A while back I was in Costco Warehouse store [read: Sam's Club] for lunch and to stare at the display of magical flat screens that call my name when I walk in. Josh … you NEED a 75″ 3D cinema display…

After drooling over for the TVs for a while I like to head toward the food area, largely because of the incredible amounts of free samples they give out. They allow you to get a taste, see if you like it or the product speaks to you, and encourage you to buy it and then heat it up for dinner. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t – either way it is a good experience and one that I began to think about over the next few days that translates to our youth ministry philosophy.

Youth Group is the sample
The purpose of our large group meetings is to expose students to the Gospel of Jesus and encourage them to see a step they could take in their spiritual life. The message is neither shallow nor deep – it is a sample of the whole counsel of God designed to push them forward i their relationship with Christ whether they are a devoted follower or even hearing about Jesus for the very first time.

Small Group is where pick up the package and inspect it
The large group is designed to give students a taste of what Jesus is all about. Small groups are the next step where students begin to experience Christian community and are surrounded by changed lives and an adult mentor. Small groups are the place for questions, doubts, fears and decisions.

Individual Life is taking it to the checkout and making it your own
Our desire that a student sampled who Jesus is in a safe, relevant way during our weekend services. We’ve challenged them to inspect their faith and examine their lives in community and study the scriptures together. Now we want them to own their faith, that they would grow on their own and express their faith well into adulthood with Jesus. They serve on mission trips, follow Christ’s example in baptism and have a walk with Jesus that is their own.

Costco wants you to sample, inspect and own. We want our students to expose, experience and express.

JG

This week we snuck away for the afternoon to take a stab at creating the first draft of our fall youth ministry calendar. There were lots of laughs and some good ideas for what’s next for HSM. Here’s a few things that were running around in my head yesterday, and am thinking about as I continue to process the stuff we came up with for our students:

Kill the sacred cows.
Each year, everything is on the chopping block. Annual events are fun and I totally love and support traditions, but have to be careful they don’t become something doesn’t becomes untouchable. Sacred cows haunt the halls of too many churches, this will not be one of them. Nothing is sacred. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt when someone offers up one of my favorites to be sacrificed, but I have to be willing to put a bullet in it.

Effective is what matters most.
This ties in pretty closely with the first principle, but what matters more is not size, buzz or fun. Those things do matter and certainly play into our decisions – but what matters most is whether the event we are putting on the calendar is effective. If a discipleship class is bombing, don’t get rid of discipleship, just search for a way to do discipleship that is more effective. If an evangelistic event is huge but isn’t bringing students to Christ and/or back to church, why bother with it? Put aside personal feelings and inferior measurements and talk about effectiveness.

Know your unique strengths, identity and culture.
Here’s a few of ours that help shape what we do: the fall has natural momentum with the launch of small groups and the launch of our weekend services. Fun after-service events have been way more effective than separate night our events. We are an evangelistic-leaning ministry (trying to balance the biblical purposes). If you know where you’re leading your youth ministry and have a firm grip on your strengths and specific culture, it will help you guide the planning session accordingly.

Last years successes can be this years successes … or failures.
Don’t change for the sake of change – but realize what worked last year may not work again. Copying the previous year may seem like a good idea (and it just might be) but be careful not to get too comfortable in the same path because they easily turn into ruts. Surrounding your past, present and future plans in prayer and asking God to guide you into your future is always a good plan.

I wrote 5 Steps to Calendar on Purpose a couple years ago … might also be helpful. What else?

JG



This summer a GUEST POST about first-time visitors mentioned a Bible called Daggers from The Dagger Project. The founder of the project, Jim Houliston, said there was a good amount of interest in the Bibles from the MTDB community and they just recently launched their site with the Bibles finally available for purchase. If you want to check them out, head over to their store today!

JG

Question of the week based on Geoff’s fantastic guest post this weekend – how often do you give the talk in your youth ministry?

JG



Creating a compelling and inspiring youth group service every week can feel like an impossible task by itself. If that wasn’t enough, as soon as you’re get done with it, you collapse in a heap for a day off and get ready to do it all over again in just a few short days. Defeating the weekend beast every week is no small task, and we’ve recently been discussing a new strategy to get things accomplished in such a short turnaround time. Our services are on Saturday and Sunday, so you may have to adjust the actual days to fit your context. Either way, here’s the new model we’re working from this season:

Delegation (Tuesday)
What are the tasks that need to be doled out to make sure our youth group meeting is a success? For that matter, what are we even doing this week? Make sure that all of the projects, videos, music, humor, handouts all have an owner – pass out tasks and be confident that your busy work on the front end will help things go smoothly in the end. I would love to see a program sheet and a bunch of people starting to move on their assignments at the end of the day.

Do (Wednesday)
This is the day to get things accomplished. Shoot the video. Buy the prizes. Test it out. Whatever needs to happen for the weekend, DO it on Wednesday. This week, I’ve got a student writing their testimony, a volunteer editing a video and a draft of my sermon coming along.

Done (Thursday)
Everything has to come together on Thursday. Get the bulletin done, the student outline finished, slides made, videos selected and ProPresenter setup. Handouts are copied, packets are made, anything that was ordered has arrived and is sorted, ready to go. By the end of Thursday I’d love for things not to just be dialed in but DONE. This week … well, that’s today, so hopefully I’ll get the sermon done and can followup on everything else that is spinning at the moment.

Dream (Friday)
You’ve got to make space for greatness – so instead of letting Friday become the uncontrollable chaos of to do lists and last-minute service details, force yourself to get things DONE a little early so you can DREAM. If you have everything dialed in, you can work to get ahead and be intentional to find more time for people and spend time wisely on programs.

JG

Every so often we take a question, perhaps an unanswered one from the Simply Youth Ministry Podcast, and pose it to you the MTDB community to answer instead of our show’s panel. Here’s a great one that came in — if you have some wisdom I hope you’ll share in the comments!

I’m brand new to the youth ministry world and would love your ideas, tips and thoughts on how we’re doing youth ministry. We are going to start our youth group soon and will be meeting in the local YMCA. It has lots of potential – full access to the pool, gym, weight and more. The problem is I’m not sure how to program each night to use this amazing building/facilities wisely. Help me out!

Now — weigh in!

JG



Weekend Teaching Series: Happily Ever After (week 2 of 3)
Sermon in a Sentence: Samson teaches a lot about how NOT to be a godly man and what to NOT look for in a guy as we work to live happily ever after.
Service Length: 64 minutes
Main passage: Judges 16

Understandable Message: This week was GUYS weekend in HSM during the Happily Ever After series – I wanted to help guys understand what not to become and girls what not to chase after. The message was the story of Samson and Delilah and was titled “How NOT to be a Stud.” The students seemed to really enjoy the change of pace in teaching style and this subject is totally a felt need for this age group. It was fun to see girls think a little more critically about the type of guy they have their eye on, and for guys to be challenged to rise above the sea of “Samsons” at their high school.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: The team created several funny videos about AXE Body Spray that played well, and we had a couple of “scientists” come out and promise to help any guy student in the audience with a date. Of course, the student was planted, and we had set up a funny video of his date that everyone enjoyed, too. It was a unique element because the hosts on stage interacted with the video as if it were life, giving it a neat feeling like it was actually happening in real-time.

Music Playlist: I’ll Make a Man Out of You [Mulan cover], Glory to God, The Grateful, Take It All

Favorite Moment: A fun element we had this weekend happened after I described the typical man – how we’re in love with buffalo wings, man chairs, big screens and football. I asked for a student volunteer, then gave him that experience during the message. We had a Coke, Lazy-Boy, hot wings and a 60″ flat screen set up for him to watch the service. Fun – I checked in on him several times throughout the talk!

Up Next: Happily Ever After series finale (week 3 of 3)

Josh Riffle pointed me to an article on CNN that seems to be an important read for youth workers about students being shallow in their faith and what strong students of faith have in common. Seems to get a bit on the USA Today bandwagon from earlier this month, but some good insight nonetheless:

No matter their background, Dean says committed Christian teens share four traits: They have a personal story about God they can share, a deep connection to a faith community, a sense of purpose and a sense of hope about their future.

“There are countless studies that show that religious teenagers do better in school, have better relationships with their parents and engage in less high-risk behavior,” she says. “They do a lot of things that parents pray for.”

Dean, a United Methodist Church minister who says parents are the most important influence on their children’s faith, places the ultimate blame for teens’ religious apathy on adults.

Some adults don’t expect much from youth pastors. They simply want them to keep their children off drugs and away from premarital sex.

Others practice a “gospel of niceness,” where faith is simply doing good and not ruffling feathers. The Christian call to take risks, witness and sacrifice for others is muted, she says.

JG