Tuesday, December 16, 2014

It's Christmas! Slow Down!!

The Christmas season can easily get too busy.  How do we take time to reflect on the birth of Jesus Christ when our calendar is packed tight with events and outings?

Some church's calendar of events for December are about to burst due to overload.  (If you don’t have margin in your calendar you are headed to a  crash and burn)

When thinking about December and calendar scheduling think about:
  • Family Time - how does adding more events to the calendar have on impact family time?
  • Your Own Family - in many church settings the YP is expected to be at every church function, even the ones that have nothing to do with youth ministry.  How will this have an impact your own family time?  Do you have boundaries? 
  • Christmas Parties - most parents work and many of them will have company Christmas get togethers during December.  When we add more to the calendar we make them even busier. 
  • Less is More - it doesn’t take 4 Christmas programs to help the church reflect on the birth of Christ. 
  • Go tell it on the Mountain - what if you could scratch all the Church Christmas functions off the calendar and plan just one that would reach the community with the gospel?  What would you do?
  • Entertainment - we don’t need more of it.  Turn on the TV every night in December and you can find plenty of good Christmas music and concerts.  Turn on ABC Family and you can watch Elf 50 times in one month. 
  • Leverage - how can you leverage the season by doing something totally different, unusual, out of the norm with your normal youth group gathering closest to Christmas Day?
  • Contribute don’t Consume - it seems like a church can quickly get the consumer mentality around Christmas.  What if your church flipped it around and thought only about spreading the gospel at Christmas rather than that concert or the hand bell choir recital?
  • Have Fun - make some goodies and package them up and deliver them to the neighbors, the fire department, etc.
  • Change a Life - instead of running around buying gifts for everyone in your family and extended family give a gift  to Compassion International or World Vision and change someone’s life.  Help people stuck in poverty have clean drinking water or a goat or chickens.  Most everyone in your life has what they NEED, buy for someone who has nothing. 
  • Make the World Mad - post a negative article or negative FB status update about Elf on the Shelf.  Just joking!  But really, people get rsuper defensive about this Elf on the Shelf thing.

Busyness adds stress.  Who wants to be stressed at Christmas time?  Not me. Everyone is busy in December, this is a great time to slow it down in youth ministry.  Let families enjoy time together. Our gift to the youth ministry volunteers is a night off the last Sunday in December.

So sit back, relax, enjoy the season of reflecting on the birth of our Savior.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

It's the End!

It’s the end . . . of the year.
December is a great time to get alone and do some evaluation of the youth ministry.

Some questions to answer as you evaluate:

  • What were your goals for this past year?
I took some time to re visit our goals for 2014.  I then took some time and gave a  grade to each goal.  It was a little bit reminiscent of my childhood report cards, a little good, a little average, a little bad.
  • In view of those grades what needs to happen in 2015 to improve?
Make a list and keep it somewhere to update it as more thoughts about improvement rise to the surface.
  • Where is the youth ministry bottlenecking with me?
 Are there areas that are getting jammed up because you need to let those areas go to someone else on your volunteer team?  We can’t do it all.  You know the old saying, “do what you do best and delegate the rest.”  List the areas you need to delegate and start thinking of volunteers to plug into those areas according to how God has shaped them.  Does your team flow chart have one box and in that box is your name?  Plan to remedy that in 2015.
  • Is the current structure of our weekly youth group gathering working?
 Are there some areas for improvement?  What can we cut out?  What seems to be missing?  How can we make it better?  What can someone else do better during the weekly gathering than you can do? 

  • Evaluate your youth ministry in worship, evangelism, fellowship, discipleship and serving.
How did you do in each area?  Was there an area you were striving to focus on and improve?  Are you out of balance somewhere with one or more of these?
  • How many students came to know Christ and how many are being discipled?
How can we be more affective in discipleship?  How can we better equip our students to reach their friends?

  • Which students had noticeable spiritual growth last year?
Make a list.  Plan on taking a minute with each one you can think of and let them know that you noticed their growth in their faith walk this past year and want to encourage them to continue to grow.  How can your team help with that growth?

I would suggest after doing some evaluating that you sit down with your volunteers and get their input and then work together on improving in 2015.

Let the evaluating begin!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Turkey Chase 2014

We had a blast last Sunday night with our digital scavenger hunt.  It was hi-tech, loads of fun, relationship building, team building, and just plain awesome.  Best part is this is an event you can do and it will cost your budget absolutely nothing, zero, zip, free!

Goose Chase is a free app and web based game.  You create an account, name your game, give it a password, set up the game with time limits etc., load in the "missions" and then have fun together,

Mission:  Piggyback ride from a stranger

 Each team has one person download the app to their smart phone.  Then you travel around fulfilling the missions.  When your team takes a pic it is uploaded to the game and you can see all the teams scores and pics in real time.  Super cool!

We had 6 teams and it went great.  A few things I learned to share with you:
  • Create way more missions than you think they can accomplish in the time frame.  I thought I did and it still wasn't enough.  
  • Pull together some creative minds to help you come up with "missions".  Goose Chase has some prefab missions to choose from as well.
  • Remind your drivers that they are not on the team and are simply there to move the teams around to accomplish their missions.  Let the students figure out which missions to do and in what order.  I'll just say this because I know some out there would allow students to drive, ONLY ADULT DRIVERS (unless you like lawsuits and angry parents)
  • Remind the teams that you are the judge and have the ultimate say on who wins.  Believe it or not some teams won't follow the mission directions, some on purpose.  Cheaters!
  • End the game at a location and pull everyone together and reward the winners.  We ended at McD's and bought the winning team their food.
We chose to do this event on the weekend after Thanksgiving knowing many students would be out of town and this would be a fun break from the usual youth group gathering.  The bonus is we had 3 guests and are hoping that they will return since they saw that church and youth group participation can be fun.

Mission:  Picture with a pirate

You will have some students who choose not to participate because they will think "it's not my thing" or "my friend isn't going" or "this isn't spiritual enough for me".  Hopefully over time they will learn that fellowship is important to a believer's spiritual health and they missed out on an awesome team building event.

We will follow up this Sunday night by showing all the pics during our Hang Time up on the big screen.  The ones who participated will enjoy seeing all their pics and hopefully the ones who didn't participate will get to see the fun they missed.

Mission: Dancing with a Pastor

Monday, November 3, 2014

Students Doing Ministry (part 2)

(Part 1)

Informal and Formal Ministry Training

In my previous post I wrote about equipping students to serve and getting them connected in a ministry.

There are two routes you can take Informal and Formal ministry training.  Whichever way you choose step 1 needs to be to identify ministries within the church where students can serve.  After equipping students they may even discover or start new ministries within the church.


  • Teach regularly about ministry, SHAPE.  At least on an annual basis.
  • Create one time ministry opportunities to give students a snap shot of serving the church.  
Have conversations with students specifically about serving.
  • Equip your youth ministry volunteers to have conversations that help lead students to discover their spiritual gift.

  • Point out to students when you notice their spiritual gift at work in their life as they serve.

  • Assist students in connecting on an existing ministry team within the church.


  • A process designed to train, equip and connect students in ministry.

  • A training class, one day retreat, training camp, weekly training for a set period of time.

  • A plan to teach students about spiritual gifts, passions, abilities, personality can be used in ministry then a process to connect them into ministry.
  • A ministry mentor who comes along side of the student to help them discover a ministry to serve in.
  • Regularly scheduled meetings for students who serve to debrief and evaluate their ministry.
I don’t lean to one plan over the other.  I just think it’s important that we help students discover their ministry and equip them to serve then plug them into a ministry in the church or even create a new one.

In the past we have been more informal with teaching SHAPE on a regular basis and connecting students with ministry teams within our church.  In January we will start a more formal approach and also heading into the direction of student-led ministry.  Teenager can do more than we think.  In fact our children's ministry would be understaffed if it were not for our teens serving. 
Teenagers need to be given responsibility in ministry so that when they graduate from high school they will continue  on in their adult year to be connected and serving in a local church.

I would suggest the following resources:
The Equipping Church - Mallory; Zondervan
Ministry by Teenagers - McKee & Smith; Zondervan

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Students Doing Ministry

Part 1
How many of your youth group’s students are active in serving in ministry?

Three common ministry misunderstandings I see in churches:

  •  Ministry is to be done by the paid staff.  They are the professional ministers.
  •  Ministry and Mission are defined as the same thing.
  •  Ministry is for the adults in the church.  Children and youth don’t serve.

Ministry is to be done by every believer in every church
.  Serving each other isn’t just for the paid professionals.
Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.  Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.  Ephesians 4:11,12

Ministry is reaching inside of the church.  Taking care of the needs of those within the body of Christ.  Missions is reaching outside of the church, taking the gospel to those who don’t know Christ.  Churches need to be balanced in these two.

Ministry is for every believer in the body of Christ.
 God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.  1 Peter 4:10

According to the verse above every believer receives a gift to be used to serve the church.  This would mean that when I trusted Jesus as my Savior at age 7 I was given a gift by the Holy Spirit to be used as a 7 year old boy.

What opportunities exist in your church for EVERY believer to serve?

We tell our students they need to serve but often fail to help them discover how God has shaped them to serve.  If we want to see students serving we need to help students discover their spiritual gift.  There has to be a strategy and plan whether formal or informal in carrying out this equipping.

Last Sunday night our students, in their small groups, filled out a spiritual gift assessment and then discussed their gift among their group.  We then pulled everyone back together to find out who has what gift.  As students raised their hands indicating their gift I could see in some of them that yes, in fact that is their gift.  This assessment not only helped the students but helped us as leaders see students gifts so we could help point them in the right direction in ministry.

In our church we have students who serve on our First Impressions Team, Nursery Team, Kids’ Zone Team (some are the leaders of a children’s class), Hospitality Team and our Kiosk Team.  These students serve each Sunday morning in our church.  My eldest man-child is 10 and he will often serve during our second worship gathering in the preschool class.   I’m not sure how much help he is but he is getting a taste of serving and what that’s all about (plus a taste of their awesome snacks).

In my next post I will give a couple of ideas about having an informal or formal way of equipping students to serve.


The spiritual gift assessment we used is Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts published by LeaderTreks.

Monday, October 20, 2014

8 Youth Ministry Impact Killers

The Lone Ranger - No way that one person can minister to an entire youth group, even a “small” youth group.  Jesus discipled a group of 12, I’m not Jesus so I would say that number is a bit high for me.  In our youth ministry we like the ratio of 6 students per 1 adult leader.  Spread out the ministry and your team will reach more and have an impact on more lives. 

No Vision -  Youth group is just a social gathering.  There is no reason, or master plan, for gathering the students together each week.  It is most important to remind them often of the purpose of your youth ministry and why you are on the face of this planet.  Why does your church’s youth ministry exist?  Be specific.  How do you carry out that vision?

No Ministry - The adults faithfully minister to the students.  Students can also end up doing all the ministry rather than teaching the students how to minister and giving them the opportunity to serve.  We need to teach students about how God has shaped them to serve each other, the church.  Give students opportunities to serve.

The Cold - Not the common cold or even cold weather, which I despise with all that’s in me.  But the cold feeling when a student who has either never been to youth group or is returning after a long extended absence.   Cliques are normal, in my opinion, we naturally are attracted to people and groups who are like us.  The old “birds of a feather” mentality.  We need to help our students to understand what it means to make a first impression and also to extend a warm welcome to the new kid or the returning prodigal.

The Driver’s License - Let’s be honest, the reason most youth groups have an abundance of middle school students is because middle school students don’t have many options.  There are so many places they can ride to on their skate board or bicycle.  That day of freedom when the keys that open the magical world of driving are handed off is also often the day that youth group takes a back seat in the new driver’s life.  There are so many more options out there once they can drive.  We need to help students, in those years leading up to the driver’s license, see the impact they can have by driving friends with them to youth group, use their car, or momma’s SUV, as a mission tool.

The Job - In our area this is a biggie because students get summer jobs at age 14.  We know that jobs aren’t evil.  We also know that jobs are important to a student if they want some spending cash and for the rare child who dreams of saving up money.  We need to help students learn that:
A.  You are going to work your entire life.  So don’t rush into it.
B.  McDonalds will more than likely not be your career.
C.  You can tell the manager doing the interview that you are heavily involved in your church’s youth ministry and it is important for you to now work on church days or when your youth group meets.  Student’s need to promise, and follow through, with working hard as they can when they are on the clock and faithful to be there when scheduled.

This pattern of working and missing corporate worship is something that will stick with kids into their adult years. I know that we, and I’m speaking as a parent, don’t want our children to view corporate worship as not important in life when they become adults.

The boy/girlfriend - Can I get an “Amen”?  Not much to be said here.  We see it happen time and again.  Priorities shift.  We need to help students learn how to have healthy relationships both with friends and with God.  Passion for Jesus Christ is the flame that needs to be fanned.  If a student is passionate about Jesus they are less likely (not a guarantee) to be pulled away from fellowship by a boy/girlfriend.  We must help them learn that Jesus is to be the center of their universe because he will always be there but the boy/girlfriend won’t.

The disengaged Christian parent - This is the Christian parent who doesn’t realize, or ignores, the fact that they are responsible and will be held accountable for how they disciple their child.  Part of discipleship is training your son or daughter in the importance of corporate worship.  We need to help parents discover that the youth ministry team is here to come along side of them as they disciple their teen.  There is significant evidence that students who connect with 5 adults in their church will be more likely to continue on in their faith walk after high school.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

When it "clicks"

I love it when it "clicks".  There is no better feeling for a youth pastor than when the team of volunteers catch on and realize that they are the youth ministers.  It's fantastic!  The best!

Recently our middle school girl POD (small group) leaders got together and planned a non-sleepover pajama party for the middle school girls.  The leaders planned the whole thing.  All I had to do was give them a key to the building.  They showed a movie, made duct tape crafts, ate pizza, popcorn and other goodies.  The girls had a blast and enjoyed having an activity just for middle school girls, they even brought some guests. 

How does this happen?

Time.  It takes time for implementing vision of moving from "chaperones", leaders to ministers.  Time to share again and again, "Hey, you are the youth ministers."

Culture.  You have to build a culture that promotes and encourages the youth leaders to minister to the students.  We build into our weekly youth group gathering a time where the adult leaders can hang out with students and have conversations.

Openness.  Others have great ideas and can do awesome ministry.  It doesn't all have to come from you as the youth pastor.  Utilize the pool of brains and creativity you have on your team.

Trust.  Trust your team.   No one likes to be micro managed.  Trust your team and when someone has a good idea then turn them loose and let them get it done.  If it goes great then praise them and pat them on the back and thank them.  If it has some hiccups and glitches help them to learn from it so next time the event goes great.

Do you have any other suggestions to empower your youth ministry team to lead?