It felt like I grabbed a can of Mountain Dew the moment I became a youth pastor. At first glance, it seemed like a prerequisite for ministry was a charismatic personality. Even the clarity of the Bible created some confusion, for the Apostle Paul said, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” introvert-extrovert

That’s the truth that caused me to lean into a lie. I wanted to see the people I cared about in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and assumed the only way I could do it was to become the life of the party.

I wonder how many of our students feel the same way.

Think about it: Is there a vibe that kids have to constantly bring their friends to youth group? What if they only have one really good friend who isn’t interested? How about if they don’t want to stand up and play your “stupid game”?

Time for a gut check. Does your ministry have as many on-ramps for introverts as it does for extroverts? Here are some ideas:

  • Before programs: Offer comfortable seating where quieter kids can come early, relax, or play video games. Provide set-up tasks they can help with (and give them a cool team name, like “Roadies” or “Techies”).
  • During programs: Help introverts take risks by not embarrassing them. Ask them ahead of time if they’d be willing to read Scripture, help with an object lesson, or do something significant behind the counter. Advance planning creates the runway for introverts to soar from.
  • After programs: Some introverts like to slip out fast when your program concludes. Assign at least one leader who will learn that student’s story and catch them with a simple question on a weekly basis, such as “How can I pray for you this week?”
  • On trips: Introverts may feel uncomfortable sharing a huge tent or being packed into a van with their peers. Let them bunk with their best buddy, and be sure to build in rest stops at malls, restaurants, or open areas where they can feel alone (yet always be within sight of the leaders).

Keep in mind that introverts may not fit the stereotype (and they may not want to). As I said, I became an extrovert for what I sensed were noble reasons. Even though I didn’t have the spiritual gift of evangelism I wanted to become more conversational and social in order to “do the work of an evangelist.”

How is this fleshing out in your church and youth group?

  • Do you see quieter kids “trying on” different personalities?
  • Has your personality (or someone else’s) become the “right” one to have?
  • Is there any kind of expectation that people have to become someone they’re not in order to communicate who Jesus is?

Introverts

What other things should we think about when it comes to serving students who may fall more into this category? For example, is it possible to swing too far toward introverts? I’ve seen a fair share of “postmodern” environments where all the contemplative prayers and incense make the extroverts run out the door to play dodgeball. I’ve even wanted to join them.

Share your thoughts, and thank you for loving students!

- Tony

First Follower

 —  August 16, 2013 — Leave a comment

If you haven’t seen (or used) this simple video to teach leadership development you are missing out.  This is a great post to show our team to wonder who we are,  where we fit,  and how to stand out as a “first follower” who causes the rest of the world to jump in and know what to do.

 

Happy Friday!

 

What about you?  Do you teach your team, even your students HOW to be a “First Follower?”  It isn’t natural for all of us.



The Bionic Teenager?

 —  August 1, 2013 — 6 Comments

I sat in a planning meeting today with several caring local professionals. They hope to host a youth summit in our area, and our conversation eventually centered on the desired outcomes of the conference. We began brainstorming  what we want to see happen in the students involved. In other words, “Who will they ultimately be when they leave this event because they were a part of it?”

After several minutes on that line of thinking, I raised my hand and offered an observation:

“It feels like we’re trying to create a bionic teenager. I don’t know if everyone remembers that old TV show the Six Million Dollar Man, but there was this concept in its opening theme that it feels like we’re sharing here – that we have the means to make students better than they were before… ‘better, stronger, faster.’

I think everything we’ve talked about are great values for kids to grow into, but if I were to force this on my own son he’d feel immense pressure because he can’t get there overnight (let alone consistently). Maybe we need to include the values of ‘rest’ and ‘journey’ somehow? Students can take steps this way, but they may need to intentionally pause along the way and take stock of their progress so they don’t crash because they feel they’re not yet perfect.”

My thoughts were met with enthusiasm, not to mention a lot of affirmation. I felt like I’d made a real contribution to the discussion.

Only…

praiseI wondered how often I’ve not had that thought in ministry. Maybe you can identify:

  • “Once kids go on this trip, their hearts will be forever transformed for Jesus.”
  • “If I can only get that student baptized, then he/she will become a role model to the others.”
  • “The more often students are consistent with youth group attendance, the more consistent they’ll be with Jesus.”
  • “They have to start (reading the Bible/praying/fasting/tithing/singing) more if they hope to have a real breakthrough.”

Even just writing those made me realize how absurd they all are.

And yet… don’t thoughts like that creep into your head and planning, too?

The thing about bionics is that something unnatural was added to appear natural.

Hmm. Is that the end?

What do you think is reasonable and unreasonable to expect in these matters?

mcdonalds

The Scene: Working on the laptop at McDonald’s. A table full of pre-teen guys are trying to eat. The oldest (perhaps a freshman among them) is acting like a social rooster, pecking down the awkwardness of the younger guys, strutting for the girls sitting nearby, nudging the smallest one of out of the booth with his rear end… over and over.

I’ve been praying for several minutes about the best way to respond.

And then…

the others all suddenly had to leave. They hopped on bikes and peddled out. He looked like he was waiting for a ride – it was just him and I. I didn’t move toward him, but stood up while holding my drink and spoke.

Me: (slurp) “So, are you the oldest?”

Him: (a bit startled that I’m talking to him) “Huh? Oh, yeah.” (he smiles… like a security blanket… I’m “bigger than he is.”)

Me: “They look up to you, you know.”

Him: (he pauses, as if to realize it) “Oh, yeah. I guess.”

Me: (a half-step slower this time) “They look up to you.”

Him: (he catches my eye) “Yeah.”

Me: “Use that wisely.”

Him: (another pause) “Yeah…” (another pause) “…yeah.”

I go to get a refill, and return. A couple minutes later he heads out to catch his ride.

As he passes, he says, “Hey, see ya!”

—-

Changing the world? Speaking Life into life? Serving students?

Maybe it happens just like this.

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.” (Colossians 4:5)



Prayer Walk

 —  May 31, 2013 — 1 Comment

Prayer Walk

With the school year coming to a close, we thought we would have one last big push for a campus outreach event. We decided to go out with a bang and do a multi-campus prayer walk! Prayer walks are one of my favorite things that we do! It is a completely student lead prayer event that takes place each school campus in our area at the same time. Here are a few reasons I’d push it for your ministry!

Student Leadership Opportunity! It is a great opportunity to give your students a chance to really own something. They are responsible for everything from promoting it to programming it. The cool thing about programming it is that a prayer walk can be done in a ton of different ways. Some schools have their students walk around the entire campus praying for specific teachers, student groups, etc. Some schools have a worship session at the beginning. And some schools even split off by grades and pray for each other! Prayer Walks allow student leaders to get creative with their events and experiment with some cool elements.

Adaptability! There are a ton of different occasions to put on a Prayer Walk. We just did ours because the school year is coming to an end. We prayed for things like graduating seniors and incoming freshmen. You could put them on right before the school year starts, right before finals season, right after a school tragedy, etc. You get to adapt the event to match what is happening in the student’s lives.

Fellowship! Prayer Walks have proven to be a great bonding time for our schools. We have our students promote it through all of the school clubs and push it to any Christians they know. Because of that, students get to be joining in prayer and ministry with students from other churches. Because we have the prayer walks on Sundays, students usually go out and grab lunch together after and just hang out, allowing them to get to know each other outside of school hours.

Is your ministry doing any prayer events? How do you do them?

Colton [Email||Twitter]

Moving On

 —  May 20, 2013 — 1 Comment


Moving On

It is crazy to believe that the school year is almost over! For student leadership, we like to give our graduating seniors a big going away party, complete with a farewell/thank-you present from our ministry. Along with a few hand written notes and some other goodies, we are giving our seniors Doug Franklin Moving On.

This is the second year that we have given Moving On to our students. We love it because it is more than just a book, it is a resource. It helps students start to answer some of the big questions they have as they graduate high school and move on to the next chapter of their life. Questions like, what should I do? and what does God want me to do?

Moving On helps them answer those questions by walking them through the formula:

Burden + Passion + Vision= Mission

The students we gave the book to last year loved it so we are bringing it back for another run. If you want to pick the book up for your students, you can buy it here.

What are you giving your students for graduation?

Colton [Email||Twitter]



We have been hearing a lot about cliques and other problems with student leaders. In the past, we talked about how our goal is never to try to eliminate the perception of cliques. Merely attacking the perception of cliques can be an impossible goal because, unfortunately, there will always be the few that will still voice their unhappiness. And chasing after an impossible goal can be incredibly discouraging.

What the goal should be is for your students to be doing everything they can to be loving other students and to be as inclusive as possible. This goal wasn’t new to our student leadership team, but we noticed that the student leaders were no longer doing their best to love other students. So we decided to talk about what it means to be a student leader. Instead of talking about the actions we can take, we talked about the characteristics of a student leader. That student leader is one that can’t help but to love and serve people. After compiling a list of the characteristics, we had a time where we could intentionally pray for those things to be true of them.

We are stoked about this exercise because it will, hopefully, not just combat cliques, but several other problems we have been seeing in our student leaders (setting an example on social media being a BIG one probably a subject that deserves its own blog post!).

 

Here is the list our student leaders put together:

SL Characteristics

What are you doing to motivate your students into being more inclusive in your ministry?

 

Colton [Email||Twitter]

Our team just finished up a book called, Way of the Heart by Henri J, M, Nouwen. The book brought up a lot of interesting and challenging questions for myself. The biggest one being, Am I actually believing in students, or am I just holding them back?

In every ministry, there are always those students. Those students that are just hard to love. Whether they are annoying, obnoxious, etc, they are the ones that push us and help us learn to love better… to put it nicely. But, sometimes, it gets to the point where we only see those students by their behavior. We pigeon hole them into being that person. When we only see a student as obnoxious, they can’t do anything but be obnoxious to us. And when we are forcing our perception on them, we are holding them back.

Bottom line, we can’t actually believe in students if we don’t abandon the negative perception we have of them. As pastors and mentors, we need to be helping students find out who they are in Christ, help them see themselves as Christ sees them. If we are only seeing these students they are at now, we can’t look at where they could be, making it impossible to bring them there!

Take a second today to think of a few of those hard to love students in your ministry. Pray that your start to see them how Christ sees them. Pray that you stop holding them back, and start believing in them.

Colton [Email||Twitter]