Absolutely loved this super-practical article from Gen 2 Gen Youth Ministry. It answers and gives some helpful pointers to a great question: how do I add/welcome in new students to an established small group? Really helpful stuff, here’s a clip, head there for the whole article – it make a great handout for your volunteers!

  • Don’t talk about the past. This might seem a little extreme at first glance, but let me explain. The more you use lines like, “Remember that time when…?” and “How great was it when…?!” the more you’ll make the new guy realize he’s new. Try to focus as much as possible on the present and future. Talk about where the group currently is, and the hopes you have for where you want them to be.
  • It’s not just awkward for the new guy. Chances are, your group may be a little uneasy about bringing in an “outsider” if they’re really well connected. Help them to see that they can’t be exclusive, and that everyone deserves an opportunity to be in a great youth group–even if it’s a little awkward at first.
  • Keep your lessons at a level everyone can understand. You may have students who’ve been Christians for a while and a new student might be new to this whole Christian thing. Keep your lessons interesting for both groups.

JG

 

Loved a new post over on Generation to Generation called Diffusing the Disruption that talked about helping keep order in your small group discussion time and dealing with problem students. Here’s a clip of it, head over there for the complete article:

  • Announce your expectations before there’s a disruption. Lay down the ground rules and let your students know what you expect them to do and what they can expect from you.
  • If a disruption happens first in group time, address it generally in group time. Don’t be too specific about that one student, but let everyone know that your expectations aren’t being met.
  • If it keeps happening, pull that student aside after the group is over. Don’t be specific with him or her in the moment, but don’t let it pass either.

JG



Really enjoyed this post over on Matt and Steven’s Generation to Generation blog about Life Group leaders taking on tough topics during small group night. Here’s part of how they take it on, head there for the rest:

 

  • PRAY PRAY PRAY – The best thing you can do to prepare is seek out God’s direction. Know where God wants to lead your students and how he wants to speak through you.
  • Consider changing your location – In my small group, we meet at one of the guy’s houses every week. When we’ve planned these sensitive discussions, we try to go somewhere else that we won’t be overheard. This puts all the guys way more at ease and helps them be more open.
  • Have a game plan – Don’t go into something like this without having some kind of plan set out ahead of time. If you go in blind, it could end up making things more awkward and then you flounder around looking for ways to move forward.

JG

Really enjoyed reading this post over on the Generation to Generation blog. They hit on two critical youth ministry concepts that you have to grasp early and often: follow up and follow though! Here’s a clip, head there for the whole article:

Sometimes one of my faults is not following up on things. I really need to write things down, keep things in my Outlook calendar to remind me to do something or to re-visit something I’ve started but not finished. Sometimes I get so busy with a new project that I forget to go back and make sure the old project I was working on is complete or if it needs some further attention. I need to do this with with my high school small group as well. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in presenting a new lesson or new scripture or a new life application that I forget to go back and see how my guys are doing with things we’ve already talked about.

I don’t forget about one of my guys who has been going through a tough time or dealing with a specific issue, I’m great at follow up with that, but sometimes I forget about the general topics we talk about. For instance a few weeks ago my guys asked if we could do a lesson on girls and dating and sex and what the Bible says about these things. We had a great lesson that night and I know I made them really think about how a relationship would look like and how to make sure that they put God in the center of all of their relationships. This past week I got a text from one of my guys asking some very specific questions about what the Bible says about an issue. That should have been my reminder that I need to follow up with all of them and see how they are doing with that topic. I need to build a reminder into each small group time to begin and ask questions about past topics and make sure everyone is still on task with prior topics.

Head over there for the rest of the thought!
JG



You have a porn problem in your youth group whether you know it or not. High school, junior high, college–it’s present at every age. No longer do students have to go looking for porn, because in today’s age, porn comes looking for them. It might not be an easy topic for most students to talk about, and you may need to find a different way to communicate with students in your group, but it’s a topic that needs to be discussed.

Over the past couple months, we have both taken a week to meet with our junior high and high school small groups to discuss God’s view of porn, how to avoid and battle the temptation, and open the door to conversation. Here are some things we did right, and also some things that we learned from:


One of the coolest things I get to do at Saddleback Church is act as the director of our student ministry building that we call “The Refinery.” It has special meaning to me because this building was basically the brain child of one of my student ministry heroes, Doug Fields. The name “The Refinery” was chosen because we are refining young souls for Christ. The building is 50,000 square feet and was designed to look like an old run down refinery mill. I get calls from churches all over the country that are looking into a new student ministry building and they want to know what we did, how we did it and what would we do different. If you’re looking into changing or building a student ministry facility, here are some of my ideas:

1. Build as big a building as you can. Even if it means you cut back on furnishings or stuff you can add later. It’s less expensive to add furniture later than to add on to a building. During the construction of our building as construction costs were going up we cut down on the size of the building. It’s still a huge facility, but in three years we have out grown the building.

2. The Refinery is a ministry, NOT a building. That’s one of my catch phrases that I instill into the staff that work in our student building. The Refinery attracts students to our campus, students who might not otherwise step foot on a church campus. We invite the community to use the meeting rooms and the gym for “non-church” functions. Our local high schools use it for sports banquets and functions. It’s great exposure to students and it definitely brings them back to a weekend church service.

3. Video camera monitoring. We have 41 cameras throughout the building. It’s an easy way for us to monitor the entire building and keep an eye on things without students feeling a negative presence. We can easily see when a teenage boy and girl are “fellowshipping a little too close” and need to be told to “leave some room for Jesus between them.” If an incident happens we have video available to find out what exactly occurred and who was involved.

4. Staffing. This has been an issue for us since the day the building opened. I want staff working in the building to interface with students, talk to them, and play games with them. I want the building to be a place where students can come and have fun, feel safe, and meet friends, all while growing in their faith. We are in the process of trying to grow a volunteer program, but even with a church the size of Saddleback it’s hard to find volunteers.

5. Security. We have some policies in place so that we can insure the security of students in the building. For example, during service times (Saturday night and Sunday morning) the upstairs of the building where all the games are located is off limits to adults. Occasionally a parent will question us on this rule but we just explain its one of the ways we keep students (including their kids!) safe from any predators. Not something that’s easy to talk about but we have to consider all potential issues. We use a LOT of grace first and only resort to calling parents and sending kids home when we absolutely have to. We have to keep order and keep everyone safe, but we also want kids to be able to have fun!

Matt Reynolds is a Security Supervisor with Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California and is also the Director of the Refinery — the Student Ministry Building at Saddleback. He is addicted to student ministry and blogs and teaches volunteer student ministry leaders with Steven Orel, who is also on staff at Saddleback Church. Their blog can be found at www.gentogenym.com.



I like what Steven and Matt have going over on GenToGenYM.com – a look at youth ministry through the eyes of a “new to youth ministry” guy and a “too old for youth ministry” guy. Their recent post, The Youth Ministry Elevator, was great. Here’s a clip:

  • There are ups: There are a few weeks where my co-leader and I seem to be right on with what God wanted us to talk about with our boys that night. Whether it’s just being able to connect with the guys and keeping them interested in what we are talking about or if they are opening up more about things in their life, I’ll count that as a win.
  • There are downs: There are more moments than I care to admit that things don’t go the way we want. Maybe we just did a lesson on family relationships and I get a call from a mom that she’s ready to ship her kid off to boarding school…Not exactly a high point in youth ministry.
  • There are stops: There are times when I feel like no matter what we do, we are just not getting anywhere fast with our boys. They seem to track well with the stuff we discuss, but then nothing happens — it’s the status quo. This can be the most frustrating part because you feel like all you’re doing is a waste, and you’re not seeing any fruits of your labor.
  • The final destination: Eventually, you get where you want to be going. Two weeks ago in my group we had a breakthrough night — my co-leader and I picked a topic that all the boys connected with, and a few of our more closed-lipped boys really opened up about some struggles they were facing. That feeling is one that keeps us coming back for more in youth ministry.

JG

I know that I can be a jealous person. Because of that, I have to resist the temptation to feel hurt when one of my students doesn’t come directly tome. At times, I know I set up a wall around my “territory” of students, not wanting to allow anyone else in to help them. They have to get through that wall to get to my students, and I’m going to do whatever I can to make sure they don’t get through the wall. My students are mine. Your students are yours.

That’s when I remember Rick Warren’s famous line, “It’s not about you.” Do we really want to see the student get the advice and help they need, or are we more concerned with our own pride and desire to be the hero that solved the problem? Our goal should be that a student gets the best help possible, and sometimes that doesn’t come from me. Isaiah 5:21 says, “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.” If we keep on thinking we can fix all the problems, we’ll soon find out we’re not as wise as we thought.

I have to ask myself, “That student feels a bond of trust in the leader he went to, so am I doing everything I can to build up the same level of trust in that student?” The first thing I need to do is realize that we’re all shaped individually to handle different situations. If I know that someone else is better equipped to handle a specific issue, I should be more than willing to send my student their way. We all have been through different fires and come out with a better understanding of how to face the problem. Who better to help a student with a drinking or drug problem than a former alcoholic or drug addict? They know how hard it is to get to the other side, and they can help a student way better than someone who hasn’t had the same experience. We can’t let our pride get in the way when someone better equipped to deal with a problem is called upon. In fact, why not store that in our Rolodex of the mind, so that next time I know who to refer a future student to when they’re dealing with drugs or alcohol? If a student comes to you knowing you’ve been through something like that, it’s also important to make sure their leader knows what they’re going through. It’s great that you can share your past pain or hurt, but their leader needs to know what their student is struggling with as well.

Last week I was faced with this exact issue, but I was the one “trespassing” on another leader’s turf. One of my former students had turned to me in a time of need, but not necessarily because I was better equipped for the situation. I think in this case, he felt comfortable with me as one of his leaders, and he was too ashamed of what he did to talk to his current leader. When it happened, I did my best to counsel him and make sure the situation was taken care of, but I did make sure to refer him back to his leader and make sure to fill him in on everything. Here’s the bottom line: don’t build a “kingdom” in your youth ministry. Know that you have weaknesses and that other people are way better equipped for some things than you are. With God’s help and some discernment, you can turn your youth group from an island into an alliance.

Are you doing everything you can to team up with other youth workers for the benefit of your students?

Matt Reynolds and Steven Orel are volunteer youth workers at Saddleback Church. They approach youth ministry from two different generations and perspectives. Look for lots more from them in the future — for now you canfollow them on Twitter and check out their previous blog posts here.