good-jobWords of encouragement do not come easy to me. I like a lot of people, it is just hard at times to articulate why I like you. This is not a post to help you brown nose your senior pastor, it is pretty easy to tell between genuine encouragement and when someone wants something form you. This is a post to encourage you to articulate your appreciation for their leadership, your job, and the partnership you have together. Try doing something from this list and let us know how it was received.

  1. Digital gift cards
    Chances are your church gives your senior pastor a book budget, so an Amazon gift card or digital gift code could be lame. But if you feel like giving your senior pastor a “I like you this many dollars worth” gift, maybe a Starbucks gift card will hit the spot. If you have the genuine Starbucks app you can email a gift of $5, $10 or $20…something that’ll say “this drink’s on me.”
  2. Good old-fashion email
    Write your senior pastor a thank you note for something that he’s done for you or something he taught you. We are always trying to catch our students doing something good why not apply that to your senior pastor?
  3. Text message
    If your senior pastor allows you to have his cell phone number (I am sure there are some super private people out there) send a message highlighting something they said, personally or in a sermon. “Thanks for your message today I really liked when you said….”
  4. Tweet At or about your senior pastor
    Similar to the text message, just tweet the phrase that you liked and quote/credit their words. If they have a twitter account make sure to tag them.
  5. Sheer goofy flattery
    Grab your Senior pastor’s picture from your church website or their Facebook page, uploaded to one of these choice JibJab videos and sent the link to their email.  #Winning

 

What techie things have you done for your senior pastor that says you appreciate and support them?

Kurt had a great post yesterday about some basic speaking tips and helps for youth workers running games. Thought there was some good stuff here, head there for the full piece:

LEAVE THEM WANTING MORE: A short lesson is almost always better than a long one! Nobody ever complained that the lesson was too short. Plus, a short lesson leaves your junior highers actually wanting to hear more. Short games are almost always better than long ones, too. Playing their favorite game too often ends up making it a game they are tired of and no longer get excited to play.

THE PAYOFF NEEDS TO EQUAL THE SET UP: The longer it takes to tell a story in your lesson, the better the punchline or application needs to be. When you start by saying, I’ve got the most hilarious story in the world to share it better be a pretty stinkin hilarious story. If you say, Today’s lesson could be the most important one I’ve ever taught it better be really important! A game that takes 10 minutes to explain and 35 seconds to play is a fail the payoff didn’t equal the set-up. When you send out a text claiming, tonight in JH ministry we will play a game of epic proportions  only to have the game be a rousing game of musical chairs, you lose.

JG



With Mother’s Day around the corner, there has been a lot of talk in our group about parents. 90% of the 200 students I serve do not live with both biological parents. One young woman has a great step-Mom, however she grapples as her “other” Mom consistently disappoints and hurts her. Another lost his Dad a few years ago and shared, “I love my Mom honestly, because she is all I have left, but it still isn’t great.”

 

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Through the years my students and I have talked about their families often. There have been parents who are prostitutes, addicts, in jail, absent, & neglectful. I have seen anger, divorce and perfectionism tear families apart. Each time the tears well up. My heart hurts. I have told kids to endure just a little longer and eventually they will “get out.”

There is a problem with this tactic. I have also witnessed many of these same parents are torn apart by a cycle of shame from which they believe there is no hope of escaping. Telling a twelve year old to “wait it out,” is a long time. It can worsen the “survival” mentality.

So when we hear the tales of the horrible home life how do we react?

1. Believe.

We must honestly believe the Lord CAN and WILL change EVERY life. Not just the students, but the parents as well. It starts with us living in the hope that Christ offers for today. He knows how to resurrect the dead. If our attitude is just, “Well He could, make this different, BUT, probably won’t.” We have already lost this family.
2. Stop Judging.
There are two sides to every story and we often get all of our details from our students. Before we jump in and point fingers, we must hear both sides. Get to know the whole family. I have been humbled often, by parents who are trying their best. When I start to judge, I then stand above a family forgetting there is more going on than I might see. Pointing fingers is rarely helpful.

3. Pray

There are situations we don’t know how to handle. As I listen to home lives wrecked, I feel helpless and angry at times. What I have is prayer. This reminds me the Lord is at work, even when I don’t see it with my eyes.

Am I claiming every home life is a mess? No not at all. However, each of us carries baggage that wounds the ones we love. Our students are often telling us ways their parents hurt them. Too often in ministry we hear the “horrors” over the “triumphs.” The steps above may not have been revolutionary, however, in our “line of work,” they are vital. Remember the Lord wants the family whole more than we do.

How do you handle it when you hear the stories of broken homes>

 

 

article.2013.04.30Got a smartphone? Chances are you’re working at integrating some great apps into your youth ministry world. We do the same thing and while Angry Birds Star Wars and Temple Run 2 take up a little too much of our time if we’re honest, there are some incredible apps for youth ministry.

This week Josh is up first and Kurt will offer up his 3 favorites tomorrow. Add your favorite apps in the comments!

TOP 3 APPS for youth ministry

1. Evernote (FREE)
Evernote is a productivity app that syncs important documents in the cloud and on all your devices. It is incredibly robust and keeps everything from brainstorm notes, pictures you take, and even voice memos and delivers them to all of your devices. It’s a great place to work on talks, share documents, and even manage to-do lists. An incredible app for your phone, Web site, and computer and the price is right.

2. HeyTell (FREE)
Communicate with your friends like a walkie-talkie. The best part is you can make a group and send a quick voice memo to all your volunteers at once. The interface is simple, one touch, and responsive. Even if someone isn’t a phone person, this is a perfect compromise.

3. Icebreaker Questions ($.99)
The only one on the list that costs actual money but well worth it. Suggest it to your small-group leaders so they have a starting point for conversations and figure out how to talk to teenagers. The questions are fun and make it easier to get past that awkward pause while waiting for everyone else to arrive to group.

Other incredible apps that didn’t quite make the cut:

Haze ($.99) check the weather to make sure the summer event isn’t going to be rained out.

Starbucks (FREE) consolidate all of your Starbucks cards into one place and earn stars toward free drinks. Maybe even have a church card and personal card both on the same account.

YouVersion (FREE) the best Bible app out there. The daily reading plans with reminders and notifications are super to keep you on track, too.

Pandora (FREE) want to have a great playlist for before and after services? Download this app, turn on the TobyMac station, plug it into your sound system, and you’re set. Easy there is an occasional commercial, so you might want to drop the $36/year to go ad-free, too. You might never buy another CD again!

What are the other best youth ministry apps out there you’d add to the list?

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.



Our high school program was failing. A year before attendance and energy had been soaring through the roof and now the crickets barely made a sound. I had made some recent changes to the format because what we were doing felt too much like entertainment. Needless to say I received push back, people criticized and left. I felt like a failure.

My pastor and associate to the pastor talked to me about the situation and reassured me not to worry about my job. However, they suggested that I look at making some changes to the way that we did ministry. In the end we made some pretty bold moves including switching up the nights. Today the program is growing deeper and wider.

Anytime you face a problem in ministry you have two choices. You can LEAN IN or DENY IT. It doesn’t take a rocket science to know the only way you are going to solve your problems is by facing them. And to do that you need to:

  • Throw Everything On The Table: When you problem solve all suggestions and ideas need to be thrown onto the table. Sometimes an idea needs time to mature and evolve. If something doesn’t hit you right at first, take the time to sit back and ask, “What if?” After all ideas have been exhausted start whittling down the list.
  • Share The Burden: It’s easy to buy that lie, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” All that does is limit your capacity to solve a problem. Invite your leaders to brainstorm and offer their resources. If anything invite others to pray and share the burden.
  • Face The Failure: Solving a problem means taking a risk; however, the consequences are far less than if you do nothing. Granted you might fail; however, by taking an attempt you fail forward. You’ll learn from your mistakes, and will be able to tackle it from a new perspective.
  • Involve God Into The Process:Not sure why it’s easy to ignore God; however, if you don’t include Him into your problems you’ll find yourself exhausted and frustrated. When the solution isn’t in front of you, it’s important to take the time to fast, give or just sit quietly and listen. Allow God to work through you inorder to guide you towards the solution.

Whether it’s shaking things up or approaching a new season of ministry tackle your problems head on with a plan.  Ministry is relational and organic; therefore, it’s going to get messy. Do not fear it, lean into it, share the journey with others and trust God to lead you.

How do you approach problems? Would you add anything to the list?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)


I know sometimes happiness and satisfaction can come in waves at times in youth ministry – my wife thought of this poll question this morning based on our conversations on the topic over our 20 years of ministry together. How do you vote today?

JG



I forgot to post this awesome video from El Toro Owns the Weekend a couple of weeks ago – the students did a great job that weekend with the message and theme “Wave Goodbye” to the old sinful man. They made this video to help reinforce the theme. And this one was incredible, too. Fun!

JG

Rules

In a typical junior high ministry gathering, two things are almost always present: A game and a lesson. And believe it or not, the keys to success are mostly the same for each!

LEAVE THEM WANTING MORE: A short lesson is almost always better than a long one! Nobody ever complained that the lesson was too short. Plus, a short lesson leaves your junior highers actually wanting to hear more. Short games are almost always better than long ones, too. Playing their favorite game too often ends up making it a game they are tired of and no longer get excited to play.

THE PAYOFF NEEDS TO EQUAL THE SET UP: The longer it takes to tell a story in your lesson, the better the “punchline” or application needs to be. When you start by saying, “I’ve got the most hilarious story in the world to share….” it better be a pretty stinkin’ hilarious story. If you say, “Today’s lesson could be the most important one I’ve ever taught….” it better be really important! A game that takes 10 minutes to explain and 35 seconds to play is a fail….the payoff didn’t equal the set-up. When you send out a text claiming, “tonight in JH ministry we will play a game of epic proportions…” only to have the game be a rousing game of musical chairs, you lose.

REMEMBER YOUR AUDIENCE: Junior high ministry is about them, not you. The lessons you teach need to speak to the world junior highers find themselves navigating. Teach them what they want/need to learn, not what you want/need to teach. Likewise, your games need to be age appropriate and conscientious of the developmental stage and insecurities of young teens. Games that are overly competitive, overly physical and have the potential to be overly embarrassing are best avoided.

IF YOU WOULDN’T DO IT WITH PARENTS IN THE ROOM, DON’T DO IT! Would you tell that story in the lesson if parents were there? Would you make such a strong proclamation or manipulate your students toward a desired response as aggressively if a handful of moms and dads were sitting in the crowd? No? Then don’t do it in their absence. Would you play such an outrageous game if parents were present? Would it be as gross, edgy, dangerous, etc? No? Then pass.

What would you add to the list of “rules” that apply both to lessons and to games?