Conversation_mattersIf you didn’t get to read the first part click here. I just got back from summer camp and I’ve been hearing all week about all of the amazing conversations that happened. So in this post I really wanted to go practical, and give you a few ideas to noodle on. Now, all of these are a work in progress, but the main objective is to get students conversing intentionally. So here are a few ideas I’ve been working on:

  • One-on-one – One of our values in student leadership is that every student is known. Every meeting we take the first 25 minutes and students pair up with another student they don’t know so well. I give them some questions to ask each other and some things to pray about for each other. At first I thought 25 minutes was to long but come to find out, 25 minutes isn’t long enough. I literally have to interrupt their time together. Every meeting they rotate. Goal: Model community for the rest of our youth group.
  • 10 x 10 - Once a month during our large group time we break off into groups of ten for ten minutes. We separate students by grade. We play a fun game that has to do with names and we all share an interesting fact about ourself. At the end if someone remembers everyones name in our group, they win a gift card. Goal: Everyone in the group will know someone by name, and everyone in the group will be known by someone.
  • Meet and Greet – This is an idea for some of your core students. You create a list of core students/student leaders who wouldn’t mind hanging with a first timer or a student who just hasn’t been able to get connected. This is an intentional way to get students conversing and connecting. Remember, we connect through conversations or some form where we have to interact with each other. Goal: Help students feel like they belong and are known.
  • To Know or Not Know – This is a great small group ice breaker. Pair up students with a list of things to know about each other. Give them time to go over and answer the questions. Bring the group back together and then drill one about the other. The winner is obviously the one who remembers the most. Have the two contestants write down their answers and reveal them at the same time. Goal: Just a fun way to get students to know each other.
  • Act it Out or Hum it - It’s like the game celebrity. Gather up the groups favorite celebrities, movies, and songs from the group. Write them down on small pieces of paper and put them in a jar or hat. Create two teams that will go head to head. The deal is you either have to act it out or hum it.  Five points for every correct answer. Each turn you have to choose to wither act it out or hum it before you pick from the hat. 5 points for each correct guess. After each round each student has to say why the choose that celebrity, song or movie. Goal: Help students find some commonality with each other.

I’ve learned that none of these things work without the intentionality of your leaders. Students feed directly off of the excitement and involvement of those leading. So your leaders must catch the vision that conversations matter. The truth of the matter is conversations are born around discussing the normal stuff of life. Relationships are born when commonality is found between two people. Remember these are just ideas made to be picked apart and added to and subtracted from. The goal is to be more intentional about the conversations that are being had at youth group and small group because it matters.

I would love to hear any ideas you may have.

Hope it helps,

AC

What have you learned makes a serving experience or camp a great one?

Doug Franklin over at Leadertreks has some great thoughts on how most of this is up to the posture of adult leaders. Here are ten of his observations:

  • Mission_TeamGoing is not enough: “…we don’t just want them to go, we want them to grow.”
  • Be a trip mentor: “A trip is a great place to develop a long-term, life-changing relationship with a student.”
  • Have a purpose for the trip: “What do you want your students to look like when they return?”
  • Inspire spiritual growth: “Students will feel a need for God while on the trip, and this is a great opportunity for you to introduce them to spiritual disciplines”
  • Find teachable moments: “…mix a student’s experience with the truth of God’s Word.”
  • Challenge students: “… [it[ starts with challenging the top performing students."
  • Get sleep: “Trips become increasingly ineffective as team members become tired.”
  • Add value to your adult volunteers: “… the number one problem I see over and over again is adult volunteers who have no idea what they are doing on the trip. They come because youth trips need adults, but beyond that they are not sure why they are there.”
  • Remember Boundaries = Love: “Don’t give students what they want; give them what they need.”
  • Stay connected to God: “You can’t impart what you do not have.”

(Read the rest of Doug’s solid article here.)

I think Doug is spot on. Just last month we had a major difference in a serving camp experience because of the investment we made into our adults, which in turn helped them better invest into students.

Which of his points most stands out to you?

Is there anything you would add or subtract?



Thiago-nascimento-opera-background-speaker-jpg1Here is Ep.18 – You can catch the other episodes at the Youtube channel (Let’s Talk Youth Ministry). Kurt and I talk about a few unwritten rules/principles in youth ministry that you should be applying and/or following. Check it out!!

 

Hope it helps,

Kurt & AC

Thiago-nascimento-opera-background-speaker-jpg1Let’s Talk Youth Ministry Vlog is BACK!!!!!!!!!!!! And we are posting a NEW SHOW EVERY WEEK.  On Today’s Show:

  1. How to properly watch the show 24.
  2. Divorced parents or parents from blended families.
  3. Learn How to Win! (NEW YOUTH MINISTRY JOB OR NEW TO YOUTH MINISTRY)

hope it helps,

Kurt & AC



iStock_ValueI’ve learned that with every program or event that we do in youth ministry I think one of the areas we can always improve on is the way in which we make things better. The feedback we receive from our leaders is priceless. We use that info to make next year better for them and our students. I’m sure there are a lot of you who do the same. So for some of you, I’m preaching to the choir.

If this hasn’t been something that you’ve been doing, I would humbly advise you to start. It’s a value in our ministry that leaders serve with us and not for us. Also, we have to recognize that we don’t have all the answers. And being in youth ministry doesn’t make you an expert at it. So know that you can also learn from them. Remember, they are focusing on one task, so that already gives them more time to think about it then you. It also gives them the high probability of becoming better at it than you. Which is something you should take advantage of and not fear.

I try to incorparate my volunteers input either during the planning process or by doing a debrief. And it has been super great and has helped me a ton in a lot of areas. So I thought I’d share my top five reasons for doing so, in hopes that it would help someone else value their volunteers the same.

  1. They Feel Valued - Giving them the opportunity to give feedback that may change the way things are done, says a lot about the trust you have in them. It also raises the value they bring to your ministry.
  2. They Grow In Ownership - When they have a say in what they do, they grow in ownership of the ministry. Because they are no-longer serving for the ministry, they are now serving with the ministry.
  3. They Make The Ministry Better – When you allow your leaders to take part in the planning process, you are making the ministry better. Because even if you don’t get super great ideas from them, you will at least get good ideas that could morph into super great ideas. Also, just bouncing ideas around is good for you. Especially if you are the only paid youth worker in the ministry. You need to plan and debrief with someone.
  4. They Become Great Advertisement – Word of mouth is the advertisement that can make or break your ministry. And I’ve seen it happen both ways. I’ve seen leaders recuit others based on their experience in the ministry. I’ve also seen the opposite happen. The worse thing you can do is make a volunteer feel like hired free help. The volunteer that feels valued will sing the praises of the ministry, because they’ve become a stakeholder in its success. (Check this post out for more on this topic.)
  5. They Stick Around – When I was just a volunteer I wanted to be somewhere were they valued me. There’s no longevity for a volunteer that feels like hired free help, but there is when your volunteers feel valued and needed. Listening to your leaders is valuing them, and it’s also showing a need for them and their wisdom or experience.

We just had our end of the year debrief meeting/dinner with our small group leaders. It was super great because they were given the opportunity to be heard, and to ultimately make us better. Allowing our volunteers to serve in this way, has done wonders for our volunteer ministry. And I hope it does the same for your ministry. And if you are planning and debriefing with your volunteers, leave a comment, and let me know how. I’m always looking for better ways to do things.

Hope it helps,

AC

imagesI firmly believe that ultimately as leaders we lead by what we do whether we want to or not. We can be leading and speaking in one lane and living in another. And little do we know our that students over time do more of what we do and less of what we say. So it’s important we continue to grow spiritually, following Christ as we lead others. It’s important that we are investing in areas of leadership that we would love to transfer on to our students and allowing those things to live out in our own lives first. Then as we lead, teach and mentor, we will see those things lived out in the lives of our students. So here are a few things I want lived out in my life so they can be lived out in the lives of the students that God has trusted me with:

  1. Perseverance - A lot of times God calls us to do things that challenge us to trust Him. He challenges us to say I can, when we think we can’t. So, we need to model perseverance in trusting God’s timing and calling instead of our own.
  2. Humility - We need to remember that James 4:10 says if we humble ourselves then God will exalt us. We also need to remember that Luke 14:11 says if we try and exalt ourselves we will be humbled. Being humble is a state of being and not a position. Humility is not selling everything you own and living as a poor person. That is actually pride, because you are trying to buy humility by doing something. We need to model humility, which is simply knowing that God’s grace has you where you are and nothing else. We must live that out.
  3. Character – Your character shapes the leader you become, so they need to know that building Godly character is mission critical. You lead out the character you’ve developed or the lack there of. We need to model Godly character.
  4. Patience – They need to understand that patience is more then just waiting. Having patience helps you lead and make decisions with balance. Patience is really a lost art in our culture today. Amazon is the perfect example: They have a button called “Buy Now With One Click.” Just click it right there on the same page and buy it. They want to make sure you don’t have time to think if this a smart choice. They want to help you buy on impulse verses your purchase being wisely thought out. The faster we can have it, do it, use it, own it, see it, take it and eat it, the better. Patience helps you lead and make decisions apart from your impulses. We need to model patience.
  5. Compassion – One reason why compassion is important in leadership is because Jesus modeled it. Matt 14:14 says, “When Jesus saw the crowd He was moved with compassion and healed those who were sick.” There are so many takeaways from this verse, but the one that sticks out the most is that compassion has the ability to move you into doing the unthinkable. It takes a courageous, bold person to be compassionate. I can just imagine Jesus freaking people out completely as He walks through just healing people left and right. We need to model compassion.

We can teach these things a million different ways with great conviction, but the real question is…can we live these things out? It’s not enough to just teach. So what am I missing on this list? Which one is the hardest for you to live out?

Hope it helps

ac



Mihinthalaya StepsI was just at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference and sat through a workshop by Shawn Harrison, the author of Ministering To Gay Teenagers. I would definitely grab his book, it’s a great resource. The workshop was great also, but revealed that the silence of the church on this topic has placed us at a disadvantage in many ways. I would also say that because of our silence we have generations that have no idea how to handle it. Students know more about what the world says concerning homosexuality than what the bible says. This must change. For that to happen, we have to see and do things much differently than in the past.

Here are a few practical things we can begin to do:

  • Be on the same page as the church you’re working for. – As a youth pastors we need to know where our church stands on the issue and create a plan as a church in how we all will deal with members, leaders and students who are struggling. We want to make sure that however we as youth pastors are handling it, the church can back us up 100%.
  • Talk about it. - Everyday the world is finding ways to normalize sin. Our students need to hear where we stand and our hearts on the issue.  If we never expose it, our students will never seek help.
  • Be prepared for the conversations. – We should be prepared for the conversations we will have with our students. Whether you read through Shawn’s book together with your leaders or bring in the head pastor or elders, there should be some training so everyone is on the same page.

When speaking to students I know the easy answer is to call it sin and tell students not to engage in it, but we have to be careful when making statements like that. Because if that’s your main focus, then you are preaching that behavior modification equals salvation. In actuality, harping on behavior modification only leads to a secret life of the sin they are fighting against. So we must be careful that we don’t treat any sin as a mere change in action…because sin goes deeper than that.

So here are a few things to think about when speaking to students:

  • God’s view - A lot of times students are struggling with the temptation, but also God’s rejection that they believe comes with the temptation and lifestyle. It’s important they understand the difference between God’s love and view of us and his approval or disapproval of our actions.
  • Temptation - Being tempted to sin is not sin. It’s what’s done with the temptation that can result in sin. You may have students who are being tempted by this lifestyle and are tortured by the guilt of just being tempted. The world is calling it denying your true self. Well, they need to hear and know from us what the Bible says about it.
  • Life is complicated – We all have different stories that are layered with not just our own experiences, but generational experiences that affect us just as much. That’s why we need more people caring for the lives of students, and not just harping on their behavior. If you care about their life, you will affect their behavior. We need to minister holistically and not departmentally-especially in this area.
  • Their struggle is not their identity - Just because you struggle with sin, doesn’t mean you have to be defined by it. When we reinforce the labels of gay, lesbian, etc…we continue to identify people by their struggle. If you’ve given your life to Christ, your identity is first and foremost in Christ. Now, you still may struggle, but understanding your identity gives you power over your struggle. It’s the beginning of the road to deliverance.

I really hope that you didn’t hear in my post that this should be easy, because it’s not. What I do hope you’ve heard in my post is that our students need to hear from us. We can’t stand on the side lines any longer. I also think we all have something to add to the conversation. So what’s missing from this post?

Hope it helps,

ac

god-is-in-control_4534_1440x9001. It’s all ministry.

2. God’s in control.

These two phrases have had me thinking a lot about how little I have to do with how God uses me, and how there ‘s more to ministry then what we traditionally understand. God has been showing me that there is no limits to what He can do in us and through us. I’ve had situations where a student shared with me that 8 months ago that a hug I don’t remember giving was the catalyst for his life change. I’ve also received text messages about how something I said in passing changed a students life for the better. I had a conversation with a student about an invitation they casually received from a leader to go to summer camp. Well, that ended up kick-starting the students walk with Christ. I’ve had students share their testimony with their parents, and their parents come to Christ through it. This is why the phrase it’s all ministry and God’s in control exists. And if you think about your ministry I sure you can think of some stories of unorthodox life change.

Sometimes when we don’t recognize these two phrases, we run into issues and begin to think:

  • I need to make this program, message, song, conversation and event perfect because that’s how students come to christ when things are done right and perfect.
  • Let’s make God do more by praying harder.
  • If only I can put the right words together they will change.
  • It’s just a conversation, smile, high five, coffee, remembered name, hug, ride, invite, or Facebook/Twitter/Instagram post of encouragement. None of that is real ministry.

When you understand that everything we do as youth workers is ministry and God’s in control you begin to think:

  • I’m going to be intentional about the small things because I know God uses them.
  • I will strive to do my best and allow God to do the rest. It may not be perfect, but it will be worth it, If I serve from my heart.
  • God is not a genie in a bottle. So I won’t petition HIm as if He is.
  • The Holy Spirit will give me the words to say. I just need to surrender to him and allow him to use me.
  • God help me see every opportunity I have to share my faith and your love.

I used to think that God worked in a certain way, because of tradition, I used to believe that ministry was confined to a certain area of life. I was sadly mistaken. God wants to use every part of our life. He wants use our strengthens, weaknesses, failures and wins. He won’t let anything go to waste. Also, we must come to terms with the fact that ultimately God is in control. I would even say rest in the fact that God is in control, because it’s a good thing. Would love to hear how you are stretching yourself to think outside the box when it comes to ministry. Also, what does (God’s in control) mean to you?

hope it helps,

ac