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27 May 2024

Navigating Youth Ministry with Your Own Kids

By |2024-05-27T06:04:00-07:00May 27th, 2024|Parents, Youth Pastor Life|0 Comments

There’s a post that’s getting some great attention in the incredible community at the Download Youth Ministry Facebook Group. And it rang true with me, having two of my kids come through the middle school ministry while I was the youth pastor there.

How do you minister to your own kids when they come into youth group?

I’ve collected invaluable advice from seasoned youth pastors who chimed in with answers. Here’s a compilation of their wisdom on how to effectively minister to your own children when they join your youth ministry. And, if I can add anything, give yourself grace! You’re new at this (probably) and just like any thing you’re doing for the first time, don’t expect to nail it right away. Give both you and your now YOUTH GROUP STUDENT a chance to learn and grow together.

Maintain the Element of Surprise

One insightful piece of advice comes from a youth pastor whose own children were part of their ministry. They emphasized the importance of keeping upcoming youth events a surprise for your kids, just like for the other students. This approach ensures that your children experience the same excitement and anticipation as their peers. Additionally, although they might naturally end up helping with setup and cleanup, try to limit their involvement to when it’s absolutely necessary. This helps them enjoy the youth experience more fully without feeling like unpaid staff.

Balance Involvement and Independence

Navigating your children’s involvement in youth activities requires a delicate balance. Make sure they understand that certain norms, like seating arrangements, apply to everyone equally, and rotate seating to avoid any sense of favoritism. It’s crucial to engage them in discussions and activities without making them feel singled out. This involves calling on them for answers in group discussions without putting them on the spot, striking a balance between inclusion and pressure.

Prioritize Family Time

Youth ministry can be all-consuming, but it’s vital to remember that your children’s lives don’t revolve around it the way yours does. Dedicate at least one Saturday a month to family time, completely unrelated to ministry activities. This time is crucial for maintaining a strong, personal connection with your children outside the church context. Furthermore, when faced with scheduling conflicts between youth ministry and your children’s events, open and honest communication is key. Plan and discuss these situations in advance to manage expectations and foster understanding.

Respect Their Space and Autonomy

As one pastor who recently saw their children graduate from their youth ministry advised, it’s important to give your kids space. Avoid using them as sermon illustrations and let them initiate interactions. Recognize that they spend more time at church than other kids, so occasionally offering them special opportunities can be a positive way to acknowledge their extra commitment.

Involve and Empower Your Leaders

Bringing your youth ministry leaders into the conversation about your children’s involvement can be incredibly beneficial. Encourage leaders to take your kids under their wing, allowing them to experience the youth group as any other member would. This also means letting other leaders handle disciplinary issues and provide pastoral care, so your child doesn’t always see you as both parent and pastor. This approach can help your children feel more integrated and less singled out.

Maintain Clear Boundaries

Lastly, advice from Katie Edwards highlights the importance of treating your children like any other youth group member. Avoid placing additional expectations on them simply because they are your kids. Allow them to build their own relationships with small group leaders and respect their privacy. Each of your children may want different levels of interaction with you during youth activities, and it’s important to honor their preferences. Sometimes, having a clear conversation about when you are in “youth pastor mode” versus “parent mode” can help set these boundaries. Even allowing your kids to call you by your first name during youth events can lighten the atmosphere and reinforce these distinctions.

These insights from the Download Youth Ministry Facebook Group have been incredibly helpful in my journey as both a parent and a youth pastor. This community is a fantastic resource for anyone involved in youth ministry, offering support, advice, and a wealth of shared experiences. Remember, while the journey may be challenging, it’s also one of the most rewarding aspects of ministry. Blessings on your path as you navigate these unique dynamics in your own youth group!

5 Mar 2024

How do I minister to parents?

By |2024-03-05T07:55:06-08:00March 5th, 2024|Parents|5 Comments

Parents are busy! They’re rushing their students around from one sports game to an extracurricular activity and trying to juggle all of their normal home life and chores as well. Oh, and they work full-time jobs. Additionally, one of their kids is probably sick, and youth group is going to happen in an hour, and they just remembered that their student has a really big project due the next day.

It can feel incredibly frustrating when we are trying to reach out to students, and their parents are all over the place. How can we, as youth pastors, minister to parents in a helpful way? I’ve got three quick tips that you might implement.

Plan a year in advance.

This doesn’t have to include every single detail, but you absolutely need to have events on the calendar at least one year in advance. Think of when schools hand out their yearly calendars. They’ve got spring break, fall break, the beginning of school, and the end of school all right there. Parents don’t typically plan a month in advance; they’re usually six months to a year out. If you don’t have the dates for the summer mission trip in their hands, their students are probably not going to go. Take advantage of some of DYM’s fantastic calendars and put them to good use!

Communicate frequently.

If a parent has 40,000 notifications on their phone, that’s their problem. You still need to regularly let parents know what’s going on in the ministry and what their students can do to be involved. Here’s some great news: you get to decide what works best for you and your parents! Whether it’s a weekly email where you explain the teaching series for the week and plug upcoming events, or Facebook posts letting parents know about upcoming deadlines, it’s essential to stay in contact with parents. Whatever you choose, stick to it. If you commit to delivering a weekly email, make sure you send it out. If you tell parents that the primary way you communicate is through your website, make sure it’s updated! You know what would be a really easy win? Making a podcast where you share what’s going on in the youth ministry on a weekly basis. You could share what you’re teaching, what parents need to know for the upcoming summer camp, and even tell a funny story or two. And parents can take in that information while they’re driving! Win.

Take them out to lunch or coffee.

Parents are busy, but they also have to eat food. Offer to get lunch sometime in the next couple of weeks with two or three families. You don’t need to have an agenda for your meeting; you can just ask them questions about their family and how things are going. If their kids haven’t been in youth group in a while, don’t guilt trip them; just ask them how things are at home. Ask them how you can pray for them. You would be blown away at how parents have reacted to me doing this; they feel so seen and supported when all I do is ask them to share how family life is going.

Ministering to students is a challenge! Ministering to parents can be a steep mountain to climb. But you can show parents how much you care about them by intentionally reaching out and communicating!

Did I miss something that you would add? I’d love to hear it!

Need a calendar to send to parents for the summer? Get ready with this fully editable calendar below!

13 Feb 2023

4 Tips for Encouraging your Parents

By |2023-02-13T10:06:50-08:00February 13th, 2023|Parents, Youth Ministry Hacks|4 Comments

I need to share a big mistake I’ve made as a youth pastor. I’ve been in ministry now for 19 years, 17 of which have been fully dedicated to student ministry and raising up the next generation of Christ followers and leaders. Over that time, I’ve led almost 1000 youth services, 28 retreats, and seen hundreds of teens making recorded decisions to follow Jesus and be baptized. It’s been a fun ride full of ups and downs. However, I would say for the first half of my career, I made a huge mistake that I want to share for you to learn from. If I had identified this mistake sooner, I’m confident I would have seen more fruit in the ministries I was leading and better longevity for students after they left high school. Are you ready? The mistake I made was not being intentional with the parents under my care.

Now, I know some of you might be thinking, “Big deal Theo – we are a youth ministry, not a family ministry. It’s okay! I’m sure you did great during your first half.” But hear me out… Youth ministry IS a family ministry whether we like it or not. We have these students for 1-3 hours a week. Parents have the students significantly longer than that. In fact, it took me about half of my ministry career to realize that a parent’s influence will remain in a student’s life long after my time with their student is done. So, I began a shift to connect and encourage the parents within my ministry. As a result, I saw more engaged families within our ministry. I saw better collaboration between our small group leaders and families. And yes, I even saw some families skipping certain sports activities so their students could attend Mid-Week youth group or our weekend retreats/camps. The following ideas are some tips and tricks for how you can encourage your parents:

Don’t be afraid of parents.

When I first started in ministry at the age of 18, I was terrified of parents. Yes, I was in college learning about youth ministry, but I was barely out of high school. I didn’t know how to talk to adults. I thought if parents had a conversation with me, they would realize I was flying by the seat of my pants and never bring their kids back! What I didn’t realize at the time was that most parents of middle or high school students knew they needed a village to help raise their teens. So, they were actively looking for anyone to partner with. In my later years of youth ministry, instead of hiding from parents deep within the facility, I started standing by the front door to greet parents as they picked up their few and chatted with them. Parents are nothing to be afraid of. In fact, they are eager to talk with anyone who cares about their students.

Find low-effort ways to encourage parents.

This could be a monthly e-mail. A bi-weekly social media post. A newsletter you had out at the beginning of the quarter. The goal of this particular connection point ISN’T to tell them about upcoming events. It isn’t to tell them about the mission trip fundraiser or the camp deadline that just passed. It’s just to connect and encourage your parents. Acknowledge the difficulties of raising teenagers in our current culture. Acknowledge the difficulties of parenting students in the age of Tik Tok and Google searches. Acknowledge that they are currently parenting during one of the most difficult times in human history to parent teens. Then tell them it’s okay that they are tired, that they don’t have all the answers, and that they feel overwhelmed. Let them know you see them. Equip them with an article or two that can help them understand the culture their students are in better. Then encourage them with one action they can do to spiritually influence their teens. I opted for a quarterly newsletter which we mailed out and physically handed out to students to give to parents. Getting physical communication is so rare these days. I felt like it stands out when you do get something.

Create Yearly rhythms for your whole ministry to encourage parents.

In my ministry, we started a 6th and 9th-grade parent event after church (two different days.) We went to the local pizza/arcade (think Dave and Busters or Main Event, but a little more run down cause we’re on a budget!) and treated students and parents to pizza and games. After the food, we dismissed the teens to go have fun and me and my leaders spent some time vision casting to these parents who were nervous about their student entering the next phase of life. We always did this in early summer, so we weren’t competing with school activities. It was also a GREAT way of plating our ministry flag in the family at the beginning of this new phase of life before school activities had a chance to fill up the space.

Another thing we did was just have a parent night in the fall. If you’ve never run a parent night before, check out this resource I created for youth ministries on COLEADER. If you are interested, it has everything you need to pull off a great parent night that will feel fruitful and fun, and help kick-start parent engagement.

Train your team to be specific.

Don’t be a superhero. You likely have a team of other people with you who love students. Don’t take the weight of trying to encourage every parent. Instead, train your team to look for specific things in the students they oversee and then pass that encouragement on to a parent. Raising teenagers is one of the hardest jobs in the world, and most parents are just trying their hardest to work a full-time job, care for their own mental health, and raise kids. From experience, I would say most parents don’t feel like they aren’t doing enough or don’t even know where to start. So when they get positive feedback that their mini-human did something selfless, it’s the best news a parent can get!

Make it your mission to deliver this good news to parents as often as you can. If a leader notices a student do something positive worth sharing with a parent, help that leader connect with the parent. Find them after youth group. Search for their contact information on the church database and send them a letter, e-mail, or text (who calls anymore?). Getting specific positive feedback about a student can sustain a parent during the times they feel like they’re drowning in the uncharted sea of raising teenagers.

Theo Davis serves as the Multi-Site Youth Pastor at Restore Community Church in Kansas City, Missouri.  He has worked in youth ministry for 16 years in a variety of settings which include church plants, rural churches, and mega-churches on the East Coast and now Midwest. He received his degree in Youth Ministry from Eastern University in 2008 and has continued to leverage his education with real-world experience. He and his wife Malia are huge gamers and named their kids after video game characters — Zelda & Shepherd (from The Legend of Zelda and the Mass Effect Series).  Theo also loves action figures, and spends his spare time developing his musical and visual art talents.  Follow him on Instagram @theo_davis

Need some resources to help encourage your parents? Check out these winners from DYM!

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!

Click here to check out this product!

Reflections for Parents is a prayer station experience designed specifically for parents. If you are looking for a way to connect with parents and earn their trust, provide a meaningful development opportunity, or an encouraging night out, this resource is for you.

Click here to check out this product!

26 Jan 2023

3 Signs You Need to Slow Down

By |2023-01-24T13:41:32-08:00January 26th, 2023|Help Me With..., Parents, Youth Ministry Hacks, Youth Pastor Life|2 Comments

As youth pastors, we often find ourselves in a whirlwind of activities and events. We’re planning the next sermon, scheduling meetings with volunteers, and running from one event to the next. It can be hard to pause and really take a moment to rest.

But rest is essential for our physical, mental and spiritual health. If we don’t take the time to rest, we won’t be able to give our best to the ministry. With that in mind, here are 3 signs that you need to slow down and rest once in a while:

1. When You Feel Overwhelmed – If you’re constantly feeling stressed and overwhelmed, it’s a sign that you need to take a break. Feeling overwhelmed could be a sign that you’re taking on too much and need to re-evaluate your priorities. It’s important to take a step back, assess the situation, and find ways to reduce your stress. We can’t pour from an empty cup, so make sure to take time to fill it back up and rest. In Matthew 11:28, Jesus tells us, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

2. When You Feel Disconnected From God – When we’re too busy, it’s easy to become disconnected from God. If you’re feeling distant from God, it’s a sign that you need to slow down and give Him your full attention. Rest is a vital part of our spiritual walk, and it’s important to make time to spend with God. As Psalm 46:10 tells us, “Be still and know that I am God.” Taking the time to be still and rest in God’s presence will help us to reconnect with Him.

3. When You Can’t Focus – If you’re having trouble focusing, it’s a sign that you need to take a break. When we’re tired, our minds can’t focus, and we can’t do our best work. Take a break and use that time to pray, read Scripture, and rest in the presence of God. You can also take a walk, journal, or spend time with friends and family. All of these activities can help you to relax, refocus, and gain perspective.

By taking the time to slow down and rest, we can be better equipped to serve our ministry and glorify God. Remember, it’s ok to take a break and rest once in a while. Make sure to honor God by taking time to rest and recharge so that you can serve with a renewed spirit.

Need something to send to parent that sends the same message? We’ve got a great resource for you!

PARENT RESOURCE: 4 Signs You Need to Slow Down

We are all aware that life can be busy. Our calendar is jam-packed each week with work, kids, school, sports, and friends. Our culture moves quickly and keeping up can be so exhausting that it hurts us. This new year, you may need to slow down. Here are 4 signs your fast-paced life is killing you.

How to use:

1. Attach to your next parent newsletter

2. Print and have available at your next parent meeting

3. Create a resource hub in your space for grab and go parent resources

4. Create a monthly “parent equipping” (separate from newsletter) video explaining how to use the tool.

Gold members got this for free this month. Want to get free stuff? Become a Gold Member today!

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!

24 Oct 2022

Go to Where Your Students Are

By |2022-10-24T10:14:43-07:00October 24th, 2022|Leadership, Parents|2 Comments

In a world of social media, smartphones, and instantaneous photos and videos, we might feel like we are everywhere our students are! But the reality is that it still matters that we are physically present in their lives.

If you were on the fence about going and visiting students when they play sports, act in musicals, or play an instrument in a concert, let me try to encourage you with these reminders about physically being where our students are!

It shows students that they matter to you past the program!

If students only hear from you when they show up at youth group [or when they miss youth group], they might believe that that’s the only time you care about them.

Showing up at their sporting events or their play shows them that you care for them even when they are not physically present at church. Bonus points if it’s a middle school orchestra performance.

It gives you a chance to talk to parents!

The great thing about students playing a sport down on the field is it gives you, their youth pastor, an excellent opportunity to chat it up with their parents. You probably don’t get much one-on-one time with mom and dad because you are actively ministering to their kid at church!

When you go to the game, not only is it a chance for you to score some significant points with mom and dad, but you can also get to know them a little better. And when you know the parents better, you can minister to their kids better!

It helps students invite friends to youth group!

“Who was that?”

“My youth pastor!”

“Oh, cool! Where do you go to church?”

OK, so it might not go like that every time, but you showing up to a student’s concert means that you get to be present for them and their friends as well. If they’re on the fence about inviting someone to church, if you introduce yourself to their friends, they might feel more willing to ask their friend to church because they’ve already met the youth pastor!

It encourages them to live their faith outside of church!

Students need to see as many examples as possible of people living their faith outside the church walls! You attending their musical shows them that the pastor has a real life! It reminds them that what we teach on Sunday morning or Wednesday night goes beyond just that short time together. 

It might even encourage them to take the lessons you have taught and apply them to their team, musical group, or acting buddies!

What are some other reasons we should go to students? I’d love to hear them below! 

Need help talking to parents? Check this resource from DYM out!

Want to encourage students to be evangelistic in their circles? This resource is a great start!

12 Sep 2022

We Don’t Have Youth On The Weekends

By |2022-09-07T19:44:05-07:00September 12th, 2022|Parents, Volunteers, Youth Ministry Ideas|5 Comments

We don’t have a program for youth on the weekend… intentionally. I understand this is just our context, and many churches do have weekend programs, and there is nothing wrong with it (maybe). For our context, that is not just some random decision, but it fits within our vision and strategy for the young people of our church. 

My question to you would be, do YOU have one?

We want our youth leads to be hyper-focused on pouring into and connecting with their leaders on the weekend. During weekends (for the most part), leads are there to be available and connect and perform campus needs. Leads can use this time for having intentional coffee and catch-ups before, between, and after services. We also run a youth section in our main auditoriums to connect with new families and students and help make our youth seem present on campuses. 

Why?

  • Leaders are already there, and this allows them to not be out another night a week. 
  • Touch-ins allow you to be their pastor, allows you to gauge where they are at, get feedback, and keep accountable with DYMU/correcting convos. 
  • For part-time leads, it’s a better use of your time to pour into leaders and students. 
  • Allow for connections for recruiting new leaders to join as group leaders. 
  • The result is better, more communicated, and cared for leaders. 

For students on the weekends, we have two options we want them to be a part of. 

  1. We want to sit with their families who come or in our youth section of the auditorium. Our lead pastor is their pastor. We get to serve students during their time in our ministry, but what happens when they graduate high school and they are not familiar with the lead pastor of our church? When they graduate high school, they graduate from our youth group and church. We want them to know our lead pastor. 
  2. We want students serving. The long-term strategy to keep students engaged in church post-graduation should be getting them on Sandals Church Teams to help them be a part of something bigger than themselves with the goal of Attending a service, Serving a service. Why? When they serve, they are rubbing shoulders with other adult believers who are pouring into them, students are a part of something outside of our youth ministry, connecting them to the church overall, and they are growing in their faith by serving the church. 

Again for you, it might be a thing. And that’s ok. What I don’t think is okay is doing it “because it’s always what we have done” so therefore, you just keep it. If it’s thought out, strategic, and intentional, I can get behind most things.

My hope is this might just get you thinking about what weekends can be for you.

If you want to listen to the Youth Ministry Podcast episode on how to build community amounts leaders, like mentioned above for the weekends, you can CLICK HERE to listen

@justinknowles3

Need some resources to hand to families and students to use during the week or when you aren’t meeting? Check out these great devotionals on DYM!

 

8 Jan 2022

Letter to Parents as We Start 2022 in Our Youth Ministry

By |2022-01-08T14:40:20-08:00January 8th, 2022|communication, josh griffin, junior high, junior high ministry, Parents|48 Comments

I just sent out a parent email as we kicked off our new series, My Myself and iPhone. I couldn’t be more excited for this! If it helps/inspires/prompts you with a letter of some sort to your parents, here’s mine:

Hey JHM Parents!

Welcome to 2022! What an incredible and wild ride we had in 2021- we’re excited about the plans to help partner with you in building a faith that lasts in your teenager! Here’s some AMAZING opportunities coming up that will help you as a parent, challenge your teenager and I hope encourage both of you as you journey the New Year together:

FOR STUDENTS: JHM Life Groups Session 2 Kickoff
THIS Wednesday @ 7pm (for 10 weeks)
Students meet all together for a quick bit of fun and games then we separate all over the church campus for small group time to share God’s Word and share about our lives together. Throw in some snacks and a couple of caring adult leaders and you have the perfect Life Group night! Not signed up? Here’s a quick shortcut to get your student in a Life Group!

FOR PARENTS: Intentional Parenting w/Doug Fields
THIS Wednesday @ 7pm (all 10 weeks)
You do NOT want to miss this! You will walk away from these weekly sessions encouraged, engaged, and relieved! Doug and Cathy Fields share weekly (while the kids are in their JHM Life Group!) some strategies and ideas to be intentional, make memories and build a strong connection with your son/daughter in these challenging years. It’s in the Upper Room, right above the Mariners Cafe. Not signed up? Here’s a quick shortcut to get yourself in before it fills completely up!

THIS WEEKEND: Me, Myself and iPhone
THIS SATURDAY/SUNDAY @ all JHM services in the Youth Building
This Christmas I went from Xbox on my 4K television to our new Oculus Quest 2 VR headset then walked my dog (kinda really scrolled on my iPhone the whole time) then came home to watch a Netflix show on my iPad. I mean … there are LOTS of screens and LOTS of temptations and influences in our lives! The next 4 weeks we’ll dive into biblical principles that will help teenagers navigate screens – whether they have their first phone or not.

Let’s have a great 2022 together! As always, feel free to reach out if we can be of support to you in any way.

Blessings,
Josh Griffin
JHM Pastor
Mariners Church

16 Sep 2021

Are You Proactive Or Reactive With Parents?

By |2021-09-15T20:11:04-07:00September 16th, 2021|Leadership, Parents, Small Groups, Volunteers, Youth Ministry Hacks|4 Comments

It really is interesting how many parents drop off their students and never meet the people they are dropping off their student to be with for two hours a week. It’s also really interesting for how many leaders have not reached out to know parents of their students.

We have an incredible opportunity to not only minister to our students, but their families as well.

We all have heard stories of students who first started coming to church, got saved and then their families started to attend as well. When we are intentional with our students families, we can really partner with parents/guardians because they are with their students the other 166 hours during the week compared to our 2-3 hours.

This is why in this season we have been really challenging those who lead small groups to be intentional about reaching out to, not just the student, but their families as well. We should be making the first move. We want to be proactive in making the first connection.

Here is the ask of our leaders: Make one connection per week with one family.

If you go on Yelp and look at reviews, most of the time you will see the negative ones. Why? Because when things are good, people don’t really write reviews because they don’t think about it. No one talks to the manager at a store when things are going well. People only tend to write reviews when they have a bad experience. People only ask to speak to a manger when something is wrong.

Same with parents. It could be all good and no one will say anything but far too often we are reactive with parents. When something happens, thats when we make the first connection with them. We are already starting in the negative.

When we are proactive, we can start to build relational equity, build up the positive and IF something goes down, we already know the parents/guardians. It will not only set your ministry up better but your volunteers to win with the families as well.

What could this look like?

  • For some families, they might come to church, so just physically meeting them and knowing their name and getting their cell phone number would be a win.
  • For some, just letting their parents know how awesome their kid is after group or through email throughout the week. Parents love to hear how awesome their kids are.
  • For some, you might be close to their family and be invited to dinners. Do it. Any time you can be with the family, it’s a good thing.
  • Take 30 seconds and send them a text asking how they are and how you can pray for them specifically. You will be amazed how simple and powerful that is.
  • Shoot an email updating them on what conversations and group has been like (obviously keeping the confidence of your students) but parents love to be in the know.
  • Connect with the parents/guardians via social media. Most of GenZ parents have it. It could be an easy way to share a story or make a connection with them.

As we have been pushing this with our small group leaders it’s been awesome to see the proactive relationships blossoming.

@justinknowles3

19 Mar 2020

Why We Kind of Kicked Our Middle School Students Out of Big Church

By |2020-03-11T08:31:44-07:00March 19th, 2020|Leadership, Parents|0 Comments

I could list reasons why we kind of kicked our 6th graders out of our main service, but there’s only one: developmentally appropriate learning. Now, I say, “kind of,” because we provided an alternative worship experience for the 6th graders but have left the option of participation up to parents. If our current facilities and personnel allowed, we would have made accommodations for our 7th and 8th graders, too, but we’re working towards it.

As a middle school teacher for 15 years and an education major, I have experienced the developmental differences firsthand. Based on their current tween brain wiring, they simply cannot process much of our adult service. Unless your main service pastor includes humor, objects, stories, intriguing questions, visuals, and incorporates these at a quick pace, they will become disengaged and disinterested. It is no one’s fault; it’s just nature. It is merely how the tween brain processes information. And a well-intentioned illustration included in the sermon addressing middle school students simply isn’t enough. As someone has said, “The heart can only receive what our minds can conceive.” I don’t think that’s in the Bible, but it makes sense and fits with the research. 

Think about why we separate MS and HS students. Isn’t it because they are at different developmental stages on every level? So, how much more is the gap between adults and middle school students? Imagine asking our adults to sit only in children’s services. I’m sure some would like that since some children’s services are better than the adult ones. How mature would they become taking in a diet created strictly for children? I am only asking us to think about it.

I am all about integrated worship with families as much as the next church leader, but I am also about making the most of the infrequent opportunities we have with our middle school students. 

Now, I want to clarify. I am not saying, “This is the way.” You are welcome, Mandalorian fans. But I am saying this is a way to consider. We need to try and put ourselves behind the eyes of our middle school students and see what they are experiencing. I think we have to re-examine our approach to integration, including strategy and frequency, and all of our middle school program experiences based on what we know from the research on tween brains and their physiology. Orange’s It’s Just a Phase, So Don’t Miss It was based on some of these ideas, and Mark Oestreicher, a prolific author, and partner of The Youth Cartel, has discovered some great insight in this field of study. 

In an ideal world, every family attending your church would be living out Deuteronomy 6 (parents discipling their children), which isn’t dependent only on the Sunday experience, but instead on the long-term, intentional, and strategic training of families by our local churches. But this isn’t an ideal world, and the church is not an ideal place. We may be making too much of a shared one-hour experience over intentional family discipleship, of which most would consider strategic middle school programming as a crucial part.

I don’t believe this is an either/or scenario. I think it’s both/and. We can create and foster environments for integrated services and middle school only services. My thought is if you have the facilities and the personnel to pull it off, go for it. If you can pull off a once a month or quarterly integrated worship experience, go for it. It’s also okay if you are unable to or simply decide that this is not the best strategic plan for your middle school students. They won’t be damaged by being in “Big Church.” Although perhaps based on your main service pastor, they will. You would know more than I would about that.

I want integrated worship, and we have it. But I also want to maximize the small window of time we have with middle school students weekly. You don’t have to pick; you can do both, and I believe both are necessary. But that is a decision to be made thoughtfully and prayerfully between you and your leadership.

James is the Youth & Family Pastor at Kingdom Church in Morgantown, WV. He has over 20 years of Student Ministry experience and is a Youth Ministry “Lifer.” He adores His wife and is a dad to 2 boys. He enjoys playing golf with his two sons and anyone who is willing to ride in a golf cart with him.

See his DYM Resources here.

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