Be Careful How You Teach

Leneita Fix —  March 20, 2014 — 1 Comment

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Today I was looking through some really excellent small group curriculum. I loved the way it dug into lead students in going deeper with their relationship with Christ.  However, it also held one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to pre-written curriculum:

It was really written for an adult, not a student.

The subject matter is excellent. However, the way it is written asks questions in a way that an adult who is a fully devoted follower of Christ would understand. Since this has annoyed me for years, I went through a period of time where I wrote my own stuff. In my pride, I went and looked if my stuff was any better. Truth is I did the same thing.

We think adding in engagement, activities and perhaps a video or two solves the  problem of drawing in teens. This isn’t it either. If you merely hand off any curriculum to your team they think the point is to get from the beginning to the end of the lesson. Therefore, they stop ask these “grown-up” questions, get blank stares they think is boredom, and move on.

If there are unchurched students in your group, these concepts are totally foreign to them. When students have grown up in the church they have been “told” but often are not “taught.” Just because they have heard about concepts doesn’t mean anyone has stopped and asked,  ”Do you know what any of it means?”

Recently, I was probing my own three Middle School age kids as to what Grace really is. The idea that it is Christ’s “free gift” that we “don’t deserve” and what that means eluded them. These are three kids who have grown up in Christian school, in youth group, in church, in Christian programming, with two believing parents who talk to them, and still they couldn’t explain this simple concept.

I don’t think the answer is writing our own stuff, or adding any more hands on games. The answer is in the way we teach, and teaching our teachers to teach. Connecting students to the truth is NOT intuitive for everyone. Knowing how to strategically pull apart a lesson and get to the heart of the issue does not make sense to all of us. We don’t always know how to keep bringing it all back to Jesus. It’s not about the lesson at all, it’s about asking, “How will this deepen their relationship with the Lord?”

So STOP!

As you go through your curriculum and look at questions, think before you ask, and spend the time training your team to do the same.

Look at the lesson:

If you think about it, can you easily understand and articulate every concept in front of you?

Chances are if you have to think more than a moment or are pondering, “I know I just am not sure how to say it,” the teens in your group have no clue at all. They need you to let them ask more questions- about the questions.

Could someone who doesn’t speak your language understand all of the words?

A Dutch friend of mine pointed this idea out.  If you were trying to teach this lesson to a person who had just entered the country,  how would you break it down? You would use easy concepts and small words.  Do the same with your teens.

Are you stopping along the way?

Don’t go from start to finish of the curriculum just to get through. Go through it line by line. Make absolutely zero assumptions that they ALL get it. Our unchurched students are sometimes vulnerable enough to say, “I don’t know.”  Many times though they think everyone else knows when they don’t. Our “churched” kids think they are supposed to know this stuff.  They aren’t going to stop you and say,  ”So listen I’ve heard about this Armor of God thing a lot. As a matter of fact, when I was little I even owned the play set from the Christian book store. I think I understand that armor is protective, but can you give me a clue as to why wearing my salvation like a hat really is helpful, and you know what Salvation is also explained as something I only have to do once, so really I am not getting this. While we’re at it can we talk about how we wear shoes of peace or what righteousness has to do with living my life today?  Did I mention I have no clue what righteousness really is and how on earth to wear it like a breastplate, I mean practically speaking. Can you tell me how this has anything to do with following Jesus?”  The discussion question read, “How can your “helmet of Salvation” protect your thoughts?”  Line by line ask them,  ”DO YOU GET THIS?” and “DOES THIS MAKE SENSE?”

Personally I think maybe teens should be writing curriculum for other teens. Therefore, we are left with the adults trying to think like an adolescent. Maybe instead we need to ask, “If I’m honest, do I know what walking with Jesus means at all?”

How are you teaching your students?

Would love to hear your thoughts,

Leneita / @leneitafix

Hey Simply Insiders!

There are a million and one theories, strategies, and methods out there for how to approach youth ministry. In Rick Lawrence’s new book, Jesus-Centered Youth Ministry, all those tactics are sliced through to get back to the core of who youth ministry is truly about- Jesus. It’s all about moving from Jesus-plus to Jesus-only in a life-altering and ministry-changing way. The book was originally written 8 years ago, but this edition has 75% fresh content derived from what Rick has learned since its first print.

Check out the video below to hear Rick share about his heart behind Jesus-Centered Youth Ministry, and be sure to click here to learn more and purchase your copies!

Want to win a copy of Jesus-Centered Youth Ministry for each person on your youth team?

Share a photo on Instagram of your youth team with the caption “All of us at [insert church or ministry name here] can’t wait to read the new Jesus-Centered Youth Ministry by Rick Lawrence! #ymnation @simplyyouthministry”

*Don’t forget to tag us! Winner will be announced tomorrow (3.20.14). This is an Instagram only contest!

JCYM+team

“All of us at SYM can’t wait to read the new “Jesus-Centered Youth Ministry” by Rick Lawrence! #ymnation @simplyyouthministry”

Happy ‘Gramming Insiders,

Amber

@youthministry



Wondering how your ministry measures up? Doing better, worse or equal to the church down the street? Feeling the pressure from your church’s board to perform? Here’s #2 in ways to measure whether your youth ministry is hitting the “sustainability mark” or not. (For the attendance formula, see the post from 3/18/14.)

1 Adult Volunteer for Every 5 Students: This means the “face-to-face,” consistently present type of team members. Usually this covers your Sunday school teachers, small group leaders, choir assistants, and youth group adult volunteers – anyone who your students see on a regular basis. To give them the most relationship for the ministry buck, it means consistent interaction from those called to serve. In my observations around the country as a Senior Consultant for Ministry Architects, this is the number reason why a “too frequent” rotation of adults isn’t nearly as beneficial to the spiritual nurture of your students as adults they see 2+ times a month. So many youth today have enough “revolving door” adults in their life, it doesn’t help when the church is just one more place where relational roots can’t grow deep.

When counting your volunteer ratio, this generally doesn’t cover those wonderful support volunteers who serve dinners, drive, work a sign-up table, etc., unless they’re there every week in that role. Support volunteers have a valuable place in your ministry, but aren’t considered in the 1-to-5 since their participation is more infrequent. This also doesn’t cover paid staff like interns, the pastor…or you.

So here’s the math and its easy: You’ve got 20 youth who regularly attend one of the church’s ministries. A healthy target number for adult volunteer team members is 4, plus you as leader and any other staff.

Next up? What your ministry budget should be. Watch for it in a few more days…

Stephanie

Lyrics.

Words create worlds.What you say has the power to mentally transport someone from where they are to where they could or should be.

Ironically, worlds also create words.

As I mentioned yesterday, our team met a couple of women in the afternoon who each had a unique story to tell. On the way to visit one of them, the tune “Lifesong” by Casting Crowns came on the radio. Our driver/host Levi likes to play worship music as we travel, whether it’s in English or Spanish. My toe was tapping along while I lightly sang along to the song.

When I say “lightly sang along,” I think you know what I mean. That’s means, “If I was alone, I’d really be singing out. Since I’m among random people, I won’t break social etiquette.” I once sat in front of a guy on a plane who sang opera music… the whole plane ride… but I digress.

After the truck stopped and we got out to meet the woman, I learned her story – from her fight with cancer, to the four young children she wonders about in terms of who will care for them if she dies. When we piled back into the vehicle and “Lifesong” continued playing, I got a whole new meaning out of it.

razorwire

And so this afternoon… I sang worship songs in a prison.

We visited with several women who were in for crimes they were accused of or committed. I don’t have any pictures to share since the security didn’t allow for it.

What I can do is try to offer some words to create a world, and a world to create some words.

Imagine yourself standing in a jail cell door today as I did.

All around you are prisoners. They may not look like it, since they don’t resemble the actors from movies nor even have on the same colored jumpsuits. They look like mothers… sisters… wives… neighbors. They’re dressed in casual clothing.

But they’re all prisoners.

If you’re honest, you relate to this. There are things in your life that you have felt a prisoner to.

Urges. Pride. Lies. Addiction. Sin.

So there you are, standing in the middle of a jail cell that leads into a corridor of incarcerated community… and someone with a guitar begins to sing the Spanish version of songs you know well.

And you think, “I’ve sung worship songs in so many different environments… but never with the honesty of a prisoner.”

You begin claiming God’s grace in your life.

Open the eyes of my heart… I want to see You…”

Your grace is enough… Your grace is enough… Your grace is enough… for me…”

“I see his love and mercy… washing over all our sin.. the people sing… the people sing… Hosanna…”

“…I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the ways that He loves us…”

Have you ever sang worship songs in a prison?

Talk about a visual aid.

Words create worlds. Worlds create words.

I’m feeling quite broken over that right about now. Want to make sure that lasts.

May my lifesong sing to You.



It seems like everywhere I turn these past weeks I have had conversations with those in ministry as to whether or not I will be taking students (or friends, or anyone) to see the “Son Of God” or “Noah, ” movies that are both sonofGodbeing released this month.

In the Christian community we have many thoughts on movies “like this.”  On the one hand they are big budget movies with a wide national release.  We love the movies like, “Facing the Giants,” but these are different.  They  are “top tier” movies that give us the ability to show our “unchurched” friends that these “stories” from the Bible are powerful and relevant.   However, I also have seen some annoyance at the continued portrayal of Jesus with perfectly white teeth and obviously blow dried hair.  In Noah, I have heard moans at the fact that Russell Crowe is playing a man from the Middle East.

noah_movie_poster_1It’s easy to either over or under emphasize movies like this. Churches are buying out entire theaters to encourage their patrons to attend and take friends. They want to show “Hollywood” that indeed those of us in the “Christian community” will make the time to see something like this. In contrast, I have friends who have declared they will not “give money to more misrepresentation of the Bible.”

I admit it, when “The Passion of the Christ” was released we took over 200 students to see it on the big screen. It is still a movie that shows a powerful representation of the days leading up to and the crucifixion of Jesus. While we all love to see Charlton Heston play Moses, (even decades later) there are some things we need to keep in mind when it comes to the Bible based movie and our students.

Personally,  I am not sure if I would take “ALL” of the students and their families to see these films, but I would (and probably will) take some. What do we do to prepare?

Educate:

Take the time to go through the actual Bible passages with those in your programs and tell them what might be coming. We know that Jesus didn’t “stand out” based on his ugly or gorgeous appearance. It was dusty and people walked everywhere, there wasn’t “Crest” to perfect the smile. Noah and his family did not have British accents (Can someone explain to me why this is the go to accent for all movies in history?). No, Hermione was not Noah’s daughter in law. What might they encounter that IS and IS NOT in the actual Word?

It’s A Movie:

There is a cool scene from the Noah trailer that shows the flood springing up from the ground and the sky. This is the first time I have ever seen anyone acknowledge that it may not have been just a lot of rain that brought water over the earth. No matter how awesome it is,  WE WILL NEVER REALLY KNOW what everything looked like. Someone told me recently how wonderful it was to see the way Jesus walked around on earth and interacted with people. Let’s remember, this is one person’s interpretation of that.

Great Conversation Starters:

Don’t throw the “baby out with the bathwater” as they say. These movies are great conversation starters, and people are interested. I think many of us are intrigued to whether or not the “stories” of the Bible could be fascinating on the “big screen”.  If nothing else they are epic stories. Go to the movie with some students and talk about it afterwards. Even if they don’t care what was “really” in the Bible, what are the concepts about faith and trust and God that you can use to get a conversation rolling?

Personally, I will take some students to see these movies. Actually, we had a great time in one of my small groups recently walking through the story of Noah, line by line. One of my Seniors actually declared, “I hope they show it took over 100 years for him to build that monster in the middle of a desert!”  It was a great time to discuss what “poetic license” is.  We don’t know any conversations Noah had with anyone outside of God during the building of the ark. We do know he was the ONLY person on earth listening to or caring about a relationship with God. We also know that God told him to do this crazy thing and he did it. Finishing up, I asked them, “Could you have faith like Noah?”  We talked about having a relationship with the Lord that is SO close you will do ANYTHING. It was fun and inviting, and they can’t wait to see it. We will go together. Then after we see it., we will make a “day of it” to go out and talk about it.  What a great way to really tell them what we think about the Lord and what a relationship with Him looks like. We get an inside scoop to hear their thoughts as well.

How about you?  How are you using these movies for the Lord?

Leneita

Hoy ha sido otro gran día!

(Yeah – I totally did a Google translate on that. My Spanish is improving, though – and by that I mean instead of only talking English I now talk English with an Antonio-Banderas-from-the-movie-Zorro accent.)

Anyway, today was another great day. There’s so much I can say about it.

Perhaps this video sums it up best, though.

And… you’re welcome.

20140318_094251We (obviously) connected further with the kids at the school the Honduran missionaries serve.Part of that included more work on the playground – from sanding down the climbing wall we constructed yesterday, to working on repairing a bridge.Other team members did some cooking and teaching, including one of our gals who is a computer major in the United States. She was able to give the kids some great instruction (via one of our translators, Christian) to the kids on what the internet, their operating system and more.

1236436_10202511273215716_103545513_nAdditionally, our team spent some time with two ladies who shared their stories of being blessed by God through the great work being done here. One of them is a widow (with four children) who has cancer, and she welcomed us into her home as we heard her story and prayed with her.

After a full day, our hosts let us pop into a local grocery store. People on mission trips at this point usually do one of two things:

  • Try as much of the local food as possible.
  • Get as many things that you can find that remind you of home in order to feel comfortable.

20140318_185449aMy son and I opted for a combination of both, getting soda and cookies as a special treat – but picking some flavors that aren’t readily available in our neck of the woods.

I think he’s going to be awake a while tonight.

It’s okay, though – he’s been amazing on this trip (as has everyone on our team). Tonight he said, “Dad, I want to do this trip again.”

We’re not even halfway through it yet. Wow!



Stepping out from the pages of Mark DeVries’ book, Sustainable Youth Ministry, comes this statement: sometimes it IS about the numbers. Churches that don’t set target attendance goals for their ministries wind up in more conflict, dissenting opinions and staff turnover than those that DO set commonly created, well-communicated attendance goals.

1st Measurable Marker of Ministry Success: How many students should be attending your church’s youth ministry? 10%. 

Of what? Members on the rolls? Active members and visitors? Youth rolls? The answer, long proven by research and Ministry Architects’ work with hundreds of churches is that the healthy youth ministry settles around 10% of the weekly worship average.

Start with this all-important concept: Its important for small churches to understand that youth ministry is WAY more than just those youth that come to youth group. In today’s crazy chaoticly calendared world, youth ministry is to any youth who comes to any part of the church’s programming. Whether you’re the youth leader or the choir director, if you’ve got a student in your programming-you’re in ministry to students. The golden-oldie days of youth coming to worship AND Sunday school AND youth group AND choir AND,etc….are a part of the past. Today, to give quality spiritual nurture to students, it has to be twice as fast because there’s half as much time to do it in.

So the number starts here: 1) Determine 10% of your church’s weekly worship attendance. 2) Count up how many individual students in 6th grade (or 7th-depending where your uthmin starts) thru 12th grade walk through the doors of your church in an average week. NO ONE gets counted twice and don’t count the children or post-high school. For example, your church’s weekly worship attendance is 105 and you have 13 youth living life in your church on a weekly basis. Its slightly better than 10%, so the number of students involved in ministry at your church is solid. Celebrate!

If the answer was “yes” to 10% or higher, chances are that your ministry has a lot of sustainable systems and processes in place. Things like a solid first-timer process, dead-on data management, reaching out to “missing in action” teens and a systematic contact plan greatly increase your critical mass. (BTW: churches rarely get beyond the 20% mark and if they do, its not without other weird circumstances coming up like a uber-unique community program or space/budget issues, etc.). Less than 10% means that something is amiss and usually its more than one thing.

Next number? How to staff your ministry for success coming in a few days. Feel free to ask away.

Stephanie

LehmanBabywithFamily

When we started raising our kids, it seemed like Rachel and I had an obvious decision to make: Follow somebody’s prescribed “steps to raising Godly children” or figure it out on our own with scripture, prayer, the wisdom of others, and our own common sense leading the way. We opted for option #2. We’ve never followed a pre-determined plan. We’ve made small tweaks and massive adjustments along the way. We’ve treated our two children very similarly in some ways and completely different in others. It’s been quite a journey, we’re not finished yet…but there is a sort of “finish line” in sight.

But we didn’t use a completely “off the hip” approach to parenting. Even though we knew we were going to take it day-by-day, we did have a goal in mind. In essence, we started our parenting journey with the end in mind. We knew what we hoped for our kids, even though we weren’t sure how (or if) we would see it come to fruition.

Our goal: To help Kayla and Cole become independent, life-long followers of Jesus.

Independent: We don’t want them living in our spare bedroom when they are 30.
Life-long followers of Jesus: Jesus. Not “god”. Not a denomination. Not a certain tradition. Not a denomination. JESUS.

College? We’d like it (Kayla is currently in her second year) but not a goal.
Marriage? Sure. If they marry somebody else who is a life-long follower of Jesus.
Financial Security? Beyond being able to provide for themselves and family? Nice, but not a goal.
Servants? Leaders? Contributors to Society? Integrity? Generous? We’re hoping being a life-long follower of Jesus will sort that all out for them.

I’m sure as you read this some are resonating with the simplicity while others are shouting at their computer screen, “Come on Johnstons, rais the freakin’ bar!”

Here’s some homework between now and my next parenting post (not sure when that will be…it’s not the only thing I’ll post about): Get together with your spouse and write a little “parenting purpose statement”, or one or two sentences that describe what your ultimate goal(s) are for your children. Yours may be much more detailed than ours, which is probably an okay thing! I think this exercise is important because even though there isn’t a perfectly prescribed parenting plan out there, you don’t want to shoot blindly in the dark, either.

Parenting 101: Start with the end in mind.

bold_parenting

Kurt / @kurtjohnston

P.S.- Here is a great new resource on parenting! Check out Bold Parenting by Lars Rood to learn more about raising your children to be more than just rule-keepers but have a deep faith of their own.