Letting Parents Power Your Youth Youth Ministry

This is my eighth post in my series The 9 Dynamic Ways To Revive Your Youth Ministry. You can start the series HERE 

I can remember a parent coming to me with a concern that middle school girls (of which she had one) was not getting enough attention. I responded,  as I always do, with, “So what you’re saying is, you have a burden for middle school girls and you’d like to help out?” She agreed and taught middle school for about six weeks. I give her a ton of credit and she brought a new energy to the ministry.

Whenever I can get a parent to participate, it changes the dynamics of the group, mostly for the better. There have been those times where that’s not the case, but I’ve had more positive experiences than negative.

When parents participate, they lend their power, their gifting, their authority and their fun side. Yes, their fun. Some of these parents can be fun. They’re the cool parent everyone likes.  Sadly, many of these “cool” parents bale because they don’t want to infringe upon their kids need to be autonomous.

I think parents can make great team leaders, game leaders, and goodwill ambassadors for the youth ministry. Now, it gets a bit hairy if you ask that parent to lead a small group on sex with their kid in the room.  I avoid that at all costs, but overall, parents are just people. It’s our paranoia that gets the better of us in believing parents want nothing more than to be a nuisance and a pain.

We shouldn’t fear parents, we should embrace them. I have an open room policy where parents can come watch what we do any time they want. I Facebook live many of our meetings so parents can go back and watch them later.

One of the many dangers of distancing parents is that we lose perspective. We think we’re the man (or woman) with a plan and these parents will just mess it up. Forging positive bonds with parents can give our youth ministry the much needed boost it needs. Give it a try.

One more post, the last in this series, Relentlessly Poking The Revival Fire

You Won’t Revive Your Youth Ministry Alone

This is the seventh post in my series The 9 Dynamic Ways To Revive Your Youth Ministry. You can start at the beginning here

One of the most powerful movie moments I can remember is from the movie The Abyss. It stars Ed Harris and the scene is Harris’ character Virgil Brigman breaking down while trying to revive his drowned ex-wife.

3:37 -8:30 (some nudity and language)

Youth Pastor’s (and Pastors of all kinds) have fought for their youth ministries and churches like this. They’ve tried to breath new life into, banged on its chest, blew into its mouth, slapped it in the face and screamed at it at the top of their lungs. Some youth ministries respond to that and for others we have to call the time of death.

If youth ministries were only like movies. They play like one, but the endings vary greatly.

Revival doesn’t mean numbers. Numbers can be an offshoot of a youth ministry experiencing revival but it by no means the only indicator.

A youth ministry can be dead and have 100 kids in it. Numbers are not the only indicator of life. Revival means to bring back what was once dead.

Passion for worship

Hunger for the Word

A new love for God and others

This kind of revival doesn’t require numbers to validate it, but a youth ministry revived has a better chance at growing than a dead one. Revival doesn’t come so the youth ministry can grow, revival comes because a loving God wants to have a passionate relationship with our students, growth is a by-product.

If you watched the video, everyone is surrounding Lindsey (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio). Someone is pumping the air bag, someone is charging the paddles, someone is doing chest compressions. The others are waiting, hoping, praying.

I have seen a few ministries under my own leadership die. In some cases, it was me, alone, trying to bring the group back to life. I preached, I prayed, I outreached, but nothing. It’s possible that even the best teams couldn’t have resurrected these youth ministries, but too many youth ministries don’t have resurrected leaders or teams. The dead cannot bring back the dead.

As grim as this sounds, dead youth ministries can come back to life but it will require a team who themselves are alive in Christ. The team must work together to bring revival, not revival for numbers sake but revival so God might receive the glory.

If you want to revive your youth ministry, you need a team who is alive, working together, won’t give up, has some fight in them and when that youth ministry does come back to life, they’ll look at each other, cry, rejoice, and look at each other with a knowing glint that God has done this and not we ourselves.

Getting close, on the eighth post in the series, Letting Parents Power Your Youth Ministry

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

This is the sixth post in my series on The 9 Dynamic Ways To Revive Your Youth Ministry. Click HERE to start at the beginning if you like.

If you want to revive your youth ministry, look to the bottom grade level. Look at who is coming up from your kids ministry. Look at the middle school kids you already have. Here are some questions you’ll want to ask yourself and then do something about.

Do you have separate times to bond with just middle school kids? 

Schedule some time to attend middle school events your middle school kids are in. Not because they are your biggest givers or give you the most affirmation, but because they are most likely to receive your investment as genuine love and interest.

Have you created an on-ramp for middle school kids to serve? 

Whenever the church has asked me if there was anyone who could do X, I normally would recommend a middle schooler. I did so because I knew if they caught the serving bug, they’d go all in on it.

Middle school is a great age for discovery what they are good at and if we give them opportunity accompanied by affirmation, the church will benefit from their commitment for years to come.

Do you visit your children’s ministry once in a while to say hello? 

I like to make monthly visits to kids church. I poke my head in and say hello and ask if they need anything. I like to meet new kids because one day they could be in the youth ministry and I don’t want them to think of me as a stranger.

I also volunteer for VBS, to take pictures at the Easter Egg Hunt, and do a booth at the Fall Festival. Is it always convent and simple to do these things? No, but I am sowing towards the future which means I need to plow the ground now.

Do your high school kids have a sense of responsibility? 

Plan a few middle school only events and maybe ask some of your high school kids to tag along and “help”.  Getting your high school kids to invest in the younger kids teaches them to pass on what they have learned.

I always remind my High School students that one day they won’t be in youth group any more. I ask then, “What will you leave behind?” This is discipleship.

“Go into your own youth ministry and make disciples of all middle school students.” Doing so brings a revival of service and an excitement from the bottom up.

How will you bring your middle school kids in?

We have a youth group of about 15-20 kids, which makes bringing middle school kids in homey and less anxious for the student.

Last year the middle school created a chain of teaches and students that an upcoming middle school student followed over to the youth room. It was the kids church’s way of seeing one of their own off to the youth ministry.

When the middle school student arrived our students picked them up off the ground, lifted them into the air, and cheered them. Pretty powerful stuff. The student also received a box of goodies, a bible, etc.

Here’s a video I did talking about a gift box for guests, it may give you some ideas.

Pay attention to the “bottom” of your youth ministry, it’s where life begins and the future is stored.

Onward to the seventh post, You Won’t Revive Your Youth Ministry Alone

Three Ways A Committed Mission Will Awaken Your Youth Ministry

This is part five of a nine part series called 9 Dynamic Ways To Revive Your Youth Ministry. You can start at the beginning HERE.

We talked about Reinvigorating Your Youth Ministry With A Clear, Compelling Vision. Vision is great. It’s the end game. It’s what you ultimately want to to see in your student and ministry. Sadly, vision statements become empty words when they are not paired with the action, the mission, that makes it happen.

A great vision without a great mission is delaying the inevitable. I’ve see churches roll out their vision statements and not change a thing. The expectation was always to get people excited and let the excitement carry them to the pointe where they didn’t even remember what the vision was.

So, what do you have to do? First, share the vision. Next,

If you’re serious about the vision

You cannot keep adding or replacing programs that do not work. If the program is not fulfilling the ultimate vision you have, it must go, otherwise it’s getting in the way and working against the results you want.

On the other hand, if the program in question furthers the vision, you better be taking about it, believing in it, practicing it, inviting others to it and becoming the end results you want to see. If you are not living it, your kids are not catching it.

How serious are you about the vision?

If kids can buy in, you can do it

What I try to tell young people is that if you come together with a mission, and its grounded with love and a sense of community, you can make the impossible possible.  – John Lewis

Everyone does not have to agree. The leaders job isn’t to get everyone to agree, it’s to find consensus and lead the change. There will be those who will buck the system, determine ahead of time who those people will be and figure out a way to make them fans before the change occurs. Be proactive.

Once the decision is made, set the date for change, then make it happen.

Keep the vision in front of them and the mission to follow

The visions is the why. Why are we doing this? So we can become what our vision says we want to be. There will be times when the mission is hard and that is when you say, “But the vision is worth it.” Not everyone will agree with that but if you keep the WHY in front of the HOW, you’ll attract others who want to be a part.

Preach messages, create graphics, have rally nights, celebrate your progress, all of this is to keep the vision moving forward.

If you see progress it’s because you scheduled progress to happen. It did not happen by accident.

Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission – to make the world more open and connected. – Mark Zuckerberg

Zuckerberg saw it, then he said it, then he did it and keeps dong it, on purpose.

We can do the same in our youth ministries.

Continue on with the sixth post in the series,  5 High Value Questions You Should Be Asking About Your Middle School Ministry.

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 #2

Quotes

Articles 

Walk Up Not Walk Out 

Only One Walked Out In NC School on Walk Out Day

Teaching Middle School 

30 Most Influential Teens of 2017 

Florida approves limit, but not ban, on child marriages 

Videos

This is a youth ministry game waiting to happen

Ministry To Public Schools

Keep your eyes open for this

Reinvigorate Your Youth Ministry With A Clear, Compelling Vision

This is part three in the series 9 Dynamic Ways To Revive Your Youth Ministry, you can start here to catch up

I am convinced that most youth ministry visions are neither clear nor compelling. They are usually too small and too attainable. The faith behind these visions barely tingles the hair on God’s big toe.

Youth Ministry visions rarely enter the spiritual realm that presses upon the anointing needed to accomplish it. Visions are not about getting more students, that’s a goal. Visions are about how we see young people living and interacting with the Almighty God.

What kind of things do you envision for your youth ministry? What do you share with your students regularly that gets the blood pumping in your veins?

Vision casting isn’t easy. Our vision may conflict with the vision of the church. No youth ministry vision can conflict with the churches vision if it wants to survive, so I recommend crafting a vision that runs parallel with the church visions and then pour gasoline on it and set it on fire.

Kids need a reason to show up besides game night.

Kids are bored with self-indulgent things, at least the leaders among them are. They want more. They want to see more of God doing things in them, in their community, and the world. We can dumb things down for every one else, but kids who are leaders will bail on it or simply shuffle along unfulfilled.

Lame visions lose leader. Loud and clear visions attract leaders. Because many of the churches I’ve been a part of were good churches, but we weren’t great churches with compelling visions that would require hard work and the touch of God.

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. Proverbs 29:18

Youth groups are perishing, because the vision isn’t big enough and the pay off for their time and attention is too small. This is why kids bail for bigger churches, because they have bigger visions.

Let me say it again, vision casting is hard because many of the kids you serve will bail on you because they have the “what’s in it for me attitude”. They have the “we don’t want to change” attitude and their parents back them up. This is why disciples are not being made.

A clear and compelling vision will scatter some and draw others. The question is whether we, as leaders, have the grit and toughness to share the vision with our pastors, our parents, our leaders, build a small consensus, and then proceed forward even if it’s a small minority that support it.

What is your vision? Do you share it regularly? How committed are you to it?

Head over to the fourth way to revive  your youth ministry, Raising The Dead One By One

Passion Will Turn Your Youth Ministry Around

This is part two in the series 9 Dynamic Ways To Revive Your Youth Ministry, you can start here to catch up

In the aftermath of the Parkland, Fl. shooting, the students of  Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are making their voices heard. They’re planning on marching on Washington and are making powerful speeches to powerful people. 

Regardless of your stance on gun control, these kids have suffered loss and they are pissed off at those who do nothing. In their mind (and most Americans) it is unimaginable that 17 of their friends can die, and there is still resistance to changing gun laws, but they are taking that energy, that sadness, that love, and that passion and putting it to work. I applaud them.

As youth workers, we may ask, “how come our kids are not this passionate about the gospel” That’s an unfair comparison. These kids are responding to a tragedy that changed the face of their schools and community. They have been personally impacted by this and feel the loss very deeply. They are not unlike the prophets of old who saw the injustices of Israel and cried out with passionate voices to repent, turn away return to God.

As leaders, we need to find out what or kids are passionate about and find a way for them to release that passion. We need undergird their passions and help infuse it into our ministries.

If one of our kids were outspoken against abortion, we should tap that energy and give that kid a platform, money, time, whatever they need to make a difference. I am not saying we allow one issue to take over our group, but there  needs to be time to let kids speak out on what is important to them,

Do you know what is not important to them? Another sermon, another meeting, or another game night. The tide has shifted from meetings to movements. If we’re still trying to plan good meetings, we are falling behind and our kid are over it.

As leaders we need to decide what we’re passionate about. Youth workers are paid to be passionate about their meetings. We are judged on their size and their conversion rate. She churches don’t even care about the latter as long as the former is present.

We are the church, and as leaders of young people, we ought to live out our passions in front of them. I speak about my passion for those who are bullied, for those who are marginalized, for kids who do not fit our outdated church model. They know I am passionate about people finding the Lord because eternity can sneak up on us and time for some is short. I ask them to share my passion, and the passion of Jesus for a lost world.

Passion is one great force that unleashes creativity, because if you’re passionate about something, then you’re more willing to take risks. – Yo-Yo Ma

If we want our students to live out their passion, we need to create a path for them to do so. If want our students to become passionate, they need to see me passionate and I need to invite them into it and experience it for themselves.  This is why I have a heart to take kids on missions trips. I want their world to expand. I want them to see how God is moving in other countries and how God can move through them when they are in uncomfortable surroundings.

Kids are not passionate about a meeting where they sit and listen for 30 minutes about what they should do and how they should live, They want to do the stuff Jesus did and it’s our job to put them in a position to do it.

Sermons won’t do it, meetings won’t do it, and good theology alone won’t grow your youth ministry, only passionate hearts in love with Jesus will do that.

How are you helping kids find that passion and connect it to the gospel?

What ways are you creating ways for kids to develop and release that passion?

Part Three: Reinvigorate Your Youth Ministry With A Clear and Compelling Vision

 

9 Dynamic Ways To Revive A Dying Youth Ministry

Many youth ministries are in decline and dying. Yes, there are cycles, ups and downs, and seasons, but there are some that are just plain dying. Some due to the reasons in my last post.

If you’re one of the youth pastors whose youth group is in decline, I feel for you. I’ve been there and it’s not your fault. Well, it’s mostly not your fault, your church probably carries most of the blame, but I can’t let you off the hook. I don’t know how hard you have tried, how much you complained versus how much action you’ve taken. That being said, let’s believe you’ve done your best and not put any extra burden upon you.

You could  be one of those youth groups whose experiencing decline but your church is not. It’s hard to reverse church culture but you can make some changes that would impact your youth group culture.

The first of the nine ways to revive your dying youth ministry is to change the way you and they think about youth group.

Stop begging kids to bring their friends

…and speak to their responsibilities as believers.

Begging (telling them too much) kids to bring their friends lowers the standard of the youth ministry. You’re better than that. Your program is probably better than that.  Can you imagine a restaurant begging people to eat at it? The food should speak for itself and make people want to come.

You have to start believing you have a youth program worth coming to that embraces the title of Church. Ask your kids not to invite kids to a program or an event, but into a community called the Body of Christ.

If these kids say they’re Christians, treat them as such and remind them they are not under any obligation to bring friends to Christ because you ask them to,  but because they are under God’s mandate to share what Christ is doing in them with others.

Stop calling your youth group a youth group 

…and start calling them the church, the Body of Christ, the hands and feet of Jesus.

The previous article I wrote had a quote from a larger post bemoaning all the other activities kids had rather than church. There have always been other choices for kids, even if it was just staying home. Kids will always have choices,

The only way to combat the attitude that your meeting is just one of many meetings is to establish the identity of your meeting. You may even have to change the way your meeting is done to reflect this new identity placing value on meeting needs, praying for one another, etc. rather than the entertainment value of your meeting.

Stop trying to keep kids who would’t show up if Jesus Himself was preaching

… and invest in the kids who want to be there and develop their gifts, talents, and abilities a well as deepen their walk with Christ. If you are not willing to lose some kids, you’ll never gain any.

Who are the biggest fans of what what you have going on? Get their opinion and input on what the program should look like and where it should be heading. You can’t carry the load of leadership by yourself. The kids you involve in leadership and servanthood, will be the greatest benefactors of the changes they make.

I am not saying you should ignore kids who are not their as much, but we shouldn’t be wringing our hands either. Too much time spent on kids who don’t care about what’s going on their involvement in it, is time away from kids who do. Look who Jesus spent most of his time with, it worked out pretty well.

Stop babying them 

…and start leading them

Jesus lost them, gained them, and lost them again (short term) because his teaching was “too hard for them” What Jesus was teaching wasn’t too hard, it was too hard for them. They left Jesus because they did not want to put the work in to understand.

Yes, there is a time for milk and meat, and you have to balance that. There is a time to be loud and a time to whisper. Your teaching style might have to change in order to accommodate a new mindset.

I’m not say we should put kids down or berate them, I am saying we need to focus on things that will help them mature. For our youth ministry it’s missions trips both local and abroad that have been the kick start to maturity. The kids who have attended our missions trips have a much better perspective about the world around them and can handle weekly responsibilities.  Yes, they still do immature things, but they are trending upward.

Find what it is for your group that develops that maturity and what is the vision they need to internalize it. What makes “growing up” in these moments so important? To them? To the ministry you lead?

Stop complaining about what your youth group is not

… and start praising it for what it is. Too many youth workers have loser limp. The minute you have to start justifying things by saying “Well at least…” the march toward losing has begun.

Star being optimistic. Talk about what you see happening, the progress that is being made and the bright spots. Tell stories about students who are making progress and growing in their faith not about the people who are not there.

A positive attitude will not change your group, but it will change your attitude and that is a big step towards changing other things.

Successful people maintain a positive focus in life no matter what is going on around them. They stay focused on their past successes rather than their past failures, and on the next action steps they need to take to get them closer to the fulfillment of their goals rather than all the other distractions that life presents to them. – Jack Canfield

Head over to the second post in the series Passion Will Turn Your Youth Ministry Around 

Don’t forget to grab my 7 Secrets of a Successful Youth Ministry because I know you want to lead well.

A Thousand Ways Your Youth Ministry Can Die (And How To Avoid It)

I saw a post on Facebook from a youth worker, and the opening line was

Honestly, we’re not looking to grow our group; we love our kids and are much more interested in quality of program than number of kids.

I sat stunned in silence for a few minutes. Look at the clock and said, “Time of death 2:35 p.m.” But, the time only marked the beginning of a slow death, like being told you have only months to live except this will take years.

The post continued to share about ask why kids were choosing other activities over youth and how to get parents on board with saying yes to you and no to other stuff.

If a youth ministry is not interesting in growing, by default, it is interested in dying. The call to reach out to others is loud and clear and the call to be mediocre does not live in the the mouth of God.

A youth ministry can die a thousand ways, here’s there of them.

Death by disinterest

How long does it take a kid to be become disinterested in a youth program? Almost immediately if there’s no call to something greater than themselves. A kid will stick around until the fun dries up, if fun is the only thing you’re using to get them there and keep them there.

Over the years I have sped up the time line for getting kids involved in leadership much sooner. Leadership, to me, means allowing a kid to serve and develop their gifts as they go rather than to wait until they “ready”. This process has worked good and has kept kids around much longer.

The old adage I live by is, “If you want someone to show up give them a job”

Death by disruption

The forces of attention are alway pulling at us. The magnetic force of sports, plays, video games, homework, etc. have been at work for a long time and have only increased. Youth programs that are not engaging and fulfilling lack the magnetism to draw kids to it.

Our youth group peaked about a year ago. I can’t get any more from them. The disruption came through home schooled kids getting older and they smiley lacked the influence to bring anyone else in. Our church has gone through a similar phase and faces the same issue.

Death by demographics

Maybe you’re like me. You work in a church where 80% of the people are 50 and above are with little chance of younger families or couples coming through your doors. This could be reversed but when people are slow to change atrophy wins.

I have to say, it’s not anyone’s fault that your neighborhood is changing, it is someone’s fault when change is not embraced to meet the needs of a changing community. If the church is not growing and changing neither is the youth ministry or the children’s ministry.

You have to care about the numbers. If the call to evangelism and outreach dies, so does the youth ministry.

I would never ask a kid to come to church simply so “we” could “survive”. To be really honest, in some cases, a youth ministry should die until the right leadership is over the ministry; be it paid or volunteer.

Over the next few posts, I’ll be sharing some ideas on how to revive a dying youth ministry. I’ve used these ideas in a few of my youth ministries and had great success but there is no secret sauce, it’s just prayer and hard work.

My hope is that if your youth ministry is on the precipice of decline, my words will inspire you to take hold, hang on, and work hard until you see the breath of life return to your ministry.

Watch  for The Nine Dynamic Ways You Can Revive Your Youth Ministry in coming days.