One of the joys of working with youth is how spontaneous and creative the ministry can be. It feels so free flowing and easy going. Most youth pastors cherish this aspect of the ministry, but there is another side that a lot of us youth leaders fear and struggle with: administration.

The stereotype for youth leaders and youth pastors is that they are wild, free-for-all types who lack organizational skills. Often, this stereotype is closer to the truth than we’d like to admit. Yet this is unfortunate because there is power in being organized. Some examples from Scripture come to mind. Joseph’s knack for planning caused Egypt to become the most powerful nation on earth. Nehemiah organized the impressive construction project of rebuilding the walls in Jerusalem. Paul led a network of churches that spanned hundreds of miles even before the days of technology. None of these great feats could have been accomplished with a leader who was disorganized.

I know that organization is a skill that comes easily for only a handful of people. But it is something we all must address. An organized youth leader is able to accomplish more because he/she is on top of things. Events go more smoothly because they are well prepared for. Less students fall through the cracks because we can track their participation. Growth is easier to measure. Volunteer leaders become more dependable because they are not always frustrated. Students are better cared for because you know where they are it. Teaching is more well-rounded because you have a scope and plan for your material. There is a whole host of benefits to being well organized.

If you are not very good at being organized, you need to learn from or delegate to someone who is. It is too important a skill to be careless with. Here is a list of questions to help you get thinking about being organized:

  • Is your event schedule planned at least three months in advance?
  • Do your volunteers have job descriptions?
  • Do you have mission, vision, and value’s outlined on paper?
  • Are you keeping track of attendance?
  • Do you have a way of contacting parents at a moment’s notice?
  • Are you aware of exactly how much money you’ve spent from your budget, and on what?
  • Have you set any short and long term goals?
  • Are you keeping track of your Bible teaching so that you can confidently say you are teaching the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27)

Hopefully these questions will give you an idea of where you need to improve organizationally. It might feel at first like the task is too daunting, but the truth is that once you do the hard work of putting the right systems in place, being organized is a lot more enjoyable than winging it all the time. It is freeing. So get organized and get ‘er done!

Jeremy Edgar is the Youth Pastor Bible Fellowship Church in Sault Ste. Marie Ontario, Canada
-GS

 

For the better part of 2012, I met on and off with 3 other youth pastors to plan a huge New Year’s Eve party for the teens in our area. All of our ministries are mostly relational and relatively low “flash”, but we wanted to pull all the stops out on this one. Live DJ. Giveaways. The band ‘We As Human’ in concert. Midnight balloon drop. The works. I can’t tell you how many times I cast the vision to others in the community: “We want to start of 2013 focused on Christ”, “No one else is doing anything like this around here”, or even “I know where I was on New Year’s Eve when I was 17 and I don’t want our teens there either!”

 

Overall, the consensus among everyone involved was that it was a rousing success. Some things turned out better than expected and some worse…BUT, one thing stuck out to me as the defining moment of the night. And it wasn’t the band, DJ, or even the moment the clock struck twelve. After the band finished, I took about 5 minutes and shared the Gospel. I knew many of the kids there were saved and members of the various youth groups in attendance, but we always felt that this was a perfect time to share Christ with someone who may never set foot in our churches otherwise.

 

The next day, as I was sifting through the response cards, I found one in particular from a girl who had earlier sought me out to tell me she accepted Christ that night. This is what the card said:

 741100_10152371994025291_1832203587_o
Her simple response totally re-calibrated how I evaluated that night. Even though I fought it the whole way, near the end I got lost in the logistics of throwing a bash like this and was rating it’s success on technical execution and attendance. As I reread her words, I felt God whisper a reminder into my gut: Our first priority is sharing the love of Jesus as effectively as we know how. Quite frankly, the rest can be swept up with the streamers.
Ben Suggs is the Minister to Teens at Freedom Family Church in Liberty, NC and you can follow him on Twitter here
-GS



The other week I lead a workshop on technology for a group of Sunday School teachers.  I was given plenty of notice to prepare, I did plenty of research on new technologies and made sure I talked about transferable principles.  All was good until I walked into the room, and realized that I had overlooked one important detail.  MY AUDIENCE.  Instead of preparing a workshop for them, what I had done was built one for me.

As a youth minister you know your primary audiences are teenagers, parents and your ministry team.  If you’ve been in ministry long enough you feel pretty comfortable with your audiences; however, it’s still easy to lose site and touch.  If you don’t know whom you are speaking to you’ll find yourself speaking to nobody.  If you want to grow your audience you need to know them and that’s done by.

Spending Informal Time With Them – When it comes to teens it means connecting with them online, going to their games or grabbing a bite to eat.  With parents it might mean picking up the phone and when it comes to your team do something they like together.  It might seem like I’m asking you to do more; however, it’s all about adjusting your schedule and making this a priority.  The better you get to know someone the easier it is to serve them.

Knowing Your Content – If you are unsure of your audience before you speak make sure you are confident in your content.  When you have passion and confidence you people are receptive.  Even if they don’t understand what you are talking about, they’ll be drawn to your passion.  That’s why so many of us want to pick up curling after watching them in the Winter Olympics.

Asking Questions And Listening – If you are speaking to teens gather a group of them together beforehand and ask them questions about the subject.  Don’t draw any conclusions, let them speak and listen.  Your goal is to be like a fly on the wall.

Asking The Experts – Chances are you aren’t the only one speaking to this demographic.  Get to know your audiences by acquiring wisdom from those who study, follow and market to them.  They’ll be able to give you new perspectives that will help craft and fine tune how you approach your audience.

When you get to know your audience you show them that you care what they are going through and what they need to know.  When your audience sees that you care, they’ll want to share that with their friends.  People are looking to feel connected, do that by speaking to their lives.

How do you get to know your audience?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more great youth ministry articles and thoughts on his exceptional blog Marathon Youth Ministry.

In 2009 the amount was $41.2 billion. Last year saw impressive growth, moving up to $45 billion. That’s almost a $4 billion increase in a single calendar year. It may sound like Wall Street employee bonus checks, but this is the amount of money Americans spent at retailers on the four-day Black Friday weekend, which includes Cyber Monday.

That’s roughly $11 billion spent per day, primarily on consumer electronics and the accessories and media that make them hum. Throughout the entire holiday season–essentially Black Friday through
Christmas day–more than $450 billion was spent last year in the United States. This, on top of the billions we spend the other 360 days of the year on the same products. It’s hard not to pass judgment on this type of frivolous spending, particularly when there are so many needy people in the world, in our own neighborhoods. To be sure, many of these purchases are intended to brighten the holidays for a lot of unfortunate children and families, which has given me and my family time to reflect on just what holiday giving is all about, and how we could change our pattern to better reflect our personal desires to live in a better world.

For a lot of years we made “Christmas Angel” purchases at our local shopping mall, helping to meet the specific requests for underprivileged kids. We don’t have a lot of money, but we certainly have more than so many others and knew we could easily help a child or two have the same bright and cheery Christmas morning as our own child. This form of giving brings our family a lot of happiness, but we’ve always wanted to do more.

We started looking for charitable organizations that were already helping children around the world, primarily to see if we could find a really good fit. In short, we want our charitable donations to do the most good. Our search yielded a great deal of exciting and even inspiring information. Did you know that for a measly $4,500 nearly 500 people in Sudan and Sierra Leone, Africa can drink clean water from their own well? For $6,500 the same number of people in Uganda and Kenya can get the same clean, fresh drinking water so badly needed. The amount of money spent on one holiday weekend in the United States could build 10 million freshwater wells.

Now, they don’t need that many wells, but that’s the point. If we spent a mere 10% less on just Black Friday weekend and put that $4.5 billion into a charity like The Water Project or the Advent Conspiracy through its partnership with Living Water International, we could effectively end the very serious and lethal water problems in these four African countries, which include drought and contamination.

We looked further into this and discovered that $10 will provide fresh drinking water for one person for an entire year. Ten lousy bucks! $50 will help an entire family, and $250 will provide fresh water to an entire classroom for a whole year.

Less than a twenty-five percent of what is spend over Black Friday weekend, and approximately two percent of what is spent throughout the holidays–$10 billion– will solve this problem once and for all.

Can you imagine these Central African nations with no water-related problems? So can we, which is why we’ve made a couple of important choices this year. As in years past, we’ll eschew Black Friday and all its trappings, and we’ll ensure that we help an entire classroom have fresh, clean drinking water for an entire year. Won’t you join us?

Imagine what we could do for hunger!

Tim is a marketer for Cabledeal.org. He is an avid promoter of global issues and prayerfully wishes there was more he could do to help those with true needs. To learn more about Tim and to see what he is up to follow him on Twitter @TimLCooley.



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.

Life is changing for many modern families and our churches need to adapt. Parents have always wanted success for their youth, but over the last several years, parents and schools expect youth to be involved in activities that might give them an edge in college applications — including events on Sunday mornings. Many families use weekends to travel or engage in recreational activities. Plus, an ongoing commitment to a faith community is declining so parents are less committed to attending church themselves and therefore are unwilling or unable to persuade their youth to attend. The result is that most of our youth (and their parents) hold to a “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism:” [1]

  • A god exists who created and orders the world and watches over life on earth.
  • God wants people to be good, nice and fair to each other as taught in the Bible and most world religions.
  • The central goal in life is to be happy and feel good about oneself.
  • God is not involved in my life except when I need God to resolve a problem.
  • Good people go to heaven when they die.

This is the faith of our youth. You might notice that almost none of this is Christianity. There is nothing about Jesus or the Holy Spirit. No belief in the concepts of sin and redemption. No call to bring God’s love to others or serve others in Jesus’ name. No sense of life having meaning or of people being created by God and called into a vocation. None of these core practices and beliefs of the Christian faith are present in the life or beliefs of most of our youth.

The problem is not that teenagers are opposed to religion — they simply don’t care about it very much. Their view of God is as a lifeguard (rescue), butler (provider), therapist (feel good) or guidance counselor (decision/direction).[2] But there is no encounter with a God that is transformative. And Jesus barely gets a mention — he is basically just a “good guy” who taught people about God.

Here are some of the challenges we face:

1) Teenagers are theologically inarticulate — unable to talk about their faith.
2) Parent make the biggest difference in their child’s faith — so youth ministry needs to involve parents.
3) We need to motivate parents because the culture does not encourage them to make church a priority.
4) We need to go back to the basics — most of our youth, and their parents, do not have a relationship with Jesus, may not even know much about Jesus, or they don’t believe much of what the church has traditionally said about Jesus.
5) We need to be authentic — young people can pick out a fake a mile away and will discard anything we offer if it isn’t authentic.
6) We need to think intergenerational — the church is one of the few places in our society where the generations meet.

_____________________

[1] Almost Christian: What the Faith of our Teenagers is Telling the American Church, Oxford Press, p. 14
[2] Almost Christian, p. 18

Linda L. Grenz is an Episcopal priest and publisher of LeaderResources which produces downloadable resources for youth ministry. She recently introduced their new Center for Youth Ministry which provides churches access to 40+ resources including the popular “Journey to Adulthood” – a six-year rites of passage program. Check it out at www.LeaderResources.org/CYM.



On July 29, my wife gave birth to our first child, a daughter named Kaia. In the morning prior to Kaia’s birth, I had been reading Psalm 34, and my heart was re-captured by verse 8, which reads:

“Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” – Psalm 34:8

I was so excited for the day and for what God had in store for us that I posted that verse as my facebook status, in anticipation of tasting God’s good gift of Fatherhood. I had no idea how big of a bite I would be taking, or how intensely I would be tasting and seeing whether or not the Lord really is good.

Shortly after birth, Kaia was admitted to the NICU, due to irregular breathing. We were so scared. After the longest day of my life, I sent out an email at nearly 3:00 AM, sharing about Kaia’s birth and asking my friends and family to pray for Kaia.

Over the course of the next 19 days, I frequently wrote prayer updates in the middle of the night. I wrote to ask everyone to pray for Kaia, to pray for us, and to point them to the God who holds the entire universe in His hands. There were some good days, where I wrote with excitement, but there were more days where I wrote with tears running down my face. On August 17, Kaia died in my arms. That night I wrote my last prayer update, and many who had been praying for us wept with us and shared our sorrow. Many also shared our hope in a God who is good, in the midst of the pain.

As another Fall of Youth Ministry is kicking off in the church where I serve, I am still struggling to be anything other than an internal disaster. The truth is, though, I am learning a lot in the midst of my grief and pain. I know God has only begun to teach me through Kaia’s life and death, but here is some of what He is teaching me so far.

Grieve Well
A friend and mentor came and visited us one evening while Kaia was still in the hospital. One of the best things he said to us was to “grieve well”. Though Kaia was still alive at the time, we were already grieving as we watched her struggle to hold on to life. To grieve well is to embrace the pain, rather than running from it or avoiding it. It is avoiding the temptation to hold back tears, and instead letting the tears fall, even in front of people. To grieve well is to be present in the pain, to talk about the feelings that come, and to share the experience with others. It means feeling every ounce of the pain, and inviting God to meet you and sustain you in the midst of your grief.

Your Grief Isn’t Just For Your Sake
Seasons of intense grief provide clear windows into your soul. Those who watch you grieve are going to get an uncommon, insider look at your soul. As you cling to Jesus in the pain, you will find the hope He has promised, and you will show others who are struggling where they can find hope, too. You also provide a roadmap for others who will later face pain, helping them to see what it looks like to struggle with the pain that life brings and, at the same time, to find Jesus to be all-sufficient.

God Really Is Good
I know more about God’s goodness now than I did before Kaia was born. He has truly sustained us and continues to sustain us. The example of God giving the Israelites manna in the desert is such a good example for our experience so far. Every day God has been good to give us the strength we need for the day, and to bring people around us to give us strength on the days when we have been lacking. He has fed us through the Psalms, where we see over and over again that we aren’t the first people to experience pain. We see in the words of David and others that God has been deeply good to His people in the past, and we find hope that He will be deeply good to us as we go forward.

The prayer updates about Kaia spread from our small circle of friends and family to thousands of people, who prayed for and loved Kaia during her 20 days of life. The prayer updates were put together into a book, in hopes that Kaia’s story would continue to point others to Jesus and encourage them to trust Him in the midst of difficult circumstances. Pray For Kaia: She Is Such A Gift can be found here, or for more information about the book and about Kaia’s story, go to www.prayforkaia.com.

This guest post was written by Ryan Donovan. He is graduate of Multnomah University in Portland, OR and serves as the Youth and Ministry Pastor at Evergreen Bible Church in Vancouver, WA.

For the next 10 days the blog will be filled with fantastic youth ministry voices other than mine – because I’m headed to Kenya with 30 high school students and leaders. If you would say a prayer for us as we travel and minister, that’d be great! Here’s the prayer guide we sent to parents this week:

Day ONE & TWO: Travel to Nairobi, Kenya…and then on to Kitale
Pray for a smooth airport check-in. Pray for safe travel to Kenya. Pray for rest and the preparation of our hearts for ministry. Pray that all goes smoothly with the logistics of traveling with a group our size.

Day THREE: Travel to Kitale and CHURCH…and possibly the prison.
Pray for the Congregation of Oasis of hope church. Pray for our team as we minister to the prisoners of the prison. Pray that these prisoners would hear and accept the message of Jesus Christ. Pray for the students as they share at the church.

Day FOUR: First Day of Camp
Please pray for our team as we prepare camp for 200 kids and teenagers. Pray for good connections, good conversation, and for camp to go according to God’s plan. Pray for our partnership with this ministry. Pray for the kids at camp to have open hearts to the message of Jesus Christ. Pray for the students on our team who are teaching, singing, leading and counseling the kids. Pray that we would be open to ministering outside of our comfort zone. Pray for another student on the team today.

Day FIVE: Camp & Academy
Pray that God would give opportunities to our students to share their personal faith with a camper. Pray that we wouldn’t miss any opportunities to share Jesus. Pray that God would make an impact on lives through our team. Pray for your student today.

Day SIX: Camp & High School Speaking
Pray for protection from exhaustion and the enemy as we wrap up our last day of camp. Pray that our team would have courage and be bold in sharing their faith with the street kids. Pray for the team leaders today. Pray for the teachers that they would continue the mission of bringing kids to Jesus Christ. Pray for students as they speak to students at a local high school.

Day SEVEN: Farm & Party
Pray for the our time with these precious children. They have been through so much. Pray that we can encourage them and love them.

Day EIGHT: Work Projects & City Tour
Pray for our last day of ministry. Pray that we would stay focused as team and that fatigue would not set in. Pray that we would make the most of our last day.

Day NINE, TEN & ELEVEN: Pray for safe travel back to Nairobi and then back to America.
Pray that we adjust well spiritually emotionally, and physically. Pray that God would continue to work in our hearts after we return. Pray that we would continue to remember and reflect our journey in Kenya. Pray for protection from sickness and fatigue.

JG