Parents Matter

 —  October 30, 2014 — 1 Comment

family worshipThrough my years of serving youth ministry, I have been very blessed to have support from my students’ parents. Although there have been some ups and downs, I wouldn’t have been able to operate the ministry without their prayers, compassion, fundraisers, and representation. With such strong parent support, the students and I were able to have many memorable years together.

Sharing life together with the parents allowed me to set an example to strengthen the relationship between the students and parents. As I saw the students distance themselves with their parents, it was important to teach them to embrace their cultural and generational differences. It was beneficial to share life and build relationships with their parents because through it, the students were able to witness how to communicate, honor, and tangibly express love to them. This journey also opened lots of door to having parents and students worship and serve together.

 

I hope this will get you motivated to start sharing life together with your students’ parents. Here are some tips:

P- Pray: Take pictures of the core parents (PTA staff) and store it in a cloud drive as a visible reminder to lift up a quick prayer for them and family members.

A- Ask for advice: Don’t just ask for advice when it comes to making important decisions for ministry. Be open to seek wisdom in your daily life.

R-Reach out: They need some loving too. When the opportunity is given, minister to and serve them with all your heart.

E-Encourage: A simple text, email, or card with words of encouragement gives them strength and empowers them to keep on serving.

N-Never quit: The parents will make mistakes. We’re all human. It’s in these moments you don’t quit on them; rather, meet them face-to-face and learn how to stand up together.

T-Teachable: Have a teachable heart for Christ. This allows the parents to also be teachable with God’s Word.Core Parents

I know it’s very difficult to reach all parents. Begin with your core parents and allow them to reach other parents. The youth need their parents to be involved in their spiritual life.

I would like to dedicate this blog to all the parents of SRCC English Jr. & Sr.
High. The journey with you was amazing and fruitful throughout the past years. Thank you for sharing life together with me.

 

- Estevao Yu / @estevaoyu

OK, Small Church Peeps, let’s huddle up! For the next 8 weeks, there are as many ministry moments possible as there are falling leaves. You can do one of two things: 1) Use the calendar as a way to bounce into memory-makers OR 2) Miss the moments and do blah stuff or nothing at all…and sometimes doing nothing is better than dull and boring.

Here’s just the beginning of a list of possibilities you can still pull off:

1) Go trick or treating with your students Friday (Halloween). They’re going to go anyway.

2) Have an All Saints Day bonfire or fire pit. Use it to remember those that have lost someone. Buy up the leftover Halloween/harvest supplies which will now be at least 50% off.

3) Canned food scavenger hunt. Give point values to more desirable items like tuna, tuna helper, canned chili, spam, spaghetti sauce, etc. Go as a group to take the items to a local food pantry.

4) Ask for the leftover pumpkins from local Pumpkin Patches and use them to bake stuff to sell during November.

5) LOTS of stuff you can do for fun when sales on candy corn begin. Google “candy corn ideas” and see what you get. A great way to teach on the Trinity…or just thrown them at each other till someone loses an eye. J/K.

6) Go Thanksgiving caroling. I found some funny songs online to the tune of popular carols. Deliver bags of candy corn to the lucky recipients of your group’s musical mash-ups.

7) Rake and Run = a van, a bunch of kids with rakes and black bags and you got yourself a mission outreach for others in the area.

8) Offer to put up Christmas decorations for infirmed or elderly members of your church. Many hands make “light” work. (Get it? See what I did there?)

9) Holiday Week/Day Camp is a great way to serve the parents around you who have little ones. When school is out, parents who are already barely scraping by, are scrambling to make plans for their little ones. This is sort of like a Parent’s Night Out but daytime instead.

10) New Year’s Eve Parent’s Night Out and Lock-in could be a great way to fund a mission trip in one night!

All I got for now. What do you want to add to the list?

Stephanie



Skubala

 —  October 23, 2014 — Leave a comment

As my sabbatical is coming to an end this month, I had the opportunity to meet and share life together with an amazing group of youth workers at Group Publishing in Loveland, CO.sylvan-dale-guest-ranch-lodge During this summit, we had a chance to go out to spend some time alone with God at Sylvan Dale Ranch. I was able to find a very quiet place near the river. I happened to come across Philippians 3:8 during my reflection time.

As I was admiring the beauty of the mountains and rivers, for some reason, the word “garbage” stood out to me.

How ironic, right?

I started to ponder why Apostle Paul would use that word. The more I researched, I found out that, in fact, “garbage” was not a direct translation of the Greek word that Paul used– it is the word “Skubala.” Skubala means sh**.

This weighty definition is more accurate because Paul’s desire was to make known that nothing could compare to the worth of knowing Christ Jesus. As I was reflecting on this, Jesus was revealing to me my own “Skubala.” I’ve currently been applying for ministry positions, and while doing so, been faced with the temptation of relishing in my own accomplishments over the many years I’ve been involved in ministry; however, that’s the exact trash that Paul was talking about. It has gone from being all about Christ to all about me.

There is nothing wrong in feeling confident and proud of your hard work, but when it surpasses the worth of knowing Jesus, Paul sees it the same as Skubala. I knew that God was reminding me once again that He is above all else and everything in life is only done out of His grace, plans, and blessings to us.

Humility is key! Knowing Christ is greater than all of our own accomplishments!

- Estevao Yu

Thiago-nascimento-opera-background-speaker-jpg1This week we continue with 4 tips on growing your youth ministry!!!

Here are a few things we want you to know.

  1. Kurt and I are committed to keeping the show around 20 minutes in length.
  2. Subscribe to the Let’s Talk Youth Ministry YouTube channel and check out other episodes that you may find helpful.
  3. Email any questions you may have to talkyouthministry@gmail.com.

 

Hope it helps,

Kurt & AC



financialpinchThere is a financial pinch being felt among churches.

I shared in a recent article how my own church has felt it, and how we must all be “resigned to serve” in ministry.

It’s why I want to run something by you, given the tension we all likely know between your budget crunch and the vision still trying to be realized. It’s a philosophical question, as it will set a precedent throughout your ministry/church.

aliveI saw a sale today on door hangers for ministry outreach. My first thought was, “Cool idea. I wonder if we could/should get those.”

Then I remembered how we’ve attempted some great ideas in the past only to experience poor buy-in. There’s a box filled with fundraising supplies in our church building that we’re still trying to discern what the next steps on are.

I had a third thought, though: “What if we created a type of grassroots funding and ownership by letting people know about these opportunities and seeing which ones were sticky? We could create a webpage or some flow of communication that made information on these ideas available?”

Practically speaking, I get emails all the time like the one I got on door hangers – likely because church resourcing organizations have my email address. If I prop this out there in some way, perhaps someone willing to spend $4.50 for a package of outreach materials is the very person I’d want to start talking with regarding the vision/logistics of going door-to-door to hang them.

Wouldn’t this be a much better approach than a church buying materials and trying to convince people to buy into the idea? While that latter idea will still need to be in place from time to time, the former taps into the Millennial-esque bent toward random generosity.

  • Isn’t this why we ask the church-at-large to fund kids to go to camp?
  • Isn’t this why we park kids at the door after Sunday services with a box of candy bars and a change purse?
  • Isn’t this why we shop for food in bulk at Sam’s Club to supply the next spaghetti supper that people can buy tickets for “on a donation basis?”

Here’s the hurdle, though.

standardsThe precedent you’d be setting with the newer approach is that people could/should fund their favorite projects as it tickles their fancy. That has implications in a few different directions, including how some people might divert their giving from the church budget to do this instead. Then again, some might argue that people are itching to be generous – and if you can get them giving at all (even to their own pet projects) it will inspire them to give more holistically down the road.

Should funding great ministry ideas feel like an “a la carte” menu… or should we keep trying to get folks to give toward the church budget “household grocery list?”

When does fund-raising contradict faith-raising?

Is your approach to fund your next big idea contradicting the bigger big idea?

What do you think?

The Damage Of Opinions

 —  October 22, 2014 — 3 Comments

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A friend of mine says that opinions are like bellybuttons: everyone has one. We have them about EVERYTHING from frivolous things like the best flavor of Jolly Ranchers (cherry of course) to very serious “issues” like politics. As Believers in Christ we have particular thoughts on which translation of the Bible is “best,” when the rapture will happen, as well as every other “grey” area of Christianity where the interpretation is subject to human observation. The news these days is filled with stories of disease, war, pain and death. Truly when you break it down, Solomon was right.There just isn’t anything new under the sun.

YET…

I wonder if we are cautious enough in sharing all thoughts that come into our heads with the youth we serve. I am not talking about questions they ask or a topic that arises from a  small group study. Instead, there are times when leaders feel like they need to drop thoughts on the group like the time my daughter came home petrified that America was going to get blown up by nuclear weapons because, “The UN won’t take terrorists down.”

Before you decide to share your thoughts on a topic keep some things in mind:

Why Are You Sharing?

What does this idea have to do with anything?  Is it just so you can share a thought with a student? We can have opinion discussions with other adults. If a question is asked, or it’s where a discussion takes its course, obviously we can give “our thoughts” on a topic. Yet, remember there are times when a tween or teen may not fully comprehend the breadth of a subject and have no way to separate out the truth versus the opinion in a conversation. There are times we don’t NEED to share.

Opinions to Keep To Yourself:

My nephew started following politics when he was 15. Yet, the average 6th or 7th grader is telling you what they have heard at home and around other adults. Youth programming is not the place to discuss politics, the president,  or if we as a country are “reacting properly to a situation,” if no one asks. Think through what you are sharing and if it truly ought to be shared at youth group.

Age-Appropriate Conversations:

One of the small groups I lead is all 6th graders. One girl told me recently that an adult had told her to “get her heart right with the Lord,” because if “ISIS takes over the country you may have to stand up for your faith.”  It is this adult’s OPINION that terrorists can attack again. Scare tactics do not help students “get ready.” Help students see FACTS and not be forced to share your opinion. If the goal is to get students praying and caring for other parts of the world, be aware of HOW you share stories. Bring what’s happening without attaching your spin on the topic.Then actually pray.

Here is the damage that sharing said opinions can cause, if we are not really careful:

FEAR:

Recently, I have heard a lot of leaders share how they believe “Jesus is coming back soon,” (without it coming up in conversation). Let’s remember John and the other disciples were sure of the same thing. Are you approaching a topic in a way that is helpful or just leaves a student riled up? The Bible says we are supposed to live every day like it’s the day Jesus is coming. If we just throw our thoughts out there, it can cause students not to grow closer to the Lord but to merely panic. Remember, the words of 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

Wrongful Thinking :

Students often take what we say as truth. I had a student once who ceased believing in Creation because a teacher told them it was “stupid,” and they made a great argument. So much of our thinking is based on our own life experience and the way we view certain topics. All too often students take our thoughts and mix them up, add something in that wasn’t even what we said at all, and treat it as FACT.

As a parent of teens and tweens, there are times when my own children have come home telling me an idea they heard that they now think is true. Thankfully, they ask questions and want to know what we think. They are learning to take it all in, put it up against what’s “real” and decide for themselves. However, on more than one occasion my husband and I have had to undo anxiety over the next “crisis” that will “take our government down.”

Instead of sharing our opinions, how about we teach students to look through the Word of God, see what it says and believe that when we belong to the Lord, God always has our back not matter “how bad” it all gets? Let’s really teach them to care about the world and get on our knees to discuss it with the only one who can really do anything about “evil” anyway.

What are your thoughts?

- Leneita



Life Group

The above picture was taken last night, the first gathering of a brand new small group of awesomely awkward 7th grade guys. See me leaning in on the right? The smile on my face masks a ton of anxiety about the year ahead.

- I rarely lead a 7th grade group because should I need to skip a year I don’t want to leave them hanging as 8th graders. Last night reminded me of the VAST difference between 7th and 8th graders.

- I tend to miss about 1/4 of our small group gatherings due to a variety of reasons. This always puts extra strain on my co-leader to pick up the slack. The guy leaning over the back of the couch is Tom…an awesome dad who doesn’t even have children of his own in junior high any more…he just loves this age group. I’ve tried to tell him I’m a crappy small group partner, but he refuses to believe it. He will soon enough.

- The thirteen boys in our group are a true hodge-podge; from a few different schools, different faith journeys and varying family dynamics. Two have Asperger’s, one may die (his words) if he eats gluten, and another seems to have almost zero social skills.

I’m a terrible small group leader. I’m anxious, not very compassionate, and flakey. But I know this is where the good stuff happens; I know that wading into the rarely calm waters of sharing life with this group for the next two years will be life-changing for all of us.

Chances are you are “terrible” at some aspect of junior high ministry, too. It’s understandably tempting to avoid those areas. After all, why subject yourself, or others, to the misery of your efforts! Why? Because it’s when we faithfully enter the rarely calm waters, despite our shortcomings, that the good stuff happens.

Ebola and Church

 —  October 15, 2014 — 2 Comments

ebolaEbola.

As I write this post, I’m watching a newscast of how my Cleveland area airport had a recent passenger come through it who had the ebola virus. All the sound bytes indicate that everything seems to be fine and contained, even though I can’t help but remember the epilogue of “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” – how one man (who happened to be an airline pilot) ended up spreading a disease worldwide that led to the almost-demise of humanity.

I’m not trying to freak anyone out. GotQuestions.org has a great article on Ebola, pandemic diseases and God’s sovereignty over it all. Here’s a quote:

The current Ebola epidemic is not the last we will see of plagues. Jesus referred to future plagues that will be part of the end-times scenario (Luke 21:11). The two witnesses of Revelation 11 will have power “to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want” (Revelation 11:6). Revelation 15 speaks of seven plagues wielded by seven angels as the final, most severe judgments, described in Revelation 16.

I more want to ask something practical – how does this affect how you do ministry?

Should it?

Could it?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAConsider the typical church greeting time.

  • “Say hi to someone else this morning.”
  • “Extend and offer the sign of peace.”
  • “High five your neighbor.”

How about other aspects of ministry that involve human contact?

  • The prep and administration of Holy Communion / The Lord’s Supper?
  • Welcoming guests at the door?
  • Praying in a circle, holding hands?
  • Sitting next to someone in a class or gathering who has an obvious cough, and doesn’t seem all that concerned at covering their mouth as they do?

Should we be rethinking how we do church in these days where what happens on one side of the globe isn’t autonomous?

I like what Seth Godin pointed out in his post “We have ebola”: “We are they. They are us.”

Well said.

On one hand, Jesus says “There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.” (Luke 21:11) On the other hand, we learn “He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” (Matthew 10:1)

What do you think?

What should or shouldn’t we do in response?

Is this another chapter for the Emergency Response Handbook for Youth Ministry?