For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
This morning I'm writing this blog post following one of the best series we do every year: You Own the Weekend! We're on week 7 of 8 weeks where different high schools "take over youth group" and are responsible for everything - message, decorations, theme, videos - 100% all in, them.
As I've reflected on this series, I can spot all sorts of wins, and here are 4 of my favorite:
Increased Student Involvement
Without a doubt this is the series each year that moves students from spectators to servants. The one that uncovers gifting and pushes students into ministry. Game-changer.
Bridges to Local High Schools
This year we've seen an increase in the particpation of faculty and staff from many of the schools. Now that it is an established tradition for several years, teachers are more likely to appear in a video or even show up at youth group to cheer on their students.
Friends, Friends, Friends
Students bring their friends ... in droves. If someone is sharing their testimony, friends come to hear them. If they are speaking or showing off a video, they bring friends. Friendship evangelism is at the very core of this series.
Messages from Students By Students
I pick series that I have energy toward. I choose what to teach based on a curriculum plan or felt need. But how cool is it that students get to choose and then deliver the message? While I am certainly led by God's Spirit and do my best to meet their needs, there is something special about students concepting and delivering their own, very personal messages.
This has been some of my favorite weeks of the year. Such a great series!
In addition to requiring student leaders to read, another way I train and equip students for leadership and in particular, for creating a culture of welcome is through blogging. Blogging forces teens to intentionally think about their faith throughout the week. It also gives our team another avenue for communication and a vehicle for working through and making decisions throughout the week.
To be clear, I'm using the word “blogging” loosely. A more accurate description might actually be a discussion forum.
Regardless, to protect teens and make our blog a safe place for them to share, our blog is private – only our team can access it. Student leaders know they're expected to complete the blog – it's one of the things listed in our team covenant. I post blogs early in the week (on Mondays or Tuesdays). Team members can then answer them until Saturday at noon – a deadline that gives me time to pull together their responses for our face-to-face meetings each Sunday.
Each week, I post a blog prompt, typically in the form of 3 questions. I ask one question that has to do with faith formation, one about leadership, and one that is super practical. During the summer, as teens complete their required reading, both the faith formation and leadership questions are typically related to the book we're reading together. I then use teens' answers as a starting point for the week's discussion.
During the school year, faith formation questions might be some of the accountability questions they've designed or they might be related to spiritual goals they've set for themselves. They might also be a follow-up to a discussion we've had either in leadership or in our youth ministry, designed to get student leaders thinking about a particular subject or Scripture passage at a deeper level.
During the school year, questions about leadership might be based on a leadership quote or like the faith formation questions, drawn from the accountability questions we've chosen. Sometimes they're more reflective in nature, designed to help teens think about how well they functioned as student leaders at a particular event.
Practical questions are just that. They're insanely practical, designed to help teens either prepare for an upcoming event or to problem solve. Sometimes, they're stand alone questions, meaning we resolve them exclusively through our conversation on the blog. Other times, I use them as a springboard for an in-person discussion.
As with required reading, blogging is NOT my student leaders' favorite responsibility. Yet, it's invaluable for furthering our conversations, holding them accountable, and perhaps most importantly, teaching them that leadership is far more about being faithful than it is about getting glory. Sometimes the best way to learn faithfulness is by doing routine behind-the-scenes tasks – like blogging - that no one else knows about, week in and week out.
Other posts in this series:
Another week, another episode of the Download Youth Ministry Webshow. Excited to have you aboard for this week and thankful for our sponsors: Our primary sponsor ORANGE as well as Leadertreks, YM360 (as always, watch the show for a special promo code to their youth worker resource store) & Azusa Pacific University.
How much does a youth space matter? We like to think it doesn’t matter as much as the curriculum or relationships. But, the truth is that it matters a lot.
Your space and environments dictate the mood of your audience. It impacts how people engage the experience. The good news is you don’t need a big budget for an irresistible environment. You just need to:
If a restaurant were filthy you wouldn’t go back or recommend it to a friend. The same goes with your youth space. If it’s dirty teens are going to feel uncomfortable.
Treat your youth space like it’s your home. Each week you are inviting people to engage in something personal. If they see something disorganized they are going to assume the same about you.
If the budget is tight that means each purchase matters. Do the research before you make a purchase. Be patient and find the best deal.
Invest in quality. That might mean spending slightly more so that something will last. That’s okay because building the ideal space can take time.
SHARE THE BURDEN
You can’t create an irresistible environment on your own. In fact what you consider irresistible might be plain old ugly. To know what your audience needs ask others to share the burden.
Ask professionals (i.e. home stagers or decorators) in your church to help you out. They’ll know how to make moves that are significant that won’t drain the budget.
Creating an irresistible environment doesn’t have to break the bank. It just takes some intention and creativity. In the end your space will be a place where teens can engage and grow.
What are some steps you’ve taken to create an irresistible environment in your ministry?
Without getting into too much detail let me just tell you the last few weeks have, well… sucked. It’s been a busy week trying to get ahead, a week of after service events and a week of draining family-type drama that adds onto the already craziness of student ministry. To say I’m tired, drained, exhausted, whatever adjective you want to use for “tired” is an understatement.
I’m running dry on sermon ideas. I am running low on energy. I’m running low on caring for my team and volunteers correctly. I’m running low on patients that all needs to come with all of it. Ever been there?
So what do you do? What do you do to get out of that low? What do you do to get out of that funk? I tried it this last week and it seemed to have worked for me and Im excited to make it a habit monthly, not just in times I need it.
Shut In – I don’t know what this means for you but in general it means get somewhere where you are undisturbed. Get somewhere where you know you will not run into someone and be interrupted in your time. There is a new local hole in the wall coffee shop right by my house that no one knows about yet and it is the perfect little get away. Shut in and focus on what is at hand. Shut in and spend some uninterrupted time with your Creator. It’s needed.
Shut up – Turn off the phone. Turn off the wifi. Turn off the podcast. Turn on the instrumental music (Deep Focus Playlist on Spotify is legit) and try and listen to the Lord. Henri Nouwen said, “A spiritual life requires discipline because we need to learn to listen to God, who constantly speaks but whom we seldom hear.”
Look Around – For me this means a few things. Look around and see how faithful God has been to you in the past because it reminds you how faithful He is to you always… even when we forget in the moment of emptiness and tiredness. Look around by reaching out to those outside your ministry for words of encouragement and prayer. Look around by reading things that are outside of your teaching, area or profession. For example, I will sometimes read CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia just to get my mind thinking of other things besides messages, students, leadership stuff or planning. It surprisingly helps.
Look Up – Pray. This seems like it would be obvious but it is crazy when we get caught up in the business of things or when we are tired, sometimes we forget. Prayer is the direct power source to ministry. Sometimes when you don't know what else to do the best thing is to shut in with the Lord, read His Word, and pray until you hear his voice.
If I can offer up any encouragement this week it would be this:
Keep going. You are right where you need to be. You have what you need to live out your calling. Eyes on the prize. God’s got this.
Hebrews 12:1-3 - Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
I was talking to an incredbly sharp youth worker friend last week about a question he was asked during his interview process: what is your 30, 60 & 90 day plan for our youth ministry. Now, honestly, I think some of the motivation behind this question may be to get an idea of the growth an elder board/leadership they can expect from the new youth worker.
But the question isn't a bad one entirely and honestly if you don't have a plan going in the first few months will be scattered and less impactful then they should be. Here's what I've lerned about some first steps when taking over a youth ministry program. They happened to start with "P" - a fact I discovered awkwardly while talking to this youth worker on the phone. Anyhow ...
Knowing the past of a youth ministry is incredibly important. Getting an idea of what they were good at, what they loved and valued, what happened to the last youth worker is essential when laying a groundwork for the future. Before you ever say "yes" to a new position/promotion you should be well aware of evey nuance of history.
Why does the youth group exist? An articulate purpose statement, and matching that statement to the past makes a lot of sense. If they don't have a clear purpose and set of passions, you'll need to make establishing one an early priority.
In the first 30 days, you've got to see who's on your team. Be warned about the first few people who befriend you, those are often times parents or volunteers ostircised by the last youth worker. Spend time with everyone your can possibly spend time with in your church - everyone will help you get context and start the foundation for the future.
As you head into the 60-day range, you've seen many of the ongoing programs. You can see what is working, what needs improvement and what needs to euthanized. Begin to formulate (but definitely not publicisze) your kiss, marry, kill list.
This is your action plan. Aroung 90 days in, you should be able to articulate where you're headed and establish some priorities for the coming year. Good luck and God bless!
Remember, health takes time. Be careful about promising too much, and temper expectations as you start out. And come up with as specific as possible
This great blog post last week from Justin Knowles made us think - how many youth workers use bulletins or programs at their youth service? Vote now and let's find out!
I love it!
Just a reminder today student pastors: you have super powers! Your words can change a student's outlook on their entire week!
Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”
How can you use your words to build up five students right now?
- Text five students an encouraging Bible verse
- Comment on five student's Instagram photos and let them know you appreciate them
- Hand write (and mail) a two line "You're awesome because..." note to five students
- Find out five student's favorite snack, buy them, and give them to them during your next meeting with a post-it note of encouragement attached.
Get out there and use your super powers. Encourage a student today!
Ronald Long is a DYM Author and youth pastor. Great words to live out today!