When I was young and single, spending time with students was simple and it was easily the best part of my job. But then I got married and we had two kids (third on the way!), and all of a sudden an evening with a sophomore meant a night away from my family. Juggling those commitments is the most difficult part of my job.

That’s why I look so forward to the second week of Christmas vacation. Students are past the Christmas craziness and I am too. By the second week of Christmas vacation, life has slowed down for me, and all of my students are still out of school.

Time to hang out! Scheduling time with students during school breaks is easy and fun. Lunches and hot chocolate breaks mean that I can spend most of my day with students and all of my evening with my family. It’s too important an opportunity to miss. Here’s how to make the most of this week:

Leverage social media like a pro.
Try this. Pick up a book. Go to the food court. Update your Facebook status to say something like this:

Hanging out at the food court until 2:00 p.m. today. If you come and hang out with me for twenty minutes, I’ll buy your ice cream!

Then wait.

Email parents.
Send an email to parents to let them know that you’re available and excited to spend some one-on-one time with students. They’ll be thrilled to get their stir-crazy child out of the house for a little bit and will take care of the scheduling for you. This is also a great way to spend some time with students who are too shy or uncomfortable to set up one-on-one time themselves.

Tell your staff what’s going on.
You don’t want someone to accidentally charge you a week’s worth of vacation just because you weren’t around the office. Explain that this is the BEST WEEK you’ll have all year to spend one-on-one time with students. That’s why you won’t be around and that’s why you won’t be available for meetings.

Are you missing out on the best week of the year to build relationships? Are you going to do anything differently in 2013?

Aaron Helman is on a mission to help end the epidemic of youth worker burnout. He writes Smarter Youth Ministryto help youth workers with their biggest frustrations. He is also the youth minister at Firehouse Youth Ministries in South Bend, Indiana.

Connecting with Students

Josh Griffin —  October 23, 2012 — 1 Comment

AC had a solid blog post a couple days ago about connecting with students. He is a master relational youth worker in our ministry – definitely some good stuff we all can learn from him. Here’s a clip of the who article, head there for the rest:

  1. Lead by example and with words. – Preach and promote from first hand experience.  Would you buy a Ford from a salesman who drove a Chevy?
  2. Never miss an opportunity to point the student to Christ. – We believe Christ is the answer, the cure, the end all be all. In my experience a lot of the students problems are centered around where Christ is in their life.  You still have to be mindful of your approach but all roads should lead back to Christ.
  3. Never miss an opportunity to listen. – I cannot stress enough how important it is you become a listener.  I know some people are good at it naturally and some of us have to work at it.  It is truly a quiet mega strength that connects you with any student.

JG



If you work with the youth of America in any fashion, be it youth ministry or as a parent, you know that we have identified this generation by the inventions that they have been raised among. Some call them the Internet Generation or the Digital Gen, which leads many to assume that this generation not only is always online through a digital interface some how, but that they actually prefer it.

That notion could not be further from the truth. But before we get there, let’s look at how they got that name.

  • 90% of teenagers are connected to the Internet through phones, laptops, or gaming devices. In fact, there are more ways to get online now than ever before.
  • 68% of teens text daily, girls more than guys
  • 51% visit Facebook daily, sometimes for more than 3 hours a day
  • Some rough estimates believe the average teen is on a digital device up to 13 hours a day and can be as high as 18 hours!

While those numbers seem to scream that they have a problem, what those numbers do not reflect are what the teens know about this heavy usage and their desires for something more.

  • 1/3 of teens actually long for time off from the Internet while 36% of teens wish they could go back to a time when there was no Facebook.
  • 49% of the surveyed teens prefer a face-to-face conversation above any other form of communication.
  • 41% of teens consider themselves addicted to their phones and 43% wish they could unplug (half of those wish their parents would join them too!)

[Study from CommonSenseMedia.org]

The question for you, be you youth pastor or parent, teacher or just someone who sees teens at church, how are you helping or hindering the situation? They had to learn these habits from somewhere and be given permission (even if it is an unspoken one) from someone. Are you perpetuating the problem or offering a solution?

If you do not get anything else from this article, hear this: teenagers not only want face-to-face conversations, but they want to be heard. Sometimes it comes across as needy and whiny, but they are navigating a turbulent time in their lives where their identity is shifting from being within a family to developing into an adult and it is not a safe journey by any means.

What can you do within your context to promote a healthier way of communicating that honors the teenagers?

Jeremy Smith is a youth worker at the Air Force Academy chapel, working for Club Beyond, and attending Denver Seminary for his Masters of Arts in Counseling Ministries. He has been involved in Youth for Christ for eight years — check out his blog at Seventy8Productions.

When you prep your talk, think about three audiences in your youth group. It doesn’t matter if they’re all actually in the room or not, thinking about them will prepare you for when they are.

As you look to an application of your talk, consider these three people in the crowd:

The “So What?” Student
When you’re working on your talk, be sure to address the non-believing or seeking students in the audience. Share the Gospel with them. Invite them into a relationship with Christ, or at least back to hear more about the Jesus you spoke about tonight.

Invite them to process what they’ve heard and let them know you’d be happy to address any questions or concerns they might have as they think about whether what you’ve shared is relevant to their world.

The “So-So” Student
Don’t forget about the lukewarm or apathetic student in your group either. As you turn toward application think of steps big and small that they could take to get back on track. Gently nudge them toward Jesus and invite them to a closer relationship with Him.

The “Sold-Out” Student
In every youth group you’ve got students who are on the right path—compliment them for the way that they’re following the teachings in the message you just gave. Ask them to celebrate what God is doing in that area. Challenge them to stay on the right path and continue their faithfulness to Christ.

Are we missing anyone else? Who else is out there in the group you should think about as a communicator?

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.



 

I was hanging out with Erik Williams a few weeks back and he told me about this video he was making with the leaders at the youth group he volunteers at. They were rolling out a new relational ministry effort to help students understand that their leader want to connect with them. Each leader was given business cards with their cell phone numbers on them. To launch this, they made this awesome parody video.

Enjoy

-Geoff (Twitter)

1. Go to More Student Activities. This is something I didn’t do nearly enough as I should’ve last year. Showing up to a game, play, concert, etc. makes a HUGE impact on students. Showing up to an event says that you care about what they care about. It is something that will stick with them. Recently, a co-worker and I went to a high school football game to see two of our students perform as the school mascots (hilarious). I was blown away by the response that we got from students! Students would climb over people in the stands to come say high to us and hang out with us! It is such a good tool for relational ministry… too good to pass up.

2. Write More Letters.  I was talking with a student recently about how much he hated getting mail. He said that the only thing that he ever gets in the mail is report cards, which sucks. Because of that, I decided that I am going to send at least one encouraging note to a student in the mail per week for the next year. I feel like there is something so personal about getting a letter from someone. We are so used to text messages and emails that it really means a lot when someone takes the time to write and mail a letter. Plus it is something that the student can revisit. I’m all about it.

3. Build Relationships with High School Faculty. On the first day of school, students from our ministry covered their campus with encouraging sticky notes. The next week, I spoke on the phone with the school’s Student Government Director and she RAVED about our students. It would have been cool if she stopped there, but she then let us know about an upcoming event that we could be a part of! Relationships with faculty are powerful. I am stoked to continue building relationships with the schools. I want them to know that we are here to support them and partner with them. I want them to know that we are here to serve in any way possible.

What are you committed to doing this school year?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at coltonharker@gmail.com or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.



POLL: On-Campus Ministry

Josh Griffin —  September 18, 2012 — 5 Comments


I’ve been spending more time on high school campuses as we kick off fall (hey, it is football season what can I say?). Made me think of a poll question to get the pulse on youth workers – how much are you on campus? I realize the openness of school varies greatly, but eager to see what you’re ministry there looks like. Vote now!

JG