Disciples of Who?

Chris Wesley —  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.



Hipster, valley girl, geek, jock, goth, nerd, average Joe. These are some of the labels we give some of our students. What label would you give yourself? Each one of us has a label that someone would throw on us. Myself, I would probably be the class clown.

Naturally when we tend to have a leaning we tend to fit in with a certain group of students better. Because I am a bit of a clown, I find it really easy to spend time with the “funny kids”. If a student is going to be a stand up comic, that is the kid I will gravitate towards. But what about the rest of the students? Where do they fit into our relational ministry model.

It is okay for each one of us to have a tight knit group of students we disciple. We just have to keep in mind that there are other students who need to be ministered to as well. I think there are a few solutions that we all need to find a balance with:

1. Staffing: If you are in a big ministry, it might mean hiring staff or finding volunteers with different personalities from yours. Find someone to partner in ministry who might be a geek or a valley girl. Try to cover the bases of all the types of students you have. Maybe you might not get a 1:1 ratio but you certainly will be able to be more diverse in who you are effectively ministering to.

2. This one involves you whether a large or small church context, but especially if you are the main person in your ministry. You need to find ways to connect with each of the groups of kids. Find something you can have in common, for the kid who likes comics, go to a local comic shop find one that you can at least appreciate and then talk to the student about that. For the kid who is super into music; find out who their bands are; get some music and then talk to them after you have listened to it.

What about the kid who you “just don’t get what they are all about”, have them explain it to you. Maybe they love modern art, go to an art gallery with a couple students and have them explain to you what they love about it and how to appreciate it.

The thing I have found about trying to reach out to my students this way is:

  • I connect better with them and find out how to reach them for Christ and how to help them reach others for Christ.
  • I have found some things that I enjoy that I never would have realized.

As we start a new year, perhaps its a good time to connect with students who otherwise might be less connected.

Which student are you going to connect with this year?

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

matt_mcgill_blog

My friend Matt McGill has started a new blog! If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to check out Imitating Christ. He’s expanding his range of topics for and writing for a broader audience than just youth workers. If you know McGill, you know his heart for discipleship and spiritual growth. This blog is an expression of that passion, focusing on the spiritual life and leadership. Most of his posts end with a few questions that are good for personal reflection or small group discussion.

Good stuff – be sure to check it out now and subscribe!

JG



In the last decade, huge advances in technology have allowed us to do what previous generations never thought possible. We can use it to record our favorite shows commercial-free, send video instantly to the other side of the world, or to heat and cool our homes more efficiently. One school district in my area has even used technology to replace textbooks in classrooms. That’s right. No textbooks, anywhere. Every student has a touchscreen netbook, equipped with open source software and curriculum. This departure from traditionalmethods has other districts and churches in my area watching very closely. I believe that in our ministries, we can intentionally use this available technology to teach the unchanging message of the Gospel.

In student ministry, you can use technology to help busy students stayconnected. Often times, students miss Bible study due to work, sports, and even other ministry obligations in the church. You can use Facebook chat throughout the week, Skype, the ministry website, and other Social Media to keep students informed. I work with a busy student  who uses the resources on the youth website and social media to have spiritual conversations with friends, applying what is being taught in youth group. It is truly a blessing to have an instant connection to provide help finding scripture about a certain topic or to simply pray for the situation.

So, how do you begin to implement this new learning style in teaching spiritual matters? How do you teach students to transition technology into spiritual tools? I am learning as I go, but here are some key principles to help bridge the gap from the digital to the spiritual:

1. Use tools that are cross-platform. A great example of a cross-platform tool is The Bible App from YouVersion . YouVersion is available on a wide variety of devices from desktop computers to Java-enabled “Dumbphones”. You have access to over 300 translations in 150 languages . The Bible App also has the ability to share and sync  notes, bookmarks, and highlighted passages between multiple devices. This feature is one of my favorites. You can also post Bible verses and notes to your Facebook and Twitter feeds from within the Bible App.

We also use Youversion’s Live Event platform to distribute notes and resources. Whether it is a student or parent choice, today’s teenager is incredibly overcommitted and for many, church becomes “a casualty of the calendar”. There are so many sports, clubs, and other activities that take students’ time and attention away from spiritual
growth, so ministries must be intentional about keeping students connected. The Live Event Platform is convenient because it is built into the Bible App that many of them already use. They can also go online with a computer to get the notes and keep in touch with what is happening. In today’s youth ministries, being able to get information to students who miss Bible study is very important. It’s a way you canshow that you care about their spiritual growth, regardless of whether they are able to be at church or not.

Another tool I use is our youth ministry website . It is specifically designed for use with smartphones, desktops, and tablets/iPads. The site is also designed to be a resource in connecting with the church ministry and with other available resources. Our website includes a calendar of events and Bible studies, as well as integrating Social Media. Students can also use the site to sign up for text information alerts that we send using SYM Tools . On the resource page, we provide ways for students and parents to find out more about the current and upcoming curriculum and events. There are also links to blogs, game and idea sites, and tools that can be utilized by our church and other
ministries. Staff and students also use the site as a vehicle for sharing the Gospel with a Gospel presentation video produced in-house called “the Plan” . Links to this page have been distributed by Social Media, attached to Frisbees and water bottles, and included in candy bags handed out at local events.

2. Set clear expectations. Most of the time that I have been in youth ministry, I have expected students to keep cell phones unseen and unheard. Going from a strict “no cell policy” to embracing the use of technology in the youth room has been a change I never expected. Teenagers, like cattle, need good fences; therefore, setting expectations may be the most important principle when implementing technology into your youth group.

The device and Internet should never distract you or your neighbor from Bible study. The Bible says:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. -Matthew 22:36-39 ESV

In our youth group, I set the expectation that the device is a tool to help the students gain a better understanding of the text of God’s Word. We use the technology to funnel spiritual material into their heads and hearts. I require silent ringers and notifications, no taking calls during Bible study, and no checking Facebook, etc.

3. Bring your own device. In the business world, Information Technology Administrators shudder when you mention BYOD. It can be challenging to support multiple devices in one network environment.

However, in a ministry setting, I encourage it. We have several students that bring their own iPod touch or smartphone. They use a Bible app and connect to Wi-Fi as needed. Truth be told, this is an area where my pre-youth ministry employment comes in handy. I have an IT background, so I don’t mind helping configure their devices. It
also gives me more opportunity for one-on-one interaction with each student. I am a firm believer that God never places you in a situation or job that you are not going to use later (except maybe advanced calculus).

4. Make the technology accessible. It is important to provide “hands on” opportunities for students to use technology to help enhance their Biblical literacy and spiritual growth. There is such a vast amount of Biblical resources at their fingertips. Not everyone has access to printed volumes of scripture commentary, but they are now available online, often for free.

Our church actually purchased a few Android tablets a couple of years ago. We have taken a “one device per table” approach. We have four students per table in our youth room so they can work together for research and discussion. They can pass their device once or twice and everyone can see what is on-screen.

As a ministry, you have to find what works for you and your students. For some, there may be budget limitations. You do not always have to buy new equipment. Some universities have technology auctions, where you can find some great deals. Years ago, buying new was the only way to get a warranty. Some refurbished equipment now includes a short warranty. There are also companies such as SquareTrade that offer a warranty on used equipment for a small fee.

Your church may even be in an area without reliable Internet. One option could be a Mobile Hotspot that converts a cellular signal to a Wi-Fi connection. Costs and service plans can be tailored to your usage and budget needs. Another option might be a monthly meeting someplace with Wi-Fi, such as a local coffee shop, restaurant, or church member’s home.

5. Making sure you prepare. Where I serve, we had to increase the WiFi coverage by adding additional wireless routers. We also added an open-source Linux-based server that works as a web filter and firewall for our network. There are some great options out there that will help keep your network and students safe. Some are very expensive, while others are free/open-source. You will have to find what works for you.

Another important consideration is making sure that there are enough software licenses available for antivirus packages and office suites (if needed). Software and antivirus companies all vary in how many licenses are included in the purchase price, so know what you are buying. Both office suites and antivirus packages can also be obtained
online for free. In addition, make sure that the license covers ministry/office use and not just home/personal use.

I also recommend that you secure the devices while not in use. Keeping the devices under lock and key protects the church’s investment and deters temptation. You can lock them in the church office, buy a locked cabinet, or do like I did and enlist a woodworker in the church to build a cabinet. Our cabinet has holes for charging cables and for heat dissipation.

6. Don’t give whiplash. Although there are great benefits to using technology in ministry, it can become overwhelming if it is used in every youth meeting. If you make the decision to integrate technology, it is not a point of no return. The technology should be an enhancement of what you are already doing. You can still use Bibles,
paper notes, and other methods to reach students. Teaching using a variety of methods also helps engage students with different learning styles.

The Bottom Line
No matter how much you agree or disagree with its use, the implementation of technology is only going to increase. Whether it is employed for economic, vocational/technical preparation or personal use, technology continues to change the way our students learn and spend their time. As youth workers, we have to be willing and able to
utilize newly available tools for sharing the Gospel’s message and helping our students to grow and mature into the disciples that Christ desires for them to be.

Brent Lacy serves as Youth Pastor in rural Western Indiana. He has served in rural youth ministry for 13 years. His first book, “Everyday Youth Ministry: Rural Youth Ministry: Thrive Where You’re Planted” is now available from Group/Simply Youth Ministry and on the Amazon Kindle Store. You can check out his blog at http://ministryplace.net

We just restocked our “grow booth” with a ton of resources – the most popular and one of the best we’ve ever used is Doug Fields’ 1-Minute Bible for Students. It gets students in the Word everyday and is a great tool to help teach them the disciplines of a daily quiet time. It is $14.99 … scratch that … $6.99 for a limited time (I have no idea how long, I just saw it on the site).

JG



This week we’re going to focus on some of the best practices of youth ministry nationwide and hope that it generates some helpful conversation as you agree, disagree or have no opinion either way! Right up front we want to let you know that there is no PERFECT way to do youth ministry; our hope is that you prayerfully consider your context and determine what would and wouldn’t work in the ministry you lead.

BEST PRACTICE: Dividing up junior high and high school students.
There is simply too much difference between a 12-year-old 7th grader and an 18-year-old graduating senior—specifically, the developmental differences. Plus, on a practical note, keeping them separate gives the junior highers something to look forward to. Having said all that, there are some incredible opportunities when you keep these groups together. The older students can disciple and model what younger students can become over the next few years.

QUESTIONS:
• Do you have separate ministries for junior and senior high?
• Why or why not?
• What are other pros and cons of dividing up these age groups?
• What would happen if you made the switch?

BEST PRACTICE: Small groups being the primary method of discipleship and fellowship.
Most youth groups meet once a week for a large-group time of celebration, fun, and worship; and then either as part of that gathering, or at another time during the week, divide up into small groups for fellowship and discipleship. The overwhelming model has been for groups to work through a curriculum and also share life and Christian community together.

QUESTIONS:
• Does your church have small groups, Sunday school, or just large group times?
• Why have you chosen this strategy?
• What is the weakness of this model?
• Sunday school used to be invincible; now it has largely been replaced by small groups. What’s next?

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

Here are the texts/emails we sent out to students who participated in HSM’s Back to School Pray Fast Challenge. If you missed yesterday’s post on it, check it out here!

Day 1 – Personal- Pray for your relationship with Christ and read 2
Corinthians 13:5-7.

Day 2 – Promise- Focus on the promise God revealed to us in Psalms
119:105. How does that relate to us.

Day 3 – Passion- Focus on Matthew 22:37-40 and think about how can you do
this more.

Day 4 – Pastoring - Focus on how can you be more of a light to the people
around you and read Matt 5:14-16.

Day 5 – Protection - Pray for God’s protection over others and yourself.
Be specific in the areas you want protection from God. Read Proverbs 18:10

Day 6 – Perseverance – Read and focus Romans 5:3-5 Pray that God would
help you perservere and see the benefits it has on your character.

Day 7 – Password - Focus on Psalms 100:1-5 also take the time to think
about having a heart of gratitude. Thank God and others.

JG