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Youth Workers Need to Shut Up Sometimes

Posted by Josh Griffin

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!

JG

4 Steps To Get You Unstuck

Posted by Christopher Wesley

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?

WINNERS: Chris Tomlin Love Ran Red Album

Posted by Josh Griffin

LRR_Cover

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!

JG

POLL: Youth Ministry Fundraisers - Yes or No?

Posted by Josh Griffin

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! 

JG

Bringing Structure To Chaos

Posted by Justin Knowles

Even though I am not solely focused on small groups anymore, they are still quite a passion of mine. I believe small groups are the most effective way to disciple students other the few years we have them in our ministry. Going from Saddleback HSM which has small groups on lock to a place where there is less structure has been interesting and fun. It’s like having a blank slate and I kind of like it. There is no real small group culture in our ministry but I’m praying this will change. Change takes time and a lot of work. 

A few weeks a go we began the process of creating what that structure will look like.When there has been no structure, structure scares people. People will get so used to doing things their own way and most of time it can be unhealthy. Bringing a healthy structure to chaos is tough but necessary.

I have heard the following things when it comes to structure:
  • I feel like there is no freedom.
  • Having curriculum is limiting us.
  • I don’t know how to teach the Bible.
  • Every other month meetings is a lot of meetings.
  • I can’t do Wednesday nights and lead a small group.

All real. All legit. But when it comes to starting a new thing we need to start with why. People will be more than likely to get behind you if tell them they “why” behind you do what you are doing instead of starting off with the “what” and “how” (This is taken from the leadership principle of Simon Sinek TED talk. Click HERE to hear it, you are going to want to do that). Starting with"why" can help inspire people to move forward.

Here is the why:

  • You have freedom to make the group your own. I want you to create a vibrant, authentic community in how ever you know how to do to reach your students but using these structures to help guide you.
  • We give curriculum because we want to make sure what is being taught matches what the church teaches. Curriculum is not everything, but it’s something. We want you to use something.
  • You don’t know how to teach? We have curriculum for you to use to create conversations and help you walk you through each lesson. Curriculum is not everything, but it’s something. Here is something you can use. 
  • If small groups are for creating a great community, we really need our leaders to enjoy in some of this community themselves. It really makes a difference when our leaders know, learn and have fun with each other. So meetings are important for our student’s growth.
  • You do not have to lead on Wednesdays and lead a group. You can choose one or both. We want our leaders to be healthy, so do what you feel you need to do to be healthy. Wednesdays are a great way to connect with students and have fun. Small groups are perfect if you want to truly disciple a group of students. Healthy leaders create a healthy ministry.
Creating and changing culture takes lots of time and lots of re-casting of vision. Keep going, keep teaching, keep reaching. 

Have you ever had to bring structure to something with non? What did that look like? How did it go? 

GUEST POST: Backyard Youth Ministry

Posted by Josh Griffin

A few months ago my wife and I moved out of an apartment, and bought a house. Owning a house is very different than renting an apartment. With an apartment, there are little to no responsibilities, but with a house, the owners are responsible for EVERYTHING!!

One of those responsibilities is taking care of the yard. I like yard-work. I enjoy getting outside and working with my hands. I enjoy the space that yard work gives me to reflect on my week. Some of my best worship times with God have come while doing yard work. The last few weeks I haven’t had that much time to put into our yard, so the only thing getting worked on has been our front yard. A few days ago I walked out into our backyard and it was a WRECK! The grass was overgrown, the weeds were crazy tall, and it looked terrible. The front yard was great, but the back was an absolute mess.

It wasn’t that big of a deal though, because the only people who see my backyard are my wife, family, close friends, and my dog. As I was going through the tough task of getting things cleaned up in the backyard, I really felt God speaking to me about our youth programs at church.

Our mid-week programs are definitely the front yard of our youth ministry. Everyone comes to these, and people seem to enjoy them. Our team works hard to make these programs smooth and polished. Then we have youth Sunday school. Sunday school is definitely our backyard youth group program. It’s a little messy, unorganized, and unpredictable. Not everyone comes to Sunday school…in fact our Sunday school attendance is only about 15% of our group. But just like a real backyard setting…some of the deepest and most spiritual conversations happen in youth Sunday school. As the Holy Spirit was working on me, I realized that if our Sunday school program stays messy, and unorganized, we are missing a HUGE opportunity with our students.

Attendance may never reach that of our mid-week programs, but it’s my responsibility as the youth pastor to provide an environment for students to connect with God. Revamping our youth Sunday school will be a tough task, but I believe in doing so, our youth team, and church is remaining faithful to God.

What program is your backyard? What in your youth ministry could use some work?

Obviously different programs require different amounts of effort, but I want to challenge you to try and make all of them excellent. It’s our job to prepare our lessons, worship times, and small group material. At times all of this preparation has been overwhelming to me…however I never want to communicate that one program is more important than another. Anytime students are present, that time should be of high value. It’s tough to swallow at times, but both the front yard and back yard deserve to look great, no matter who sees them. 

Alex Wierda is the Youth Pastor at Central Christian Church.

GUEST POST: Should Parents Let Students “Suffer the Consequences”of Arrests for Minor Crimes?

Posted by Josh Griffin

Because I am a youth volunteer and a lawyer, I tend to be the “go-to” guy in my (large) church when a student has a brush with the law – typically arrests for things like minor in possession of alcohol or cigarettes, or simple possession of marijuana. When the panicked parent calls, they typically already have one of two plans in mind: 1) they want me to do everything I can to help the student; or 2) they just want information because they have decided to not help and let the student “suffer the consequences” of their arrest as part of the discipline. This blog post explains why I always try to talk parents out of option two, and why I think you (as the youth pastor) should do the same if a parent asks you. Note: this post assumes the student really did do what they are accused of – students who are not guilty are a different topic entirely.

I will begin by stating what should be a couple of uncontroversial points. First, it is clear that Christian parents are called to exercise loving discipline of their children, as verses like Prov. 29:17 and Ephesians 6:4 make clear. Secondly, Christians are called to follow the secular law so long as it does not contradict God’s law (see 1 Peter Ch. 2 and Romans Ch. 13). Within those boundaries, though, our legal system allows for a defense, for bail, and many other protections for people who have been arrested. Should a Christian parent take advantage of these protections on their child’s behalf? Yes, and here’s why (and remember Paul in Acts 22:25, who claimed his rights as a Roman citizen):

Parents Should Bail Their Child Out of Jail Immediately, Not Let the Student “Sweat it Out” for a Few Days
The initial question is often whether, after an arrest, the parent should leave their child in jail or bail them out immediately (i.e., pay a “bond” to allow the student to go home until the eventual trial). Sometimes, well-meaning “tough love” parents think a few days in jail is just the discipline their student needs. This is a huge mistake, for a bunch of reasons:

First, if you leave your child in jail, they will be in jail with people you probably don’t want them spending time with. Arrestees with families that care about them bail them out of jail. That means the people sitting in jail waiting on a trial are either totally without friends and family, or more likely, have been accused of very serious crimes and are not eligible for bail. People in jail don’t know each other. The way they compete for social status is bragging about how tough they are and how many crimes they have committed and how often they fooled the police. Are these the conversations a parent wants their child to be having. 

Secondly, if the student is in jail more than a short period, they will likely required to change into jail clothes. This will include a visual “strip search.” Depending on the jail policies, it may include an even more humiliating and embarrassing body cavity search.

Third, drugs are very common in jails. Inmates are often bored, and drugs are one way to pass the time. They are typically smuggled in by workers at the jail. If the student has not been exposed to drug use before, he or she likely will be at the jail.

Finally, the issue of sexual assault in jails is very real. I’m not going to go into detail about this, but it is a serious and absolutely real threat in jails to both men and women. And it is as awful as you might imagine.

Students Should Not “Just Tell the Judge They are Guilty”
The other misguided (in my opinion) approach taken by well-meaning Christian parents is to reject any sort of legal assistance, and to tell the student “Just go in and tell the judge you are guilty.” This is known as a “straight up” guilty plea by lawyers, meaning it is a guilty plea with no agreement from the prosecutor as to the punishment. It is a mistake for two principal reasons: 

First, the entire legal system is designed around negotiated guilty pleas. If someone goes in without a deal in place with the prosecutor, the judge is likely to assume there are aggravating circumstances and sentence more harshly. Note that a student does not have to deny their guilt to negotiate a plea – in fact, it is expected that he or she will tell the truth.

Secondly, most jurisdictions have a number of “diversion” programs for first-time and young offenders that typically require counseling, drug testing and community service and then wipe the student’s record clean. These programs are critical in mitigating the harm caused by a student’s one-time bad judgment and a lawyer can explain them all.

Discipline of students who made bad choices is part of Godly parenting. But I counsel parents to handle discipline at home, and try at all costs to avoid having their son or daughter chewed up by the court system. I’d encourage you to do the same.

Bill Mckinnon is a lawyer and a youth worker and receives feedback and blog post ideas at youthminlawyer@comporium.net. This is intended to be helpful direction, general commentary and in no way should be sonsidered legal advice. 

Book review: You(th) Ministry

Posted by Rachel Blom

Book coverYou(th) Ministry, written by Brandon Miraflor and Adam Shaw, is not your typical how-to guide. It’s much more of a personal approach that focuses on (as the authors put it( the driving force of youth ministry: you. Its aim is not to teach you how to’s on ministry, but to help you develop healthy habits that will change you, and through you your ministry.

The book consists of 29 challenges, dealing with various issues like vision, prayer, living with less, influencing others, music, trust, delegating, etc. If this feels like a broad range of topics, you’re right. They are a bit random and all over the place and aren’t really logically structured in any way.

Every chapter deals with an issue by describing it succinctly, followed by a challenge aimed at getting to the core of this particular issue. I love this concept and the thought behind it, that is that most of our actions are rooted in habits. When we change our habits. We change ourselves.

That being said, one challenge one day on an issue does not form a new habit. The last chapter of the book says to repeat all challenges (which makes sense for some, but not for all) but even then. Habits take many days to form. In my opinion,. The authors would have been wiser to focus on less issues and create more challenges to really for habits.

Some of the challenges are great, like writing a snail mail card to students, or looking for people to counsel you (‘rabbi’s, peers, and disciples’). Others are too broad or vague (‘listen to your students’) or too specific (‘book a date for your senior pastor to speak at your youth service’ – that’s assuming 1. you have a senior pastor, 2. who is willing to speak, and 3. you have youth services)

You(th) Ministry is a short book, an easy read, though carrying out the challenges will obviously take more time. Yet while many books are too long, here there were chapters where I wished for more info, more description.

All in all this book is a great starting point for any youth pastor willing and wanting to work on himself or herself.

Leaders Have The Tough Conversations

Posted by Justin Knowles

As leaders we get to be a part of a lot of awesome different things. We get to hang out our volunteers, get to hear stories of life change and put on services. As leaders we have to do a lot of things we don't enjoy as much. One of those things is having hard conversations. Whether it is with other staff members, students or volunteers, leaders need to conduct healthy but tough conversations to help push things forward. 

Here is what I noticed:

You have to have them - If you want to follow what the Bible has to say, read Matthew 18 and what it says about having conflict. It's amazing to me how many people just want to skip this whole process. Jesus did not shy away from uncomfortable conversations.

You have to do them well - Jesus also handled them well. Too many hard conversations are not handled well. As leaders we are needing not only to have hard conversations with people, but we are called to handle them well. A great leader can walk though tough situations with authority, love and grace all at the same time.

You have to follow up - Yes, you had the talk. Awesome. Now follow up and circle back around and smooth over any rough edges it may have caused. The end goal should always be reconciliation.

Having these conversations are not fun, but when handled well, everyone wins.

 

Justin

@justinknowles3

New Teammates Should Compliment and Threaten the Culture of Youth Ministry at Your Church

Posted by Josh Griffin

When you're recruiting new leaders to your ministry it is easy to focus on gifting and fit. But as I look for people I'm also looking for one other thing - the threat. Someone who fits but is also willing to challenge some assumptions and upset the apple cart. Here’s what I hope happens when someone sharp joins the team:

They fit – obviously, there is a culture and legacy that we have on our High School team that is important to us and the church. I hope to some degree is a natural part of the new staff’s lives, that they respect that legacy and endeavor to write the next chapter in it. Obviously, fit is also a huge part of job satisfaction and performance. If they have the “it” factor where someone just sticks, after a couple of months people assume you’ve been at the job for years. I’ve been praying for this, and watching for it with everyone we’ve talked to in the process.

They threaten – at the same time, I’d love to see this happen as well. Not threaten the current team’s jobs or roles, or compromise their own fit – but threaten us in good ways. Threaten the insider eyes we’ve grown accustomed to doing week-in week-out ministry. Threaten us with the outside culture they bring to the office. Threaten us with new ideas that would push us ahead. Threaten us with passion and work ethic we’ve forgotten in the comfort of tenure. I’m praying for someone who fits, but brings some of the outside with them to the table.

Finding this has proven to be no easy task. But totally worth waiting for the right one.

JG

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Josh Griffin

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Josh is the High School Pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. He’s the co- founder of DYM and is the father of 4 who speaks a little, writes a little, Twitters a bit, and blogs a lot.

Contributors

Doug Fields

doug_fieldsDoug Fields is a 30+ year youth ministry veteran who is the Author of 50+ books, Founder of Simply Youth Ministry, Speaker, Pastor, Executive Director of the HomeWord Center for Youth & Family at Azusa Pacific University, and a Partner in DYM.

Rachel Blom

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Rachel Blom is from The Netherlands originally and has youth ministry experience in several countries, both as a volunteer and on staff.

Matt McGill

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Blogging with eternal wisdom. Matt McGill is the visionary behind Download Youth Ministry. He convinced his 2 friends Josh and Doug to partner with him and create this whole place.

Justin Knowles

Justin-Knowles

Justin Knowles is the Lead Next Gen. Pastor of Christ's Church of the Valley in San Dimas, CA. He oversees Jr. High, High School and College ministries at the church.

Colton Harker

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Blogging about his First 2 Years in Youth Ministry. Colton is just starting out in youth ministry and blogs about what he is learning along the way.

Christopher Wesley

Christopher-Wesley

Blogging serving at a Catholic Church. Chris Wesley has been in youth ministry for over 9 years as the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Maryland.

Jen Bradbury

Jen-BradburyJen Bradbury has been in youth ministry for 11 years. She's the youth director at Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, IL. Her writing has appeared in YouthWorker Journal, The Christian Century, and Immerse. She also blogs regularly at ymJen.com

Neely McQueen

Jen-BradburyBlogging about girls' ministry. Neely McQueen has been working with students for over 15 years. She works in Student Ministries at Overlake Christian Church in Redmond, WA.

Laneita Fix

Jen-BradburyAuthor, Speaker, Director Ministry Development for Asian Youth Ministries. Love 22 years of working with youth and equipping others in the trenches in youth ministry.

Geoff Stewart

Jen-BradburyGeoff Stewart serves the Jr/Sr High School Pastor at Peace Portal Alliance Church in Surrey B.C. and doesn't appreciate the jokes about being Canadian (unless they are funny of course).

Kara Powell

Jen-BradburyDr. Kara E. Powell is executive director of the Fuller Youth Institute and a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary. A 20- year youth ministry veteran, she speaks regularly at youth ministry conferences and is author or co-author of a number of books and volunteers in student ministry at Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena, CA.

Walt Mueller

Jen-BradburyBlogging about youth culture and current events. Dr. Walt Mueller is the founder and President of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding, a non-profit organization serving schools, churches, and community organizations across the U.S, Canada, and worldwide in their efforts to strengthen families.

Duffy Robbins

Jen-BradburyDuffy travels the world speaking to teenagers and people who care about teenagers. Both in the classroom and in camps, conferences and seminars, he's well known for his insights, inspiration and humor.

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