KENDA CREASY DEAN shares some thought provoking ideas about the future of youth ministry in this YS Idea Lab with Brian Aaby in the latest YS Idea Lab.
KENDA CREASY DEAN shares some thought provoking ideas about the future of youth ministry in this YS Idea Lab with Brian Aaby in the latest YS Idea Lab.
I don't know about your ministry, but Instagram is the biggest way of communication and interaction with our students right now. Yes they are on other social media outlets, but it seems Instagram is the dominate one in my area. So we have been having fun with it. I have been taking fun videos I have seen from youtube and have made them my own to post on Instagram. He have done them for prom, for service, for worship, summer camp and more. Some have purpose, some are just to make them smile. We just want to interact with them.
It's super simple. I just download the video from youtube using keepvid.com and throw it in Final Cut. I take music I have and match it up. They are pretty well known video but with today's music and they made for some fun videos to throw up on Instagram to interact with your students and spice up your newsfeed a bit.
I have a cool job. I get to do all kinds of stuff in the student ministry world. Part of my time is spent traveling and hanging out in a wide variety of student environments. So I’m confident that I can steal ideas from all kinds of places.
So let’s get this party started, shall we? I’ll begin as practically as I possibly can.
Buy some jumper cables.
Yes, you read that correctly. If you’re a student pastor looking for a great investment, go to Autozone and pick up a beautiful set of battery booster cables.
But here’s the kicker (don’t get excited, it’s not much of a kicker): get the 20 footers, not the 12. It’s going to cost you a pretty penny, but trust me, it’s worth it. You never know when someone will be parked at an angle unreachable to commonplace cables.
Why, you may ask? Simple. A lot of people drive to your program. Many of you meet in the evenings, and in the winter months especially, it gets dark early. The last thing you want is a nervous parent getting a call from a freaked out 17-year old: “My car won’t start and I’m stranded in the dark at the church.” This is a better call: “I’m on my way. My car wouldn’t start, but my student pastor jumped off my car.” Not only did you save the day, you let the parents know that you’re truly responsible for their teenager.
I know you would never leave a student stranded at your church. And you may think, Surely there’s another leader or student who has jumper cables in their car. But why risk it? One of your biggest jobs as a student pastor is making sure students get back and forth to your program safely. As a side, that’s also why I’m pretty quick to cancel when there’s inclement weather—again, why risk it?
Here’s another added bonus: it’s great to have them when you’re out and about in the community—at the grocery store, basketball games, the movie theater. It’s one simple way for you to put the story of The Good Samaritan into action.
So what’s your one step? Buy some jumper cables.
Ben Crahshaw is the Director of XP3 Curriculum & High School Camp at The reThink Group. You can check out this resources on DYM right here!
One quick look at me will tell you that I am no star athlete. In high school I was more involved with the school newspaper than the basketball team. The only time I ever began getting serious about physical exercise and fitness was this time I met a really cute girl in college who was a runner. I took up running right away (and, coincidentally, married the cute girl three years later). To this day, any thought or desire to exercise comes from my wife or my desire to spend time with her.
I really don't enjoy working out. But I love my wife. Therefore, I'll do it.
We were working out to a youtube video the other night in our living room after the kids had gone to bed (it's kind of like a poor man's gym membership and I'm cool with that).
It was one of those thirty seconds cardio, ten seconds rest, thirty seconds weights, ten second rest and repeat until you are no longer capable of coherent thought workouts.
By the end of the forty minutes I wanted to die and quit. In that order.
But I kept going.
Finally finishing the workout I collapsed in a heap and tried to steady my breathing, which I'm told by my wife is important to prevent the build up of lactic acid aka, the reason my arms were on fire. And then the lady on the workout video started talking about the "burnout" we were about to do. I know that word from ministry. You're not supposed to burn out. You're supposed to give yourself rest and breaks and Sabbaths so you can continue to minister for the long haul. Burnouts are bad. But my wife was about to do this and I wasn't going to let her outdo me (even in the privacy of our living room I have a small pride issue in this area).
My arms were killing me. My legs were jelly. My hipster glasses kept slipping off my face. But I was going to do these last five exercises if they killed me.
And I did. And it was awesome. I pushed through some mental walls that told me I was done and didn't have it in me to keep going. I overcame.
I hurt like crazy the next day.
After the burnout I had a moment of revelation. Those stupid last five workouts are like what it feels like to keep going at student ministry when it's hard and you feel like you're slogging through it all. You work for hours on your lesson, only for a student to tell you it was "okay" and the game was boring.
You get students involved in planning an event, you have a vision for it that ties into your ministry, and the pastor has given it his blessing, but the whole thing falls flat on its face.
You meet with students, parents, volunteer leaders, and other church leaders and are completely exhausted at the end of the week. And next week looks about the same.
Assuming you've got the whole "keeping your day off your day off" and spending time with your spouse and family, here's my advice: Don't give up!
Don't let the hard work make you wonder if there are any easier professions out there. Don't get so bogged down that you think you couldn't possibly make it another week. Keep at it, youth worker! Go for it, student pastor!
God is with you as you minister for Him.
Don't give up on the last workout. Go strong!
Here's a fun video from our youth group this past week - we took a fun spin on the What Are the Odds game that students have been loving the last couple of years. So fun!
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 & Azusa Pacific University.
Earlier in this Student Leadership Team Basics series, we talked about how the role of your student leadership team is to create a culture of welcome in your youth ministry. One specific way you can do this is by having your team recognize and honor birthdays. Here's how:
At the start of your program year, spend several weeks asking everyone to update their information. As part of this, collect everyone's birthdays.
Ask your Student Leadership Team to come up with a way to recognize everyone's birthday. This can be a monthly, weekly, or an “as-needed” recognition. Depending on your ministry's budget, this can be an up-front recognition that costs no money, a birthday cake, or individual birthday gifts. For example, in my ministry, we give each teen a birthday gift that typically costs about $1. Then we personalize each gift so that in some way, it speaks into a teen's identity. What's important about this tradition is not how much you spend but rather that everyone's birthday is recognized and perhaps even more importantly, that everyone's birthday is recognized in the same way. By recognizing everyone in the same way, you show that your ministry values everyone involved in it.
Once your team decides how to recognize and honor birthdays, give student leaders an active role in this process. For example, in my ministry, one year we gave each teen a decorated frame containing a picture of that teen from one of our youth ministry's activities. Student leaders decorated the frame with words describing that teen. Another year, we gave each teen a friendship bracelet. The team chose the colors of the bracelet to reflect each recipient's personality. One teen wrote up a blurb that explained why the colors were chosen. Another made the friendship bracelet. This year, we've given out journals. The team decorates the notebook covers and then each person on the team writes a note to the recipient on the first few pages of the journal. Each week, a student leader presents birthday gifts to students who are in attendance.
Figure out how to address summer birthdays. If you take the summer off of programming, a good way of doing this is to celebrate people's half-birthdays.
Decide how to celebrate the birthdays of those who don't regularly attend your youth ministry's gatherings. In my ministry, if we've had a teen's birthday gift for longer than month, a student leader takes the gift and drops it off at the teen's home. Doing so is a great way to communicate that a teen's value is not dependent on their attendance. It also provides student leaders with a great opportunity to connect with more marginal teens.
By recognizing birthdays, not only do you give student leaders real responsibility, but you also show each teen in your ministry that they are loved and known.
Other posts in this series:
It’s easy to grow too comfortable in ministry. Things can be going so well that you won’t question what’s going on in your ministry. The problem is that you will miss small issues that can quickly escalate into larger ones.
To avoid growing complacent you need to constantly review what’s going on in your ministry. And to know what to look at you need to ask the right questions like:
DOES THIS MEET THE VISION?
In other words, “Why are we doing what we are doing?” It’s a question we ask ourselves when we are stuck in something we do not enjoy. Many times it’s asked too late.
To know if something meets the vision you need to know your vision. You need to understand what you are called to do. Anytime you create anything you can then ask, “Does this meet our vision?” and if the answer is no then you know you shouldn’t do it.
WHAT’S A COMPETING SYSTEM?
A competing system means you have two programs, positions or experiences fighting over resources, time or space. You will know something is competing if you constantly feel pulled in multiple directions.
You can determine if something is competing if you feel that your focus is all over the place.To fix a competing system look at either eliminating one side of the competition or readjusting it’s time or location.
DOES THE LABOR OUTWEIGH THE FRUIT?
There will be programs and events that people love or once had a positive impact. But, if you have feelings of, “Is this worth it?” or if it wears you out for the long haul you might want to take another look at its value.
IS THE PURPOSE CLEAR?
You could have a solid purpose for why you do what you do and then someone else could have a different reason. This happens when there is a lack of clarity. As a leader you need to make sure people get on the same page so that a great thing doesn’t become derailed.
Preach the vision, share the purpose and communicate over and over again. People might get tired of you saying the same thing over and over again, but they will still have clarity on what needs to be done.
When you ask the right questions you’ll build confidence. With that confidence you can address problems early on and strengthen your leadership. When you know the why and what people will buy in and you can take your ministry further.
What other questions do we need to be asking?
Topics: evaluate your ministry
One of my favorite things our team loves to do is go on campuses. whether its for plays, sports or just to go hang at lunch, we try to take advantage of it. We try to go on a campus twice a week. Not every week allows this but that is the goal. It fun to see students where they are at and to meet some new ones. Here are 5 thoughts on the benefits of going on campuses:
You see them in their "natural habitat" - We wouldn t like to think it but some students act different when they are at church than when they are school. The environments are different. The atmosphere is different. We get to see them where they are most of the day for most of the week so when you are on campus, take a look around and take some notes. We can learn something, both good and bad.
Bonus points if parents see you - If you are at a game or track meet and you run into a parent, you earn more and more chips. What a great way to get to minister and connect with a family. Most parents love the fact that there is another adult who cares about their child and wants to see them succeed. Most parents don't mind another adult speaking a positive influence in their kid's life. Going on campus when parents are on campus is always a great deal.
You get to meet friends who you wouldn't meet at church - One of my favorite things is when I see a student on campus and they are with their friends and they have to explain to them how they know me. Most of the time, they are pumped to see our staff on campus and they will come up and chat for a bit with their friends. usually it's friends who never been to our church before and it is a great way to make that first connection.
The faculty gets to know you - The more and more you get on campus the more and more the staff at the school knows who you are and what you are about. Follow their rules, don't be "that guy". One of our staff is the freshmen basketball coach at a high school and it's great because we already have then in. We can walk on the field during football games and track meets and he gets us easy access because they know him already. Be friends with the staff and they will be a great asset.
You remind them that they matter - When we go into their world we remind them that they are worth coming to visit. We had a kick recently go to the hospital. Our team went to go see him when he got home and you could have thought he just won a million bucks. When we visit our students at school just to hang and be with them, it shows we truly do care.
There's a constant agitating thought that occurs every time I think about youth ministry. It’s a thought that every youth pastor is plagued by. There are so many Christians in this world, but very few are disciples. I see a lot of students accepting Christ, but it seems like very few are taking the next step towards discipleship. Sometimes I feel like Elijah, looking around for leaders that are furthering the cause of Christ. I feel like I'm scrounging for disciples, and very few seem ready to take that journey. I want to be as transparent and honest about this as possible. I'm struggling, guys. I find myself wide awake at night thinking, "Where did I go wrong? Where is the boldness we read about in Acts? Why are the kids that call themselves 'Christians’ so apathetic about discipleship?”. Am I alone at the top of this mountain, or are there leaders waiting in plain sight, ready to pursue this?
The past few weeks, I've been praying for direction, praying about where I missed God's guidance on equipping the next generation. As I questioned every action, a single thought came to mind. I've been so caught up trying to invite my students to become Christians; I never thought to first invite them into discipleship.
Go back and reread that last sentence. Seriously, read it. Meditate on it. Be captivated by it. Because when you first read it, you might be thinking "No duh." Discipleship is our commission; it’s a no brainer that we need to be inviting students into discipleship.” Really think about all the programming and the conditions we've placed on our students to become disciples. Think about what you've been inviting your students into when you invite them to Christ.
I don't know about you, but I've been creating an unnecessary step to discipleship. I've created a step that says, "Okay, you've accepted Jesus Christ as your redeemer, now wait a couple of years, hear a wisdom series every now and then, work on reading your bible more, start praying more, follow God, and when you've tested the spiritual waters of faith, a leader might see your character development and invite you into discipleship." This might be an exaggeration of what I've created, but you get the point. We've designed these little steps of improvement before a student gets an invite to go further. Why? So we can see that our time won't be wasted on someone who doesn't care? Where in the early church did we ever see the invitation to Christ portrayed as a delayed process of behavior modification AND THEN an intimate life changing walk with Christ? "Oh you want to acknowledge Christ as Savior? I'll see you in a year when you're really ready to follow him…."
This isn't to put anyone down; this is revisiting what we may have lost sight of in our ministries. Jesus, John, James, Peter and Paul never created a step before discipleship, it was always a command, "Come follow me” (Matt 4:19), “Take up your cross and Follow Me” (Matt 16:24), “Follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1), “You have heard the gospel, but also with power from the Holy Spirit in full conviction. You saw who we were. And you imitated us and the Lord, for you received the word with affliction yet you received it with joy from the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:5-6). The first step to discipleship is simple. Follow Christ. Follow me as I follow Christ. Imitate his disciples and the Lord. Why add more work on a decision that's made in faith?
What about the Cost of Discipleship? What about the parable of the tower and the army? What about the rich man that left disappointed, and the crowd that walked away freaked out when Jesus said, "Eat my body, drink my blood?"? What's so simple about that? How is that inviting? We look at Jesus laying out the cost, as if Jesus is complicating the process, but the cost of discipleship was not set in place to make life harder, it was an acknowledgment that life IS hard. These stories are a realistic look at what discipleship is like. It’s not about making good life choices, but taking on a lifestyle. The Cost of Discipleship isn't the step after salvation; the Cost of Discipleship is our step into salvation.
Discipleship is knowing that life will throw everything it has at you once you take up your cross. It’s acknowledging the enemy has a bullet with your name on it. When you go against the grain of culture and rise above the human standard, people will notice and hate you for it because they are living in the same misery and torment that you're living in, but for some reason you're not shaken by it. Death, sickness, and persecution wait for you at every corner, but the Creator of the Universe is walking with you in every heart breaking moment. He is the comfort that will follow every tear, and just when you feel like you've lost it all, He whispers hope into your soul, and victory sparks in the midst of defeat. This is the cost of discipleship. It is a call to salvation, which is transparent about the odyssey unfolding before you. The first step of discipleship is simple. “Follow me”.
What are your thoughts? What are the first steps you create for new believers in your youth? What are some challenges you face in creating a culture of discipleship? Agree? Disagree?
Sam Pettersen is a youth worker and a DYM Author - check out his resources right here!