Easter Resources For Your Youth Ministry

It’s Passion week. Are you still struggling to find the perfect message or the best way for your kids to enter into the fullness of the gospel? Let me offer a few suggestions.

Three Cups

With a video (seen below) of me explaining this sermon, and having over 27,000 views, this has become my post popular product. You can click to purchase.

 

 

 

 

Holy Week Prayer Stations always draw my kids closer to God. I have put together the whole package for you to do it with your group. Click to purchase and watch video below.

 

 

 

 

 

If You Love It, Make It Better

I am currently reading Brene’ Brown’s Braving The Wilderness. There’s a quote  (among many) that really spoke to me. The quote’s context deals with living in the tension of taking an opposing view. In this case, it was a Penn State athlete who supported the victims of Jerry Sandusky abuse and Joe Paterno’s silence.

The quote was

When you love a place like Penn [State], you fight to make it better, to own our problems and fix them. You don’t pretend everything is ok. That’s not loyalty or love, its fear.

I imagine it wasn’t easy for this person to take the victims side when there was an avalanche of support for the head coach Joe Paterno, but, because he loved Penn State, he wanted to make it better. That meant disagreeing with the masses.

This says so much about how I feel about The Church, God’s Bride. I see so much potential in Her, yet I am so mad with her much of the time. I could replace the word church with Penn and it would describe perfectly how I feel about The Church.

When you love a place like The Church, you fight to make it better, to own our problems and fix them. You don’t pretend everything is ok. That’s not loyalty or love, its fear.

When we do not speak up, when we do not challenge the status quo, when we avoid rather than offer our suggestions, we do not love that thing. When we do not try to make a thing better, it is because we fear the push back and the resistance.

How much do I love the Church. I have loved it enough to fight within it’s walls and I love it enough to know when to move on. The Church is not ok.  If you love the church, your church, take a position to make it better.

How I Write A Sermon Series

I’m super excited about a new series I’ve written called Shine A Light. If you’ve never done one of my series, let me give you a behind the scenes look. I write most  of my multi-weeks series’ as a discipleship narrative. I write the series as if I am taking one kid through the process of becoming a life long follower of Jesus.

I start each series as if no one knows anything, opening the opportunity to share the gospel. Through the rest of the series I try to cover things like holiness, sanctification, identity, service, evangelism, etc.

I do the same in Shine A Light

In week one I address why the light came and how we can respond to it (faith)

In week two I address man’s search for God (sin, worldliness)

In week three I address God’s search for man (gospel)

In week four I address who we should shine the light on (Lordship)

In week five I address our need to be the light (servanthood, witness)

Every series is a chance to disciple a young person in the word. The challenge is to get those students who come to faith to dig deeper. This is why I put a five week small group devotional a youth worker can use as a small group time in Sunday school or as part of a post camp scenario. The goal is to break down  each message and  further with the opportunity for questions and engagement.

In addition to the five weeks of messages I also include slides and social media graphics.

I hope this has been helpful and I hope you’ll check out the series HERE. 

 

 

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

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

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

Why I Won’t Hold The Hand of A Dying Church

It just hurts too much. I’ve been a part of a few churches where I saw it happening in front of my eyes. Why is it that the number 2-4 guys can see it but not the number one guy?

I’m not built for it, emotionally that is. I can’ stand to watch things die. This probably goes back to watching my dad die of cancer. It was a slow and emaciating death. There is a cancer in many churches

  • lack of vision/leadership
  • the inability to get rid of idiots
  • silence
  • pretending that the church is not dying and doing nothing aka apathy

No matter what the cancer is, I don’t want to watch it happen. When I was 12 a neighbor asked me if I wanted a dog. I said no, because I had dropped a dog when I was little and it had to be put to sleep. I told them, “I’d probably just kill it anyway.” It may be the reason I won’t pastor a church. I’d probably just kill it.

I don’t understand it, death that is.  Maybe I’m still too young. At 49 I have more life still left in me and those in dying churches are in their 70’s. That’s not an official stat, it’s the average age of those in the dying churches I’ve worked. Regardless of all the stupid crap I’ve seen, I still have some optimism and faith in me. Not in myself, mind you, but in God.

I’m not special, not like hospice nurses. Hospice nurses have a special calling. They meet the needs of the dying. Both recognize that death is a reality and, barring a miracle, inevitable. Day after day, nurses bath, give meds, talk , and make the inevitable more comfortable. I respect them and I respect the pastors who can stay with a church to the bitter end. I’m not that guy.

I just don’t believe communities of faithful people have to die. I understand that every organization has a stopping point. Amazon caused hundreds to go out of business. Toys R Us will be closing soon. Every business fulfills its purpose and moves on, but not the Church. The Church was built to last and will last in whatever form it takes.

Maybe churches are the same in respect to change. Toys R Us could have been the world wide online toy deliverer, but they were too slow. Books A Million could have been the word wide book deliver, also too slow. The Church is and can be the greatest deliverer of hope there has every been, but to many are to slow to change. To weak to change. The Amazon church has gobbled them up.

I don’t blame churches for dying any more than I blame a human being for dying, except if it could have been avoided. Smoking causes cancer. Drinking too much leads to alcoholism and  liver failure. Bad eating and not exercising leads to obesity and heart disease. All can be avoided. Churches that are dying could survive, but it’s like they don’t want to.

I can’t bear to watch the church throw away it’s potential and its’ resources on crazy “get well quick”experimental drugs (programs, trends, snake oil, etc.) rather than do what keeps them well, prayer, evangelism, serving the poor, worship, neighborhood outreaches, killing their ego, and getting rid of cancer causing toxins.

What do I know. It’s 4:40 am and my heart is heavy for the dying church, that community that Christ died to fill with power and will marry one day. I just don’t want Him marrying a corpse.