Summer School For Youth Workers: Equipping Parents To Lead

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Class Notes

Good morning class. Yesterday  we covered the topic Teens in Crisis and I hope you did your homework, well, at least George Lynch did. Thanks George, you get a gold star. The rest of you: I’ll see you after class.

Today’s topic comes from Craig Fullerton, and we are looking at the issue of parents. Let me break down the situation, in a  humorous and slightly serious way, take notes

How Parents See Us : Youth Pastors “work’ at my church. They are pad to “run” my youth program. If I disagree with said program or preaching, I can say “boo” and you should stop  what you are doing.

How We See Ourselves: I am like Keanu Reeves in Constantine, I slay demons and parents. I work in God’s church. I defend the program from any and all enemies who threaten it.

Funny or not, this is too often the narrative and if we are going to make any real progress, everyone has to do their part, and it starts with us changing our attitude towards parents.

Parents Are Not The Enemy

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12

We probably spend way to much time alone, in an office, wondering what our “enemies” are doing and plotting and not enough time bringing the life of Christ to hurting people. O.k… maybe that’s just the way I used to be. Now, I try to spend less time in the office and more time connecting by visiting parents in their homes, work, etc and involving them to the degree they can be involved. If we spend more time taking the fight to the “darkness”, we won’t be spending our time building bunkers around our youth program waiting for it to show up.

Home Work

1. Call, Google, research other youth ministries and how they are equipping parents to be parents rather than facilitators of our programs.

Here is one link and another

2. Redefine your parent meeting, 90% of the time our meetings are informational. How you we go from an informing to an equipping meeting? Better still, stop having meetings. How would you answer this question: If you were never allowed to have another parent “meeting” how would you equip/inform them?

3. Write down 10 things you are not happy with about your parents. Now, write down the opposite or the way you would like to see your parents. Now, look at your calendar and decide how you can start to turn  it around with out having a meeting. Make it a year long endeavor instead of a quick fix.

That’s it. Class dismissed. Leave your homework in the comments section.

On to Lesson 3 : How To Get Your Group Energized and Growing

 

3 Program Prep Ideas From A Recovering Procrastinator

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To my YouTube Subscribers, here is your free cartoon to use as you please.  For those who are not subscribers, watch my show The Tuesday Panic below and then download the cartoon. 

Onward.

As I say in the title, I was a pretty bad procrastinator. I would leave things to the last minute and then cry about the fact that I had no time. That wasn’t true. I had all the time in the world and I “wasted it”. We’re all given 24 hours in a day and we have to use them wisely. Here are a few preparation tips I live by:

1. Make a template of what your youth meeting will look like. 

Create a template or worksheet you fill out every week with the elements you most normally plug in (Games, Worship, Communion, etc.) to your mid-week meeting or bible study. If you know you are doing a series on friendship you can plan your four weeks of “get to know you games” already.  A template is only a guide and not a god. If you feel like the program needs to change mid-meeting, change it, but at least you had something to change.

2. Prepare your message first. 

Some argue about which comes first the chicken or the egg. Others ask what comes first, the scripture or the idea. Some have an idea and then look for scripture to back that up. I believe, that if we are well read in the scriptures, an idea will line up with what we already know, we only need to re-read the text and make sure we are literally “on the same page” with God. If you get your message down, the rest of the meeting can all fall apart if need be. Games can flunk, the worship can sound awful, and the tech can stop working but if the message is bad, in my opinion, the rest of the night  was a waste.

3. Take care of the details

My details may not be your details, but the small details matter. My details inlcude

a) Print off attendance sheets

b) Make sure I the offering baskets are near by

c) Make sure I have e-mailed my notes to my IPad

If I forget any of these, it seems to get me started on the wrong foot because instead of greeting guest and making small talk I am at the copy machine making copies or consumed with my computer instead of making eye contact and engaging with our teens. Preparation isn’t just a want to it’t have to if you desire to be effective and not distracted.

If you get past procrastinating, you won’t have to watch videos like the one make every week for those who do procrastinate, it will be a luxury.

care of to be confident in your program?

Are you a procrastinator? Vote below or leave a comment.

How Do I Develop Authentic Relationships With New Kids?

The Social Part of Social Media: A Love Story

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The title is a bit long but that is the question your were wondering about wasn’t it? When a new kids comes to our group for a visit there are several wrong first moves, such as
  • Asking them if they would like to be baptized that night in the kiddie pool you used for game
  • Saying things like “I hope you stay because this group is dying.”
  • Sending them stalking messages on Facebook after their visit like “Thanks for coming, Please don’t ever leave us. Thanks.

Feel free to leave your creepy first impressions with new kids below.

In light of this terrible engagement I think this Fantastic article about what a real social media relationship should look like and I found some great parallels between social media relationships and youth ministry relationships.
The infograph breaks it down this way
Your Twitter Feed (and most social media) Is Like A Party
Your Youth Group FB page. Twitter feed, or Blog or where ever you aggregate kids comments is your party. Maybe you’ve posted a picture that needs a caption and a bunch of kids respond. instant party. Maybe a kid who doesn’t go to your group (or any group) comments. Ah, a newbie! What now? This, of course, applies to you your weekly meetings as well as your social media meetings.
Make Your First Impression A Lasting One
In the article I mention above, they show an example of a guy tweeting out about a steak house meeting him at the airport with a stack. To his surprise, they did. He was already a fan, they did not have to sell him on their steaks, they just wanted to, in my churchy vernacular, wanted to bless him. Do you look for ways to bless your new  or current kids based on their comments on social media? If a kid posts they feel like they could eat a pizza, would you ring up a pizza joint and place an order and send it them? Yep, I just thought that up. It’s going to happen. Find ways to “bless” a comment, even if it’s just a “like”.
Keep The Conversation Going
I have seen many guest strategies for keeping, retaining, (choose a word) new guests to our youth group or church. Part of this is keeping the conversation going. If a new kid comes t our group, I make friends with them on the Social Media of their choice and send them a message thanking them for coming. That’s it. Unless they comment back. Then  I feel I have permission to engage and invite them to an upcoming event, etc. It’s good rule of thumb to wait for permission other wise we are become spammy youth pastors pushing events rather than youth pastors who really want to help, serve, and build relationships.
Seal The Deal With A Personal Gesture
A personal gesture is if welcomed after a few contacts or visits with a new kid. Offer a gesture too soon and it looks like you are “too interested”. It would be like offering a dozen roses on the first date. Or saying, “I wrote this book for you.” Too soon. So, what can you do? Based on the permission factor, and getting to know them a little, you could send them a link to a funny video saying, “I thought you would like this” or maybe a funny meme based on something they said or one of their favorite movies. The gesture does not need to be big it just needs to be personal.
You’re Both Only Human 
Mistakes will happen. You may make an awkward comment or you may chime in on something that is none of your business. You’ve built up to this moment through permission contact, building relationship, and offering gestures. We do all this, first of all, because we want to show the love of God. But the love of God is not spammy. It’s natural and so is making mistakes. Take care of the former and you will get a pass for the latter.
Don’t Let The Love Fade After The Honeymoon
If your guest comes back a few more times, make sure to include them somehow in the fabric of your youth ministry. We have a wall of fame filled with pictures of past and present members. I was tempted to take down a few pictures because some kids do not attend any more, but just because they do not attend any more does not mean their time here was useless or worth forgetting. Every kids who comes in our group leaves a footprint for good or bad. If that kid made a contribution in word or deed, include them in the ethos of your group. Maybe they only came to camp with your group or a missions trip. Remind them of that time and let them know it was a good time. Maybe post a picture of the event on their wall and say “Remember this?”.
Building relationships does not come easy to everyone but if you’ll if you give it your best shot, it will pay off.
Your Turn :
What does your strategy for welcoming and integrating new kids?
Have you mad mistakes? What were they?
Have you made some cool personal gestures? What were they?
Share away!
Off Topic: I started a new training series on my You Tube channel called Nights Of The Round Table. Come by and give it a watch and don’t forget to like and subscribe to keep up with it. Thanks.

Youth Camp Tip #5 : Three Ways To Follow Up With New Commitments

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How come we spend so much time getting ready for camp but very little time on the follow up after camp? This is a question I’ve asked youth workers for years. We love to talk about camp and the camp experience and all God does in the lives of our kids, but I am thinking we count way too much on the “mountain top experiences” to carry our kids to Christian maturity; this is why I offer a few tip to get us all ready to disciple our kids after camp.

1. Create accountability partners 

For those kids who do make a commitment or recommitment to Christ, why not set up an adult to check in with them once a week to see how their commitment is going. You could also pair up more mature Christian teens to walk with new believers. This helps both teens in their walk with Christ.

2. Offer Them Resources

You may want to offer a small booklet or pamphlet a kid could read or work through themselves. I offer a resource called Get Healthy that give to my students. The journal offers them ways to get healthy in multiple area of their lives. You could also use material such as this and this 

3. Partner with Parents

Try working out a plan with parents to do the follow up with their own kids if possible. This is the best strategy and most fruitful way a teen can grow i their faith and grow closer to their parents as well.  I posted a few tips to help parents with the post camp experience called What To Expect When Your Teen Comes Home From Camp.

 

Also, check out: God, What’s Your Status: 21 Days Through John

 

For more camp posts check out

Youth Camp Game Ideas

Discipline At Camp 

Getting Your Campers To Bed

Sharing Devotions At Camp 

 

How do you follow up with your students post camp?  Share your strategy below.

 

 

Youth Camp Tip # 4: Four Youth Camp Game Ideas

 

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Since I did not get any feedback on games you all use, that must mean you have no idea what games you are going to play this year. So, I thought I;d help you out with 10 Youth Camp Game Videos you could “borrow” from. Enjoy.

 

I like the game in this next video. Go to 2:43 and watch the chaos.

I would make a full track using this ideas and then it is game on for all kinds of stuff.

There are about 5-6 really good games on this video.

This is a channel with 10 youth camp videos and more.

 

Youth Camp Tip #5: Three Ways To Follow Up With New Commitments

Youth Camp Tip #3: Discipline At Camp

 

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Discipline is no fun, but especially no fun at camp; but sometimes it has to be done. I had a student one time who had signed up for our camp. I did not know the camper very well, but he seemed a bit young to go. I was write. He was too young for this trip. He would wander way from the group and was basically on his own schedule. Here is how I handled it.

First offense: A warning to call his mom.

Second: A call to his mom and let her talk to him.

Third: A second call to his mom with the warning that if I had to call again he would have to go home.

Fourth: Called the mom and asked her to come pick up her son, six hours away.

It worked out fine. All the kids gathered around this kid and sent him off with prayer and well wishes. I don’t think he ever came back to youth group (for a different reason)  but that moment of discipline, with love, was worth it.

Here is what I think this process communicated to the parent

1. I communicated that I loved her son and wanted him to stay

2. I wanted her to be a part of the solution. She knows her son better than I.

3. I wanted to build a track record with the parent about behavior. If I would have told her to come pick up her son on the first call I would have shown that I did not  care.

Here is  a thought from veteran youth worker Greg Schmidt:  The first thing to remember is, you and the kids are representing Christ first, church second, and the rest after that don’t really count lol. JK. I always like to set the bar high and see if they can exceed my expectations. In my 25+ years of student ministry I have seen a lot of teens at camp that have gone home and a whole lot that should’ve went home. The one thing I always did was at the parent mtg. show the parents the guidelines and expectations and let them know if their perfect son or daughter happened to not follow them, THEY (the parents) would be either coming to get them or sending money for bus ticket home. With this I made sure I had the pastor and everyone else on the same page that way when something happens, and it usually did, they won’t be blindsided by an angry parent of a perfect teen.

Discipline is part of discipleship. Don’t shy away from it, even if they don’t thank you for it later.

 

Youth Camp Tip #4 : Four Youth Camp Games

 

 

Don’t forget to read Day 1: Tips For Sharing Devotions At Camp  or Day 2: 3 Ideas To Get Your Campers To Bed

 

Youth Camp Tip #2: Three Ideas To Get Your Campers To Bed

 

Getting Kids To Go To Bed At Camp

 

I am old. Yes, old. I am old and I like to sleep, a lot. I have a routine and I do not like it messed with. “Then why are you at youth camp?” Good question. I have to be, I’m the youth pastor.

Just because I am old and like to sleep does not mean that I do not like to stay up late, it’s just hard to do. It’s even harder to get everyone settled down to bed. II do have a few tricks up my sleeve, and so do a few up my friends to help you avoid the whole “go to bed” tirade.

Here are two things that do not work for me : Yelling and screaming. Besides, in the age of cell phones, this is probably not a good idea unless you want to be a viral hit on You Tube. “What’s left?”  you may ask, let me give you five other choices

1. Have a plan to end the week big

We always ended our week big with wrestling matches. It became so epic you did not want to miss it. We saved this for the last night so it gave our kids something to look forward to. If they misbehaved during the week they had to sit on the bed and watch us wrestle. I never had too many of those,

My Facebook friend Tim Bo suggests,

One of the things I always do with my students is a scheduled sneak out. “Hey guys, because you’re in my room we’re going to break curfew tonight, but you can’t tell anybody, especially the girls! This has got to be our secret!” Then when it’s a good 30-40 minutes after curfew and things have quieted down I lead my group to some place cool in the camp and play football in the dark or some thing for a while. If I do it one it gauntness that they’ll be too tired to want to do it again for most of the rest of camp and maybe they’ll want to do it again for the final day just to wrap up the week.As far as actually getting students to sleep, I usually don’t worry about it too much. Camp is a long week and if they are up all night one night, they’ll be ready to crash out by 9pm the next night.”

2. Have a long good night prayer 

My Twitter friend @kevinlibick said

” one of the best I’ve come across is to do a goodnight prayer out loud for a really really long time.”

This is a great idea. I have also had campers take turns reading chapters in the book of Revelation with  flash light. That works pretty well too..

3. Keep the focus on spiritual things

My Facebook Friend Matthew Emigh says

“We finish out the day with Cabin testimony/devotions time where we talk about what God has done that day. During that time, our counselors know to remind the youth of why they are they, and to specifically address the issue. They keep the focus on spiritual things. It doesn’t always help, you still will have some knuckleheads with shaving cream who have to show off, but it does seem to slow it drastically.”

So true.

Your Turn

Do you have any tips and tricks to get kids to go to sleep?

Share them in the comments, Thanks and get some sleep, you’re gonna need it,

 

 

 

Youth Camp Tip #1: Three Tips For Sharing Devotions

 

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I love youth camp. I gave my heart to Christ for the first time at a camp called Life For Youth Camp in Vero Beach, Fl. I worked there for 7 summers and have been speaking there, one week a summer, for the past 13 years. Oh, and I met my wife there. Needless to say, I love youth camp.

Summer and summer camp is almost upon our youth ministries and I thought this would be a great week for some last minute tips for making your devotion time awesome.

1. Be prepared to lead or prepare your leaders to lead the devotion. 

You can’t be angry with your volunteers if they did not lead the devotions the way you wanted if you have not taught them how you want them lead them. Be sure to meet with your leaders, train them, and build their confidence to accomplish their tasks. Here’s a short list of practices I encourage

Talk less and ask more questions – Our goal is to get kids talking

Stick to Scripture – It’s easy to get off track and allow opinions to dominate the conversation. Delving into the Scripture keeps the discussion on track.

Use A Creative Closing- Sure, pray is the standard and appropriate way to close your devotion time but that does not mean you can’t make it interesting. You could close with a song, a formal reading, a physical reminder (such as a mustard seed if your talking about faith), or a a group project such a piece of art.

2. Don’t re-preach the sermon

If you do your devotions after the service, it’s tempting, but don’t re-preach the message. It’s o.k to summarize the messages but for the sake of time, and losing your kids attention, don’t re-preach it. I think devotions are about engaging campers, not speaking at them. Devotions are a great time to answer questions that kids had during the message and for practical help on how to live out the message they just heard.

3. Your youth camp is like a house

I like this quote from a friend on LinkedIn

“Remember when you have a Camp its like building a house with four walls(four topics) your theme is the foundation and your Bible Studies /Devotions are your roofing sheets to complete the house.” – Rodgers Nkhuwa

I have never thought of Camp Devotions in this manner but Rodgers is dead on. The theme is the foundation, topics the walls, and devotions are the roofing sheets, they protect the house from weather and damage. Don’t obsess over the shingles, but don’t forget them either.

Devotions are critical part of camp because they show kids the need to take time out of a busy day to talk out the issues of life with their Creator and we have the privilege to show them how to have that time. Let’s not waste it.

Youth Camp Devotion Resources

If you’re looking for camp devotions to share with your group this summer, here are a few places to pick some up below. I was shocked that there were not more. I have not vetted these devos (except my own) for theological correctness so I encourage you to read the resources (including mine) thoroughly before using.

Living the Adventure of God by Andre Chua.(I really like the  format of this and it seems to be directed to boys, but it could be adapted.)

He also has an accompany leaders guide 

You could do video devotions with Jeremy Camp (name kind of suits this)

You could grab some devotions from Northern Grace Youth Camp

You could put your own youth camp devotion together using devotions from Dare2Share

If you are serious about making your own devotions here are some easy steps 

Finally,

I written several 5 day camp devotions and you can grab them and some samples HERE

I can also custom write you a set of devotions  to go along with your theme

If you know of a good camp devo book, website, or idea, leave it in the comments section.

Thanks for reading and have a great camp!

 

Youth Camp Tip #2 Three Tips For Getting Teens To Bed At Camp

 

For more ideas, resources, and strategies sign up for the Fresh Impact Newsletter

 

 

 

 

 

Take Note Youth Pastors, Your Teens Are Taking Notes

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This past Wednesday I was blown away after youth group. I spoke with a senior high girl after youth, who had come with her boy friend, and saw her holding a bunch scrap paper with scribbling in her hand. They were notes from my message. I didn’t say anything, but inwardly I was thankful I had said anything worth writing down.

Just because our kids do not have a pen and paper in their hands, they are taking mental notes. Here are the mental notes I think my students are taking and I craft my messages with these in  mind:

– Is the person speaking to me trust worthy? Can I trust what they say?

– Is what this person sharing something practical? Does this help me solve a problem (My message was on resolving conflict from a biblical perspective )

– Does the person speaking believe what he or she is saying?

– Can I connect with these ancient figures from scripture? Are they like me?

– Is this person taking a simple idea and complicating it? (in this case, they put he mental pen down and go to sleep)

Now, the written note is an anomaly in my group. There happened to be some paper in the  tables we had kids sitting around that night. Some kids do take notes on their phone. Maybe I should put out scrap paper every week or I could recommend these note taking apps.

For the more creative types, I have two that bring their sketch paps every week, maybe I’ll ask them sum up my message in a picture. This is what I do in church as of late, here is this past Sunday’s

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Here are a few good doodle apps for iphone and ipad you could recommend to your creative types. And here are a few more.

Do your kids take notes?

Do you encourage your kids to take notes?

Do you use hand outs with blanks?

How do you encourage kids to connect with your message every week?

10 Questions Youth Pastors Should Be Able To Answer In A Job Interview

I had the pleasure of sitting on a panel today to play the part of a board member grilling a potential youth pastor. I hate to admit it but I had way too much fun. I asked hard questions based on my own experiences and questions I wished pastors would have asked me. Needless to say, based on my questioning, I like my potential youth pastors extra crispy.

The first person interviewed, and the youngest of the three,  looked at his shoes a lot, said umm a lot, and was generally confused. I smelled blood in the water so I ramped up the questioning. My fellow board members laughed at how tough my questions were but I resolved that I would do this kid no favors by asking softball questions. I think we all started out naive. I just wanted to work with kids, help kids, minister to kids, but we quickly found out that working at a church required more than just a desire to minister to kids. Through my questions, I tried to let this kid know that more would be required of him and that he had to think a little deeper.

The second kid interviewed was older  had some experience, but not really, he was working for his brother. Working for family is different than working for a stranger. Family will overlook our flaws and put up with nonsense a stranger will not. he had quick answers, had given deeper thought to the issues, and was generally well prepared. My goal was to break him, and I did (insert evil laughter here), with a plan. I thought back to my younger days and what I was like. I had a little experience under my belt. Although I played it humble, I really did think I knew best. I wish someone would have kicked that arrogance out of me.

Get My 7 Secrets To A Successful Youth Ministry 




The third person interviewed was a seasoned veteran, 38 years old, and pastoring a church, who had to take this class and therefore go through this interview process. We were much kinder and gentler with him. Why? Because, there is truly no substitute for experience, a.k.a failure. This person had nothing to prove as maybe the other two felt they did. We asked him about his church, how he blended youth and the adults together, and his dreams. He passed with flying colors.

My fellow “board members” asked some great questions and I am adding them into this list. Every church interview you go to will be different so just use this as a guide and not as the gospel.  We only grilled each interviewee for about 45 minutes each. The normal interview will be much longer and you may go through several committees. Ten questions you should be able to answer

1. What is the gospel?

2. What does it mean to disciple students?

3. How do you handle conflict?

4. How important is prayer and the bible to your ministry?

5. What are your strengths?

6. What are your weaknesses?

7. Do you work better in a team or alone?

8. What kind of outreach strategies have you used?

9. How would you deal with a teenager in trouble?

11. If you knew you could not fail what you attempt? This speaks to your dream and not just your skill or passion level. Always be able to define your dream.

11. Star Wars or Star Trek? If you say Star Trek, be prepared to answer Kirk or Picard. If you say Star Wars, be prepared to tell me why the new Star Wars movie will not suck. (o.k., I’m the only person who would ask this question in an interview but I want to know your geek quotient)

This, of course is not a definitive list. It’s a primer of simple questions most pastors, (this pastor) should/would want to know.

Your Turn

What is the best question you’ve ever been asked in an interview?

What is the worst question you have ever been asked in an interview?

What question do wish a Pastor would have asked you before you took the job?

Want to be grilled before your next interview? Check out my new gig on fiverr.com

 

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