A few weeks ago some of our student leaders created a ministry called “Encourage” who’s goal was very simply … to encourage other students. One of their first projects was leaving thank you notes on the office door of people who worked at the church. It is always nice to get thanked for serving and it was a great start. Their next project was MUCH bigger – putting sticky notes with a message of encouragement on the lockers of everyone in their high school. Some of the messages:

  • You can do it!
  • Thanks for being you
  • You matter
  • You are awesome
  • Smile!
  • Have a great day!
  • Try your hardest
  • You put the kind in mankind

And while the challenge was huge, they did it! And it sent ripples through the school and even the administration noticed the project and loved it. Not sure where the encourage ministry goes from here, but sure do love them thinking creatively and helping others be encouraged.

JG

PS: How cool is this followup picture (edited to remove IDs) a couple of weeks later?

Applications for our student leadership program are opening up again in a few weeks and it has me reflecting on what I look for in a student leader. Over the past week, I decided that I want our student leaders to be a leader third. Before they can be a student leader, they need to be a Christ follower first and a servant second:

1. Christ Follower
Student leaders are the ones that make things happen. But one of the first things I tell student leaders is, “this isn’t ASB.” I think it is important to make the point that they aren’t planning events and running ministries just for fun, they are doing it to help fulfill the purposes of the Church. A leader of a ministry isn’t like the leader of a club. A leader of a ministry is the spiritual leader of a group of people. In order to have a team that can be spiritual leaders of your ministry, you need to have a team of students that are pursuing the Lord. Before you say yes to putting a student in your leadership program, make sure you know what is happening in their spiritual life. Ask them questions about their relationship with the Lord, what their quiet times look like, where they are being challenged, etc. Dig deep. Don’t be afraid to talk to a spiritual leader in a student’s life or even a parent!

2. Servant
Is this student serving already? One of the mistakes that I have made is overlooking this on some applicants. In my mind, I thought, “I can help motivate them to start serving.” But that isn’t something you should have to say about a student leader. Student leaders are the ones that are already serving in your ministry. Sometimes this means saying no to popular students in your youth group. When I took a closer look at our “core” students, I found that most of them weren’t serving. Saying no to students like this might be tough, but it is a perfect opportunity to really challenge them and take them to the next level. Do be on the look out for students that are serving on ministry teams, showing up to serve projects, staying after events to clean-up, or just students that are servants in your ministry.

When I look for students that have leadership potential, I look for those two things. The more I develop our program, the harder I get on student leadership applicants. Don’t be afraid to say a few no’s. Letting in students that aren’t ready can make your program ineffective, or worse, harmful to your ministry. Saying no to some students is okay. It is healthy for your program and it is helpful to grow the student that needs to grow.

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at coltonharker@gmail.com or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.



As some of you know, this Wednesday was the annual event, See You at the Pole. SYATP (See You at the Pole) is a national day of prayer, where students come to school early to pray and worship together at their flagpole. Our ministry made a huge push for it this year and it turned out to be a huge win! I would promote SYATP to any youth group and here are a few reasons why:

-Unification. This event is geared towards uniting the Body of Christ at a school. One of the responsibilities of the student leader in charge of SYATP is to promote this event to all of the Christian clubs and organizations at the school. I think that when there are more than one Christian club at a school, there can be a rivalry that develops, but events like these, if done right, shatters this and helps them realize that they both have the same goal, to be a light and serve at their school. It is also fun to go and meet and build relationships with students and youth pastors from the area… you can never have too many friends!

-Long Term Results. While SYATP is a totally awesome program, it is only once a year. What we wanted to see happen was a fire sparked in the campus’ heart. We wanted this to inspire the Body at their school to love and serve their school in a way that they haven’t before. What was cool was seeing students posting their ideas on how to keep things like this going. There have already been talks of a campus prayer walk at one of our schools!

-Leadership Experience. SYATP is a completely student lead activity, which I LOVE. The cool thing is that the SYATP website (syatp.com) sets students up for success. It has a checklist of all of the things you need to do/think about when you are planning the event at your school. One of the cool things about this event is that it is a success/fail opportunity. One key element of growing leaders is giving them the freedom to fail. As their pastor, we are willing to help if they ask, but we can’t waste these unique opportunities to build up leaders. Failure doesn’t always mean the event is a complete disaster; failure can look like weak programming, bad promotion, poor team communication, etc. We just need to be there to help them learn from their mistakes so that the experience wasn’t in vain.

I am a huge believer in See You at the Pole and I hope that it is something that you at least look into for the schools in your area! Do you have a story from a See You at the Pole event?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at coltonharker@gmail.com or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.

This year, our ministry has taken on a stronger focus on campus outreach. The main way that we are ministering to the local high schools is through our students, more specifically, our student leaders. Luckily, our student leaders already had a passion for ministering to their campus, all we needed to do was focus that passion and turn it into action.

In order to do that, we had a student leadership meeting that focused only on school outreach. We split them up by high school and gave them one sheet of paper. Each school had to work together as a team to answer five questions. But before we had them fill anything out, we gave them 20 minutes to have a quiet time and reflect on the things that Jesus has done in their lives or is doing in their lives. A huge aspect of focusing passion is to help them discover/remember why they are doing ministry. They need to fully put their faith in Christ and trust that He is still working in this world. They need to recognize that what they want to be doing at their school will be impossible to execute apart from God.

From there, we had them answer the five questions. Below are the questions we asked and the answers we got from a student at a near-by Catholic private school:

1. What are the unreached people groups at your school?
a. Kids who grew up in catholic homes, but their parents so not follow the religion, so they do not know what to believe
b. Kids who don’t have many friends
c. Transfer students

2. What are the needs of high schoolers?
a. Friends, to take away stress with family and school etc
b. Family, to always be there and provide
c. Acceptance

3. Do we believe that we are called to meet those needs? Why?
a. Yes because as Christians God has called us to share the good news, and by helping students fulfill their needs, we are shining the light of Christ.

4. What has been keeping you from meeting these needs in the past?
a. Don’t want to bring it up because it feels awkward
b. Feel like I will be asked a question I couldn’t answer
c. Most of the kids grew up non-practicing catholic and it is hard to talk to them about Christ because they do not think that there is anything more to their relationship with Christ.

5. MISSION STATEMENT
Our mission is to redefine what is means to be a follower of Christ and make the students at my school’s religion a relationship with Christ rather than a task

Note: We had our homeschooled students answer these questions about their personal lives, writing a mission statement for their life. We are SO stoked to see what our students do for their schools this year!

How is your ministry helping students minister to their schools?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at coltonharker@gmail.com or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.



In my last post, I talked about the awesome student leadership book we have coming our way.  While we were in-between books, we have been putting together our own lessons that are based off of various pieces of scripture. Last Sunday, we did our lesson on Acts 17:24-25 and our students responded really well to it, so I thought I would share what we did!

24 “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, 25 and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. 26 From one man, he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. Acts 17:24-2

We started off the lesson by giving the students 20 minutes in prayer and meditation on the scripture.  Normally, we would introduce the topic to them and what we want them to take out of the verses we give them, but we wanted to see what they would come up with on their own.

Here is what we wanted to drive home:

GOD DOESN’T NEED US! In fact, God doesn’t need anything!  Sometimes, we have this idea in our head (whether consciously or unconsciously) that if we don’t do something it won’t get done.  We think that God’s plan is dependant on us making the right choices.  We think that if we don’t evangelize to that person or serve at that homeless shelter, then no one will do it.  That leads us to have a hero mentality that abandons humility and puts God in a box. But God can work outside of you.  He was working way before you were born, and he will continue to work after you die.  The great news is that God invites us to be used by Him to do His will! Incredible!

Here is a cool response we got from a student named Sierra (paraphrased):

Because God’s work isn’t confined to us, there is no room to boast about what you have done in the name of the Lord. We can never take pride in the fact that we lead someone to Christ or started a ministry because it was not us that did it!  It is by God ALONE that we are able to accomplish anything. Same goes for our gifts! We should be thankful for each talent and gift that we have because they are each God given, we have done nothing to deserve them!

What have you been teaching your student leaders?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at coltonharker@gmail.com or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.

Unlike our students, I’m really excited for the school year to start.  This semester, I get the chance to help shape the way our ministry does campus outreach.  Of course, this means we get to throw some pretty awesome events (i.e. tailgate parties!), but we wanted our ministry’s outreach and involvement to be more than that.

Our ministry is made up of (mostly) 5 VERY different schools, and we wanted to make sure that we ministered to each campus accordingly.  The problem is that, as adults, there is only so much we can know about a school.  We only know what we are told, making it hard for us to correctly identify the school’s individual needs and effectively meet them.  Because of that, we are trying something brand new this year, School Teams.

The vision for School Teams is to have a group of students at each campus who love their school and are committed to meeting its unique needs.  We want them to unify and empower the Body of Christ at their school to not just sit together in their own clique, but to go out to serve and evangelize.  This could be anything from a campus clean-up event, to a freshmen cookie party on the first day of school.  The possibilities are ENDLESS!

These students will be our “go-to” people for each school.  This means a couple things for them.  It means that if we ever have a new student in our ministry that isn’t involved or connected at their school yet, we introduce them to a school team member who will make them feel welcome on their campus.  The second meaning of being a “go-to” is that they are letting us know about important news updates at their school.  If there school is doing a food drive, we want to know about it! How great would it be to help empower a school to collect food for a local homeless shelter?  Our students would also let us know about any tragedies at their school.  It would be awesome if, after service, a school got together to pray for a classmate or faculty member.

Even though we are creating special teams for each school, we still encourage ALL of our students to love their school and be a light at it.  School Teams are just our ministry’s way of ministering to schools through ministering students.

We presented this to our Student Leadership team and gave them the opportunity to apply for it.  We used an application for this because it allows us to see their heart for their school and it shows the level of commitment they have for the program.  Here’s a copy of the application for our ministry’s School Team you can download right here.

How about you, what do are you doing this next school year to minister to your local schools?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at coltonharker@gmail.com or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.



‪#SometimesMinistryIs a really big high five.

#SometimesMinistryIs receiving panicked calls from mommas who need your help with their teens.

‪‪‪#SometimesMinistryIs laughing so hard that you are crying.

#SometimesMinistryIs calling a student out and helping them to see their own sin.

‪#SometimesMinistryIs just dropping by to see how someone is doing.

‪‪#SometimesMinistryIs filling up water balloons… and throwing them.

#SometimesMinistryIs knowing a student has made some really bad choices but always making sure they know that you and Christ love them.

#SometimesMinistryIs buying a teenager a milkshake.

‪‪‪#SometimesMinistryIs sitting by the bed of someone at a nursing home.

#SometimesMinistryIs dancing and singing kids’ songs really really loudly!

#SometimesMinistryIs taking a student out to lunch so they can talk with you about something serious.

#SometimesMinistryIs playing a game of ultimate frisbee so intense that you rip off a toenail.

 

Ministry is Professional.

‪#SometimesMinistryIs scrambling to find one more chaperone for summer camp.

‪#SometimesMinistryIs intense (and slightly boring) budget planning.

‪#SometimesMinistryIs encouraging someone to volunteer to do something you know they would be GREAT at.

#Sometimes MinistryIs staff meetings.

#SometimesMinistryIs stopping in your busy schedule to do the hard work of praying for students.

#SometimesMinistryIs insisting on a medical release form, even though it is inconvenient.

‪#SometimesMinistryIs a non-church civic club meeting, because you’re investing in the community.

#SometimesMinistryIs playing phone tag FOREVER with someone to solve an important question.

‪‪#SometimesMinistryIs the best job in the world.

#SometimesMinistryIs not a job at all; it is instead the calling that your other job pays the bills to allow you to do.

 

Ministry includes Your Own Family.‪‪

#SometimesMinistryIs praying with your spouse.

#SometimesMinistryIs date night with your daughter, even if you have to miss a church thing.

#SometimesMinistryIs empowering your spouse to do their own ministry

#SometimesMinistryIs playing with your own children at home at night, and ignoring a phone call.

 

Ministry is Always God.

‪‪#SometimesMinistryIs sitting at a table with a brother pouring over the Word planning to present it in a new and exciting way.

#SometimesMinistryIs watching a student make bad decisions and knowing the best thing you can do about it is to pray.

‪#SometimesMinistryIs listening to a student explain the gospel back to you and praising God for his Christian parents’ training.

‪#SometimesMinistryIs listening to a student explain the gospel back to you, and realizing they do not yet understand what it is they are thinking about doing

‪#SometimesMinistryIs having to take a step back so that you don’t get in the way of what God is trying to do.

#SometimesMinistryIs just the purest ecstasy of full-on, eyes-closed, on-your-face worship of the One who saved you from yourself.

 

Ministry.

#ManyTimesMinistryIs just plain hard.

#AlwaysMinistryIs worth it.

#Always.

(Special thanks to @ColvinEarl @savedman97 for their contributions.)

Aaron Tucker has served teenagers since he was one, and currently serves youth of all ages at First Baptist Church of Philadelphia, Mississippi. He is Oklahoma-born (Go Sooners!) and Mississippi-raised (Go Bulldogs!), and loves Christ and family and coffee and youth ministry in Small Town USA. He tweets @Rev_Tucker

June is one of my favorite months for a couple reasons: 1) It’s my birthday, and 2) It’s when our ministry gets incoming freshmen!  One of the things that we wanted to do right off the bat is get the class of 2016 involved in our ministry.  In order to do this, we wanted to throw a ministry fair!

We centered our message around the importance of using your gifts and talents to build up the body of Christ (S.H.A.P.E., as we call it) and then released the students early into the ministry fair, where they walked through a room that had 15 booths, each featuring a different ministry or serving opportunity.  We got a great response from students and I’m really excited to see how this affects the serving culture in our ministry.  If you want to throw a ministry fair for your youth group, here are a couple things to keep in mind:

-Feature ministries outside of your youth group.  Some of us have a lot of great ministries that are completely owned by our youth group, which is great, but make sure your ministry fair roster doesn’t stop there.  Always make sure you are including serving opportunities and ministries that your church as a whole offers.  This is a great reminder for students that they are a part of something much bigger than just your youth group, strongly promoting church unity.

-Get students to run it.  Set yourself up so that you are simply booking the room and making sure there are tables ready to go.  Get students to “own” the booths.  In our ministry, students run almost every ministry team, so they were the ones to run them.  If your ministry teams aren’t set up that way, get some students that are really involved in it/have a huge heart for it to run the booth.  It is great for students that are looking to sign up for ministries to see, and be able to talk to, students that are already involved in the ministry

-Make it fun! Get your students to decorate their tables.  Our Crew Ministry (greeting team) went all out (picture is included) and had costumes, our band ministry had a student playing guitar, and our tech team had a camera set up for students to play with.  Make it a competition for your students, giving awards for how creative they got with their booth.  This will let your students feel more of an ownership and make the fair more inviting for the prospective students looking for ministries.

-The finishing touches.  Before the ministry team leaders got there, we put a small packet on their table that would thank them and get them informed.  It had a letter (to thank them for their involvement), a list/blurb about all the ministries featured and a map of where they are at (to keep them informed about the fair itself).  The last detail I would push is to have a “take-away” at each table.  We gave out 4×6 cards that had all the ministry info (what it is/where it is/who to contact) so that students had something tangible to walk away with.

All of our resources (leader packet and “take-away” cards) are included in this post.

If your ministry already does a ministry fair, what would you recommend?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at coltonharker@gmail.com or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.