“Nothing.”  It’s the answer we spoke of  when some students are asked what they want to be when they grow up.   Not,  “I don’t know,” or  “I’m figuring it out.”  ” Nothing.”

The other answer we often get from students who are stuck in this place of survival are,  “Professional athlete,  singer, model, actress.”  Recently one of the smartest young women in my ministry pulled me aside to tell me a secret.  “I have applied to colleges, however,  I don’t think I am going to go.  Instead I am going to pursue my dream of  being on American Idol.”    I never tell students these type of dreams are “unattainable,” instead I ask what steps they are going to take to make it happen.  She had no plan.  As a matter of fact when I pressed her it was fear of failing, of being the first generation to go to college in her family,  of financial aid not coming through that caused her to back out of her college aspirations.  I said,  “You know you can go to college and get to American Idol too. ”    This is a variation of something I have witnessed many times.  There are two extremes that equal the same answer: No dream.  This time you put something out there that is so big you know you won’t really attain it.  So whether you answer “nothing” or the “big thing” you never believe anything will really happen.

SAM_0119

When your hope has been deferred or “put on hold,” you forget what dreaming feels like.  Perhaps you are afraid to dream at all.   The exciting piece of Proverbs 13:12 is that “Dreams fulfilled are a tree of life.”   This is a picture of the cross and resurrection.  In other words Christ is how we overcome a sick heart.  He is the reason we can dream.  He is the hope.  The problem is how do we best help students who want “nothing” to understand it isn’t about “something,”  but the “one thing” that will renew and bring relationship.

Where can we start?

Truth: Students are hungering for the truth.  They want to wrestle with the hard stuff.  They want to know beyond our opinions of life,  but also who Christ is,  really. What does this mean to their everyday?

Time:  They want our time.  They want time to ask questions.  They spell love T.I.M.E.  In a hurried world,  where everything is pushed aside our students are looking for us to slow down,  and take “time” with them.   It is also our responsibility to understand that “TIME” means something different to the Lord than to us.  (Remember the whole day is like a thousand years and visa versa to God?)  We must  believe always He is at work in a heart whether we SEE it with our eyes or not.  Jesus is working his concept of  “time,” to move past hopelessness.

Trust:  We live in a society where it is hard to know who we can rely on.  Teaching a student why they can trust Jesus is huge.  This means letting them know sometimes we can make mistakes,  but HE is always trustworthy.  The Lord isn’t one person on Facebook,  another on Twitter and then there is the “real” God.  He is always the same,  and there is freedom in that.  Yet, they need to learn WHY?

Teach:   Bring the WORD before students and help them learn how the Lord is talking to them there.  It may mean starting with “what” the Bible even is.  That is fine. Take it word by word if necessary.  However,  never be afraid to teach students exactly who Christ is and where they can come to learn about Him.

“Nothing” is not an option when it comes to Jesus.  He has an amazing plan and purpose with dreams fulfilled.  However,  it can’t be done on our own.  That is why it is important our students know a “dream fulfilled”  is only ever truly in Christ.

What do you feel helps students to understand hope deferred can be moved to Jesus?

 

 

 

 

 

As my high school group of guys have grown older I’ve noticed the amount or responsibilities and conflicts in schedule have grown.  Because our groups meet every Thursday night it’s easy for them to miss a week here and there.  However, as the obstacles and alternate opportunities grow their attendance starts to falter.  They tell me they love being their; however, they are just so bogged down with:

  • School Work
  • Sports Practice
  • Responsibilities At Home

I’m sure this list could continuously go on for many of you and that your groups face similar challenges.  The key to keeping the group strong is to enable it to grow outside of your allotted time.  That means connecting with teens multiple times during the week in a variety of ways.

That might seem fine to you; however, overwhelming to your volunteers. If you introduce that idea to them there might be push back or reluctance, and that’s okay.  You just need to help and show them how to grow outside the designated time.  To do that:

  • Give Leaders An Out – From time to time give your small group leaders permission to do something outside of the usual time or agenda.  Because time is so valuable allow them to sacrifice a night of the “usual youth ministry” to do something different.  Challenge them to embark in a service project instead of discussing service.  Encourage them to do something social that will build camaraderie.  Give them permission “to play”.
  • Extend An Invitation - Many leaders might not know where to start when it comes to investing in their group outside the weekend.  Invite them to join you when you are heading out to a game (Where their teens might be present) or on an outing your group might be planning.  By extending an invitation you are leading by example. 
  • Set Them Up For Success - On top of extending an invitation to join you equip them with resources that will help them connect with teens outside the group.  That might mean training them on social media etiquette, or giving them the tools for planning a night of laser tag.  As the youth minister of your church you have a wealth of resources and knowledge that your volunteers need access.  

The more a group can grow outside of the weekend or it’s usual time the stronger it will become.  It will teach the teens how to build relationships outside of a youth ministry setting.  It will also build confidence in your leaders because they’ll feel like they have ownership.  When your leaders are motivated to lead outside the group it extends your capacity to be present in the community.

How do you help your volunteers connect with teens outside the designated time?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)



http://vimeo.com/32275339

A buddy told me about some success he was having in his spiritual life using a new service called goTandem. It isn’t simple to explain, so I put the video above in this post to show you more. Seems like should be some good uses for this in youth ministry. Just throwing it out there – looks interesting!

JG

The Basics

 —  February 25, 2013 — Leave a comment

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The best coaches, the most effective teachers, and the strongest leaders all know this truth: If you want to build something that endures, you have to start with the basics.
That idea applies to our spiritual journey, too. The Basics will help students explore, discuss, and apply some of the core truths of the Christian faith. The truths in this series aren’t called “basic” because they’re childish or simplistic; they’re “basic” because they’re foundational and essential to leading a life that honors God.
Each week, your teenagers will explore key Scriptures that relate to these topics, discuss the significance of each biblical truth, and consider how it relates to their lives today.
The Basics is ideal for students who have recently become Christ-followers or for teenagers who are exploring the claims and truths of the Christian faith—but students who’ve been followers of Jesus for years will benefit, too.
This DVD-based curriculum covers four topics:

  • Start Here: Salvation [08:13]
  • The First Step: Baptism [05:29]
  • Remembering the Past and Looking Forward: Communion [06:50]
  • Keep Moving Forward: Next Steps [07:14]

You’ll get tons of helpful materials to help you use the curriculum, including discussion guides, promotional materials, and more. All of the resources are editable and reproducible, so you can tweak away and infuse them with your ministry’s unique personality!

 

Order The Basics here!

 

About the Author:

Joshua Griffin is the high school pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. While he’s given up on his dreams of winning American Idol and running seven marathons in seven days, he remains committed to the dream of seeing teenagers passionately live out their faith.

-Stephanie



One of the books that I have been recommending a lot to students recently is “Rick Warren’s Bible Study Methods” by… Rick Warren. In the book, Rick gives 12 different ways for us to dig into scripture. It is the perfect book for a student who wants to switch things up with their time in the Bible. The methods are:

1. Devotional- Meditate on a short piece of scripture and then find a personal life application for it.

2. Chapter Summary- Read a chapter of the Bible at least five times and then write down your thoughts about it.

3. Character Quality- Pick a character trait that you would like to have/grow in, then look at and study what the Bible says about it. Find out how you can apply that to your life!

4. Thematic- This is one of my favorites! Start by picking some theme of the Bible and write down a few questions you have about them and try to answer them by looking up the theme in various areas of the Bible.

5. Biographical- Choose a character from the Bible and read all that you can about them. Take notes about their traits and character and see how you can apply them to your own life.

6. Topical- Organize a list of scripture about a certain topic. Put it into an outline from that you’d be able to share with another person.

7. Word Study- Choose an important word from the Bible and see how it is used and how many times it comes up. Go and find out what the original meaning of the word is!

8. Book Background- With the use of Bible reference books, study the historical context of a book of the Bible to understand how the history affected the meaning.

9. Book Survey- Read an entire book of the Bible several times to get a good idea on what the book is about and then study the background of the book and take notes.

10. Chapter Analysis- Take a careful look at one particular chapter of the Bible. Take it apart word-by-word, verse-by-verse.

11. Book Synthesis- After you’ve used the Book Survey Method and the Chapter Analysis Method on every chapter of the book, summarize the contents and the main themes of a book.

12. Verse Analysis- Select a passage of Scripture and examine it in detail by asking questions, finding cross-references, and paraphrasing each verse. Record a possible application of each verse you study

I love this book because there is really something in here for everyone, no matter if they are in high school or seminary! Each method is unique in its approach and in its complexity. The methods are organized from simple to complex, so I usually advise that students start in the front and work their way back. So far, students have loved this book! It has helped many of them get out of their quiet time “slumps” because it shakes up the way that they have gotten used to looking at scripture. It is perfect for a student that is looking at taking their time in the Bible to the next level!

Some people that often hit “slumps” are college freshmen. This could be a really great gift for some of your recent graduates!

What is a resource that you have been giving your students recently?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Director at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at coltonharker@gmail.com or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.

 

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Ministry is such a rewarding experience, but why does it create so much strain on marriages?
Jake and Melissa Kircher have learned some valuable lessons (often the hard way!) about building a healthy marriage amid the demands of ministry. They aren’t perfect, but they’ve matured individually and as a couple because of each mess, problem, heartache, and obstacle they’ve encountered. They understand your struggles and frustrations, because they’re their struggles and frustrations, too.
99 Thoughts on Marriage & Ministry will help you discover advice, wisdom, and insight in five core areas:

  • Marriage Basics
  • Balancing Marriage and Ministry
  • Finances
  • The Church vs. Your Family
  • The Darker Side of the Church

Marriage can be messy, and marriage while serving in ministry is extra messy. Whether your marriage needs just a little tuneup or a major overhaul, 99 Thoughts on Marriage & Ministry will encourage both you and your spouse, and will empower you to pursue a strong, healthy marriage.

Order your copy now!

 

Meet the Authors: Jake & Melissa have been married for seven years. Their blog (holymessofmarriage.com) explores real-life issues that most marriages and relationships face. Through honesty and humor, they provide encouragement and wisdom to couples, both married and dating. Jake has been a youth pastor for 11 years and also works with We Love Our Youth Worker and REACH Youth New England. Melissa has served as a volunteer youth worker and a mentor for high school girls. She is a freelance artist and writer. They have one foster son who loves to bang on the drums.

 

- Stephanie



Disciples of Who?

 —  January 8, 2013 — 2 Comments

You thrive on life change.  That’s what makes you a youth minister.  When life is tough, all you need is that one story of a teen finding Christ.  Living out the Gospel and showing you that all the pain, hurt and junk you’ve been through is worth it.  As youth ministers it’s not always about the energy, the numbers or the accolades, it’s about connecting the teens to Christ.

But, is that what’s really happening in your ministry?  Are you seeing stories of life change for Christ or something else?  Stories of life change can happen for many reason.  As youth ministers your hope is that they happen because of a personal and public relationship with Christ.  That might be happening in your ministry, but then again you might be raising up the next generation of disciples of YOUR CHURCH or YOUR MINISTRY.

It’s a mistake that’s easy to make.  It’s a trick the evil one plays on us all.  He’ll make the ministry about you, about a program or even an activity.  With those things and people comes hype, comes excitement and again life change.  But, if the life change doesn’t point to Christ you are creating a group of disciples with shallow faith.  That means a higher chance that your teens will  walk away when they move away.

So, how do you know if you are pointing teens in the right direction?  You can start by:

  • Observing The Fruit: What path are former teens taking as they graduate high school?  Are you finding teens becoming more public and aggressive with their faith?  What you need to do is sit down with your team and determine what it looks like when a teen is truly living out his or her faith.  This comes from creating a vision for your teens and coming up with signs that indicate you are fulfilling it.
  • Getting Their Story: Have a teen write out their life story.  How is God a part of it?  Or is their life change due to people and programs?  Help them see that God is writing their story and encourage them to give Him credit.  Sometimes the reason you are creating disciples of your ministry is because of a misalignment, correct it before it goes bad.
  • Ask Them Who They Want To Be:  If you ask them “Who do you want to be?” you’ll see how their faith is influencing the vision they have for themselves.  Are they describing someone who has been shaped by the world or someone who is being shaped by their faith?  Again you can have a conversation with them that will help them see how God is shaping their future.
  • Get An Outside Perspective: Talk to parents, coaches or teachers about the life journey they’ve seen in their students.  Make sure you are connected in the community to determine the true impact your ministry is having on their growth.  Are they only “Christian” inside your ministry or are they displaying Christ everywhere they go?

In the end each of your student has a decision whether or not they are going to follow Christ.  You need to guide, influence and encourage them to focus on Christ.  While you may never have a perfect success rate, you can increase Christ’ influence by pointing them towards Him.

How do you determine who a student is following?  

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

A practice I have recently begun is writing letters to Jesus. If you’re anything like me, taking a time of silent prayer can be tough. It’s quite strange because, well, I like to talk. I think the trouble comes because sometimes prayer feels like I’m talking to myself. I’m probably doing that most of the time anyway, so it should feel normal. For some reason it can be hard to articulate thoughts and prayers to God. Though He already knows what I want to say, what I am going to say, and what I truly mean with what I’m saying. He knows more about what I am going to say than I could ever imagine. Therein lies the problem: all these thoughts run through my head and distract me from the purpose behind what I am doing.

This is where the letters come in. I write letters to Jesus to keep me focused in my time of prayer. I thank Him for things He has done in my life. I ask Him for things I want, or write questions I have for Him. I not only get to think about what I am writing, but the process of writing itself is enough to quiet my mind and allow for open communication with my creator. The purpose behind the writing is to be able to spend a significant amount of time with Jesus. Whatever it is that gets written down doesn’t really matter. It’s about spending time with Jesus in a way that allows for intimacy with Him.

There are a few huge benefits from writing a letter to God. First, it allows for reflection. You can look back on the letters of prayer that have been written and see to which ones God replied with a yes, and which ones He replied with a no. You can see how certain prayers affected your everyday living, or how the effect of a certain situation turned out. You can look back and see growth through the letters you’ve written. Another great benefit is that there is no grade. You can write whatever style, grammatical structure (or lack thereof) that you see fit. If you want to write 1000 words in one sentence or paragraph, do it! If you’re more comfortable writing in a specific style such as MLA, APA or Turabian it is entirely up to you. This is helpful because it takes away the need for perfectionism. It’s a letter to a God who created all styles, fonts, colors, types, words or anything else you could come up with; He gets it.

I chose letter format to help personalize my interaction with God. This is an excerpt from a letter I wrote, “Search my heart Lord and bring out Yourself in me. I am not, but I know I AM. Words that until recently never really sunk in. I know that I have issues with pride… This is my biggest downfall. Fortunately, you redeem, restore and renew. This means that I still must work at it, but ultimately your strength is what changes those things in me.” Being raw and genuine with the Lord has made me feel completely new, but that’s not to say writing a letter to God doesn’t come with a few challenges also.

The one challenge in my letters so far has been, “How does God respond?” Where is there room for Him to speak into it? I haven’t found the answer to that yet but, it is entirely up to Jesus. Whether He chooses to inspire you to write a specific prayer down, give you an audible answer, or miraculously type something out for you, I can’t say for sure. I can say, however, that God is in the business of answering prayers. If this can be a way for you to connect with Jesus in an intimate way as it has been for me, then that in itself is a reward worth having.

Travis Lodes is the Student Ministries Intern at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Englewood, CO. Feel free to leave comments or email him at tlodes@gmail.com.