Just curious to see if your 6th graders are included in your youth ministry or not – in our context right now several of the area schools have moved to middle school (that includes 6th graders) while we have remained our traditional junior high ministry (7th and 8th only). Not sure if there is a significant advantage one way or the other – would love to hear your thoughts in the comments and vote now!

JG

Kurt just posted the 3-week series arc for their series about sex in our Wildside (junior high) ministry the past month. Worth checking out for inspiration for your own series, and be sure to head over there to check out some other insights about teaching about sex/relationships to junior highers, too.

Week 1: Developing Healthy Friendships With Each Other. We simply took a look at some of the differences between guys and girls, and how an understanding of some of these differences can help us be better friends with each other.

Week 2: Dating: We took a look at what begins to happen when a friendship becomes more than just a friendship. We addressed such questions as: When is it okay to start dating? Who should I date? How should I date? What role do should my parents play in all of this?

Week 3: Sex This weekend, we will wrap the series up by talking about sex. I feel a little overwhelmed because ONE lesson on sex isn’t enough. I am afraid I will try to cram too much into the lesson, thus making it too complex, and more confusing than helpful.

JG



Yesterday I posted the first half of the frequently asked questions about our large group program at Saddleback Student Ministries. We’ve been assembling them for the Radicalis Conference here on campus this week – our student ministries track is jammed packed with info and thought I would share some here on the blog as well. Here’s the other half of the questions, hopefully these will be helpful to you in some way, too:

[READ THE FIRST 5 QUESTIONS HERE]

6. How often do you (as the primary leader of the ministry) teach?
a. Wildside — although he is our Student Ministries Pastor, Kurt teaches 50% of the time in Wildside and the remaining 50% are split up amongst the Wildside team
b. HSM — I speak a little over half of the time, we spread out the rest over guest speakers (mostly internal) and students during You Own the Weekend.
c. Crave – Pastor Brad speaks about 35 weeks a year

7. What roles do volunteers play in your service?
a. Wildside — volunteers lead our music, run games, give announcements, lead grade groups, host sections, run audio/video, etc.
b. HSM – volunteers greet, work crowd, keep order, do announcements, etc. We use student leaders equally or perhaps even more than adults at this level program.
c. Crave – message research, worship leaders, greeters, tear-down/setup, ushers, A / V, 1st time attender’s party and more.

8. What percentage of the service is made up of music?
a. Wildside — approximately 20% of our service is worship through music
b. HSM — we usually have 3-5 songs each service.
c. Crave – approximately 30%

9. Do you use secular music at all? And if so, how?
a. Wildside — Yes. We use appropriate secular music as opening songs, videos, music videos, background music, games, etc.
b. HSM — we use it every weekend during the countdown, often for opening cover songs, sometimes behind games/announcements, etc.
c. Crave – Rarely; we sometimes play it before and after the service just so non-believers hear something familiar.

10. What is your follow-up strategy for connecting with students after the service?
a. Wildside — We aren’t great at follow-up, mostly because we don’t do check-in/out, and thus have a tough time getting accurate contact info on our students. We do encourage our leaders to take note of grade group attendance as best they can, but with four services that gets tough.
b. HSM — our large group time is totally anonymous, if a student gives us their information on a response card we take it very seriously. If a student trusts Christ, we send out a new believer’s packet. If a student checks the “first time” box we send out a little card. Those are the pulse of our ministry, response cards are like gold to this level service.
c. Crave – We email, Facebook and sometimes call those who’ve made commitments or are seeking greater involvement.

JG


If you were at the youth track today at Radicalis you heard about a ton of links and resources to help you with small groups. Here’s a little cheat list to get quick access to the things we love and stuff we use every day. Enjoy!

JG


Live Different by Youth Ministry 360 Now Available



I’ve been thinking about the big question of “what does it mean to have a healthy youth ministry?” I recently finished reading a book by Kenda Creasy Dean entitledAlmost Christian: What The Faith Of Our Teenagers Is Telling The American Church“. In it Kenda describes the growing trend within the american teenage culture of being “spiritual” but not Christian. Teenagers today are focusing less on who God is and more on how connecting to a higher power makes them feel. Christian sociologists have used the phrase “Therapeutic Moral Deism” to define exactly how this paradigm plays out. I don’t have time to get into everything about Therapeutic Moral Deism, but you can learn more by reading this article by Christian Smith who wrote the book “Soul Searching”.

So how can we build a healthy youth ministry in the midst of our current teenage culture? What do we focus on as we build our youth programs? As I am sitting here in a cafe writing this, I’ve drawn two different strategies on some napkins concerning where we as youth workers can put our focus. The first is what I am calling a “God-Centered Youth Ministry”. Here’s the concept:

In a God-centered youth ministry all of our teaching/small groups/etc. focus in on “theology” which is the study of who God is. We focus on what the Bible says about God (what He is like, His characteristics, His plan, Salvation,etc.). From there we then move on to “anthropology” which is the study of human beings. Simply put, it means this:

1) FOCUS ON JESUS & WHO HE IS

2) IN LIGHT OF WHO JESUS IS…WHAT IS A TEENAGERS RESPONSE?

So what is the other option? What is the opposite of a God-Centered youth ministry? Below is my doodle concept of a “People-Centered Youth Ministry”:

With a “People-Centered Youth Ministry” the focus in not on Jesus, but on the students. This kind of youth ministry will focus on particular types of teenage behaviors and how those students attempt to navigate the ideas of spirituality. Simply put, a “People-Centered Youth Ministry” looks like this:

1) FOCUS ON THE STUDENTS AND HOW THEY FEEL

2) STUDENTS BECOME RELIGIOUS.

The problem with the second model of youth ministry is that religion will never save anybody. In our world today there are tons of religions and I hear students (and adults) say all the time time that “as long as your are sincere about your faith it doesn’t matter what you believe.” However, no matter how sincere you are, you can still be sincerely wrong. Check out this event from the book of Exodus:

“When Joshua heard the boisterous noise of the people shouting below them, he exclaimed to Moses, “It sounds like war in the camp!” But Moses replied, “No, it’s not a shout of victory nor the wailing of defeat. I hear the sound of a celebration.” (Exodus 32:17-18 NLT)

Moses has just come down from Mount Sinai where He received the Ten Commandments from God. Suddenly he and Joshua hear the sound of the entire people of Israel celebrating together. They here a united people shouting and singing and worshiping. However, just a few verses before we here what God has to say about their worship:

“The Lord told Moses, “Quick! Go down the mountain! Your people whom you brought from the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. How quickly they have turned away from the way I commanded them to live! They have melted down gold and made a calf, and they have bowed down and sacrificed to it. They are saying, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.’” Then the Lord said, “I have seen how stubborn and rebellious these people are. Now leave me alone so my fierce anger can blaze against them, and I will destroy them. Then I will make you, Moses, into a great nation.” (Exodus 32:7-10 NLT)

Even though the people of Israel were being sincere, God told them that they were sincerely wrong! We have to be diligent in our effort to point the students in our ministry to Jesus and not to the world. We need to place our focus back on to the study of God and not on the study of ourselves. If we don’t, we can fall into the same trap that the Apostle Paul spoke of in the book of Romans:

“Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.” (Romans 1:21-23 NLT)

Which model above can be seen in your own youth ministry? Which aspects of your current programs would you have to change in order to bring Jesus back to the center?

Rob Ham works on the WILDSIDE Jr. High Team @ Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA and blogs at I (Heart) Youth Ministry.

Fun video from this past weekend announcing band auditions for HSM and Wildside.

JG



Was checking out Wildside (Saddleback’s junior high ministry) this past week – something new they are doing caught my eye and thought I would point you to it. It is called The Other 6 and it is designed to take the weekend message and turn it into devotionals for the week. Cool idea! Here’s a little background info on it, head to Rob’s I (Heart) Youth Ministry for more and to download a PDF of one as well:

Here is a brand new WILDSIDE resource I created called “The Other 6″. I am really excited about this new resource/tool in our student ministry. “The Other 6″ is a simple way for students to spend time with God “the other 6 days of the week” that they’re not at church. Basically after experiencing a few of our WILDSIDE Jr. High services I noticed a void between the weekend teaching and students lives throughout the week. Sure students have small groups where they get to study the Bible on a weekly basis, but before now there has never been a way for them to journey any deeper on their own about the themes touched on in our weekend services.

JG

We’re making some little name shifts in our youth ministry these days – moving away from calling events by catchy, cool names and calling them by far less cute but very clear names.

Over and over again it feels obvious that insider names are nice for the core kids, but completely alienating for outsiders and confusing for people who bounce in and out. If you’re using a cool name for your youth event, plan on explaining it to parents and new students. If you’re using a Greek word for your small groups, your effort to please your hermeneutics professor will be lost on a 13-year old incoming freshman.

Clear wins every time. Here’s a few examples of what I’m talking about:

HSM Summer Camp
We used to call our summer camp by the destination camp we were attending, so we would call it Hume Lake or Camp Ojai. I love the traditions, but think it requires explanation to adults and clarity when a student shares their testimony about what happened there. Why not just call it camp? So now we call it HSM Summer Camp, enabling us to be very clear about what it is and less about the actual location. It also allows us to change camps without losing momentum or rebranding.

HSM Winter Retreat
This one had a great name originally – Chi Alpha (which means Christ First or Christs’ Ambassadors) – but honestly it wasn’t working in our culture. The students that attended last year loved the event, but when talking about it they would inevitably call it a “spiritual growth retreat” or “discipleship retreat” – so why didn’t we? Now that I think about it – even “discipleship” might not be clear, maybe we should even be considering a more student-friendly and clear word like “grow.”

We’re simply called HSM
I know that “the high school ministry at Saddleback Church” or “HSM” isn’t the sexiest name on the block. I hear of youth group names like IGNITE, maXimum or Warriors of L.I.G.H.T. and I think how boring ours sounds. But the clarity is worth it. Even within our own church, and I love our college ministry (Crave) and junior high ministry (Wildside), but they have to be constantly explained to outsiders.

So that’s what I’m thinking, and where we’re moving these days. Anyone agree/disagree? I’d LOVE to be convinced of the value in creating brand and identities with creative and unique names for groups and events.

JG