LetstalkYM

“Let’s Talk Youth Ministry”, the short little video blog that me and my friend A.C. (who has written some great blog posts on this very site) have done very sporadically is gonna start taking itself a bit more seriously. Starting next week we will have a new, 15-20 minute post every Wednesday. It will be sort of like the old “Simply Youth Ministry Show”, but not.

One new thing we’d like to try is guest appearances via video from members of the youth ministry nation! Here’s how that will work (we hope): You film a super short (30 seconds) video and email it to letstalkyouthministry@gmail.com and we’ll make you a guest on the show. video categories include:

* “Can You Talk About…..” Simply put your youth ministry question in video format and send it in!
* “I Can’t Believe I Did That!” Share a bonehead story, mistake, embarrassing ministry moment.
* “30-seconds of Wit or Wisdom” Share something on your heart, share a joke, inspire us in 30-seconds.

Be sure to start the video by giving us your name and the city/church you are from.

Hey, If we’re willing to put a horrendous cartoon of ourselves on this post, you should be willing to put yourself on a short little video!

Make a video….send it to us…and together we’ll talk youth ministry!

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One thing that has been drilled into the minds of parents everywhere is that keeping the lines of communication open with our children is a vital part of parenting. And in my experience this tid-bit of advice has been very true. And so as Rachel and I have raised our kids, we’ve worked hard to provide an atmosphere in our family where it’s always a good time to talk about stuff.

And while that’s been a good “atmosphere”, it’s actually a lousy strategy. Because it isn’t “always a good time to talk about stuff”. The fact is that sometimes it’s a lousy time to talk about stuff; and everybody seems to have different ideas of when it’s a good time, and when it’s not.

So, my simple tip for today is this: Discover your child’s “window of conversation” and do most of your talking at that time.

Your child may HATE to talk in the car ride to school…the window is closed, so don’t force it.
Your child may LOVE to talk in the car ride to school…the window is open, climb through!

Your child may HATE to talk around the dinner table…the window is closed, so don’t force it.
Your child may LOVE to talk around the dinner table…the window is open, climb through!

Your child may HATE to talk in formal family “quality time” settings….the window is closed, so don’t force it.
Your child may LOVE to talk in formal family “quality time” settings….the window is open, climb through!

Your child may HATE to talk about something in the “heat of the moment”…the window is closed, so don’t force it.
Your child may LOVE to talk about something in the “heat of the moment”…the window is open, climb through!

The problem many parents make is to determine when THEY want to talk with their child instead of being wiling to pay attention to when their child is most open to talking….when their window of conversation is open. When we try to force open their window, they slam it shut!

So much of effective parenting needs to happen on our terms, but I’m not convinced conversation and communication is always one of them.



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As a parent, you will find yourself wearing multiple hats, playing a variety of roles in the life of your child(ren). I’d like to list a few of the more prominent hats you will wear as you raise your kids. This list is both linear, in that there is a sort of progression through these roles as your children grow, and completely non-linear in that you will also find yourself constantly jumping between roles, wearing multiple hats at one time, etc. regardless of the age of your children.

CAREGIVER: You are their sole provider for virtually everything. At birth and infancy, it’s literally EVERYTHING and slowly your children begin to develop independence in lots of areas, while still relying on you in others.

COP: While wearing this hat you are the undisputed, authoritative law! You explain rules and consequences for breaking them. You enforce the stuff that is important you you as a parent. You begin to teach responsibility, accountability, etc.

COACH: The role of the coach is simply that.This hat is one that doesn’t fit well at times. Sure most parents are good at telling their children what to do and how to do it. But more and more parents struggle to truly “coach” their kids which entails being willing to stand on the sideline and watch them put the playbook into action. Coaching requires the ability to discern when you call “time out” to help along the way, and when you let things play out on the field naturally.

CHEERLEADER: The role of the cheerleader is to blindly, unconditionally, believe in your kids. You watch from a bit of a distance while wearing this hat. You aren’t the caregiver, cop or coach.You are simply their biggest fan.When things are going well…you cheer them on. When things are going badly…you cheer them on. Cheerleaders are optimistic; their faith never wavers.

Successful parents seem to have a fairly decent grasp of what hat they need to wear and when. For some, this is intuitive, while others need to be more intentional in their efforts to figure it out. Parents who struggle seem to be those who instead of wearing multiple hats simply pick the one that fits them best and wear it all the time.

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When Kayla was born, Rachel and I made an immediate decision that has fundamentally shaped our approach to raising kids. It was a decision based on a reality: Our kids didn’t choose to be born into a pastor’s family! My wife and I together choose the way of ministry, of our own free will. It was forced upon Kayla and Cole from the moment they entered the world.

And so we determined to raise our kids not in a “Pastor’s home,” but in a “Two parents who follow Jesus” home. Obviously, ministry and church life have saturated the fabric of our family. Kayla and Cole have been raised as Pastor’s kids and we wouldn’t have it any other way. But we strived to, and mostly succeeded at, letting our faith in Christ dictate how we raise our kids instead of the expectations, pressures and spotlight of being a Pastor.

Here are a few super practical examples:

- We have never (I truly believe, NEVER) expected anything more from our children because of my position than we would if I were, say, a Christian dad who fixes cars for a living.

- “What happens in youth group stays in youth group”. Here’s what I mean by that: I rarely share with parents about their kid’s minor youth ministry infractions. When a kid is rowdy during the lesson, we deal with it in youth group and move on…his/her parents would almost never even know it happened. So Rachel and I determined we would treat our kids the same way. When one of our kids goofed up or misbehaved in youth group, it was dealt with just like any other student….and then left in the youth room, just like any other student.

- We have ruthlessly defended their right to be normal kids. Our kids deserve the “right” to go through all the normal adolescent stuff: awkward dating breakups, ditching small group to see a movie, making a poor decision or two…or three. When people have raised a “Kurt’s kids should be above this” eyebrow, we have been quick to defend our kids and protect them from the goofy pressure that members of the congregation put on PK’s.

- We gave them very few “perks”. Entitled PK’s drive me nuts. The Pastor’s kid who doesn’t think the rules apply to her. The Pastor’s Kid who knows the rules don’t apply to him, because he has been allowed to fudge on the rules over and over again. Our kids had some perks (attending most of our camps and events when they were little), but not many.

Anybody out there want to share one or two ways you’ve tried to “normalize” the childhood of your ministry children?



My daughter, Kayla, is 19 and a sophomore in college. She has become a big fan of the writing and speaking ministry of Bill Hybels’ daughter, Shauna Niequist. So I really wasn’t surprised to see her mention and link to one of her recent blog posts. But I have to admit, I was a little surprised, and almost instantly started sobbing like a little baby, to see which blog post she linked to, and her comment about it.

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Raising children in church ministry is tough, and there is no perfect formula. But there is hope! Your church isn’t perfect and neither is mine, but there is hope! Your parenting style and skill set isn’t perfect and neither is mine, but there is hope! Your children aren’t perfect and neither are mine, but there is hope!

For years, people have asked Rachel and I for insight into raising kids in a ministry setting, and for years we’ve been having little coffee shop conversations with couples here and there but hesitant to do much more than that. But with your permission, which includes an understanding that there is no prescription to healthy parenting and our way is only that….our way…and that our kids our still wrestling through what it means to follow Jesus as young adults, I’ll begin from time to time to post a few things we’ve learned over the years that may serve as some hope and help for you as you attempt to raise your children while ministering in a local church setting.

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This past weekend I had the joy of speaking at Believe, CIY’s event for Junior Highers. 6,000 students and their leaders gathered in Northern Kentucky for 24 hours worth of music, comedy, video, interactive learning, teaching, small group discussion and more. Because my role was fairly minimal, I had space to engage in some great conversations, observe great junior high ministry in motion and even learn some leadership lessons. Here is a sample:

* After a separate session just for the leaders, A young man pulled me aside and asked for my “top 3 tips” for working with junior highers. He was brand new and feeling overwhelmed. One of my tips was, “Chris, just let them know you LIKE them…look for little ways things that will show them you are interested in more than only being their spiritual leader.” About two hours after that conversation, I got an email from Chris that read in part: “Today at lunch I got spontaneous and bought everybody slushees, I was shocked at how many conversations that little gesture has already led to!”

* A youth pastor introduced a high school senior to me who is considering going into ministry but had all sorts of questions about education, internships, best route to take, etc. It was hilarious because as we started talking, her youth pastor sipped just out of her view and “coached me up” with non-verbal cues as during our conversation. It was obvious he wanted me to direct her in a similar way he had! Very, very funny!

* In the opening session on Friday night, there were some really tough technical difficulties…like sound going in and out during worship, videos not working, my mic popping in and out, etc. I pulled a few of the CIY guys aside afterward to share a few things going through my mind while I observed (and experienced) the situation:
– Even big events like this are really still just youth group. Students don’t care about the stuff we care about!
– It’s easy to be a strong team when things are going well. But the true strength of a team shows up in adversity!
– It may have been a tough night for Believe, but Believe at it’s worst is still the best JH event I’ve ever seen!

* There was a group there with over 700 students in attendance and groups there with 7. I met the leaders from both and was equally impressed! It takes just as much skill, passion, dedication to run a group of 7 junior highers as it does one of 700…in fact, you could make a strong argument that running a group of 7 is oftentimes tougher due to lack of funds, lack of help etc.

* I met two different youth workers…both about my age, both in ministry for 20-plus years and both having served in the same church for most of that time. It reminded me that the #YMNATION is made up of men and women faithfully serving the local church and doing so joyfully without speaking engagements, book deals, blogs and other easily pursued opportunities. These are the true heros of youth ministry!

It’s these types of experiences that make getting away from time to time so important! Do what you can to escape to an event like SYMC or another local training event; partly for the training, but mostly for the chance to be around others on a similar journey. Take your students to a larger gathering and rub shoulders with other youth workers while you are there. Leaders are learners, and the best lessons usually aren’t found in books or blogs.



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Every Tuesday I eat lunch with our Children’s Ministry Pastor, Steve Adams. I do it for three reasons…He’s a good friend, an extremely strategic thinker and every youth pastor needs to be in cahoots with the Children’s Pastor.

Last week, while I chewed on a bun-less chili burger (Yes, chili burgers are totally healthy if you exclude the bun), Steve shared three key questions he asks about his ministry on a regular basis. Pretty simple stuff, really, but I suddenly realized It had been a while since I asked these types of questions myself….and I think they are worth asking!

* Why Does Our Ministry Exist? This probably isn’t one you need to ask over and over, but have you ever asked it? Knowing why your ministry exists helps determine just about every other decision you make.

Where Are We Headed? You may actually want to ask this question two different ways; one as an assessment (“are we heading the right direction?) and one as a point of clarity (“Where are we headed? HERE!”).

How Are We Going To Get There? Once you know where things are headed, you need a strategic plan. Aiming for a target is good, but impossible to hit without some arrows in your quiver. Going on a a grand expedition is exciting…but could be frustrating without a map!

Who Can We Bring Along? Not, “Who do we need to help us?” (which is a good question…but that’s a task question, not a leadership question). Instead, ask “Who can we bring along who will learn from this, grow from this, and as a result help multiply our ministry and the Kingdom?”

Steve keeps saying he’s gonna write a book about church/team leadership. I sure hope he does because it will be a good one! But until then, I’ll just keep stealing his thoughts and creating blog posts about them.

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If you get paid to do youth work, you are the exception, not the rule.
If you serve in a church of more than a few hundred people, you are the exception, not the rule.
If you are provided any sort of budget from the church for your youth ministry, your are the exception, not the rule.

I’ve always wanted to figure out a way to help members of the Youth Ministry Nation who serve in small, rural, urban and underfunded youth groups…and I’m SUPER EXCITED about a new ministry that does just that!

Youthworkerdiscounts.com exists for the sole purpose of giving away youth ministry resources to small youth groups that otherwise couldn’t afford them.

When you become a member of youthworkerdiscounts.com (only $20 per YEAR) you will receive tons of discounts on thousands of everyday goods and services (restaurants, movie tickets, hotels, Disney World, Disney Land, Amazon, etc.) AND $10 of your membership fee will go directly into the fund to provide small youth groups with $500 worth of resources!

Go to youthworkerdiscounts.com, become a member, nominate a youth group…and let’s start helping the little guys!