Thiago-nascimento-opera-background-speaker-jpg1This week we are still talking about small groups.This week we bring in one of our veteran volunteers to talk about training, leadership, and care for our small group leaders. We had a lot of fun. Check it out!!

 

Hope it Helps,

Kurt & AC

hellotagIn what it becoming a popular trend these days, another “live-coming-out” video has been posted on Youtube.

These stories will temporarily trend in social media feeds, including one in particular that Facebook highlighted this week: It features a teenager who hid a camera with just the right line of sight to capture his mom’s reaction to his announcement that he is gay.

There’s a lot to digest here, from the content of the post to why it’s even a trend to begin with. I asked Shawn Harrison, noted author of “Ministering to Gay Teenagers,” to give his perspective on the video concept itself. I also had a few thoughts to offer, not as an antagonist to his point but to supplement it from the ministry side of things. Here are two sides to gay teens coming out:

In terms of the content…

(via Shawn Harrison)

In terms of the takeaways…

(via Tony Myles)

For those that don’t know about these videos, check out Youtube and you’ll quickly see. Instead of writing letters, teens now hide a video camera in a room and film their parent’s (or family’s) response to them coming out as gay. A lot of these videos are hard to watch – some are deeply emotional and deeply troubling in how the parent’s reactions are brutally honest and some times come with the words, “Leave my house now.”

As youth workers, we need to familiarize ourselves with these videos, because they definitely give us insight into the personal lives of gay students – students who could at any time come through our doors.

As I’ve been watching these videos, I’m reminded of the time I came to my parents. I stayed home that day because the thought of coming out to my parents knotted my stomach up like never before. Not only was I physically sick, but emotionally and mentally “sick,” too. It is not easy to tell your parents you are attracted to the same-sex, let alone you have no idea why you experience these attractions, and you cannot seem to change the attractions you have. The stress and fear of becoming an embarrassment and a failure to your parents overwhelms your entire being. The fear of becoming homeless because of your “attractions” is a constant nightmare.

For a gay teen that either has come out or is about to come out, losing friends is one thing, but being rejected by family is on a totally different level.

Friends come and go, while family is supposed to be there no matter what. However, many of the teens in these coming out videos, and many who never make a video, face the unthinkable: parents rejection, homelessness, ridicule, and abuse that is physically and mental. I was fortunate in that though my parents and I never talked about my sexuality, they never stopped loving me.

Regardless of what personal stance you may have on this topic:

  • What did you learn by watching and listening to the kid?
  • What did you learn by watching and listening to the mom?
  • What can we learn about youth ministry from a kid who secretly video tapes his mom’s reaction to something?

Once upon a time, kids wrote something in a secret diary or journal so the rest of the world couldn’t see it. We’re now on the exact opposite extreme where students look for validation and affirmation in the global community, not realizing the bias that in itself creates. They may see how many “likes” or “views” their post gets on the internet and assume that’s what they’ll encounter locally among people they will actually interact with.

Maybe that’s not the end goal in their minds, though. Perhaps if they can just get one more “thumbs up” or “retweet” online, they’ll come up with the courage they need to talk to their family.

It’s why my favorite part in the video is when the mom fires back with her own disclosure… not because of what she says or how she tries to identify with her son, but because for those 10 to 15 seconds the teenager is absolutely out of whatever role he prescribed for himself in this conversation.

This “ad lib” is where real ministry happens… but what if instead of his world getting a little bigger that way there was something more Christ-centered in that moment?

Maybe that’s the message we need to remind students of in this moment. Life is larger than what they’re processing today. While culture is ready to rapid-fire validation or criticism to the latest feelings a teenager expresses, it isn’t dispensing context and wisdom.

What if a student isn’t gay in orientation, but is curious about the same sex? Will culture help them sift through that difference? Will you, with Jesus as your guide?

One way or another, this is a topic that must be explored honestly and unedited, even when we want it to feel one-sided and controlled. We all don’t have the means to package things the way we want to… but over time, context does form. For that reason, I’d like to give Shawn the last word on this – here’s some great wisdom:

shawnharrisonAnother thought occurred to me while watching these videos: Youth workers, what if a student filmed your reaction to them coming out, or what if a gay teen secretly filmed you talking about homosexuality during youth group? What would they record?

And before you determine, “this would never happen,” let me remind you that these parents being filmed most likely said the same thing. We cannot wait to decide what we would say or do concerning homosexuality and our students. We need to decide now how we would respond, how we would teach the subject, and how we would help families through the journey. This conversation is too important to put aside and wait for another day. For too long the church has practiced this approach, and the result is what we see today: we are “anti-gay,” gay teens are leaving Christianity, families sit alone in silence, and the church continues to miss the point about homosexuality.

I am not the “know-all” of this subject. I’m just a guy who personally lives out this journey, and I’m trying to help youth workers, families, and gay individuals navigate through their journey, too. For some practical help, let me suggest my book, “Ministering to Gay Teenagers.” I truly believe in this book, and by God’s grace, thousands of people have learned how to navigate this journey, unafraid and in community with others.



valueBeing in youth ministry I’ve had the privilege of learning a lot. And I can honestly say out of all the things I’ve learned there are some learnings that I feel like I will never stop growing in. Now, when I started this list I easily thought this could be a 10,000 word post, but no one would read a post that long. So here are a few of the things I’ve learned that I believe are valuable. I believe allowing God to grow me in these areas has made me a better youth worker. So are are 6 of 100 learnings I’ve had. haha

  1. Be Flexible. Majority of our day to day tasks in youth ministry are very random. It isn’t uncommon for my day to go from a brainstorm meeting, to a counseling session and then a hospital visit. Flexibility is one of the main ingredients to longevity in youth ministry, and it actually relieves the stress of ministry. Those who are a step by step, can’t miss a beat type of person, usually don’t last long in youth ministry. So be flexible.
  2. Go The Extra Mile. Make things the best that they can be. Consider the task you are assigned as the bottom floor. When given a task or project look for ways save time and money. Sometimes that means making sure you don’t have to make another trip somewhere or completing the whole task instead of just the part you where assigned.
  3. Attitude Is Everything. It is super easy to get caught up in the craziness of ministry especially when you are seeing the less attractive side of ministry for the first time. It’s important that you keep an attitude of thankfulness. This will require you to look past the craziness of seeing the not so attractive side of ministry, and focus on the life change that’s taking place. Also, now that you are on the other side you need to be aware of an attitude of pride and arrogance. It’s impossible to know and learn everything there is to know about the ministry during your time there. Keep a learners attitude of humility.
  4. It’s Not About You, It’s About The Students. This has everything to do with leading from a place of comfort. Serving students from a place of comfort ensures the inclusion of a few and exclusion of many. This is because you will most likely pour into, hang with, and allow to lead the students who you connect with best. The ministry will be all about you, and most likely you will end up with a ministry where everyone looks out for themselves, if it’s modeled in the leadership.
  5. You Are A Leader First. Remember you are a leader first and the authority you have to speak into their lives, is only as strong as your leadership. Your friendship with students is important, but your roll as a leader is more important.
  6. Time With Jesus Is Imperative. Just because you work in ministry doesn’t mean you are automatically being ministered to. You need to be just as active in the local church as the members. You should be serving in some capacity, attending bible study or small group, etc. It is critical that you are spiritually filled. Your time with Jesus will be something you will have to protect.

It is so important that you continue to stay open to a life time of learning and growing in ministry. I think ministering in a way that pleases God takes a complete entire life span. So keep learning and growing.

 

Hopes it helps,

AC  

evil-heart2I’ve just relaunched our student leadership program and it’s been a ton of fun. This is a program designed to help students lead within the ministry. I would encourage you to start something for your students that would allow them to lead in some capacity. I’m definitely not saying you need a traditional leadership program, but it would benefit your youth ministry a lot to have something where students can take some ownership for the ministry.

In the last few weeks I’ve been having a lot of conversations with student leaders concerning the heart of a leader. Because the bible says in Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. It’s important that I make sure my students understand that you lead from the heart, and the condition of your heart effects the way you lead.

In Christian culture today you have a lot of people who want to lead, be famous and have influence. We’ve taken on this mentality that says “if I’m going to do something for God, I need it to be big and I need everyone to know about it.” I believe it stems from the condition of our hearts. Now, I don’t think God has any problem with us leading, having influence or fame. I think it’s hard to not have all three at some level when you are leading, but the condition of your heart determines wether you use it to glorify God or self.

I want my student leaders to understand that protecting their heart and continuing to allow Jesus to change their heart is an ongoing process. I want them to be like David. It seems like David understood this concept best. In Psalm 51:50 He writes “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 139:23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. David was always asking God to do something that had to do with heart, mind and spirit. David was more concerned with who he was becoming then what he was doing. Here are a few areas that David struggled in and I believe these areas stemmed from the condition of his heart.  

  1. Compromise: Having the ability to compromise your beliefs for selfish gain is an issue of the heart. Left unchecked could wreak havoc in a ministry, and destroy your credibility as a leader worth following.
  2. Abandon: The ability to abandon your beliefs for selfish gain is an issue of the heart. Left unchecked you could fall for the lie that says “In order to obtain more influence, you must somewhat abandon your beliefs, and come to the middle of the road on certain issues.” This is a lie that unfortunately a lot of people fall for.
  3. Manipulate: The ability to manipulate for selfish gain is a condition of the heart. Left unchecked and you could lead others down the wrong road for a good cause. Probably one of the most hurtful things you can do to someone.

The thing that I want student leaders to know is that we are all capable of doing any of those three things. And so it’s not enough for my student leaders to just know how to speak, plan an event and be relational. They need to understand that we lead from our hearts and out of it is who we are. You can only fake being someone you’re not for a short time, before the real you shows up. My goal is to not just help them do, but also help them be.

 

Hope it helps,

AC



Here is Ep.19 – You can catch the other episodes at the Youtube channel (Let’s Talk Youth Ministry). Kurt and I talk about the Fall, and we both give a few tips on things you should try in the Fall. Check it out!! 

 

Hope it helps,

AC

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



Conversation_mattersMaking connections through conversations is something that I’ve been really thinking about. Every meaningful connection that I’ve made in my life started with a conversation. I think in the past I’ve put more emphasis on connecting, and not enough emphasis on how important it is that we have conversations. The connections I’ve made and the conversations I’ve had are the two things that have shaped my life more than anything else. I can remember getting my first job at Burger King and getting connected to my boss who become a mentor in my life. It started with an interview where we conversed for 2hrs. Another important connection made at Burger King was to my wife, and it started with a conversation at the milkshake machine. I can go on and on and I’m sure if you thought about it, you could do the same.

As I think about this topic I think about the amount of time and resources we put into trying to get students connected. We want to put on the right event, get them in the right small group, give them free stuff or say all the right things just to get them connected. We put on huge outreach events that are great and fun, but maybe only a few students sticks around if any.

Every weekend after service I hang out with students. The funny thing is all they want to do is just hangout. They will even purchase their own food #ptl (praise the Lord) and sometimes pay for mine :) . The intentional conversations that I’ve been able to have with them has connected us more and more. It has helped me truly care about them not just as a student under my spiritual care, but as a person. I believe it’s only at that level that are we able to make the biggest impact. This also got me thinking “what if students got to intentionally experience this connection with each other?” It would change our entire ministry.

Students are attracted to fun and that’s a fact! But that fact doesn’t automatically mean connection. I’m convinced that in order to create a culture of connecting students to leaders and other students, we must create a culture where conversations are just as important as the event, which takes intentionality on our part of the ministry.

We need to start thinking about how do we become more intentional about the conversations that are going on. Most students aren’t thinking “I need to seek people out and have meaningful conversations”, even though they truly want to be connected and have those types of conversations. A lot of times our programs and events leave the meaningful connections up to chance.

Now, in spite of our unintentional efforts, the Holy Spirit comes through and students lives are changed and meaningful connections are made. I believe our efforts will always be flawed and never one hundred percent, and we need to lean on the Holy Spirit in whatever we do. Especially, when it comes to ministry, having conversations and making connections. With that being said, my prayer to God is, “help me be more intentional in facilitating possible life changing conversations”!

In order for us move forward, we must first know where we are.  So here are two questions to ask yourself:

  1. Are my current programs and/or events fostering conversations?
  2. If they are, how intentional are we about the those conversations?

In my next post I will go super practical in terms of what this looks like in my ministry. I truly believe that students and the ministry grows the same way, and that’s through simple God ordained conversations. I’m still thinking this through and processing it all. So if you are reading this, you have just joined me on a journey that the Holy Spirit has been leading me on.

 

Hope it helps,

ac

 

up

Summer is a great season for youth workers. For some, things slow down a bit and you finally get some breathing room while for others, it’s packed with tons of extra events and activities. And even though the ministry I’m part of falls into the latter category, summer is still my favorite part of the year. So whether you are swinging in a hammock a little more often this summer or staying late getting ready for tomorrow’s youth event there are a few things you can do that will “Up” your summer.

“Grow Up”: Summer is a great time to read the latest youth ministry, leadership or personal growth book that’s been sitting on your shelf or taking up space on your tablet. Fall is a great time to say to folks around you, “This summer I was reading and….”

“Show Up”: Where can you show up this summer where your presence would be a welcomed surprise? Can you pop into the senior adults potluck and love on the oldies of your church? Maybe your parents have grown to expect you to miss family stuff in the summer because of your youth ministry schedule? Taking the time to “show up” unexpectedly in the middle of summer shows others that the ministry you lead isn’t the only item of importance in your life.

“Blow Up”: Summer is a fantastic time to make changes…especially changes for the upcoming school year. Far too many youth groups do way too much stuff simply because they are afraid to blow up an older, ineffective piece of their program. Sometime this summer, escape for three hours and make an honest list of the stuff your ministry still does every school year that it really doesn’t need to. Then, mentally light a fuse and blow that sucker up.