FIVE-682_747448aOne of the things I get to do with being in pastoral care is listen to a lot of what’s going on in students lives. And what I’ve come to realize is that youth ministry compensates for a lot. God has us in a space like no other. Never think that what we do is not needed or insignificant. You are supporting parents who desperately need an outside christian influence pointing their children towards Jesus. I’ve met with students and I would end up saying the same things their parents would try and say to them, they just needed to hear it a different way. I really want to encourage you in some of the ways I believe God strategically uses us.

Stability - You may have students who come from dysfunctional homes where the family is relationally unstable in every way. Also, for students life is always changing because they are. How does He use us?

  1. Youth group meetings every week.
  2. Leaders being there for them each week, ready to love on them.
  3. A program with their best interest at heart every week.
  4. We provide a place to go every week that is safe and stable.

A positive environment - You may have students who are growing up in a very negative environment, where it’s hard for them to see any of the good that is going on in their life. Maybe they are growing up in a home where people speak negatively about them directly to them. How does He use us?

  1. We share and model a hope that gets us through the negative in our lives.
  2. Leaders to see and speak the good about them directly to them.
  3. Encouraging lots of fun and laughter. This is the love language of students!! Fun and laughter creates an incredible positive environment.

Attention - We are in an era where parents are busier than ever. And I don’t mean that entirely in a bad way. Some parents have to work two jobs or single parents have to work. Students are craving for someone to ask a follow up question to “how was your day”. How does He use us?

  1. We listen to things other people would consider silly because we know it’s not silly to them.
  2. We’ve made ourselves available to meet as a mentor or hang as a friend.
  3. We genuinely want to know and will ask the follow up questions.
  4. We make ourselves available to support them however we can.

Unconditional love - You may have students who feel a performance based love at home. How well they do in sports, academics and even with how much they participate in church activities determines the level of love they receive. How does He use us?

  1. We teach, share and model a love that is not performance based. We model a love that says no matter where you come from or what you’ve done or haven’t done you are loved unconditionally.
  2. We create an environment that says all are welcomed and loved not just the students who agree with our religious views. I think a great question every youth group should ask is “if a pregnant girl came to our youth group would she feel loved or judged?” Would she feel judged by our messages or would she feel love and hope?
  3. We teach about Jesus Christ and the unconditional love that He offers to all.

Mentorship - Every year before small groups start we do a meet and greet with the parents and leaders. Last year after we prayed over the year with the parents. I had a Dad approach me and said that he had just became a Christian and was nervous about the questions his son may ask. He felt unequipped to talk about God. It felt so good to help this dad grow in his faith with his son. God used us to mentor a family that is now living for Him. I can give you countless stories of how God has put people in my path to share His wisdom with them. He uses us to mentor students and families.

Know that what we do matters and is desperately needed more now than ever before. God has strategically positioned you to support parents whether they believe in him or not. And of course we are not trying to take the place of parents, but we definitely stand side by side with them in this war the enemy has declared on their children. Would love for you to add more ways God uses us in the lives of students and their families! Let’s encourage one another!!!

hope it helps

ac

 

sph-renewI was at home talking with my wife about this idea of renewing your passion for what you do. She’s a stay at home mom and so I thought she would be perfect to dialogue with about this topic. So out of our conversation I came up with 5 things that has helped us rekindle the passion for what we both love to do.

 

  1. Ask God to increase the desire. – I’ve learned that I lose when I strive for things in my own power. And sometimes I can start off allowing God to do things in my life, but then I think that I have to keep them up. I’ve gotta remember Philippians 2:13 - For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. This verse is saying to me “STOP and let God continue the work He’s started.” It’s also saying, I can’t do it properly with out him, and it becomes work and it drains you when you forget Philippians 2:13. I’m at my best when He has the wheel and I’m in the passenger with duct tape over my hands, feet and mouth. haha Ask God to increase the desire He gave you!!
  2. Celebrate the successes. – Sometimes I can get so caught up with what’s not going right, that I forget the countless times things have worked out for the better even when the situation looked impossible. I forget the blessings that have come out of the times of hardship. There’s an old hymnal my aunt use to sing called “Count Your Blessings”, and sometimes we need to just count our blessings. I have to remember that God isn’t just working in the good in my life but He’s also working through and in the bad. I need to think about those things and celebrate them. Celebrate the successes!!
  3. Redirect your focus. – We can sometimes find ourselves getting caught up in things that distort our focus. Whether it’s a problem with a volunteer, a parent that has become challenging or even leadership. Sometimes those things can sing louder than your assignment to the ministry. And we can allow it to become all about issue and not about what got us in ministry in the first place. We start to feel the weight and it squeezes the passion out of you. Redirect your focus back to what motivated you to do what you’ve been called to do. Redirecting your focus puts God back in view. And it reestablishes the assignment God has placed on your life.
  4. Do something different/new. – Sometimes it can be that you’ve been beating a dead horse. Change a few things up or look for ways to do things a little different. Sometimes it’s just getting excited about doing something different or new that rekindles the fire you once had!! Instead of having team meetings at the office try meeting at a park or try giving more responsibility away. Sometimes we can’t think/dream of what could be different or new because we are too busy maintaining. Look for new or different ways to do things.
  5. Hear and share stories. – Sometimes you can feel like you’re on an island and no one understands what’s going on in your world. You need to be able to hear and share some stories with people that know your world. There’s nothing worse than isolation for someone who has been called to care and be super relational with people. YOU NEED COMMUNITY!! Two years ago I took my first trip to Simply Youth Ministry Conference and it was like a breathe of fresh air. I believe the one thing that SYMC offered that I gained the most from was community. The random conversations I had with people from all over the country were life changing. It reminded me that God is everywhere changing lives and not just in my bubble of ministry. I think I left with more passion for ministry than I started with. I want to encourage you to come, but more so I want to encourage you to find community in ministry.

A lot of times the enemy wants to trick us into thinking that because our passion is not as strong as it was when we started that it means we are in the wrong profession. I had to learn not to make more out of simply needing to renew my passion. My wife and I came to the conclussion that at some point we all need to be renewed no matter what you’re doing. Just because a car needs a tune up every once in a while, does not change the fact that it’s a car. It’s the same with us.

I know there are definitely more than 5, so what helps you renew your passion for ministry??

hope it helps

ac

 



lets talkWe’ve all had conversations that we wish we didn’t have to have. The reason tough conversations are so tough is because they are awkward, unpredictable and we want to be liked by all and happy. So Kurt and I give two tips each on how to navigate these types of conversations.

I know there are more so I would love for you to leave a tip, and help the simply youth ministry nation become better at tough conversations.

Also, can someone teach Kurt how to do a proper drum roll. I don’t think a drum roll makes that sound. ha

hope it helps

AC & KURT

youthgroup_logoHere are a few topics I believe we as youth workers need to speak on in our ministries. I do believe that the increase in the statistics of these areas is largely due to social media. So as you read through think about how is social media affecting these areas and how can you affectively address them in your ministry. Notice that I don’t give solutions, because I believe every youth group is different and you know your students better. I wrote this to hopefully open our eyes a bit to what could potentially be going on in our youth groups.

  1. Bullying: (Source: stageoflife.com) – Bullying is still prevalent as it has always been, but with social media it has increased. Now students can be bullied 24 hours around the clock. 91% admit to being a victim of bullying.
  2. Texting and Social Media: (Source: stageoflife.com) - 57% of teens credit their mobile device with improving their life. They also see it as key to their social life. The average teen spent 31 hours a week online which is like 5 hours a day via a poll done in 2009. I can imagine that number has grown with the infusion of smart phones.
  3. Sex: (Source: diseasecontrolcenter) – 47.4% of the students surveyed had sexual intercourse and out of the 47.4% that had sex 39.8% of those students did not use protection. 15.3% admitted to having sex with 4 or more people during their lifetime.
  4. Drugs and Alcohol: (Source: SADD) – Statistically 72% of all students will have consumed alcohol by the end of high school. 37% have done so before the eighth grade. 6.7% of teens between the ages of 12-17 have smoked marijuana.
  5. Body Image: (source: stageoflife.com) – More than 90% percent of all girls between the ages 15-17 want to change their appearance. Body weight is ranking the highest. 13% admit to having an eating disorder. 7 out of 10 girls believe they don’t measure up or they’re not good enough concerning their looks, performance in school and relationships. 12% of teen boys are using unproven supplements and/or steroids to improve their body image. 44% of teens use skipping meals as a way to lose or control their weight.
  6. Depression: Students are dealing with depression. From the severe to the not so severe, at any rate they are dealing with it. The NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness) states that 1 in 5 teens have experienced depression.
  7. The Future: (Source: stageoflife.com) – 66% of teens are afraid of the future or life after graduation.

Now, I’m not a huge statistics type of person, but I do believe it paints somewhat of a picture for you and I to internalize into our own ministries. When I look at the numbers, I think, “how would these numbers fair in my ministry?”

Now, I know that there are more than 7 issues, and I also can tell you that these things are happening in my ministry. And if you were to take an honest look into your ministry you would probably say the same. I hope there isn’t anyone out there thinking that none of this is going on in their ministry.

Praying for students and telling them not to do something is not enough.

So the question is, what are some ways, with a Biblical perspective, that we can educate and open up dialogue about these topics with students and parents?

My first suggestion would be to share this with parents and let them know you are here to support students and families that are going through these things.

hope it helps

ac



volunteer21One thing I can freely assume about volunteers is that they want to help. Other than that I should be careful about anything else I assume. I’ve been working with volunteers for a while and can say I’ve probably had more failures then successes, but through those failures it’s helped me become better at leading volunteers. So I’m writing from my failures in mind hoping it helps.

Making assumptions is one of the worst things I’ve done concerning volunteers. So I thought I’d share a few of my learnings.

  1. Never assume that they understand the cause just as much as you do. – Learning: You must articulate the cause, and your heart and passion for it. Remember they just want to help, and not everyone helping in youth ministry is called to it. So share and help them understand the impact of what your ministry does.
  2. Never assume they are going to take the initiative. - Learning: Take the time before hand and map out what it is you need them to do. When I say map out, I mean be very detailed in your instructions because they will only do what is expressed. For example, once I had volunteers and I gave them the instructions to clean up. Well, they did not do a good job and they actually left boxes and trash because they didn’t know where to put it. You see, I assumed that they would clean the way I wanted them to clean. I also assumed they would break the boxes down and take out all of the trash. The issue is I was clear on the “what” but not on the “how” so they cleaned the way they wanted to.
  3. Never assume they are self-motivating. – Learning : Volunteers need you to be a cheerleader for them as they care for students at either an event, small group or the weekend service. Be intentional about pointing out some small wins to them as well as big wins. Let them know the affect it has on the ministry. Thank them for allowing God to use their gifts and talents.
  4. Never assume they are going to know what to do next. - Learning:  Idle time to a volunteer is like water to oil. Idle time, if not communicated beforehand, can mean an unorganized ministry to a volunteer. They automatically think “didn’t they know we were coming?” Also, if not communicated you can become frustrated yourself thinking no ones doing anything, when actually it could be that they just don’t know what to do next.
  5. Never assume they want to do more than communicated. – Learning: Until your volunteers buy into the purpose of the ministry, assuming they want to go the extra mile could insure they never return.

For me, these assumptions would happen unintentionally. I would find myself playing catchup and having to stay to clean, and redo some of the work I had asked volunteers to do. I had to really evaluate the assumptions I was making and how because of it, I was not being a great steward of my volunteers time. So this is something to think about as you deal with volunteers this week. I know there is more than just 5 and I know I’m not the only one(maybe I am..ha), so what are some assumptions you’ve made about volunteers that wasn’t so smart?

hope it helps

ac

LeaderExpectations are super important between parents and small group leaders. A lot of the issues I’ve run into between parents and small group leaders has been about expectations not being met or unrealistic expectations being casted. In this post I’ve listed a few expectations parents should have of leaders and leaders should have of parents. Now, I would probably add more tactical stuff if the list called for it, but I really wanted to share things that are just sometimes implied but never said. It is important I communicate these implied expectations for clarity between leaders and parents.

What parents should expect of leaders:

  • Communicate – Communication is so important during the small group season. The leader that keeps their parents in the dark is looking for conflict. Parents need to know in advance of any possible changes to the group. They need to know if they are supposed to do something for a party or outing. Again, the more notice you can give them the better. Communicate!!!
  • Support – Parents need to know that your leaders are there to support in leading/mentoring/teaching their child. I use the word support because it’s really a partnership between the leader and the parents. We don’t want to strip the parent of the responsibility of spiritually leading their child. Now, there are some students where we will have to play that roll but we don’t want to make it a practice. We also want to support the student in life, which sometimes mean supporting the family. Whether that’s going to a game or walking with the family through a crisis.  Support!!!
  • Be another voice for the parents - As a leader I have a great opportunity to increase the influence of the parent as well as Christ in the student’s life. My role should be an extension of the parents regardless whether they are believers or not. I’ve personally seen God do amazing things in the lives of parents whose child has heeded the advice to honor their mother and father even though they are not believers. Be that external parental voice!!!
  • Be available - Now, when I say available I mean leaders should be reachable. Parents should be able to text, email or call and get a response, might not always be right away but days and days shouldn’t go by without a response. Not being reachable is another way to create unwanted conflict with a parent. The expectation should be 24 hours at the most. I’ve seen more drama start because the leader gets frustrated and decides they have a choice in whether they have to respond to a leader. Be available!!!

In order for your leaders to be successful you must expect your parents to do the following:

  • Reinforce leaders rules at group. – Parents need to know that they can help herd the cattle by helping their child take the structure and rules seriously. Example: I have a no cell phone policy at group. If they come home and complain just reinforce the rule because they are in place to help not hurt. You play a huge part in the respect your child have for their leader so know that they will have just as much respect for their leader as you do.
  • Have conversations about what’s being taught in life group. - Parents need to be in the conversation of what’s being taught. Whether you’re sending them the lesson or just some questions. I’m not saying parents need to get into a theological debate, but just an easy conversation about what their child is learning will make all the difference. I want my leaders to know that they are working with the parents and not the other way around. So we need to let parents know that we are expecting the stuff taught to be talked about at home.
  • Respect the leaders time. - Parents need to know that leaders aren’t paid. For some of your leaders, every hour they spend with a student is time spent away from their own family. So be on time dropping off and picking up. If the student is not going to be at group, let their leader know. Leaders see this time with students as ministry and vital. So parents need to make sure their child is missing group only when they really have to. Help parents respect your leaders time!!!

Implied rules and the phrase “you should know better” go hand in hand and is just a disaster waiting to happen. It may even sound silly sharing things people should already know, but you will be glad you did.

Two questions:

  1. Do you share expectations between parents and leaders?
  2. If so, what is some other implied expectations between parents and leaders that may need to be addressed?

hope it helps

ac

 



WMM_LOGOSELECT_0316A lot of times we can get into the results game or the comparative game and lose sight of what matters most. We think if only I had that building, that equipment, more staff or more money, then we would be able to do ministry better.I’ve learned that if you start playing that game it’ll never end. You will always feel like you can do better ministry with more. I think we all know this but sometimes need to be reminded.

God has us where we are, for the work He has for us to do.

That doesn’t mean we can’t set goals or grow and strive to serve more. We just need to know that what matters most should be our motivator and focus. In ministry, the why is always more important than the how, where and who. If you get the why right, the how, where and who will align. I’ve witnessed God doing amazing things with the ministries in Rwanda with people who are simply focused on introducing people to Jesus Christ with nothing but a bible and the shoes on their feet. I’ve also seen the same focus at Saddleback Church with the resources we have. It doesn’t matter if a ministry is mega or small, if it’s not focused on what matters most it’s not fulfilling its intended purpose. I believe that if we are not watchful we can get caught up in the how, where and who and allow those things to motivate us and drive us in ministry instead what matters most.

I think we can all agree that whether your youth group has 20 kids or 20,000 kids, encountering Jesus Christ in a real authentic way is what matters most. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have, students encountering Jesus Christ in whatever strategy or model your minstry uses is what matters most. I really want to encourage you to focus on what matters most in the ministry God has you doing. Allow it to motivate and drive what happens in your ministry within the context of your ministry. Here are four questions I want to leave you with that comes to my mind when I think about how I continue to pursue what matters most.

  1. Am I personally invested in what matters most? How are you helping people encounter Jesus Christ in your personal life? I belive that when you are invested in what matters most it can’t help but spill over into the rest of your life, espeically ministry. When I say invested I’m saying what matters most should have priority in my life.
  2. Am I motivated by what matters most? – This question is simply asking what motivates me every week to do what I do for youth ministry. To give a few examples it could be for self gain, notarity of self, notarity of the ministry within the church, status, keeping a job, getting a job or is it introducing students to Jesus Christ in a real authentic way. You need to know this because being motivated by anything other than what matters most will not end well for you.
  3. Does what matters the most to me agree with what matters the most to God? – We need to be aligned with what matters most to God.
  4. Do I allow what matters most to speak into what I do?  This is basically saying “as I plan and strategize, am I thinking about what matters most or am I thinking about other things.”

I only listed four but I know there are more. What are some other ways we can keep what matters most as our focus and motivator?

hope it helps

ac

lets talkFInd out the TWO volunteer trainings Kurt and I would do if we could ONLY do TWO trainings each!!!

Also learn two things about us you probably didn’t know. One has to do me surfing and the other has to do with whether or not Kurt reads my blog posts.

 

 

What would be your top two volunteer trainings?

 

hope it helps

AC and Kurt