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.



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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



article.2013.01.08What would Jesus do? The saying that launched a zillion wrist bands! But it’s a timeless question that has some fun implications when you apply it to youth ministry. Here are a few of the things we believe Jesus would do as a youth pastor.

Teach with lots of stories.
Without a doubt the Master teacher would teach with stories. He would fill his message of hope and salvation with illustrations and object lessons. He would probably be criticized as being “shallow” for his talks, but crowds would flock to hear him teach.

Spend time with core leaders.

Jesus had an inner circle he spent the majority of his time with. He would pour into a few key students in whom he saw potential, and world-changing opportunity to work through them. He would be criticized for ignoring some people, and would undoubtedly have more than a few parents complain that he played favorites.

Focus on relationships.

Jesus didn’t seem to be big on programs. When he did an overnighter, everyone fell asleep while he prayed. Instead of building great programs and youth rooms, he was a man of the people who ministered outside of the church walls.

Trust his volunteer team.
When Jesus left…he left the disciples in charge. In fact, he never came back! Talk about ownership… He was focused on building them, and then set them loose to change the world…and they did!

If you teach with lots of stories, pour into student leaders, focus on relational ministry, and empower your volunteers, you are following Jesus’ example. And while there certainly is more to the modern church, you are most like Jesus when you serve this way.

Blessings as you serve others this week!

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.

Hipster, valley girl, geek, jock, goth, nerd, average Joe. These are some of the labels we give some of our students. What label would you give yourself? Each one of us has a label that someone would throw on us. Myself, I would probably be the class clown.

Naturally when we tend to have a leaning we tend to fit in with a certain group of students better. Because I am a bit of a clown, I find it really easy to spend time with the “funny kids”. If a student is going to be a stand up comic, that is the kid I will gravitate towards. But what about the rest of the students? Where do they fit into our relational ministry model.

It is okay for each one of us to have a tight knit group of students we disciple. We just have to keep in mind that there are other students who need to be ministered to as well. I think there are a few solutions that we all need to find a balance with:

1. Staffing: If you are in a big ministry, it might mean hiring staff or finding volunteers with different personalities from yours. Find someone to partner in ministry who might be a geek or a valley girl. Try to cover the bases of all the types of students you have. Maybe you might not get a 1:1 ratio but you certainly will be able to be more diverse in who you are effectively ministering to.

2. This one involves you whether a large or small church context, but especially if you are the main person in your ministry. You need to find ways to connect with each of the groups of kids. Find something you can have in common, for the kid who likes comics, go to a local comic shop find one that you can at least appreciate and then talk to the student about that. For the kid who is super into music; find out who their bands are; get some music and then talk to them after you have listened to it.

What about the kid who you “just don’t get what they are all about”, have them explain it to you. Maybe they love modern art, go to an art gallery with a couple students and have them explain to you what they love about it and how to appreciate it.

The thing I have found about trying to reach out to my students this way is:

  • I connect better with them and find out how to reach them for Christ and how to help them reach others for Christ.
  • I have found some things that I enjoy that I never would have realized.

As we start a new year, perhaps its a good time to connect with students who otherwise might be less connected.

Which student are you going to connect with this year?

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