Recently, I got one of my good friends to help me co-lead my small group. Leading a small group is his very first taste of youth ministry and it has been such a cool thing to be a part of. One of the cool parts about helping him is realizing how much God has taught me about leading a small group over the past three years. I thought I would share three of the most important lessons that I shared with him:

-It’s all about the discussion! Small group isn’t the place the lecture. Too often, small group leaders take up their entire lesson sharing what they want to talk about. While I admire their passion for sharing what God has put on their heart, small group is a place where students learn and discover, and a part of the process is making them do a little work. Small group is a place for students to grow together as a group. They should be processing and engaging with each other. As a small group leader, we are simply there to facilitate a conversation. Always find a way to get them talking and engaging with the material. They should be speaking WAY more than you should be.

-Meet them where they are at. I feel like this is something that many first year small group leaders struggle with. Part of being a small group leader is being intuitive. You need to be able to feel out where your students are at. I think some first time leaders go into it expecting high school students to know a lot about the Bible already, so they plan lessons about advanced doctrine. The truth is, many students aren’t ready for that, many students still can’t even tell you the Gospel! We have to see where are students are at in their faith and meet them there. Don’t wait for them to catch up to where you want them to be, go back and help them get there.

-You have to invest in social stock. I was talking with a small group leader about spending time with students and he didn’t see the point of just getting lunch with a student without a deep, life-changing conversation. What he hadn’t realized yet is the power of social stock. You can’t expect every student to immediately open up to you. You need to build social stock. Every inside joke, every Starbucks run, every midnight Denny’s breakfast builds your stock with them, allowing them to learn to respect you, trust you, and feel comfortable being vulnerable around you. Social stock is what takes a student from just hearing you, to listening to you. It is what lets you speak truth into their lives. This social stock is one of the most powerful tools we have in relational ministry.

What is one thing you would make sure to tell a first time small group leader?

Colton [Email||Twitter]

In your ministry, you have influence. You can use this influence to shape the way each student views learning about Jesus; His love, creation and His expectations of us. You can create engaged and active learners who are eager to learn more. Instilling the love of learning in those you minister to can be done by engaging your students through their creativity and simply by loving them!

Engaging your students through their creativity

  • Look for ways to be a blessing – Take a stuffed teddy bear to someone who isn’t feeling well, bring a copy of last week’s sermon to someone who missed church, smile when you pass someone by, buy someone a Bible. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Simple is powerful.
  • Build things together – Houses for the homeless, a set for a ministry video, build a new podium for your senior pastor. When you build things together, you are learning about teamwork and about caring for other’s through skills you may or may not have had before.

If you are not so creative, delegate tasks to the students who are, they would love to put their talents to work! Someone great at designing t-shirts, have them design some for a fund raiser. Someone great with woodwork, have them design a set for a play geared toward teaching other’s about Jesus. Someone great with the camera? Have them take some pictures for a new ministry photo album.  Short on ideas? Ask the creative ones, they will have many ideas on how they can use their talents to serve the ministry.

Simply love them!

  • This means showing grace in what may seem to be the worst situation. Things happen. They are here today, done with tomorrow. Loving others should be our focus. Remain at peace through the storm and let God handle the details.
  • Listen – Sometime we are so busy teaching and talking, we forget to listen. Take some time out to hear what they’ve got to say.
  • Be transparent – Be real with them. You have struggles just like them.
  • Spend time with them with no expectations – Let time spent with them flow whether it be into conversation or into a crazy fun game night!
  • Be involved in what they enjoy – When you enjoy being around someone, you’ll make the time to be involved in what they enjoy. It could be you showing up at their soccer game, going to the mall with a group of students or going to the arcade. Spend time in their world.

When you engage your students through their creativity and simply love them, they are actively learning about Jesus; His love, creation and His expectations of us. They will leave your ministry with the tools needed to equip others with the love of lifelong learning as well. Which is so important because this is how we grow in spirit and in stature, we’ve got to be actively engaged and eager to learn more for all of our lives.

Ashley Fordinal is the Children’s Church volunteer at Family Life Church in Sulphur Springs, TX.



I am in youth ministry because of one conversation.

OK, that isnt’ entirely true – I’m in youth ministry because of a myriad of things: being raised well by godly parents, shaping moments throughout my childhood by amazing Christian men and women, seeing the need for leadership and love in the life of a teenager, my own specific passion and shape.

But I do remember one specific conversation with a guy name Jerry. Jerry was the Dean of Men at the Bible College I went to and 1 of 2 very influential men at that school for me (the other being the football coach and Bible teacher, Terry). One day, Jerry said to me – “Why are you going into business, you were made to be a youth pastor? I can totally see it in every aspect of your life and heart.” Then he laighted a little, shrugged and moved on. But I couldn’t shrug off our conversation – it stuck with me and I began to wrestle, pray and get council about this possible direction for my life. Sounds a little more dramatic than it actually was honestly, but 20 years later, I’m still in youth ministry and loving it.

All that to say this: every year I make it a point to ask God to help me interact with a couple students who need to be “called to youth ministry.” I look in our ministry or try to be discerning at an event and talk to a teenager who has the potential to do incredible things as a youth worker. Sometimes it has been spot on and that person is now in youth ministry. Sometimes I’ve missed them altogether and a kid I never expected to be a youth pastor enters the field. Sometimes it is an epic fail and that person leaves the church altogether.

But my win/loss record isn’t what is important – it is the conversation that counts!

JG

Have you ever walked into a place where you did not know anyone? Do you remember what you were thinking? Just imagine this story:

The day before Wednesday night, you were invited by a friend at school to come to church. Your friend even gave you an invite card with a cool design on it. Even though you aren’t a “church person” you decide to give it a try. Your Dad begrudgingly decided to take you but made a few comments on the drive. He said, “you know son, churches are all messed up, that is why I don’t go. I think it is good you are going but son, don’t get your hopes up, most of the those people are hypocrites anyway.” As he gets out of the vehicle, he quickly notices the buzz of people whizzing by. He sees people smiling. He watches adult leaders giving high-five’s and fist bumps. He is unsure. He thinks, “Is this church filled with uncaring people? What will happen when I walk in? Is my friend inside? I wonder where I will sit? I don’t have a Bible, I sure hope nobody calls on me to read or pray.” He decides to go for it. He walks in the door as an adult leader welcomes him with the love of Christ. He begins to wonder, “Will I belong here? Will I find people who truly care about my life?”

You see, this is a powerful moment. We must always think like this student. If we become too focused upon the status quo of the ministry, we can easily miss the people who walk in each week who need the love of Christ.
The key to building an environment of acceptance is by meeting people at their point of need. Each student who walks in the doors of the church is loved by God. Every student matters to Him so much that the heartbeat of the ministry should be to meet them with the unconditional love of Christ.

Here are a few steps we take on welcoming students:

First impressions. In the first 30 seconds of the student arriving, the goal is for a student to have some type of interaction. Any type of welcome (fist bump, high-five, kind word and smile) is huge to ease the pressure when each person enters.

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Intentional Conversations. Some students do not have quality conversations. The intermittent attention spans of students are a result of our media saturated culture. We should make it a priority to have face-to-face conversations with students in our ministries. One of the goals should be for each leader to have 2-3 quality conversations with students each time. Whether it is a few minutes or if a student is pouring their heart out, the importance of an encouraging conversation is the key to building an environment of acceptance.

No One is Isolated. Look out for students who tend to isolate themselves and try to sit by themselves. Lead students and volunteers to always be looking for opportunities to build relationships with other students, especially those who are new.

Greeting team: We include a grade per month to come early and help the adult greeters welcome students. They help pass out information and encourage people as they enter. Each student has a name tag with “greeter” on the lanyard as well as adult volunteers.

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New students: They will receive a Source tube filled with random candy as a gift as they arrive. Inside of the tube also has a wooden coin. The coin has our logo and it is a $1 token towards the café.

Once a student has visited, I send out our first time guest postcard with a personal note thanking them for being our guest and some encouragement. On the postcard there is a note for them to bring back to receive a free Source Student Ministry t-shirt!

What tips do you have on welcoming students? Add to the conversation below in the comments!

Josh Robinson is a the Pastor to Students at Church @ The Springs, a husband and a father. Check out his blog at joshrobinson.cc or follow him on Twitter: @josh_robinson



I have been having discussions with my team lately about what ways we can make our ministry have more impact for less work. Where can we find some little things or create some little things to really help our students think more about their faith.

Shortly after talking about this with my wife came an email asking for me to be a summer camp staff reference. Within that reference they ask me about the students spiritual life. That’s when it hit me, what if I turned this into a time of talking with each one of my students who wants to work at camp.

This began my new criteria for each of my students asking me to be a reference. When that reference has something to do with faith, I sit down and ask them three questions:

  • How do you think your spiritual life is going right now?
  • What are some ways you can start to improve it? (this is the step where I can encourage and hold them accountable)
  • What do you hope to learn this summer at camp?

The cool thing is every student has been willing to answer this for me. Some of them might take a day or two to reflect on it and get back to me, others already know exactly how they are doing in their journey with Christ. The really awesome opportunity that has presented itself through this is that I get to talk one-on-one with each student who asks me to be a reference, pray with them, and then hold them accountable with some encouragement.

What are some ways that you are trying to make big impact with small movements?

Kyle Corbin has been serving youth as a volunteer or pastor for over 10 years. He is currently the youth pastor at the Bridge Church in North Vancouver B.C. You can follow his blog at: kylecorbin.blogspot.com or Twitter: @CorbinKyle.

I’ll pray for you…

How many times have you said those words? Now how many times have you acted on it. These words have been a constant failure for me. I say it and sometimes I do it and other times I don’t.

Prayer is the right response to anything good or bad. Prayer has power but prayer is hard. Even if I say I will pray for someone I often find myself shooting up a quick prayer (which is good) but I fail to follow up or pray about it again.

Recently I felt super convicted about this. I said I would pray for someone then forgot about it. A week or two later it dawned on me that I forgot to pray about it. While it may not have directly affected anything in my heart I knew it was something to get better at.

Lately, I have been pumped because I have been good about it on small and large scale things: From a coworker whose kid has been sick, to a student who took a huge bail skiing and went to the hospital. And I am proud to say that I have even followed up on these things.

Saying you will pray for someone can really turn their day, week or even year around. All some people need is a prayer and we have the capacity to help them with that. The problem is we need to do it.

For many people this isn’t a particularly profound step. You are likely thinking good job covering the basics. But I truly believe that anytime we make an improvement in our disciplines God is smiling down. While I may not be anywhere near being called a prayer warrior yet, I sure hope to get there before I die.

Kyle Corbin has been serving youth as a volunteer or pastor for over 10 years. He is currently the youth pastor at the Bridge Church in North Vancouver B.C. You can follow his blog at: kylecorbin.blogspot.com or Twitter: @CorbinKyle.



hsm_study_hall

Trying out a new idea (we undoubtedly stole from someone else – ha!) this week in our High School Ministry – HSM’s Study Hall. We’ve converted a room to a study area during finals week and promoted it as a serious option to come study, hang with friends and eat some snacks. We provide the food, free wi-fi, a few volunteers that can jump in with some basic tutoring and the room!

Students have totally eaten it up and are taking it seriously – great place to get to know them relationally hanging out during breaks. Fun idea!

JG


I was watching a children’s ministry podcast this past week and heard a great question – as a youth worker, do you like your children’s pastor/leader? Thought it was an interesting question, watch their podcast for lots more on the subject but first vote in today’s poll!

JG