I am back from the Simply Youth Ministry Conference 2010 in Chicago! It took me a few days to recover from a packed weekend. I learned a lot of tips and youth ministry ideas, but the biggest thing I learned was this: Every involved youth worker should go to a conference like this. Here are 3 reasons why.

A time of learning – I learned a lot. There were so many opportunities to take a class on a subject that will help me to stay in ministry for the long haul. SYMC offered classes on marriage, volunteer training, games, counseling, conflict resolution, preaching, & teaching. I chose the Helping Hurting Kids track and I benefited from probably one of the least discussed topics but one of the most influential problems all teens face — teen depression and addiction. I believe we all need to learn more if we are going to help teens through their adolescence.

A time of encouragement
– The worship and camaraderie I was able to participate in was very therapeutic. I met many people I have had the honor of speaking to online through the SYM Podcast. Getting to meet Doug, Josh, Matt, and Jana in person was awesome. It felt like seeing old friends for the first time in a long time. I also got to meet Andy B in person after so many emails for products. I also met new people like D.C., Matt K., Rick Lawrence, Tom, and many others. Tim Timmons really encouraged me through his worship leading and a few of his songs are STILL stuck in my head.

A time of rest – Youth Ministry is T. O. U. G. H. with a capital STRESSFUL. Dealing with tough kids, tough parents, boards, elders, pastors & ministers can take a lot out of you. We don’t tend to take time for ourselves because we are so committed to getting it right as often as possible. We overwork ourselves to the point we lose much of our drive and passion. Taking a weekend to listen to others who are doing what you do and understand your faith, love, passion, hurts, and struggles can only benefit. I felt loved on. It had been 7 years since I had been to a large convention like this. I forgot how much I needed it. Now that I am back, I feel stronger. There isn’t a huge list of things to tell people about the conference itself other than the encouragement I received. I did come back with this though: the passion and desire to help hurting kids. I think that was worth the admission alone.

Mike Lewis is the Youth Minister for the Westside Church of Christ in Beaverton, Oregon. He writes a blog that might be worth reading at www.bigmikelewis.blogspot.com and will gladly be your friend on Facebook, too.

GUEST POST: Safe

 —  March 9, 2010 — 5 Comments

We like safety. We do things to make our life easy. We like easy. Church looks nice when it is easy. Smiling faces. Shallow conversation. Sports. Weather. News. Kids. Everyone is great. We work hard not to go too far. We don’t want to give up too much, other people might think we’re strange. People we feel safe around.

I have really been convicted in the last couple weeks about the church’s desire for safety. I am tired of safe, easy church. One of my greatest fears and convictions about the modern church in North America is that Christ would be so sickened by our actions and lack of action that he would spit, spew, vomit us out of his mouth (Revelation 3:20). Francis Chan reminds us that this passage is written to believers, to the church.

The church of Laodicea was a safe church. They had everything they needed. God had blessed their area with prosperity through banking, fashion, and a medical training school. They had become dependent on the things God had blessed them with instead of God Himself! Christ called this church poor, blind, and naked! The language of the passage paints a picture of the church making God physically ill. I do not want that for the church I’m a part of or the North American church as a whole.

We talk a good game about what God is doing in persecuted churches, and that we desire for God to grow our churches, but are we truly prepared for what that might mean? I am not sure that the majority of the churches in America could survive if driven underground. I don’t know how many could even survive a major disaster such as what has happened in Haiti.

The other day, I heard Tim Schmoyer from studentministry.org tell about his trip to Haiti. In the midst of this unspeakable disaster, they are experiencing true revival in Haiti. One of the native pastors they met with told Tim that they have been praying that God would do whatever He needed to do to bring the people back to Him. Are we prepared to make that declaration in America? Honestly, the uncertainty of the outcome of that prayer scares me more than a little.

Where is radical thinking among churches? Are we truly working to bring in a revolution that builds and encourages God’s people into falling face-down in awe and reverence to the God that created us and loved us enough to send His only Son to die for us? What are we doing that is so different that people cannot help but notice? I fear that well-intentioned youth pastors and pastors have perpetuated the condition of comfort in our churches (myself included). We have done it with shallow, slick, easy, messages that fail to call people into the dangerous unknown. Do we even know where that is ourselves? We cannot lead students where we have not been, nor where we fear to go. Do we still believe that God can truly bring revival into the context of what we’ve made church today? Are we willing as a church to make whatever changes out of a compelling fear and love for Christ to keep from being spit out, separated, removed from God’s plan. Are you in? It will not be a safe choice.

Brent Lacy is the Youth Pastor at FBC Rockville, IN and the tech guy behind http://MinistryPlace.Net.



I recently read an article in which a Sociologist wrote that youth pastors “need the kind of job description that allows them to spend all of their time with teenagers-there is absolutely no substitute for spending time with youth and sticking to it for a long time.” I agree and disagree with this notion and would like to further explain what I believe after 17 years of full time youth ministry.

I BELIEVE:

I read the book Simple Student Ministry a few months back and never got around to posting a review of it so here goes:

I love a clear discipleship process in youth ministry – the parent book, Simple Church, was one of my favorite books of 2007 and I was hoping their team would bring out a student version of the title. It seems the longer churches are around the more “pile on” programs you have, each intending to help but eventually crowding the discipleship pathway. Simply put, we like to add stuff without taking anything away. Churches have the tendency to program creep, to the point where the core mission is diluted or even disappears altogether. I’m all for simple, clear and effective – to some degree, this is part of the journey we’re on right now with our High School Ministry (HSM). This book strongly urges that direction (large parts of it remind me of a Purpose Driven Youth Ministry combined with What Matters Most) and is a good read if you’re thinking you’re getting over-programmed.

JG



Really appreciated an article written by one of our HSM volunteers over on Volunteer Youth Ministry. Some good stuff in there about small group leaders digging behind the smiles to get to what is really going on. Here’s a clip, definitely head there for the whole thought:

Being a “young” youth ministry leader, I have very little experience. This small event has changed the way I will look at my students entirely. No matter how well we know each student, or how much they open up to us, the human soul is always a mystery to everyone but God. As a leader, I have to remember to take nothing for granted.

Each week may be the week that someone opens their eyes to Christ. Someone who looks solid by all human means of evaluation may actually the one who is at a spiritual crossroads. This thought unnerved me… had I ever neglected her because I thought she had it together? Had I focused totally on the kids who were obviously hurting or struggling and forgotten about those who seemed happy? Could I potentially have been responsible for letting her slip through the proverbial cracks just because she wasn’t a mess?

Of course, God works throughout all of our efforts as servants to these kids, and this girl’s story seems like it’s heading in a wonderful direction. She activley serves in missions in the church and continues to grow into a beautiful young woman inside and out.

God’s lesson to me was this: You can’t always see what I’m doing under the surface… you must be consistent and faithful with each one that I send to you.

My job is to cheer on these girls as they take each little step towards becoming more like Christ. My new prayer is that God will help me never to forget to cheer as loudly as possible, no matter where they are on that path.

JG

Some youth ministry resources to help your ministry to hurting kids:

lhgh_bundle group_subscription_youthministry

So you just signed up to be a small group leader. You got a little training, probably from someone who is just a little older than your children – and the first meeting of your small group is next week. This might help get you thinking about the kids God has trusted to you in this next season. I want to highlight a way of connecting with students – my mentor Doug Fields‘ always called it the 5-3-1 Rule. Here’s my take on it:

Care for all
You’ve been given somewhere between 5 and 12 students — and we’re asking you to care for all of them. Simple stuff really, just know their names, be involved in their life and connect with them on a weekly basis. We divide up the large group into small groups so all can be cared for. This is where you come in – be a minister, think of yourself as the pastor of this little church within a church.

Pour into a few
There’s a few of the students in your small group you immediately connect with. Maybe it is a share interest or a similar story — either way, you just click with them. So pour into them a little more than the others. When you’re running an errand, ask one of them to join you so you can turn the mundane into ministry. When you happen on a day you can sneak away from the office, try to sneak by and catch the end of their swim meet or pick them up for a life conversation over a Coke.

Mentor one
After a few weeks, ask God to show you the student who you believe He is calling you to mentor. Pray for them, give them extra challenges, ask them to step up and lead the group one night when you’re gone. Connect with them outside of group, meet regularly and share what God is teaching you. Allow God to speak through you to shape them into a great minister and future small group leader. Maybe it’ll be the church kid who needs you, maybe it’ll be the unexpected fringe kid. You’ll know!

Blessing as you serve students in your small group!

JG

Some suggested youth ministry resources to help small group leaders:

sg_bundle small_groups_leadertreks



A fun little opening video from our Super Sweet Leaders Night this week.

JG

A few resources that might help youth ministry volunteers:

training_onthego pdym_trainingkit

Our fiscal year ends in June, but for many youth workers, the end of the year means a reset to the budget year. I realize not every youth ministry benefits from the blessing of a budget and even if you do, times are really tight for everyone right now. Either way, here are a few of the things I might spend end of year budget on:

Nothing!
Are you kidding me? Money left? I’ve actually a little overspent or barely have enough to go to McDonald’s with! If that’s the case – use the pennies left and hit up the Dollar Menu and taking out your senior pastor to help soften the blow when he/she actually finds out the bottom line. I recommend springing for the McRib combo.

Invest in items that benefit you in the next fiscal year
Use the offerings and tithes that have been entrusted to you by getting some long-term bang for your buck. Looking for small group material that will work in the coming year? Grab the LIVE curriculum now, and set yourself up for the next season of small groups. Think about services like SimplyTxt or stocking up on sale items and discover discounts that will give you a supply of resources you typically reach for close at hand.

You can never go wrong with volunteer training
Search for end of the year resources to help encourage and/or train your team in the various aspects of youth ministry. Picking up Youth Worker Training on the Go or a little book for each of them might be good use of your budget money. Short, quick reads will always win. Be sure to write a note inside, too!

Go for personal development
This is a big one for me – when I head into the end of a budget year, I try to register for an event or training that will help me be a better youth pastor. Registering in advance is expected, and doing it over two budget years may allow you to spread the costs out. This year I’ll be at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference in Chicago – spots are going fast (I hear it is 75% sold-out) and it’d be fun to meet you and you could use the break.

Pre-pay for Events, Camps or Retreats
If you know the camp or retreat center you’ll be using in the coming year, consider placing a deposit on the location and lock it in. If you’re doing an event at a rollerskating rink and you know the date, plunk down some money in advance while you’ve got it.

A few ideas as we end 2009 – if you are interested in more related articles, check out 6 Ways to Stretch Your Youth Ministry Budget, When to Buy Youth Ministry Resources or the book $5 Youth Ministry.

JG