You can’t be good at everything. You don’t need to be good at everything. And lots of stuff you are really good at or hoping to become good at don’t really matter too much at the end of the day.  So what if we narrowed it down to only THREE things youth workers do need to be good at; what might be the top three universal skills of a youth worker?  NOTE: I purposely left “spiritual” things such as prayer life, integrity etc. off the list because (whether true or not) I’m gonna assume we’ve got that stuff dialed in.

My List:

* The ability to be a fantastic active listener.  Just being a good listener isn’t enough, but being a fantastic active listener means you are listening, responding with guiding questions, probing here and there and picking up on themes that you might want to dig into deeper at another time.

* Patience. Patience makes almost everything better! Being patient with the annoying students, the struggling students, the cocky students, the “church” students, parents, elders, volunteers, yourself and the whole “process” of youth ministry and discipleship may be the most underrated but important skill/mindset you can have.

* A strong work ethic. This next statement won’t win me many fans, but here it goes: Lots of youth workers are lazy. To be specific, lots of full-time youth workers are lazy. We have somehow confused reading blogs, downloading sweet apps and checking the Instagrams of our students as hard work. Don’t get me wrong, times have changed and how we work is in a state of flux, but (and here’s the money tip…) many of the people we work for such as senior pastors, elders, parents etc. don’t yet “get it” and still expect us to be willing to do the nitty-gritty grunt work every now and again. When we complain that we haven’t had a day off in almost an entire week, or insist on taking an extra day off after the grueling scavenger hunt we led for our small group they have a hard time feeling our pain.  Here’s a tough question: If an elder followed you around for a week, would he feel compelled to recommend you for a raise or that you be replaced with a part-time college student?

What skills would be at the top of your list?

The Bionic Teenager?

 —  August 1, 2013 — 6 Comments

I sat in a planning meeting today with several caring local professionals. They hope to host a youth summit in our area, and our conversation eventually centered on the desired outcomes of the conference. We began brainstorming  what we want to see happen in the students involved. In other words, “Who will they ultimately be when they leave this event because they were a part of it?”

After several minutes on that line of thinking, I raised my hand and offered an observation:

“It feels like we’re trying to create a bionic teenager. I don’t know if everyone remembers that old TV show the Six Million Dollar Man, but there was this concept in its opening theme that it feels like we’re sharing here – that we have the means to make students better than they were before… ‘better, stronger, faster.’

I think everything we’ve talked about are great values for kids to grow into, but if I were to force this on my own son he’d feel immense pressure because he can’t get there overnight (let alone consistently). Maybe we need to include the values of ‘rest’ and ‘journey’ somehow? Students can take steps this way, but they may need to intentionally pause along the way and take stock of their progress so they don’t crash because they feel they’re not yet perfect.”

My thoughts were met with enthusiasm, not to mention a lot of affirmation. I felt like I’d made a real contribution to the discussion.

Only…

praiseI wondered how often I’ve not had that thought in ministry. Maybe you can identify:

  • “Once kids go on this trip, their hearts will be forever transformed for Jesus.”
  • “If I can only get that student baptized, then he/she will become a role model to the others.”
  • “The more often students are consistent with youth group attendance, the more consistent they’ll be with Jesus.”
  • “They have to start (reading the Bible/praying/fasting/tithing/singing) more if they hope to have a real breakthrough.”

Even just writing those made me realize how absurd they all are.

And yet… don’t thoughts like that creep into your head and planning, too?

The thing about bionics is that something unnatural was added to appear natural.

Hmm. Is that the end?

What do you think is reasonable and unreasonable to expect in these matters?



lets talk

Small groups was our very first request for a topic (you can send your topic requests to talkaboutym@gmail.com). So here we go!

Small Groups are the lifeblood for many youth ministries, and for good reason! I’ve often said that if I was told by our Pastor that we could only do ONE thing in our ministry the one thing we would do is small groups. Workshops have been taught and books written on the topic, and today we add a few simple “Good, Bad and #SMH” thoughts of our own on the newest episode of “Let’s Talk About Youth Ministry”.

$5 deal 7-18

Yes, yes, I know. This is way too good to be true… but it is! For today only you can get The Simple Truth Bible for just 5 presidential flash cards.

That’s a mere penny per devotional for the priceless result of helping your students grow closer to Jesus!

Doesn’t get better than that folks. Today is the only day for the $5 Simple Truth Bible deal so be sure to get ‘em while they’re hot! *Order now here*

We love you guys! Keep on keepin on.

- Amber Cassady aka The new girl aka AC



I recently hired a junior high pastor for our church. The process was long and tiring but now I am nearing the finish line…just one more thing to do before I close this file. I need to communicate the hire.  The levels I need to communicate to are:

  • My team (Verbal Communication)
  • Church Staff (Digital Communication)
  • Congregation (Digital/email Communication)
  • Parents (Mail, and Parent Meeting)

My Team:
This was easy.  They knew I was looking and even met with candidates as I was bringing them in. That said, it is easy to assume that those closest to you just know…sometimes they don’t. It is important to keep those close to you in the loop.

Church Staff and Congregation:
I sent the same basic letter to church staff, the congregation, and our parents. Our staff received and email and our congregation will hear about the hire through the website and our eNews email.

Parents:
Parents did not receive any digital communication, they have access to the web and will receive our eNews, they received a parent letter. The added communication to parents is in the form of a parent gathering.  Cookies, carbonated beverages, coffee and a brief introduction with lots of mingling. This personal touch is so important for parents.

Here is what we sent in our parent letter:

Junior High Parents!

new-hire

As you may know, we have been searching for a junior high pastor for nearly a year; a person to partner with parents, train up students, and bring a fresh wind into our junior high ministry.  After many hours of seeking, sifting, meeting and praying we have found God’s person for the position.

Please join me in welcoming (PERSON’S NAME) as our newest youth ministry team member.  (PERSON) will be taking the Junior High position as of (DATE).  He will oversee the entire junior high ministry at (CHURCH OR CAMPUS NAME).

(NAME) grew up in (TOWN). He has been serving as the (PREVIOUS JOB OR SCHOOL) at (CHURCH NAME OR SCHOOL NAME) in (TOWN) since (DATE). During his time at (CHURCH OR SCHOOL) (PERSON’S NAME) has attended (SCHOOL) working toward a (NAME OF DEGREE) degree.

I am eager for (PERSON’S NAME)’s arrival and am excited to see how God shapes student ministries in the months to come.  Please pray for us and with us as (CHURCH NAME) student ministries moves forward in this new season.

You and your junior high student are invited to come meet (PERSON) at the (CHURCH OR LOCATION) on (DATE) at (TIME). Refreshments will be served. Hope you can come!

Grace,
Brandon Early

 

Final Thought:
Youth ministry gets a bad warp for beings irresponsible and too silly at times.  When communicating to parents I raise the bar on professionalism, I want them to trust me with their kids so I don’t try to be edgy and super funny in letters to parents. I recommend that if you add a photo of the person you hired, I wouldn’t choose one with him or her in a suit and tie (which may be appropriate in your setting) but I also wouldn’t send out an obnoxious, crazy pic either. This is all a precursor to building trust.

If it will help you, feel free to download a template of my “New Staff Parent Letter” here.

Thought this post over on Junior High Ministry was super and totally worth the read. Kurt has some great points about how ownership increases the excellence, even when the program potentially suffers. GEnius observation, here’s a clip before you head that way:

What you wouldn’t have seen much of is excellence; at least not in the way it is traditionally defined! The worship team struggled quite a bit, the guys in the tech room were consistently a slide (or two or three) behind at any given moment in the service, My microphone kept popping and getting feedback, and Saturday after church our cupcake girl shared that she wouldn’t be able to be there on Sunday.and hoped we’d still be willing to sell her cupcakes (which we did, of course).

Our visiting youth pastors are rarely impressed with the level of excellence they witness. I’m surprised, though, at how often they comment on the level of student involvement and ownership happening.

I share this to remind you that as you lead your junior high ministry you have a decision to make, and how you answer is determined mostly by what you value. Do you want your ministry to be marked by excellence or by ownership?

JG

 



workshop_weekend

Weekend Teaching Series: Workshop Weekend (1-off)

Sermon in a Sentence: This weekend we had 4 messages – students got to choose which one they would hear.

Understandable Message: This weekend we had a couple videos and a couple songs, then divided up the students into1 of 4 workshops for them to hear about a topic they chose for the weekend:

1. The Comparison Trap: A workshop about the dangers of comparing yourself to your siblings, classmates, celebrities, etc. Learning about how to appreciate who God created you to be. Even showed the Dove video.

2. Modern Day Compassion: Learning to have compassion on other people because everyone has a story. Everyone has their own struggles. They went through Bible stories of compassion and learned how to compare them to everyday life.

3. Judging: Good or Bad? We all have heard about judging being wrong. It can be hard to live out. So they took an in-depth look at what the Bible says about it. Learn how and why God calls us to stay away from judging.

4. Self: Compassion: Learning how to let go of what you’re holding onto. God has forgiven you, and you should forgive yourself as well. The workshop helped students understand God’s love better through teaching them about God’s compassion for us. It is hard to have compassion on others if we can’t have compassion on ourselves.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: Didn’t have much in this department this week – pretty straightforward service for sake of time. Good stuff!

Music Playlist:  Holy Moment, Like an Avalanche, All I Am

Favorite Moment: Seeing students and leaders team-teach the workshops was SO cool. LOVED this idea. It isn’t sexy or flashy like some of our other stuff, but I like it a lot.

Up next: Crazytown (series premiere, week 1 of 3)

ashley_senior_map

I’m so excited about this! About a year ago I had this fun idea that we create a senior calendar to show where students are headed after they graduate from high school. One of the challenges of our youth ministry is keeping track of students once we get to the finish line – we were hoping this was a way we could celebrate and build community for students as they finished up. Ashley is one of the students who heads up the Create Ministry in our youth group and put in a ton of time making this random idea a reality. We started using it this weekend at youth group – during services students could fill out little cards with their information on it and drop it into a small collection bucket. Ashley or one of the other student leaders would then make pins for their school and/or add them to an existing school already on the map. For some seniors who have already dropped out of youth group (argh) we’re trying to get their information from Instagram and Facebook so it is complete as possible.

So in addition to the visual display for the next two months, we could use use the information to keep in contact with students all over the US, send care packages and help them find Christian community more quickly, too. It has already been such a fun exercise – I’m sure it will become one of the most interesting places for people to check out as they walk through our church.

Here’s a closer look at it, notice how each state is themed in some way in the fabric choice – the attention to detail is insane!

senior_map_close

I absolutely love how it turned out, and a much simpler version could be made with a $10 map and pushpins if you want to get one up in your ministry by next weekend. I hope this is something you steal or inspires you to do something even cooler in your church!

JG