Here at Vanderbloemen Search Group, we are often asked, “What is everybody else doing out there?” Since we work with many churches and student pastors throughout the country, we have the honor of seeing what some of the most growing churches are doing in their student ministries. Every student ministry is unique, but here are a few trends we’re seeing in growing churches:

1. Small Groups – Generation Y craves relationships. Student pastors often share with us that the best discussion and discipleship happens in the context of small groups. Some churches have their small groups on Sundays, and some have them throughout the week. Some have them at the church facility and others have them in homes. Regardless of the approach, we are seeing that small groups are a pivotal part of healthy student ministries.

2. Leadership Development – We find that the healthiest student ministries are equipping their high schoolers with leadership skills to lead Bible Studies, outreach events, and mentor programs to the middle schoolers. We also see churches involving the youth in the Sunday service, training them with responsibilities of sound, lights, worship, etc… Developing an effective leadership program may be time consuming at first, but the long-term benefits are worth it. Many youth pastors we talk to bring on a few of their high school leaders as interns over the summer. These students often pursue ministry after high school.

3. Volunteer Training – Recruiting volunteers can be one of the most challenging aspects of ministry for student pastors. It’s difficult to find dedicated volunteers who also have the “cool factor” that high school kids are looking for. We find that youth pastors who succeed in finding great volunteers invest in their training and development. Bring in a leadership coach and be sure that your volunteers have the resources they need to invest in your students.

4. Separating Jr & Sr High – Some of the most growing ministries are separating the Jr and Sr high worship services to provide a more tailored message to the age groups. Jr highers are concerned about different topics than Sr highers, and the way you approach topics with each group should be different. We’re noticing that growing churches are developing separate teams over Jr and Sr high with a director leading the vision of both ministries.

5. Outreach – We see students craving purpose and meaning. Student pastors are getting students out in the community to serve under-resourced communities. Students like being given significant challenges and responsibilities. Effective student pastors are also networking with local schools to identify the scope of their ministry responsibilities beyond the walls of the church.

Depending on the unique needs of your students, these strategies may or may not be effective in the context of your ministry. If you’re using these strategies in your ministry, we’d love to hear your thoughts! If not, what strategies have you found to be effective for your students?

Thanks to VSG for this guest post! They are currently searching for Student Pastors who are dynamic leaders in a few churches like this one in NV and this one in GA.

Most youth workers I know have one thing in common…they try to do too much. Many of us are perfectionists. Many leaders care so much that they give too much. Many leaders don’t know how to recruit. Sometimes we just reach teens quickly and we seem to never be able to catch up.

I have been that guy trying to do everything. I finally started asking for help but I made a critical mistake. I started dumping responsibility on people who were willing instead of looking for leaders who could partner with me in ministry. When you dump responsibility you look for a willing person and give them stuff to do that you don’t want to mess with. You basically ask them to do the work and leave you alone so you can do other things. Sure, it helps for the short term but when they have other things to do they will hand you back the responsibility. I leaned in the process I needed sharp leaders who would partner with me in ministry so they understood the why behind the what! Here are four kinds of leaders we need to be empowering…

  • Small Group Leaders / these are leaders who will invest in teens intentionally like you wish you could do for every teen. They will mentor, guide, clarify, instruct, encourage, and pray for teens on a weekly basis. These leaders are extensions of you doing youth ministry and they are the most important partners you will have.
  • Detail Leaders /  these are leaders who are gifted administratively and can help you by talking care of the details that bog us down on a weekly basis. These leaders can organize, delegate, and systematize but they may not be great with teens. Let them thrive in the detail so you can lead the big picture!
  • Presence Leaders / these are leaders who care for teens but may not be ready to lead a small group. They just want to serve teens and help where needed when they are available. They love teens and they love your ministry but they have other things that pull them away from leading a small group. Let them run a cafe, work the parking lot, or help run games during programing.
  • Tech Leaders / these are leaders who love the digital side of what we do but may not be good at other areas of student ministry! Let them make your environment look , feel, and sound better.

What are some “leader types” that you empowered and they made you and your ministry better? What keeps you from empowering leaders?

Michael Bayne is Family and Student Pastor at Grace Community Church, Clarksville TN. Follow him on Twitter at @michael_bayne and read more of his writing at www.michaelbayne.net



Hey everyone from NYWC 2012 – Dallas!

Thanks for making our youth ministry workshop on small group leaders so fun this weekend — I enjoyed meeting many of you and here are the links from the 99 Thoughts for Small Group Leader workshop that I promised you yesterday:

If you remember something from the session I forgot – let me know in the comments and I’ll track it down for you!

JG

There’s a student causing a commotion in the room – what do you do? This simple and easily-remembered punch list (I think the first 3 are of Kurt Johnston origin with a new 4th “R” from me) will help you or your volunteers handle the situation well:

Request – this is the simple ask for improved behavior. This is almost always the right first step. I like one comment yesterday to a post saying give them “the eye” as a ‘pre-talking to’ move.

Reseat – move them closer to the leader or away from their partner in crime. I like to think of this as “within reach factor” or where a swift elbow to the ribs will bring him into line.

Remove – you may have to remove them from the situation. Remove them for a few minutes, or the rest of youth group, maybe take them home, or ask them to take a few weeks off. Removal is a necessary part of handling something like this. Lead with grace here and you won’t have regrets.

Relay – involve the parents. Make sure the parents are in the loop and ask them to partner with you on making sure the disruptive behavior doesn’t happen again.

If it is a new student, show more grace while they learn the culture of church and what is expected of them. Be quick to discipline a known offender, be slow to disciplining someone who you don’t have a relationship with at all. You may want to check out this older post called How to Remove a Student from Your Small Group as well. Other thoughts – remember they have to start with R?

JG



There are a ton of reasons small groups don’t work for people. It is easy to look at the group and point fingers at others but the best place to find some answers is to look closely at yourself. In my experience I’ve seen several attitudes that stop true community from forming in student small groups. I was able to share 4 of these pitfalls as a warning to students this week at our Life Group kickoff:

Just don’t say anything
This is the person who gets to group and refuses to say anything at all. He or she will not let ANYONE in or say ANYTHING. They will not be vulnerable and refuse to let someone in. They are simply putting in their time, or perhaps they were hurt in a previous group and don’t trust people out of the gate. Community can’t happen with that mindset.

The TMI guy
This is the classic “oversharer” the person who talks on and on about everything in their life. The person who refuses to stop talking about themselves, and redirects all of the conversations to cleverly make it about them. The person who won’t open up LOVES this person, so they can continue sitting on the sidelines of the group.

The 10% rule
This is the person who shares just enough to satisfy their leader – or shares enough of their story to get correction that doesn’t sting. They tell the story slanted to their perspective that favors them. Some choose to share just 10% – just enough to keep the conversation going without getting deep. Some share 90% – and leave out the last part to disguise the real problem or the severity of the issue.

Us vs. them
Community isn’t just you and your peers – it is a connection with your leaders as well. I was talking to one of our leaders this week who said “I think they would be surprised at what I would show up at if they just let me in.” Build then keep unity within your group. Students who deflect genuine community by attacking the leader never win. Community says we’re all in this together and rejects cliques and insiders/outsiders.

So what do we do?
1) Identify the walls and masks in your life
2) Make yourself vulnerable to the others in your group
3) Share … all of it
4) Lead others by your example and unity

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Romans 12:9-12

JG

My of my great joys in ministry is being able to train volunteer and youth workers from different Churches and work to equip them to leader better. One of the most important things that I try and help them understand is that they have a voice in their student’s lives that is unlike any other. Students have all kinds of people that influence them and when it comes to adults in their lives, teachers, parents and youth workers are often the big three.

But it’s important that we recognize that our voice is unlike any other in the life of High School students and here is why:

Our Voice is Unique: When it comes to adults in a teen’s life, at some point they have to listen to their parents and they have to listen to their teachers as well.  Students don’t have to listen to us, they choose to. They have to go to school, have to live at home, but choose to go to youth group. The fact that students choose to listen to us means that our voice has weight and influence.  We can meet a student for coffee; something they might be mortified to do with their parent and not allowed to do with a teacher, it’s a great setup for us.

Our Voice Is Respected: When students choose to listen to us, it’s a statement of respect that they value what we say.  Being a youth worker is a bit of a hybrid of the friend / mentor role and with that comes the ability to speak into the life of a student with wisdom and life experience. When our voice is respected, our lives are as well so be mindful of what you endorse, intentionally or accidentally.

Our Voice Can Be Objective:  Being slightly removed from life at home and life at school coupled with the relationship we have with students gives us a unique perspective that has little obvious bias other than to uphold Biblical values. Helping students to look outside themselves and to look at a situation in a different way is challenging but doable. This is a keen opportunity for us to help students experience Matthew 5 conflict resolution and encourage them through the process as a supportive third party.

Recognizing my unique voice was a bit of a Spider-man moment for me, you know? – With great power comes great responsibility, but a better example would be in Luke 12:48 “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded”.  You have an incredibly powerful and influential voice in the life of a young person. Use it wisely to pour into them, challenge them and build them up into young men and women after God’s own heart. We need to know this, our leaders need to know this.

-Geoff (Twitter)

 



Hey everyone from NYWC 2012!

Thanks for making our youth ministry workshop on small group leaders so fun this weekend — I enjoyed meeting many of you and here are the links from the 99 Thoughts for Small Group Leader workshop that I promised you this weekend:

If you remember something from the session I forgot – let me know in the comments and I’ll track it down for you!

JG

There’s a new candy that is taking over this area by storm – if you haven’t had it or heard of it yet you will. I’ve only found it in one place so far (Staples of all places) but I understand it is rolling out nationwide in Target, Walgreens and a jillion others shortly. Unreal.

So I saw that this video was trending on YouTube and happened to come across the candy in the store. Felt like there was something there. Here’s where I landed today:

TEAM MEETING
I played the video then we discussed the candy – I gave everyone their own bar to try. We talked about a ton of various applications to life and ministry. My big takeaway was that a video or website might get someone into the front doors of your ministry, but it all comes down to taste. If someone has a bad taste in their mouth (a parent has a poor interaction with a team member, an event doesn’t have adequate supervision, etc) all the flashy marketing, endorsements and history go out the window. And people that don’t like the taste of something (tastemakers) tell others and have incredibly negative influence. On the other hand a parent who leaves with a good taste in their mouth tell others in a hurry to try it out for themselves.

LIFE GROUP
At the last minute tonight I figured out a pretty cool tie in with my talk about our small group covenant. I didn’t have a strong opening so decided to play the video for students – and talked about how this company is making a commitment to “healthy candy” and making sure all of the ingredients are organics, no artificial flavors, etc. I talked about how this is a promise between the company and you, and there is a bond of trust between the two parties. I then compared it to the covenant that we make in a small group – a covenant to be honest, accountable, courteous, loving, confidential, etc. I gave a pack of Unreal to the winners of the game and another pack to each group to split among the members of their Life Group as they discussed and signed the small group covenant.

Unreal. Used it randomly twice today. And it tastes pretty good, too!

JG

PS: Our Staples is now almost sold out – Life Groups hit it up right after the lesson ended! Anyone from Unreal want to sponsor HSM? hahahah #getunreal