definitionsSome phrases or words or topics are commonly used in the Church:

  • “We need to grow spiritually
  • “We want to make sure everyone is being discipled…”
  • “We need to train people in evangelism
  • Spiritual disciplines are important for every Christian”

But using these phrases often doesn’t mean people actually understand what we’re talking about.  People might be able to use the terms in the right context and in the right ways, but if asked to define these things most would have a hard time doing so.  Well, I’ve realized more than ever we have to make sure these types of things are defined clearly and simply.  If not, all we do is train people in Christianese – a language we use that nobody really understands.

So, I thought I would do is provide the definitions I use in our church.  You might already have your own definitions that are concise and effective.  If that’s you, then maybe mine can just be something you compare/contrast yours with.  If you don’t have these defined concisely, I would recommend doing so immediately.  Leadership requires us to be clear.

The first word or phrase I will define in this series is: spiritual growth.

This phrase is tossed around a lot, but nobody really knows what we mean.  So I have defined it.  It may not be a perfect definitions, but I believe we can say we have grown spiritually

if the time it takes us to read scripture and embrace it is less than it used to be. 

This definition does a number of things other than just providing a definition:

  1.  It leans on Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:18-20 that says the goal of our teaching people about him and his ways is obedience.  We cannot feel like we’ve grown spiritually simply because we can regurgitate scripture.  Reading the bible makes us Christian as much as reading People Magazine makes us a celebrity.
  2. Implies that we need to be growing in our understanding of scripture.
  3. It insinuates actions need to be taken after reading.

How do you feel about that definition?  See any holes in it?  Any other benefits you see it having?  If you have defined it for yourself and ministry, please share it so we can all learn.

mcdonalds

The Scene: Working on the laptop at McDonald’s. A table full of pre-teen guys are trying to eat. The oldest (perhaps a freshman among them) is acting like a social rooster, pecking down the awkwardness of the younger guys, strutting for the girls sitting nearby, nudging the smallest one of out of the booth with his rear end… over and over.

I’ve been praying for several minutes about the best way to respond.

And then…

the others all suddenly had to leave. They hopped on bikes and peddled out. He looked like he was waiting for a ride – it was just him and I. I didn’t move toward him, but stood up while holding my drink and spoke.

Me: (slurp) “So, are you the oldest?”

Him: (a bit startled that I’m talking to him) “Huh? Oh, yeah.” (he smiles… like a security blanket… I’m “bigger than he is.”)

Me: “They look up to you, you know.”

Him: (he pauses, as if to realize it) “Oh, yeah. I guess.”

Me: (a half-step slower this time) “They look up to you.”

Him: (he catches my eye) “Yeah.”

Me: “Use that wisely.”

Him: (another pause) “Yeah…” (another pause) “…yeah.”

I go to get a refill, and return. A couple minutes later he heads out to catch his ride.

As he passes, he says, “Hey, see ya!”

—-

Changing the world? Speaking Life into life? Serving students?

Maybe it happens just like this.

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.” (Colossians 4:5)



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

There is a well-known statistic that tells us that 80% of youth stop attending church after they graduate high school. As a parent, that’s the most horrifying statistic in the world to me! Let me bring that closer to home, that means, in a church youth group with 20 kids, over 15 will no longer go to church after they graduate. In a home, 3 out of 4 of our kids statistically will forsake fellowship by the time they’re 18. The cry of all of our hearts should be “why”?!

I have heard many theories of why they leave: New temptations in college—no mom and dad bubble to be a governor for their sinful nature, exposure to new faiths and skeptical questions, not being properly discipled at home, going to youth group, not going to youth group, not sufficiently understanding creationism, etc. While these are real issues, I don’t believe any of them are the reason they quit church.

RootsI spoke with a youth pastor friend who spent half of his life serving youth full-time, and with the first-hand empirical evidence of years of leading, watching, mentoring, equipping, and counseling teenagers he said that he can confidently say that most of them were NOT SAVED. They didn’t read the Bible regularly, they didn’t share their faith, many were sexually active, many experimented with drugs, they didn’t fight for godly fellowship, they were not givers, dated unbelievers, and the list of goat-like qualities goes on. They simply hadn’t been translated from darkness to light. They didn’t drift away from God after high school; they weren’t with God during high school. They drifted away from “church.”

The real question should be, how can we help our kids clearly understand the gospel—the power of God to salvation, and then equip them to live as believers?

Many of our youth genuinely don’t understand the gospel, the whole counsel of God, and we often just presume that they do. And many churches and homes have not taught our teens that an essential, fundamental part of being a disciple is sharing the gospel, and then equipped them for that adventurous task.

Ray Comfort is an evangelist, author and founder of Living Waters Publications and The Way of the Master. “Roots” is a 6-week video-driven youth evangelism curriculum based on Season 4 of “The Way of the Master” TV program, which was filmed throughout Europe.



Thought that Greg Stier wrote a solid post to kickoff the New Year – here’s a clip from his post, 5 Reasons I’m Excited About Youth Ministry in 2013 that I think is worth the read:

1. A lack of budget triggers a more mature approach to youth ministry.
The value of a strained US economy is that smaller church offerings can lead to tighter youth ministry budgets. Before you call me crazy remember that a smaller youth ministry budget can lead to less goofiness and more seriousness when it comes to youth ministry programming. And that’s a good thing.

God has blessed me with the privilege of leading a ministry called Dare 2 Share for the last twenty years. We train teenagers to share their faith all across the country. Because much of our income is donor related when “The Great Recession” hit in 2008 we had to cut staff, slash programs and sharpen our focus. While these were challenging times God has used it in powerful ways to make us more serious and strategic about a much more singular mission. The same can happen for youth ministries that get their budget slashed. Sometimes a “fiscal cliff” becomes a bridge to a more mature approach to youth ministry. Less sizzle, more steak.

4. Youth ministry and family integrated ministry find their groove…together!
There is a battle in many churches over the role of the traditional youth ministry model and the family integrated model (moms and dads discipling their own children.) It seems to me that there is a “best of both worlds” solution that some youth ministries are starting to tap into. The power of parents leaning into the spiritual development of their own children combined with a setting where teenagers can relate to other teenagers spiritually could be the model that catapults youth ministry to the next level. The more spiritually mature adults who are willing to mentor their children/teens and other children/teens the better! This should happen at home and church! The youth leaders who are seeing the power of Titus 2 (older women mentoring young women/older men mentoring young men) should do nothing more than accelerate the mission of the youth leader and godly parents. Sure, there will still be the “our way is the only way“ people, but, most youth leaders should be able to merge the power of both approaches into their youth ministry models.

JG

Our ministry is very evangelistic. How did it become that way? Good question—and one we’ve been processing in our own discussions this week, too. Here are a few of the reasons a student develops a heart for his or her lost friends, and how a whole bunch of teenagers like that create an infectious ministry.

Lead people to Jesus yourself.
Your ministry is usually a direct reflection of you. Want students to develop a deep sense of community? Be in one yourself and talk about its importance often. Want students to share about their failures and problems? Model vulnerability from the stage and you’ll get it in return. So if you want to produce evangelistic students—you can see it coming by now, can’t you?—share your faith with friends, families and neighbors often. Talk about the lost friend you’re praying for, show them how a conversation can point people to Christ.

Make sure everyone knows their own story.
Students need practical ways to share their faith with their friends—one of the best ways is helping them articulate their own spiritual journey. If their story is filled with sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll…that’s okay because it’s THEIR story—but make sure the focus rests squarely on Christ and his redemptive work. If their story isn’t quite that dramatic, encourage them to point out how much God saved them from and the potential they have following Jesus’ ways without the painful past. Either way, having everyone write out their personal story is a great way to help build evangelistic confidence.

Make prayer cards.
A super practical idea might be to help students simply jot down the names of friends who don’t know Jesus on a little card, and keep it in their wallets or purses. Whenever they see those names, they can pray that God would open the door for a spiritual conversation with a friend.

Create series that are easy to invite people to.
We need to be sure to teach the whole counsel of God—every word is ordained and inspired but not as easy for a first-timer to church to handle. At least once a year have a “bring a friend” series that’s designed to give them an easy felt-need they can invite someone to.

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 at Vanderbloemen Search Group, we are often asked, “What is everybody else doing out there?” Since we work with many churches and student pastors throughout the country, we have the honor of seeing what some of the most growing churches are doing in their student ministries. Every student ministry is unique, but here are a few trends we’re seeing in growing churches:

1. Small Groups – Generation Y craves relationships. Student pastors often share with us that the best discussion and discipleship happens in the context of small groups. Some churches have their small groups on Sundays, and some have them throughout the week. Some have them at the church facility and others have them in homes. Regardless of the approach, we are seeing that small groups are a pivotal part of healthy student ministries.

2. Leadership Development – We find that the healthiest student ministries are equipping their high schoolers with leadership skills to lead Bible Studies, outreach events, and mentor programs to the middle schoolers. We also see churches involving the youth in the Sunday service, training them with responsibilities of sound, lights, worship, etc… Developing an effective leadership program may be time consuming at first, but the long-term benefits are worth it. Many youth pastors we talk to bring on a few of their high school leaders as interns over the summer. These students often pursue ministry after high school.

3. Volunteer Training – Recruiting volunteers can be one of the most challenging aspects of ministry for student pastors. It’s difficult to find dedicated volunteers who also have the “cool factor” that high school kids are looking for. We find that youth pastors who succeed in finding great volunteers invest in their training and development. Bring in a leadership coach and be sure that your volunteers have the resources they need to invest in your students.

4. Separating Jr & Sr High – Some of the most growing ministries are separating the Jr and Sr high worship services to provide a more tailored message to the age groups. Jr highers are concerned about different topics than Sr highers, and the way you approach topics with each group should be different. We’re noticing that growing churches are developing separate teams over Jr and Sr high with a director leading the vision of both ministries.

5. Outreach – We see students craving purpose and meaning. Student pastors are getting students out in the community to serve under-resourced communities. Students like being given significant challenges and responsibilities. Effective student pastors are also networking with local schools to identify the scope of their ministry responsibilities beyond the walls of the church.

Depending on the unique needs of your students, these strategies may or may not be effective in the context of your ministry. If you’re using these strategies in your ministry, we’d love to hear your thoughts! If not, what strategies have you found to be effective for your students?

Thanks to VSG for this guest post! They are currently searching for Student Pastors who are dynamic leaders in a few churches like this one in NV and this one in GA.

Like most ministries out there, we have been struggling with cliques. Our “core” students, student leaders included, have not done a great job about being inclusive with our lesser known/new students. At our last Student Leadership meeting, we decided to address the situation head on. The response was incredible! I know that this is sometimes a hard issue to confront in a way that is impactful, so I thought I would share what we did that made our meeting so special!

We started with a short testimony from one of our adult volunteers. She said that she went to her youth group and felt totally alone even though she was in a room full of people and how she wanted so badly for someone just to come up to her and say hi. She asked if anyone could relate to her story and one by one, students in our student leadership program started telling their own stories of how they used to feel unwelcome at church. They told us how badly they wanted to be known and seen. It was such a powerful way to start the discussion because the problem became real and personal.

We followed that by telling our students that God wants to use them to make students feel welcomed and loved in the church. The idea was inspired by an interview I saw with Taylor Swift. In it, the interviewer asked if Taylor ever thought of the millions of girls that she is influencing everyday. Taylor responded that it would be irresponsible for her not to be aware of the influence that she has because she can make use of it for good. That is what we communicated to our student leaders. We wanted them to recognize that the Lord has given them influence. It is a gift from God and it would be irresponsible (or a waste) to not use what He has given them.

So we challenged them to make a difference. We told them we didn’t want them to focus on destroying the reputation of cliques at our church; we wanted them to focus on reaching out and showing the love of Christ to other people. Breaking down cliques can be an outcome of our ministry, but it isn’t the point. We told them that we want them to be on the look out before, during, and after service for students that seem disconnected. It could be one student by themselves, or a small group of students that don’t seem to know anyone else. They were challenged to never be with more than one other student leader as they make these outreach efforts. They were also challenged to go to another youth ministry alone and see what it feels like to be that new student.

I think it is so important to end it with their feedback. Some of our students who used to feel left out gave us some great insight on what we can be doing to make students feel welcomed and loved. Other students shared tips on how to built intentional relationships with new students. We closed out with prayer and hugs. It was awesome!

How have you approached students with this topic? What have you done to make it “work?”

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