lets talkWe’ve all had conversations that we wish we didn’t have to have. The reason tough conversations are so tough is because they are awkward, unpredictable and we want to be liked by all and happy. So Kurt and I give two tips each on how to navigate these types of conversations.

I know there are more so I would love for you to leave a tip, and help the simply youth ministry nation become better at tough conversations.

Also, can someone teach Kurt how to do a proper drum roll. I don’t think a drum roll makes that sound. ha

hope it helps

AC & KURT

Hooray
Youth workers, for the most part, are creatures of habit. We have a hard time admitting that, though, because we see ourselves as innovators, creatives and the ones leading the charge for change in the church. Those things may be true…but we are still, for the most part, creatures of habit. When we find something that “works”, we have a hard time letting go.

One case in point for our junior high and high school ministries: Outreach Events.

Our primary tool for evangelism and outreach has never been events; it’s been students being salt and light and eventually inviting their friends to church. But to assist that process we have always hosted one or two big outreach events each year, on Friday night. And we’ve done it this way for a long, long time because it has worked. Of course, “worked” depends on your definition. The big Friday night events worked in so much as they attracted tons of students, but very few of those students ever came back to church the following weekend (we have our primary youth meetings on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings). And by very few, I mean VERY few!

So this year we are trying something different (I wish I could say it was my idea): We are attaching all of our big outreach events to the Saturday night service instead of putting them on a separate night. The idea is that our students will invite a friend to church, then they will stick around for the activity. Pretty basic stuff, folks!

We’ve done this once or twice now, and here is what we’ve already discovered:
* Less first-time students show up to the event.
* But WAY more first-time students attend church as a result (actually, they attend church as a PREsult because church happens first).
* Families and students appreciate that it’s not another night out.
* The event can be “smaller” because it’s not a stand alone thing….expectations are less.
* We can do a few more of them a year because they are smaller and less elaborate.
* It makes for a really easy church invite. “Wanna come to church with me? And afterwards there’s gonna be a massive dodge-ball tournament!”

Revolutionary? no. Cutting Edge? Not even close. Worthy of a blog post? Barely. Effective for us? Totally!

So here’s a question that I’d love the readers to share with the rest of us: What is an “Easy Button” moment you’ve recently had…a simple change in some aspect of your ministry that yielded significant results?



youthgroup_logoHere are a few topics I believe we as youth workers need to speak on in our ministries. I do believe that the increase in the statistics of these areas is largely due to social media. So as you read through think about how is social media affecting these areas and how can you affectively address them in your ministry. Notice that I don’t give solutions, because I believe every youth group is different and you know your students better. I wrote this to hopefully open our eyes a bit to what could potentially be going on in our youth groups.

  1. Bullying: (Source: stageoflife.com) – Bullying is still prevalent as it has always been, but with social media it has increased. Now students can be bullied 24 hours around the clock. 91% admit to being a victim of bullying.
  2. Texting and Social Media: (Source: stageoflife.com) - 57% of teens credit their mobile device with improving their life. They also see it as key to their social life. The average teen spent 31 hours a week online which is like 5 hours a day via a poll done in 2009. I can imagine that number has grown with the infusion of smart phones.
  3. Sex: (Source: diseasecontrolcenter) – 47.4% of the students surveyed had sexual intercourse and out of the 47.4% that had sex 39.8% of those students did not use protection. 15.3% admitted to having sex with 4 or more people during their lifetime.
  4. Drugs and Alcohol: (Source: SADD) – Statistically 72% of all students will have consumed alcohol by the end of high school. 37% have done so before the eighth grade. 6.7% of teens between the ages of 12-17 have smoked marijuana.
  5. Body Image: (source: stageoflife.com) – More than 90% percent of all girls between the ages 15-17 want to change their appearance. Body weight is ranking the highest. 13% admit to having an eating disorder. 7 out of 10 girls believe they don’t measure up or they’re not good enough concerning their looks, performance in school and relationships. 12% of teen boys are using unproven supplements and/or steroids to improve their body image. 44% of teens use skipping meals as a way to lose or control their weight.
  6. Depression: Students are dealing with depression. From the severe to the not so severe, at any rate they are dealing with it. The NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness) states that 1 in 5 teens have experienced depression.
  7. The Future: (Source: stageoflife.com) – 66% of teens are afraid of the future or life after graduation.

Now, I’m not a huge statistics type of person, but I do believe it paints somewhat of a picture for you and I to internalize into our own ministries. When I look at the numbers, I think, “how would these numbers fair in my ministry?”

Now, I know that there are more than 7 issues, and I also can tell you that these things are happening in my ministry. And if you were to take an honest look into your ministry you would probably say the same. I hope there isn’t anyone out there thinking that none of this is going on in their ministry.

Praying for students and telling them not to do something is not enough.

So the question is, what are some ways, with a Biblical perspective, that we can educate and open up dialogue about these topics with students and parents?

My first suggestion would be to share this with parents and let them know you are here to support students and families that are going through these things.

hope it helps

ac

volunteer21One thing I can freely assume about volunteers is that they want to help. Other than that I should be careful about anything else I assume. I’ve been working with volunteers for a while and can say I’ve probably had more failures then successes, but through those failures it’s helped me become better at leading volunteers. So I’m writing from my failures in mind hoping it helps.

Making assumptions is one of the worst things I’ve done concerning volunteers. So I thought I’d share a few of my learnings.

  1. Never assume that they understand the cause just as much as you do. – Learning: You must articulate the cause, and your heart and passion for it. Remember they just want to help, and not everyone helping in youth ministry is called to it. So share and help them understand the impact of what your ministry does.
  2. Never assume they are going to take the initiative. - Learning: Take the time before hand and map out what it is you need them to do. When I say map out, I mean be very detailed in your instructions because they will only do what is expressed. For example, once I had volunteers and I gave them the instructions to clean up. Well, they did not do a good job and they actually left boxes and trash because they didn’t know where to put it. You see, I assumed that they would clean the way I wanted them to clean. I also assumed they would break the boxes down and take out all of the trash. The issue is I was clear on the “what” but not on the “how” so they cleaned the way they wanted to.
  3. Never assume they are self-motivating. – Learning : Volunteers need you to be a cheerleader for them as they care for students at either an event, small group or the weekend service. Be intentional about pointing out some small wins to them as well as big wins. Let them know the affect it has on the ministry. Thank them for allowing God to use their gifts and talents.
  4. Never assume they are going to know what to do next. - Learning:  Idle time to a volunteer is like water to oil. Idle time, if not communicated beforehand, can mean an unorganized ministry to a volunteer. They automatically think “didn’t they know we were coming?” Also, if not communicated you can become frustrated yourself thinking no ones doing anything, when actually it could be that they just don’t know what to do next.
  5. Never assume they want to do more than communicated. – Learning: Until your volunteers buy into the purpose of the ministry, assuming they want to go the extra mile could insure they never return.

For me, these assumptions would happen unintentionally. I would find myself playing catchup and having to stay to clean, and redo some of the work I had asked volunteers to do. I had to really evaluate the assumptions I was making and how because of it, I was not being a great steward of my volunteers time. So this is something to think about as you deal with volunteers this week. I know there is more than just 5 and I know I’m not the only one(maybe I am..ha), so what are some assumptions you’ve made about volunteers that wasn’t so smart?

hope it helps

ac



flip-it-Title

This week we played Flip It! This is a super simple game of heads or tails…but better.

Rules:

  • Ask the crowd to choose either heads or tails publically by either grabbing their head… or tail.
  • Then the game host flips a coin. If the coin is heads, all those who choose heads are still in… same with tails.

That is all you need.

Coin-Flip

Now…Here are a couple ways to make this a little more techie.

  1. The graphic above is free, click here and download the 720p version. Now you have a slide to introduce your game.
  2. Instead of a coin I used the app “FlipANickel.” It has a free version and a $.99 version.  I mirrored the app from my iPhone to our video screens using AirServer.  Everyone was able to see the coin flip and know if it was heads or tails on the big screen.

Using the app was great, it was visible and built good anticipation.  I looked at about 15 coin flipping apps, and this was the best (if you know if a better one please add it in the comments). The free version is good, but I am not a fan of ads in my apps… especially when I am screen mirroring to an audience so I dropped the 99 cents like a boss!

Keep up the good work,

Brandon

@uthguy9

 

lets talkKurt and I discuss culture and that is exactly what it was a discussion. So hopefully a few learnings pop out as we discuss culture. Our conversation ranged from Miley Cyrus to Darryl Strawberry. We talk about it all. Now, right up front you will learn two things:

  1. How Kurt dances his way through youth ministry.
  2. How the word twerking made it’s way into the “Let’s Talk Youth Ministry bit archive.

If you have a topic you would like us to talk about send us an email to talkaboutym@gmail.com.

 

hope it helps

ac and kurt



When it comes to celebrating, I’m not a natural.
I’d be okay to never attend another birthday party, wedding (other than my own kids some day, and even that is negotiable!), or any other “celebrations” that people like to throw. I’m notorious among our circle of friends for my lack of enthusiasm to decorate for Christmas. For a few years, when my kids were really young, my idea of Christmas decor was a one-step process: I’d replace our porch light with a green light bulb. Done!

But I’ve learned that there’s power in celebrating together; especially in ministry. Especially in youth ministry. So we celebrate. A lot.

- We celebrate the 5, 10, 15 and 20 year anniversary of volunteers.
- We celebrate baptisms by making our baptism events feel like parties.
- We celebrate the various “wins” in our ministries by making it a priority to share them with each other.
- We celebrate mission trips by having reunion parties a month after the trip.
- We celebrate the idea of “team” by having Work Together Wednesdays (nobody allowed to work holed up in their office).

When you celebrate, you encourage. And the reality is that nobody gets tired of encouragement.

I don’t know what your youth ministry looks like, but I’m sure there is lots and lots of really good stuff going on…stuff worth celebrating!

2015GameChanger3inx3inAs I was thinking about this post “3 potential game-changers”, I came up with more than three, but with this post I also wanted to highlight things that seem common to us in youth ministry. I believe we all do these three things to some degree but if we did them intentionally it could be a game-changer for the ministry. Here are three potential game-changers:

Prayer – Prayer can be the easiest thing to get swept away by the business of youth ministry. The effectiveness of what I do every day in youth ministry relies on me receiving inspiration and direction from God. I love how Jesus would get away and pray. He stayed in communication with God. The key to being consistant in prayer is to be intentional about it. Prayer that is done intentionally can radically change your ministry. This is because you are now prioritizing the divine intervention of the Holy Spirit. Being intentional about prayer is more than just praying before service. It starts with your personal prayer life. If you’re not consistant in your personal prayer life than it will be nearly impossible for you to be consistant in praying for the ministry. Four ways to be intentional:

  1. It starts with you – Be intentional about your personal prayer life.
  2. It’s not just something you do – Prayer is your connection to divine wisdom, instruction and direction. Prayer is a big deal and you should treat it as such.
  3. Be strategic - Be creative and think of ways to getting more people praying for the ministry. One example: we have a lot of parents praying for our ministry. I want to unify them which will strengthen them and also bring more focus to what they pray for. Be strategic in prayer.

Listening - I can’t tell you how many students I’ve spoken with that feels like no one listens to them. Specially those who self-harm or have thoughts of suicide. Listening is a powerful part of ministry that can be overlooked. We can be so quick to give the cause/solution/advice not even realizing that everyone else in their life is probably doing the same thing and no one’s listening. Unless I’m intentional about listening I won’t. I will have answers before there needed and solutions before I hear the whole problem. Listening is just as important as having the solution. Whether you are talking with a student, parent or volunteer be intentional about listening because it says a lot. Three way to be intentional:

  1. Listen with the intent to listen – listening helps build trust. If people feel like you genuinely listen to them, then they are more apt to listen to you.
  2. Ask good question – don’t be so quick to respond with advice or the solution because you may miss something. I try and ask a minimum of 20 questions. Asking questions lets them know you are listening.
  3. Watch your body language – your posture can give off unwanted vibes. So make sure your whole body is attentive to the person speaking. It makes a difference.  

Being interrupted – How many times after service, before service, via phone call or a drop by the office were you approached/contacted by a student and you said “heyyyy…how are you?” and they said “I’m alright”with the look of my life is falling a part and I need you to hear me out and speak some life into my situation. I can tell you that happens to me every week. I believe you have to be intentional even about being interrupted. Nothing that is going on during your program or work day is more important than making sure you allow yourself to be interrupted by that student. Three ways to be intentional:

  1. Pray about it – Pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance when interrupted. While things may interrupt us they never interrupt Him. Pray God doesn’t allow you to look the other way.
  2. Be more specific than the question “how are you” - Most of the time we ask that question out of habit, but in order to be intentional about it you need to be more specific. Ask “how’s freshmen year ” or “how’s the family”. Being specific is an intentional way to let them know you don’t mind being interrupted.
  3. Followup – I always have them come to me after service because I can forget. I also set up a time to talk with them again.

What else in ministry could be a game-changer if done intentionally?

 

hope it helps

ac