I read a really cool post about tweet popularity on the New York Times website. When someone from Twitter headquarters tried to find out why some tweets are more popular than others he was surprised at what he found.  The most popular tweets were not Bieber Tweets or Gaga Tweets, they weren’t Tweets from movie stars or sports figures.  This guy found that the Tweets that soar through the twittersphere most are messages from Christian leaders.

Check out the post and what he found here.

Are you on Twitter? Who are your favorites?

Super excited about summer camp this year – CIY (Christ in Youth) is running our summer camp this year using speakers on video and lessons they’ve been creating this past year. And while we’ll get to experience it this summer from them – they’ve also taken their lessons from the event and packaged them into a new resource from Simply Youth Ministry called Anything But Ordinary: When Heaven and Earth Collide. Here’s a clip from the product description on the site:

Few teenagers dream of being ordinary. They seek to be significant, remarkable, memorable. They seek to lead lives that matter. Fortunately, Jesus set the standard in being anything but ordinary.

In this five-week series, veteran youth workers Brad Tate and Chase Allcott will engage your students in thought-provoking conversations about several unforgettable moments from the life of Jesus—moments that demonstrated how lives changed every time heaven and earth collided.

When do heaven and earth collide in the lives of your teenagers? When Jesus becomes real in their lives and in this world. When they become followers of Jesus, not just fans of Jesus. When they obey Jesus’ words about community and surround themselves with other people building God’s kingdom. When they fully allow God to define their lives and their hearts. When they minister and serve now, instead of waiting until they’re older.

JG



One of our incredible Life Group Leaders put together a final few week of small group with his guys that was truly incredible. First, he wrote 24 Thoughts for Graduating Seniors – a final hit list of things he wanted them to know as a man and as someone who was finished with High School.

Beyond that, he planned a parent beach bonfire night where dads wrote letters to their sons that was incredible powerful as well. Terry is a great leader and after seeing his notes I asked if I could share them here on the blog – felt like it would be a win for others to read and maybe something other small group leaders could rip-off or adapt for their guys as well. Here’s a link to part 1, and part 2 below:

7.) Treat others like you want to be treated

Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. -John 15:12

8.) Friends are a BIG deal

Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falls; for he hath not another to help him up.

One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. -Proverbs 12:26

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. -Proverbs 13:20

Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” -1 Corinthians 15:33

9.) The next few choices and decisions are a BIG deal

When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that is in itself a choice.

We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer. -Proverbs 16

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. -Jeremiah 29:11

PRAY – PRAY – PRAY – LISTEN – LISTEN – LISTEN – SEEK OTHERS

10.) When you fall – get back up

“Even if good people fall seven times, they will get back up. But when trouble strikes the wicked, that’s the end of them.” -Proverbs 24:16

Why do we fall, sir? So that we might learn to pick ourselves up. IBM Story of leader who lost $3,000,000

When Thomas Edison was interviewed by a young reporter who boldly asked Mr. Edison if he felt like a failure and if he thought he should just give up by now. Perplexed, Edison replied, “Young man, why would I feel like a failure? And why would I ever give up? I now know definitively over 9,000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work. Success is almost in my grasp.” And shortly after that, and over 10,000 attempts, Edison invented the light bulb.

11.) Take time to review and look forward every New Year

  • Set Your Priorities
  • Set Some Goals
  • ALWAYS have something to accomplish

12.) Remember it is good to celebrate

Find things to celebrate.  Little things, big things.

JG

I was born in the eighties. As a result, I grew up playing the original nintendo entertainment system. Shout out to that orange duck hunt zapper. Well, as any good eighties kid knows, there was a secret code that worked on many games that could, if inputed correctly, help you get a leg up on your game completion.

“Up, up, down, down, b, a, b, a, select, start” was known as the “Konami code”. It could grant everything from extra lives to extra energy to extra power ups. But, no matter what this cheat code gave you, there was one thing you always gained: progress.

One of the things that I love so much about taking students to summer camp (or any other kind of extended retreat) is that it allows you to leap ahead in your relationships with students. Lots of time spent together + fun + late night talks = earned trust. Earned trust = relational progress. Relational progress = the ability to speak into a teenager’s life.

I’ve been taking students to camp since 1999. Holy cow! 13 years! I’m old! Here are a few “cheat codes” that I’ve discovered along the way to help you leap forward in your relational progress.

One Hour- As human beings, we naturally gravitate toward certain people. In ministry, this usually works itself out as spending more time with a few select people than with others. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But youth ministry has the deck stacked against this natural behavior. Lots of teenagers are already fighting a battle against a world that wants them to think that nobody likes them. The last thing that we want, is for them to go through camp (or any ministry activity) feeling invisible or unloved. At the beginning of your time together, figure out with each student in your cabin or group a time during the week that you can spend one hour together. Of course this is only appropriate for same gender pairings and in public places. Above reproach! You’d be surprised what one hour of your focused attention can give a student.

Shuffle Meals- This goes along with the same principle as the hour. Students will congregate with the same people all week during meals. Don’t allow yourself to follow that pattern! Mix it up! Sit at a different table of students at each meal! Start conversations with students that you wouldn’t normally. Believe me, they won’t run away while they’re stuffing their faces with corn dogs and tater tots.

Use more question marks than periods- As my former boss used to say, “Camp is for the camper.” This applies to priorities in conversations as well as activities. Ask questions to your students and then listen! Get to know them and show them you care by using your ears!

Create snapshots- I had a volunteer leader who once told me that a certain student would always “talk about the same thing” to her: a time that they had raced against each other at one of our park days. I told her that he just wanted to talk to her, but only had one thing that he could use to relate. That race! Spend your week at camp doing fun things, having late night conversations about the message, racing through the grass, and jumping from the high dive! The more memories you help create, the deeper your relationship with your students will be and the more they’ll allow you to guide them to the cross!

Josh Treece is the associate youth minister at Trinity Baptist Church in Cayce, SC. You can follow him on twitter at @joshtreece or check out his blog at www.joshtreece.com.



Back in high school I had to borrow my neighbors car to run a few errands.  As I picked up the car I asked him, “Is there anything I need to know?” He replied, “Keep your eye on the flow of traffic because the speedometer is broken.”  Being a new driver I didn’t realize how big of a deal this was until I was heading down the road passing what felt like a million cops with no clue whether or not I was speeding.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that you need every gauge on your car’s dashboard to head down the road safely.  Without it you don’t know how far and fast you are going.  You need it to track the health of the cars and when you need a tune up.

In youth ministry you need a dashboard for similar reasons, because you need to know:

What Are You Tracking?

This might be a question that makes you nervous because it brings up the numbers game; however, it’s more than that.  Knowing what you are tracking means you are keeping track of the health of your ministry.  Therefore, you need to be tracking:

Who Is Coming: Attendance is more than just a blank number, it can help us determine if we are tracking more boys than girls or more churched than unchurched.  Tracking attendance isn’t just counting bodies; it allows you to understand how you are growing.  Knowing who is coming will also shape the identity of your ministry.

Spiritual Deepening: It’s very difficult to judge a man’s heart (unless you are God); however, by tracking spiritual deepening you are looking at the ratios of teens that are showing up versus how many are going deeper.  Knowing the ratios means knowing that teens might struggle to plug into a ministry versus a small group.  This helps you understand the path you’ve laid out for them in your ministry.

Why Teens Are Coming: Tracking this question may lead to answers as simple as, “My friend brought me.” Or “My mom made me.” however, it will also show you your influence and impact in the community.  Do people know about you?  How are they learning about you?  Are you more present in certain schools, clubs or teams? Know this and you can make your impact greater.

Adult Influence: Tracking ministers might not be a difficult task because you work at a small church or there aren’t a lot of adults serving in the student ministry.  However, if you don’t track who is serving, how long they are staying, why they are leaving and how they got into ministry then you are never going to learn how to grow the number of men and women serving in your ministry.

Budget: If you want to protect or increase your budget you need to know where the money is going and even where it’s coming from.  Finances are definitely not the most appealing area of student ministry; however, it’s important.  Without God honoring stewardship it’s going to be hard to fund the movement you are trying to lead.

Whether you use certain software or a basic spreadsheet you need to be tracking the progress, growth and movement of your ministry.  With no dashboard you are essentially putting your ministry at risk of crashing and spinning out of control.  Talk to your leaders and take the time to answer the question, “What should I be tracking?”

What other aspects of ministry should we be tracking?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more about his blog Marathon Youth Ministry.

One of our incredible Life Group Leaders put together a final few week of small group with his guys that was truly incredible. First, he wrote 24 Thoughts for Graduating Seniors – a final hit list of things he wanted them to know as a man and as someone who was finished with High School.

Beyond that, he planned a parent beach bonfire night where dads wrote letters to their sons that was incredible powerful as well. Terry is a great leader and after seeing his notes I asked if I could share them here on the blog – felt like it would be a win for others to read and maybe something other small group leaders could rip-off or adapt for their guys as well. Here’s part 1:

24 things I want to leave you with!!

In less then 100 days most of you will be out of your house!!!  Life is going to change… no more curfew, no more “asking if you can do something.” You can eat all of the cookies you want for breakfast and will have a greater amount of freedom then you have ever had.  How are you going to handle it? Here are 24 things I want you to know as you leave the house, your family and our Life Group:

1) The BIBLE is filled with wisdom for living

This book will keep you from Sin or SIN will keep you from this book. God wrote down his plan for our lives.  All you need to do is READ IT (and then Apply it).

2) Be careful out there
There was once an elderly gentleman who loved playing golf. But he was almost eighty, and his vision was not very good anymore. He always had partners with him when he went out to play so they could watch his ball and tell him where it went. One day his buddies did not show up. It was a beautiful day for golf, and as he waited at the clubhouse he got more and more upset that he wasn’t going to get to play his round. Another elderly man in the clubhouse saw him and asked, “What’s wrong?” The man explained his predicament: “I was really looking forward to playing golf today. But I don’t see very well anymore, so I need someone to watch the ball after I hit.” The second man was even older than he was, but he said, “That’s no problem. I’ll be glad to ride around with you. I’ve got 20/20 vision. I can see like a hawk. You just hit the ball, and I’ll watch it fly right down the fairway.” So they went out on the first tee, and the old man hit the ball right down the center. He turned to his spotter. “Did you see it?” The man replied, “I saw it all the way until it stopped rolling.” “Well, where did it go?” The older man paused for a moment and then said, “I forgot.”

Having 20/20 vision does not always mean you can find what you are looking for!

Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. -Matthew 10:16

3) Money is the base of the problem for lots of people

Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like. Bible’s guide: 10/10/80.  Save 10%, Give 10%, Spend 80%

Whoever loves money never has enough money; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. -Ecclesiastes 5:10

For I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances may be. I know now how to live when things are difficult and I know how to live when things are prosperous. In general and in particular I have learned the secret of eating well or going hungry of facing either plenty of poverty. I am ready for anything through the strength of the One who lives within me. -Philippians 4:11-13

4) Always be a learner

It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts. Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow. NEVER STOP LEARNING.

Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance. -Proverbs 1:5

An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. -Proverbs 18:15

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. -II Timothy 3:16

5) Step up and take some risks

A man would do nothing, if he waited until he could do it so well that no one would find fault with what he has done. Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.

Parable of the Talents

To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. — Matthew 25:29, NLT

When Jean-Claude Killy made the French national ski team in the early 1960s, he was prepared to work harder than anyone else to be the best. At the crack of dawn he would run up the slopes with his skis on, an unbelievably grueling activity. In the evening he would lift weights, run sprints–anything to get an edge. But the other team members were working as hard and long as he was. He realized instinctively that simply training harder would never be enough. Killy then began challenging the basic theories of racing technique.

Each week he would try something different to see if he could find a better, faster way down the mountain. His experiments resulted in a new style that was almost exactly opposite the accepted technique of the time. It involved skiing with his legs apart (not together) for better balance and sitting back (not forward) on the skis when he came to a turn. He also used ski poles in an unorthodox way–to propel himself as he skied. The explosive new style helped cut Killy’s racing times dramatically. In 1966 and 1967 he captured virtually every major skiing trophy. The next year he won three gold medals in the Winter Olympics, a record in ski racing that has never been topped. Killy learned an important secret shared by many creative people: innovations don’t require genius, just a willingness to question the way things have always been done.

6) Always treat women well

Never miss an opportunity to tell them they’re beautiful.  Treat them like God’s Daughters!!!

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church — for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”This is a profound mystery — but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. -Ephesians 5:22-33

JG



“I’m a student, not a guru.” I love that quote from Derek Sivers’ book Anything You Want. Even after selling CD Baby, the largest seller of independent music on the web, for hundreds of millions of dollars, Sivers encourages his readers to disagree with the points in his book and to then share their points of view with him. Sivers models the leaders are learners lifestyle. Part 4 is called ‘Best Practices,’ but that’s only because “some really good ideas” isn’t nearly as marketable. So while I will share one strategy for developing a spiritual growth plan for students, understand it is just that: one strategy.

Do your homework

  • Pray for wisdom and clarity
  • Read what the Bible says about spiritual growth
  • Read what others say about spiritual growth

For a list of helpful books on the topic, click here. (appendix)

Plan with the end in mind
Part 3 in this series included a helpful definition of spiritual maturity, but it’s important to personalize yours. What does a spiritually mature student look like? Our ministry phrase “we want our graduates to not graduate from their faith” gives us a picture. We envision a college freshman, successfully navigating the temptations on campus while living with purpose and passion for Jesus. We considered what a student needs to know, feel, think, and do, and we described it in general terms under three broad categories of “knowing God,” “knowing themselves,” and “knowing their world.” Click here to download a copy. (appendix)

Put meat on those bones
Planning with the end in mind gives you a skeleton. It produces statements like “our students will know the Bible,” and “our students will pursue purity.” Those are great! But what does it look like? What do you actually want students to know, do, and feel? How do you want them to act? These questions helped us fill out our skeleton. Click here to download a copy. (appendix)

Build a roadmap to get there
Don’t stop! You’re close, but this next step is the second most important one to take. You know where you’re going, but how will you get there? My family will travel to Washington state to see family this summer, but we need to formulate a plan on how to get there. The same is true with discipleship. Telling a student you want him to love God more this year is a terrific goal, but what’s the plan? This step takes more time and plenty of scrap paper. It could be frustrating, but get it done. And if after a year you decide it’s not working the way you hoped, don’t worry, because that’s where the final step comes in.

Start over
This is the most important step to take. It’s a reminder that there is no formula that guarantees success. Even if you’re doing well this year and next, don’t assume it will continue the following year. Be a student, not a guru.

Most believe in the importance of student ministry, but few have a plan to do it well. Don’t worry about building the perfect plan, just build one and rebuild or redesign as you go. Making disciples is hard work, but it’s a high calling.

Gregg Farah is the Student Ministry Pastor at Shelter Rock Church on Long Island, NY. He’s excited to be back in student ministry after his 7-year journey as a church planter in New York City. Prior to his church planting days, Gregg served as youth pastor for 9 years in the suburbs of Seattle, WA and Orange County, CA. Be sure to visit his blog for much more, including a way to help finance his new line of books he is writing!

Interesting article in USA Today this past weekend about turning off – something youth workers are notoriously poor at doing consistently. Want to get more work done? Work less. Want to be fulfilled in your job? Make it part of your life and not all of it. Want to have longevity in ministry? Get away from it every once in a while. Here’s a clip from the article, be sure head there for the rest:

Do you take your smartphone to bed because you claim to use it as a nightlight, say it’s the only alarm clock you have, or need to make sure you don’t miss a critical text?

Here’s the problem with that thinking: Now that the phone is only an arm’s reach away, it’s easy to check a few e-mails, perhaps sending off a few responses so you have one fewer thing to do tomorrow.

You’ve just stepped onto a very slippery slope that will make it difficult not to be connected 24/7. You’ve become one of those millions of workers who fire off e-mails at midnight or reach for the smartphone before your first cup of coffee every morning.

You may claim that you have to work this way because your job — or your employer — demands it.

Make sure you read to the bottom of the article for some really practical volunteer team tips, too!

JG