How We Do What We Do

 —  August 29, 2012 — 3 Comments

It will come as no surprise to most of you that we have a very specific strategy concerning our approach to youth ministry. While your paradigm/process/strategy/purpose (call it whatever the heck you want) may look different than ours, having an easily articulated method to your madness is worth considering. Our youth ministry is centered around three simple “arenas” we think are ultra important in teenagers lives. Right now all of our youth ministry programs fit into one of these three arenas, each with a very specific purpose:

LARGE GROUP: We want to EXPOSE students to Christ, his kingdom and the 5 Purposes.

PRIMARY PROGRAM: Weekend Worship Services
Our weekend services are designed to give students a taste of what the church is all about and an entry-level chance to be exposed to the teachings of Jesus. All students are welcome, and the message is designed to have applications for seekers and the sold out. The services have a high level of student involvement with adults only in the most critical roles (teaching, etc). This is our most visible program to the public and also the most visible to the pastoral leadership of the church as well.

SMALL GROUP: We want students to EXPERIENCE Christ, his kingdom and the 5 Purposes with others.

PRIMARY PROGRAM: Life Groups
Our small group program meets during the week (on Tuesday or Wednesday nights) and divides up the large group into groups of 8-10 students. Groups are ideally made up of teenagers in the same grade, gender and geography enabling them to form a strong community through their high school years. Every group has an adult leader who leads the discussion and teaches a curriculum that’s separate from the large group program. Our goal is that a student goes beyond simple exposure to Christ but will begin to experience discipleship, ministry, and community.

INDIVIDUAL LIFE: Ultimately, we hope students will EXPRESS Christ, his kingdom and the 5 Purposes through their lifestyle.

PRIMARY PROGRAM(S): Grow booth, missions trips, events, serve projects
Basically in this arena we have a ton of options that students can choose as an individual. They’ve been exposed to Christ at the entry-level program, they experience Christ in a small group—now they have the chance to express or live out their faith in a myriad of choices presented to them at this level. We offer lots of Serve opportunities and resources to help students grow, and a few key events/camps throughout the year as well.

What does your process look like? Share it in the comments!

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.

Operation Slow-Down

 —  May 22, 2012 — 1 Comment

It’s time for youth group to start, and I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off, finishing last-second details. (Sound familiar?) Deep inside, I know I’m telling every young person, “I don’t have time for you.” But my to-do list beckons.

If someone naïvely dares to stop me, I nervously fidget and struggle to maintain eye contact because I’m worried about dropping the ball on the looming program. I peer over this mere mortal’s shoulder and silently freak out as the countdown to start time nears zero. I pacify the person who caused this momentary diversion with a shallow promise to connect later in the week. Although I know that probably won’t happen, I desperately need to return to the important task at hand. Just to make sure I’m not stopped again, I take out my phone, participate in a ghost call, and resume my pace.

Ouch! Enough confessional time. Here’s my new plan to conduct Operation Slow-Down:

• I will ease my pace. Walk. More. Slowly. Resist the urge to end conversations quickly and move on to the next project. I want the pace of leisure to be my default and attentiveness to be my act of generosity.

• I will dial-in the program in advance. Work hard during the week so the youth service or meeting goes off without a hitch. Don’t save last-minute details for when people are arriving. Make it a goal to be standing around, with nothing to do, 10 minutes before the first young person walks through the door. That way, you’ll be ready to fully engage with kids.

• I will care about people and the program. I’m a program person all the way. Nothing’s more exciting to me than sharing the timeless message of Christ in creative ways. Tension will always exist between presenting a top-notch service or meeting and spending time with people. But final details and adjustments shouldn’t crowd out expressions of love. Care about the program, care about the creative elements, be proud of your innovative message or creative mini-movie that you spent several late nights sweating over. But be keenly aware of the people who might need you beforehand.

Trying to outdo yourself can become a vicious cycle. So stop walking around with such urgency. Instead, overflow with love for the listeners. After all, that’s who you’re trying to reach.

Originally appeared in the May/June 2012 issue of Group Magazine. Don’t get the magazine yet? Hit this link to subscribe and get in on the action today!



Last week we talked about debriefing your summer calendar, and we got a great response from it (largely asking the question, “how?”) and thought it might be good to devote a whole article on the topic. So today we’re going to list 20 questions to help you begin to evaluate your summer youth ministry calendar:

  • What did we plan that was a success?
  • What surprised us that was totally awesome?
  • Where did we get blindsided?
  • Was there a good balance of evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and worship?
  • Did we lose/gain momentum at any time this summer?
  • What was an epic fail?
  • Where were the wins with parents?
  • Is there an event we need to move to a different place in the calendar?
  • Was the format of our website/Facebook/blog/printed calendar clear?
  • Was there enough promotion for our events? How could we make it better?
  • Is there a sacred cow we need to shoot?
  • Where were our leaders unprepared?
  • Are there opportunities to integrate our students into the church body we should consider next year?
  • What event should we never do again?
  • Were there any surprising turnouts in numbers?
  • Where did we communicate poorly?
  • In what circumstances did parents contact us?
  • Who is a key volunteer we need to circle back with now that summer is over?
  • Was it easy for parents to find out information/download forms/get a registration packet?
  • Were entry level — core students challenged this summer?
  • What was so great we need to consider making it an annual tradition?
  • Which volunteer was incredible and needs to be challenged to be a small group leader this school year?
  • What events seemed best to invite friends to?
  • Where did I as the leader have the most fun relationally hanging with students?
  • Where did we see the most decisions made for Christ?

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.

From time to time I post a youth ministry question that I’ve received and leave it to you, the MTDB youth ministry community, to answer it. This one from a youth worker in Canada, but it could be from anyone since it applies to so many ministries. Chime in with your wisdom, response and best practices. Go!

Last week I had a meeting with 4 students who said they needed our Youth Program to be deeper. There are few words that bring a more unclear and vague feeling to my mind than the idea of deeper. Depth is such a personal thing, taking the whole group there in a one size ministry (grades 7-12) isn’t easy and even if you have just Senior Highs, reaching the core and the crowd can be hard to do. So the question is this: How do you respond to students that want to go deeper? How does this work out in your youth services?

JG



Yesterday I posted the first half of the frequently asked questions about our large group program at Saddleback Student Ministries. We’ve been assembling them for the Radicalis Conference here on campus this week – our student ministries track is jammed packed with info and thought I would share some here on the blog as well. Here’s the other half of the questions, hopefully these will be helpful to you in some way, too:

[READ THE FIRST 5 QUESTIONS HERE]

6. How often do you (as the primary leader of the ministry) teach?
a. Wildside — although he is our Student Ministries Pastor, Kurt teaches 50% of the time in Wildside and the remaining 50% are split up amongst the Wildside team
b. HSM — I speak a little over half of the time, we spread out the rest over guest speakers (mostly internal) and students during You Own the Weekend.
c. Crave – Pastor Brad speaks about 35 weeks a year

7. What roles do volunteers play in your service?
a. Wildside — volunteers lead our music, run games, give announcements, lead grade groups, host sections, run audio/video, etc.
b. HSM – volunteers greet, work crowd, keep order, do announcements, etc. We use student leaders equally or perhaps even more than adults at this level program.
c. Crave – message research, worship leaders, greeters, tear-down/setup, ushers, A / V, 1st time attender’s party and more.

8. What percentage of the service is made up of music?
a. Wildside — approximately 20% of our service is worship through music
b. HSM — we usually have 3-5 songs each service.
c. Crave – approximately 30%

9. Do you use secular music at all? And if so, how?
a. Wildside — Yes. We use appropriate secular music as opening songs, videos, music videos, background music, games, etc.
b. HSM — we use it every weekend during the countdown, often for opening cover songs, sometimes behind games/announcements, etc.
c. Crave – Rarely; we sometimes play it before and after the service just so non-believers hear something familiar.

10. What is your follow-up strategy for connecting with students after the service?
a. Wildside — We aren’t great at follow-up, mostly because we don’t do check-in/out, and thus have a tough time getting accurate contact info on our students. We do encourage our leaders to take note of grade group attendance as best they can, but with four services that gets tough.
b. HSM — our large group time is totally anonymous, if a student gives us their information on a response card we take it very seriously. If a student trusts Christ, we send out a new believer’s packet. If a student checks the “first time” box we send out a little card. Those are the pulse of our ministry, response cards are like gold to this level service.
c. Crave – We email, Facebook and sometimes call those who’ve made commitments or are seeking greater involvement.

JG


This week at Saddleback’s Radicalis Conference some friends and I are doing a session in the youth ministry track about our large group gatherings (our weekend services). We put together a FAQ to go in the notebook to help answer some questions about our ministry. Here’s the first 5 questions if it is of any interest to you:

[Wildside = Junior High, HSM = High School Ministry, Crave = college-age ministry]

1. How long is your typical large group gathering service?
a. Wildside — 1 hour and 15 minutes
b. HSM — 65-75 minutes
c. Crave – 1.5 hours

2. How long is your typical sermon/message?
a. Wildside — we average approximately 20-25 minutes
b. HSM 25-35 minutes
c. Crave – 30 minutes

3. How far in advance do you map out your teaching calendar?
a. Wildside — for the most part, we have a two year calendar that we continually teach thru (we are 7th and 8th grade only)
b. HSM — we do a year in advance during planning, but adjust as needed
c. Crave – 6 to 9 months

4. How frequently are you teaching topically versus exegetically?
a. Wildside — our goal is to teach 1/3 topical (JH survival), 1/3 exegetical (doctrine), and 1/3 other
b. HSM — we are largely topical and felt need, but try to get through a couple books of the Bible each year as well
c. Crave – 70% topical and 30% exegetical

5. How extensive is your stage design/theming of your large group program?
a. Wildside — we go in seasons; sometimes we do nothing and other times we go all out, but a lot of that depends on how the series/topic lends to stage setup
b. HSM — this is a great place to use volunteers. We have a group of students that help create designs as well. It also largely depends on budget, the length of the series, and whether a series is conducive to it.
c. Crave – Less is more for us. We rarely do any stage design.

JG



This weekend we played a GREAT game our team came up with called Facebook Hack. Have you ever left your Facebook logged in and someone posted a fake status? Just about everyone has – and this week, we asked for a volunteer in the audience to come up on the stage and do just that – log in and give control of their Facebook profile in the hands of the host. The audience immediately reacted to just how big of a deal this was – we haven’t had a game with this much engagement in a while. They needed to answer 2 out of 3 questions correctly or pay the virtual price.

There’s a fine line hosting something like this, and Chris handled the game masterfully – posting funny updates to their status and unfriending people from their top friends list – all live on the screen shown to the crowd. The crowd even got into it and started posting pics/comments on the contestant’s profile page while the game was going on. So awesome!

The contestant had to answer nearly impossible questions correctly to avoid the consequences to their friends list. The whole game showed just how incredibly important Facebook is to a student, and it tied in SO well to the series theme of Facebook Official.

Maybe an idea that would work for you or a springboard that you could work from. It was SO great!

JG