Unmistakeable Youth Ministry

When kids come to your youth ministry could it be mistaken for something else?

Could it be mistaken for a club for only the cool kids?

Could it be mistaken for a YMCA with great activities?

Could it be mistaken for a TED talk where kids just sit and listen?

Could it be mistaken for an elevator where strangers occasionally stuff themselves to get to an emotional high?

If you want your youth ministry to be unmistakable..

invite the poor, the naked, the broken and the stranger

have activities that go beyond game nights and bowling  that serve others.

preach not only to inform but to transform and invite kids to respond

use small group(s) to get kids to connect and make that ride to the top memorable

Your youth ministry will never be mistaken for anything other than God’s church if Jesus is at the center, disciples are being made, kids love one another, forgiveness abounds and, ultimately, God is glorified.

 

 

 

408 total views, 26 views today

Don’t Give Your Whole Life To Youth Ministry

Vanity

meaningless

a chasing after the wind

Are all themes of the book of Ecclesiastes and only now am I realizing that this also applies to youth ministry.

When I read verses like

And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless Ecclesiastes 2:19

I realize how futile my efforts are if youth ministry is indeed what I have given my whole life to.

When I started youth ministry, I thought youth ministry was immune to the wails and woes of Ecclesiastes (how naive I was), and I threw myself at it with great abandon. I’ve given my whole life to young people, but I should have given my whole life to Jesus.

No, I don’t worship ministry, although I have. Yes, I love Jesus, but some days I’ve loved the gratification of man’s words to satisfy my soul rather than the gentle whisper of my Savior.

I’m learning, and re-learning, every day, how to commit my life to Jesus and the eternal rather than the ministry and the temporal. I am taking Solomons advice

A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? Ecclesiastes 2:24,25

There is no enjoyment of ministry without God.

Youth Ministry, like any career,  will only take you so far, satisfy you so much, before you start to have those “What is this all about”, Solomon kind of thoughts.

If you’re a young youth pastor, don’t give your whole life to youth ministry because youth ministry can only give so much back to you. If you’re a veteran youth worker, it’s a good time to re-commit your life to Jesus.

Give your life to Jesus, find joy in him and you will receive more than you ever though possible and, unlike youth ministry

“those who put their trust in Him are never disappointed.” Romans 10:11 NASB

 

1,060 total views, 4 views today

My Short List of Ways We’re Helping Kids Fail At Following Jesus

It came out of my mouth so fast I barely had time to think about it, “You are helping them to fail.”

My friend has a videography business. He uses the best technology  but has flashes back to 1992. In the conversation we were having, he recommend to someone about making DVD. My jaw just dropped, dumbfounded.

This made me thing about all the ways we fail people and especially students. Here’s my short list of how we’re helping kids fail at following Jesus.

We help kids fail when we do not discipline (correct) them

I know we are not their parents, but next to them and their teachers, we maybe the only other authority figures in their lives spending any significant time with them.

We see their faults and their failings and, if you were young like me once, you traded some of your authority for popularity. This is automatic fail in my opinion. I would trade any popularity I might have gained with those kids for another shot at telling them the truth in love.

Recently, I took our kids to camp. A young lady, who represents the Goth culture, was with us and has been a solid member of our youth ministry for seven years. She was wanting to go a bit over the top for my taste and asked her not to dress that way. I talked with her a week before camp about dress and make up and not to go over the top. She was offended and did not speak to me for the rest of the camp.

I don’t make apologies for being the the grown up in the room, and neither should you. Things have blown over and I get the occasional wave now and again. Things are warming up. They’ll get over it, or they won’t. Either way, I have to lovingly and

We help them fail by not helping students engage with basic spiritual disciplines 

I recently spoke at a camp this week. The same camp I have been speaking at for 14 years. For the most part, I do not put the full scripture on my slides any longer. I put the address of the scriptures and then ask if anyone would like to read the 6-8 scriptures I have as part of my messages. I always have volunteers to read. I go to where they are sitting and let them read the verse and then I share my point.

In addition, I ask campers to close the service by “praying us out of here”. Kids love the ownership of public prayer and usually results in increased confidence and respect from their peers.

Lastly, I ask for public testimony. This is never a forced activity. I ask, “Has God shown you anything or made a difference in your life this week?” Sometimes I get a dozen hands raised, sometimes one, sometimes none. Whether anyone gets up to share or not, the offer to share their story is the point. I believe God is always at work and giving students a chance to share helps them become bolder in sharing their faith in the long run.

We help them fail by not raising the bar

We contribute to a students’ failure by not expecting more from them. This especially applies to those church kids who say they are believers and followers of Jesus but rarely dark the doors of our youth room or sit passively while everything is done for them.

Jesus was constantly asking his disciples to do thinks that were way beyond what they thought was their human capacity.

“you feed them”

“leave everything”

“Go into all the world”

Big commands for simple fisherman and ordinary people, but how many times do we justify why we don’t challenge kids to dream big and do more?

“they’re poor”

“they’re homeschooled”

“they’re not the cool kids”

If we’re excusing our kids because of their current condition we are contributing to their future failure.

It’s our job/calling as youth pastor to challenge students to believe God for big things, it’s the students job to receive.

Let’s be faithful with our call and let God handle our students’ hearts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

963 total views, 1 views today

Youth Ministry Is Not A Democracy

I’ve tried my best to please kids, to a point, but youth ministry is not a democracy. Some things are not up for a vote.

I don’t let kids vote what music is played in the youth hall or the van , I set the standard and give them options.

I don’t let them vote on the name of the youth ministry, I dribble out a few names to a few  students to see what they think, and then we decide.

I don’t let them vote on where they go to camp, even if that means some do not go.

I don’t let them vote about what I preach on.  I listen, ask questions, and let the Holy Spirit reveal it.

Can you imagine Moses taking a vote to go into the promise land?

Can you imagine Joshua taking a vote whether they should attack Jericho?

It’s not up for a vote if we’re going to feed the poor, share Jesus with the lost, have worship, or care of the lonely.

Can you imagine Jesus taking a vote on wether the disciples wanted to get in the boat and go to the other side?

We should always build consensus with young people, but young people do not know what they want, only want what is best of them, and most,  do not understand the consequences of their choices; this is why they need a leader not a friend.

We should always listen, talk, and even debate, but some things, most things,  are not up for a vote. Leaders have to lead and students will decide if they want to follow or not.

 

 

1,188 total views, no views today

Take Ownership Of Your God Given Talents Or Someone Else Will

This is my 10th post, in a series of 12, where I use Jeff Goins book, Real Artists Don’t Starve, to convince and inspire you, the local youth worker, that you are an artist.

This particular chapter deals with artists who give away too much of their art or do not recognize the worth of their work or realize too late.

The church does not own you or your  God given abilities. You are loaning them to a particular Body for a season (or several seasons). I want you to be a smart artist who recognizes what you can do, not in prideful way but a discerning way, otherwise, like many other jobs, your talents will be abused or worse, forsaken.

The church, in it’s call and design, is meant to be the hands and feet of Jesus, in the carnal, most church are autonomous organizations that define themselves how they want, feeling their way in the dark, and doing their best in light of God’s word.

This chapter of Jeff’s book deals with artists who wished they had recognized that their gifts and talents were being misspent and the artist himself held back from being all they could be. Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers was such an Artist (band)  and this is what he said after he discovered that the record company had done him wrong.

And when you trust the system fully, there may come a time when the system no longer needs you. “I wish I’d had a mentor,” he told me. “I never picked up on the fact that if you want to get somewhere, look at where you’re trying to get and start by studying the people who’ve gotten where you want to go.”

This is true when we do not take ownership (being good stewards) of what God has given us.

Sadly many youth workers, maybe even you, have told themselves that it was God’s will that you’re supposed to be at the church you’re at, even if it’s toxic. I disagree. This is where the youth pastor job is just a job. There is  call, but you have  choices as to where you want to serve without the fear of God’s wrath coming down upon your head.

This is where a ‘church” is like any other organization. The church is far from perfect and often reflects any other “business” with terrible bosses, underpaid staff, and terrible working conditions and we chalk it up to God’s will. I disagree. I do not believe it is God’s will to be miserable when we have a choice not to be.

We have to own our faith and talent, like a musician should own their songs, and decide what is acceptable and what is not, otherwise the system will dictate that for you.

Owning your faith means you don’t drink the Kool Aid everyone is feeding you. It means, when the orderlies come with your meds you hide them in the back of you mouth between check and gum in stead of swallowing it. It means thinking for yourself, being clear headed and discerning. Newsflash: Your Pastor, board, deacons, elders, are not always right and it’s ok to disagree.

If you continue to go along and believe that it’s Gods will that you should suffer under terrible,

out of context preaching

awful communication skills

a lack of vision for the community in which you live

and

a laychsidaiscial, satisfied, way of how God’s business get done, then you will look up one day ,like Stephen Kellogg, and discover that you gave away a good many years to a system that could have cared less wether you

became your  best

were emotionally/mentally/spiritually healthy

were prepared for the future (professionally/spiritually/or financially)

The “system” will alway carry on, while many youth workers limp away or worse, decay within that system.

I know this sounds like a dire warning, and maybe it is. You are a believer in Christ who loves young people and most of you are like the prophets of old, filled with fire and gasoline to burn, as described by Hebrews

They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they were put to death by the sword. They went around in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, oppressed, and mistreated. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and hid in caves andholes in the ground.These were all commended for their faith, yet they did not receive what was promised.…

Many of the churches and organizations you work for are not worthy of your God given talent. They waste it, abuse, ignore it rather than nurture it and give it opportunity to flourish.

Taking ownership of your faith means not casting off your responsibility to

  • feed yourself from God’s word than take what is said from the pulpit as gospel truth.
  • to better yourself by reading books, listening to podcasts., watching videos, etc. from various disciplines.
  • to look for opportunities, outside the church, that will allow you to shine the way God made you to shine

I can’t tell you whether you should leave your church or not, that’s between you and God, but I would ask that you prayerfully (not pridefully) consider the gifts God has given you and ask yourself, “Am I being used for God’s glory or just being used?”

Tenth post in this series: 9 Ways You Should Be Preparing For A Life After Youth Ministry 

 

2,489 total views, 5 views today

Stubborn Youth Pastors Always Win

Welcome back! This is my fourth post in my attempt to convince you that you’re an artist. You may be a youth pastor, a small group leader, a                         bi-vocational youth worker who does plumbing on the side, or a volunteer youth worker. You are all artists in your own way.

You can read my premise for you being an artist by starting at Real Youth Workers Don’t Starve. This series is based on the book by Jeff Goins called Real Artists Don’t Starve that helps creative people, like youth pastors, embrace the the artist title.

I hope you’ll pick up a copy of the book and read along with me.

Let me clarify my title: Stubborn Youth Pastors, Who Are Stubborn About The Right Things, Always Win.

Stubbornness is not obstinance. Youth Pastors should not be stubborn just to be in the way to be a block to progress. Youth Pastors should be stubborn on principles things and flexible on details.

We all need the ability to persevere and maintain passion for long-term goals despite adverse circumstances—or what Angela Duckworth calls “grit.” – Jeff Goins Real Artists Don’t Starve

We have to be stubborn when it comes to working with teens because, well, teens are stubborn bunch and we must match their stubbornness with a stubborn kind of love.

“No matter how much you miss youth group, I’ll always save a sit for you”

“No mater how much you resist me, I will always be welcoming”

“No matter how much you choose the wrong thing, I will love you and help you choose the right thing.”

This is the same kind of stubbornness parents have with their kids. As youth workers, we should match our teens stubbornness with godly stubbornness. the Bible called this long-suffering.

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed,“The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and egracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, Exodus 34:6

God stubbornly, puts up with our mess and  loves us still.  This is a youth workers kind of stubbornness.

What does all this have to do with me being an artist Paul? Simple, we design programs that give us the opportunity to connect with students so we can show teens this kind of stubborn love long term. We have to be stubborn about the principles of youth ministry, not the details.

Here are a few examples  of where my stubbornness comes in when designing   any youth program.

I am stubborn about who is on my team

I don’t let adults just hang out (other than parents) because they don’t want to go got Wednesday night service. I they are downstairs with me, they have a purpose or they are not there.

I recently had to tell an adult they could not come downstairs any more because they were avoiding all the parameter set to be a volunteer for me

  • Be in the adult service on Sunday for x amount of time
  • Be in the adult Wednesday night service for x amount of time
  • Go through our partnership class

There are a few other standards we have,  but the point is that we have set up standards to first keep students safe from just anyone being a part of the youth program. Second, I want to make sure the leaders we have are mature enough to lead kids into faith, If an adult cannot go through a class, come to service on Sunday morning consistently, they I do not feel they will be a good fit on our program that expects them to lead kids by example.

I am stubborn on discipline

I knew I shouldn’t have let this kid come on the retreat because of his age, but his mother sweet talked me into it; I felt I had to give him chance. I have him Several chances but after having him make a few calls to his parents, I had to ask his mom to come pick him up.

Things like camp, missions trips, and even the weekly meeting only go well when we are all on the same page, or at least in the same book. Sometimes we all have to pull a kid aside, have the talk, and most of them time that settles it. There are other times when we have to make the phone call, send. kid up to their parents, tell a kids “no, I don’t think you’re ready for this.” . All of this discipline is designed to help kids grow in character and faith and secondly to keep the program or trip on track.

Stubbornness like this is a stubbornness that my Pastor, my parents, and even the students appreciate because they know I will do my best to help the kids who need help and make event worthwhile for everyone. A lack of stubbornness on some things, like discipline, causes an unease and a mistrust of our leadership.

I am stubborn on keeping the door open 

When a kid leave my youth ministry, its not the end of ministry with that kid. I have launched out students to go to other youth ministries because those youth ministries offered them opportunities that I could not.

These same kids who leave or that I launch, I’ll run into at the store or they may hit me up for advice online. I am stubborn on this because it’s easer to just close the door and pretend like those kids don;t exist any more, but they do and God may not be finished with me and them yet.

We have to be stubborn because the opposite of stubbornness is complacency, weakness, and irresolute. I always want to be stubborn about the things that matter not the details that don’t. We can be stubborn and flexible.

Steve jobs was stubborn on design.

Edison was stubborn on the creating the lightbulb

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon,  is stubborn about the culture he creates.

We are creators and creators but must be stubborn, not about everything, but about the right thing.

When you harness your strategic stubbornness, you give the world a reason to believe in your work.  – Jeff Goins Real Artists Don’t Starve 

Our stubbornness, about the right things in our youth ministry, will only lead to the right people taking notice and supporting what we create; and isn’t that what we want?

Catch the fifth post over here: The Creative Church, The One Every Artist Wants To Be A Part Of 

 

What are you stubborn about in your youth ministry?

Why do you need to be more flexible about in your youth ministry?

 

 

 

 

1,387 total views, 1 views today

3 Tips For Apprenticeship While You Looking For A Master

photo credit

This is day three of my twelve part series, using Jeff Goins new book, Real Artists Don’t Starve, to convince you, the local youth pastor, that you are an artist. You can catch up by starting here and then here.

Why not grab the book and read long with me?

Little did she know, how- ever, her first career was just preparation for what was to come. – Jeff Goins

Tip #1 Consider Everything You’re Doing As Practice For What’s Next

The story goes that Tia, the one Jeff references in the quote above, did not know where to go or what to do with her life after High School, so she followed in her friends steps and went to law school at Stanford.  She wound up working at a big firm, but became tired of the grind. Little did she know that she was practicing for her next career, as an actress.

When I read the the quote above, I was floored. I’ve been feeling this way for some time; like I have been practicing for something else, I just can’t put my finger on it. Maybe, by the twelfth post, I will have discovered it.

Because I’m in the position I am in, I have both the time and the permission to practice. I have done the social media for our church, written copy for big events and for most of the written marketing we produced. I used to gripe about my place in life, now I am thankful and consider it all practice, and joy, for what’s next.

What can you practice where you’re at?

Tip #2 Stop Waiting For the Big Break

Starving Artists wait for their Big Breaks. Thriving Artists become apprentices in their crafts. – Jeff Goins

For the past seven years I’ve worked in a small church, in a small town. Not a lot of elbow rubbing and networking with big dogs in a town like this; but I have reached out via the internet. I connect with Jeff on FB and Tada! I’m on a book launch team.  Big break are what we make, not some random Big Bang that happens to us.

Tryst me, I’ve struggled, bitched, and moaned as much as any ambitious guy  in a small town will do, but all the while I’ve tried to keep my head down and put one foot in front of the other, slowly making progress, to creating my break(s)

If nothing else, I’ve consistently honed my skills in both youth ministry and other fields such as blogging, networking, and technology. Ready to serve the cause, idea, or person I choose, or that chooses me, at any moment.

Tip #3 Consistently Practice While You Wait 

The marks of a good apprentice are patience, perseverance, and humility. – Jeff Goins

In a way, I’ve chosen to serve Jeff, the author of the book, by doing these blog posts and by sharing his  book on my social, etc.. I expect nothing from Jeff (I mean, he already gave me a free book, what else could I ask for?).

I try to apprentice things, ideas, and people (like Jeff) I believe in. I show my value by using my skills to further these ideas and causes and I hope, in the process, to be found a good apprentice.

I’ve been patient, I’ve persevered and, whether I like it or not, have been humbled. All of these traits are critical for the apprentice (and the master of that matter)

The best thing about these traits are that anyone can have them and practice them. You don’t have to be pretty, strong, or popular; you just have to show up.

If you’re in a job or place that is suffocating you, find a way to apprentice. Apprentice for your church or another ministry in your church that’s struggling. Don’t waste the time or the opportunity you’ve been given.

Since Tia’s jump from law to acting has done a few tv shows and commercial. Modest, but progress none the less. She Tok advance of what she learned as a lawyer and put to work in acting. What skills can you hoe right now for what’s next?

For now, I’m still practicing, waiting patiently, but not idly.

I’m focusing on serving in the role of both apprentice and master.

When I do reach that place I want to be, I’ve imagined it will look something like this. vvv Who’s the master?

Be sure to read the fourth post in the series : Stubborn Youth Pastors Always Win 

3,976 total views, 12 views today

The First Lesson I Learned In Youth Ministry

I was at a Youth Specialties NYWC and I was sitting in a Doug Field’s breakout session  and he said, “You don’t have to be original, beg, borrow and steal.”

Wait, I didn’t have to come up with all this stuff myself? It was ok to steal ideas from other youth pastor and youth ministries? This was pre-internet so stealing wasn’t as easy as it is today. I had to wait for the pony express to arrive to get the latest youth ministry ideas via magazine. I actually had to go to other churches and actually talk to other youth workers about stuff they were doing. Barbaric, right?

The internet has made it much easer to steal ideas from others. In Jeff Goins new book Real Artists Don’t Starve , he says

The starving artist strives to be original,                                                          the thriving  artist steals from his influences.

In the first post of this series, I tired to convince you you were an artist and not just a youth pastor. I hope you’ve since added the word artist to your vocabulary and your resume. What we do requires prayer, wisdom, and a whole lot of creativity. That last one is where we can get stuck.

I have heard many people, even youth workers, say they are not creative. What? Youth Pastors, above al things are creative. I mean, youth ministry is creativity gone wild.

We have to be creative with our budgets, our games, our themes, our messages, and our programming. We ooze creativity. Creativity is almost mandatory if for no other reason than survival.

The God we serve is creative and by His Spirit in us we have access to al the creativity we need to make our youth ministries work. We don’t have to be original, we just have to steal creatively.

I would never suggest that we steal someone’s message, especially verbatim. I would never suggest we not give credit where credit is due when we use someone’s idea. There must be honesty in our thievery.

We should steal from other youth ministries, but only if it serves our kids. We shouldn’t try to steal an idea and then cram that round peg into our square hole. We can, and should,  adapt it , change it, and refine it to fit our ministry uniquely.

We should steal from culture. God is not absent from our culture. He certainly has bee maligned and obscured but if the scripture says that His glory fills the whole earth, that means God is present in our culture and we have the opportunity to bring him to the front.

I “steal ideas all the time. I “stole” from The Hunger Games when I created my best selling Hunger and Thirst Games outreach/curriculum

I “stole” from Star Wars when I created a similar outreach called Soul Wars: Winning The War Within 

I “stole” from the TV show Top Shot when I created a series of small group lessons for guys called The Apostle Paul’s Guide To Living A Top Shot Faith

I “stole” from Playstation when created a message series called Greatness Awaits

I did not “steal” creative license or content from any of the notable  intellectual properties that I mentioned. I as influenced by them and turned them into useful things for my youth ministry. You probably do the same.

As Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the son.” All  good ideas and inspirations come from God. You have access to the same God I do, so you can take the influences around you and put them to work in your youth ministry just like I did mine.

Jeff Goins says,

If we want to become artists, we are going to have to break some rules. We cannot do just what is expected of us. At some point, we must break away from the status quo and forge a new path. As it turns out, this is how creativity works best.

Stop killing yourself, as I did, in an effort to be original. To be the first kid on the block with a new toy. It will never happen. “Steal” from those around you, give credit where credit is due, and put your your own spin on things.

Creativity works best not when we are trying to be original but when we are “stealing” from others. Break a few rules, do something unexpected, and you may find that creativity comes more quickly.

BTW, feel free to steal as many games and ideas from my Youtube channel. That’s why I put them there.

I hope you’ll grab Jeff’s book, Real Artists Don’t Starve, and dig a little deeper Into your creative and artistic nature.

Check out the third post in the series:  3 Tips For Apprenticeship While You Looking For A Master

 

1,195 total views, 2 views today

3 Ways to Spice Up The Boring Grad Gift

You Still Have Time 

To make your grad gifts shine! Whether you are a youth pastor prepping for Grad Sunday or a parent just want to make graduation a little extra special, here are three ways to spice up the boring grad gift.

I just finished the video that shows my completed grad gift boxes (or suitcases) and I hope it will give you some last minute inspiration.

Let me offer three ways you can still make your grad gifts excellent and memorable.

1. Change the experience

You may have no control over what you are giving to your grads, but maybe you can change how they receive them. I made suitcase but you could create a different kind of experience.

Lock up each gift with a combination lock and give each grad one or two numbers (depending on how many grads). After service they have to trade numbers to get the right combo to open their gift.

Hide one gift and, after service, give them a clue sheet to go and find it.

2. Change how many senses are involved 

Use all your grads senses, not just sight and touch.

Connect a smell and/or taste to a place you have all been. Put some coconut or fruit with your gift to remind kids of that mission trip the Caribbean everyone went on.

Put together a Spotify playlist of all the worship songs, retreat songs, etc. for their last ride out of High School and that also reflects their time in the group.

Record individual audio or video messages to each student and text it to them after the grad service.

3. Change the packaging 

What did you get your kids for Grad Sunday? How can you change the packaging to make it more special or fun? How about wrapping them in fast food bags to represent all the times you went out to eat? Or put their gifts in a their favorite pizza boxes.

I hope these last few ideas stirs up some inspiration and will make your Grad Sunday or Wednesday the best it can be,

You can also check out my Graduation Playlist on Youtube for some extra ideas.

Have an awesome Graduation Sunday Service!

1,140 total views, 1 views today

I Don’t Want You To Be A Better Youth Pastor

Making life-long followers of Jesus. It’s kind of the point of my blog here. Every idea, video, etc, is meant to encourage you to think long term. To change something about yourself, your program, or even your theology when it some to making disciples.

I want you to become life-long disciple makers, not just more creative youth workers. Playing better games is a means to an end.  Being an awesome communicator is not the end game . It’s not about tactics, it’s about the lifestyle.

“But making disciples is far more than a program. It is the mission of our lives. It defines us. A disciple is a disciple maker.”
― Francis Chan, Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples

My hope is that every post, every video, every resource, leads us all to becoming lifelong disciple makers and not just better youth pastors.

1,031 total views, no views today