Building Authentic Relationships In A Fake Relationship World, is the title of the second workshop I get to teach at SYMC.

Last night as I was leaving youth group one of my “Senior” guys was laughing about “SnapChat” pictures he likes to send people. I told him some facts about SnapChat he never knew (like how the company does indeed save your pictures, they are not truly “gone,”) and he was shocked. It lead to a conversation about the way we get to know people and go deep. We would rather text than talk in person. However, a study done by Brigham Young University found that it’s more satisfying to send a “loving” text than it is to receive one. Facebook has been dwarfed by Instagram in the teen world as a place where they post a “seflie” and create a persona of who they want to be. Did you know in some sociological circles they believe this actually helps with and is important to identity formation?

Here’s the thing. Those of us in ministry all know that relationship is the way we grow. The teen years are awkward and communication is difficult to begin with. Face-to-face relationship building is a challenge with this age. Then we add in social media and digital formats where we can “hide” our “true selves” and it feels impossible.  What do we do?  How do we  navigate growing in relationship, while embracing the world our teens are living in?

I feel like I have more and more conversations all the time about how to engage this digital culture in a relational manner. This has involved me digging and researching what those in my group are doing as well as the rest of the world.  It’s also caused me to be creative in my interactions with students, and even learn to educate parents.

In a predatory world the days of simply picking a student out and taking them out one on one are gone. In some churches and ministry this is “against the rules.”

So how DO we navigate this new world of relationships? Come to my workshop, let’s hangout and talk about it!

Leneita / @leneitafix

conferenceAre you open to growing in community?

In an earlier post on this blog, Leneita Fix shared what she’s teaching this year at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference. You totally need to check out her stuff, as well as many of the other bloggers on this site who are all presenting something. I’m not kidding… these folks are brilliant and have such an amazing heart for God, students and youth workers.

For what it’s worth, I’ll also be serving at the conference. Catch up with me on any of these if you want to join into what I’ll be doing or hang out afterward:

symcI know that I’m taking a risk in sharing that with you because it comes across as self-serving. Honestly, I’ll take the risk because I really believe in SYMC is all about… a conference “by youth workers, for youth workers.”

In fact, I’d like to give you some exclusive access (with just a minor edit or two for privacy/context) to a Facebook conversation with a local friend of mine in ministry who I dared to check out the conference.

Hey bro! Thanks for liking my status. It actually prompted me to ask you a question I keep forgetting to ask – wondering if you are interested in attending SYMC in Columbus in March.

Tony, I was not planning on it. I had thought about it for a while. I still am sort of on the fence. I feel like it’s never gonna be so easily accessible again, and I even have a buddy who really wants me to go with him. It just happens to fall probably in my busiest two weeks of the whole spring, and I’m concerned about not getting everything I need to get done, done..

Hmm… I hear that tension. I’m actually doing a trip to Honduras right afterward, so I know what you mean. I would offer that it’s worth it, even if you can pop in for a day. If that’s of interest, I can probe around for you to find a one-day rate. What do you think?

Well, what do you think would be some of the things I would most benefit from experiencing?

screen568x568I’ve been a part of various conferences like these over the year, and each experience is unique. The one thing I can offer about this one (and the largest reason why I like serving with these guys) is the relational atmosphere SYMC creates that’s just rich with the Holy Spirit… not in a weird way, but in a fulfilling way.

There are, of course, a lot of great things to learn from amazing minds in ministry. You can certainly fill up a notebook with new ideas… it’s like a Thanksgiving meal, as well as the unbuckling of your belt after the meal. You take in all of the ingredients life has given you and bring those to take part in a great buffet with other youth workers from all over.

The coolest thing is you can enjoy it without any masks… some people confess their junk, and others share their victories. Everyone finds a moment of genuine laughter, and everyone finds a genuine moment for hot tears… all as appropriate.

To top it off, there’s this vibe of accessibility to everyone. It’s like a weekend student ministry retreat without the students… where you get to be on the receiving end.

Anyway, all of that to say I’m into it… truly. Where I could fall into a funk with other conferences, this one is always growing and adapting. It’s truly for youth workers by youth workers… and Jesus.

Hope that makes sense. Let me know if you’re interested or would want to hang out if you came. I’m speaking in a handful of places, but would really enjoy the chance to share some free time with you.

When all was said and done, my buddy moved some things around in his schedule and signed up. He added, “Thanks for your answers to my questions, I definitely see the value of the conference.” Another couple of friends I spoke to recently are coming, too – mainly because I couldn’t stop yapping about the thing. (It’s like when you’ve eaten pizza all your life, but then find pizza that redefines pizza,,, and you have to tell everyone else about it.)

Why does this matter?

We all have days that leave us feeling like we’re insane. It’s rare to find a ragtag community like this where you suddenly feel like you can waste less time translating what you mean with people who don’t “get it” and more time speaking a common language among other dreamers who do “get it.” .

sackchairAll that to say I hope we can hang out at SYMC this year, too. If it’s not in your budget this round, start saving up for next year. If you can still join in, count this as my official invite for us to grab a meal or smoothie sometime with me a handful of peers among thousands of other youth workers

Or maybe we’ll just hang out in the closest over-sized sack chair we can find.



We are only one week and a half or so from the Simply Youth Ministry Conference.  It is probably one of my favorite times of the year.  This particular conference has truly become a place where I gather with friends to talk about ministry.  I learn so much, I laugh and I hang out with people who “get me.”  In addition I have the honor of teaching and serving on peer panels.  This is how I get to meet those with fresh ideas and hear about youth min. all over the world.  I thought it might be fun to share what I am teaching this year and why it’s close to my heart.

I mean you see the titles, you read the bios, but do you have any idea why us speakers care about what we do?  So this week I would like to break down my sessions for you.

 

Partnering With A New Generation Of Parents: (Saturday, 9 AM):

I have been in some form of family ministry for over two decades now.  (Yes, that means I’m old.)  When I started out it was in a rural area.  The running joke has always been that it took forever to gather all of my students not because I had so many, but because they lived so far away from each other.  This was the first time I was exposed to “Christian” households that hid affairs, problems and issues.  Most of my students did have two parents in the home, but that didn’t mean they were happy homes.  Fast forward as the Lord plops me in the inner city.  I remember in my first week a 10 year old girl asking me my age.   When I told her, “24,” her response was a gleeful, “That’s the same age as my Mom!” I honestly, had no idea how to respond, as the reality of two things hit me:  1. How young her Mom was when she had her.  2.  She had 2 siblings.

I continued to meet students in these areas who came from single parent households.  Dads were nonexistent in their lives.  It was not uncommon for there to be multiple children with the same Mom and different fathers.  Time marched on and I began to help out with suburban youth ministry.  I saw patterns of divorce there.  I met kids from rich homes whose parents were workaholics.  I talked with churches all over the country and I started hearing the same stories.  The traditional “family unit” was melting away.  Grandparents and family members  were raising grandchildren. Kids were growing up in foster care and group homes.  Children were navigating four parents as divorce and remarriage occurred.  The situations may have looked different at one time in rural, suburban and inner city areas,  however,  I have seen in recent years that the same scenarios are playing out everywhere.

Honestly, I pointed fingers at who I thought were “unworthy” to spiritually lead their children.  I put myself in the position of Savior and Hero when everyone else let them down.  That’s when the Lord convicted me of 3 things:

     No matter how much time I spent with any student at some point they would “go home.”

I could not ever be the Savior, there is only one.

God’s heart for the family is for it to be whole.  

The Lord pointed me to places in His Word about His thoughts of the family and the way He wants it to be.  I saw that as I decided that “some” parents “could” never “get there,”  I was actually becoming part of the problem and not the solution.

That’s why I have taken up the cause to see every parent, every family the way the Lord does: redeemed.  Will every family get there?  Of course not.  Is it what Jesus longs for?  Absolutely.  My responsibility is to keep asking Him to give me His eyes in the situation.

I feel responsible to learn how to partner with this new generation of families, and help them see what Christ does.  Will you join me as we learn how to do this together?

Do you have any specific questions on this topic you might like me to answer in my workshop?

Tune in tomorrow for: “Building Relationships In A Fake Relational World.”
Leneita / @leneitafix

teens

Last week I shared some perspectives from my story as a gay teen. This week, I would like to continue offering some perspectives that I hope help youth workers understand how most gay teens feel inside church settings.

As an “out” gay teen, I was never invited to youth group or church. Instead, my peers who were Christians ignored the fact I needed Jesus and focused more on telling me (and my gay friends) how we were going to hell. My perceptions, then, of all church people were formed by those interactions.

Since the only thing people saw was my sexual orientation, I lived as though this was the only definitive part about me. When I walked the school halls, I heard more names like “faggot,” “homo,” and “queer,” then I did my own name. And though at times I flaunted my sexuality in order to live up to the “fanfare” I received, I knew there was more to me than my sexual orientation. I just wish others knew this, too.

However, I felt, when I walked into a room – either in school or other places where I was known, I was met with eyes that only saw my sexuality.

When I became a Christian after high school, I started attending a church where some of the people knew about my struggle with same-sex attractions. Some people even attended high school with me and were surprised to see me at their church. Though I was greeted with smiles and casual hellos, I felt I could never escape the perception of “the gay guy is here, again.”

This uncomfortable feeling caused me to not share about my gay attractions and experiences when I gave my testimony or met new people. In fact, the church where I grew up in the faith, for the longest time, only knew of a few details about my past – homosexuality not being one of them. The main two reason why I did this was: I wanted people to not reject me, and I wanted people to see me, and not my sexuality.

While this may seem harmless on the outside, I battled my attractions, addictions, doubt, fear, anger, etc, inwardly and alone for too long of a time span.

When gay teens walk through the doors of your youth room, how will you see them? How will your students see them?

I love this quote by Darrin Patrick on what it means to truly see people: To be on mission is to have a heart full of compassion for people – to see them the way Jesus did … When we look – not glance, but look – we see the person, not the problem. When we look at the person, we see that he or she matters to God and ought to matter to us. When we look, we see a person to be loved, not a problem to be handled. Only when we look can we experience compassion (Church Planter, pg. 174-175).

How we see teens who are either openly gay or questioning their sexuality deeply matters. More than anything, as youth workers – as Christians, we need to see these students as made in God’s image and as ordinary teenagers.

I am often asked by youth workers if there are specific ministries that need to be started when ministering to gay teens. Beyond forming mentoring relationships with them, gay teens need to be treated just like other teenagers in your group. Talk about Christ. Invite them to a bible study. Visit them at school, or stop in at activities outside of school. Invite them over for a meal. If they are talented with music, ask them to join the worship band – if you have one. Or if they have a gift of leadership, ask them to serve as a student leader.

[Yes, teens willingly engaging in sin shouldn't be in leadership roles. However, a teen with same-sex attractions does not automatically mean they are engaging in sin, and thus discounted for leadership.]

One of the greatest things you can do for gay teens in your ministry, church, or community, is to see them beyond their sexuality. Another great thing is to help your students to see their gay peers in equal ways, too.

Thoughts?

With you and for you,

Shawn / @611pulse

P.S. Be sure to attend my workshop, “Ministering to Gay Teenagers,” at this year’s Simply Youth Ministry Conference!



Heyo Insiders!

What happens when you get Simply’s Matty McCage, Saddleback Church’s Kurt Johnston, and Christ in Youth’s Chad Monahan together? They go skydiving! Well, Kurt and Chad do!

But for real, it’s fun to hear these three chat about Simply Youth Ministry Conference 2014 happening in Columbus, OH on March 7-10. Watch below:

Are you registered for #SYMC 2014 yet? It’s not too late to sign-up yet…we promise!

We will be so sad if we don’t get to see your good-looking self there! Come hangout with 1000′s of people from the trenches of youth ministry just like you.

See you at SYMC!

Amber

@youthministry

@symconference

The Simply Youth Ministry Conference is coming up March 7th-10th and you do not want to miss out. Register (here) Check out Kurt and I as we discuss what makes SYMC so great!!!! You will also learn of our great love for dates!!!! ha Enjoy!!

 

kurt & ac



Gaining Perspective

Leneita Fix —  January 14, 2014 — Leave a comment

This past weekend I had the tremendous honor of being invited to teach the “Re-Effect” conference for The Salvation Army.  As what usually happens when Jeff Wallace and I teach, we were inspired far more than anything we were able to give away.  I love being with people who love Jesus and have a heart to see the world transformed by a relationship with Him.  The Lord really spoke to me in a myriad of ways at this event.  The speakers, of course, touched my heart. Yet, it was conversations, and the building of new friendships that fed me deeply.  I was encouraged to learn of a denomination where young adults are NOT leaving the church, instead are actually heading out with a deep faith to serve Christ.

This denominational conference (Did you remember they are a denomination?) reminded me yet again about the importance of broadening our  “church” and “ministry” worldview.  It is so easy to get caught up in the day to day of being where we are that we never learn about others.  The unfortunate bi-product when this happens is we end up only seeing about what is at the end of our nose, and this shapes our perspective on everything we do.   I believe one of the reasons we end up proud and “narrow-minded” is we don’t actively take time to learn about what Jesus is doing outside of our building, our neighborhood or even our state.

So how do we do this:

Visit “Another” Church

In 2013 I had the opportunity to visit almost 15 different churches in 13 different denominations, all which kept Christ at the center of all they do.  There were different styles of singing, different traditions, and even different ways of celebrating communion. In every one, I met a lot of people who really love the Lord. On a Sunday when you might be on vacation or “off,” then purposely sit in a “different type” of church.  See what you might learn!

Go To A Conference:

Find a Christ-centered conference (Shameless plug: like maybe SYMC?) out of your denomination and GO!  It doesn’t have to be large or even national; it just needs to draw together different people, approaching ministry and life differently.  Now when you are there (those of us who are introverts have to work on this) don’t just hang out with people you know.  Purpose to talk to someone (preferably more than one) and hear their story. We might just get some fresh ideas. (Fun Fact: All speakers at SYMC are encouraged to spend time with attendees far beyond teaching times. Don’t be afraid to ask about a meal or cup of coffee with one!)

Read A Book:

Learn about other denominations, heroes of the faith or even other “types of ministry.” Leadership books are awesome, but what about learning from others who are approaching ministry differently?  We begin to see a pattern rise of ways God is working in His people in a myriad of ways.coffeechat

Hang Out With Those Who Do Something “Different.”

Recently, I had the chance host a discussion with people who were invested in rural, inner city and suburban youth ministry. It was fun to hear the shock in their voices as they discovered all of different ways they were actually alike, as were those they ministered to. Find people outside of youth ministry to talk with. Spend time with someone in youth ministry who is in a different setting and purposefully to listen to them.

It’s very easy to stay in our own little lane and never learn about the ways the body of Christ is working around the world.  This past weekend showed me once again how important it is to keep learning, it broadens my perspective.

What are you doing to gain perspective?

Leneita

@leneitafix

One of the things I love to do, is share what I’m learning in ministry with other youth workers and volunteers. With this post I wanted to share something that I need to remind myself is the better option. I’m always thinking of the person who’s attending my workshop and I always want them to get the most out it. So my first thought is to allow questions during my session because it’s important that they leave feeling like they’ve gained a new perspective on the topic in some way. Also, I don’t want them to forget the question so I allow Q&A during the workshop. Then immediately when I’m done I regret it. Here’s why:

  1. I’ve just valued a few over everyone - By the end of the workshop I’ve spent more time answering questions for the few, then sharing the material I prepared for everyone.
  2. Random personal rants - Every person in my workshop is there to get what they need. They are not thinking about everyone else which is natural and ok. The flip side to that is they begin asking questions as if they are the only ones there.  
  3. A question becomes the workshop – I’ve just taken 15 minutes to explain something that has nothing to do with the focus of my presentation. All because someone asked a question that needed background info on the answer. Now I have question on the answer I just gave.
  4. The workshop was highjacked – I’ve just went back and forth with one person who has a rebuttal to every answer I give them. We’ve now frustrated the whole workshop and have created an angry mob. Now I’m looking for an exit. ha
  5. I ran out of time - I had to rush through the rest of my material which makes me look like an idiot, because everyone in my workshop is thinking that I should of managed my time better. I have to make the embarrassing announcement about skipping portions of the material so they can make it to their next workshop on time. Or I “Jesus-juke” everyone and say “I feel led to stop here and dig deeper” when in reality I just don’t have the time to go any further.

QA

Now, I’m a firm believer that a Q&A within a workshop is necessary. I’m also aware of the fact that some of these things that I mentioned above can’t be avoided, but they can be managed. So here are 5 ways to do a Q&A right!

  1. Write it down. - I will let them know that there will be a Q&A at the end and that they should write their questions down as they come to them. So they don’t forget them.
  2. Set a time limit. – This help’s me manage my workshop time schedule. Also, it helps me keep track on how many questions I can take. So as the time comes to a close I can say “we have time for three more questions” or something like that.
  3. Preference the type of questions you want asked. - I will usually preference by saying “if it’s a question that you think would help everyone”. I will also say that I’m free afterwards to answer more specific questions that may not be helpful to everyone.
  4. Go off-line. - Don’t be afraid to take some questions that need more elaborate answers to email. Nothing kills Q&A time like a question that takes the whole time to answer. Let those people email you, that way you don’t subject everyone to a question that effects 5 out of the 25 people that are in your workshop.
  5. Take polls. – Some of the questions you get may be on the minds of everyone. Take a poll if you think that the question may be universal. The people in your workshop need to know that they are not the only ones struggling in that area or have that problem. Also this is a great time for them to help each other. Be cautious that no one highjacks this time either.

Answering questions that I’m covering in my presentation before I cover it is counter-productive. And that’s exactly what happens when I do a Q&A during my presentation. On the other hand, you are not going to cover everything about the topic in your presentation. So you need a time of Q&A to maybe catch somethings you didn’t mention in your presentation that the people need to know. So for me Q&A’s works best at the end where it can be managed and utilized to it’s fullest potential.

Let’s help each other out. What are some other helpful workshop tips?

Hope it helps

ac