Is Your Youth Group A Life Changing Community?

I recently watch Katy Perry accept an award from the LGBT community, and what she said in the the first 30 seconds broke my heart. As one who has served the church for 27 years, I would have loved if Katy was talking about The Church.

There’s no other community that has done more to shape me

 

The two comments she makes, in the first 30 seconds, are indictments of the Church as a whole and youth ministry specifically.

Let’s begin with the first

There is no other community that has done more to shape my life

Community is supposed to be life changing, for the better. Unfortunately, the Christian community Katy grew up in did not have a positive impact on her. I do not want to point fingers, but someone dropped the ball on what a positive Christian community is supposed to look like.

As a youth worker, I want every young person to have a positive experience with the church community. Every year, my wife puts together a Youth Of The Year Banquet for the Boys and Girls Club. Kids get up and share stories about the positive impact the club has had on them and and many of them credit the organization for turning their life around.

How many of the kids in your youth ministry could say, “this community changed my life for the better?”

Can you imagine Katy Perry saying, to a packed room of youth workers, “This community change my life”? If we can’t imagine it, we should, because maybe if we asked these questions,  we’d re-think how we are doing community and what our community is producing.

Our youth ministries are life shaping communities, for good or for ill.

There is no other community I believe in more than you.

Jesus changed my life along with a community called the church.  There is no other community I believe in more than the church. This is what someone says when their

community embraces differences

community loves the outcast

community helps rather than hurts

community builds trust for a lifetime.

I don’t want to romanticize youth ministry or the church. It, like many others is flawed. It’s filled with flawed people. Like school bands who haze kids, coaches who value winning above character, companies who value profit over ethics, all communities can have a negative impact, not just the Church; but all those other organizations are not representatives on God incarnate upon the earth.

No other organization did the apostle Paul say of,

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her Ephesians 5:25

The expectations are much higher for a community of people who claim to be the hands and feet of Christ. Sadly, we use these hands to punch and our feet to kick others who are not like us. It’s no shock to me that Katy Perry would have someone else to thank for impacting her life in a positive way.

It’s because I have been deeply impacted by His church, His community, that I became a youth pastor so that I may help others discover this life saving and life altering community called The Church.

I am glad that Katy Perry found a community she could unashamedly thank and testify about. I just wish it could have been the church community. It’s our loss.

Is there anything you need to make your community a life giving community?

Can you imagine kids in your group thanking The Church, or more specifically, your youth ministry for having such a positive impact on their lives?

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How To Double Your Youth Group Attendance In One Year

If you are planning on on being at your church for only a year, then doubling it should be easy, but you have to hurry.

Throw lot’s of party’s and events.

Games, more games,  and game nights.

Keep your messages to ten minutes tops.

Do not challenge anyone to serve or lead.

Give away lots of expensive stuff.

Crank up the hype machine.

Don’t mention the cross or following Jesus.

Don’t talk about giving, sacrifice, or surrender.

Have a hot band with shallow worship songs and a worship leader that just wants to be seen.

Make sure you take lots of selfies with the latest whatever and whoever.

At the end of the year, thank them for showing up to all the cool stuff and avoiding Sunday school, Small Group, prayer times, revivals and anything that remotely looks like commitment.

Pack your car and head out.

Sarcastic rant ended.

Granted, a youth group can double in a year minus some of these tactics. Demographics, church culture, and honest moves of God can all play a part, but why the rush to grow?

You want the real secret to growing your youth ministry?

You ready? Here it is. Patience.

If you’re planning on being at your your church for more than three years you have plenty of time to grow numerically. Until then do this

Love kids.

Show up to their stuff.

Build a foundation of identity and community.

Build a reputation of reliability, faithfulness, and godliness.

Serve the whole church.

Teach and preach scripture with passion.

Love and serve families.

Call kids to follow Jesus, not you.

Encourage small groups and small encounters.

Make Jesus the focus of your worship.

and

Love kids.

Everything else is a tactic.

Want to draw a crowd? Tactics will do.

Want to make disciples? Patience is the key.

Watch me break it down  below

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Lent Day 13: Even Now

“Even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

Joel 2:12

Even now. Saying this phrase transports me to the 80’s when I heard Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band sing it. It’s a song about love and about how much a woman has an impact on the singers life, even after so many years.

In my video this morning, I was thinking about the journey we all take ad the amount of “even now” moments we all face. We tell ourselves, “it’s too late”. “it’s over” and “I’ve gone too far”. Israel was notoriously idolatrus and hard hearted, yet, the Lord said, “Even now”.

Watch the video and ask yourself if you’ve had or are having an “even now” moment. My desire is that the video will fill you with hope to come back to the Lord from wherever you’ve been. He’s waiting for you.

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Invest, Invest, Invest and Then…

Many try to withdraw from bank accounts where they have not invested and wonder why they’re told “insufficient funds”. It’s simple, we haven’t invested or haven’t invested enough.

What do I mean by invested? I mean we haven’t given enough encouragement, worth, value, love or upside to the individuals around us. We haven’t given others the motivation or inspiration that would give us the results we are looking for when we need it most.

We need to invest physically with rewards for accomplishments and rewards for absolutely nothing, other than we knew they liked a certain kind of something, we saw it, and bought it for them.

We need to invest emotionally with our time, our words, and our care. We have to give, care, and love deeply to receive deeply. We need to be generous with our encouragement even when (or especially when) others do not perform to our standard.

We need to invest spiritually with prayers and listening. We need to be there for others during their tough times and show grace upon grace. The measure with which we give is the measure with which we will receive.

Start today. Start investing in those around you, not for today but for a year, five years, ten years from now when know you are going to need to

  • Have the hard conversation
  • Ask for more, ask for change, ask for commitment
  • Discipline someone.

Who do you need to invest in today?

What do you hope to withdraw a year from now?

Students? Parents? Your Boss? Family?

Invest, Invest, Invest, and then…

 

 

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The Anxious Rantings Of A Burnt Out Youth Pastor

“I just want to get out alive” I told myself before a recent youth meeting. That’s when I knew it, I mean I saw it coming, I just couldn’t stop it. Burn out.

I had yelled, “Why does any of it matter. ” towards, not at, my wife that morning. Is there a difference? Not to her. I said,, “Sorry, I was letting out some repressed feelings.” My comments  sounded like the incoherent babbling of an insane person.  I mean, I am a youth pastor, is this much of a stretch?

I’ve had several of these moment in the past few months, mostly alone. God just sits, nods His head a lot, and listens to my rantings until I wear myself out. He’s there to help me, but He’s left me some options to choose from. There is no one right answer and so He leaves me to choose. Yeah, thanks God.

This  blog is not just about youth ministry tips and tricks, it’s about the life of a youth worker, this youth worker; and if you’re cringing at the fact that I choose to be this honest, look away, go back to watching cat videos. Only the brave may read on.

Let me be clear, I don’t hate my job or the people I work with, but I am asking whether full time church work is still for me. I mean, 26 year is a long time. Burn out isn’t about hating what you do, it’s about the feeling that you are sued up, that you do not have enough left in the tank. I have moments of great energy and vision but I cannot shake the over-all feeling of either wanting or needing something different in my life.

I am not on suicide watch. No has had to take my shoelaces or sharp instruments from me. And, you happen to be a young person in my group or a church member who may read this, I am not unhappy with anyone  or quitting tomorrow.. This post is shared in good faith as I work through my journey with some kind of honesty, something many ministers lack because they are afraid they will not be seen as perfect or that something is wrong with them.

If you know me you’ll read this in the context of the relationship we have, if you do not know me, welcome to what it feels like to be me.

I was, I am, burnt out, but what am I to do? Youth Ministry is all I know and I still have to supply for my family. I am, as I heard Gary Vaynerchuck say recently,

“Fixing the plan as I fly it”

There’s really not any time to pull the plane in for a full inspection. I can only fix “the plane” in flight, as many people do. This leaves me with simply weighing options.

Here’s what I feel my options are and they may even reflect your options as well. Feel free to offer you suggestions in the comments.

Option One: Quit

Just quit. Just walk away. Leave full time youth pastoring, never to return. This begs the question is whether I can live without it or not. I have no idea. Several years ago I came back to youth pastoring from being fired. I was doing camp ministry at the time and decided that I should write the ending of my youth ministry career and not someone else, so I went back with God’s leading.

Quitting full time ministry is never an option because our lives are full time ministry, but quitting church ministry certainly is an option.

Option Two: Quit To Serve In Something Besides Youth Ministry

I could stay in church ministry but quit youth pastoring and move into a different kind of ministry, maybe discipleship, small groups, community outreach, all of which I would be qualified for. My fear would be that I would be sneaking over and hanging out in the youth pastors office and giving advice he didn’t ask for.

Option Three: Quit and…Part 2

I could quit church ministry and do some work in a community that is underserved and doesn’t have many youth workers. I could work in an inner city ministry, etc.; there are plenty of ideas but I have to let my heart simmer on those things for a while.  Any ideas you have are welcome.

Option Four: Take A Sabbatical 

In many churches, Lead Pastors can take an extended amount of time off to think, pray, write, serve etc. It’s possible that in taking this option I could try a few of the ideas I mentioned above but not many youth workers are offered this option. May be I could take my day off and try out a few things. It’s certainly and option.

Option Five: Go on my own and do more training of youth workers 

I have struggled with this option for quite some time.  To be honest, I don’t think youth workers, or potential supporters think this is a great need. I recently updated my Patreon page and offer s some cool benefits to those who pledge as little as $5.00.. You are welcome to check it out and see what I offer and then offer me feedback on what I could change that would inspire you to support this option.

I have to say, this is my preferred option because I would love nothing better than to walk along side youth workers and offer resources and through my Youtube Channel and the Youth Ministry in  Motion podcast.

Only time, prayer, and the market (you) will decide if this option is viable.

Option Six: Find a life coach or someone to talk it out with

This is easier said than done, but I am wide open to talking with someone who understands careers and not just my current moment. I am looking long term and I need someone for the journey. Ministry, like other jobs, is about hiding our faults and doing our best to look perfect and competent. Ministry, unlike other jobs is hyper secretive because in saying you are a Christian, and especially a minister, that everything in your life is supposed to be ok because we serve God. That’s just stupid. In fact, many times it is quite the opposite.

If you know of someone, feel free to recommend someone who is not half my age and looking to make a quick buck.

Option Seven: Sit, Wait, Pray

This is the hardest option, yet the most viable. Quitting is much easier. But, when I think of the kids and families I serve,  it’s the right choice. They mean the world to me and it’s the tension may youth workers who are in this thing for any amount of time live in. We love the kids and work, but we reach a point whether we believe we are giving them our best or not  and are better served by someone else.

For now, I’ll continue to pray and give my best. It’s what God would have me do until my next step is clear, or at least clearer.

This morning I was listening to classic rock radio and the song The Question came on by The Moody Blues. The line which grabbed me and reflects my heart at this moment is

I’m looking for someone to change my life
I’m looking for a miracle in my life

Your prayers are welcome as I continue this journey of life and ministry. If you are on the same journey, feel free to leave a comment below.

Here is my video breakdown of this article

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Some Advice To Young Youth Pastors

My friend Patricia asked these questions on FB

“Folks, if the following situation happens to you, you really need to think:

1. Do you want to work for a boss?

2. Are you happy with where you are right now?

If not, what is your plan?

This simple question got me thinking about deeper questions and arriving at  disturbing answers, or rather, realizations.

My plan? Always hustle, whether you work for a boss or not. Hustle for yourself first and you goals. I was told, “help people get what they want and you will get what you want.” I don’t know iif that is true anymore.  I don’t think I got what I wanted from those I served except a paycheck, and although grateful for it, it’s not all I wanted.

I still think we should serve and help others; but long the way, I forgot what I wanted. I have to get back to what I want and help others along the way.

Now, I love my job. I believe my pastor loves me and he blesses me every chance he gets, but he does not have my best interest in mind concerning my future.  I know he wants me to have a great future, but he can’t help me get there, only I an do that.

When I was younger, I used to think Senior Pastor’s had my best interest in mind. They did not.  They have the whole church in mind and  I don’t blame them, I blame myself for putting more trust in them than in God or myself to get me where I wanted to go.

When I was 29 all I wanted was to reach young people. At 49 all I want to do is reach young people and  position myself to be happy when my time as a youth pastor is over, which could happen sooner rather than later. I wish I had added the second part when I was 29 but I was too idealistic; I trusted the system and men. Bad idea.

The difference between 29 and 49  is, today, I look out for myself along the way, I don’t count on any pastor or leader to make my way for me, it is my way and I have to hustle for it.  I am documenting my life and ministry, with the  future in mind,. I am keeping in mind the life  I want with my wife for the next 20 years.

My faith is strong and is firmly placed in all the right places, first in God, second in myself, and third, in others.

I know all this sounds super cynical. it’s not meant to be, it’s simply a truth I have ignored for too long. The “sleep” started waring off a few years ago. It happens with age and this  truth is often met with great despair, a “what have I done!” moment. Thankfully, I am grabbing the steering wheel before I find myself in a place I did not want to be.

If you’re  29 and  love God and teenagers, Let me give you some advice.

Write your book now.  At least start it.

Don’t let group-think tell you what your hobbies should be. If you don’t like golf, don’t play it.

Use the tools at hand (like the internet, a tool I didn’t have) to find your voice.

Share what you know with those who need it. There are no secrets to be kept.

Be generous, but take care  of your self., no one will do it for you.

Do what you love and try to make money at it even if it’s a side hustle.

Don’t just work hard for others, work hard for yourself.

Don’t let religion rob you of small pleasures.

Quit following the system. The system will not love you back.

Follow Christ, He loves you and has your back.

Youth Ministry is, and always will be a worthy cause. The youth ministry you currently have is awesome, but transient. A moment in time. Another worthy cause is the life you want to live now and after youth ministry. Keep that in mind as you serve.

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How To Power Through A Stressful Youth Service

It’s Thursday, and I am reflecting on last nights youth service. It was stressful as far as the smoothness of the service goes. There are things that I just want to go well and when they do not, well, I start to get overwhelmed, yes even after 26 years.

Here are some of the things that bugged me this particular night.

  • I have new students running sound and the computer. Both are new. Both are middle school. Both have ADD (nuff said).
  • The monitors went out for the band.
  • I had a gazillion announcements (that one is my fault)

I know you’re reading this and thinking, “This is not stressful. I have gang bangers coming to my service; that, is stressful.” I’m with you. What is stressful to me is not stressful to you and vice verses, but I have faced worse; like angry parents, disgruntled church members, flakey kids, and a list of “You Name Its” I’ve had it all, including gangbangers.

All that aside, youth meetings can be stressful depending on our personality and/or how we deal with crisis. In this instance, I must keep in mind that I had just come back from speaking at a youth camp in Florida, so, I might have been  a little wore out and emotionally frayed. Nevertheless, we all find ourselves out of sorts sometimes and have to respond in real time.

Here’s how I survived.

During worship, I went off by myself and sat against the wall.  I did’t pray. I just sang quietly with the band. I had to simply be still and know the God is God.

My message was done. I know that if everything else falls apart, I at least have control over the message. Not the slides, mind you, but the message.

After the service, I posted about what God did not what God didn’t do and called out leaders who did a great job in spite of our circumstances.

So, if you find yourself in the middle of a stressful service, for whatever reason,

I recommend.

Worshipping instead of worrying. I started out as Martha, but thankfully I was driven to becoming Mary and sat at the feet of Jesus. We all have to pause and ask ourselves, “Why am I here?” Yes, we are working,  but we’re also gathered as the Body of Christ and are in need of the same filling and strengthening of the Spirt as everyone else.

Look for what is going right. Yes, I had two middle schoolers running slides and sound  but,  I had 2 middle schooler’s running slides and sound. That’s a win even if they’re not perfect at it and may never be.

I had leaders who stepped up in the midst of the chaos doing what they knew to do. Kinsley, one of my worship leaders exhorted and prayerful challenged our students to enter in spite of the monitor malfunction.

Finally, I reflected and high lighted the positives via social media. Yes, the dumb things still happened but that does not mean I need to exacerbate  them  by rehashing them. I’ll save all my constructive criticism for the my team at our next team meeting. They are the ones who can solve this stuff not the people on my FB, Twitter,  or Instagram.

I hope my experience encourages you in some way. I’d love your feedback so feel free to leave a comment below. Tell me about how you hand stressful times during a youth meeting.

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17 Games For Any Size Youth Ministry

 

Kicking off my 17 in 17 Series. I’ll be posting things in 17’s at the begging of each month. This month is 17 Games. Keep up with my posts by subscribing to the Fresh Impact Newsletter over there ————————————>>>

Walk the Line

Four Fingers Challenge

Paper Ninja – Tape newspaper to arms and legs (ninja style) and then opposing ninjas can only use one hand to rip all the paper off their opponent. Guys vs Guys and Girls vs Girls is best.

Paper fight!

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Mouth Guard Games <—– Click to buy from Amazon

Sing it girl!

A video posted by Paul Turner (@thedproject) on

Block Heads

Pac Man

PAC Man!

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Top Five <——- Click to buy from Amazon

Have a 5 second video timer and some questions and boom! You have fun!

Head, Shoulders, Knees, Toes, Cup

__________ To Your Corner

If you are playing teams, divide your group evenly into four corners. Call out some creative way they must get to the corner across from them such as, cool, skip, crab walk, etc. Last person to their corner is out. Keep going until only a few are left and then start eliminating whole corners.

Shoot the Name

Mouth/Face Painting

I don’t think this is how you paint, but I’m no art critic.

A video posted by Paul Turner (@thedproject) on


Marshmallow Wars

Haulin’ Beans

Deathball

Electricty

The Maze Runner

Dragons Gold

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Youth Ministry Excuse #10 I’ll Pray About It

Sadly, saying we will “pray about it” can be an excuse. It’s a stall tactic.

Other spiritual excuses include, but are not limited to,

I don’t fill led to _________

I don’t feel it’s God’s will to ___________

The Spirt hasn’t told me to ___________

Most of these excuses are used as a way to avoid hard things, like discussions we should have with people we do not like (that’s a big one of mine.)

Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses. – George Washington Carver

God has called you and I to bold things and, yes, prayer is a part of doing the work we do with teenagers. In fact, we can’t do the work without it, but prayer should never act as excuse not to act on what we already know to do and are just afraid to do it.

I’ve laid a lot of my failures at God’s feet and asked “Why?” when I should have taken responsibility (action) for the excuses I made that led to the failure of not even trying or not trying hard enough.

How Do I Kill This Excuse: Keep Going Until God Says Stop (Action)

Many times we are waiting for the green light, the go ahead from God; but what if He’s waiting on us to get moving first?

We’d rather lay out fleeces and wait until the conditions are just right before we take the first step.

There are plenty of things we don’t have to pray about

Should I develop an outreach strategy?

Yes.

Should I disciple students?

Yes.

Should I create a pathway for kids to worship in the weekly meeting?

Yes.

Should I engage with teens on social media?

Yes.

It’s not IF we should do these things, it’s WHEN and HOW and HOW OFTEN which will require some prayer, but once we know, we need to go ahead and do it.

Yet, the sound of so much foot dragging is deafening. It sounds like a herd of zombies from The Walking Dead shuffling their feet to nowhere in particular.

I know this sounds harsh, but excuses will kill a ministry and then we chalk it up to “God must not want a big, growing, effective, (pick a word) youth ministry or He would have done something.”

We must stop using God, as a scape goat for our lack of action and do, as this quote often attributed to Wesley John Wesley, says

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”

In other words, just go until God says stop.

Pray about it and then do it. Go until God says stop.

Start this series from the beginning The 10 Excuses Killing Your Youth Ministry 

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Youth Ministry Excuse #9 It’s Not Perfect

You can say it’s not perfect and be correct. You can say its not ready and be incorrect. This is the big question, right? How will I know when it’s ready?

How will I know when this message will be ready to share?

How will I know when this program is ready to launch?

How will I know when I should change things up?

How will I know if I should become a youth pastor?

How will I know if it’s time to move on?

You don’t. Not entirely. You will have inklings that it’s ready and fear that it is not. It’s possible that “it” will never be ready because we desire perfection from ourselves or others before we put it into the world. This makes me sad.

There is a closet full, a computer full, and mind full of great ideas that will never see the light of day because “it’s” not perfect.

How To Kill This Excuse: Faith and Trust

How did I know it was time to start a Youtube Channel about youth ministry?

I didn’t

How did I know it was time to write a book?

I didn’t.

How did I know it was time to get up and do walk and talks in the early a.m.?

youth youth m

Don’t Underestimate!

A video posted by Paul Turner (@thedproject) on

I didn’t.

All of these events involved trusting myself and not underestimating the value I have accrued over 30 years.  It’s also where I had to not overestimate myself and not “think more highly of my yourself than you ought”. I had to trust in the Lord and in the doing.

God has proved himself over and over again in my life. It’s not Him I’m worried about. I cannot overestimate God. He will  “do more than I could ask or think” if I let him. It’s me I am worried about. Oh and sometimes my critics.

Maybe this is why we do not put out our best stuff. We fear that people, kids, pastors, staff,  will look too closely and catch that we are not as perfect we we portray ourselves; that we shall be revealed as frauds. News Flash: The critics are frauds too. They don’t have anything new or perfect to put out so they criticize the people who do.

I just got back from speaking at a middle school retreat. The weekend and the kids were pretty epic, but my messages were not ready until the day of. I had doubts and more doubts.

I agonized over wording, pace, the right background for the slides, and a dozen other little things. I wanted to make sure the gospel, and the message of the retreat,  was made plain and receivable by a middle school student. It wasn’t really ready, but the retreat started at 5:00 whether I was ready or not.

Nothing is perfect, including and especially, youth ministry. We have kids who do not show up, bail on us, quit following Jesus, and here we are without any thing perfect to show off. Or do we?

Love is perfect. Perfect love casts out fear. We can still love the kids we have, imperfectly, and they will receive it. They will forgive our lousy messages, our crazy ideas, our inconsistencies, our insecurities, and our imperfections if we just show up and love them.

So what if it’s not perfect. Quit making excuses and put it out there; it will be worth it and God will take it and do something awesome with it.

On to Excuse #10: I’ll Pray About It 

 

 

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