Asbury Park, NJ courtesy of APP

Asbury Park, NJ courtesy of APP

As many of us attempt to get our students serving this summer, there is often a “trip” of some kind planned.   We plan, give packing lists, and prepare their hearts for  what’s ahead.   As the youth leader we are very focused on what OUR youth will get out of their time, and how it will impact them for eternal transformation.  This is the way it ought to be.

However…

This summer I am on the other side of the mission’s trip.   As an inner city ministry in an area devastated by Hurricane Sandy, we have gotten an inundation of groups wanting to come and be with us for a week.  It has been interesting to be the bridge between those coming, and those who will receive help.  This has got me thinking

As you take off for your trip have you considered what your APPROACH will be?

To The Situation You Will Serve:

It is important to prep your team for the situation they will encounter as much as possible.  What will they see, smell, experience?   Some circumstances of abject poverty or desolation will be shocking.  When you arrive at a site the focus needs to be totally on those you are giving to, while processing your own reactions to the time there.  Students need to be prepped to take the work they will be offering seriously, to stay consistent in their time and efforts,  and to debrief with you in the evenings after their days.

To The People You Will Be Serving:

Destitute people in difficult situations rarely define themselves this way.  Are we giving or stripping a person of their dignity?  Make sure you approach every person you serve with respect and honor.   Before you make any assumptions ASK a person what they would LIKE for you to do for them.  Our opinions of what we feel someone might need,  isn’t nearly as important as the way they will receive our offering.

To The Partnering Site:

Even if you are going with a missions organization there is a group on the receiving end.   Are you respecting their methods and approach to ministry?  Are you asking them what THEY would like from you?  Communication, and follow through of their requests is vital.  Remember they were here before you came and they will stay after you and your students  go home.

If there is one piece of advice I can leave you with it would be this.  Remember, it is a privilege and an honor that a community has invited you in to be with them.   Sometimes we and our students need them really more than they need us.

the_basics_video_curriculum

I’m excited to let you know about a new resource that Simply Youth Ministry and I will release next week – The Basics: Foundations for Your Faith is a new 4-week DVD curriculum for small groups. It might be a good series for a new believer’s class as well. Here’s a little blurb from the official description:

The best coaches, the most effective teachers, and the strongest leaders all know this truth: If you want to build something that endures, you have to start with the basics.

That idea applies to our spiritual journey, too. The Basics will help students explore, discuss, and apply some of the core truths of the Christian faith. The truths in this series aren’t called “basic” because they’re childish or simplistic; they’re “basic” because they’re foundational and essential to leading a life that honors God.

Each week, your teenagers will explore key Scriptures that relate to these topics, discuss the significance of each biblical truth, and consider how it relates to their lives today.

The Basics is ideal for students who have recently become Christ-followers or for teenagers who are exploring the claims and truths of the Christian faith—but students who’ve been followers of Jesus for years will benefit, too.

You can order it right here!

JG



Our high school ministry does really well with funny videos and usually comes up with some pretty strong programming bits for our youth group services. What I like about this video is that is sets up the students’ sharing time so well. Good stuff!

JG

stories_life_groups

Weekend Teaching Series: Life Group: STORIES (1-off)
Sermon in a Sentence: Real-life stories where Christian Community makes a huge difference.
Service Length: 68 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend we continued a regular 1-off we do on occasion called STORIES. Students share their life and faith on stage in front of their peers – the idea started a couple years ago and has been so successful we now have a Stories weekend every 4-5 months. This time the stories all focused on the power of Christian community, and we tied it into a mid-year push to join a Life Group as well. Really powerful stories of how God has used students, leaders and groups for His glory!

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This week the program was very straightforward – lots of student stories, some strong video content and great music. Not a whole lot of extra programming, but really well put together and powerful.

Music Playlist: Break Free, Always, Grace, Everything, Christ in Me

Favorite Moment: I loved the last song and how it tied into the message so well. “Let my story lift you high.” So strong – LOVE it when students share their faith on stage.

Up next: You Are Here [What On Earth Am I Here For? Campaign] (series premiere, week 1 of 6)




Andrew suggested this week’s poll question: when and where do your small groups meet? Would love to know what you’re doing and help others get an idea about what’s out there, too! In my current ministry we have small groups during the week, unattached to a program. How about you? Vote now!

JG

Was digging through some old files on our student ministry archives, and found this simple gem on how to pray for your small group leaders. Not sure who to credit (probably Matt McGill or Doug Fields). Good stuff here:

  • Put a couple calendar reminders for each day of your week as a reminder to pray for your small group leaders. (i.e. I pray for Bob and Jim on Tuesdays, Sue and Sammy on Wednesdays, etc,)
  • Look up the list of students in their small group and pray for each of them by name.
  • Pray for something very specific to happen with their small group. Send them an email letting them know about your prayer.
  • Put a post-it on your dashboard with one leader’s name and every time you get in your car to drive to work or small group…pray for that leader. Change it each week.
  • Write a letter to God on a postcard that is a prayer for that small group leader and send it to them in the mail.

JG



This week we’re going to focus on some of the best practices of youth ministry nationwide and hope that it generates some helpful conversation as you agree, disagree or have no opinion either way! Right up front we want to let you know that there is no PERFECT way to do youth ministry; our hope is that you prayerfully consider your context and determine what would and wouldn’t work in the ministry you lead.

BEST PRACTICE: Dividing up junior high and high school students.
There is simply too much difference between a 12-year-old 7th grader and an 18-year-old graduating senior—specifically, the developmental differences. Plus, on a practical note, keeping them separate gives the junior highers something to look forward to. Having said all that, there are some incredible opportunities when you keep these groups together. The older students can disciple and model what younger students can become over the next few years.

QUESTIONS:
• Do you have separate ministries for junior and senior high?
• Why or why not?
• What are other pros and cons of dividing up these age groups?
• What would happen if you made the switch?

BEST PRACTICE: Small groups being the primary method of discipleship and fellowship.
Most youth groups meet once a week for a large-group time of celebration, fun, and worship; and then either as part of that gathering, or at another time during the week, divide up into small groups for fellowship and discipleship. The overwhelming model has been for groups to work through a curriculum and also share life and Christian community together.

QUESTIONS:
• Does your church have small groups, Sunday school, or just large group times?
• Why have you chosen this strategy?
• What is the weakness of this model?
• Sunday school used to be invincible; now it has largely been replaced by small groups. What’s next?

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.

Here at Vanderbloemen Search Group, we are often asked, “What is everybody else doing out there?” Since we work with many churches and student pastors throughout the country, we have the honor of seeing what some of the most growing churches are doing in their student ministries. Every student ministry is unique, but here are a few trends we’re seeing in growing churches:

1. Small Groups – Generation Y craves relationships. Student pastors often share with us that the best discussion and discipleship happens in the context of small groups. Some churches have their small groups on Sundays, and some have them throughout the week. Some have them at the church facility and others have them in homes. Regardless of the approach, we are seeing that small groups are a pivotal part of healthy student ministries.

2. Leadership Development – We find that the healthiest student ministries are equipping their high schoolers with leadership skills to lead Bible Studies, outreach events, and mentor programs to the middle schoolers. We also see churches involving the youth in the Sunday service, training them with responsibilities of sound, lights, worship, etc… Developing an effective leadership program may be time consuming at first, but the long-term benefits are worth it. Many youth pastors we talk to bring on a few of their high school leaders as interns over the summer. These students often pursue ministry after high school.

3. Volunteer Training – Recruiting volunteers can be one of the most challenging aspects of ministry for student pastors. It’s difficult to find dedicated volunteers who also have the “cool factor” that high school kids are looking for. We find that youth pastors who succeed in finding great volunteers invest in their training and development. Bring in a leadership coach and be sure that your volunteers have the resources they need to invest in your students.

4. Separating Jr & Sr High – Some of the most growing ministries are separating the Jr and Sr high worship services to provide a more tailored message to the age groups. Jr highers are concerned about different topics than Sr highers, and the way you approach topics with each group should be different. We’re noticing that growing churches are developing separate teams over Jr and Sr high with a director leading the vision of both ministries.

5. Outreach – We see students craving purpose and meaning. Student pastors are getting students out in the community to serve under-resourced communities. Students like being given significant challenges and responsibilities. Effective student pastors are also networking with local schools to identify the scope of their ministry responsibilities beyond the walls of the church.

Depending on the unique needs of your students, these strategies may or may not be effective in the context of your ministry. If you’re using these strategies in your ministry, we’d love to hear your thoughts! If not, what strategies have you found to be effective for your students?

Thanks to VSG for this guest post! They are currently searching for Student Pastors who are dynamic leaders in a few churches like this one in NV and this one in GA.