Have you ever been in an argument where you noticed that you weren’t really listening to the other side because you were too busy thinking of your rebuttal? I know I have. I have also noticed that in ministry sometimes I am working hard to form a solid reasoning for why a student should do “something” that I don’t always here what they really are saying. I have found, especially with girls, that you have to really hear what they are saying to understand them. (I mean that in the best way possible!!)

Here’s 3 things I do to help me really listen better:

1. Find a good location. If I am in the youth room and there are other students around I can’t hear anything but words. I feel so ADHD in the youth room. I see people sitting alone or notice someone who hasn’t been in awhile…I am easily distracted. One Christmas party, a student walked into the room right to me and was crying. SHE WAS CRYING AND TALKING at me…and in all honesty all I could think was we are suppose to start the santa relay game right now. Luckily, she said something about her parents that triggered my attention back to her. I asked another volunteer to run the game and took the student out of the room to talk. Finding a quiet place with no people is huge for me when it comes to really listening. Included in finding a good location is forgetting about the other locations and focusing just on this student in this moment.

2. Notice the “feeling” statments. Try to get pass the details of the situation and listen for statements that indicate their feelings. Girls (myself included) can get lost in the details of a story- because we assume that if you know the details you will understand the feelings but that just isn’t the case. Don’t be afraid to stop a story and ask the girl what she is feeling. “How do you feel about that?” May be a funny humor “bit” but it can get to the heart of the situation quickly.

3. Listen for your role. Excuse my overgeneralized gender statements…but sometimes girls just need to vent and they don’t nessecary need a game plan for dealing with the situation. And sometimes guys just need to come up with a game plan:)! They probably need more from you than a safe place to vent but listen first to see if they already know the help they need. Sometimes, it’s a confirmation of a decision or intervention for a friend. LIkely, they have come to you because they need you…they might need you to speak wisdom into the situation but first give them a chance to resolve it with your help.

I am still trying to learn to be a better listener, I have a long way to go… What tips do you use when listening to students, especially girls?

I’m not even sure how to start this off, so I’ll jump right in. I’m a youth pastor at a church of a few hundred people. Our youth group is maybe 45 students (depending on if the Redskins are playing that Sunday night). I’ve been struggling recently with one BIG thing… FAILURE…and it seems to be infiltrating many areas of ministry.

Here’s my issue: I read blogs and check in on other churches/youth groups to see what they’re up to, what is working and what is not. Then, I start becoming envious of what they have or how many students they attract. I understand that some of this is insecurity, I get that, but I cannot be the only one who feels this way.

One of the things I am lacking… VOLUNTEERS!!! I am always on the lookout for potential volunteers, but I feel as if they want only want to help out when it is convenient for them. I have 2 full-time volunteers (and one is my wife!) and about a handful of parents who chaperone trips. Because I lack volunteers, I feel as if I’m not leading effectively, which in my eyes has failure written all over it! Don’t get me wrong…I LOVE what God has called me to do, but sometimes I really question if the feelings of failure are God’s way of telling me to move on.

To add icing on the cake, I live in one of the richest areas in America. These students have “everything” they could ever want. My mind tells me that the students thought process goes a little something like this: “Why do I need Jesus? I mean, I’ve got a Beemer, all the new technology, and basically anything else I could ever want. What is Jesus going to give me?” Here in lies another one of my problems. I begin to think that I’m failing because I’m short-changing Jesus. I’m putting Him on a leash and saying, “You can only go this far before I’m going to pull you back in.” So, I’m looking for some thoughts. Honesty is my thing. My students know that every time I speak it’s going to be from the heart. So I’d love to hear yours.

This guest author has requested his/her name be withheld. Help them out with a comment!



Journaled a little bit last week about pastoral care – how we’re called to care for the wounds of the students that have been entrusted to us as youth workers. In the setup we’re launching soon, we’ll have a 3-pronged approach to helping students with the hurts in their lives. Here’s the breakdown:

Small group leaders
One of the most effective groups of pastoral care volunteers in our ministry are the small group leaders. Students that have taken a step beyond the entry-level program of the weekend service come to experience being known, loved and cared for. When they have a problem (or a celebration, for that matter) they most often turn to “their pastor” – a title we’ve quick to award these amazing leaders. The majority (that part isn’t represented well in my Moleskin drawing above, sorry) of struggles and issues are addressed personally and directly here.

Pastoral care volunteers
This is the area where we have a great opportunity to build, we don’t have this yet so I’m talking in more ideal than real. What if there was a team of adults who pray for, counsel, guide and respond to students in need? If a student doesn’t have a small group leader, or needs more than what that leader can provide, we have a response. When a student is looking for prayer on the weekend, there’s a place for them to go. When they finally get up the nerve to call or Facebook, someone is quick to respond back.

The Landing (check out this program in detail here)
On the other end of the spectrum there are kids dealing with major life issues perhaps considered to be “above the pay grade” of the care team or their small group leader. And while we hope leaders know they can take on anything, we want to offer a program with specifically trained and called volunteers who’ve “seen it all” and can help coach and love these students through recovery. That’s where The Landing comes into play – a Celebrate Recovery for students that is available every Friday night of the year.

How do you care for students? Just thinking out loud today – hoping it triggers and idea to care for your students, too!

JG

This week’s poll question: how often do you use video teaching in your youth ministry?

JG



I’ve enjoyed Marko’s post on the now-infamous USA Today article on the decline of youth ministry as we know it. Here’s a clip of the original editorial content that has spurred on some interesting reactions by youth pastors around the country:

“Bye-bye church. We’re busy.” That’s the message teens are giving churches today.

Only about one in four teens now participate in church youth groups, considered the hallmark of involvement; numbers have been flat since 1999. Other measures of religiosity — prayer, Bible reading and going to church — lag as well, according to Barna Group, a Ventura, Calif., evangelical research company. This all has churches canceling their summer teen camps and youth pastors looking worriedly toward the fall, when school-year youth groups kick in.

“Talking to God may be losing out to Facebook,” says Barna president David Kinnaman.

“Sweet 16 is not a sweet spot for churches. It’s the age teens typically drop out,” says Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, which found the turning point in a study of church dropouts. “A decade ago teens were coming to church youth group to play, coming for the entertainment, coming for the pizza. They’re not even coming for the pizza anymore. They say, ‘We don’t see the church as relevant, as meeting our needs or where we need to be today.’ “

I think they’re are quite a few potentially valid responses and perspectives to this article:

  • Our youth ministry numbers are up. The whole thing is bogus!
  • Our youth ministry numbers are down. I have a valid excuse when the elders pin me down next time!
  • Really? Facebook is the reason students don’t do to church anymore? Wow.
  • Yes! What can youth ministry do to become relevant again?
  • What’s wrong with a little pizza every now and then?
  • What are we doing to go after lost sheep?
  • Are camps truly a thing of the past?
  • How is your youth ministry known/positioned in your community?
  • So go the adults, so go the youth ministry.
  • What can we do to streamline our youth ministry to fit into the busyness?
  • USA Today’s readership is down, so they’re dragging everyone else down with them.
  • If the students are on Facebook, are we?
  • Does Barna know what they’re talking about anymore?

So … let’s hear what you think. What’s your response after you read the whole article on USA Today?

JG

Fun little post here I really enjoyed – noticing the similarities of the KJV Bible translation and the way Yoda speaks. Made me laugh! I grew up with that translation, so when I quote a verse from memory it almost always includes some these and thous!

I almost laughed out loud when I had the thought that it sounded like Yoda. It was then that I realized Yoda sounds more like King James English than modern-day English. Then I found out that many Star Wars fanatics believe that George Lucas based Yoda’s dialect off of the King James Bible. So, I decided to put together this list…

Thanks for D Miller for the link!

JG



Loved this post over on Junior High Ministry, some good stuff about how to stay energized and get filled back up after pouring out ministering to students. Here’s a clip, worth heading over there (and more importantly putting some of it into practice) for the read:

* Get rid of the monster: If I have something non-fun or conflict oriented that I must do, I do it within the first hour of being in my office. I get rid of that big, looming monster so I can move on to more life-giving things.

* Administer the positive pep-talk: As I am going over the mission trip contributions or editing my summer camp manual, I say to myself (usually out loud) “This is all for the kids! Because you’re doing this, it’s going to be a better experience for the kids!” It may sound cheesy, but it works for me– I remind myself that it all blesses the kids in the end.

* Get out of the office: Many of us could be busy in our offices for days at a time– it takes being intentional to break out of that administrative grind and be with kids. As I look at my weeks, I make sure there are multiple one-on-ones with students, football games, musicals or lunches in school cafeterias. Even if it’s just a couple hours away, it refreshes my spirit and enables me to do the stuff that doesn’t.

JG

What really energizes me

 —  August 17, 2010 — 1 Comment

Posted by Heather Flies

When I think of all the things I do throughout an “average” day of ministry, there are things that energize me and things that suck energy right out of me. When I first started in ministry, I did a fantastic job of avoiding those energy-sucking things. Budgets, van reservations, calendar descriptions, and vision-planning meetings got pushed off so I could hang out with students and until my boss had sent me the second email reminder. I ended up creating more stress and more work for myself– and became even more bitter toward all those elements of my job.

I don’t want you to think I have been healed of my administrative/non-gifting avoidance disease, but I have figured out some practical steps to keep me sane… and employed.

* Get rid of the monster: If I have something non-fun or conflict oriented that I must do, I do it within the first hour of being in my office. I get rid of that big, looming monster so I can move on to more life-giving things.

* Administer the positive pep-talk: As I am going over the mission trip contributions or editing my summer camp manual, I say to myself (usually out loud) “This is all for the kids! Because you’re doing this, it’s going to be a better experience for the kids!” It may sound cheesy, but it works for me– I remind myself that it all blesses the kids in the end.

* Get out of the office: Many of us could be busy in our offices for days at a time– it takes being intentional to break out of that administrative grind and be with kids. As I look at my weeks, I make sure there are multiple one-on-ones with students, football games, musicals or lunches in school cafeterias. Even if it’s just a couple hours away, it refreshes my spirit and enables me to do the stuff that doesn’t.

* Surround yourself with people who ARE energized by the things you’re not: I don’t know what I would do without Amy’s efficiency with Excel spreadsheets! I love to see how Rick is energized by correcting essays for our 9th grade doctrinal class! It’s the Body Of Christ 101– God created us to be energized by our gifts– let people use their gifts and learn from them!

If I lived in a perfect ministry world, I would spend all my days floating on the Lazy River with kids at the water park, cheering at hockey games, and enjoying Coldstone with a struggling kid… but ministry is more than just those things and I want to be a well-rounded minister!