Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The "No-Show" Generation

From the rise of the electric guitar and Instagram to the death of the youth choir and Chubby Bunny, I have seen a lot of changes in youth ministry these past twenty-four years. Long gone are the hours I used to spend cutting out clip art and using glue to paste exciting event flyers together! I don’t tend to worry too much about these changes, but as I look at youth ministry today, I do find that one change has me completely rattled.

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Monday, October 17, 2016

The "Rescuer"

Student ministry is all about investments.  We are making "payments" into students lives.  We would love to see return on our investment immediately but sometimes in student ministry that investment doesn't have a return until years down the road.

In our setting, our student ministry team members are not chaperones.  We don't sit along the back wall during Student Church, we sit in and among students so they can see us model worship.  During our Hang Time on Sunday evenings the adults don't all gather in one part of the room and have coffee.  During Hang Time we hang out with our students.  Last night I was eating spaghetti and meatballs (yes, we eat well on Sundays) at a table with high school guys.  As I looked around our space I saw a leader sitting with a couple of guys watching the football game on the big screen, some sitting on the sofas having conversations, some serving food and talking with the students in line, some playing foosball and ping pong.  It's all about investment.

Going to sporting events, band concerts, dance recitals all of that is investment.  When a student looks out into the crowd and sees their youth leader sitting there they remember that investment.  It's huge.  It's all about investment.

Each week in our Connect Groups there are two adult leaders in each group.  These leaders discuss God's word and applying the word with the same group of students each week.  They spend time praying with these students in the group and then continue to pray for them throughout the week.  It's all about the investment.

Last night one of our senior guys pointed to one of the men on our team and said, "______ came to my rescue this weekend."  I was a bit puzzled because we, as a youth group, didn't meet on Friday or Saturday for any sort of event.  So I asked this young man, "What do you mean he came to your rescue?"  Saturday night was homecoming dance.  This young man's dad was at work and wasn't at home to help him tie his necktie.  He called this team member and asked him if he could help him tie his necktie.  This leader got up from whatever he was doing that Saturday afternoon and drove to this young man's house and tied his necktie for him.  That was an investment!  This is the glue that will help this young man stay connected to his faith and church next year when he launches out into the real world next year, the investments his youth leaders have made into his life.

Is your team making investments?  Are your team members more than chaperones?  Are they looking for opportunities throughout the week to invest in the lives of the students they minister to? 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

I'm a Parent, So I Parent

Parenting is hard.  Parenting is rewarding.  Parenting is stressful.  Parenting is joyful.

Each Sunday morning I wake up my 7th grade son and he gets dressed and goes to church.  No questions asked.  No choice, no option.  He doesn’t even ask to stay home.  He knows that as a family of Christ followers we get up and go to worship with our church family as we are told to do in Hebrews 10:25, it’s not an option.  Going to church is not something we can do on Sunday along with a list of other things we can do on Sunday.  It is a priority.  Why?   I’m the parent and I call the shots.  That’s parenting.

On Sunday afternoons at about 4pm I find my 7th grade son and tell him to jump in the jeep because we are going to Student Church, our weekly youth group gathering.  I don’t ask him if he wants to go, I don’t wait for him to ask to go.  I initiate the movement without any options.  Has he ever asked to stay home?  Only a couple of times.  My response was a light chuckle followed by, “Get in the Jeep.”  Why?   I’m the parent and I call the shots.  That’s parenting.

On Thursday mornings my 7th grade son’s school has a Fellowship of Christian Athletes huddle that meets at 7:30am.  The first week I woke up my son earlier than usual.  Had him get ready for school and off we went to FCA.  I never asked him if he wanted to go.  I never game him the option.  Why?  I’m the parent and I call the shots.  That’s parenting.

I have been in student ministry long enough, closing in on 25 years, and I have seen all sorts of parenting styles and approaches when it comes to parents getting their teens to church or not.  I can safely say the parents who are doing it right are the ones who have decided that in their house they were going to serve the Lord, they were going to make faith in God a foundation in their home, they realize that when the Bible says, “Train up a child in the way they should go” that there is some actual training involved.  When you train something you teach it what to do.

Does this mean their families are perfect?  No.  Does this mean their teen will stick with their faith after high school when they go off to college? No, but it does improve the odds.  Does this mean they are setting the example to their teen that church involvement is one of the expectations put on us as Christ followers?  Yes.

Do you ask “Johnny” if he wants to get up on Monday morning and go to school?  No.  You make him get up and go.  Why?  You are the parent and you call the shots.  That’s parenting.

Why would you approach the things that have eternal value as a lesser priority?

Oh and if you are not at church cause you are making memories . . . . 
The best memories I have in my life are the memories of faithful parents who fully expressed their love for their Lord and Savior. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Changes in Student Ministry

I've noticed some changes in student ministry from how it was just 8 to 10 years ago.  It has bothered me but I know that student ministry today is much different from 25 years ago.  It's natural to transition and change.  Our world, culture, churches are changing.  We won't change our stand on God's Word but perhaps some methods need to change.

I would love to hear from others in student ministry about changes they have noticed over the past several years in student ministry/youth group.

Anyone wanna share?

Comment below. 

Thanks in advance!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Investing Extra in Summer

If you are like me you enjoy the ministry opportunities that take you out of the office.  As youth workers it’s in our DNA to want to spend time with students to build those relationships and watch students grow in their faith.  It is what our breed is all about.

Two summers ago I started a gathering on Wednesday mornings at a local coffee shop, we call it Summer Perks.  It is for high school students, those going into 9th grade through graduates.   Its great because it requires no real planning, no curriculum, just takes some publicity and encouragement.  We have had as many as twelve attend and as few as one.  It varies from week to week according to students’ work schedules and family vacations, etc.  

We get together from 9 to 10 and order our breakfast or coffee/smoothies.  The coffee shop we use has a separate room they let us use with a big barn door that rolls shut to give us some quiet so we can talk.

Basically we take time for students to share something they are learning in their daily quiet time or something God is teaching them in life.  Occasionally this will spur some questions or input from others.  After we take about a half hour or so doing in discussion and sharing we share prayer requests and spend some time praying together.  I always love to hear a student pray.

My tips:
1.  Pick a day and stick with it.
2.  It's not about numbers it's about relationships so don't get bummed if it's only one student.
3.  Let them do the talking.  Share one thing from your own quiet time as an example but let them do the bulk of the sharing.
4.  Only high schoolers.  Figure out something different to do with middle school kids.  High school students can drive and need some time away from the middle school students if your group is a mixed group like ours is.
5.  Promote it on social media and at your weekly youth group meeting.
6.  Share with parents in your monthly email to them and let them know what Summer Perks is about.

This week was our final Summer Perk get together.  It was a beautiful sunny day and the temp outside was perfect.  We were able to snag the nice outdoor deck seating area to meet for our final get together of summer.  I heard students share about the importance of prayer, forgiveness, urgency to share their faith, discovering how daily Bible reading makes their life better, all very encouraging to hear from high school students.  It was a moment where I sat and thought to myself “this is what student ministry is about”.  Another Summer Perks done and I’m already looking forward to next summer!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

What I did on my Summer Break by Andy Lawrenson

Besides a football camp, two weeks of summer camp, a week of Night Camp . . . 

Our family went on our first family mission trip!  No students, just me, my wife and my kids out traveling the globe.  It was a great trip, not without typical family frustrations and sybling issues, but overall a great experience.

My 7 year old son and a huge spider

For the past two years I have taken a group of students and adults to the island of Eleuthera to serve at Camp Bahamas and to do outreach in the park to the children of Tarpum Bay.  Both trips were great successes and we had a wonderful experience and were able to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Coming home, as you know if you have been on a trip, you are excited and full of stories.  Sometimes you share stories but you know the persons you are sharing with isn’t getting the full picture, this is how I felt with my family.  

I decided we would go on a family mission trip and my wife graciously agreed with me,
Our twins helping with laundry
so I chose Eleuthera and Camp Bahamas.  What a great time we had serving together.  We served meals in the kitchen and did dishes.  Misha did load after load of summer camp laundry since camp had just finished the week before.  The camp provides linens for over a 100 campers each week and has one clothes washer and clothes lines to dry the linens.  She also sorted through clothes that were left behind discarding the worn out clothes and washing the clothes that were in good condition to be donated to those in need.  On top of that she wrangled our seven year old twins.

My 12 year old helping me build frames
I scrubbed the deck outside the dining hall.  I also built frames for the banners that hang in the gym with each year’s camp theme.  My eldest man-child joined me and helped me rip 2x4’s using the table saw and then cut and drill and screw the frames together.  It was cool to have him helping me.  

My seven year old daughter jumped in with the student team from Thomas Road Baptist Church, they were at the camp serving the first part of our trip, and helped them organize the storage closets in the gymnasium.  She loved getting to help the big kids and I peeked in and she was actually helping and working.  I even got to do my favorite thing to do and cook a little bit.

We were able to join TRBC’s students for the park outreach. It was great for my kids to get to experience the children who live in a totally different culture and environment than my kids live in.

The purpose for the trip was three-fold:
Get away together as a family and experience a different culture
Expose my children to foreign missions
Serve Camp Bahamas and teach my kids more about serving with a hands on approach

Suggestions for planning a family mission trip:

1.  Pick a place you have been before or are familiar with or have connections there
2.  Pick a place you have a passion for
3.  Have conversations in advance with your children to prepare them for what they will see and experience.  Talk about what serving is all about
4.  Plan to have fun while you are there.  Take time out to do something fun together.

Enjoying our "off" day
If you have any questions about taking a family mission trip or have been on one I would love to hear about it.  If you want to know more about Camp Bahamas Missions you can go HERE.

Our daughter and some TRBC students at the Tarpum Bay park

My son out shooting hoops at the park