Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 9.48.11 AMCollege ministry in the summer can be an interesting beast to tame. Some of our ministries aren’t really affected by the summer months, others blow up with all their college students coming back home, while others go dormant because students go back home.

But one thing is common across the country when it comes to college ministry and summer: mission trips. So, what I thought I’d do here is issue a caution, a suggestion, and then a focus point for you as you prepare your teams.

Caution.  Mission trips can be wonderful things for everyone involved. Our churches can be impacted, those that go on the trip can certainly be changed, and those we serve can really be helped. But it’s important to make sure we are not teaching the wrong thing. The mission field is not somewhere other than where we live!  We all live on the mission field, it’s called planet earth. So, a quick word of advice as you prep your teams: make sure they are beginning to view themselves as missionaries where they live, now. The trip can be a part of that process, but we must be intentional with making sure our mindsets are correctly aligned with God on this. God is doing things all over the world and, like every other missionary on the planet, God uses us where we live.  If we don’t think God wants to use us where we currently live, we need to move.

Suggestion.  Mission trips are packed with service opportunities, which is a wonderful aspect of these times. However, we often miss a fantastic opportunity with college-age people on our mission trips: exposure Many people, especially in America, have huge misconceptions of what it means to be a missionary. We think missionaries are all people working out in the bush somewhere with people who have bones in their noses. Well, college students need to experience otherwise. They should meet someone with a 4-year degree volunteering in a nursery, holding, changing and feeding babies. They should meet someone who is a computer whiz running the IT for a school. They should spend time with someone who is teaching orphans the construction trade or mechanics. It would be wonderful if they met a person with a 4-year art or music degree teaching children in an orphanage.

This type of exposure is critical for college students. By being exposed in these ways they can literally see how their “field” of interest could potentially be used for the benefit of someone else rather than just for themselves. This is so critical that I would even suggest doing trips with the sole purpose of exposing students in this way.

Focus Point.  A critical aspect of college ministry is helping students move from only having relational connections in the student ministry world to having relational connections in the adult world. By doing so they are exposed to older adults who they can learn from, glean wisdom from, and look up to. That to say, invite an older adult or three to go on the trip with you. Hand pick a few that you think would be great for college age people to be exposed to. Don’t invite them to be chaperones. Invite them to join the trip as your friend and have them be a part of the team just like everyone else. This way they can actually build relationships with no barriers.

These types of relational connecting points have to be taken advantage of when working with college students. And time away for a week or two on a trip like this is pretty much the prime time for life long relationships to start.

Thanks for loving college students!

Chuck / @chuckbomar

We are family.

The youth worker nation. People who invest into youth workers. Group/Simply Youth Ministry.

You’re probably reading this blog because you’re in one of those categories.

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Because we are family, we all gathered around one of our own to throw a baby shower on behalf of his family’s first baby..

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Because we are family, we do blog interviews about the things we’re doing and help one another get the word out about something we’re each passionate about.

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Because we are family, we listen to someone who shares powerful, humble perspective with us… and watch a video he’s asked us to watch even though the quality is horrible, the sound is off anywhere between 3-9 seconds depending upon the scene, and there’s strange Arabic writing at the bottom of it….

no… really.

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Because we’re family, we carpool to the airport, pitch in for gas and walk with each other as far as we can before our gates take us in different directions.

This family is bigger than all of us, but it involves each of us.

You are a part of this family.

You gave the feedback that became the ingredients for our conversations over the past few days. We ran with that and leaned into the Holy Spirit for the best recipe. I can’t wait to taste and see that the Lord is good together when we all eat as one in just a handful of months.

See you at the “family reunion” called the Simply Youth Ministry Conference in March of 2014.

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Question-300x300As summer is quickly coming to an end and fall is quickly approaching, I like to think about how the events or programs I oversee can be better. I also like to brainstorm new ones. My goal is to learn from my failures with summer events, so I don’t repeat them in the fall. Through failure I’ve grown to love the planning process a lot more. Here are 7 questions I ask myself based off of events/programs that I didn’t think all the way through.

  1. What’s the purpose of the event/program? – Knowing the purpose of the event I’m planning helps me gauge my target audience. Not every student will want to come to a worship event or discipleship event. Knowing the purpose allows me to go all out on promotion that is specifically created with the purpose of the event in mind.  My goal is to reach those I’ve identified as my potential taget.
  2. Will students want to come? –  I have to be careful that I don’t plan something based on my own preference but I plan something that will be great and fun for students. I’ve pulled core students in on the planning just to get their perspective on an event or program.
  3. Is there opportunity for building relationships? – I think of this question in terms of student to student or leader to student. Of course there will be both going on but being intentional about which one best fits the event takes the event to the next level.  A lot of times I push students to our events so they can get connected, so I have to think about that during the planning process.
  4. Is there follow-up or next steps needed? – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve missed the opportunity to challenge students to take the next step or follow-up with them because I didn’t think it through beforehand. I’ve been thinking about helping students follow-up with friends that they bring to events. This is definitely a question you want to ask yourself.
  5. Should it cost and is it the right amount? - I’m always thinking is there a way not to charge. Sometimes it’s doable, like the park day we do where we provide lunch, but this is not always the case. Some events or programs have no budget and students have to pay, which is ok, as long as it’s the right price point which has been thought through. Parents will definitely appreciate this step.
  6. Where can we cut cost? – Again I’m thinking about budget and parents. Budget money is coming from people who believe in the God given mission of the church. I definitely want to care about where their money is going. So where can we save money is the question.
  7. How can we help students invite their friends? – Students are connected non-stop with their friends through social media and text. We’ve had great success using these mediums to help them invite their friends.  The goal is to be as creative as you can be.  If you’re not that creative get some of your students to help you.  They will love it and you will have potentially started a new ministry.

Now, I know there are more than just seven questions, so what else can we think about in the planning process to make it the best event/program ever?  Would love to hear your thoughts!!!

hope it helps

ac

The Bionic Teenager?

Tony Myles —  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?



Ever had that moment? A student walks up and tells you that they thought your talk last week was hilarious? Or the game was intense and really great?

And then you ask them what the point of the message was, and they have no clue?

I have.

I’ve learned that I need to spend just as much time thinking about how I’m going to drive my point home as I do trying to figure out what my point is. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

1. Concrete Ideas: Give your students something to DO. As soon as the message is over if you can. Spell out very clearly for them what living out what you just spoke on looks like. Show them. Illustrate it. Tell them in five languages if you have to. Be very, very clear with your students about what they can DO with what you just told them.

2. Short and Sweet: Get the point of your message down to 120 characters. Why? Two reasons: so your students can remember it and so you can tweet it after the talk. In fact, tweet it multiple times throughout the week, just to make sure they remember it. Even better: put a picture with it. Visuals change lives (I just made that up and have no research to back it up with).

Live It : Whatever you just told your students to do, make sure you are doing it, have done it, and will do it too. You do damage to your message every time you act differently than what you just presented. Think your students will forget your message? You’re right. But think your students will forget your actions? Not a chance.


These things won’t guarantee that a student will remember your talk from last week. But boy they help out!

Ronald is the youth minister at FBC Lexington, TN. He’s married to Bekah and has two girls: Sophie and Penny. Find his blog here and Twitter here 

I love Google Maps.

When you load the homepage the default view is zoomed way out showing you the whole United States. Type in an address and it zooms in quickly to show you a specific region. Click “street view” and BAM! you’re looking at things as if you were literally walking through the neighborhood by foot. Kinda creepy since Google is secretly stalking us, but kinda awesome at the same time. And a great example to how we typically plan our youth ministry calendar.

We first take a look at the big picture of our ministry, then zoom in on the season ahead, and finally get a street view all of the way down to the current teaching series and events. Let me explain in a bit more detail:

THE BIG PICTURE
It is a wise idea to get away for the day and get a big picture of your ministry. Take a break from the pace of ministry and the distractions of email, voicemail and the persistent nagging of Google+ and wrestle with an overview of your youth group. August is the perfect time for this! Now for some this is a simple task because they live in the world of ideas and vision – for others it will be challenging to stick your head up over it all and get a glimpse of the whole.

Key questions to ask yourself at this big picture stage:

  • Where you think God wants to take students in the next year?
  • What worked well last year, and will it work again?
  • What annual events would be effective again this year?
  • What needs to get the axe?
  • Have I blocked out my 2 weeks of vacation?
  • Where are we strong and where are we weak?
  • Is there a good balance of God’s eternal purposes for our ministry (evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, worship)?

Paint in broad strokes what your youth ministry year will look like at this point. Lots of prayer – ask God for discernment. Use pencil.

THE SEASON AHEAD
You’ve now got an idea of the big picture of your youth ministry – now it is time to specially plan the next season. There are lots of ways you can do this – right now I like to divide the year into 3 unequal parts – Fall, Winter-Spring and Summer. This is the time to start to really firm up specific teaching topics, series and events. You probably already locked up some bigger things like summer camp, trips and retreat locations, but now is the time to make final decisions.

Key questions to ask yourself at this season stage:

  • What needs to be cut?
  • Am I keeping this program to satisfy a parent/vocal students or because it is what is best for our ministry?
  • Where do I have momentum naturally and where is it lacking?
  • What are the teaching topics for this season?
  • Who is the best person to teach?
  • Has my spouse seen this before I go public with it?

What looked good in the big picture view might be too much now that you’re zoomed in a bit closer. You are still flexible enough at this point for an audible. Use the eraser now if needed, but definitely not on your vacation time.

CURRENT SERIES/EVENTS
The closest we zoom in for planning is the current month. You’ve planned everything from a year out, you firmed up much of those plans in your season overview, now it is time to lock everything down and walk into what you’ve planned.

Key questions to ask yourself at this season stage:

  • What adjustments do I need to make based on circumstances that have come up since we planned the year/season?
  • Am I balanced and healthy with this calendar?
  • What can we do make our youth ministry even better next year?

I’m in the thick of planning our summer right now! May God bless you as you serve students and plan your youth ministry calendar, too.

JG



Got a great question from a fellow youth worker this week about topics we cover every year in our youth ministry. It was a quick answer for me – and I’ll share those below – but would LOVE for you to share in the comments what you teach on each year as well:

Purpose/Identity
Each year, I try to start the school year with a 1-off message or short series about your purpose in life, the purposes for the church and our new identity in Christ. Every year it is framed differently and people might not even recognize it is intentionally the same message every student needs to hear again and again.

Sex/Friendship/Relationships
This is the easiest one on the list – simply because this is by far the biggest felt need of students so we for sure cover it every year. It is the most widely promoted, best attended series of the year. Last year’s version was called Facebook Official and was really great.

Apologetic Series
This is a more recent addition to our “teach on every year” list but it has become more and more important to see that students are challenged to build a stronger foundation for their faith. The past few years we’ve brought in a special guest speaker who specializes in this (maybe you could find a local Bible college professor or something) to help you bring the heat that series.

Life/Teachings of Jesus
Every year I want us to do a clear Life of Christ series. Maybe 3-4 weeks on the teachings, miracles, statements, sermons, parables – something that centers on Jesus alone.

I think those are the big ones – oh, one last thing – I would have added that we do a Christmas series every year … but this year, we’re trying something new and doing a series called InstaLife in December then joining up with families/parents the week of Christmas. Hope it goes well!

JG

I love summer in Youth Ministry for so many reasons, its the change of gears, its the relational time, its students dropping by the office, I just love it. For our youth group, its high time for events. We have lots going on because after all,there are students around and many have little to do, so lets harness that energy. Between 5 major events, beach hangout days and other small activities our summer calendar has much to offer for students looking for something to do, but there is one weekly event that has taken on a life of its own.

In the city I work in there  are three major high schools and right near all of them in an area commonly know as “uptown” sits a McDonalds location that is always filled with students. Seeing that they are there anyway, we decided two summers ago to launch “Uptown Wednesdays”. From 1-3pm every Wednesday of the summer we meet at McDonalds and if you come we will buy you and ANYONE you bring a soda. Here is what is awesome about that:

Drinks are $1 ($1.12  including tax) – Last week 31 students showed up and the whole event cost $34.72. I can not think of a better way to spend $34 for a two hour youth event.

Outreach: This events is one that so many students bring their friends to in fact last summer multiple students I met in the summer that were guests of our students came to youth and got plugged in because they knew myself and some of our leaders. Building trust and relationships with new students before september is helpful for them to act on the invitation to the group in the fall. This safe off-site space is their territory and thus much more conducive for students to invite their friends to.

Discipleship- Its so great to check in with our students and have some real one on one conversations, ask about their life, how we can pray for them and encourage them. Our regular gather might be off for the summer, but pastoring our students happens every week and happens at McD’s

I fall in love with Youth Ministry again – In the midst of a really busy year and working with adult volunteers and attending staff meetings, I often find myself longing to connect with students and with the size of our group that isn’t always possible. Small relational events remind me of what God has called me to do. It’s those conversations that help me see the world through their eyes, and understand for a moment what its like to be in high school in 2012 and hopefully be a better pastor to them.

-Geoff