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.

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



My friend and co-worker AC (who runs yoacblog.com) put together a quick list of relational youth ministry thoughts and tips. Thought I would grab a couple of them and point you there for the rest:

  1. Relational ministry has more to do with the example you set than the words you say.
  2. My walk with Christ and my prayer life plays a huge role in leading and guiding students to Christ.
  3. Be intentional and strategic. ” He who fails to plan, plans to fail.” Corny…I know, but so true!!
  4. Don’t waste students time by hanging out with students to stroke your own ego.
  5. I am a spiritual leader first and friend second. – Your spiritual authority can be easily compromised when you reverse the order.
  6. Honesty is huge in building trust with a student. -You don’t have to be perfect but you do have to be honest.
  7. Be a listener and ask them questions. Check out Conversation Tactics for Youth Workers
  8. Listening and being honest wins you the right to speak into their lives. – Listening shows I care and honesty shows character and realness.
  9. It’s not about the quantity of time spent with students but the quality of time spent with students.
  10. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions.
  11. When the opportunitay presents itself for you to disciple, obey Nike and “Just do it”. – nothing else on the agenda is more important.
  12. Never cut a student off when they are sharing. If you can’t remember what you were going to say it probably wasn’t worth you sharing anyway.

JG

 

We love being able to throw a question out to the MTDB community and this one comes from Chris Hansen from First Presbyterian Church in Lincoln Nebraska.

Chris asks:

I have been discussing with my leadership team about increasing the amount of relational ministry we do with students. Specifically we have been talking about increasing our time spent taking students for meals and coffee. One on one time is powerful and there is something so incredible about breaking bread with them over a meal. The problem is that we don’t necessarily have the funds available to cover these costs. 

So have have you been able to find alternative sources of funding for hospitality besides the Church putting in your budget? 

 

-Geoff



Our focus this week on relational youth ministry brings us to the practical question: How can we make our student ministry more relationship-based? Here are a few ways we’re trying to do just that in our ministry.

1 – Add a “welcome time” to youth group each week.
We’ve all seen this before, the “shake hands with 15 people around you” but when used sparingly it can be really effective. As your group grows, it’s surprisingly easy for the “basics” like a warm greeting to slip through the cracks!

Our students have come to love this time—we’ve expanded it to several minutes so that people can actually have a short conversation rather then just a cursory greeting. This is a great chance for introductions to be made, too! We have a volunteer every week who works hard to get to know someone new and makes it a point to introduce them to us specifically each week.

2 – Have everyone in place before and after the service.
If you are still running around finalizing details of your program when everyone is coming in, it’s gonna be tough to be relational! Work hard to do program-related stuff before students arrive; if you’re still dialing things in as they’re walking in, it’s simply too late. And tell everyone on your volunteer team they are “dead to each other” once youth group starts.

3 – Build down time to hang at every event.
If you’re at a youth conference, camp, or other big event, the planners have been paid to fill up every waking moment with something. In many cases, youth leaders choose a late-night option or yet another training session when what the group might need is some discussion time.

Maybe a break is in order, and you need to ditch a session and go get some frozen yogurt and just talk over what they’ve already learned. Relational ministry fights the go, go, go approach.

4 – Train your leaders in the art of asking good questions.
Help your leaders ask good questions—open-ended questions that require thoughts instead of a simple yes or no. Help them have an instantly ready queue of questions to ask someone they are meeting for the first time. Give them the tools to help them fight the awkward silences of first getting to meet someone.

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.

Today we hit on the foundation of good youth ministry: Love God, love students.

Love God

This is the first love—our hearts must be centered and aligned with his in order to do genuine and effective ministry. You can fake it, but frauds are always found out. A counterfeit youth pastor won’t make it long-term—and the key to being genuine is to be in a genuine, daily walk with The Father. We all endure seasons of spiritual dryness, but make sure it’s the rare interlude to sincere spiritual health. Remember, you’re discipling your students with your life; make sure it’s centered in the right place.

THIS WEEK: Take a little time to evaluate your spiritual health. Usually, you instinctively know where you currently stand, so don’t try to talk yourself out of your gut reaction. There is nothing more important in your life/office/to-do list than your walk with Jesus. Ask your supervisor for a spiritual retreat day. Call up a mentor and savor the wisdom in his or her words. Eat a meal alone. Talk to the person who is draining you, or finally have that conversation you’ve been dreading that’s been distracting you from truly loving God. Love Jesus more than you love youth ministry.

Love Students

For most, this comes pretty easy…it’s the reason you got into this gig—but at times students can be needy or draining. When spending time with students suddenly feels tough, fight through the temptation to focus on tasks and be constrained to your church office. Get out and be with students. We’ve both discovered through the years that the very best way to stay in love with students is to simply be around them!

THIS WEEK: Adjust your schedule to spend a little more time with students. Linger in a conversation with a student you would normally brush off. Look for opportunities to show up in a big way for a family in need.

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.



Facebook is an incredible tool for your youth ministry – if you’re not on it and engaging students than a great opportunity might be just ahead for you. For those of you that do, I’m curious – this week’s poll asks how much time you spend on the site (total, personal included). Vote in this week’s poll!

JG

I’m so blessed to have Aaron Crumbey on the high school team here at Saddleback – he is the epitome of someone who loves Jesus and loves students. He’s been blogging for a few weeks now, and I wanted to point you his way because I think you can learn a lot from him (I know I do) especially how he relates and cares for students. Here’s a clip of his most recent post about hand shakes and hugs. Head there for the whole story, and welcome him to the blogging world, too!

  1. I want to be super intentional. – I want to make the best of every opportunity I get to effect a students life. My intentions are to share Christ love for them through our time of interaction. I do not apologize for my ulterior motive.ha
  2. I make sure they have my attention. – I want them to know that I understand its important that they are here. So for however long I’m with them I’m completely engaged.
  3. I make sure I’m being myself. – The worse thing you can do is try and be your version of hip and cool. You will come off super cheesy and weird. You will be known for being that guy/woman who is super cheesy and to new students visiting for the first time they will tell every other student they know. So just be yourself. Remember you are not just representing yourself but you are representing the ministry.
  4. I ask follow up questions. – this just says to the student “I really want to know how you are doing”. You show their importance/your concern with follow up questions. Even if they just say fine I move to a specific area of life like school, family or sports.

JG