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The revamped SYM Today newsletter, now equipped with exclusive posts Monday through Friday, is the best way to make sure that you don’t miss a beat of daily wisdom from authors in the trenches of youth ministry.

Leaders including Rick Lawrence, Editor in Chief of Group Magazine, and Saddleback’s Kurt Johnston among many others share advice on everything from taking care of your family to missions to summer agendas- if it’s relevant to youth ministers, they are talking about it. Don’t miss another day of useful truths in your inbox.

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Happy Friday Homies!

- Amber Cassady aka the new girl aka AC


My friend Matt McGill has started a new blog! If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to check out Imitating Christ. He’s expanding his range of topics for and writing for a broader audience than just youth workers. If you know McGill, you know his heart for discipleship and spiritual growth. This blog is an expression of that passion, focusing on the spiritual life and leadership. Most of his posts end with a few questions that are good for personal reflection or small group discussion.

Good stuff – be sure to check it out now and subscribe!


GUEST POST: Different

Josh Griffin —  December 16, 2012 — Leave a comment

The most powerful messages are never spoken. They are found in the way we live our lives. The world is watching and looking for something “different.” They are looking for truth, for love and for a different approach to responding to opposition. As Christians, we should be showing the world this kind of “different.”

Different: Truth
Rather than reading God’s Word to find out who said what to who when, we should be reading with an open heart, ready for God to change us from the inside out. How do you read with an open heart? 1. Start out by praying for God to read you as you read His Word. 2. Instead of rushing for time or word count; take your time. Close your eyes and try to imagine what you just read, what it must have been like and just picture the characters in the passage as if you were right there with them. 3. Apply what you have read. The simplest way to do this is with a devotional. Devotionals lay it out for you with a thought, a message, the word and prayer. You can take that thought and turn it into an action and live it out!

Different: Love
It is easy to love others who love us. The Bible says so in Matthew 5:46, “If you love on those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even the corrupt tax collectors do that much.” Loving our enemies on the other hand, may be difficult; but NOT impossible. We can begin by knowing that none of us is perfect. If someone hates you, it is not you they hate. It is an unresolved issue or wrong way of thinking that is lying within them and comes out as resentment and hatred towards you. Likewise, if you get angry in return, it is not them you are angry with; it is an unresolved issue or wrong way of thinking within yourself. Maybe you may not know how to handle the situation; they may not know how to handle the situation either. Be the example. You do not have to be their best friend but continue to smile and say hello when you pass them, if you see them struggling with something; walk over, give them a hand and be on your way. Little things like this will plant seeds of encouragement, love and grace. Eventually, they will know how to love as well and return that love; either to you or to someone else.

Different: Hopeful in opposition
There will be times when opposition strikes. The world is watching to see how you respond. Let’s respond with hope. “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Even through the toughest circumstances, God is with us and He will work even the worst situation out for our good. So we might as well go through it standing tall, knowing He is on our side.

As we show the world truth, love and how to have hope even in opposition; we can be sure that God is working through us to show the world the difference they are looking for, the difference we were designed to live out, the difference that is not so different in the right world; God’s world, our world.

Ashley Fordinal is the Children’s Church volunteer at Family Life Church in Sulphur Springs, TX.

I’ve often times thought that the titles of our CPYU parent seminars don’t really capture the full impact of what happens in the room. For example, I do a three-hour seminar on youth culture trends called “No Parent Left Behind.” It’s a seminar where I briefly unpack some of the main cultural trends affecting children and teens today. Fact is, some of that stuff isn’t very pretty, and the parents in the room let me know that. . . . which has led me to consider retitling the seminar to something like. . . “Birth Control.”

While youth culture has it’s more-than-fair-share of ugliness and difficult stuff, we can’t ignore it. It’s there. It’s real. And it shapes the values, attitudes, and behaviors of our kids. If we don’t endeavor to see it, understand, and address it, we’re not doing anybody any favors. If youth culture is the soup our kids swim in everyday, we need to be looking closely at what’s in the soup, sharing what we learn with parents, and then move on to address what we’ve found in our ministries to kids.

Josh asked me to share a couple of guest blogs on some of these main trends we’ve got to recognize, understand, and address. The first is “Amorality.” We all know  the terms “moral” and “immoral.” In a world where there’s a commonly held standard of right and wrong, behavior that conforms to that standard is called “moral,” while behavior that deviates from that standard is “immoral.” But life isn’t that simple anymore. We now live in a world where the commonly held standard is pretty much gone. Everyone decides for themselves what’s right for them and wrong for them based on how they feel or what “works for me” at any given time. . . and that can change from moment to moment. That’s why we’re living now living in an “amoral” world. . . the prefix “a” indicating and absence of commonly held standards. Now, right and wrong is up for grabs.

Here’s an example of how things have changed. When I was 12 I was exposed to pornography for the first time. . . that’s is, something other than National Geographic. It was a Playboy magazine my friend Todd had found on the side of the road. When Todd showed it to us, he showed it to us in a place where we wouldn’t get caught. Still, we spent half our time looking over Todd’s shoulder at the magazine, and the other half of our time looking over our own shoulders to see if anybody who might catch us in the act was coming our way. We lived in a world where there was a standard which told us that what we were doing was wrong. . . immoral. Think about our culture’s reaction to pornography today. See how things have changed?

A few weeks ago I was speaking to some youth workers when one of the volunteers – a sixty-something man who had been working with a small group of 9th grade boys for years – shared this frustration. “I recently asked my small group this question: ‘What is true? Name something that you know is true.’” He said they were dumbfounded. It took them three weeks to come up with an answer. You see, in an amoral world, what’s true for me might or might not be true for you. . . and that’s not a problem.

So. . . what do we do with this? I believe with every fiber of my being that our relationships with kids trump all this other stuff. Yes, it might take time to wade through it with them. They won’t be easily convinced. But over time, ministering to them in the context of vulnerable relationship is something God uses in their lives. So, in the context of relationships, here are three strategies (not at all exhaustive!) that offer a good starting point for pointing your students to the truth.

First, know the truth. You’ve got to be pursuing your own relationship with the Incarnate Word, Jesus. You’ve got to be growing in your knowledge of His written revelation of Himself in the Scriptures. Without a knowledge of the truth, you’ll be blown around just as much as your students.

Second, teach the truth. Talk about it in your comings and goings with your students. Look for every opportunity to contrast the truth with the cultural lies thrown at our kids over and over each and every day. Talk about the commercials and ads they see. Deconstruct and discuss the music they listen to. Let them know where Snooki and the Situation might have it all wrong. This is simply living out Deuteronomy 6 with 24/7 non-stop chatter about how the Word speaks to the world.

Finally, live the truth. Nothing is more convincing than seeing truth embodied. Your example is powerful. It’s like St. Francis once said: “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”

Walt Mueller is the President of the Center for Parent and Youth Understanding which has tons of great information to equip parents and youth leaders about the culture we live in. He is a great friend and you can read his blog, a must read, right here.

You wake up exhausted. Was that overnighter a dream? Where did your black eye come from? Why is your arm in a cast? Why are there 13 missed calls from various parents? What speeding ticket?

If you’re like us, after a big event or activity the last thing you want to do is re-live all the details. If nobody died, you probably count your blessings and move on to the next order of business (or should we say the next order of “busyness”?) And it’s the busyness of youth ministry that typically keeps youth workers from taking the time to evaluate our events and activities.

After all, you spent 2 months getting ready for summer camp…why spend one day debriefing it upon your return (that’s a rhetorical, sarcastic question)? So, after a big activity, get some rest and when your head does clear of sleep deprivation, here are a few ways to debrief like a professional event planner:

Gather the troops to celebrate
Have an evening after a big event already marked on the calendar to take time to celebrate what God did at your event. Make a sort of reunion feel to the night, including pictures, video, even a student testimony or screenshots from Facebook™ of people talking about the event. Make it known that debriefing will be part of the celebration. We reserve this type of nights for camps, retreats, mission trips etc. There’s probably no need to plan a special night just to celebrate a successful bowling outing.

Talk about “The Good”
Start with the highlights — this will get everyone centered on why you did the event in the first place and get the discussion going so it’s easier to share the lowlights. What did God do? What were the stories and celebrations from the event? What went flawlessly? What was surprising?

Talk about “The Bad”
Potential improvements are easy for some people to see — so work on creating a list of what wasn’t best and quickly think of how to improve them. Time is best spent creating a list of things that could be improved rather than focusing on solutions — it is much easier to attach someone with a particular skillset to a problem later. Start the debrief asking people to “speak the truth in love”.

Talk about “The Ugly”
Things happen. Stuff gets broken and things bomb. Only the worst offenders get on this list — don’t put things that could be easily fixed here, only stuff you swear you’ll never do again.

Send off apologies/thank yous
In the course of youth ministry events you may be required to apologize for something that happened. You may want to offer to fix a lamp that was broken. Or return something that was stolen. And for sure a quick thank you to everyone involved in the planning, pulling off and follow-through of the event will go a long ways in making sure the next one is even better.

Here’s hoping your next event, and the debrief afterward, go great!

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

Weekend Teaching Series: [re]THINK: Why Am I a Christian? (series premiere, week 1 of 2)
Sermon in a Sentence: Why are you a Christian? Because you were raised that way? It is just right? Because of your experience? There has to be more to it than that.

Service Length: 80 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend we brought in Brett Kunkle from Stand to Reason to help teach about the foundation for faith asking the most basic of question: why am I a Christian? His goal was to deconstruct some of the typical answers and build a foundation for genuine faith that will stand the tests of college and adulthood. It was a great talk and Brett did a great job relating and connecting students in this part 1 of his 2-part series.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This weekend we programmed light to give our special speaker the most time, but still had a fun video “We Like Tesoro,” baptisms and we announced the You Own the Weekend weeks coming up in March. And the first weekend of the year we always ask everyone to fill out an information card as well, so we have the latest info and get everyone on the HSM text lists, etc.

Music Playlist: Paradise (Coldplay cover), Your Love Never Fails, All I Am, We Shine

Favorite Moment: Without a doubt my favorite moment was at the end of the message, when he left them in a bit of a cliffhanger and didn’t resolve all of the questions and tension in the room. He ended with a fictional story about people gathering every week to worship Peter Pan and challenged to think of Christianity beyond the fairy tale and to know the objective truth of our faith. Really great!

Up next: [re]THINK: Why Am I a Christian? (week 2 of 2)

Weekend Teaching Series: Q with Sean McDowell (series premiere, week 1 of 3)
Sermon in a Sentence: Truth is critically important in our lives and our faith – learn the difference between objective and subjective truth and you can better understand what the Bible and Jesus claims.
Service Length: 91 minutes

Understandable Message: Sean did a super job introducing this series on apologetics by challenging students to understand truth. He talked about the Correspondence Theory of Truth – walking them through both subjective and objective sides of truth. His talk led him to huge topics like abortion, slavery, homosexuality and more. A very heady message but spoken as plainly as possible. It was an incredible kickoff to the series.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: The service was too long as it was at the 4:30pm, so we cut most all of the programming to make room for content the rest of the weekend. Sean’s talk was so strong and well-balanced between humor and insight, so the pacing of the service still felt right without anything more or less. Students served everywhere – including a new freshman girl as producer in the control room – she knocked it out of the park (way to go Nikki!).

Music Playlist: Look to You, Forever Reign, Beautiful Lord, Love Came Down

Favorite Moment: When Sean led students through a discussion on abortion, many students suggested it was a matter of preference or personal choice. Sean helped them see that the logical conclusion, and the objective truth of the Bible, says otherwise. Great eye-opening moment in his message. Loved it.

Up Next: “Q” with Sean McDowell (week 2 of 3) [see the whole series arc here]