Even though school has not let out here in Maryland we are already in summer mode. It doesn’t mean we shut things down or fill it up with summer camps and events, we just alter our schedule. We tone down programming, keep things simple and maintain our pace. The goal in our summer is to prepare for the fall while staying in touch with the teens.

Your summers are so important. How you approach them will determine your readiness for the fall. There is a tendency by many youth ministers to either overload their schedule or completely check out. If you are going to do youth ministry for the long haul you need to treat the summer with the same focus, and attention that you do every other season. If you take advantage you’ll find yourself:

  • Building Margin: By trimming back some of the bells and whistles of your program you’ll find yourself preparing less on a week to week basis. Take that time to rest, pray and grow as a leader. When fall comes you’ll be more conditioned and ready to take on it’s grueling pace.
  • Keeping Momentum: While you want to build margin, you don’t want to completely stop what you are doing. Make sure what you do over the summer is consistent and scheduled. By maintaining a little bit of a pace you can ensure a smoother transition into fall.  
  • Taking Ministry To A New Level: With the margin your are building you can also experiment with a few activities and projects that would be too difficult to pull off in the fall. Think big and don’t fear failure. Summer is a time to cut loose.
  • Investing In Leaders: During the grind of the year it’s hard to find time to get to know your leaders. Use the margin that most people have to hang out and get to know one another. Take them out for coffee, catch a ball game or invite them over for a barbecue. Make the summer relational.

Don’t waste your summer by overplanning or completely check it out. Develop a strategy and take advantage of it’s laid back feeling. By capitalizing on the summer you’ll be more ready for the fall.

What do you do with your summers?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

 I met Brian Berry author of the new book, “Criticism Bites,” and Generation Ministries Pastor of Journey Community Church, at the SYMC conference just this year.  Brian is one of those people you hear tremendous things about in the youth ministry community and can’t wait to meet.  I was immediately engaged by his humility and some shared stories of family in ministry together.  He has a passion to see the next generation grow in their relationship with Christ.  As San Diego is a hub of the mixed suburban/urban blend Jeffrey and I have been seeing,  it seemed natural to ask Brian his thoughts on the,  “new urban,”  we have been discussing.
1. How would you define “urban youth or family?”
I would have defined Urban youth or family as someone who lives in an urban area.  Someone who likely lives within an area where owning a car is optional because most of what they do or need can either be arrived at via public transportation or is within walking distance.  In my mind, that’s what an “urban” setting is.  Essentially, those are the opposites of what makes a “suburban” community different in that things are rarely within walking distance an almost everyone owns a car or two to get them from point a to point b.  You can find both “rich” and “poor” in both urban and suburban settings, so I think that distinction is a bit of a myth.  In every city or town there are neighborhoods (and at times even floors of a building) that tend to gather the extremes of these socio-economic demographics.
2.  In today’s shifting culture we are seeking to redefine urban.  What would you if we said the “new urban youth is one living in a survival mindset?” 
I think if  “a new urban youth is one living in a survival mindset”, then I think it’s accurate to say that “everybody’s urban.”  We are all trying to survive amidst the pressures of a fast paced, ever-changing, and increasingly global world.  The days when the city had it’s news and the suburbs had theirs are gone and those lines are now blurring.  Computer technology, the cell phone, and the ability to easily travel between continents on planes and such make this a new age where cultures merge and what we have in common is easier to identify: like a survival mindset.
3. Do you have students living in survival mode in your group?  
I think every student in my ministry is trying to survive.  Even my own kids are trying to survive in a world of peer pressure, expectation for success, and assumptions about the “American Dream”.   Every student in my ministry who is from a divorced home and has to travel back and forth to 2 houses each week is in survival mode, often trying to make sure they have the right clothes and books for school at the right house on any given day.   Survival mode is the family that has recently come to faith and is now trying to fix their parenting after years of living life around a different center.  In some ways- their desperation for survival is the healthiest thing they have going for them right now- their cry for help and a savior is life-altering.
4. How would you/do you approach them?   
I think every family and student in my ministry should be approached the same way.  I try to come with a posture of listening and I’m “for you”.  Then seek to find agreements in goals and vision where their dreams are God’s dreams.  Then once agreement is reached and we both agree that what God wants for them is what they want for themselves, then that’s where we begin to work towards thriving in Jesus and not just surviving in the jungle of life.
As we continue to post these thoughts on “urban” from across the country our hope would be you are seeing a pattern emerge.  Answers are becoming consistent no matter the demographic or socio-economic status.
What are your thoughts as we explore this topic?

More about Brian:

brian berry
BRIAN BERRY is a proven veteran of student ministry. He serves as the generation ministries pastor at Journey Community Church near San Diego, California, where he works directly with the high school ministry and oversees a staff that is responsible for infants through teens. Brian is also a frequent blogger, writes and teaches for youth workers, and is the author of both As for Me and My Crazy House and Criticism Bites.  He speaks at various conferences, camps, and retreats for a variety of audiences. He is married to Shannon, and they have five kids.

Moving On

 —  May 20, 2013 — 1 Comment

Moving On

It is crazy to believe that the school year is almost over! For student leadership, we like to give our graduating seniors a big going away party, complete with a farewell/thank-you present from our ministry. Along with a few hand written notes and some other goodies, we are giving our seniors Doug Franklin Moving On.

This is the second year that we have given Moving On to our students. We love it because it is more than just a book, it is a resource. It helps students start to answer some of the big questions they have as they graduate high school and move on to the next chapter of their life. Questions like, what should I do? and what does God want me to do?

Moving On helps them answer those questions by walking them through the formula:

Burden + Passion + Vision= Mission

The students we gave the book to last year loved it so we are bringing it back for another run. If you want to pick the book up for your students, you can buy it here.

What are you giving your students for graduation?

Colton [Email||Twitter]

Last week’s poll was interesting and made me want to do a follow-up on the same subject. Spending time with Jesus every day is certainly a discipline, one that apparently many of us are faking or failing at. Vote today and help share some insight into why!



The other day, Doug Fields wrote a great post in which he mentioned four ways churches might help strengthen families:
STRONG marriages
HEALTHY leaders

And while our youth ministry isn’t tackling those four areas in a strategically defined manner, I do think we’ve taken some pretty significant steps over the past two or three years that (I hope) are serving our families well. Here are a few new things we’re doing as well as some old stuff we’re simply trying to do a little bit better:

- Worship Together Weekends: We’ve written and talked a lot about this. Once a month, we cancel our JH and HS youth programs so families can attend “big church” together as a family.

- Parent Text Messages: Both our JH and HS ministries give parents the opportunity to sign up for a text message subscription that provides all sorts of announcements, insights, etc. from our team to mom and dad.

- “Help, I’m The Parent Of….!”: We recently had our first “Help, I’m The Parent Of….” workshop and it was a huge success. “Help, I’m The parent Of a Tech-Savvy Teen” helped parents understand how to navigate the world of social media with their teenagers. We plan to do a couple such workshops each year covering different topics.

If you happen to be in the Southern California area and would like to host your own, “Help, I’m The Parent Of A Tech-Savvy Teen” email me at kurt@saddleback.com and I’ll be happy to put you in contact with the organization the put this wonderful event together for us.

- Family Activities: We are trying to put together more family events instead of events solely for teenagers. Not a ton….just a few per year. This past weekend, we had a family service in junior high and invited parents to join their junior high child for a lesson about the importance of family and a BBQ afterward.

- Better Costumer Service: This is an area I think we have taken big steps in…and we still have room to improve. We want to return emails and phone calls from parents quickly. We want to be easy to find at church. We want our communication to be timely and accurate. Trust is earned in the little things. And good customer service is a great place to start.

Doing youth ministry in a manner that serves the family well isn’t easy. And to be honest, it’s not the way I was raised to think about youth ministry which is why I’m thankful for people like Doug Fields, Kara Powell and others who are leading the charge.

minutetowinitA few years ago youth ministries were blessed with NBC’s Minute To Win It. It was a fun show but more than that it gave youth ministry nearly one hundred fresh game ideas! I have used several of these games the past 2 or so years but have wanted it to be easier to to grab a game. This week I stumbled upon a PDF file with a tone of Minute To Win It Games. Click, download, and pass on to who ever leads your game time!

light-bulb90% of my ideas are terrible. No, for real. They are really bad. What sucks is that I’m full of ideas. I’m constantly dreaming up how to tweak or completely transform our approach to student ministry. I generate so many bad ideas that my team often just tunes me out. I get the courtesy, That sounds cool with a plastic smile.  Currently I’m doing my best to convince our team that what we need is a ginormous student building with 5 attached houses. I’m telling you it’s the future for so many reasons. Someday when every church has a student building with 5 attached houses and our church missed the boat everyone will realize how innovative I am and promote me.

Here’s the thing about my ideas. While 90% of them are terrible and following them they could lead to immediate dismissal, the loss of thousands of dollars and probable hospitalization, 10% of them are genius. 10% of my ideas could potentially change the world. The trouble is that I can’t predict which ideas are in the 90% and which ideas are in the 10%. You really don’t want to guess wrong because great ideas invent the Internet and bad ideas take you to a Nickleback concert.

My guess is that whether you realize it or not, you also have more bad than good ideas. The thing is, if we could better discern the quality of our ideas we’d save ourselves and our teams a lot of grief. Nothing is more demoralizing than when the team is chasing down an idea that everyone knows is a dead end.

The good news is that somewhere along the line I stopped implementing all of my bad ideas. When? What was the big moment? It wasn’t a big moment but it was when my ideas were forced into community. When my ideas are stuck spinning within my own head almost all of them sound fabulous. However, when having to verbally explain and defend my ideas, 90% of them are revealed for what they are. Dumb. I know you’ve been there, when you realize that the words coming out of your mouth are exceeding illogical and you wish you never started talking in the first place humbling.

Within the context of community (that is well intentioned debate over the validity of ideas) my 90% was revealed to be what they were and my life and ministry was protected from stupidity. The unforeseen byproduct of submitting my ideas to community is that my good ideas were refined and became significantly more awesome. I like this idea that you call the Internets. But what if we could connect our gaming systems and play each other?  And what if you took the off it and just called it the Internet? GENUIS! You might say that in the context of community my 10% became 90% better. If you’re not strong at math I probably lost you right there. I think I lost myself.

The point is, when you have the humility to submit your ideas to your community before implementing them you will uncover the fact that most of your ideas are terrible but a few of them are genius. Failure is not the best way to learn. Realizing that an idea is a failure before failing is a cleaner and less destructive way to learn. The moral of the story is this: if you don’t have an ideas community, get one! Honest community will save you from your terrible ideas and help reveal and refine your great ones.

Aaron Buer has been a student pastor for 10 years and currently serve as a high school pastor at Ada Bible Church in Grand Rapids, MI. Read his blog here.

Last week I wrote a post called When One Student Shows to talk about the issue of when only a single student shows up and how to handle it. Let’s look at the opposite problem today.

You have just finished your running around to buy all the food and supplies you needed for tonights big event. You ran through your check-list and have the exact amount of stuff you need to make it all work. You put it all down, organized it then the students start showing up. Quickly you realize all the students your students who are suppose to show are there, but you have another 5 to 10 students (change the values for your church size).

Oh what a problem to have, we always would love to see more numbers but when this moment happens its an uh-oh kind of moment. How are you going to deal with it?

So you have too many students show up and you are suddenly confronted with their eager faces; or their my mom made me come faces. You have to snap into action to make things happen.

A few steps I think are very important to take are:

Be Welcoming
Its not the students fault you aren’t prepared, and they matter just as much as the kids who RSVP’d to the event. If you can take the student do your best to make them feel welcome and bring them into the event.

Have a chain of command
I believe that if you have the volunteers it is important to have roles defined. Make sure you have a person you can rely on to run and grab more supplies or free up a seat in a car to be able to drive (if possible)

Be ready to say no
If for some reason you can’t accept the student for that event, you just have to be able to say no. Stick to deadlines for RSVP’ing if it is a major event that requires pre booking or lots of transportation. But don’t leave it there, be ready to be able to answer that student or parent why they cannot attend

Plan ahead
In my ministry there have been times when too many students have shown up and I get frustrated. I think to myself why can’t they just RSVP?, but I knew there was a good chance extra students might have come. So I have had to think hard about certain events. Well extra people might attend this one, so I make sure each vehicle going has an extra seat so we can fill those up if need be.

Maybe this isn’t an issue for your ministry, for others this can be a huge issue because of budget, number of volunteers or venue space. But one thing we can all learn from too many students is how we deal with people. Could this even be too many ministry volunteers? (In my dreams).

Kyle Corbin has been serving youth as a volunteer or pastor for over 10 years. He is currently the youth pastor at the Bridge Church in North Vancouver B.C. You can follow his blog at: kylecorbin.blogspot.com or Twitter: @CorbinKyle