Kurt had a great post yesterday about some basic speaking tips and helps for youth workers running games. Thought there was some good stuff here, head there for the full piece:

LEAVE THEM WANTING MORE: A short lesson is almost always better than a long one! Nobody ever complained that the lesson was too short. Plus, a short lesson leaves your junior highers actually wanting to hear more. Short games are almost always better than long ones, too. Playing their favorite game too often ends up making it a game they are tired of and no longer get excited to play.

THE PAYOFF NEEDS TO EQUAL THE SET UP: The longer it takes to tell a story in your lesson, the better the punchline or application needs to be. When you start by saying, I’ve got the most hilarious story in the world to share it better be a pretty stinkin hilarious story. If you say, Today’s lesson could be the most important one I’ve ever taught it better be really important! A game that takes 10 minutes to explain and 35 seconds to play is a fail the payoff didn’t equal the set-up. When you send out a text claiming, tonight in JH ministry we will play a game of epic proportions  only to have the game be a rousing game of musical chairs, you lose.

JG

article.2013.04.30Got a smartphone? Chances are you’re working at integrating some great apps into your youth ministry world. We do the same thing and while Angry Birds Star Wars and Temple Run 2 take up a little too much of our time if we’re honest, there are some incredible apps for youth ministry.

This week Josh is up first and Kurt will offer up his 3 favorites tomorrow. Add your favorite apps in the comments!

TOP 3 APPS for youth ministry

1. Evernote (FREE)
Evernote is a productivity app that syncs important documents in the cloud and on all your devices. It is incredibly robust and keeps everything from brainstorm notes, pictures you take, and even voice memos and delivers them to all of your devices. It’s a great place to work on talks, share documents, and even manage to-do lists. An incredible app for your phone, Web site, and computer and the price is right.

2. HeyTell (FREE)
Communicate with your friends like a walkie-talkie. The best part is you can make a group and send a quick voice memo to all your volunteers at once. The interface is simple, one touch, and responsive. Even if someone isn’t a phone person, this is a perfect compromise.

3. Icebreaker Questions ($.99)
The only one on the list that costs actual money but well worth it. Suggest it to your small-group leaders so they have a starting point for conversations and figure out how to talk to teenagers. The questions are fun and make it easier to get past that awkward pause while waiting for everyone else to arrive to group.

Other incredible apps that didn’t quite make the cut:

Haze ($.99) check the weather to make sure the summer event isn’t going to be rained out.

Starbucks (FREE) consolidate all of your Starbucks cards into one place and earn stars toward free drinks. Maybe even have a church card and personal card both on the same account.

YouVersion (FREE) the best Bible app out there. The daily reading plans with reminders and notifications are super to keep you on track, too.

Pandora (FREE) want to have a great playlist for before and after services? Download this app, turn on the TobyMac station, plug it into your sound system, and you’re set. Easy there is an occasional commercial, so you might want to drop the $36/year to go ad-free, too. You might never buy another CD again!

What are the other best youth ministry apps out there you’d add to the list?

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.



article.2013.04.23This week we’re going to simply knock out 20 ways you can increase the level of relational ministry in your youth group. Quick, random, hits that we hope inspire you to try something new, too!

1. Add a greeting time in youth group. Give them a couple minutes to help new people feel welcome.

2. Spend time with a student every day. It doesn’t have to be physical, face-to-face, time send them a quick text, comment on their Facebook, like an Instagram picture, etc. Just make contact with one or two students every day.

3. Start an Instagram account for your ministry. Post pictures every week of people, not places.

4. Give out your personal cell phone number instead of the church office line you completely ignore.

5. Walk slowly through church this week. You might be surprised at who stops to talk to you when you aren’t hurried.

6. Let someone else teach so you can work the room.
7. Allow volunteers to have their own style don’t force extroverts into draining conversations with one person, or kill introverts by having them be up front.

8. Ask for your office hours to be trimmed 1 hour so you can be with students.

9. Go to the FCA huddle or Christian club on campus once a week.

10. Pick a sport or fine arts event to be at. Enjoy as much of it as you can, then text the student(s) afterward to congratulate them for a job well done.

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

article.2013.04.16Graduation! Your amazing students whom you have loved and cared for the past few years are heading out to the great unknown of college, the work force, their parents basement, or a strange combination of all three! But because moving away to college is such a big deal, those are the students we are going to focus on this week.

As students leave your ministry the temptation is to completely set them free and while this is the typical model in most churches, what would it look like if you extended your influence in their lives to cover this challenging transition? Here are a few practical ideas how.

Help them find a church.
For students who move away, the number one in a new city and starting a new life is finding a church home. Oftentimes the struggle is I just can’t find a church like ours, which is flattering, but a dangerous position for a student to be in their freshman year. So help! Google the churches within a couple miles of the campus and see which one would feel familiar to them. Visit their Web site, or give them a call and ask a few questions, and pass the information along to your student.

Here’s an idea: Find out where your seniors are heading for college, and ask a key volunteer to do a little bit of church research for each community and, as a graduation gift, give an Awesome churches near your school packet to each graduate!

Give them a resource.
Help them in this transition with a devotional resource or a letter a day from a member of your church with a verse to encourage them. Okay, we have never seen that one done, either, but how cool would it be! Don’t let students dangle in limbo spiritually; challenge them to continue in the spiritual disciplines and increase their faith in God even when they are in an environment where it will be challenged daily.

Check in periodically.
Being remembered is huge. Too often students leave for school and leave their mentors, parents, and youth workers behind. That is by design, and one of the catalysts that force students to think for themselves as they barrel into adulthood, but it also leaves them vulnerable to attack.

A quick Skype call, a phone call on the weekend, even a weekend trip to see them could be huge. You never know the power of a simple text; it would probably mean the world to your students 400 miles from home.

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.



article.2013.04.09This week we’re going to take on the top 3 questions that we get when people come to visit our youth ministry. You’ll get mine (Josh) today and Kurt’s tomorrow. Here are 3 very frequently asked questions:

How can I start a youth ministry internship at my church?
We are very blessed to have some really incredible interns at our church and a program that doesn’t cost the church a ton of money that produces some pretty amazing youth workers. If you want to start one, you’ve got to answer some very basic but fundamental questions about the program:

  • Will we pay the interns?
  • Where are they going to live/eat/office?
  • What is the duration of the program?
  • What are we hoping to accomplish in both them and in our ministry?

If you can answer those basic questions, you are off to a great start! For starters, I would pay the interns a very small stipend, if possible, to help cover gas and a couple meals, and keep the duration short like a summer term. Map out the basics of what they will be doing and how you want to shape them and you’re well on your way.

While I don’t have space for much more, for extra credit here’s a roadmap of where to go next:

  • Look for margin where you can add managing interns to your regular workweek. The last thing interns need is an absent leader!
  • Create a required reading list during the internship.
  • Schedule a few times for them to interact with key leaders in the church.
  • As you plan their development, consider having them observe, follow then lead an event, youth service and volunteer from application to placement.

How many events do you guys do at your church?
We made a decision long ago that we weren’t going to build a ministry that was event-driven. But to be honest, we have to continually fight the advance of program creep. Program creep is where you continue to add more and more and not take anything away!

With that in mind, we have our weekly youth group on the weekend and small groups that meet in homes during the week, and then just occasional supplemental events from there. A serve project here, a Dodgeball tournament there. We consciously don’t do a ton of events to keep balance on the biblical purposes. Just so you know, in summer we do a TON more events, so things change with the seasons, too!

So do you teach every week at youth group?
I would guess I teach about 50% of the time in our youth ministry I love giving the platform away for so many reasons:

  • Students need to hear from different voices
  • Sometimes the same thing being said by someone else sticks.
  • Leaders need platforms to develop their speaking skills.
  • I need a break!

Don’t be afraid to give away your platform a little bit you might be surprised at how quickly you fall in love with the byproducts of it. Just keep in mind as the point person make sure you are speaking at the key times and visible and supportive when you’re not on stage.

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

Just Believe

 —  April 9, 2013 — Leave a comment

article.2013.04.02This is the time of year many youth workers get disillusioned with their ministry. Another job opportunity piques interest or the thought of working a simple 9-5 becomes a little intoxicating to think about. The fun of the fall kickoff is in the rear view mirror; the big events have died down while students hunker down for the last couple months of the school year. The grass looks greener everywhere else, and you start to get down on yourself or look for a way out.

Feel familiar? If it does, read on and find some hope to fight the Spring-time itch:

Believe in your calling.
You are called to do ministry you are made for this! You stand shoulder to shoulder in the long line of incredible men and women God has used to further his kingdom. Satan is an expert at kicking us while we’re down, and he will also try to kick us during the down times of the ministry season.

I (Kurt) have found that the early spring is often the time of the year that I find myself a little frustrated in ministry; and it’s in these times Satan likes to kick me. Reminding myself of my calling and thanking God for allowing me to play a role in his kingdom is the best way to kick back.

Believe in your church.
You are called to your church maybe not for the rest of your life, but don’t let anyone else know that. Serve like you will be there for the rest of your life. When something happens to make you question that calling (maybe an unsupportive leader or discouraged pastor) make sure you get it all out on the table so it doesn’t fester inside and eventually cause damage. Maybe take some time today to reflect on the early days of hope and joy when you first started working with these students and believe again.

Believe in your people.
You have the right people in your church to build a great team of youth workers. Believe in them enough to value their time, encourage them well and train them for the challenges of working with students. Pray for your leadership team before you delete this email, and send them an encouraging note letting them know you did!

Believe in students.
Students are young and immature sometimes they say things quickly that sting or hurt you with their na’ve words, unaware of the verbal damage they have caused. There may need to be a confrontation or a challenge to maturity, but chances are they need a leader who will love them and be long-suffering in his/her guidance over the long haul. Believe God has given you the right students to change your community for him.

I (Josh) started a fantastic spring tradition in our ministry a few years ago: For five weeks in a row our students are in charge of every aspect of our church services. Seeing them rise to the occasion always renews my belief in the teenagers God has called me to serve.

Not sure what you’re facing this Spring or maybe we just needed to say some things to ourselves today. Just believe.

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.



article.2013.03.27There’s nothing more challenging interpersonally than dealing with a serious conflict with someone on your church staff, or a volunteer in a key position in your ministry. The temptation would be to let time heal it, or hope that the tension would simply go away on its own—but fight those feelings because conflict in the church, especially on a team, has to be dealt with well in order for genuine progress to be made.

Can’t we all just get along? Actually, no, and that’s probably a good thing because it forces us to tackle conflict in a God-honoring manner. Here are some steps to move toward resolution when you find yourself in conflict with someone on staff.

Be the bigger person.

Someone is going to have to lead with humility—might as well be you. How would this relationship change if you decided to take action and humble yourself (right or wrong in the matter that caused the division, either way), and begin a conversation to rebuild trust and love? Until someone does this, any progress will just be an outward act covering up a pain-filled heart. Unresolved conflict eats away at your job satisfaction, your vision, and your heart. Don’t let it happen!

Take a small step forward.

A simple note, gesture, or gift can go a long way. Could you find an excuse to give them a small token of your love for them—even if it’s never acknowledged or reciprocated? Continually take small steps forward—mixed with time this is a powerful way to break down walls.

Talk them up to other people.

People can usually sniff out when someone is in tension with another person—in fact, most churches specialize in spreading that information around gleefully, it seems. When you talk positively about the person in conflict, you are disarming the potential for a greater divide in the church, and not forcing people to take sides. Plus, it is surprising (and won’t take long) for word to get back to that person, too!

Pray for healing.

Too often the “right” answer is to pray for the situation—in this case, it’s no different. You have to ask God to mend what is broken and heal what areas are infected. Conflict between people who work together every day can, and has, claimed many churches—don’t let yours be one of them!

Re-read yesterday’s article.
And by the way, a whole bunch of what we wrote yesterday concerning dealing with a disappointed parents can also apply to resolving conflict on your ministry team. Here’s an example:

Kurt: “Josh, I can understand why you FEEL threatened by my physical stature.”
Kurt: “In fact, Josh, other people on our team have FELT the same way.”
Kurt: “Here’s what I’ve FOUND: As long as you don’t tick me off…you have nothing to be afraid of.”

See…It’s simple!

Who do you need to take a small step forward with today?

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

article.2013.03.19If you’re like us, it takes you 45 minutes to spill all of the details of the 60-minute workshop you attended that changed your life last week at a youth conference. Inspired by it, you lay out a vision for your youth ministry for the next five years. The volunteers sit there like a deer in the headlights; then one of them timidly raises her hand, “Sounds like somebody went to a youth worker conference last week,” she says.

It happens! Sometimes at an incredible event we come down with a case of Let’s Change Everything Syndrome (LCES). If you’ve ever had LCES, you know the temptation to overhaul every aspect of your ministry in the first five days after you get back. Beware of the side effects: volunteer abandonment, blurry vision and upset supervisors.

Post-conference excitement is natural, and there’s nothing wrong with the desire to make changes when we’ve been exposed to new ideas. But LCES can do more harm than good. Here are a few tips to avoid it.

Pray about what God is asking you to do.
Sometimes after reading an incredible book or hearing an inspiring speaker we think about what we want to do as a result or what worked for them instead of what God’s voice is clearly directing. The only way to distinguish between competing visions is to spend time with God and ask for his vision. Usually taking some time to process, decompress, and pray are the best steps to hearing from him after you’ve been exposed to new ideas.

Wait for the right season to change.
The right time for changes is typically not the Spring or the middle of Fall (which, coincidently is when lots of training events happen). Think strategically about when to bring about significant changes to your ministry. Lay an infrastructure for the move to small groups all summer long; then release them in January. Prepare your volunteers for the junior high/senior high split at the start of the school year this Fall, rather than eagerly announcing it out of the blue tonight at youth group.

Start with one thing.
Reflect in your Moleskin journal or iPad app on some of the biggest things you learned at the event, or conversations you were inspired by. Make a list of everything that is considered an “action step” and prioritize them and map out a 1-2 year plan of action. Update it occasionally as you retreat or receive additional training and insight.

Keep a dialogue going.
Don’t make changes in isolation! While the church might not have been able to send your whole volunteer team to an event, take the time to share your “one thing” with your spouse, your volunteers, or student leaders. Once you’ve taken the ball down the court, don’t be afraid to rally support and analyze it to make the ideas better and increase ownership.

Any learnings you want to share after coming home from a youth worker training event?

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.