Almost every day I hear a different youth worker complain about a parent who doesn’t really “care” about their child. Have you ever done that? I know I have. The “untraditional” family has become the norm with divorce rates continuing at 60% (in and out of the church), parents cohabiting, and grandparents raising grandchildren.

Then there are the struggles our students are facing.  Bullying, abuse, and identity are universal.  However, there are also drugs, violence, eating disorders, cutting, and just generally being a teen.  We keep saying it’s “harder” for this generation.

Why do we think that? 

There was a time when truthfully by looking at someone’s fashion, taste in music, family make up, or “issues” it was easy to identify where they “lived.” There were definitive “sides of town,” with the particulars of what went on there. Now we have come to live in a “mash-up” society of culture, challenges, and tastes. Our idea of who is sitting in our pews, attending our youth groups or living in our community is no longer easily defined by how much money they make, location or the color of one’s skin.The other side of the tracks with their common misconceptions and problems are moving, and reaching each of us in ministry in some way.

Regardless of where you are currently located, I would venture I could place you in a room with 50 other church leaders from anywhere in America and there would be common stories to tell.

As I have had the opportunity to speak across the country I often talk with youth pastors who have students who have some families they struggle with. Everyone has a different “label.” Here are some of the labels I have heard:

Inner city- at-risk-urban- unchurched-spiritually immature- dechurched- and “The Community”Everybody's Urban

The common threads I hear are families living in some form of “survival mentality.” They just are trying to get through the day and “live their life.” You might choose a different term, but my ministry partner Jeff Wallace and I use the term, “new urban.” It does include demographic area, culture, multi-ethnicity, social ills, and socio-economics. However, we would argue, in terms of the Christian community, this title blurs those lines and moves beyond them. Families are dealing with deep-seated issues all around; honestly, some are just better at hiding it than others. Our book Everybody’s Urban can help you delve more into this idea and on how to reach your “new urban” students who are in a survival mindset and quite possibly stuck there.

It’s time for the Body of Christ to stop making assumptions. It doesn’t matter what we label we give, or what we see with our eyes; too many are stuck existing to survive the day when they need to know Christ wants them to thrive.

The question we must ask ourselves is will we stop thinking “those problems aren’t ours” or thinking some families are just too broken, and instead intentionally let compassion move us to action?

This is why Jeff Wallace and myself are partnering with LeaderTreks on April 29 – May 1 for a “Refuel Retreat” at Pawley’s Island in South Carolina. We want to help you embrace and support who is in your group. How do you partner with a generation of parents that seem more distant than ever?  How do you help students genuinely step up and know what it means to belong to Jesus? (For more information click here.) (It’s alright if you don’t want to talk to us just enjoy the free time and being at that beach.)

Won’t you join us in the conversation?

yhst-95977426524948_2249_4827794At the Simply Youth Ministry Conference this past weekend they released Kurt Johnston’s new book for students, This Book Gets Around. They created a

This Book Gets Around is a fun way to learn something new about your friends or family members, neighbors, co-workers, teammates, whoever! (You might even uncover one or two surprising things about yourself, too.)

Pass the book around, let people answer imaginative questions and do some creative activities, and then see what’s written on the pages.

Give the book to specific people or let it follow a random path back to you—whatever way you use it is fine. Get the fun started today, and discover something cool, unusual, surprising, or amazing about the people you already know!

JG



And the winners of the ThinkGeek Shock Ball are…

FREEBIE FRIDAY!

Brandon Early —  April 24, 2012 — 15 Comments

These things are amazing, hilarious, and super fun.  The Shock Ball functions as a random timer turning the game Hot Potato into Shock Potato! Instead of a buzzer telling you that you are out you get shocked and you get to stay in.  The Shock Ball is a great time filler when we need a pick-me-up at the beginning of our time together or when our small group ends a little early.

I know, it is only Tuesday, but this Friday I will be picking two winners to receive a FREE SHOCK BALL!!!  All you have to do is leave a comment below, tell us the summer block buster you are most eager to see.

If you do not win, head over to ThinkGeek, at $14 these things are a great investment…you might need a waiver.

Warning: The Product Emits An Electric Shock. Keep out of reach of children. Not suitable for those under the age of 14. This is a novelty item, not a toy. May interfere with electrical devices such as pacemakers.



What’s in Your Bag?

Brandon Early —  April 12, 2012 — 1 Comment

What’s inside Cam’s Bag?
Cam, a youth pastor from Kansas and one of the winners of the 50% off shopping spree at Timbuk2, sent over a list of the contents in his new Timbuk2 Commute 2.0 Messenger Bag and a pic for another “What’s in your Bag?”

Cam made a great choice, I have this bag and I love it.  I recently took it on a flight and going through TSA was quicker with its TSA compliant external laptop compartment.  It unzips and lies flat for going through security without removing your laptop.

1) Timbuk2 Commute 2.0 Messenger Bag
2) iPad2 Wall Charger and cord
3) iPad2 to HDMI adapter
4) extra iPod/iPad2 connector cord
5) Youth Ministry Life by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston (download or physical copy)
6) Quitter by Jon Acuff
7) Bible by God
8) Apple Bluetooth keyboard for iPad2
9) Laptop power supply
10) Skull Candy Headphones
11) My Info Cards
12) Sony Bloggie HD video camera and USB connection adapter
13) iPad2 with Smart Cover
14) Dell ‘I really wish I was a Mac’ Laptop
15) Keys to important places
16) iPod Classic 80GB
17) Seagate 1TB portable hard drive and USB connection adapter
18) Sharpie Pens and iPad2 stylus
19) LED flashlight…in case of Zombie Apocalypse
20) Air Hockey table…not portable but still awesome.

Thank you Cam for sending in this post.  Check out Cam’s blog at aNewGravity.com.
How about you? What are the things you just cannot leave the house or your office without?

**And the winners are: Cam and Will.  Look in your email for details**

Earlier this month at SYMC I had a few people ask me about my bag so I thought I would share about it and it’s contents. I love looking through people things…that just sounded creepy, but I mean it in the most appropriation way…It is a source of inspiration and gaining ideas, I am an idea junkie.  I have seen the “What’s In Your Bag” at Flickr and lifehacker.com, check out the ymtechstuff version.  Here is a rundown of my bag this time last year.

The Contest…
I really like my Timbuk2 Commuter 2.0 (messenger bag. It is spacious, light, and TSA friendly) and think you should check out Timbuk2.  I have 2 codes good for 50% off a purchase!  Leave a comment below, share a favorite link or share with us the name of the bag you use and I will randomly pick two people from those comments to receive the discount codes.  **UPDATE** I will pick the winners by Friday at noon.

1) MacBook Pro 2010
2) Timbuk2 Commuter 2.0
3) MacBook Pro Plug
4) Super-Juice Power Case for iPhone. It’s a case, it’s a battery boost…It is KILLER!
5) Hipster note cards.  These are filled with tech notes for my Tech workshops.
6) Paper Clip
7) Apple Bluetooth Keyboard
8) The New iPad with Smart Cover
9) Western Digital My Passport Essential 1 TB
10) BoxWave’s Capacitive Styra
11) ZAGGsmartbuds
12) Pens and a highlighter
13) 2 USB thumb-drives (8GB and 4GB)
14) ChapStick
15) Gum and bresh breath strips (never go to a speaking event with out #14 and #15 – Thanks Thom & Joani Schultz)
16) Mini charge/sync cable for iPhone
17) L5 Universal Remote Control for iPhone
18) Velcro silencers for my bag
19) Tiny post-its
20) Apple remote
21) Auntie Annes coupons (they were under my windshield wipers)
22) Cables: iPhone/iPad to HDMI or VGA, mini DVI to VGA, 2 Apple Doc Connectors, and an auxiliary cable
23) Timbuk2 tiny Velcro bag (attaches to my strap)
24) Elgato TV adapter (turns Macbook Pro into a HDTV)
25) Personal info cards
26) LIVE Curriculum flyer
27) Moleskine Cahier Journals



There’s a lot of talk in the student ministry world about how to cultivate a good relationship between the student ministry and the “big church” ministry. People write blogs about it. There are break out sessions at conferences about it. And I’m pretty sure that there’s a 37-point plan in a book at a bargain bookstore to make it work exactly right

We talk a lot about that relationship, but we don’t talk a lot about the relationship inside of the student ministry house. What relationship is that? It’s the relationship between the high school ministry and the middle school ministry.

At most churches where the student ministry is split, the middle school and the high school ministries rarely ever do anything together. They each have their own band, their own leaders, their own traditions, and generally just do their own thing.

We combine our middle school and high school for our fall camp each year. Over the past couple of years we have noticed a really cool vibe between them. All of our students interacted really well together. The high school students modeled what worship looked like to the younger students. The younger students reminded the older ones that were “too cool” to worship what it looks like to worship Jesus without caring what people think about you.

It was an environment that we realized needed to happen more than one weekend a year.

Last week we combined the two ministries for a worship night. We took over our worship center, combined bands, and planned a night that we thought could be very special. We wanted to base the entire night around baptisms and what came from that surpassed any of our expectations.

  • We were able to baptize 18 students and a leader.
  • We had at least five students accept Christ for the first time.
  • We were able to “recreate” that camp/retreat experience where students put everything aside and focus completely on Jesus.

One of the coolest moments of the night didn’t happen between two students. We invited family and friends of every student that was getting baptized. One grandma brought a friend of hers to the service. At one point during the night, the friend leaned over to the grandma and said, “I think it’s time we bring Jesus into our conversations.” This friend had no connection to our ministry other than being friends with the grandma of a student that was getting baptized but she still heard the Gospel and still was able to meet with Jesus.

The pictures from the night blew up on Facebook. Students were talking about it all over Twitter. We were able to get a recap video in “big church” this past Sunday to celebrate the night. All of the attention was able to be focused on Jesus and students making the decision to follow him and be baptized. We were able to build up our students and celebrate their decisions in front of our entire church.

Oh, and as for the whole relationship between the student ministry and “big church,” I haven’t written a book but having your senior pastor and executive pastor witness a ton of students worshipping together is a pretty good way to establish that relationship.

Have you ever combined your high school and middle school ministry? Do you do it consistently? Why or why not? How does it work?

Jonathan Carone is in his second year of internship at Two Rivers Church in Knoxville, TN. See video, pictures and a photo recap of the weekend he wrote about here, here and here.

WorshipHouse Media

One of my favorite traditions we do as a Student Ministries Team here at Saddleback is that we take an annual retreat together. This week I’ve been enjoying a much-needed week away with the team. I needed it for my own soul and refreshment, but our team needs it as well. Here’s why:

We eat/laugh/play together
I laughed last night more than I have in a long time. I laugh a lot, most people even think of me as an easy laugh, but last night was particularly fun. In the “head down” rushing pace of youth ministry sometimes we forget to laugh. Getting away on a retreat let’s you put your guard down. Conversations over meals are the best, and time in the pool or on the tennis courts is super fun.

We share stories together
Last night we had a youth ministry art show – everyone on the team was given a small canvas and asked to create something about youth ministry. It was incredible to see the heart come out and some really unique perspectives on the each others stories and the story of youth ministry.

We make memories together
The more memories, the strong the bond. Staff retreat gives us a chance for spontaneous memories to form and new inside jokes to be created. It helps fill trust reservoirs.

We head home to do battle with the enemy together
The team that retreats together … advances together. Most of the team heads back tomorrow to immediately dive into the final throes of HSM Summer Camp prep. We’ll jump right into an extremely busy season, but filled and ready to fight again for another year.

JG