The big game is Sunday, Feb. 1st. Game time is also when lots of youth groups regularly meet. What to do, what to do?

REASONS YOU SHOULD HAVE A YOUTH SUPERBOWL PARTY:

  • You meet anyway. Why not?
  • Its generally pretty low key planning-wise.
  • Students like being invited to a SB Party since everyone around them is having one.
  • It could be a great draw for inactive or guest youth.
  • Lots of opportunity for subtle “this is how we live as believers” conversations.
  • Resources are available to give it a Christian formation component. (edutopia.org, iamsecond.com, fca.org

REASONS YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE A YOUTH SUPERBOWL PARTY:

  • Depending on where you live, many students don’t really care about the game themselves.
  • Younger youth get quickly bored with the game/event unless there are other things to do.
  • What do you do about some of the inappropriate commercials?
  • This is often a big family event. Do we want to interfere with that?
  • This is a great church-wide event. Do we want to interfere with that?
  • This is a day you could give your youth adults a “day off.”

I’m not going to give you my opinion because it all depends on your church and your circumstances. I’m just putting this here for you to think about. Either way, if you haven’t decided by now…you need to.

Stephanie

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My 8th grade son has always been the king of the deep question. From the time he was little, he has woken up in the morning not only talking (Before my coffee, I send him to his Dad.) but contemplating the struggles of humanity. The other day in between discussing his football workout schedule and projects due at school he blurts out this question:

“What would happen if Satan repented? If he were to renounce his need to be God and bow down to Jesus, would the Lord accept him back? I mean that would change everything wouldn’t it? How would sin affect us then?”

In our digital age, I thought it would be cool to “tweet” out the question in the form of, “When you’re 8th grader asks:” With the number of people I know who spend time with teens, I thought they would appreciate it.

Within 5 minutes, I got a reply from one of the many @Jesus accounts that said,

“I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it.”

I wasn’t really asking the question. I certainly wasn’t asking someone with a twitter account who thinks he can speak for Jesus. First of all, the fact that a twitter handle of “Jesus” did much beyond quoting scripture really annoyed me deeply.Second of all, that is not even what Jesus would say. Not in the least.

It had ended up being an amazing discussion with my son about the implications of Satan’s repentance. He couldn’t be called, “Satan” anymore because he would no longer be the deceiver, pondering how it would work with angels since they technically weren’t created to have a relationship with Christ in the same way humans are, and what it would mean for sin in this world among other things. It was actually a really cool conversation, and got me thinking about how if the Bible tells us Jesus will destroy the deceiver once and for all, then this is not an expectation.
I am sure somebody thought they were being funny or witty or helping me out with a question I couldn’t answer. Yet, it got me thinking about all the ways I have done the same thing as both a parent and a ministry leader when asked deep questions.

How many times have I made an opinion sound like a truth when asked a question about God?

How many times have I failed to say, “Let’s take a look at His word and REALLY see what the Lord says about that”?

How many times have I unwittingly “played” God in any number of ways?

 

I confess I have had a “Savior” complex too many times by thinking:

  • I should have all the answers to all the questions.
  • I need to be the one whose “job” it is to fix a bad situation.
  • I am the one to run to when you are hurting or lonely.

In other words I may not have a twitter account called, “Jesus” but I have pretended to play God when really I should just be serving Him. We need to be careful to show up in the lives of students. We should disciple, and stand with the least, the lost and the lonely. Yet, we need to remember we are not creating disciples who model our ways but Christ’s.

What does this mean practically?:

Let’s make sure our relationships aren’t so deep with students that in tough times they run to us INSTEAD of the Lord.

Let’s ensure we know the difference in quoting scripture and interpreting it for a student.

Let’s not be afraid to open up the Word of God and search for deep answers together.

Most of all in all things no matter what may we be reminded,

WE ARE NOT SAVIORS. We are not God. Let’s not shy away from the hardest of questions but, together can we be reminded just like twitter Jesus.

#You’reNotGod

Anyone else ever do these things as well? I would love to hear your thoughts!



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The “new year” is here. I have heard several leadership types say things like, “It’s a blank canvas.” Everywhere I look there is another, “goal setting” blog post or article. I keep reading articles that tell me, “start with this,” or “stop that.” Each person out there has there own method, rule or reasoning for how to get the most out of the coming year.

A couple of years ago a pretty famous type had this idea to stop trying to set goals that were too big. He suggested breaking your goals down into edible chunks. Work backwards from a year, to six months, to three months, to a month, to this week, to this day, then literally by the hour. Then another one I attempted was a list of 12 books I would read in one year, broken down into three categories (life, ministry and leadership.) My pastor reads through the entire Bible two to three times a year, each year, so I would do that. There is even a special planner for this year I got a hold of that helps me map out my “dreams.” I have loved them all and totally forget about them three days later. Have a mission, vision, plan and purpose and then just, “go” and we are all set…. If you want I can find you a podcast in a heartbeat from pretty much anyone we respect that’s semi-famous in the leader world that is going to tell you what you MUST do to make this year successful.

Here is the issue with all of these posts, articles and talk backs. We take other people’s personality and passion and put them on ourselves. We will all “say” that we “know” it’s about taking away a nugget of truth. Yet, what we really will do is try to “be” whoever we are reading.

The problem here of course is that we are NOT those people. Therefore the problem doesn’t lie in their methods. It lies in us trying to take on their personality and BE them. Then we think we should really care about that thing they care about: budgeting, church planting, leadership, small groups, or multi-site churches. That’s why we like to say things to each other like, “I really should write a book.” People say to me all the time, “I really ought to start a blog.”

Why? Is my question? Why does everyone need to talk about “how” to do ministry? Why is it so bad if some simply “do” ministry? Why do I have to take on your passion this year or you take on mine?   So what do we do to step into the new year?

As we enter 2015 here are some things to chew on:

Who Has the Lord Called YOU to Be?

My friend Doug Franklin (of Leadertreks) is a zealot about growing students into leaders and disciples of Christ. Andy Blanks and Les Bradford (of YouthMInistry 360) care deeply about seeing teens transformed by God and His Word. ME? I am passionate about seeing a generation of young people understand what being close to Jesus and knowing they are His looks like in a practical way. This means all each of us do is a means to the end of who they are called to be. We write, blog, resource and speak out of a heart to ultimately reach more youth directly and support the adults who impact their lives. Take the time to sit with the Lord and ask Him who He is calling you to be. Don’t be me or Doug or Andy or Les. Be still and stop feeling guilty you that aren’t someone else. Stop thinking you have to be “famous.” (because it feels like others are.) Just be the person the Lord has made you, be close to Him and go with Him where He goes.

Assess Your Strengths and Weaknesses:

Do you struggle with organization or people management? Be honest with what you are and are not good at: without excuse. People often say to me, “You are so administratively minded. It comes naturally to you.” Nope. On those “Spiritual Gifts Tests,” with a scale of 1- 10 (ten being highest) admin is almost always a one or two for me. It is a learned behavior with a lot of help. What I am strong at is seeing the big picture strategically. I surround myself with people who are the mortar to the bricks in my wall. Find out your strengths and weaknesses (make a list, take a test) and then do something.  What do you need to have a successful year? Stop throwing your hands in the air about “not being good at that.” I’ll bet you are surrounded by people who ARE amazing at that thing and can either teach you, or even be the ones who step up to fill that role in the ministry. Part of the reason we lack volunteers is we don’t utilize people in their strengths often enough.  Play to your strengths without merely dropping the ball in your areas of weakness.

Figure Out What Keeps You On Track:

I have worked with a number of organizations and ministries helping them put policies in place. In this process I have noticed something vital. If you don’t really believe in something you never actually put it into action. Lots of people ask for help in “organizing their ministry.” I have taken to asking, “Are you looking for advice or affirmation?” What I mean is more often than not we like to think what we SHOULD do is ask for help when what we want is to keep doing what we are always doing. Take bits and pieces of all the leadership/organizational/goal setting advice and use what will work for YOU.
Stay away from the “oughts” as you jump into 2015. That’s really what resolutions are. We compare what we truly want to the goals of others, thinking we should have a desire for those as well. Instead, remember the date is actually arbitrary. You don’t have to do it “all” the first week of January. Instead, take the time to step back, pray, seek the Lord, be honest with yourself and then make a move. Just stop being someone else.

It’s the buzz word around ministry these days. We move our students from large group time to small group time to discipleship. We want to see student’s grow in their relationship with the Lord and this is how Jesus modeled it for us. Disciples followed Him everywhere; listening, watching, and learning His ways.

There are so many models, curriculum and even conferences focused on the topic. Even Chuck Bomar wrote an awesome post on the topic in relation to young adults last week. It got me thinking about what it is and what it isn’t. So let’s play the game “Two Truths and A Lie” when it comes to discipleship. However, I would like to give it a little spin. Here are three lies and one truth on this important topic:

It’s About Hanging Out

I’ve heard it said often that what matters is just picking a student up and spending time with them. After all, that’s what Jesus did. He spent every moment of the day allowing His disciples to be with Him watching and learning, so therefore if we just spend time with a student then that’s enough right? No. Jesus was always intentional. There was a reason why He went where He did, why He responded the way He did and even talked to the people He did. We have reduced discipleship sometimes to going to the mall and being together or watching students play sports. If the goal is to watch you live your life for Christ and have them model it, are you paying attention to what you do when you do it? Have you considered premeditating questions before you go into a time with students? What’s the goal for being in this discipling relationship? Think before you go. If it’s to help them become a deeply devoted follower of Christ, then think through every situation. Be intentional.

It’s About a Program

I am a huge fan of curriculum and conferences. I think both are great for aiding us in the discipling journey. They often act as catalysts to a deeper conversation.YET, investing in and making a disciple of a student is not a once a week, hour long, one-on-one Bible study alone. I have seen groups who have a discipleship program where the goal is to just meet with your disciple once a week and talk Bible. It’s also not talking to students about topics that are important in knowing Jesus. That’s preaching. Often students are given few places they feel safe to wrestle with their faith and come to understand who Jesus is. They need to build a relationship where they can ask the hard questions. This goes beyond any programming.

It’s About Replacing Parents

Well meaning volunteers often forget to build relationships with parents in this process. Every student who is desiring to be in a discipleship relationship doesn’t want to run away from home. Sometimes they are looking for additional voices to help them along. Make sure you are talking to parents about why you want to spend time one-on-one with their child, or in a  smaller group than usual. In a day and age with more and more “stalker” types sometimes an extra adult hanging around your child can seem creepy, not refreshing if you don’t understand the true reason why they are there.

Anyone Can Disciple

Yes. However, take into account where your relationship is with Jesus and why you want to engage with a student. The goal is they learn what a walk with Christ looks like by seeing it in action. What are they reproducing? It does not mean you have to reach as near perfection as possible. However, it does mean you have a heart that seeks the Lord and just wants to be His. It’s a good thing (and Biblical) to help students grow in the Lord. Just make sure you are offering more of Jesus than yourself in the relationship.

Discipleship is the way Jesus asked us to grow the church I believe. It’s not just about understanding who to follow, we each need to learn HOW to follow Christ.Now does it mean we have to spend every minute of the day with a student? No. It is merely about them understanding more clearly what it means to belong to the Lord, oh and a student has to actually want this. None of the 12 were dragged along. They wanted to be there. The goal is to have a generation who understands living for the Lord starts today.

 



 

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Recently I was in a meeting of the youth ministry minds where this question was asked:

“How often does your group, your youth or your church think of missions?”

The answers ranged from weekly to monthly to an honest, “never.” It was a great question that I felt was poised around “opportunities” to “go and serve” both locally and abroad. In short it was really asking how often we “went” somewhere to think of the people outside the doors of the church. I believe this is an important question and I was humbled at how much others are doing to inspire students to “Go, make disciples.”

Later that week I was taking a flight with my husband. It was on one of “those” airlines where you do not get to pick your seats ahead of time. Instead you line up in a lump by “zone” and hope for the best (unless of course you want to pay the extra to get first pick.) My hubby and I ended up in the final zone, making me really grumpy that we would probably be separated for a four hour flight. Although we ended up towards the back thankfully we were together.

Until…

Now what I didn’t tell you is that I really hate to fly. It makes me nervous on a good day. Yet this time I especially had a knot in my stomach since my flight the week prior had literally bounced through the sky for hours until I reached the safety of the ground.

The “glitch” in this system of picking your seat was that families sometimes get separated.  It happened on this flight; a Dad and young child needed a seat that was not separated.  The voice on the intercom was asking if two people would move so they could be together.  The attendant made jokes about, “babysitting the child next to you” if no one would move.

No one budged.

Again the plead was made, explaining that the only empty seats available were two middle ones in exit rows. A small child is not allowed there. I looked at my husband and asked him if, “It was the right thing to do to give up our seats.” We waited for someone else to step up. I didn’t happen.

Did I mention this flight was at night and I hate, really hate to fly in the dark?

An offer to buy those that moved alcohol was made. I don’t drink.

One more time with desperation, the attendant called, “We can’t move the plane until this Dad and child can sit together.” It had moved from an inquiry to a demand.  Still none of us jumped up.

We looked at each other. Sighed. Gave up our seats. I got to sit in the middle of two people who had brought on food that stank to high heaven, were unfriendly, drank “Bloody Mary’s” the whole way and the flight was bumpy.  It wasn’t pleasant.

I did not want to give up my seat next to my husband. I did not want to have to sit where I did. I wanted my way. Obviously so did everyone else on the plane. Yet, we knew the “right thing” was to let the Dad and child be together.  We wouldn’t want our little one to be stuck next to a stranger just so we could be in a window or an aisle. While I lost four hours of conversation with my hubby there are worse things.

I wonder if thinking about “missions” is far simpler than we realize.

I got “nothing” out of moving. I asked if I could exchange the offer for alcohol for free wifi and the answer was, “I wish I could do that for you.”

There are so many lessons in my little interaction about the reality of “missions:”

  • Sometimes you serve because it’s right, not because you want to.
  • The “blessing” of serving is not always immediate in getting to “see” a “finished product.”
  • Service could be about going out of your way. When I had asked if I could ensure a seat next to my husband in the first place I was simply chided for not paying the money to get one early.  I was offered 3 $5- $7 drinks but no one could float me a code for $8 internet. What about a policy so that children always sit with parents?

I am not the picture of perfection here. I didn’t want to be the person who moved, I just did. I should have been the first person willing to go, and I am sad to say I wasn’t.

Trips are worth it. Yes, put them on your calendar. Use them as a catalyst to get your students thinking beyond themselves. Then teach them to give up their seats. The big events only work when we learn how to use them in the day to day.

-Leneita

@leneitafix

Speaking of trips :) Group Workcamps and LifeTree Adventures offer some amazing options you should check them out!

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This past weekend I had an interesting opportunity to chaperone a trip for “another” youth group my kids are involved in. It is not one in which I am a leader in any capacity. In this setting I am a mom and a volunteer.  My eyes were opened at just HOW hard it is to be the parent/volunteer on so many levels!

For years I have avoided this position, because I wanted my kids to have someplace they could go where we are not leading everything. They get to have a “genuine”  youth group experience without Mom and Dad around. Yet, this time around I gave in. (They needed a van driver who was over 25.) Often the volunteers who tend to sign up happen to be parents of kids in our group. This experience gave me a HUGE appreciation for the parents who show up to serve.

Here is what I learned:

1.  The Youth Pastor Always Views You Through the Lens of “Your Kid.”

Let’s say you have a suggestion about the way something should go. You think it’s a great idea. It may have nothing to do with your child. Even when they listen and treat you with respect it feels like they don’t take ideas or strategies from you seriously. Why? They appear to run all ideas through a filter of, “So are you truly just trying to do this for your kid?”

2.  We Ask Questions For Clarification Not To Annoy You

I knew I wasn’t the leader, I was a volunteer. So I just wanted be clear on what was expected of me. It felt like I asked “too many” questions all the time. I wanted to be proactive, but also wanted to play by the same rules as everyone else not just think about my own kid. I realized that parent/volunteers are very aware of the two hats they are wearing. They/we ask loads of questions to ensure in this setting we are being a “good” volunteer.

JHgirlshulk3.  There Are Times When It’s Really Hard to Have Your Child in the Room

Now my kids are used to me wearing two hats. They have often seen me in situations where I am being the youth worker and then having to put on my “Mom” hat. I know many groups have the “rule” that parent volunteers don’t “teach” their own children. Still there are times when you interact with your kids. When they do things that are not acceptable you have to decide at what point you give them a “Mom” lecture. On the other hand, I had an experience this weekend where another student treated my child really poorly. If it hadn’t been to my child, I 100% would have stepped up and called the student off. However, because it was MY child, I knew the situation would have only been seen as “Mommy saving them.”  It would have made it worse. So I couldn’t do anything but watch my child navigate a hard life lesson. It was excruciating.

4.  Students Actually Like Parental Volunteers

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JH Girls with Leneita

There were several “younger” and “cooler” chaperones on this trip. It was an event where students were required to “check-in” but not spend the whole time with an adult. Somehow I ended up with a posse of 8 Junior High girls who hung with me. I kept telling them they didn’t have to. They kept sticking around. One of the girls actually whispered in my ear, “I like having a Mom around, it makes me feel taken care of.”

In the end as a parent, it made me appreciate my kids way more than I had before. My children are imperfect, quirky and sometimes difficult. Yet, I also came to appreciate the amazing qualities my kids do possess,  and they are mine. As youth people, I think we need to remember that parents who volunteer don’t HAVE to. It isn’t always so they can “spy” on what you are teaching their child or a distrust of their safety. Sometimes it just gives a mechanism to connect with our kids. The feeling that they are “growing up too fast” is overwhelming and sometimes it’s just a way to be where they are.

Just remember to love on those parents, and direct them. I think they are a great addition to any team. (That of course is strictly my biased point of view.)

What’s your thought on parent/volunteers?

Leneita / @leneitafix

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Recently I found myself in the middle of a strange debate with a well meaning guy in youth ministry. He told me  the “real” job of women in this type of ministry is to support their husbands who hold paid positions.  “What if a woman never gets married?”  I asked. His answer was, “As long as they don’t have children, then I guess they can do this full-time.”

I have had these types of conversations before, many times actually.  I am not even discussing a theological debate about “where” women can serve in the church.  I am discussing the niche specifically of youth ministry. When we get together with other women we talk about it, often. Yet,  I think it’s a sticky subject that we tend to avoid in public forums.

WHY?

For me I think it’s that I tend to avoid topics that can just spiral down into an unhelpful cesspool of complaining. Yet, in light of some recent discussions I think it’s worth sharing with you some “REAL LIFE” stories from myself and others that have happened because of their gender:

“We once lived with a broken water heater for a year in staff housing with a youth ministry, because the caretaker didn’t like that I wouldn’t ‘just stay home and take care of my babies.'”

“I have been told my personality is too passionate, too blunt, too emotional for leading in youth ministry.”

“It’s assumed that because I am a woman, the position I want to hold within the youth ministry is administrative. Not only am I not administrative, I don’t enjoy those types of roles.”

“When students break down I have been told to go be relational, because you know women are just more relational. As an introvert who is shy, I am actually better at organizing programs than getting to know kids.”

From a guy: “Someday when I get married my wife can be paid to do this full time, as long as she understands it’s still her job to have dinner on the table every night at six.”

This is a handful of what we hear daily. There are times when we are treated like “Cinderella.”  You can do this ministry thing as long as you tend to your REAL duties as a woman. In the meantime being in ministry does not mean that we ignore the rest of our family or leave our children on the side of the road. We are subject to putting ministry ahead of family and more importantly ahead of Jesus, just like any other PERSON.  Women who aren’t married aren’t using their ministry as a “stopgap” until they find a husband.

Women who do feel CALLED to support their husbands who are paid full-time feel as if it is their ministry too. They would say they are partners not “supporters.” Actually, some wives actually support their husbands calling to youth ministry,  just like they would support their spouse in anything else. This means they aren’t the “extra volunteer.” They love their spouse and pray for them, but have passions elsewhere.

There is so much to say on this topic and more words in my heart than I have to share in a short post.

There have been attitudes and words said to my face that are simply hurtful. The problem with these types of attitudes is they assume the women in our midst are not seeking the Lord or putting Him first. It makes the presumption they have ignored Christ and are doing what they want, therefore walking in sin. It’s “clear” what the “best” way is in the Bible. Yet, in the very lineage of Jesus there is an ex-prostitute (Rahab), a woman who went to extreme lengths (including deception) to clear her family name (Tamar), another taken advantage of by a King (Bathsheba), one who broke customs and boldly laid at the feet of a man (Ruth) and finally the one called “blessed among women” (Mary). These women are who Jesus CHOSE to be in his family line. This is a lineage of bold, imperfect women who would go to great lengths to see justice prevail.

Today’s point is this: Before you say you don’t have “any” misconceptions about women in youth ministry, think about what’s really in your heart. I was told I “had” to quit when I had children. I did. Honestly, I was miserable. My daughter was 5 months old when I went back.

Now, did I work 60 hour weeks anymore? No.  

I took her with me, and when I had to, I worked less hours. I recognized the gift I had in my family, and I wanted to enjoy them.  For me I was pushed aside so often I set out on a path to prove myself. When my kids were in elementary school my husband sat me down and told me it was time to stop trying so hard. I was losing my family in my quest to show everyone what I was capable of. I even worked a high profile role once where I was told, “You wanted to show the world a high capacity woman leader, now you have to prove it.”

Why? Jesus doesn’t ask me to prove myself to Him. I think often times we don’t even realize our misconceptions on this topic. Please don’t say it doesn’t happen. It does. It’s important we don’t pretend it’s not there, while at the same time not getting stuck in hurt because it does. He asks us to follow Him.  He gave us each a personality and talents on purpose to reflect His glory.

He made me a woman who is a wife, a Mom, and called to family ministry.

There are women who tell me, “I could never do what you do.”  You know what I tell them?  “Good, because God has called you to be you.”  I think this is true of each of us…man or woman.

What are your “truths” about women in youth ministry?

Yep, its a bar. Not a fancy bar; just a typical East Texas place where the locals hang out. Actually, its name is now Southland due to an owner change…but the older locals still call it Mr. Jim’s.

Get a picture in your mind: inside is the sit-at bar, games, a karaoke setup, a wall where people sign their name to make their mark. Outside is a big deck area and a playground so that people can bring their kids and dogs. White lightbulbs are strung across the yard. There’s a little wooden stage in the corner of the lot. Nothing fancy.

Its a rare weekend that I’m home but being Labor Day, I’m off the road. I had taken my dog to the dog park so she could walk me when I got this text from Sis: “Want to come up to Mr. Jim’s? I’m up here with “so” and “so.” “But I’ve got the dog,” I said. “Bring her, too. No one will care.” So I went.

People, it was fascinating and as a newbie, I did a lot of watching and listening. My sister is loved there. She is accepted for who she is when other “faith communities” don’t easily embrace her. She has deep “family-like” relationships. People hug each other. Introductions are made when strangers come in. No one cares how you’re dressed or if your dog is tied up out on the deck. When you sing karaoke, people cheer you on whether you were good or not (She was fabulous. I wasn’t). Folks ask after one another, especially after those that are missing. People celebrate holidays and other special moments together. At Mr. Jim’s, hot topics are discussed and yes, things can get heated…but they’re usually forgotten the next time the local pro-team scores.

When Sis was going through breast cancer last year, her community had pink shirts made and wore them (guys, too) to encourage her on. She got numerous cards, flowers, chocolates, etc. She had lots of visitors, calls, posts, etc., all from a community where she’s deeply rooted. 

And God is discussed. People on the fringe about their beliefs aren’t scared to mention and question because their $10 on the bar brings a sense of equal rights. Opinions are encouraged, cruelty isn’t tolerated, and life is lived.

I wish my small church was more like this.