Being intentional is a concept we are all familiar with in ministry, and more and more it is becoming a key aspect as we struggle to compete with the busyness of students lives. We value our student’s time greatly and know that we are competing against a lot of other activities that they could be doing. Since we know that a student carving out a 3-hour block of time to come to church is a big deal, we respond by making a big deal of our youth night. Part of making a big deal of our night is that we are intentional from start to finish and we have a reason for every element of the night. Here are a few reasons why you need to really intentional about everything:

For God: I believe that taking your weekly gathering of youth seriously is a priority. To steal a page from Doug Fields’ book Purpose Driven Youth Ministry, if something we do does not promote Worship, Discipleship, Service, Evangelism or Fellowship why are we doing it? This should be a primary consideration of every element of our youth program and all events and activities we put on. I am not sure that I want to stand before the Lord and say we did something “just ’cause”, because as leaders that is not good enough. We need to point students to God at every opportunity, not just sometimes.

For Students: Modeling for students that every facet of our lives matters to God is important. We are not shy about explaining why we do what we do at our youth program and I think it is a great teachable moment when students ask. Our student’s time is valuable; and when we have them, we will always try and make the most of it. From start to finish our goal is provide them with opportunities to encounter God, to connect with a caring leader, to learn about Jesus and to Worship Him. Having a clear purpose of your youth ministry will benefit the spiritual growth of your students.

For Parents: Parents have been known to be critical of youth programs sometimes because the one they were a part of 30 years ago was not like “this”. For those parents I choose to be prepared when they start asking questions such as:

-Why is the Worship so loud?
-Why do you allow secular music to be played in the Church?
-Why do you allow saved and unsaved students in the same small groups? (Actual question!)
-We never had small groups on the same night
-Why don’t you play more games? We used to play dodgeball all the time.

It is pretty easy to defuse a parent when you have a reason for doing what you do. If they question an element of your program and you don’t have a rationale for why you do it they way you do, watch out. Parents may not agree with you, but will respect that you have thought about their concern before hand.

For the sake of supporting the vision that God has given you for your ministry, and for making the most of every opportunity that you have when your students are in the building, its vital that you have a reason and a rationale for every element of your youth night from the time the first student arrives until the last one gets picked up.

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Be sure to check out his Twitter stream for awesome ministry goodness. Want to get in on the fun and write up a guest post yourself? See how right here.

This is such an exciting time of the year and if you have a lot of Youth Pastor friends on Facebook or Twitter, its so encouraging to read all the status updates and tweets leading up to the fall launch.

For our team, it’s been a fall of thorough and over the top intentionality with our students and potential students. Each week last year we collected information on every new student / guest and kept a record of it, and last week we called every student on our roster, every guest, every camp follow up we were given. It took a total of 12 man-hours to do, but the benefit was a 70% increase in attendance at our fall launch compared to last year. As much of a challenge as it is to call all those students I cannot say I am surprised at the outcome, since I know so many students just want to know that they are valued and wanted. A phone call is many times more powerful and meaningful than a text or FB, so if you have the resources to do it, I would encourage you to.

The other half of our strategy for this fall was to try and make it easier for our students to invite a friend out. I was trying to avoid an action packed promo video full of our best-of highlights, to me that would equate to a bait and switch leaving new comers disappointed that it wasn’t always crazy fun. We thought instead to do something that our high school students could post on Facebook, twitter etc, that was an invitation to our group. Its not a promo, not a best of, nor is it funny, but a sincere appeal to non-Christian students in our area to come be a part of what is happening. I am stoked about how it turned out, and I cannot wait to see what God is going to do with it.

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Be sure to check out his Twitter stream for awesome ministry goodness. Want to get in on the fun and write up a guest post yourself? See how right here.



Twitter and Facebook have become regular and prominent parts of being involved in youth ministry. I didn’t really get the purpose of Twitter at first, but once someone described it to me as:

“Facebook is for connecting with people you went to highschool with and Twitter is for connecting with the people you wish you went to highschool with.”

I have a hard time disagreeing with this claim, but it doesn’t resolve my wrestle with the role that Facebook and Twitter can and should play in my ministry life. I follow some pretty bright minds on Twitter and some fall into the Twitness category: sharing verses that challenge me and quoting Charles Spurgeon, amongst others, to provoke thought. There are some that share leadership strategies and thoughts, some promoting themselves and others who tweet about their lives, the vacations, family happenings, funny things they see, etc. My tension is that it is still not clear to me what role twitter and facebook should play in ministry. The two paradigms I regularly see people align with are:

Twitness: I find much of what I would consider twitness type content on Twitter to be very encouraging and helpful to me as a Pastor and a Christian. It’s great to read the thoughts and feelings of others and hear about what they are reading or learning. But my dilemma is — who is my audience? My twitter followers are a mixed bag of friends, students, youth pastors, youth workers, Christians, non-Christians and Atheists. We are called to make disciples, but I just don’t know if reciting scripture and tweeting assertions of God’s sovereignty is the way that I can accomplish that. It’s not that I don’t see value in this style, but I wonder if it’s having the desired effect that the writer intends.

Transparent: This is the direction that I tend to lean towards; not because it’s easier, but because the biggest impact on my leadership has been people who I have seen living out their faith in all aspects of their lives. I love the idea of my life being open to my students, leaders and friends. That they can see the way I live, the way I love and honor my wife and family, my love of Christ and the things that I value. My desire has always been to model a Christ like lifestyle that is real and attainable. I want my students, friends, colleagues and congregation to know who I am, what I stand for, and what I care about. Perhaps this is not for everyone, but I don’t always understand why some keep a guard on being transparent.

So if you were looking for a definitive answer, you came to the wrong place, but perhaps you have some thoughts on where you land on this. At this point, I am not ready to be a full on Twitness because I am not sure where I am going to land on the spectrum, trying to strike a balance between investing in my students, friends, and congregation with wisdom and scripture, and allowing my life and ministry to be a true reflection of myself and my walk with Christ.

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Be sure to check out his Twitter stream for awesome ministry goodness. Want to get in on the fun and write up a guest post yourself? See how right here.

Evangelism is a scary word because so many of us believe we have to have a memorized plan or speech, we must preach to the crowds of people, or we must have a flashy and trendy way of presenting the Gospel message. We have taken the word evangelism and associated it with something difficult to do. In reality, evangelism is a lifestyle. It is simply how we live our lives. The truth is we evangelize daily. We point people towards Christ or away from Christ on a daily basis simply from how we live our lives.

I once heard someone say, “You will never talk to your friends about Jesus until you have talked to Jesus about your friends”. This statement has stuck with me over the years and has helped me remind myself and my students that the best evangelism is friendship evangelism. Our best witnessing efforts will happen with those whom we share real life with on a daily basis. Friendship Evangelism simply means “caring” for people. Someone once said, “The best evangelism takes place in a context of mutual trust and respect. It takes place between friends.”

In the context of student ministry I see students struggle with how to do evangelism. We strive to help shape their everyday choices to simply following Christ’s example. Christ lived and breathed evangelism. He took every day situations and taught truth from them. We want our students to realize that every bus ride, every lunch break, every classroom discussion, every practice or rehearsal are all opportunities to point their friends to Jesus.

We also believe that God calls us to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Because of that calling our student ministry goes on international missions as well as domestic missions. However, over the years I have noticed students willing to fly to other countries to share Christ but struggling to share Christ locally and domestically. Because of this mindset, we are now in our second year of the following strategic plan to help students create a healthy and biblical mindset of missions:

First we offer what we call Outreach Saturday Projects (OSP). These projects rang from yard work to nursing homes, to cleaning local school campuses, and everything in between. We leave our church campus and serve in our local community. Students who desire to go on our domestic or international trips are required to attend a percentage of these OSP’s.

Secondly we offer our Spring Break Mission Trip. This is usually a three to five day trip during their spring break where we go and serve domestically. Right now we are in our second year of partnering with the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes where we go and serve on location with them for our trip. This trip serves two purposes: first it forces students to make a sacrifice. They must sacrifice the beach and hanging out with friends in order to serve those less fortunate. Secondly, it allows me the chance to see them in action on the mission field dealing with changes, team work, etc. Any students who desire to travel internationally with us are required to first attend a spring break trip. They are only required to attend once but many students are already signing up for another trip simply because they understand the biblical purpose for the trip.

Lastly, we offer an international mission trip in the summer. This trip is usually seven to ten days in length and will be in a third world country. We are in a partnership with Guatemala for the next two years and thus we will travel to this country together. This trip is the climax for a student’s mission experience. They will be exposed to things they have never seen, they will see God work in mighty ways, and they will be used by Him in ways they could never imagine. They leave this trip understanding what it means to share Christ with the poor, hungry, and orphans. They will return home with a new outlook on life and because we have a strategic plan to take students from serving locally to serving internationally we have seen students truly understanding the biblical mindset behind the reason we go and serve. This in turn also helps in students living for Jesus and accomplishing the friendship evangelism in their everyday lives.

Jeff Dye is the Minister of Students at Northcliffe Baptist Church. Follow him on Twitter here!



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Don’t know you’ve heard about Dare 2 Share’s interactive webinar training this Tuesday (May 17th) with Greg Stier. It is designed for youth leaders who are nervous about evangelism and looks super. Check out Evangephobia for more details and to sign up!

Evangelism. For many, this word conjures up images of a street-corner preacher or a madman using a bullhorn and thumping people on the head with a Bible. But are those the only options? Join Greg Stier, President of Dare 2 Share Ministries for a lively, interactive webcast about sharing our faith and its role in youth ministry. You and other youth leaders will explore some of the most common fears surrounding evangelism, learn how it can help accelerate spiritual growth in your teenagers, and discover simple steps you can take to make it fit within your current youth ministry.

JG

For those of you who have never heard of the Tim Tam Slam- I’m sorry. I’m sorry you haven’t experienced this cultural, communal phenomenon. I’m sorry you haven’t tasted this creamy, chocolate bonanza. I’m sorry. The reason you don’t know about it is because no one has told you- and that’s against the rules. Wait, rules? How can a no-holds-barred-chocolate-bonanza have rules!? Calm down. There are only two:

  • Rule 1) You must tell people about Tim Tam Slam
  • Rule 2) Never slam alone

It’s not an exaggeration to call the Slam a communal experience. It’s an experience that’s meant to be shared, both in participation and awareness.

By most accounts Tim Tam Slam has Australian origins, but also has a strong tradition in the UK. To begin the Slam, bite a small corner off the chocolate cream cookie (said Tim Tam), turn to the other end and bite the other corner. You now essentially have a cookie straw to drink your hot chocolate (or tea in the UK). Dunk the Tim Tam into the hot chocolate and begin to suck. When the hot chocolate gets to your tongue you pop (or slam) the entire cookie in your mouth and let it dissolve without much chewing, if any at all. What ensues is a rush of chocolate intensity you’ve yet to experience. Clearly, this degree of chocolate consumption is not an exercise for the weak of heart!

I introduced the Slam to my high school students at our winter retreat a few weeks back. It was a strategic decision that went beyond just having some giggles with the students. There were 4 main reasons I wanted to do the Slam at camp:

1. Tradition- The students in my high school ministry love being a part of something bigger than themselves. Of course, this is not unique only to our group, but their level of commitment to tradition is one I haven’t seen before. I’ve commonly heard, “but we’ve always done ________” from adults, but here students love saying they’ve been a part of/dressed up for/planned/attended something for years. I knew by unveiling the Slam at camp we would be creating a new tradition for them to enjoy.

2. Buzz- Our winter camp was at a program camp that usually packs out with 400-500. Our weekend was particularly low in attendance and I worried some of the buzz or energy students get when they’re around hundreds of peers might be lost. My hope was that the mystery surrounding the Slam (“Tim Tam Slam? What is this madness? Tell me!”) could help create some anticipation that we could use as fuel for other camp activities.

3. Momentum- After what would have surely been a successful maiden of voyage of the Slam, our students would have bought into the tradition aspect and we’d have higher buy-in and more buzz for the next occurrence of the Slam (or more specifically the camp or event where it took place) therefore perpetuating reasons 1, 2, 3, and

4. Teachable moment- Remember those rules? Well, those rules in the hands of a wily youth pastor could turn the Slam into an illustration describing following Jesus, evangelism, things we’re passionate about, etc and how we’re supposed to share those things that change our lives and make us do goofy things.

Just to clarify, I’m not claiming ownership of the Slam, nor do I think its some sort of ministry miracle. It is, however, something that when used thoughtfully, can be used for the good of ministry. And anything that reminds us to be intentional, strategic, or thoughtful in ministry is a great thing.

I haven’t cashed in on that teachable moment yet, but the Sunday morning message moment is coming. It won’t be an earth shattering illustration, but hopefully one that students can immediately relate to, personalize, laugh about, and share…. or at least give us another excuse to do the Tim Tam Slam!

Matt Johnston is the High School Pastor at Journey of Faith in Manhattan Beach, CA. He’s been alive for 26 years, in youth ministry for 8, and married for 3. The married part has improved the first two parts greatly- coincidence? He also enjoys slamming Tim Tams on occasion. You can follow Matt on Twitter, if you’re into that sort of thing.



Next weekend we finish up a series we’ve done 3 years running called You Own the Weekend. In fact, we added a 6th week by popular demand – that’s how exciting this series has been. It is one of the biggest series we do every year (beaten only by our kickoff weekend and the sex series) and has become a staple in HSM’s culture.

The idea is that each high school gets their own weekend to run from start to finish – they do everything from the message to the videos, testimonies and bits. Each school starts a Facebook group and has an adult mentor, but no adults take the stage at any time for the entire month. How crazy is that?

Here’s why it totally works:

Students get involved in ministry
More students get a taste of ministry during this month than any other time of the year. Students step up and there’s a positive peer pressure on them to be a part of what is going on. There’s something for everyone – from greeting, decorating, videos – even speaking!

Students bring their friends
Without a doubt this is the most evangelistic series we have – teenagers bring their friends to something they are a part of. You Own the Weekend captures school spirit and gives students an easier opportunity than normal to bring their friends. Every student from every school gets an invitation to church.

Parents show up
I’m amazed at the number of parents who attend a weekend service during You Own the Weekend. They love seeing their kids doing ministry, not just watching it. Parents leave with a better idea of what the high school ministry is about and infectious in spreading a positive word to others when they leave.

One fun byproduct of the series is that it allows students to see just how challenging it is to create a youth group every week. They appreciate sermon prep, great videos, awesome stories or a funny bit way more in the future.

JG

One of the powerful new trends I’m loving is how our students are using Facebook in friendship evangelism. They are sharing their faith and love for Christ with their circle of friends online. For the You Own the Weekend series, students took the series graphic they made for their school’s week and proudly displayed it as their profile picture. Pretty incredible way to get the word out about your student ministry. Maybe something in there is transferable to your church, too?

JG