership – Their example/influence makes a difference.

Servanthood– They offer their gift of practicality and helps.

Voice – They add value to our worship and ministry time

Compassion – They have open hearts and welcoming arms

Communicating with parents about the value of their children, to you, the ministry, and the world, is just as powerful as telling the kids themselves.

It’s a lonely world. Kids need to hear it. Parents need to hear it. You need to hear it. “Hey! I missed you.”

For more on the loneliness epidemic, listen to my interview with Tim Eldred: Alone Sucks

 

Youth Ministry Round Up #3

The Tweets

This is grit. Stop rescuing kids. Let them  fail, flounder, and even fail. Be there to encourage, affirm, and equip.

Articles

Older Generations, Your Voice Matters

Great review of new Larry Norman biography 

Five High Value Questions You Should Be Asking About Your Middle School Ministry

Podcasts Controlled Chaos interviews Mark Ostreicher 

Resources Shine A Light 5 Week Series 

Videos Funny Mumbly Rap Video. This would make a funny opener. Youth Meetings 101: What’s the meaning? No Prep Game: Triangle Tag

Catch Up On The Others

Youth Ministry Round Up #1 

Youth Ministry Round Up #2

Raising The Dead One By One

This is part four in my series 9 Dynamic Ways To Revive A Dying Youth Ministry. If you’re behind, you can start HERE

Sometimes, as a youth pastor, you will inherit a hot mess or a dumpster fire. The previous youth pastor did their best or maybe not. Or maybe the youth ministry you have just went south for a variety of reasons,none of which are your fault. How will you get it back on track?

Jesus didn’t call the masses to discipleship, he called whom he wanted one by one and two by two and that is where your youth ministry’s come back begins.

When I’ve taken over a ministry like this, which has been multiple times, I have developed some comeback steps that I think might work for you. Oh, and before you think this is an over night fix, this process is labor intensive and may take years.

Build relationships and trust

Part of trust building is not making promises you cannot keep. I never told the kids I could do something when I couldn’t and when I did promise something, I darn well made sure it happened. Students need to know you’re not just a good person, but someone who can do what they say they can do.

Trust your kids back

No, their probably not as trust worthy as you, but trust them anyway. Find reasons to believe in them. Find their gifts and strengths and create opportunities for them to  use them.

Speak life to them 

Like Jesus speaking to Lazarus inside that grace, we must speak life over those kids. Kids hear enough about what they can’t do, They also must contend with their own noise their head about not being good enough.

Yes, I understand, you want the youth ministry to be be bigger, but berating your kids to do it will not get it done. Stay positive, speak positive. Hope and action are stronger than negativity.

Call them out of death and into life

Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. It’s easy to tell when the dead are back to life. They walk around, they talk, they eat, but they are not the same

It’s possible that the kids in your youth ministry do not know Christ. They have not experienced the living Savior and are literlly powerless to change the growth trajectory of the youth ministry .

Go back to the basics. It doesn’t matter if they prayed a prayer at camp or raised a hand in church, if they don’t understand what or who they are accepting, change will not be forthcoming.

Give their youth ministry back to them

Part of coming alive is using what God has given us. I heard a great phrase recently, “the activity of God”. Kids will see the activity of God in themselves when they start doing what they are gifted to do.

If kids are only required to show up, play whatever game you’ve come up with an then sit and listen to you speak for 15-20 minutes, its no wonder your youth ministry is in trouble. Get kids moving.

Make everything about Jesus

If we are out of our mind, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that One died for all, therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and was raised again.…  I Corinthians 5:14

What compels you? Is growing the youth group the only thing? Put aside your ego and point to Jesus.

Because of Jesus’ resurrection we are doing this event

Because of what Jesus said we are doing this

Because of Jesus loved us we are reaching the lost.

Make it about Jesus, not you.

Check out part five: The Three Ways A Committed Mission Will Awaken Your Youth Ministry

Youth Ministry Round Up #1

Hey all, thought I’d try something new. I post a lot about youth ministry and stuff related, and I though I’d list some of the cool articles, gadgets, books, etc, that you might be interested in.

Technology

I bought a new camera and if you are looking for a new camera, I recommend the Panasonic Lumix G7. It shoots in 4k and takes great pictures, including panoramic. It has a mic input and a reversible screen. Here’s a video I shot with it below.

Great articles

Why Most People Will Not Be Successful. Great article that applies to everyone. Don’t sleep in this youth workers .

Gunning Your Kids Down by Jonathan McKee

Great quote from musician Lindsey Stirling

Videos 

Great video for college students or upper high school (they talk about sperm production and stuff) . How will you use your life?

This new video and song by Iggy Azalea is spiritually intriguing. I wrote up a quick Bible Study about it here.

The Broccoli Tree: A Parable

So Many good lessons can be taken from this video. Share wha you love. What if you don’t share it? Who are you denying? Why do people destroy what others love?

Is This Youth Pastor Persistent or Delusional?

Think about this youth pastor. His name is Brad, he’s 25 and thinks he could be the next Steven Furtick? Delusional, right? Maybe.

What if he listens to every Furtick message, dresses like Furtick, uses social like Furtick and baptizes a 1,000 people a day? Is he Furtick? Nope. Is he closer to being being Furtick than most? Sure. His persistence has paid off. His skills brought him nearer to his goals.

But what about a young lady named Beth who’s a youth pastor of 12 kids. The church is around 125 with an average age of 50 in a run down area of a big city. She has dreams. She doesn’t want to be the next anything. She just wants to reach teenagers with the gospel and grow the youth ministry and make disciples.

She been there for eight years and has seen zero growth. She’s had a few good events, lots of kids cycling through, but, overall the ministry hasn’t experienced sustained growth and neither has the church. She’s been persistent, worked hard, but the ministry has remained stagnant. Should she persist or is she delusional, believing that something could happen in a place where nothing is happening?

Now, I know what your thinking. “But God can do anything”. He sure can. Then why doesn’t He? Why don’t all youth ministries grow? Are we not following the right formula? The same gospel is preached. Youth workers (volunteer and bi-vocational mostly) are working hard and doing all they can, to know avail.

That’s the thing. Persistence can turn into delusion and we don’t even know it. We soldier on, believing if we change the way we play games, the videos we use, and adjust our preaching  it will work and yet, nothing.

“But if they would just..” Yeah, I’ve said that. Some of this advice is true and would work if implemented on a small scale.

I’m just wondering how many good youth workers are working persistently to attain results that are never going to come and how many youth workers have figured out their delusion, bailed and experienced unbelievable relief.

God can do anything. That doesn’t mean he will, no matter how hard we pray, work, fast, tithe, or worship. Sometimes we have to accept that our effort is just not good enough, and move on.

Is this what Jesus meant by shaking the dust from your feet? “Stop being delusional and move on. They will never accept what you are offering.”

So, is it is easier these days to become Steven Furtick or grow a youth ministry?

What do you think, what’s the difference between persistence and delusion?

Games For The Geeky Youth Group : Super City

I don’t know of a better way to get to know teens, or anyone for that matter, than to play a game with them. People are most themselves when playing a game because they let their guard down and show how competitive or silly they can be. It’s for this reason that I was super (see what I did?) stoked to be contacted by Crucifiction Games to give their new game Super City a look.

Chris Weedin, CEO of Crucifiction Games, sent me a demo of Super City, ahead of their Kickstarter, to get my impressions of this game for youth groups.  Chris is himself a believer and lover of youth ministry and I hope to have him on the YMIM podcast soon so he can tell his story behind Crucifiction Games. I am happy to say that this game looks really cool and I think Youth Pastors will love playing this game with their kids.

This post is not a review of the game but a quick overview of the game, a break down of the cards, and game mechanics.

Note: All cards are demos. The actual cards in the starter pack will look different.

The game comes in the box you see below with a total of 62 cards. The cards are broken down into Sidekicks, Super Heroes, Super Villains, and Citizens. This game is a mash up of the game One Night Ultimate Werewolf: Day Break, The Resistance, and Mafia. In all of these games you are trying to guess who is who and eliminate the “right people”. In Super City you are trying to keep your own identity secret while trying to eliminate everyone else, depending on who you are.

The cards are dealt out by the Narrator who keeps the game moving and all identities are secret until someone is eliminated.

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Each character has certain victory conditions. If you are A Super Villain, you want to eliminate Sidekicks, Super Heroes, and Citizens. Everyone else tries to eliminate Super Villains.

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The game is played in rounds which equal a full day. Each round the players put their heads down/close their eyes and a different player, depending on their card, acts in the round. Example:

In round one, Sidekicks lift their heads and choose to protect one citizen, at least they hope it’s a citizen and not a super villain, from elimination. Round Two belongs to the Super Villains, they raise their heads, while everyone has their head down, they will choose a citizen to be eliminated.

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Round three belongs to the Super Heroes, they run down clues in their super tights and choose a person and the referee will tell them, silently, whether that person is a super villain or not.

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The first three rounds represent the Night and now comes the day. The Day is kicked off with the the Daily New Report. The narrator takes on a bit of role play and shares what happens during the Night.

“This just in, the villain known as Toe Jam broke into a Foot Locker and stole 100 pairs of socks. A night watchman tried to run him over but his vehicle was was Toe-tled in the process.” The is one of the narrator’s j0bs but the role of the news anchor is taken over by others as they are eliminated. I like this aspect of the game because no one is truly “out” of the game forced to watch others play.

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The next to last round is Vigilante Justice. Someone’s gotta pay for all those socks. The citizens that remain in the game must accuse someone of being the super villain. Someone accuses, someone seconds the accusation, arguments from the accuser and the accused ensue (about 30 seconds each) and all in good fun, the narrator/storyteller then counts to three and on three everyone votes thumbs up or down on the accused. If the majority wins, the accused is eliminated. If the votes are not there, the accused survives another day.

In all, two people are voted out every “day” (unless a sidekick has saved someone) which makes the game go fast.

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Finally, it’s Breaking News. Breaking news cards are fun cards that get people moving and doing but have the potential to be game changers. Breaking News cards are like commercials in the game that allow for a little fun. If you happen to be the Paper Boy you have the power to choose the next headline.

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Super City can be played with as many as 25 people; which is great because a small to mid-sized youth group could play this all together if they wanted to.

This is just the basic game. There are variant character cards with writing on them that can change game play dramatically but they are probably best used in larger groups unless you want to play super quick games.

I look forward to testing this with my group and will probably put up some live game play on on YouTube Channel.  This is only my first impressions but I think Super City will have our kids begging to put on their capes and play this  game over and over again.

Check out the Kickstarter and maybe you could be part of the game, literally.

Youth Ministry Is Not A Game..Or Is It?

When I was in youth group (a very long time ago), I remember my youth pastor doing a contest called L.I.F.E.. He broke down the youth group into four teams and we would have weekly contests between team members, etc. and at the end the winning team received X. This is still a viable tool to use today to get more kids to show up or get involved but I wonder how certain aspects of social media have changed this game dynamic or changed this medium of game play.

I belong to several social media apps that use Funware to keep me coming back.  Funware is a game dynamic that offers points, badges, etc. to get us to keep coming back to the app or webpage. Frequent flyer miles are an example of the earliest Funware used. If you earn enough points you get a free flight. I remember an episode of the Brady Bunch where they collected greens stamps and they had to decide what they were going to buy.

I use apps like Get Glue and Foursquare for fun. Get Glue offers special digital stickers you can post on your Get Glue page and will they will even send you the real stickers once once you have accumulated enough. You get stickers for watching movies on opening weekend or watching  new t.v shows several times in row. Foursquare is an app that allows you to “check in” to places. If you check in enough times you can become mayor of that location.

There are many more kinds of apps like this available and more coming out every year. Old companies are trying to revamp their model by using Funware. I am working on a project for our youth ministry that involves a similar mechanic. This game play mechanic will only available to those subscribed to the Fresh Impact Newsletter, well, because they are awesome. If you would like to receive it, you can sign up in the top right corner of this page.

So, is youth ministry a game? Do you use contests, exclusivity, earned titles, loyalty programs or privileges to get kids to come back to your group? If you don’t, why not? Please share your best idea(s) so we can all benefit.

You can debate the topic of games in youth ministry HERE

Here is a link to a great video on the topic of Gamification by Gabe Zichermann author of Game Based Mechanics. I should warn you, he does use some salty language in the video.

I have been pondering this blog for quite some time. As the world of social media and apps becomes more game centric, I am wondering if this has impacted the way we engage students and build loyalty to our students. Is it possible that the under use of games, in the broadest sense, a missing link? Let me know if you’ve retooled your contests or games for youth ministry based on funware or social game mechanics.

I have a created a lens on Squidoo.com that includes comment areas, polls, and a debate so you can weigh in on any of the topic I have covered here and a few new ones.