(This is a partial repost from “Advent Awesomeness” at www.gripofgrace.com by my dear friend, Jana Snyder)

Festival of Lights – that just sounds like a fun title, doesn’t it? I love white Christmas lights – some may think they’re boring but for me – the white ones are my favorite. I don’t think my neighbors agree since they are all about the colored ones. That’s okay – we all have our own preferences.

Anyway – I love Christmas for so many reasons; one of my favorite is the lights. I think one of the best inventions was the icicle lights! Okay, and the bush covering lights! And the hanging star lights! Guess I am just a sucker for lights.

Take some time with your family-small group-youth kids and do your own little festival of lights tour. Drive around your community and look at the lights. It will be a fun activity, but also who knows it may even become a family Advent tradition! Play Christmas music in car while you enjoy your little Festival of Lights Tour.

From Stephanie: Kick it up a notch and give a “thank you” and an “invitation to Christmas Eve Worship” to each house’s family. The thanks will be greatly appreciated by the people who worked so hard to set it all up.

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1. Fatigue can result in poor leadership decisions. This season, get some rest!

2. The nagging feeling that we may have given up too early on that one high maintenance kid.

3. Overload leads to taking short cuts and doing what’s easy rather than doing what is best (or right).

4. Sometimes we’re tempted to skim in our spiritual lives since people really don’t know if we skip our personal devotions.

5. We can take criticism personally and use it as a club to beat our self up.

6. We believe the lie that our ministry is the most important one in the church. We become territorial and build high walls around youth ministry within the church.

7. Insecurities and fears feed one another until they’re consuming. While cocooned, we rest on our laurels, refuse to take risks, and become satisfied with the way things are.

8. Our drive to be faithful and grow the ministry can move us from honest persuasion to manipulation.

9. We feel like unsung heroes, wallow in self pity, and then feel guilty for having a need to be affirmed.

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Begin the NEW YEAR with a FRESH START and accept
God’s invitation to a great life.

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10. We get confused or indignant when other leaders seem to love the ministry as much as we do.

11. We let success feed the self-deception that says, “I did this on my own power…or…I can do this on my own power.”

12. The pressure to perform and please others distracts us from trusting God.

Christmas is a great time to step back and remember the important things in life: God’s love for us is unchanging, uncompromising, and unconditional. He loves our students more than we do and is working within to draw us closer



POLL: Christmas Bonus?

 —  December 4, 2010 — 8 Comments

Are you getting a Christmas bonus this year from your church? Vote in this week’s poll! As for me … no bonuses at Saddleback. In previous places of ministry, the Christmas bonus/offering was an unexpected and wonderful gift. How about for you?

JG

I am still somewhat new at this whole being a Youth Pastor thing and because of that I am still learning as I go about some of the ‘nuts and bolts’ of what its all about. One thing that has been on my heart is providing places and spaces for students to invite their pre-Christian friends to. But I found on at least a few occasions, I was ill prepared to reap the harvest and likely missed a great opportunity. A great example would be our Flashmob event that we held last spring, the students hyped it, we planned for everything, they brought their friends, in fact we saw a nearly 50% increase in students at the event, but I was not prepared to handle that. In light of this, here are a few things I am wrestling with:

Make it manageable: We only get one chance to make a first impression, and if someone is an invited guest in the Church, I would like to make that experience the best I can. If we host an outreach event with many new students, there is a chance they could not be personally welcomed, they might feel awkward and this could be the last time they set foot in the door. Our Flashmob event taught me a great lesson that I need to take an active role in greeting those new students so that they do feel welcomed. If you plan and event so that students can bring 10 friends each to, and they do, you might be doing more harm than good.

Unleash your leaders: If you don’t have a welcome and greeting team, you need one! This is the best way to meet students when you cannot do it themselves. This is one of the most important front line ministries; they are the friendly face of the Youth Group. Our greeting team has a ’20 questions’ form they hand out with questions ranging from contact info, to Bieber or Timberlake to Pancakes or Waffles. These questions are quite strategic in quickly finding if they are from a Christian home, if they are skater kid or a “Lightsaber kid” with apologies to Josh, these are the pseudo dorky 8-10th grade boys that grab the coat rack and pretend it’s a Lightsaber. The purpose is to find a small group that they will thrive and make meaningful connections with students with similar interests. On the first night they are there, they will meet at least 3 core students, their new small group leader and myself.

Learn their name: There is nothing more valuable that learning a student’s name, it says to them that they belong and that they are memorable. All that contact information we get from outreach events is entered into our database; they are added on Facebook that night, invited into our student ministry FB group and added to our SMS blasts each week. Once they accept a friend request, we print a copy of their Facebook profile pic, put in on the wall in my office and the next time I see that student, at their school or at Youth, you better believe I will do everything I can to remember their name.

Planning an event is easy, engaging, welcoming and retaining the student influx of students is the difficult part, it takes teamwork, intentionality, hard work and diligence. Otherwise, these events will be attendance spikes that will have little long-term value. If your objective is for big numbers at one off events that is one thing, but if your goal is creating more disciples, be prepared that when you cast your net, it might come back full.

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. You can, too! See how right here.



The Landing Promo Video

 —  December 2, 2010 — 1 Comment

A little promo video for The Landing that we’ll use this weekend during the countdown. Don’t know what The Landing is? Details here.

JG

I cannot confirm or deny this rumor…BUT on occasion over the course of my 30 Christmas seasons in youth ministry, I may or may not have arrived to the time of the annual youth holiday soiree with a spirit of joy!

Oh not the kind you’re thinking I must mean. Au contraire! No, it may have been the joy of knowing that this is the final step before the annual “Thank goodness! I have a two-week break from these crazy kids/parents/volunteers.”

In that vain, there have been Christmases where I was too tired to plan more than a fun night. Creating anything meaningful, much less the setup, was beyond my fatigue-ridden capabilities.

Is that you this season? Fight it! Don’t succumb! Push through!

The stakes are too high. Your students know that these four weeks are about something greater. They can smell it in the air. Don’t take that anticipation away by never delivering what they really need: a baby who changes everything.

How to deliver the 1-2 holy-day punch? Stay tuned over the next few days and I’ll do the Christmas message creating for you.

You can do this!

Stephanie



The team over at Youth Ministry 360 has posted a great free resource you may want to use this Christmas season in your youth ministry. You can grab it right here and here’s a description of the freebie:

The Christmas story is one that is probably very familiar to your students. We have to make sure that this type of familiarity doesn’t lead them to miss the wonderful truths contained in the account of Jesus’ birth. Through this lesson, your students will look closer at the details of the Christmas account, but will also see the various approaches to Jesus represented by the specific people mentioned in the story: the shepherds, the magi, and King Herod. Your students will be challenged to examine how they see each of these different “reactions” represented in the world in which they live.

And be sure to check out their resource store as well if you like the stuff they provide for free.

JG

There is a dark and uncomfortable reality to leadership that never makes it into the glossy brochure. It is my least favorite aspect of leadership and one that no one likes to talk about in anything but the abstract. That reality is this: Leadership can be crushingly lonely.

The ministry that I lead is in the midst of challenges. Energy is lagging. Momentum is a fondly remembered feeling. Attendance has lagged. Leaders are tired. Pressure is mounting. Everyone is looking to me to re-energize the team, kick start a new momentum swing, bring new people in the door, excite leaders and alleviate all of the pressure. That is a lonely and challenging place to be.

Loneliness, whether real or imagined, can be discouraging, alienating and destructive. It’s up to us to determine how to handle it. James starts his letter with an unbelievable exhortation: Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. This is one of those verses that’s far easier to think about or ponder than apply. Often in the depths of loneliness, all you can do is trust God to apply it for you.

Leadership is great when everything is going well but gets lonely blindingly fast when challenges are introduced. For those who have led, you know that challenges get introduced after about .14 nanoseconds and so loneliness can set in pretty quickly. You strive to lead well through the good times and challenges both but as a sinful being, you can only do so much. Those that you’re leading seem to believe that you have unlimited resources, energy and ideas. You can continue the facade or admit that you’re broken, limited and human. Either way, the decision is yours and that’s a lonely place to be. Consider it pure joy, though, because those you lead will test your faith and produce perseverance in you. The perseverance that it takes to lead will make your faith mature and complete.

The flip side of this is our own relationship with those who are leading us. We often expect them to intrinsically know when we’re struggling and need help. Those that are leading you, though, are stretched themselves and can only do so much. You expect them to have the answers and feel a deeper loneliness when they don’t offer them. You feel lonely when they issue challenge instead of encouragement. You feel lonely because you’re scared to admit your own inadequacy to them. You feel lonely because you’re doing to them the exact thing that those you’re leading do to you. You expect your leaders to have all of the answers and solutions just like those you’re leading expect you to solve every problem. Consider it pure joy, though, because following will also test your faith and produce perseverance in you. The perseverance it takes to follow will make your faith mature and complete.

Leading is hard and oftentimes lonely. You think that people will line up to encourage and applaud you but that quickly forming line is often full of people with more problems, more complaints and more needs. Even with these challenges, leadership is a deep and holy calling. Stay the course. Finish the race. Consider it pure joy for it’s making your faith mature and complete!

Buz is a special education teacher who passionately loves his ladies (wife and 2 daughters). They live in Spokane, Washington and you can check out his blog right here.