Almost every day I hear a different youth worker complain about a parent who doesn’t really “care” about their child. Have you ever done that? I know I have. The “untraditional” family has become the norm with divorce rates continuing at 60% (in and out of the church), parents cohabiting, and grandparents raising grandchildren.

Then there are the struggles our students are facing.  Bullying, abuse, and identity are universal.  However, there are also drugs, violence, eating disorders, cutting, and just generally being a teen.  We keep saying it’s “harder” for this generation.

Why do we think that? 

There was a time when truthfully by looking at someone’s fashion, taste in music, family make up, or “issues” it was easy to identify where they “lived.” There were definitive “sides of town,” with the particulars of what went on there. Now we have come to live in a “mash-up” society of culture, challenges, and tastes. Our idea of who is sitting in our pews, attending our youth groups or living in our community is no longer easily defined by how much money they make, location or the color of one’s skin.The other side of the tracks with their common misconceptions and problems are moving, and reaching each of us in ministry in some way.

Regardless of where you are currently located, I would venture I could place you in a room with 50 other church leaders from anywhere in America and there would be common stories to tell.

As I have had the opportunity to speak across the country I often talk with youth pastors who have students who have some families they struggle with. Everyone has a different “label.” Here are some of the labels I have heard:

Inner city- at-risk-urban- unchurched-spiritually immature- dechurched- and “The Community”Everybody's Urban

The common threads I hear are families living in some form of “survival mentality.” They just are trying to get through the day and “live their life.” You might choose a different term, but my ministry partner Jeff Wallace and I use the term, “new urban.” It does include demographic area, culture, multi-ethnicity, social ills, and socio-economics. However, we would argue, in terms of the Christian community, this title blurs those lines and moves beyond them. Families are dealing with deep-seated issues all around; honestly, some are just better at hiding it than others. Our book Everybody’s Urban can help you delve more into this idea and on how to reach your “new urban” students who are in a survival mindset and quite possibly stuck there.

It’s time for the Body of Christ to stop making assumptions. It doesn’t matter what we label we give, or what we see with our eyes; too many are stuck existing to survive the day when they need to know Christ wants them to thrive.

The question we must ask ourselves is will we stop thinking “those problems aren’t ours” or thinking some families are just too broken, and instead intentionally let compassion move us to action?

This is why Jeff Wallace and myself are partnering with LeaderTreks on April 29 – May 1 for a “Refuel Retreat” at Pawley’s Island in South Carolina. We want to help you embrace and support who is in your group. How do you partner with a generation of parents that seem more distant than ever?  How do you help students genuinely step up and know what it means to belong to Jesus? (For more information click here.) (It’s alright if you don’t want to talk to us just enjoy the free time and being at that beach.)

Won’t you join us in the conversation?

talking

I once remember a friend of mine asking, “If you set up your youth group that way, what will make students have a desire to invite their friends?”  He was speaking of the fact that the focus on our ministry was to be “relationally driven.”  Sure we all talk about “discipleship” and “relationships,” however,  I started to see I did just that.  I talked about them, but I didn’t really have them. I played games for the sake of fun.  I sang worship songs because that’s  ”what you do.”  The trouble was I’m not musical, and I didn’t have any students or volunteers who were either. I followed all the unwritten rules of the youth group formula.  They weren’t working for me or my students.

I stepped back and looked at Christ’s model.  He preached to the crowds, touched and healed a few, but the majority of His time was spent pouring into 12 guys, with 3 getting special attention.  If Jesus was focused on eating, sleeping and teaching mainly 12 with a focus on 3,  then that was the model I would follow.

Here’s what I did:

1.  Listened

I started with brainstorming with my students about what they were looking for in “youth group.”  Some of them liked to sing, others hated it.  What they wanted was a place to seek truth, with authentic people who would become a second family to them.

2.  Restructured

Before I programmed ANYTHING I asked,  “How will this build relationships?”  So just to move to a small group model for the sake of having them wasn’t going to work. Instead of getting through a series of questions or pushing through a curriculum, the goal was to include every student in every conversation.  What were the students able to take away with them? Could they apply at least one point the moment they walked out the door? Our opening time became much shorter.  If we did play a game, or have an object lesson, it was all about building relationships with each other or for the purpose of making a point that would be discussed in small groups.

3.  Training

Many volunteers would ask me, “What do I have in common with this age?”  So I started training my team in first steps to conversations,  how to engage, how to not talk “at students” but with them, and how to deal with disruptions. These trainings are ongoing. I gave clear expectations of where we were headed, and what they needed to do to keep up with students. There were checklists for calling, texting and spending time with students not just during “youth group.”

4. Included

One of the key elements was including volunteers and teens in our new model.  We decided that an opening time of welcoming was needed. We allowed teens (with guidance) to plan and execute this time. In a practical sense this means that this time changes year to year as we have different students and adults in the mix.  There have been dramas, worship, and video clips in that time to bring the message. The students are allowed to make this time theirs.

So I lied we do play games, but not every week. Students always shock me when they do use the word “fun” to describe our time together.  I guess it’s because we laugh, and talk and go deep, but it’s not usually silly programming.  Our method draws out the introverts and lets everyone engage.  Yes, we even eat pizza together, take trips, and have outreach events however, all of this is done with that simple question, “If we do this , how will it build relationships?” AND THEY DO INVITE THEIR FRIENDS,,,

What about you?  What are YOU doing to build relationships with your students?

 

 




Do you have a youth ministry degree? There are MANY roads to youth ministry though I am curious what was your formal education path (if any). As for me, I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Business from a Bible college. How about you? Vote now!

Also, if you’re interested in getting a youth ministry certificate, check out Youthsphere from Point Loma – a cool online way to get some official training and a piece of paper for your wall at the end. Use promo code MTDB to get 10% off today!

JG

I’m super excited to invite you to Saddleback Church on October 4th – Doug Fields and Duffy Robbins are coming to The Refinery to teach their incredible Speaking to Teenagers seminar. They’ve made is super accessible for everyone in the area ($25/person) and it is something I’m SO pumped to be sitting under in a month. Join us!

A practical jam packed one day seminar for Youth workers and anyone else who teaches or speaks to teenagers Including pastors, volunteers, Sunday School teachers. If you teach once a quarter or twice a week, this day is for you.

You will leave this seminar knowing:

  • The crucial elements of effective communication
  • The essentials for understanding and connecting to a teenage audience
  • Keys for personal and spiritual preparation before speaking
  • The top 10 places to find great illustrations
  • How to use the right types of words to make God’s Word come alive for students
  • 7 proven tips to make stories more personal & effective
  • An approach to turn your experiences into powerful illustrations and connecting points
  • The powerful dynamics of humor and how to use it effectively
  • How to keep teenagers engaged and deepen their learning
  • How to avoid making the most common mistakes speakers make
  • Practical guidelines to enhance your body language and gestures
  • The secrets of time and timing in speaking
  • How to match the type of message to your unique situation

JG



This week we’re talking volunteers! A key part of any youth ministry is the leadership team. If you’re doing ministry all alone, you’re going to bottleneck growth or burn out—take time to build a great team and you’ll never regret it.

But building a great team can be a big challenge! Today we’re going to blast out a few bullet points that we think will help you surround yourself with a great group of like-minded youth workers:

Recruit Well
• Ask God to lead you to the right people within your church.
• Look for key places to find people—men’s/women’s Bible study groups, the college ministry, leaders moving up with their younger students, etc.
• Resist the urge to just make a blanket announcement; you’ll get “zeros” who will hurt you in the long haul or “heroes” who are already volunteering for everything and are overcommitted.
• If you have a red flag at any point in the process, pass on that person. Better to have a difficult conversation before than have to clean up a mess after.

Place Well
• In part of your interview, talk through their passions and gifting.
• Personality plays a big role in success of using volunteers well. Factor in personality.
• Place people based on their available time; if someone is stretching to be a small group leader, it might be too much commitment and you might want to suggest another role.
• Finally, place them according to their gifts and availability…not according to your needs!

Train Well
• Prepare your people for common challenges they will encounter in their role serving students.
• Promise (and deliver on that promise when necessary) that you’ll be there when they face something they don’t feel super prepared for.
• Resource them with articles, books, and back-pocket guides to help them group as a leader.

Encourage Well
• Remember their birthdays, send encouraging notes, etc.
• Be present when you speak to them; pouring into them is, by extension, pouring into your students.
• Gather regularly for celebration, training, and story-telling.

What else needs to be done well in order to build a great team? Add your thoughts!

This post was written by Josh Griffin and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

Dare2Share and Greg Stier are doing a free webinar on “The Missing Link in Discipleship” tomorrow (Tuesday August 7th) that includes a free giveaway of my brand new book “Firing Jesus” to everyone who attends. The goal is to help youth leaders walk away with tools/ideas to become way more effective in equipping teens to share their faith.

  • Tuesday August 7th: 12:00-1:00 PM CST(10-11 AM Pacific, 11-Noon Mountain,1-2 PM Eastern)
  • Tuesday August 7th: 7:30-8:30 PM CST(5:30-6:30 PM Pacific, 6:30-7:30 PM Mountain,8:30-9:30 PM Eastern)

JG



In seven days I am leaving with a group of 20 students and leaders and heading for Mpigi Uganda for a 3 week missions trip that I know will be life changing for all of us. For all the students this is their first trip to Africa or anywhere in the developing world and all of them feel deeply convicted that God has called them to this trip and each of them are excited to see what God is going to reveal to them through this experience.

As we have met and prepared to go, we have been very careful and intentional to help our students understand the culture and climate of where we are going . They have an understanding of what would be considered offensive or disrespectful. We have taught them how to dress, what to say, how to pray for people. Our students are aware of the religious culture, social norms and conventions and I feel they are equipped to serve and lead well there.

But I started thinking about all this training and education and wondered,  we are training students to go abroad and prepare them for the culture they are going to encounter, but we are doing the same thing with our students at home.  

-Are we training our students and our Churches about this culture?

-Do they know what might be considered offensive when talking about their faith?

-Are they equipped to articulate what they believe?

-Do they know how to talk about God in a language that connects with the people around them?

I worry that we are not doing a good job of that, although I assume that there are groups out there that do. I was working in my garage the other night and two young missionaries from the LDS Church were going door to door in my area sharing about Mormonism and talking to my neighbours. I think I am black listed or my neighbour tipped them off that I am a Pastor and they could see me waiting to chat because they skipped my house all together. But here is what I do know about them, the LDS missionaries have a better understanding of the demographics of my neighbourhood than me. They have a better understanding of how to engage people of different religions that I do and because of this they  have had conversations with my neighbours I have only dreamed of having and they were equipped to engage.

This is a tough pill for me to swallow, but I am wondering how we can work this coming school year to do a better job of equipping our student’s missionaries for the mission field here at home. I am excited about it and would love to hear how you your groups train your students or congregation how to engage this culture and be true disciples. I wonder what would happen if we spent as much time equipping them for this missions field as we do for the global one?

-geoff

Ready to Fight

Josh Griffin —  March 23, 2012 — 1 Comment

This is my 15th “tour” of youth ministry duty. During all those years, I’ve experienced great wins and tough losses. I’ve made good friends and have lost some along the way. I’ve done a few things right and a bunch of things wrong. Just ask my commanding officer…er, my senior pastor.

For 15 years, I’ve lived youth ministry every single day. Youth services, graduation parties, funerals, counseling, meetings, van outings, events—I’ve done it, am doing it, and will do it again soon. Today’s juggling act involves trying to get kids to register for camp, while waiting to hear the decision about my proposed youth ministry budget increase.

Like most of you, I’m in the trenches of youth ministry. Here are a few things I’ve learned so far:

• Youth ministry is a battle.
This profession, or calling, isn’t for the faint of heart. Although some people are envious of us (“Halo and pizza every night? Sign me up!”), those perceptions are usually far from accurate. Few of us coast through life playing Xbox 360 with Doritos-encrusted fingers. Youth ministry is a spiritual battlefield for the hearts and minds of God’s children. So much is at stake. Our war isn’t with young people who make poor decisions or with parents who refuse to get involved; it’s with the Enemy himself. We will lose battles and be shaken to the core, but we’ll fight on.

• Training is critical.
If you’re in day-to-day ministry, I strongly encourage you to make sure you’re prepared for this fight. We’ve lost too many good people already. Also, remember to take a break from the front lines to retreat, read, and repent. Then come back with a renewed passion.

• We’re stronger together. Ministry in the trenches can be incredibly lonely, and that makes us vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. So connect to a network. Ask someone to mentor you. Find someone who’s willing to fight back-to-back with you.

Whether you’ve recently won a major victory or are experiencing the sting of defeat, God has called you to serve teenagers. Whether this is your first tour of duty or you’re a battle-hardened warrior, remember that we’re all in this together.

By the way, I just got word: My budget increase was denied. Oh well, that’s life in the trenches, right? Fight on, my friends, fight on.

This article by Josh Griffin originally appeared in the September/October issue of Group Magazine. Don’t get the biggest youth ministry magazine yet? Get in on the fun.