Here's another in the series of "How To" videos from our friend Hannah Rich. This time she takes on Halloween costumes. Fun!
Here's another in the series of "How To" videos from our friend Hannah Rich. This time she takes on Halloween costumes. Fun!
When I was in HS my nickname was, the "Goody. Goody." I hated it. It made me feel small and like I just wasn’t part of the in crowd. If you have no idea what that phrase means then you were not the one in your own High School who was categorized as an “innocent." We are the ones in High School who don't seem up on the newest song, youtube video, video game, television show or movie. This of course is not true. We have many favorites in all sorts of categories but we may have fallen into that group of kids who aren't allowed to read certain book series about magic or vampires. The reality is on the outside looking in we just don't appear very edgy which of course means we also are not thought of as a cool kid. Now this may be the student of which every youth pastor and parent dreams, but somehow you feel like an outcast when a bunch of peers give you the title.
Recently, several cases have made the news of teens sending nude photos to each other and basically collecting and trading them like a form of baseball card. In the past week I have talked with two youth pastors from different areas of the country (and not in the states that made the news) where this is happening as well. There are a rash of youtube videos called, "Shrek is Love Shrek is Life," that students think are funny in which the idea alone, much less the visuals will make your stomach turn. Let's suffice it to say, it's not the Shrek of Dreamworks. These sound like extreme cases but I talk to church leaders often locally and globally who are wondering how to deal with these topics. This doesn't even touch on the popularity of graphically violent and sexual television shows, crazy movies and lyrics to songs which make you go, "HUH?"
We youth leaders have a tendency to believe the more wholesome a student, the more they will get pummeled out in the real world. At the same time we are asking them to stand out and be different from those who don’t know Christ. Really which is it? I think it’s time to actually encourage the pure of heart to stay that way.
How do we encourage the innocent it’s a good thing (and the rest it's not so bad):
It stinks to get made fun of. I know one girl who will tell me, “I have chosen to sort of live under a rock. I don’t need to see or do things that are inappropriate. It also doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with that.” The tension is about fitting in. Many students who make the choices to look or engage in these sorts of things just want to be able to follow the conversations of the hallways. YET, the question is one of the heart. Who does it really belong to? If it’s the Lords it may mean you know about what’s going on but don’t engage in it. Let them know that’s actually a good thing.
There Are Always Consequences
Those students in the news are currently in court cases exploring whether they will be charged with felonies including possession of nude pictures of a minor. If this happens they will potentially become registered sex offenders, yes as teens. When we make a choice to explore the “naughty” there is always a consequence. Once you read something inappropriate or see the movie, those images are stuck in your head. You can reclaim your heart but you don’t have to lose it in the first place.
Give Them An Outlet
Let them have a place where they are allowed to be oblivious of pop culture sometimes. In an effort to connect, we like to discuss the latest and greatest in youth programming. I am not talking about ignoring culture. Just maybe it’s ok to let them have spaces where they are allowed to just be free and innocence is embraced. So for example before you have an ice breaker this week asking, “What’s your favorite horror movie?” think about the fact some of your students may have never or choose never to see one.
It’s a fine line to walk on being aware of the world and staying naive to the details. We talk a lot in our group on how to navigate all that is bombarding us, choices and accountability. Jesus was entirely aware of the culture around Him, but he had no desire to be undone by it. He wasn’t ever one of the “cool kids.” It wasn’t easy, but I am so glad that He maintained His lack of sin. It changed everything. If this is who we are teaching them to follow, then why are we so reticent to let them be exactly like Him? Let’s help them learn to navigate this world, but they don’t have to be part of it. Not really.
Innocence Good or Bad?
There's a new social network that's already been called troubling by many schools and colleges. It's called Yik Yak and it's basically an anonymous local messaging app, kind of like a bulletin board. Yik Yak uses GPS to determine locations and lets users within a 1.5 mile radius read your 'yaks' (updates). Kind of like a local Twitter - only anonymous.
It's that anonimity that causes the problems. Users can post whatever they want about whomever they want, completely anonymous. Well, as far as true anonymity still exists these days anyways. Obviously users can be traced when necessary, but it's not easy.
That's why many schools have already had issues with Yik Yak, because it's perfect for cyber bullying. Oficially, the app is aimed at college students but that doesn't mean younger kids can't find it or use it. I received an email from my son's elementary school this week that they'd had problems with Yik Yak in 5th grade classes.
It's why more and more schools have decided to ban Yik Yak. And they can fortunately; so called geofences make it possible to block the app in certain areas, like middle schools and high schools. There have also been colleges who have blocked the app. That's not the perfect solution obviously, as students can still use it outside of school grounds.
It's one more example of why it is so important to be in a constant conversation with students about their online behavior and lives. And as youth leaders, we should stay on top of developments like this so we can educate parents and students about the dangers and risks of social networks.
Leadership is a pretty lonely place. This is my first position where I am the lead of the ministry, a staff team, two separate ministries and a full volunteer staff. Even though you are surrounded by people all of the time it still is a very lonely place. No one else knows the conversations you have with the leadership of the church. No one else gets the phone calls of upset parents. No one else gets to deal with volunteers who drive you crazy. You get to do all of that.
Whether you have a team or not, I'm sure there are times where you have felt alone as the lead of the ministry. So what can you do? How can you get people around you?
Find someone who has the same "status" in the church - At Christ's Church of the Valley, I am considered to be on senior leadership of the church; all of the department heads. One of my best friends is on senior leadership as well and we use each other as sounding boards. We both lead a team and when we feel like we have no one to bounce off conversations or ideas, we go to each other. It really is helpful.
Find someone who does what you do at another church - Having a third party who is outside the church is extremely refreshing. They get it. They understand you ministry. You can surround yourself with a network of other youth pastors who can come along side you and support you, encourage you, and pray for you. I go to Josh Griffin (DYM guy here) for my stuff. It's nice to know he will be there for me and tell me what I need to hear when I need to hear it.
Find someone a step above you - I know this one might be harder, but having someone in leadership above you to chat with is a gift. My supervisor has an open door policy where I know I can come in and chat, brainstorm, run things by him, complain, whatever. It's really refreshing and he makes me feel like he has my back, which he does. Makes it feel less lonely.
I'm sure there are more ways, but these are the ways I tend to cope with the loneliness of leadership. What do you do? How do you combat that?
After having lived in the US for almost a year now, there's one observation that I'd like to share: the pace of life is so much higher than it is in Europe.
My son is in first grade and I am amazed at the schedule he's almost forced into. Spelling homework four days a week plus extra math homework on the other days. We're supposed to read with him every day. Then there's sports, music lessons, school activities, you name it. If I want to schedule a play date for him, we have to book it weeks in advance. I can only imagine what it's like for teens, how hectic and crazy busy their lives must be.
Is youth group competing with all the other activities? And if so, is youth group one more thing students have to do, where to have to be active?
Maybe we should consider making youth group as a place of rest, a place where teens can exhale, relax, leave the hectic pace of their lives behind them.
Maybe if we did that, students would make coming to youth group a priority instead of another activity they have to do.
What do you think?
Weekend Teaching Series: ICON (series finale, week 3 of 3)
Sermon in a Sentence: JESUS is the Light of the World, let Him shine through us.
Service Length: 79 minutes
Understandable Message: This was the series finale for the ICON series this past month. It was a great series completely focused on the Life of Christ - Jesus is the way, the bread and the light. This weekend we challenged students to a) accept the light of Jesus in their hearts, and if they have already to b) shine bright for Jesus into the world around them. We talked about how light is attractive like a bug zapper), how light guides us (like a flashlight), and how light protects us (like a lighthouse). We talked about how each of these qualities are
Element of Fun/Positive Environment: Lots of students involved in the youth services these days - very proud of them and our program was strong as well. Great music and a fun game called Pictionary Showdown where we had 2 teams compete against each other on IPads trying to draw funny objects and phrases. So classic, and so fun. We also have a couple of great videos, including the "How to Ask Someone to Homecoming" which was an immediate hit with our students as well.
Music Playlist: You Are, Give Us a Passion, Go
Favorite Moment: I really liked this series - and there's something special about the Fall before we get hit with all the homecmoings of the next month and the pressures of school start to pile up before the holidays. I got to teach all 3 weeks of this series as well, so fun!
Up next: Worship Together Weekend - October
I love you. I really do. But you need to shut your mouth.
Youth workers love to talk – typically one of our passions is to communicate with people all of the time. It is one of the things we like to do and are required to do often in our calling. But I want you to consider talking a little less. For some of us … myself very much included … well, we just need to shut up.
Here are 3 areas I need to work on being quieter:
Shut up in small group
Don’t do all of the talking in your small group! Let questions hang out there. Let them teach the lesson. Let discussion build. Don’t have all the answers (quick aside … you don’t have them all anyhow). When you’re with learners, let them learn! You teaching too much often get in the way of them actually learning.
Shut up about the leadership of your church
My mom (and probably your mom, too) used to say, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” These words are true for a 5-year old child and a 25-year old youth worker. OK, all of us, even the old folks like me with one foot in the grave at 39. I've been around youth workers long enough to know that there is a fundamental difference between most youth ministries and the leadership of their church, which many think gives license to gossip or slander. Just no.
Shut up in your time with Jesus
We talk to God in prayer. We read the Word. We have the latest celebrity-pastor best-selling devotional book. We share with others. We process with a close friend. But we rarely take the time to be in God’s presence, to listen to Him, to be guided by Him. If you do … you’re a rare breed because (confession time) I can’t think of the last time I really spent time in solitude and silence with Jesus. I’m busy doing youth ministry! I’m busy talking all of the time. Shoot … I need to take my own advice and shut up.
I know it isn’t a polite thing to say … but shut up already!
Ever have that feeling that something is not right? It starts with a few teens missing. Then leaders begin to show up late. Activities are no longer fun. What was once a dream has now become a chore. You wonder, "What's going on here?" The answer:
YOU ARE STUCK IN A YOUTH MINISTRY RUT
Ruts are hard to get out of. In fact they not only slow you down but hurt your ministry. When youth ministry becomes mundane it leads to feelings of frustration and burn out. To key is to recognize it before it becomes too late.
To recognize that you are heading down the wrong path you need to:
MEASURE WHAT YOU ARE DOING
If you do not know how you are moving or growing you'll never know if you are making progress. First question you have to ask yourself is:
What are my goals? You need to know what goals you are trying to reach. Set mile markers and deadlines for reaching them.
How am I measuring it? While counting attendance and offertory is easy, you need to know create a system that tracks life change. It might be through collecting emails. Filming testimonies.
While some goals are tangible to measure others might take a little creativity. Even if it's not perfect look at measuring as much as you can.
REVIEW WITH THEM TEAM
You might not be the only one feeling stuck. Ask your team, especially those who are new to serving. They will have a fresh perspective. They will be able to ask questions like, "Why do we do this?"
If you cannot answer that question, chances are you shouldn't be doing it. Get an outside perspective to help you build a core team.
TAKE TIME AWAY
Your feelings of burnout might be from overwork. Take yourself out of the equation for a little vacation. Rest, rejuvenate and then walk back in. If you are constantly working you might be too tired to truly enjoy the highs and lows of youth ministry.
ASK GOD FOR GUIDANCE
If you are feeling stuck rest in the Lord. Ask Him to guide you where it is you need to go. Do not be afraid to discern whether or not it's time to move on. What you are experiencing might be a season or a sign that you need to go.
No one likes to feel stuck and while you might feel helpless you can always do something. Do not ignore it or work through it. Pause, rest and reflect. Be patient and trust that the answer will be revealed before it's too late.
What advice would you give a fellow youth minister who is stuck?
Congrats to the winners of the new Chris Tomlin album contest we ran last week - Brian Ritchie, Jeffrey Kammerer and Doug Atkins all scored copies of the CD. Congrats, all - and you can get your very own copy right here or on iTunes, too!
I've served in 2 churches in my youth ministry experience so far - the 1st church loved fundraisers and we did them every month, my current church doesn't allow them in an way, shape or form. Got me thinking about your youth ministry context - are you allowed to do fundraisers or not? So vote, then let us know if they are awesome or terrible and why in the comments!