I really enjoyed Adam’s post on youth ministry teachers – he thinks there are 4 generalized types of teachers in most youth ministry settings. As I read his ideas, I found myself a hybrid of all of them depending on experience, season of ministry and available time. I’ve posted before on the process of preparing a talk in my context, but thought this might be some value to challenge you as you prepare lessons for youth group. Here’s a clip, head there for the rest of the good stuff:

1. The artist: These people consider their teaching a craft. In their eyes, their lessons are as much art as a photographer, an architect, or a ballet dancer. They spend countless hours lost in crafting their teaching series, messages, etc. These folks look down on those who buy resources. Though, they may buy stuff occasionally for inspiration.

4. Processors: These youth workers believe that their teaching will be better when they work through the content as a team. So they draft concepts and have a team of friends/volunteers look at it. By the time a lesson is taught, it has gone through 4-5 levels of revision. These people love their process.

JG

The new LAUNCH bumper video that one of our talented volunteers pulled off this week. Nice!

JG



Weekend Teaching Series: LAUNCH: Ready for Re-Entry (week 1 of 5, series premiere)
Sermon in a Sentence: Getting ready to go back to school starts with a check of your heart and forming habits that will get you through the year.
Service Length: 70 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend I asked Ryanne Witt to teach while I was away at a wedding. She’s been on the HSM team longer than me and been at the church literally forever (even came through HSM), and works as the coordinator of our volunteer team. She plays a great role in training, coaching and caring for them and this is one of only a couple times she’s spoken at our entry-level program. She made it look effortless and was completely comfortable, even though I know the time, preparation and prayer that she put into it as well. I have long-realized the importance of multiple voices to our students, and loved having her teach this weekend. The message centered on loving God and preparing our hearts for what God was going to teach us in the year ahead. She had a GREAT application – that as of today we’re 30 days from school starting, and how it takes 28 days to form a habit. She encouraged students to choose a spiritual discipline (and suggested 1 of 6 choices on the back of the outline/program) that would help them be ready for re-entry.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: The program was super simple – there was a simple opening element of fun that involved a target, a water balloon slingshot and Fun Size candy bars. Simple and clean summer program getting the students to think about LAUNCH. The collective groan of students when we started talking about going back to school was awesome, too.

Music Playlist: The Time Has Come, How He Loves, You Hold Me Now, Let My Words Be Few, So I Look to You

Favorite Moment: Two this week – 1) Ryanne teaching was awesome, and 2) one of our volunteers made some simple “rockets” to use as stage decoration – when the countdown hit “zero” they launched one of them by pulling a string and it flew into the air. Hilarious.

Up Next: LAUNCH week 2

Was bouncing around on Google Analytics today and saw an interesting trend. There was one search that was far and away the most-search-for phrase on my blog – like hundreds more than the next closest. So what is the most popular search on MorethanDodgeball.com?

Click here to experience it for yourself! It is a search looking for more information about the “hooks” we use in our high school ministry. For the past year, everything we print has had a hole in the top of it, so students could hang in up in a place where they would see it. We give away HSM hooks each weekend, encouraging students to hang it by their bed or a mirror so they could reflect on what they learned that week at church. It was one of the ways we went after

If you’re interested in getting some yourself, we purchased the hooks at Clearmedia Promotional Products.

Just as an aside, here are a couple more of the top searches recently:

JG



Weekend Teaching Series: 5 Ways to Be Awesome: A study through the book of James (week 5 of 5, series finale)
Sermon in a Sentence: Independence is part of growing up – but always be dependent on God.
Service Length: 63 minutes

Understandable Message: This week we pulled the past month together and brought home the last chapter of the James series. I spoke on the last few verses of James 5 – talking specifically about prayer and rescuing people with our prayers and with our actions. Lots of work to do to recap where we had gone in this series – so Robby came up and did a pre-intro/recap of the past 4 weeks. Students have been in and out a lot this summer, so we made a intentional emphasis on the series review. The message had a clear plan of salvation included, and emphasized followers of Jesus to pray earnestly out of a sincere and right heart. One practical way we applied the message was to ask students to subscribe to a 7-day message stream that reminded them to earnestly pray for something/someone. So excited, about half of the students participated!

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: During Robby’s intro he talked about “things that were awesome” including some funny apps on his iPhone – he also asked a polleverywhere.com survey question where everyone could respond with their phones. For this week, we worked more of the humor and bits right into the message, and minimized the program elements. A student who just graduated wrote a great drama/dance that had a girl dreaming about Heaven set to Phil Wickham’s Heaven Song. It was beautiful, and a unique element we don’t get to feature that often!

Music Playlist: The Earth is Yours, Consuming Fire, Nothing But the Blood, Savior of the World

Favorite Moment: The student testimony this week was incredible. It was about a student named Nolan who received Christ in the last few weeks. His new friend Connor prayed for him and help lead him to the Lord. So awesome – him getting baptized Saturday night was a powerful moment, too.

Up Next: LAUNCH: Ready for Re-entry (week 1 of 5, back to school series kickoff)

Recently sat down and carved out the sermons and series for our weekend entry-level services this fall. Here’s the next batch of where HSM is headed, starting with the wrap up of our end of summer back to school series:

September
LAUNCH: Ready for Re-entry: Relationships
LAUNCH: Ready for Re-entry: Stress & Schedule [Fall Kickoff Weekend]
Happily Ever After: Intro Weekend
Happily Ever After: Girls

October
Happily Ever After: Guys
Serve Weekend / Ministry Fair
NEXT (church-wide campaign)
NEXT
NEXT

November
NEXT
NEXT
NEXT (offering weekend)
Thanksgiving 1-off

December
Christmas Series
Christmas Series
Christmas Series
Combined with adult services for Christmas

January
Combined with adult services for New Year
Best Year Ever
3D: Decision
3D: Devotion
3D: Defeat

JG



I suppose there are a jillion ways to communicate to students in your youth ministry these days – more than ever there are a plethora of choices through traditional channels (like handouts and announcements) and new media (YouTube, Facebook and SMS). Then there’s the stuff that was critically important a few years ago and is still hanging around (an actual website).

In the past few years, we’ve fully embraced SMS as our primary method of communicating with students. By the time they get to high school, most all have phones and a overwhelming percentage have texting plans. We recently made a significant shift in text message providers, and thought that if either one of these might fit your needs you should check them out:

For the last 2 years, we’ve used Simply Text. Simply Text is a powerful tool to help you communicate using SMS. Here’s a rundown of the pluses and minuses after using it for a long time.

+Super easy to use
The interface is easy, you can literally go from nothing to sending out texts in minutes. The free trial lets you see it all and make sure you are technical enough to figure it out. Easy, easy.

+You can read replies
A new feature added as we used the system allowed you to see the “message stream” or the replies that come into your account. You can easily reply to individual texts.

+Dirt cheap
The average youth ministry will be spending $10 a month on the system, which is pretty nominal considering what you’re getting. Quick, slick, cheap.

-Fairly reliable
The system works well – you can literally push send and your phone will light up in 10 seconds with your mass message. In the backend, it actually is sending an email that comes through your phone as a text. It works in most cases, but if you have the carrier wrong it fails. For the most part, it works as advertised, as long as your data has integrity.

+/-Difficult to subscribe/unsubscribe
One of the downsides is that you have to a) manually add people, b) get them to manually add themselves on a website, and c) monitor the message stream for unsubscribe requests. UPDATE: The system has been upgraded over the past few months and it is now much easier to remove yourself from a list.

A few months back, we began to outgrow the Simply Text system and as texting became more and more primary (and eventually one of the only ways we communicate with students) we needed a tool that would grow with us and be highly reliable. After a ton of research, we went with Duffled.com. Here’s what they offer in a nutshell:

+Subscribe by texting
This is a HUGE game-changer. See the message on a poster, on a handout or on the screen and you can pull out your phone and immediately subscribe. We get new subscribers without doing a thing. Boom. Same thing – when a kid graduates – they remove themselves. If a parent wants in – simple.

+Students can send in keywords and get automatic replies
This is a big upgrade, too – when a student wants more information on something they text 39970 with “hsm baptism” or “hsm serve” and get specific instructions, dates, times or directions. We set up unlimited keywords, with whatever information we want to be sent out by SMS robot. Brilliant!

+Guaranteed delivery
Duffled is actually sending an SMS text message – so arrival is pristine and quick. It costs more for the system to do this, but it is highly reliable and stable platform to communicate with confidence.

-Decent interface
The actual user-interface with Duffled is completely functional, but doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles. If they overhauled the face of it, it would be a huge improvement. Still though, it gets the job done but sure isn’t sexy.

-It costs for each text you send out
The big downside is that in this case you get what you pay for – which means a better system costs more money. We are biting the bullet and paying a significant amount more each month.

Either way it might be a good idea to think about all of the methods of communication available between you and students, and decide as a team which one(s) you’re going to get behind.

UPDATE: After a ton of feedback on this post (Tweets and RTs, too – thanks, all!) I thought a summary might be helpful:

For the bang for your buck, Simply TXT simply can’t be beat. Cheap, simple, straightforward and solid. For 99% of youth ministries, this is an essential tool to communicate with your students. It doesn’t have all the higher-end specs you might find from other platforms, but is consistently improving and is more than adequate for most uses. If you’re larger ministry and/or looking to really leverage texting, Duffled might be your answer. The ability to send automatic replies opens up a lot of possibilities, and the system while requiring a significant investment, is solid.

Either way, I hope this post helps you ask some good questions about communicating to your students and gives you some good options to consider as you head toward your student ministry’s fall kickoff weekend.

JG

Funny little game we played this weekend in HSM – guess which contestant would eat the deep fried butter at the OC Fair the fastest. Ha!

JG