After 12 years of working in youth ministry, I have seen many trends come and go. We used to have to phone students (gasp), and then came email, then text, now Facebook. It’s a technological wonderland out there, but my experience lately has been that social media specifically has become more and more of a white noise in students lives. They are engaging where they need to and want to, but event invitation, group updates etc are reaching only those that really look for them and the lack of response to them has meant a major shift in our communication strategy.

Like many ministries, we have worked with mass texting programs, but are finding more and more that they are a “shout” of information but lack the relational foundation that Christianity is about. I am troubled by many studies that are showing that students are becoming more and more incapable of carrying on a conversation and that verbal communication skills are suffering as a result of texts, and Facebook becoming primary communication vehicles for students. Sometimes I just want to talk to our students in blocks bigger than 140 characters.

So this year we have taken a very strategic and intentional page from the days of old and we are picking up the phone with increasing frequency. We are calling students weekly and have recruited teams of like-minded volunteers to come in one day a week after school and call every student who has visited our program this year every week. The process takes about 2 hours with a team calling, but the time is well spent and here is why I think it’s the most important part of our follow up strategy:

Reminding: If you have worked with middle schoolers before you know that they have trouble remembering to put socks on, let alone what night youth group is on. The mid-week call is a great reminder to them that youth is coming, and that you want them there. I would hope that a students would leave that conversation feeling that youth group is not the same without them and that we love when they show up.

Affirmation: When we call students and ask for them by name, the reaction on the other end of the phone to someone calling and inviting them back communicates that they are valuable and memorable. The conversations are not always life changing and often awkward, but if you were to ask your students what a phone call checking in on them mid-week means to them, you would be shocked to hear the value.

Belonging: I have heard that if a student does not attend for three weeks in a row, they likelihood of them ever coming back is slim. When we call students to invite them back and check on how they are experiencing our program it’s a chance for us to let them know indirectly through that conversation they belong, and that their opinions matter to us. Having a solid follow up strategy means that the likelihood of a student coming to our program and leaving unnoticed is much less likely.

I wrote a post last week about making “the ask” on the phone with students which is a key part of our phoning strategy. We are so convicted that having a conversation with students on the phone ;albeit a much larger investment of time, it by far the most effective, intentional and loving way that we can follow up with our students. I don’t do much of the calling myself and I am sure that if you ask around, you have volunteers, and parents willing to come in and do 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.

I am not sure how we didn’t figure this out sooner, but after a few years of following up with new students to our ministry we never really had any sort of overwhelming response to what seemed like pretty intentional follow-up. We would call students, asked if they enjoyed coming to our group, asked if they had come with someone and always very cordially ended those conversations with something to the effect of “we hope to see you Thursday.” Nothing exciting, a simple phrase, which was true, that we did hope to see them out at youth.

What we didn’t realize until this year, that the wording of that was fairly non-committal for us, and for them. In response to this we have removed several commonly used statements that we often used when speaking to students on the phone, or in person. They include:

  • Hope to see you at youth group!
  • We would love to see you at youth!
  • You should come out this week!
  • It would be great if you could make it out this week!

The Facebook generation has pushed us into non-committal “maybe” type people and all those phrases can potentially elicit a maybe and since we didn’t expect an answer they could forget it all together. So we have changed how we speak to students and have replaced those statements with one simple question that we use before hanging up the phone or saying goodbye:

“Will you be at youth this week?”

It’s a question and not a statement and it opens doors for us to be better leaders. Firstly it requires and answer and thus commitment. If the answer is yes, of course we are delighted and look forward to seeing them. But if the answer is no, or a maybe, it allows for us to dig in and find out why? It is through these follow up questions where we can find out what is really going on. It could be school work, tests, family challenges or any number of things, and knowing the reasons allows us to be able to offer prayer to our students and support them even when they can’t attend.

Statements don’t often elicit honest answers, but questions can. I am not sure if the students have even noticed the change, but as leaders the change had had significant implications in our attendance and retention of new students. We follow up weekly with all guests to the program and simply ask if they are going to come this week. That invitation says a lot to a student and being asked to come back is a powerful statement.

This shift is minor, but the results have been significant. Try making “The Ask” when communicating with students; you might be surprised by the results.

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



The Life Book was a sponsor of the Simply Youth Ministry Podcast the other week – I had never even heard of it before but was totally impressed by the book and the movement. If you want free books (essentially Bibles) for every student in your youth group, and potentially even enough for the surrounding high school students – check out their website today. Awesome mission and awesome vision.

JG

What happens when the boys are left all alone? We are about to find out. Today’s show is just Doug, Matt and Josh. They tackle questions about: the YouthMinistry.com Daily, getting students excited about bringing their friends, communication, boyfriends / Girlfriends at youth group, strangest thing you’ve ever done for a volunteer, and getting students to go to church on Sunday. We’d also like to thank our sponsor: www.thelifebook.com

JG