Thursday, January 19, 2017

Focusing in on One on One Discipleship

This year our volunteer team if going to focus on one on one discipleship.  We have taken our group of students and divided them up among our leaders, including myself.  The goal is to take advantage of the moments at Student Church to ask questions, encourage, pray with the students.

My brain thinks in pictures, I learn and process better with pictures and flow charts.  I have taken what we are going to do and created a graphic using MindNode.  MindNode allows me to map out what is going on in my noggin, which can be a scary place at times.

I hope this will get you to thinking about how your student ministry team can best invest and disciple students.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Setting Goals

New year and fresh start.  It’s the time of the year we make unrealistic resolutions that we don’t carry through and then feel defeated then we give up.  I stopped doing this a long time ago.



In student ministry this is a great time to think about where the ministry is heading over the next year and then set goals.



Are your ministry goals in line with your church’s vision and purpose?

I’m waiting to set my goals because we have an elders retreat coming up and I want to set goals that line up with the direction the church is heading in the new year.  Some student ministries have goals that don’t line up with the church’s direction.  Student ministry is a part of the church and not a separate entity so it should be in sync with the direction of the church.

Several years ago I learned about SMART goals.  I love this concept!

SMART Goals

Specific.  A goal that is well defined and clear to anyone that may read the goal.

Measurable
Make sure the steps of the goal are clear and the progress can be seen.

Agreed Upon
Do you serve with a team?  Are your volunteers in agreement with the goals for the student ministry?  If possible make them part of the process, if that’s not possible make sure they are well informed of the goals and their role in achieving the end results.

R
ealistic
Will you have the resources, knowledge and ability to achieve the goal?  Make sure the goal is realistic.  A goal that is not realistic will leave you feeling like you failed.

Time-Based
Allow yourself enough time to achieve the goal.  Make sure the goal has an end date.   A goal that is not time-based will not receive the attention it needs to be accomplished.

What are your goals for 2017?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Christmas Cram

I don’t know how Christmas season is around your neck of the woods but around here it can get really busy.  There is a danger in student ministry to add more to an already busy calendar.  Families are rushing here to there.  If you have children you know the feeling of the unending rush.  You have to get your kids from school to practice or to the game.  Somehow between working a job and rushing around with your kids you are supposed to fix a healthy meal for your family and all sit down together and enjoy supper together.  I find it almost an impossibility unless you become the master of the crock pot.



Think about Christmas for a moment.  During this time we should be focusing on and celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Sometimes we don’t know how to say “no” to celebrating.  You have your company party, your small group party, your ministry team party, your family get togethers.  Then you throw shopping in the mix.



As Student Ministers how are we helping the families of our students if we are loading more onto an already super busy December?  We aren’t.  We are adding more stress, more time for families to be apart and not together.  

“But Andy, the students are home for two weeks with nothing to do!”  They have plenty to do.  It might take them a solid two weeks to clean and disinfect their bedroom.  Honestly this generation is busier than any other generation.  Those two weeks may be great for just resting and reconnecting with their family.



Sometimes we forget that we should have a purpose to what we are doing and we just schedule activities and events just to have activities and events on the calendar.


So do you schedule another night out to go caroling?  Do you schedule your youth group Christmas party on another night of the week because you can’t party on a church night, you must teach the Word.  Do you schedule students to wrap Christmas presents for church members to raise money for the mission trip?   How do you strike the balance?  There is a lot of fun and cool stuff you could do as a student ministry during the month of December but how will it impact families?


Maybe do some informal get togethers.  Shoot out a text, “Hey, I’ll be at the coffee shop in an hour if anyone wants to join me.”  Then students and parents don’t feel obligated to participate.  They can do so at their leisure.

So, it may be too late for this year because you already printed off that awesome Christmas calendar, but perhaps during the Christmas season you don’t plan extra.  Maybe hold your party on your usual youth group night.  We go bowling every December but we do it on our regular youth group night.  Take them caroling on your regular youth group night.

Use this time to spend extra time with your own family.  As ministers our families often get our "leftovers".  During Christmas we can use our new uncluttered Christmas calendar time to do some fun things together as a family and celebrate Jesus' birth.

Do you ever feel like you may be over scheduling events and activities? 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Easy Thankgiving Outreach

Several years ago we did an outreach event and we named it “Operation Turkey in a Box”.  This event is a very easy event to plan and carry out with your youth group or small group.  We did this event for a few years but until this year we have taken a break from this outreach event.

How do we do it?  Here ya go!

Schedule
Plan on a date to carry out the event.  We have done this the Sunday night before Thanksgiving.  Sunday nights is our normal time for our Student Church so instead of staying in the 4 walls of the youth room that night we head out into the community.
Promote this date with both the parents and students.

Contacts

I started this information gathering about 2 months before the event.
Ask your church members to share with you any families they know of that could benefit from having the complete list of groceries needed to provide a  Thanksgiving meal.  With the size of our group we gathered the contact info of ten families.

Groceries
We supply each family with:
Turkey (at least a 10 pound bird)
Stuffing Mix
2 cans of corn
2 cans of green beans
1 can of cranberry sauce
Package of dinner rolls
5 pounds of potatoes 

You could divide up the list and have students bring in the supplies or, like us, use a sign up sheet.  We use Sign Up Genius.  This is a web based and is free.  We then share the sign up with our church and people sign up for the groceries and bring them with them on Sunday morning to the church.   Sign Up Genius is great because it will send them a reminder email two days before the event.
We have found that our church is excited to help with the groceries and our sign up sheet fills up within a matter of days.

Packing

We use this event as a leadership lab.  We invite students who want to help pack the boxes and prep for the event to arrive early, about and hour, and organize the packing of the boxes.  We do two boxes (paper boxes provided by folks in our church) per family.  One contains the turkey and the other contains all the other ingredients.  We let the students do this without us giving them any direction, this allows them to work together as a team.

Delivery

We divide up our students with our adult volunteers into teams and divide up the delivery list.  We have enough volunteers on our team for them to drive a handful of students to make deliveries.  Students take the boxes to the door of the house and deliver the boxes letting the family know that we hope they have a great Thanksgiving and the students ask the family member if they have a specific prayer need.  One of the students then says a prayer with the family. 

Card

We created a Thanksgiving card and printed it on yardstick.  The students then sign the card.  The card has a verse about being thankful and also some minimal contact information for our church.  We put this card in the box with the canned goods or hand it to the family member when they open the door.

Fun
Then the teams all converge at McDonald’s after the deliveries and we eat together and have some time of fellowship and fun.  I use this time to individually ask students about their experience on this event.

If you have any questions about planning this event please contact me.



Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Bottleneck of Student Ministry

I have been blessed to be part of a church with a heart to serve.  Our church culture is geared towards ministry.  Over eighty percent of our church members serve on a ministry team.  This didn’t happen overnight but has become part of who we are and all new members know that to serve is an expectation of our members.



Recently I took some vacation time.  I mostly hung out around home but did take a few day road trip with my family during the holiday weekend.  

A few awesome events happened while I was on vacation:

Sunday night Student Church continued.  Serving with me in Student Ministry is an awesome team of volunteers who have committed to be there every Sunday night investing into the lives of our middle and high school students.  When I take vacation our Student Church keeps truckin.  When I’m sick (only twice in 15 years thank God) Student Church keeps truckin.  Last year when I had my sabbatical Student Church did not miss a beat.



On a Saturday night during my vacation our ladies who work with our middle school girls pulled the girls together for a fun night of watching Disney Princess movies and eating pizza and junk food.  A time to hang out, have fun and build relationships.  This was totally planned and carried out by our volunteers.  I had zero to do with it other than putting it on the church calendar when they asked me to. 

The next Saturday night two of our volunteers took some high school boys on a road trip to watch a hockey game.  These guys all hung out together in a van, around the dinner table and in the stands all evening.  Building relationships is key to ministry.  You can serve and when you minister to someone it means a lot to them but when you serve someone whom you have built a relationship with it takes ministry to a whole new level.  This was totally planned and carried out by a couple of volunteers,  I had zero to do with it other than put it on the calendar.  If fact it started out to be a camping trip but due to a holiday weekend and camp sites were full the two leaders improvised and adapted.


The point is this:  Sometimes we, the paid staff youth minister, are the bottleneck that keeps ministry from happening within our student ministries. 

We need to:

1.  Build a team of volunteers.  Invest in them. Train them.  Trust them.

2.  Give our volunteers the lattitude to plan events with the students.
3.  Turn them loose to be ministers and move away from the “chaperone” mentality.
4.  Let go of our ego.  We should be focusing on equipping the saints for ministry.
5.  Pat them on the back and encourage them when they plan and pull off a ministry event without your help or involvement.
6.  Don’t cancel your youth gathering because you are on vacation or sick.  Let your leaders handle it.
7.  Understand that this can free us up to do what we do best and are passionate about.



Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Security and Safety


It surprises me that in this day and age and understanding of how messed up our nation really is that there exist churches with absolutely zero security measures to protect the children and youth of their congregation.  Some churches wait until a tragedy occurs or an accident before taking necessary steps.  What security measures does your church have in place?



This article breaks my heart.  A little girl gets bored and roams from her classroom into the church lobby where she is abducted.  I’ve heard, especially from smaller, rural, churches, “we know everyone and so we don’t need security measures”.  This girl was abducted by her uncle!  No matter the size of your church if you have children in your congregation you should do all within your power to keep them safe.



When I came to Nags Head Church 15 years ago there were no security measures in place.
We took some small steps and our system has grown over the years.



Without sharing too many details here are our security measures for Sunday morning worship at our church:

1.  We have a policy that states that minors are not allowed to roam the building without an adult.
2.  We have a secure check in system. 
3.  Children get a name tag label with a security code on it, parents get a label with matching security code.
4.  Only children’s ministry volunteers and parent/guardians allowed into our children’s halls.
5.  All children’s volunteers are given a background check.
6.  Only those with background checks are allowed into the nurseries or classrooms.
7.  All hall doors and classroom/nursery doors are locked at the beginning of the service.
8.  Only security can open those doors during the service.  Our teachers don’t even open the door if someone knocks.
9.  Parents turn in the security label and pager when picking their child up at the end of the worship service.

10.  We have a security team member in both of our worship services and also out in the lobby.
11.  Nursery toys are age appropriate (I was on vacation and attended a small church with a nursery that was staffed by a volunteer and a little girl, my 1 year old son was hit in the head with a metal miniature John Deere tractor)
12.  We only accept new toys for the nurseries and kids areas.  If older toys are given that are worn out or not age appropriate we file those away in the dumpster.

Youth Group security measures:  (we meet on Sunday night and are the only ones in the building)
1.  Adults supervise the arrival of students.
2.  Exterior doors are locked down after we begin.
3.  No students are in any part of the buildings interior or outside without adult supervision.(except restrooms)
4.  All adults who volunteer with students have been background checked.
5.  Adults supervise students getting picked up by parents after youth group.

If you have questions about implementing security measures in your church please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.