Got a few emails and comments asking about vacation time for youth workers. I had mentioned in an earlier post that I am in the middle of taking 100 hours of vacation this month to be Mr. Mom as my wife enjoys an overseas mission trip to Africa. I’ve already posted about The Vacations We Take Each Year, and here are a few additional thoughts and ideas about vacation time:

  • VACATION TIME: We accumulate vacation time each work week at our church. Depending on how long you’ve served at the church, the faster you accumulate time off. For the typical employee you get two weeks of vacation, so roughly 1.6 hours per week worked (80 hours a year). You can “bank” up to two years of your annual amount of vacation time.
  • COMP TIME: Officially, there is no such thing as “comp time” at Saddleback. You’re expected to work 50 hours a week, and if you work more it doesn’t matter. Obviously, that makes things like camps or retreats a bit unrealistic, but such is life. As a supervisor myself, I may choose to me more lenient on my team and offer lighter schedules and be keenly aware of the temperature of my team. I don’t always get it right, but I try to be the understanding youth ministry boss that I haven’t always been privileged to have throughout my youth ministry career.
  • FLEXIBLE SCHEDULE: Forward-thinking companies like Netflix realize that in some environments work hours are messy and don’t fit into traditional banking hours. That comp time is impossible to track, and that people who don’t turn it off are better when they take longer more ambiguous stretches of time off. Interesting article in the Wall St. Journal – but don’t expect your church to understand this concept. I would make a guess that the person who is in charge of your office/work culture probably is a bit more traditional/straight-laced to take this big of a risk from the norm.
  • SPIRITUAL RETREAT DAY: Occasionally I’ll give my team a spiritual retreat day, an 8-hour day that are focused completely on personal spiritual development of their heart and to reconnect with God. We work hard, and the biggest shame of working hard would be to not work alongside with the Spirit’s leading. So no busy work or email is allowed, and everyone is asked to send a paragraph report on what God said to them. I should do this more often, if for my own heart than anything else.
  • CAMPS ARE NOT VACATION: Camps and retreats NEVER count as vacation. I read an “out of office” reply last week from a youth worker at camp and it said they were “on vacation” – don’t affirm that terrible stereotype that because you are away you are NOT on vacation. If this is present in your church culture, it is a fight worth fighting in my opinion.
  • CONFERENCE ALLOWANCE: Conferences also do not count as vacation time – our church gives me a couple days of free personal development time as well. I’ve worked in and heard of many others that wrap vacation/conferences into one to save money or because it does use vacation time. In this economy a raise is unlikely anyhow, so perhaps make the ask for a couple paid days away to grow in your expertise.
  • WHEN TO FIT IN VACATION: Late summer works best for me to take vacation time – the summer calendar starts to wain and the fall kickoff isn’t quite here yet. I like to think of it as the calm before the storm. Actually, I’m writing this post in the calm of some time away right now. Feels good. I should do this more often.
  • WHAT ABOUT YOUTH GROUP WHEN I’M AWAY: When I’m on vacation, I give the platform away to trusted voices and voices I want to develop. This block that I’m gone right now I’m having a few experienced and inexperienced voices in front of our students, I’m excited because this weekend a volunteer and his small group are teaching.

How does your church do vacation time? When was the last time you were on vacation? Any tips or tricks to share with the MTDB community?

JG

This week’s poll – how many of your small group leaders from last year are returning to groups this Fall? And if you’re up to leave a comment, what would be considered a healthy/typical/normal drop out rate year-to-year?

JG



August is here – summer programs are winding down and school is about to begin. Scratch that – for more than half the country, kids are already in classes this week! You’re heading toward the Fall kickoff of your youth ministry, and thinking about what’s next. I posted When to Buy Youth Ministry Resources last August, but thought something tangible with solid suggestions for the fall might be a good idea as well. Here are the questions I’m asking with a couple weeks to go before our official kickoff:

1. Is your youth ministry service ready to go?
Take the time to lay out the fall teaching calendar. Create or purchase a teaching series that is compelling and make it easy for your students to bring their non-believing friends. The start of the school year is one of the most opportune times for Friendship Evangelism. Then think about the atmosphere that first-time student will walk into – are a few crowd games or a cell phone poll the way to go? Is the room setup ideally for what you’re trying to accomplish? Do you have a way to contact students during the week? How can you give your youth group a jolt of fresh energy this Fall? Suggestions: 2nd Greatest Story Every Told, Heart of a Champion, Awaken Your Creativity

2. Are your small group leaders and volunteers trained?
Capitalize on the fall to get some good reading into the hands of your leaders or good material into your hands for training meetings. Suggestions: Youth Worker Training on the Go, Emergency Response Handbook for Youth Ministry, Connect

3. What are you reading for your personal development?
You meant to read a few good books over the summer – and honestly, they’re still in the bottom of your backpack. Take them out and get cracking! If you’re looking for a good book Terrace had a good list for young influencers and Kurt’s new book The 9 Best Practices of Youth Ministry looks challenging. My favorite book this summer was Linchpin. Pick up a book for your own development. Suggestions: Tribes, Switch, Steering Through Chaos, Crazy Love, The Next Generation Leader

4. What is it time to launch?
For us we’re talking about helping hurting students, so we’re concentrating on our pastoral care program for teenagers who are at risk. You’ve got the pulse of your student ministry – what is it time to launch? Or maybe what is it time to re-launch? Maybe it is time to stop something, so this January you can breath new life into it? Suggestions: The Landing, Help! I’m a Student Leader, LeaderTreks

JG

tp://terracecrawford.blogspot.com/2010/08/top-20-books-every-young-influencer.html

Journaled a little bit last week about pastoral care – how we’re called to care for the wounds of the students that have been entrusted to us as youth workers. In the setup we’re launching soon, we’ll have a 3-pronged approach to helping students with the hurts in their lives. Here’s the breakdown:

Small group leaders
One of the most effective groups of pastoral care volunteers in our ministry are the small group leaders. Students that have taken a step beyond the entry-level program of the weekend service come to experience being known, loved and cared for. When they have a problem (or a celebration, for that matter) they most often turn to “their pastor” – a title we’ve quick to award these amazing leaders. The majority (that part isn’t represented well in my Moleskin drawing above, sorry) of struggles and issues are addressed personally and directly here.

Pastoral care volunteers
This is the area where we have a great opportunity to build, we don’t have this yet so I’m talking in more ideal than real. What if there was a team of adults who pray for, counsel, guide and respond to students in need? If a student doesn’t have a small group leader, or needs more than what that leader can provide, we have a response. When a student is looking for prayer on the weekend, there’s a place for them to go. When they finally get up the nerve to call or Facebook, someone is quick to respond back.

The Landing (check out this program in detail here)
On the other end of the spectrum there are kids dealing with major life issues perhaps considered to be “above the pay grade” of the care team or their small group leader. And while we hope leaders know they can take on anything, we want to offer a program with specifically trained and called volunteers who’ve “seen it all” and can help coach and love these students through recovery. That’s where The Landing comes into play – a Celebrate Recovery for students that is available every Friday night of the year.

How do you care for students? Just thinking out loud today – hoping it triggers and idea to care for your students, too!

JG



Quite a few emails and comments from people this summer about the new self-service Pastoral Care brochure racks we launched for our High School Ministry. Honestly, it has taken a whole lot longer to produce each brochure than we originally thought, and they’ve gone a lot faster than I expected – so it’s been totally worth it. Anyhow, some youth workers were recently asking about publishing a topic list of the different pamphlets, so here’s the list of ideas as of today. I wish we could have done them all, but some ideas had to get cut and only a few are [done].

Pastoral Care Issues
1. Relationships, Dating [done]
2. Sexual Temptations/Porn [done]
3. Identity/Value/Worth [done]
4. Bullies
5. Anger
6. Peer Pressure
7. Insecurity
8. Loneliness
9. Marriage/Divorce
10. Death
11. Feeling Lost/Purposeless
12. Unplanned Pregnancy/Abortion [done]
13. Gender Issues
14. Domestic Violence/Sexual Abuse
15. Addiction
16. Parents
17. Eating Disorders [done]
18. Academic Problems
19. Stress
20. Depression
21. Homosexuality [done]
22. Cutting [done]
23. Grief [done]
24. Forgiveness
25. Suicide [done]
26. Stealing

Christian Life
1. Habits
2. Following Jesus [done]
3. Salvation
4. Serving
5. PEACE
6. Purposes [done]
7. What It Means to be a Christian
8. Baptism [done]
9. Communion [done]
10. Small Groups
11. How to Get Connected
12. M Video Games/M Music/R Movies

13. Alcohol/Drugs [done]
14. How To Grow/A Few Ways to Grow

Theology
1. The Bible [done]
2. God [done]
3. Heaven/Hell [done]
4. Is Jesus the Only Way [done]
5. Theology Terms
6. Environment [done]
7. Humanity
8. Sin

HSM General/Funny
1. Snuggies
2. Fun In the Refinery
3. HSM Insider Terms
4. Ninjas
5. Star Wars
6. Pirates vs. Ninjas

7. Fashion Don’ts [done]

What are we missing? Leave a comment!

JG

I’m excited to announce that in January we’re starting a new program to help the hurting students at Saddleback. It is called The Landing and it is a year-long version of Celebrate Recovery program. Our church leadership has been wanting to run a parallel program to Celebrate Recovery for adults and children. This is it! Life Hurts, God Heals is still a great option as well – you can check that out right here as well. Either way, stop for a minute today and think about the hurting kids in your ministry and what you can do to serve them.

The Landing is an all-new, year-long program that helps teenagers travel the path to freedom, healing, and wholeness. This dynamic resource mirrors the content presented in the successful Celebrate Recovery program. The lessons deliver hope-filled truths and real-life strategies for giving young people the tools for making wise choices and developing healthy patterns for living.

Use The Landing as a way to minister to teenagers in your church and community who are struggling with life-controlling hurts, hang-ups, and habits. Or simply implement the curriculum in your small groups, Sunday school classes, or midweek program to give all of your students insights on following the path to freedom. This resource will complement your efforts if you church is using the Celebrate Recovery ministry for adults and the Celebration Station content for kids–but it also flourishes as a stand alone option!

JG



Well, we made the change from calling them small groups to calling them life groups – it only took me a year since I first blogged about the idea – ha! It is a bit of a semantic thing, but I’m a big fan of the switch. Rather then focus on their size (which remains important) the name focuses on what happens (sharing life, which is more important). Here’s some of the frequently asked questions we answer as people register:

What are High School Ministry Life Groups?
Life Groups are small groups for high school students. These groups are made up of 10 – 12 students (same grade and gender) that meet weekly with a caring adult leader.

Life Groups are a perfect place for you to form great friendships with other students your age, build relationships with adult leaders and learn more about God and grow closer to Him. Your group will be encouraged to establish accountability with each other, have consistent personal quiet times, get involved in ministry, and participate in service projects.

When and where do they meet?
Life Groups meet in host homes on Tuesday or Wednesday evenings from 7:00 – 9:00pm. Meeting in homes creates a warm, friendly atmosphere for sharing life together.

What does a typical night look like?
Each Life Group will look different, but a typical night will look something like this: welcome / snacks / hang out / Bible study / discussion / prayer.

Being involved in a Life Group will be an awesome time to grow closer to God; what better way to do that than by reading and studying the Bible? Every Life Group will choose their study topic from the provided LIVE Curriculum. Studies include: prayer, following Jesus, making good decisions, purity, having healthy relationships, studying the Bible, dealing with temptation, living in godly community and more.

What about my leader?
HSM has incredible, screened, and trained adult volunteers who are ready to serve and teach high school students. Our HSM leaders are there to encourage, teach, guide, and help strengthen your walk with Christ. It may turn out to be the most significant relationship of your high school years.

What is the Life Group Commitment?
Being part of a Life Group is a privilege. We expect each Life Group member to commit to the following:

  1. Come to group prepared, equipped with a Bible, a pen, a notebook and a good attitude.
  2. Respect your Life Group leader. They are giving you their time because they WANT to minister to you.
  3. Respect and be kind to others in your group.
  4. Respect your Host Home. Help clean-up your host home at the end of every night.

JG

What a tough decision … the stories you submitted in the LIVE Curriculum contest were amazing and heart-stirring. The nominations, the effort, the heart of youth ministry in all of them – wow. So hard to choose! So … I didn’t, exactly. I took my 5 favorite, and then picked one at random. Here’s the winning story, congratulations to Bree Klemme:

We desperately need the LIVE Curriculum. In order for you to understand why, I will start at the beginning of our crazy journey.My husband and I moved to a rural community about a year ago (so he could farm). We looked non-stop for a church, and not until 3 months ago did we find one that was Bible based and preaching the Word. The church body is a wonderful group who loves the Lord and wants to do what is right and immediately we felt at ‘home.’ Two months ago (right before we were going to become members) the pastor was released from his duties because of serious moral and spiritual issues; the biggest wasn’t even that he spent most of his days at the church looking at porn online. Recognizing that a church is more than just a pastor and that this was where we felt led to be and serve, we stayed and became members.

We jumped in with both feet and have been looking for ministry opportunities…I was going to help lead worship and be on the music committee, Brian was going to help on the work committee and start a program for new visitors and we thought we might be helpers in the youth group …when, last month the husband of the couple who were going to take on the Sr. High Youth Group was struck down with migraines that caused him to have a multiple strokes from which he is not even close to recovering from. There isn’t anyone else that either wants to do it or isn’t already committed to the Awana Children Program, so after much prayer and thoughtful consideration we are going to do it.

This is not something that we are taking lightly; I had awesome youth group leaders that set a wonderful example for me. The leaders were there for usually at least 4 year stretches, they were very involved in the schools and in the kids’ lives including extra-curricular activities. Brian didn’t have that…in fact he was the youth group; his pastor would taking him golfing for youth group because it was just him. Brian is wary of what is going to happen because he hasn’t ever seen what a youth group is like. He isn’t concerned about teaching the Bible, he is a very wise godly man and has led other Bible studies, but isn’t quite sure what subjects we need to cover or what to do with the rest of the time that makes up a youth group meeting.

Part of our problem is that there isn’t a program already in place. There have been 3 different youth group leaders over the last 3 years! And, last year the leaders wouldn’t show up and the kids were left hanging (which is a crappy thing to do to them!) None of the last youth leaders had any materials or any kind of structure. We are going to have to rebuild the Sr. High Youth Group from scratch.

We are desperately trying to follow God’s leading, and we are going to do that whether we get the LIVE Curriculum or not. But, I do know that it would help us to be better youth leaders and help us reach out and draw more youth in and have an impact in the community with the program. I know this might sound made-up, but our story is true and clearly explains why we need this program.

Check out the LIVE small group curriculum at Simply Youth Ministry today!

JG