This year for our ministry has had a ramped up focus on our local high schools that we feel is the final frontier of the student mission field. We have 3 major schools on the peninsula that our church is on, encompassing 4000+ students, a very daunting figure. But what an opportunity, and lets face it, students are not flocking to the Church with questions and concerns anymore so its all the more important that we be where they are. The problem is that many schools are phasing out or not allowing Youth Pastors or religious groups to be present in the school anymore.

We recently encountered one of these schools and it took 9 months of emails, follow up calls and persistence to get a meeting with the administration. In that meeting we presented what I felt was a well thought out case as to why the school needs us as much as we need them and here is what we brought to the table.

Promise not to Promote: This was the disarming opening to the conversation, as we said in no uncertain terms that we would not advertise, promote or invite any students to our program, nor would be bring in any fliers, candy or any other bribe into the school. This is non-negotiable for both the school and us because we are not the missionaries doing the heavy lifting just the supportive spotters.

Commitment to Connect: The transition into High School for some is easy and for others it can be painful and lonely. For students that have trouble making meaningful connections early in their high school career, they can end up making unhealthy connections with the first people that will talk to them. We committed to being a connector of students, being present in the first weeks of the school year and throughout the year with the intention of helping students make meaningful friendships with other teens involved in the ministry. For the school, the idea of having someone partner with them in helping students make a more successful and less stressful transition into the school was a huge plus.

Heart of Encouragement: There is something about affirming words from someone you respect that speaks to the heart on a different level. As Youth Workers, we are not parents nor are we teachers and because of our unique relationship with students, the words we say speak volumes to students. The look on our students faces when they see us walking down the hall is priceless, unless of course they are avoiding me (which happens too). A youth worker going out of their way to visit a school tells a student that they matter.

Respect: High School principals in many cases are public enemy number one, and we all know that students love to rally around a cause and in a school that can be despising leadership. Our role needs to be one where we come alongside the administration and our students and in the midst of frustrations that students may have that we will encourage them to submit to the authority that the school has (1 Peter:2:13-14) over them. Modeling respect for the school’s administration is important and the administration will love to know that we are not undermining anything that they are doing.

Relationship: Youth Workers have a relationship with students that the schools just cannot offer and for that reason we can be really helpful. Our voice is unique, and unlike parents or teachers, students choose to spend time with us and for that reason, the respect that they have for us is often earned and not expected. Our opinions, concerns and thoughts are influential in the lives of our students and as often as parents call on us to walk beside their students in times of trial, I suggested schools could do the
same. In our meeting with the school we provided a comprehensive list of all the students who were a part of their school and active at our youth group. We proposed that we would be available if they became concerned with any of our students and we could come along side the family and school and working through whatever the issues might be. This was a big seller for the school, as it became very clear that being in the school was about mentoring and investing in our students, not recruiting and proselytizing the lost.

I am so convicted of the value that investment of just one hour per school every two weeks can have in the spiritual life of our students, the perceptions of Christianity and Pastors to their friends, and the opportunities that we will have to live out a relationship with Christ to the teachers and administration of the schools we are serving. This is the case for getting into the schools and if you read my previous article you can read about the benefits to your ministry of being at the school. This is a huge win for both the schools and us as Youth Workers.

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Be sure to check out his Twitter stream for awesome ministry goodness. Want to get in on the fun and write up a guest post yourself? See how right here.

Enjoyed stumbling across this old blog post from Ron Merrell (he was our camp speaker this past summer) about the 4 P’s of Church Stickyness. Program, People, Placement and Promise. Here’s a clip of his thoughts on one of them – head there for the rest:

PEOPLE – Friendly. Welcoming. Diverse. Kind. Warm. Knowledgeable. Genuine. Sincere. Safe. Compassionate. Able to listen. Loving. Respectful. Gentle. Energetic. If these words described everyone in your church, you’d be the most magnetic place in town. And I’m not just thinking about your “greeters” or “staff.” I’m thinking about your congregation. As the Lord does His work in your people, you hope that it produces the qualities above and more! People. But what can you do to develop the second “P” of church, especially when there is a less-than-friendly vibe to your crowd?

This is a hard one, because as a staff person you can create several things to allow people to connect, get them integrated into relationships, feel welcomed initially, etc. But… there’s a difference between “having a church full of winsome, loving, genuine people who go out of their way to greet others” and creating a “greeting team.” The first is better, but WAY harder to create! Focus hard on this one. You can’t train, teach, emphasize, and value real, Christ-like community enough. People WILL tolerate a subpar Program if the People are amazing. But, over the long haul, People will NOT tolerate subpar relationships even if the Program rocks.

Is your church … your youth ministry … sticky?

JG



Weekend Teaching Series: Facebook Official (week 2 of 5)
Sermon in a Sentence: Want to have a great marriage – then start building the right foundation for it now.

Service Length: 78 minutes

Understandable Message: Doug Fields taught about the different paths students could take to end up at the same destination: marriage. He used interactive polls, great illustrations and Matthew 7 to help students that the path they are on today will help or hinder the relationship they have with their future spouse. Really challenging, forward-thinking stuff.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We played a hilarious new game called Facebook Hack. It was INCREDIBLE! We don’t do a ton of full-on games, so when they work this well, it is a big deal. So fun. It was homecoming week for our biggest high school we pull from, so attendance was a bit low but the energy was great. Lots of student greeters, student band, students running cameras, control room and sound.

Music Playlist: Lucky, Yours Forever, God Above All, None But Jesus, Forever Reign

Favorite Moment: Having my good friend Doug Fields speaking in HSM is always a highlight. Talking to a student after the service who trusted in Christ after the message was awesome, too. Good, good stuff.

Up next: Facebook Official (week 3 of 5)

Weekend Teaching Series: Facebook Official (series premiere, week 1 of 5)
Sermon in a Sentence: How to be a genuine friend.

Service Length: 76 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend we kicked off the Facebook Official series talking about friendships – we all have them, and they are ultra important now as a teenager and stay important throughout your lifetime. Some people measure their quality of life based on the relationships around them! We talked through Biblical friendship – including compassion, loyalty, truthfulness and sacrifice. I taught the story of the Good Samaritan for the first half, and verses from Proverbs in the second half. Lots of fun illustrations and stories in the sermon to illustrate each point, including a clip from Toy Story 2 and a student testimony.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We opened up with a fun video about having so many friends that Facebook crashed (that I stumbled on a friend’s blog this week), then right into a cover of Katy Perry’s Hot and Cold. We played another creative Pumpkinfest promo video, too. Lots of student greeters, student band, and running lights, camera, sound and control room.

Music Playlist: Hot and Cold, Your Name High, All I Am, Ancient Skies, Amazing Love

Favorite Moment: I was grabbing lunch with one of our just-graduated seniors this week – he’s starting to feel called by god to go into youth ministry in the future. To give him some experience I asked him to come to services this week and share about the importance of friends in high school. He did a great job!

Up next: Facebook Official (week 2 of 5) [Doug Fields speaking]



This weekend we’re kicking off a brand new series in our high school ministry called Facebook Official. It is a 5-week series on friendships, relationships, love and sex. Here’s the series arc for the next month in HSM:

Week 1: You Have a Friend Request [me]
I’m kicking off the series talking about friendships and how the depth of Christian community and faith changes how we interact with our friends and neighbors and affects who we friend and those relationships. This weekend will include a strong Gospel presentation and the ultimate friend, Jesus.

Week 2: They Kind of Guy I Want My Daughter to Marry/The Kind of Girl I Want My Son to Marry [Doug Fields]
Doug Fields is on for week 2 to share about boyfriend/girlfriend relationships. He’ll go over character qualities that he looks for in the kind of person he wants and prays his kids will marry.

Week 3: How to Live Happily Ever After [me]
I’m jumping in for week 3 to talk through true love and how to have a love that will go the distance. How do you know if you’re in love? How will I know if she’s the one? Is there more than one “Mr. Right” for me? Love and marriage is hard work, and this week we’ll look at what it takes to make love last.

Week 4: The Sex Talk [Doug Fields]
Purity, lust, and sex. It will be promoted heavily and be one of the biggest weekends of the year. SO excited!

Week 5: Pulling it All Together [me]
Pull all of these messages together in one final challenge and call to action for students to live a life in close relationship with Jesus that will change their relationships with everyone else. A close relationship with Jesus changes our friendships, changes our dating life, changes our marriage and changes our sexual desires. The message will probably include some sort of takeaway that pulls all of these messages into something memorable to remind students of their commitment.

JG

The start of the new school year has meant that the process of reintroducing myself to our local high school’s Administrators has begun as I re-explain my motives and purpose for visiting the high schools. It is a lot of work, but the fruit that comes of it is immeasurable. Here are 3 reasons why we do it.

Encouragement & Support: Showing up at a high school, walking down the hallway and remembering a students name is a powerful thing to them. You are telling them that they matter. They might be having a bad day, but you arriving on their turf, just to visit, can provide a huge boost. Pulling them aside and praying for them or just being interested in what is happening says a lot to a student that feels invisible in a school of 2000+ people (this is assuming that every youth goes to a school of 2000+). Talk about being like Christ, showing up where people are at, in their school. It’s really enjoyable to see students in “their natural environment”

Connection: Showing up in the school gives me face time with students I would likely never have the opportunity to spend time with, and for a student that has not shown up at our program for a few weeks, it might be an opportunity to reconnect, check in, and find out what is going on. Perhaps there is something they need prayer about. Just this week, I went to a local school to meet up with a student that was struggling to transition into High School I met up with her and happened to bump into another student (God moment) who just moved here and was in the same boat. We hung out, ate lunch, they swapped numbers, and the rest, well, we’ll see…..

Conversation Catalyst: We do not hand anything out while visiting school, nor do we invite anyone to our youth group because that is not my role. My absolute favorite bi-product of visiting the high schools is that I will often meet groups of two or three of our students and inevitably one or two of their friends who are not connected to the Church. We shoot the breeze, talk about their weeks, how school is going etc., give them a high five, and that’s it. But what happens after is incredible, because afterwards I often here, these words.

“Who was that?”

“Oh, that’s my Youth Pastor, Geoff”

“Youth Pastor? You go to church?”

“Yeah, I do……..

I don’t always know where those conversations go, if they end quickly or carry on, but I do know that many friends of students that I met have started attending our youth group, gotten connected, and given their lives to Christ.

Visiting the high schools can be time consuming, and for some really intimidating, but what an encouragement we can be to students, and from what I have seen even help important conversations about God happen, just by being there. Make time for it. It’s incredibly important to be in the schools if they are willing to let us in.

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Be sure to check out his Twitter stream for awesome ministry goodness. Want to get in on the fun and write up a guest post yourself? See how right here.



Want to pick up a sweet youth ministry resource at a big discount? Grab The Disconnect $14.99 by Doug Franklin at half price today for only $7.99. Here’s a little bit more about the book that will help you navigate the youth worker-senior pastor relationship:

Every time you walk out of your senior pastor’s office, you leave with a sense of bewilderment and confusion. “Did I just waste the last hour? Did he really hear what’s going on with our students? Is youth ministry really a priority for this guy?” Unfortunately, you aren’t alone. When it works, the relationship between a youth pastor and senior pastor opens the door to dynamic ministry in the local church. But when that relationship is weak, damaged, or broken, it can create an environment that breeds frustration, dissension, and burnout.

Grab it quick – the sale ends at 5pm MST!

JG

Perhaps I am the only person, but I am pretty sure I am not the only one out there who has a student that just doesn’t like me, and I mean really doesn’t like me. In many cases it starts with a leadership decision they didn’t like, or a time that I held them accountable, or challenged a decision they made, but they are upset and holding onto that anger as if it were a trophy. Maybe you have never experienced this, but for those that have, or those that have not yet, it’s a good thing to know, because being in leadership is a lonely place sometimes, and the target on your chest can be sizeable. Here are four things that I have learned in dealing with students like this.

Talk to them- Start with Matthew 18. After all, we are the adults. Try and talk it out one-on-one, and if they are willing to chat about it, do it, even if it’s awkward. Maybe they feel unheard, or brushed off, or offended by something taken out of context, but it’s our responsibility as leaders to figure out what the issues are and work to resolve them. The reality is, sometimes they won’t want to chat, or it’s an issue that you won’t be able to solve, and that’s okay too, but having an available open channel for communication is key.

Kill them (with kindness of course): These are the kids that I will try and go out of my way for – dropping by their work (where they have to talk to me!), or school – and really try to rebuild that bridge, or build trust again. This is not because I need them to like me, but being intentional with the students that would be easier to avoid will mean something to them, even if not right away. Being gracious and relentlessly forgiving is what the best leaders I know do.

Accept it: If there is a student that despises you, but comes to youth group week in and week out, CONGRATULATIONS!, you are doing a heck of a job! When youth becomes about small groups, worship, and what is being taught from the Bible, and not about who is teaching it, that is a sign of a strong youth group. When a ministry becomes a personality cult, hanging onto the charisma of one leader, it’s unsustainable and destined for failure. Sometimes you need to accept that not every student is going to be on board.

Move on: There will come a point where you have tried everything, exhausted your options, eaten too many ice cream cones from their work, and you need to move on. Don’t mistake this as a write-off of that student, but a moving forward of the entire group. When you focus on the students who want to be discipled and they begin to move and grow, eventually that other student will decide whether they want in on what’s going on, or whether they are going to remain on the outside looking in. It’s important that we as leaders move on, focusing on what we are called to do, and make disciples of our students, investing in the ones who desire it.

I hope you never have a student like this, but if you do, it’s not the end of the world. Being a leader means making decisions that are right and not always popular. Do your best to lead the reconciliation charge, but remember: students long to stand for something. even if that thing is not liking you!

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Be sure to check out his Twitter stream for awesome ministry goodness. Want to get in on the fun and write up a guest post yourself? See how right here.