Let me start by saying, my name is Geoff and I am not ashamed being part of an attractional youth ministry. A few months back I attended a Youth Pastors gathering in my area, and the topic of attractional vs missional ministry came up, and the proponents of each began to discuss and debate the virtues of each and it became clear that the two camps were miles a part. Not only that, I was told that I was running an attractional ministry and that they are not effective in growing students. EXCUSE ME?? I get frustrated when other Youth Workers write off “Attractional Ministries” as having no substance, and are merely entertaining students. I don’t agree and feel they can be effective and here is why.

You get one chance to make a first impression: Having a student in the Church for the first time is an honor, but it is important to look at it through their eyes. It is important to understand that churches can be intimidating and they are probably coming with preconceptions and ideas of what it will look like and what is going to happen. The fellowship time before we start and the first 15 minutes of our services is designed for new students, seekers and non-Christians, it is intended to help make them feel comfortable and welcome. The bells, whistles and flashy elements are for these students, they ad credibility and help to challenge their idea of what Church is like.

We have Lasers, but they don’t matter: Our Services are packed with Worship, lights, haze and sometimes lasers, but students do not stay because of them. Recently I met a focus group of 30 students and asked them questions about our ministry, and when it came to what keeps them coming back, not one of them said it was lights and lasers. In fact, most said it was having a small group leader who cared about them and challenged them in their faith that was most important.

We are about seeing the Lost Saved: The lights, the smoke, the videos, it’s all a lot of fun, but the purpose is not to entertain, its to compete. Not competing against my buddy Tyler or Kevin’s Ministry down the road, but against X-box, TV, drugs or just plain apathy that keeps students from coming. My heart is to see the Holy Spirit get a hold of these teens, but if that means having fancy lights to get them in the door, I will do that. There are 4000 High school Students within 15 minutes of our Church, they need to know Jesus.

Students are sharing their faith and serving : If you ever have wondered how community kids end up at a Youth Group, they are invited, intentionally. Encouraging students to invite friends to Youth allows for conversations to happen, about God, faith, Church and life. Having a place that is safe to invite your friends to is a good start. Having more elements of the service allows more students to serve in ways they are passionate about. We add elements to allow more people to serve, one in four students serve on one of the Worship or Technical teams, this is a great way to develop a Kingdom building group.

We share the Gospel with students: I have been told in the past that Ministries like ours water down the Gospel, or worse don’t share it at all. I can tell you this, that no matter if your are Missional or Attractional or both, Jesus is the center, he is the reason we get up in the morning and come to work. We share the Gospel in its fullness and apply it to the lives of today’s students, relate in a way that they can understand, and wrap their minds around and hopefully engage it in a real way. We equip our students with the Gospel so that they would follow the Great Commission, and bring those friends to a place where they can be learn, engage and be discipled.

This subject tends to put a bee in my bonnet, I love being a Youth Pastor and if a Youth Ministry can attract students to come to the Church, learn about Jesus, challenge them to know Him better, facilitate them being involved in our community and build his kingdom, then I am all in. God deserves everything I have, every resource I can use to help build His Church. Before you write of a Ministry, go check it out, hear the heart of the Pastor for their students and go see what God is doing there.

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 MoreThanDodgeball.com. You can, too! See how right here.

Taught a small group leader training for our volunteers a couple weeks ago – just ran across it in my Moleskin tonight and realized I haven’t had a free moment to share it with you. Simple stuff, just an encouragement for our Life Group leaders, young and old, to think wisely:

Think wisely about what you post on Facebook
Please realize that what you post is public, permanent and reflects on our ministry as a whole (see more on this subject here). Use common sense when you post pictures or status updates – read everything through a second time before pushing send or submit. And don’t forget – something that is questionable will always be taken out of context. There is a huge difference between a joke between friends at a coffee shop and a joke that will most certainly be misunderstood posted for the world to see.

Think wisely when you drive students
I’ve taken tonss of students home from small groups or to an outing – and done some questionable things while doing it. We used to “hit mailboxes” – we didn’t really, I just had a student leader in the passenger seat whack the side of the church van when I swerved dangerously close to the side of the road. If you’ve ever used the phrase, “shoot that was close” or “I wonder if we can bury the speedometer” you aren’t using common sense.

Think wisely when you consume media
Here’s the key: what you do, say, watch, listen to, eat – whatever – it all becomes a ringing endorsement in the ears of your students. As the leader of your small group, take extra caution to think about what you’re consuming and if that would be good for your student to see as an example or to participate in themselves. Your words, actions and ideas have incredible power. Think before you watch.

Think wisely when you talk to parents
You are the youth pastor of your small group – so remember that when talking to parents. I guess first off – remember to talk to parents. Communication, good or bad, directly effects the reputation or the student ministry. Take a few minutes to share with parents what you’re covering in small groups, and share a personal observation about their child. It is OK to talk differently to parents than you would to their student.

JG



Got the best email today – a youth worker name Jerry tried to get enough of 99 Thoughts for Small Group Leaders for his volunteers but couldn’t because it was temporarily sold out (!!) at Simply Youth Ministry and Amazon. Died laughing:

Hey Team!

Take a look at this picture. Study it well. When you’re ready, scroll down and keep reading.

Let me point out a few things here. First of all, let’s start with the most obvious. The book.

This is a book I want to give you as a gift. You’re on my team and I can’t tell you how much I esteem and appreciate that fact. I wish like anything that this book came along with an expensive surf-n-turf dinner but believe me, once you open the book, you’ll find that the feast is for your soul, your spirit, your mind, and your heart as a small group leader.

Next, I’d like to point out the guy on the computer screen to the far right of the picture. That’s Josh Griffin. Josh, along with Doug Fields (but mostly Josh) wrote the book. Josh is the high school ministry pastor at Saddleback Church and he wrote this book for you. His face there is on his www.morethandodgeball.com blog site. Subscribe to it.

And the email on the left of the picture above that you can’t read unless you have bionic squinting ability, is an email from Josh Griffin himself to yours truly. I had written Josh to congratulate him on the success of the book—a book that has become quite difficult to find due to high demands. Squint hard enough and you’ll see that Josh called me “friend” in his email. So, it’s official.

Which brings me to something that you can’t see in the picture above—well, not directly. In the picture, my hot hand is holding one copy of the book I want to give to all of you. Just out of camera range are 9 other copies. I have 10 total. I ordered more than that, but 10 was all the distributor had, so that’s all they sent. Here’s the snag: The phenomenally gifted team of small group leaders I lead has 23 people on it of which you are one. Those of you good at math have already figured out that 10 is less than 23. So, how do I decide which 10 leaders get the first round of books?

Do I give it to the 10 best-looking leaders? That would make for an awkward situation at our leader meeting this Sunday, wouldn’t it?

Do I give it to the leaders who have been around the longest? Maybe, but we’ve got 2 MORE new leaders joining our ranks THIS Sunday, and they’re phenomenal too!

Do I toss a coin? That wouldn’t help in this situation!

Do I take bribes? Yes, I do.

Do I have an essay contest? I think that’s far too collegiate for us.

How about a cage match to the death, until only 10 leaders remain? Yes, that’s it. That’s the answer. We will fight tooth and nail over 10 copies of Josh Griffin’s book.

Hope to see you Sunday at 1 p.m. in The Warehouse. We will wrap up around 3 p.m….well, 10 of you will.

Also, this week we unveil our new Student Leader team for the 2010-2011 year! Come gawk at them!

See you soon, my friends! You are so loved by God its beyond description, and so loved and appreciated by me.

I want to serve in this guy’s youth group. Awesome.

JG

Today HSM was proud to welcome Parker Stech to the team. Parker (and his wife Holly) are small group leaders and Parker brings a lot of technical skills to the table. He’s a solid video guy, with cool Flash tricks up his sleeve – most importantly he gets it: he has a pastor’s heart in the body of a geek. Super excited to welcome him to the HSM team here at Saddleback!

JG



Here’s a cool deal running this week on Doug Fields’ and I new book, 99 Thoughts for Small Group Leaders. It is already in it’s second printing! Now to be honest, the publisher had small dreams for this book, so it isn’t quite as glorious as it sounds. Ha!

So to celebrate, here’s an exclusive for readers of the More Than Dodgeball blog (share it, Twitter it, whatever is fine). You can get 10% off each copy when you add 99 Thoughts for Small Group Leaders to your cart over at Simply Youth Ministry. Just use the promo Code mtdb when you check out!

I hope it is a tool that benefits you and your volunteers!

JG

Tuesdays and Wednesday were our first nights of small groups this Fall – each year we have an informal “meet n greet” where parents meet the small group leader and feel comfortable heading into the new year. Students pick up their resources for the year and hang out with their leader and hang out together.

After about 30 minutes, we asked parents to come outside for a short reception and let the student groups continue to get to know each other a little better. We brought the parents out for a quick 15-minute fellowship time, with soft drinks and a short time of prayer for the leaders and their students. It was really something special to be a part of – I think we’ll do it again next year!

JG



It’s here! 99 Thoughts for Small Group Leaders comes out TODAY! Excited to see what you think – I hope it is helpful for you and your youth ministry volunteers. Yeah!

JG

Chris Wohlers was added to the HSM team this week – we’ve been praying for the right new addition to the team and he’s the man! Chris grew up in the church, Saddleback’s High School Ministry, and was a small group leader already. He will be helping out primarily developing the weekend entry-level service and continuing to grow the area of spiritual growth. Yeah!

JG