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7 Jul 2023

We Can’t Change Students

By |2023-07-06T20:51:33-07:00July 7th, 2023|Leadership|28 Comments

One of the hardest things about a job as a youth worker/pastor is watching a student who used to be so involved not be anymore. A student who you have seen God make a complete 180-degree turn in go back to the ways they struggled with before and become more and more distant. What does one do with this? What can we possibly say in times like this? What can we actively do with this to move forward?

I’m going to be honest, I don’t know. It’s hard. I keep coming back to this verse:

How tremendous is the power available to us who believe in God. That power is the same divine power which was demonstrated in Christ when he raised him from the dead. (Eph 1:19-20)

Something I have learned more this year than in my previous years in youth ministry is that we have the power to change no one.

As much as we want to, we don’t have the power to do this. Here is what I have learned to do when this comes:

Pray– Prayer is simple, but it is not always easy. Patience is the key to prayer. Pray that God begins to soften their heart to be open to talking about what is happening.

Pursue– For students who are not coming like they used to because they know they are doing things that are not right, constantly pursue them. Let them know that you are thinking/praying for them and are there for them. Whether if they text back or not, they will know that you are still thinking about them.

Persist– We don’t know how long it will take, but we need to persist. I have seen this in my own ministry. I have gotten a random text from a student months after them not being around, but because they knew I was thinking about them weekly when things got hard, I would get a text to meet. 

Prepare – If they reach out to you, be prepared for what is coming. Be prepared to listen. Listen well. Most of the time, I don’t say anything because I just want to hear what’s going on. I’m not quick to give advice unless asked. This is the first of many meetings to follow.

God has the power to bring people back to Him. We do not. God can still move in huge ways and we get to be a vessel in bringing students back to Jesus. What an awesome job we have.

– Justin

12 Jun 2023

Preparing Your Heart for Summer Camp

By |2023-06-09T12:41:58-07:00June 12th, 2023|Leadership|2 Comments

As a youth pastor, you play a vital role in shaping the spiritual journey of the young hearts entrusted to your care. Summer camp offers a unique opportunity to create lasting memories, deepen relationships, and, most importantly, help young people deeply encounter God. However, before you embark on this incredible adventure, preparing your heart for what lies ahead is essential. In this blog post, we will explore practical steps you can take to ensure your heart is ready to lead, love, and impact young lives at summer camp.

  1. Seek God in Prayer: Before diving into the logistics and planning, spend intentional time in prayer. Seek God’s guidance, wisdom, and anointing as you prepare for summer camp. Pray for the hearts of the young people attending, your fellow leaders, and yourself. Dedicate specific times to intercede for each individual and commit the camp to God’s care. A heart surrendered in prayer will be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit throughout the camp experience.
  2. Reflect on Your Own Spiritual Journey: Take a moment to reflect on your personal spiritual journey. Consider the lessons God has taught you, the challenges you have faced, and the growth you have experienced. Share transparently with God about areas that need refinement or healing. By doing so, you can empathize with the struggles and questions that young campers may bring with them. Remember that your authenticity and vulnerability will help create an environment where campers feel safe sharing their hearts.
  3. Study and Meditate on God’s Word: Summer camp presents a wonderful opportunity to dive deeper into God’s Word with your students. However, you must be personally immersed in Scripture before you can effectively guide others. Spend time studying passages relevant to the themes or topics you plan to address during camp. Allow the truth of God’s Word to transform your heart, equipping you to share it passionately with your students. Memorize key verses that speak to the overarching message of the camp and reflect on their personal significance. This will help you have deeper conversations with students once camp comes around.
  4. Cultivate a Heart of Servanthood: As a youth pastor, you are called to be a servant leader. Prepare your heart by cultivating an attitude of humility and servanthood. Consider the needs of others above your own and be willing to go the extra mile for your campers. Approach every task, big or small, with a servant’s heart. Serving others, whether through organizing logistics or sitting beside a homesick camper, will allow Christ’s love to shine through you.
  5. Surround Yourself with Support: Recognize that you cannot bear the weight of ministry alone. Surround yourself with a community of fellow leaders who can provide support, encouragement, and accountability. Meet regularly with a mentor or trusted friend who can help guide you through the challenges and joys of youth ministry. Remember that being a youth pastor is a team effort, and you are not alone in preparing your heart for summer camp.

Preparing your heart for summer camp is essential in ensuring a transformative experience for yourself and the campers you serve. By seeking God in prayer, reflecting on your spiritual journey, studying God’s Word, cultivating a heart of servanthood, and surrounding yourself with support, you will be well-equipped to lead with love, compassion, and authenticity. As you embark on this journey, remember that God is faithful and will work through you to touch the hearts of the youth attending summer camp. May you be filled with anticipation and readiness as you prepare to impact lives for the glory of God.

17 Apr 2023

Building Strong Relationships with Senior Pastors

By |2023-04-18T07:05:44-07:00April 17th, 2023|Leadership|5 Comments

As we gear up for an exciting summer of ministry, I wanted to take a moment to encourage you all to check in with your senior pastor. They are your boss and your spiritual leader. It’s essential to have open lines of communication and make sure you’re on the same page as you serve together in ministry.

First and foremost, remember to ask your senior pastor how you can be praying for them. They carry a heavy load of responsibility and need our support in prayer. Let them know that you care about their well-being and want to support them in any way you can. Prayer is a powerful tool that can strengthen your relationship with your senior pastor and show them that you value their leadership.

Additionally, share your summer plans with your senior pastors. Let them know about the upcoming events, trips, and programs you have planned for the youth ministry. This will give them a clear picture of what to expect and allow them to offer any guidance or input they may have. It’s important to keep them in the loop so that they can support you in your ministry efforts.

Moreover, ask your senior pastors if they’ve heard any good feedback about the youth ministry or areas that need improvement. Their insights can be invaluable in helping you gauge the effectiveness of your ministry and make necessary adjustments. Be open to feedback and willing to receive constructive criticism with humility and a desire to grow.

Remember, it’s healthy to check in with your senior pastors regularly, rather than assuming their time and expectations. Don’t hesitate to schedule a meeting with them to discuss your ministry, share updates, and seek their guidance. It’s a sign of respect and professionalism to proactively communicate with your leadership team.

In conclusion, let’s make it a priority to maintain open lines of communication with our senior pastors. Sometimes they can be intimidating, but don’t allow that to hamper a good relationship with them! By praying for them, sharing our summer plans, seeking feedback, and scheduling regular check-ins, we can strengthen our relationship with them and work together more effectively in advancing God’s Kingdom through our youth ministries.

Don’t have a summer plan yet? Use this calendar from DYM to get everything out there!

Summer Sticker Calendar

We get it, you need to communicate with your students and parents all about the awesome things you have planned this summer, but you gotta look good too!. We’ve got you!

This 8.5 x 11 summer calendar is fully customizable and ready for you to update with all the fun details of your summer. This fun sticker theme can be rearranged however you see fit, so if you’re not feeling the sandwich stealing seagull, but you want to give that strawberry more prominence, GO TO TOWN. This resource includes a fully editable Photoshop file, AND versions for Powerpoint and Word as well! So no matter your graphic skill level, your calendar will look awesome. Plus it will make YOU look awesome. WIN WIN.

 

2023 Surf and Skate Summer Calendar

A summer calendar that is 85% done for you and looks like you hired a professional graphic designer to do it for you? Yes, please! Just choose which file type works best for you (PSD, Microsoft Word, PowerPoint… they’re all there), make a few tweaks, and send it off to a printer! Bam. Done. The design is so beautiful that students will hold on to it as a keepsake long after the summer is over… well, maybe not, but at least their parents will know where and when to drop them off for your awesome summer events – best summer ever! Click here to get it!

20 Mar 2023

Students Need to Serve

By |2023-03-17T11:36:28-07:00March 20th, 2023|Leadership|2 Comments

We know student ministry is a big deal. It’s an important aspect of the church. It provides a platform for students to grow spiritually, develop positive relationships, and establish a sense of belonging. But we can supercharge this in a big way! To enhance the effectiveness of youth ministry, have students serve within the group. Serving enables students to take ownership of their faith, discover their talents, develop humility, and disciple others.

Serving creates ownership. When students are involved in serving within the youth group, they feel a sense of responsibility and belonging. They are more likely to take ownership of their faith and develop a deeper commitment to the ministry. This sense of ownership not only helps the youth ministry to flourish, but it also nurtures a greater sense of community and togetherness.

Serving lets students explore the gifting God has given them. Every individual has unique gifts and talents, and serving provides an opportunity for students to identify and utilize their gifts in a meaningful way. By serving, they are able to experience different areas of ministry and discover where their passions and strengths lie. This process of discovery can be a powerful motivator for students to pursue their interests and continue serving in the future.

Serving helps teach humility. When students serve within the youth group, they are exposed to a variety of tasks and responsibilities. These may include cleaning up after events, setting up equipment, or assisting with activities. Regardless of the task, serving helps students learn the value of humility and the importance of putting others first. It is through these acts of service that students are able to develop a servant’s heart and a willingness to serve in whatever capacity is needed.

Serving allows students to disciple others. One of the key aspects of youth ministry is discipleship, where young people are mentored and encouraged to grow in their faith. By serving within the youth group, students have the opportunity to disciple others in a practical way. They can lead small groups, mentor younger students, and share their personal testimonies. These experiences not only strengthen the faith of those they are discipling, but they also deepen their own faith and understanding of God’s love.

Serving lets students worship. Do you have a musical portion of your service? Let students lead in getting it off the ground. There’s something really special about watching students lead their peers in worship. Also, it allows them to connect to God in a special way that they may not otherwise. God has given your students musical talents and abilities. Show them a way to put those skills to use as a form of worship! Not just in song, but with a song is a pretty cool way to serve as well.

Having students serve within the youth group can have a significant impact on both the youth ministry and the students themselves. Serving creates ownership, allows for the exploration of gifting, teaches humility, and allows for discipleship. By providing opportunities for students to serve, youth ministries can encourage the development of responsible, committed, and passionate youth who are eager to make a difference in their communities.

Ronald

Student Leadership Team Application

We use this is the application to begin a conversation with students interested in joining our Student Leadership Team. The application (and other forms) are fully editable to suit your ministry’s needs and includes sections on qualifications, expectations, and references.

Sermon on the Mount Prayer Stations

This is an interactive prayer station experience on what Jesus has to say about being a leader for the Kingdom of God. It takes the students through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount from the perspective of leadership through 12 different stations. This resource includes complete instructions for each station in WORD and PDF, a list of all the supplies you will need, other needed resources for the stations.

6 Mar 2023

Spring is tough, but so are you!

By |2023-03-06T13:40:14-08:00March 6th, 2023|Leadership|13 Comments

As a youth pastor, I’ve learned that every season has its own challenges, but there’s something about spring that can be especially tough. For starters, spring tends to be a very busy time of year for students, with end-of-year exams, sports, and other extracurricular activities all competing for their attention. And on top of that, the weather is finally starting to warm up, which means many students are itching to spend more time outside and less time cooped up indoors.

All of these factors can make it difficult to maintain consistent attendance at youth group meetings, which can be discouraging for both the youth pastor and the students who do show up. However, I’ve also learned that with God’s grace, it’s possible to minister well even in a hard season like spring. Here are a few things that have helped me stay focused and effective during this time of year:

Prioritize relationships: When students are busy and distracted, it’s more important than ever to prioritize building relationships with them. Take the time to check in on how they’re doing, ask about their lives outside of youth group, and show a genuine interest in who they are as individuals. When they feel seen and valued, they’re more likely to stay connected to the group and to the church as a whole.

Keep things fresh: Spring can be a great time to mix things up in youth group and try new activities or events. Consider planning an outdoor scavenger hunt or a service project that allows students to get outside and enjoy the warmer weather while still connecting with each other and serving the community. You could also try incorporating more interactive elements into your lessons or discussions to keep students engaged and interested.

Be flexible: It’s important to remember that not every student will be able to make it to every meeting, and that’s okay. Rather than getting discouraged by low attendance, try to be flexible and adaptable in your programming. Consider offering different meeting times or formats that might be more convenient for students with busy schedules, and don’t be afraid to adjust your plans if something isn’t working.

Lean on prayer: Ultimately, our ability to minister well in any season comes from God’s grace and strength, not our own abilities. Make sure to spend time in prayer both individually and as a group, asking for wisdom, guidance, and perseverance. Trust that God is at work in the lives of your students even when you can’t see it, and rely on his power to sustain you through the challenges of ministry.

While spring can be a challenging season for youth ministry, it’s also a season of growth and renewal. By leaning on God’s grace and wisdom, and by staying focused on building relationships and serving our students, we can minister well even in the midst of busy schedules and distractions. May we always remember that our ministry is ultimately about pointing students towards Jesus, and may we trust in his power to bring about lasting transformation in their lives.

Ronald

30 Jan 2023

How to Be a Good Youth Pastor to a Pastor’s Kid

By |2023-01-31T11:58:44-08:00January 30th, 2023|Leadership, Youth Ministry Hacks|12 Comments

When I was a kid growing up in church, my dad was the worship leader, and one of my best friends, Josh, was the senior pastor’s kid. When we were in about 2nd or 3rd grade, a guest speaker came through our church and told a story I don’t remember about pastors’ kids. What I do remember is that he said with a smile, “The preacher’s kid is always the worst kid in town, right?” Josh and I turned to each other with raised eyebrows. We didn’t realize this was an expectation we were supposed to meet. We reorganized our priorities immediately. Mayhem ensued.

When I became a youth pastor, both my senior pastor’s daughters were in our youth group. They were lovely, brilliant, funny, wonderful people. Really, they were. But one of the things I look back on in 20 years of youth ministry with some uneasiness is the way I handled having the two of them in youth group.

They didn’t have it easy. We live in a small Missouri Ozarks town where everyone knew they were the pastor’s daughters. While our local church was fairly open and accepting of all kinds of people, our denomination was working its way painfully through emerging from a history of “Conservative Holiness Movement” legalism. My boss was known to some as the leader of “that church where they compromise to get bigger numbers,” or even less charitable criticism. His family’s speech, wardrobe choices, hair length, and sleeve length were commented on unflatteringly at times. Their every move was analyzed and criticized. Sometimes I even piled on with the criticism, not realizing how injurious it was (though my criticisms were more about their imperfect youth group attendance or their not volunteering for something).

I’ve thought several times that I’d do some things differently with them if I were granted a mulligan. But then when I think about it again, I decide I’d do it yet another way entirely. Then I decide all those ideas are terrible. So I got some help thinking it through.

I got input from a few friends of mine: PKs (pastors’ kids) who are now youth pastors or otherwise serve in church.

I’m going to have conversations with some other pastors’ kids on this, because I want to learn more from their stories. There’s an urgency here. Our new associate pastor has some kids in youth group this year. One of the above-mentioned senior pastor’s daughters now has her own son in our youth group. Next fall for the first time I’ll have one of my own in youth group: our daughter Laura. I really don’t want to mess this up. So I’ll keep learning.

In the meantime, I’d like to share what I’ve learned. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

From JayLee

I met JayLee at a DYM conference in the fall of 2022. We started talking about this topic while waiting in a food line, and I asked her if she could jot down a few thoughts. She went above and beyond, and gave me a wealth of insight. (You can catch JayLee’s popular TikTok Series “Things People Get Wrong About Christianity” at @jayjaysapphire)

DOs:

  • PKs have abandonment issues. Be a consistent person in their life.
  • PKs are lonely. Many of them think their friends are only their friends because of who their parents are. Help them make connections.
  • Give them a space to vent or pour out. PKs are flooded with the drama, gossip, and secrets of others.
  • Be careful and kind with reprimanding.
  • Some PKs need a voice. Help them feel safe to express themselves and speak freely.
  • Help them find their own relationship with God.
  • Maybe give them something that they can use if they’re stuck spending tons of time at church. (My youth pastor gave me an adult coloring book).
  • MAKE INSIDE JOKES!! This connects the two of you, and also gives them something to look forward to.

DON’Ts:

  • Treat them too differently. Some like special treatment. Many don’t.
  • Only talk about life within the church.
  • Bring up their pastor parent too often.
  • Assume they have the exact same beliefs and worldview as their parents. (My parents and I are very different.)
  • Be surprised when they make a (possibly cutting) joke at your expense.
  • Take their jokes too seriously. (Some pastors can take a joke from literally everyone except their own kid.)

JayLee also mentioned that most PKs have some form of religious or family trauma. They are forced to be a part of a family and represent both the family and the church. They feel constantly watched and judged. Many PKs abandon the faith altogether. PKs need to feel safe, secure, heard, understood, and treated like their faith is their own (not just their parents’ faith).

From Seth

Seth is the son of Travis Sayler, one of my best friends in ministry. His dad was the pastor of their small church, and also the youth leader. Poor Seth and his brothers couldn’t escape their dad! They seem to have turned out okay in spite of it. Here’s what he had to say:

  • I think it’s important to help them establish their faith independently from their parents. They need to learn and read and discover for themselves just like everyone else.
  • It is important that they have a trusted confidant that they can confess to. Since my dad fulfilled the role of both pastor and youth pastor, as well as other leadership roles such as coach, I can attest to how difficult it can be to confess your shortcomings to such an important person in your life. It is important that pastors’ kids develop that kind of accountability relationship with other people.
  • Just make it known that you are available, but don’t be pushy.

From Deborah

Deborah Spooner is the student ministry director at Mariners Church in Huntington Beach, CA (another campus of the student ministry team that includes Doug Fields and Josh Griffin). She contributed these thoughts:

  • Don’t push PKs into leadership. If they’re interested, encourage and equip. But let them take the initiative.
  • Don’t share too much insider info. Let them just be youth group students who don’t feel pressured to protect the brand.

Deborah’s last thought here is so important. I’ve had terrible judgment in this area at times. Sometimes pastors are as guilty of the sin of gossip as anyone, especially when we’re around people we consider to be “on the inside.” Don’t sin against pastors’ kids by making them listen to your gossip. Also, don’t burden them unnecessarily with heavy issues – this can contribute to their becoming disillusioned and jaded with church life. They’ll see enough on their own.

From Ella

Ella Oliver is the daughter of my good friend Kevin Oliver, a DYM author and longtime youth pastor. Ella is now serving in youth ministry as well. I’m planning to creepily follow Kevin around and steal all his parent-pastoring secrets, because Ella is awesome. Ella agreed with several of the above tips, and added these:

  • Don’t expect them to serve, stay late, or offer a hand constantly! Every person should serve – we are called to be servants – but help them find their place. Don’t expect that because they’re at the church they are there to work. (Comment from another PK: they might just be stuck at the church because they can’t get their parents to take them home.)
  • Don’t make them feel bad for not being there for a week (but if missing church becomes consistent, check in and ask about their personal life (school, sports, friends, etc.))

From Rachel

Rachel Painter is one of my best friends in the world. We’ve worked together on a ton of ministry projects and played a lot of music together in a lot of places. Our kids call her “Auntie Rachel.” She’s a counselor who specializes in working with traumatized children and teens. I’ll share her thoughts here last.

I’ll start off by saying that I think that I’ve been fortunate not to have had some of the more harrowing (in the category of “religious trauma”) experiences that perhaps other PKs have had. I feel remarkably fortunate to have been raised in the family I was, with the parents I had. I was never made to feel that church/my dad’s work was more important than I was (or our family was).

In talking to other PKs/MKs (ed. note: MK=missionary’s kid), I know this wasn’t always their experience. I remember hearing a quote(s) from Billy Graham once, where he was giving advice to some young pastors/evangelists, and one thing he told them (essentially) was, “Don’t neglect your first ministry: your family.” I can’t tell you how beautiful and important this is. I’m fortunate to have been raised in a home where this was lived out.

Further, I didn’t have the experience that [the two senior pastor’s daughters mentioned at the beginning of this article] had of being raised in a more legalistic/works-based denomination and church. I see the effects of that mindset, pressure, and the need to perform or be “perfect” on many pastors’ kids.

I personally don’t recall that anything any of my youth leaders/pastors did was inappropriate or made me feel “other than.” But I would just say that IN GENERAL, people both in and out of the church do tend to treat you differently as a PK (or MK). You are placed on a pedestal and generally feel more watched – expectations are higher. You’re given the “goodie two-shoes” label, other kids treat you differently, and the loneliness is very real. So in general, I agree with your friends’ advice: treat them like any other kid who is inevitably going to have struggles (with faith or otherwise) and who also needs a safe place to just “be.” Let them develop their own authentic faith.

I will say that the loneliest part of being a PK was when we were going through church conflict, and I watched the character or competence of my dad challenged, and watched the deep pain of the way he was treated by persons in the church. My dad isn’t a fighter, so when accusations or mistreatment would come, he would take it and bow out, rather than cause further church splits and discord. The alienation you feel when you are suddenly separated from your worshiping body, and one of your primary forms of support – THIS was the hardest part of a being a PK for me. That didn’t have anything to do with how a youth pastor treated me/us. This was just a part of being in fellowship with sinful and flawed human beings (and the pain in general of ministry).

Rachel’s last phrase: “…the pain in general of ministry…” – too many pastors’ kids know exactly what that feels like. When they’re experiencing pain and stress due to the church, be a safe person for them. Keep their confidences, and don’t use them as leverage in any way whatsoever. Also, be very hesitant to “tell on them” to their minister parent. Do your best to patiently and lovingly deal with any issues yourself. They’re dealing with enough.

Let’s wrap up with some good news: if you mess it up, it doesn’t have to be final. Both the pastor’s daughters mentioned at the beginning of this article remain dear friends of ours today. Their kids and our kids are good buddies. Thank God there is grace for imperfect youth pastors!

So what would you add? Do you have comments on the above? Disagree with anything here? Let’s learn together how to serve PKs, and by extension how to serve our coworkers in ministry, and by further extension how to better serve the Body of Christ.

Jim Purtle is married to an incandescently radiant math teacher named Cindy. They have four small children. Those children occasionally make Jim and Cindy very proud, and sometimes make them pray fervently for the children’s future sanctification. Jim has been in full-time youth ministry at the same church in rural Missouri since 2002, and feels like he might be starting to figure out how to do it. He’s made a ton of mistakes, and is willing to tell anyone who will listen how not to do youth ministry! He’s really glad he doesn’t have Jesus’ job – but he’s also really glad Jesus called him to be part of His Kingdom.

4 Jan 2023

5 Youth Ministry New Years Resolutions

By |2023-01-04T10:02:07-08:00January 4th, 2023|Leadership, Youth Pastor Life|5 Comments

As we come to the end of the year, it’s time to start thinking about our resolutions for the coming year. As a youth pastor, I thought I’d share some resolutions that I think all of us in youth ministry should work toward.

1. Cut down on the pizza and soda at youth events: We all know that pizza and soda are staples of the youth ministry diet, but it’s time to start making healthier choices. Let’s try to offer healthier snacks and drinks to our youth, and maybe even incorporate some physical activity into our events!

2. Take more risks: When we’re trying to reach young people, it’s easy to fall into a rut and stick with the same old activities. Let’s challenge ourselves to try something new and take some risks. It might be scary, but it’s often the only way to reach the teenagers who really need us.

3. Get out of the building: We all know the importance of building relationships with our youth, but sometimes it’s easy to get stuck in the youth room. Let’s try to get out of the building more often and meet our teenagers in their environment. Whether it’s going to a sporting event or just hanging out at a local park, let’s make an effort to meet our students where they are.

4. Listen more: It’s easy to get caught up in our own ideas, but if we want to really make a difference in the lives of our youth, we need to be willing to listen. Let’s strive to listen more and really get to know our youth on a deeper level.

5. Have more fun: Youth ministry can often be a serious business, but let’s not forget to have some fun. Whether it’s playing a game or just goofing off, let’s make sure that our youth know that we care about them and that we want to have fun with them too.

These are just a few of the resolutions that I think we should all be striving for. With a little effort and dedication, I’m sure we can make this an even better year than the last. What would you add? Happy New Year everyone!

Ronald

12 Dec 2022

3 Tips to Encourage Parents

By |2022-12-11T20:37:07-08:00December 12th, 2022|Leadership, Parents|2 Comments

I started this by asking myself what I do to encourage parents.

It was more difficult for me to come up with answers than I cared to admit.

Because the solution sounds simple: Text them some encouraging messages at a random time during the day. Send a handwritten note telling them they are killing it at this parenting game. Any of those could be great things to do to make someone smile in their day. But what about those times when parents don’t feel like they are killing it? How can you encourage a parent whose kid just made a dumb choice and not make it sound like a platitude?

This is the same thing I tell my students when they are going through rough moments; you are looking at this moment through a microscope. And sometimes, you need some perspective to see the light at the end of the tunnel. So, I want to share three tools you can use to encourage parents who feel like they aren’t doing enough (which, let’s be honest, is close to all of them). Somehow these are all nautical-themed, and I am ok with it.

The first tool is a shovel. We all have those students who have EGR – Extra Grace Required – and we know those kids often need it the most. When those EGR kids are saying goodbye to you, they are saying hello to parents who are preparing to give them that grace. But they may struggle to find the motivation to give it. And let’s be honest; we may have to fight to find the inspiration to give it sometimes too.

When I think of the EGR student, I think about the gem. The Imago Dei. Sometimes the ONLY thing you can find in a student worth celebrating is the Imago Dei. Sometimes, we must excavate the gem that is the image of God in our students’ lives. We need to find those bits of the divine spark in our students and use a shovel to dig those out. Then we need to show the parents what we’ve discovered.

You use the shovel to help parents discover the treasure in their students’ hearts. The shovel says, “This is who they are…”

The second tool that we need to give our parents is a telescope. A telescope helps you see what you usually can’t see. Parents often see the worst in their kids. I know my children are usually on their best behavior when they are at church or a friend’s house, and then they get home with me and become gremlins who were fed after midnight. Kids are typically the most comfortable at home (with exceptions, obviously), and because of that, home is a safe place to not be “on their best behavior”. They can let their guard down.

Because of this, parents only sometimes see the good things their students do. For example, just a few weeks ago, there was a moment when a middle school girl shared something in our group and broke down crying. One of her friends from school (both girls in 6th grade) pulled her aside and prayed for her right there on the spot. I was so proud of the girl who prayed. And I know that the parents would have been proud too, so I told her dad. You should have seen his smile; he was beaming. And I realized how powerful the telescope was.

You use the telescope to help parents see what you see. The telescope says, “This is what they do….”

The last tool is a map. Maps show directions and tell you where you are going. And parents can sometimes lose sight that God has not finished writing their student’s life story. It’s easy to get caught up in the drama and struggles of life and even begin to think that the drama and struggles are it. That there is nothing after the drama and struggles. Students need that reminder. Arguably, parents need it more. We youth pastors know God has a great plan for our students. Parents need that reminder.

You use the map to help parents believe in God’s future for their students. The map says, “This is what they are capable of….”

Tools are great, but they are best used for the intended purposes. Therefore, you must discern the best time to use these tools. Can you identify three sets of parents who need these tools? Who needs a shovel to help unearth the gem inside their student? Who needs a telescope to see the things that may not be visible to them? And who needs a map to get a picture of what God wants to do in their students’ lives?

David Wood is a wizard.

Before I lived in Modesto, my wife, my three daughters, and I lived in Belize as missionaries. Before that, we lived in Southern California where I had an awesome opportunity to travel the U.S. performing at colleges and churches sharing the gospel through my illusions for about 3 years. I’ve experienced a whole lot in my life, and I love to share God’s story through my life as often as I can.

Parent Ministry: Conversation Starter Kit

Conversation is the glue that makes connection happen. Deep down inside we all want to know and be known by others, and talking is absolutely crucial to healthy relationships.

So, in a world where emojis and texts have replaced real words and expressions, how can we connect through conversations in our home?

In this Communication Kit, you will find a number of tools and resources to better help you engage with your family. You will find a brief purpose and summary of the resource and tips to use it.

Parent Texts

You probably didn’t go into youth ministry to focus on parents. In fact, sometimes we look at them as a hurdle to what we are trying to accomplish. Yet, there is no escaping the fact that they are an integral part of what we do and how we do it. Sometimes the best way to minister to your teens is by ministering to their parents. Allow these texts to serve as encouragement and coaching to them. Many of these are seasonal: first week of school, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mothers’ Day, etc… Like a great DYM-product… it’s done for you. This is a great deal!

29 Nov 2022

4 Things I Have Seen All Healthy Volunteer Teams Have

By |2022-12-06T13:58:40-08:00November 29th, 2022|Leadership, Volunteers|9 Comments

I don’t think I have ever heard a youth pastor say, “You know what, I have plenty of leaders. Why don’t you come and try to apply again in 6 months.”

Having volunteers is the life blood of any ministry, and I would say especially youth ministry. Taking on volunteers to onboard them, to make sure they know what to do, to make sure you set them up well to lead, and to care for them while they are in your ministry is vital, but also a ton of work.

Over the last 15 years I have learned some things in regard to caring for and leading volunteers. I wanted to share my top 4 thoughts when it comes to having a healthy volunteer team and structure. Again, this is not exhaustive or the ONLY 4 things, but as I have been reflecting in this season, I kept on coming back to these 4 things to keep in mind.

1. Pursue clarity before pursuing people.

The biggest sin in volunteers is just trying to get people to fill spots instead of finding the RIGHT people for those SPECIFIC spots you have laid out. Too many times I have seen leaders just throw volunteers into the mix without thinking through exactly how that person will operate and without fully knowing what they will be doing. What happens with that is an awkward conversation in 6 months when both them and you are frustrated. This is why it is vital to make sure we pursue clarity before people. Things you should probably think through so you can add the right people are:

  • How clear is your vision?
  • What will they do on service nights specifically?
  • What role do they hit to make your ministry move forward?
  • Are they trained well to lead students?
  • Do they know how to win as a leader?

2. Leaders who know how to win, win.

This one seems pretty simple, but it’s surprising to me how many ministries do not have their wins set. Everyone and their mother wants to know how to win in whatever they are doing. Everyone wants to know that whatever they are involved in, they are doing a good job in those things. Same with your leaders in your ministry. Do they know how to win in your ministry as a leader?

Leaders who have clear targets tend to hit those targets better. For us, we have the “4 F’s”. It’s short. It’s clear. It’s memorable. All leaders know that this is the win for them when they serve for us.

You can get out those 4 wins HERE

3. Leaders who know each other create a great culture.

This one is from my friend and co-worker Vivi Diaz. She said this in a way I didn’t really know how to describe other than “the vibe” of your team. But when you break it down, when you know the people you serve with, like really know them, it changes the game on the involvement and commitment of volunteers. She said that we have to remember that this is not them just serving in our ministry, but they are serving THEIR church and wherever they are serving they need to be connected into community. So do we look at our volunteers as people to help us do what we need them to do? Or are we intentionally creating an environment and opportunities for our people to truly know each other? Because when people feel like they are in community they are more bought in, more committed and love being a part of it.

4. You’re goal as a leader is “to be” (delegation and purpose)

I think some of the best leaders are the ones when it comes to game time they are just “available”. The person that comes to mind for me is our children director at our biggest campus. 600+ kids on the weekend, hundreds of leaders and she seems like she is “not working” on the weekends during services and standing around in front of the kid’s check in. But the truth is, she’s working well. She has set up her team well, they know how to win, she put in the work so she can be the most effective… which is “to be available” when things go down or she can be available to connect new families and make sure they are taken care of. In order to do that she has given real big tasks to her team. She has given away a lot of her ministry, trained up people, and set people up well. Leaders who are struggling are usually the ones who are not great at delegation and giving volunteers purpose for the serving.

Again, I don’t think this is anything crazy or knew, but something I feel as we get into the thick of ministry sometimes we forget. I can look back at some of the healthiest teams I have seen and it seems to have these 4 items in their ministry and culture.

If you want to dive deeper into this topic, check out episode 103 of the Youth Ministry Hacks Podcast

@justinknowles3

10 Nov 2022

Student Serve Teams

By |2022-11-10T08:46:58-08:00November 10th, 2022|Leadership, student leadership, Uncategorized|8 Comments

One of my biggest challenges in youth ministry has always been getting students involved in serving in ministry. Logically I see the value, but practically I always struggle finding time to train students. I also convince myself that I can do things better than students, so having them serve will mean a diminished program. However, we all know our Ephesians 4:12 job description to “equip the [students] for the work of the ministry.” What I needed was a system—some sort of process to get students equipped and then empowered to serve.

The solution in this season of ministry has been hosting a Serve Night Training. To get to that event, I needed:

  • Various Serve Teams for students to be on
  • Multiple volunteer adult leaders to coach them
  • A training event

Serve Teams: For the sake of getting started, my team decided to focus our Serve Teams (you can call them ministries, volunteer teams, or whatever fits your church lingo) on our Youth Ministry main program. Sure there are roles outside of our main program, and students can get involved in the various teams with the main church but we wanted a starting ramp for getting new students to serve. We landed on 4 teams students could consider.

  • Praise Team
  • Welcome Team
  • Prayer Team
  • Crew Team (setup and teardown)

Volunteer Adults: Next each adult on my volunteer staff took ownership of one of the teams. Every team has multiple adults assigned to it, so everyone has a role. The adults chose teams they had knowledge and ability in, so I didn’t need to train them.

Serve Night Training: This was the key to the success we have seen! In the late summer, before our main program kicked off again for the school year, we hosted a night for anyone interested in joining the Serve Teams. After a short teaching on ministry from me, we split students into 4 groups. Each of my adult leaders were stationed in various parts of the church building, ready to lead a small group through their ministry. Students went on a rotation through each ministry location. At each spot, the adult would give a 10 minute explanation for their ministry, and even a demonstration. For instance, the Crew Team actually setup our 9 Square and tables and chairs, then the next rotation they took down the 9 Square and put the chairs away. Every student got to experience each of the 4 ministry areas, and at the end of the night we brought everyone back together. The challenge for every student was to sign up for a Serve Team based on what they experienced that evening. We had 100% of students sign up to be part of at least one team!

Getting students serving has been such a blessing to me as the youth pastor. It has also given my adult leaders some extra buy-in to what we are doing. But the best part is seeing students become equipped, empowered, and growing in passion for serving Jesus!

Gold Members get Ken’s resource, Turkey Trot, free with their Gold Membership this month! Are you a Gold Member? Go download his great game! Are you not a Gold Member yet? What are you waiting for? Hop on the greatest deal in the history of youth ministry!

Get the whole room moving and gobbling as they root for their favorite turkey! Simply have students guess which turkey will win the race and let the video run. You can have the winners move on to the next round or keep everyone playing and just keep score. Use the four corners of your room to select the turkey colors, or simply have students hold up their fingers for the turkey of their choice.

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