Saturday, May 26, 2012

"What's Up?"


It’s sad to see a student who was once excited about their faith drift away and soon fizzle.  In youth ministry we see this all the time.  For youth ministers it can be very frustrating.  Sort of like a coach who can see the incredible potential in  a player but the player is not interested or committed to the team.
Some students don’t have Christian parents so at home there exists no support or encouragement for them to grow in their faith.  Their parents view church/youth group as a good thing but not necessary in their teen’s life.  The “head scratcher” is the parent(s) who wants their teen involved in youth group but the parent isn’t involved in church.  I’m glad they send their teen but maybe I should become bold enough to ask and find out the rationale behind their thinking so I can better understand where they are coming from.
What is even more mind boggling for those of us who serve in youth ministry is the church parents and the Christian parents who don’t encourage their son or daughter to grow in their faith.  The ones who cruise along in some sort of auto pilot while their teen’s life and faith walk is looks too much like a roller coaster.
Recently I have watched a few students who at one point had a passion for their relationship with Jesus Christ.  They would come every week to youth group and also to church on Sunday morning.  They were interested in discussing spiritual things and the Bible.  You could see that they genuinely enjoyed pursuing Christ.  If I were their parents I would have been their biggest cheerleader on the sideline of their life yelling, “Go!  You can do it!  Keep going!”  I would have been thrilled and would have done everything within my power and with the help of the Holy Spirit to keep them plugged into a community of believers.
To dwell on it, quite frankly, causes a couple of reactions within me:

My flesh wants to give the parents a “smack down”

Depressed because there is no parental involvement or encouragement (I’m guessing school teachers go through the same feelings at times) 

So what do we do as youth ministers when we see this happening?

  • Encourage  
  • the student as much as we can
  • Pray 
  • for the student and the student’s parents
  • (this may be where getting older comes into play) Be bold enough to ask the church/Christian parents, “What’s up? and Don’t give me excuses or “smoke screens”.  (of course season this with caring and grace)
  • Realize 
  • that we can only do so much as youth ministers.  Students have to own their faith and take responsibility and parents are accountable to God. (that takes some of the pressure off doesn’t it?)
  • Pray
  • some more
Parents, what can you do? 
  • Cheer.  
  •  Be your son or daughter’s biggest cheerleader.
  • Talk.  
  • Strike up conversations about God and the Bible.  When your son or daughter is passionate about their faith they will want to discuss it with you and not look at you like you are some sort of freaky creature from some old episode of the original Star Trek.
  • Commit.  
  • Commit to keeping your family plugged into a local body of believers.  Commit to bringing your teen to their youth group.  Commit to put eternal matters above earthly stuff.  An indicator that life is upside down in your home is when your teen never misses a practice or game but rarely makes it to church or youth group. Commit to living out Deuteronomy 6.
  • Grow.  
  • Make sure you are setting the example with a growing faith.
  • Pray.  
  • Pray with and for your son or daughter.
  • Tell.  
  • Tell your teen how proud you are of their passion to grow in their faith.



Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Someone has to do it

Well my youth ministry friends I have to say this, "Someone has to do it."  This is my home:
Best Family Beach Vacation

Facebook Church?


If at one point youth held the more vibrant spirits of faith within the church, that may no longer be the case. As youth attendance at church drops, some blame new inventions like Facebook, which have dampened young people's sense of community.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Reasons


Reasons for your son or daughter to go to church summer camp:
  1. Removal.  All the outside influences and distractions of life are removed.  No game boys, no texting, no media.  
  2. Saturation.  Everything in their schedule that was removed is now replaced with God, Bible study, prayer, worship.  
  3. Growth.  Because of the “removal” and “saturation” your son or daughter’s opportunity to grow spiritually is greatly increased.
  4. Decisions.  Life changing and life affecting decisions are made at camp because of the Removal, Saturation and Growth.
  5. Unity.  Just as we adults need that connection and encouragement that being a part of a local body of believers brings us the same applies to students.  Youth groups grow, youth groups gain momentum, youth groups become unified in purpose as a result of spending a week living out life and their faith together.  Friendships and relationships with other teen believers is VITAL to a teen's spiritual life in middle and high school.
  6. Fun.  I’ve been going to camp now with students for 20 years.  It’s getting harder on the old man to keep up the pace at camp.  BUT I can, with confidence, say that camp is fun.  The students have a blast together!
So why wouldn’t you send your teen to camp this summer?

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Title Has Meaning


One of the perks of being in youth ministry is what we do is lots of fun (most of the time).  Concerts, trips, movies, games, food, camps, all of this is fun stuff.  
I have noticed over the years that there are times you announce we are going to ______________.  (you fill in the blank with some great event)  Then all of the sudden you have adults volunteering to go because “It’s fun!”.  Example, if I planned a trip to work on my friend’s camp in the Bahamas I would get immediate response from adults who want to “chaperone”.
No chaperones allowed, at Contagious Youth we don’t have chaperones.  You know that teacher at the eighth grade dance that were the incredibly tacky tie and the wrinkled shirt that lurks on the outskirts of the dance crowd?  Yea, we don’t have those on trips.  We have the “cool” teachers that the students love, you know the ones who get out in the middle of the dance floor and do their best “roger rabbit”.
There is a big difference between a chaperone and a minister.  When we go to camp this summer we build our team with youth ministers and not with chaperones.  Chaperones stand by and observe.  Youth ministers roll their sleeves up and dive into the middle of it.  We want adults who are not only willing but also equipped to minister to the students while at camp.
Some people make great chaperones but not all chaperones are ready to be a youth ministers.  There are times and situations where an extra set of eyes are nice to have along on a trip but I think it would be better to have those eyes attached to a person who knows how to communicate and relate with students.
While our youth ministry team or camp team is composed of believers with many different talents and gifts that they can use on the team their main role is to minister to students.  If I’m going to have a person drive a van full of students it makes sense to me the person can minister to the kid sitting behind her who is struggling with parents going through divorce than just a church member who has a good driving record.

For More Chaperone Thoughts click HERE

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Safety


Safety is a huge issue and as a parent I understand the need to feel that my children are safe. I also understand that we can make youth group safe to a certain degree. Just like schools, you can't control every student at every moment. We can't control everything that they say or do. We, as a ministry, can only provide a safe environment. Youth group is open to every student no matter what background they come from or the baggage they may bring. Why? This is what Jesus expects and the model he gave us by his very own example.


Here is what we do as a youth ministry at Nags Head Church:
Background checks on the adult volunteers. Surprisingly I have run into parents who wanted us to do background checks on the kids who come to youth group. That is first of all impossible and not legal. If we carried that logic to it's end we would background check everyone in church on Sunday, we would check everyone our child goes to school with, we would run checks at the door of Wal Mart. We do background checks on every adult that serves with our students. This protects the students, the church and the volunteer. 

Confined space. We have a clearly defined space where our students are under supervision. Students aren't allowed to roam throughout the church building. We aren't clueless though and we do understand that even in a confined space a student can still say or do something in a moment that is out of our control.
Ratio of adults to students ratio of about 1 to 5. The more adult volunteers ministering to students, sitting with them, talking with them, hanging out with them, the better. Lone Ranger youth ministry is setting one's self up for problems. Does this mean we catch everything that happens? No, that would be an impossibility.
Correction and Guidance. If we see or hear a student do or say something wrong we step in and make a correction and give the students some guidance on how they should behave. The key is we, the adults, have to see it or hear it. 
Seasoned veterans. Our team has several seasoned veterans. It's great to work with others who have experience in ministering to students and dealing with teenagers. Experience is great but experience isn't "insurance".
Bully Policy. If a student is a bully or physically acts out they are put on suspension from youth group, each is case specific. We have only had to do this twice in 11 years. We try to work with the students but if they are a danger to another student physically or emotionally we have to look out for the group as a whole. We can't sacrifice the group for one.
Spiritual Safety. We make sure we only teach what lines up with our church doctrine and theology. Many parents attend NHC or bring their teens to youth group because they align themselves with what we believe as a church. For us to teach anything different from the church's theology or doctrine would be damaging. 
Love and encouragement. This is the "biggie". Students need to feel loved and we, the team, need to show as much encouragement as possible. Encouraging others doesn't come naturally to me, I have to make a conscious effort to be an encourager. Students walk through our doors each week who receive no love or encouragement at home during the week. We need to be that "safe" place where they are shown the love of Jesus Christ and encouraged in their life and faith.
Clear Expectations. We have expectations of students when they are with us at youth group or on a youth event. We don't have a huge list of rules and we don't run around like a drill instructor. Youth group has to be fun or students won't want to return and they certainly won't bring their friends if they feel like they are constantly under "the thumb".  Our expectations are simple and short. Where we may fail in this area is we probably don't review them enough with the students.  It's not something we want to "preach" each week but certainly want to touch on them occasionally.  Example: One expectation is no cell phone use unless calling a parent for a ride. If we see a cell phone out we ask the student to put the phone away.  If there is a continual problem we collect the phone and give it to them when they leave.  Our regulars know this. There are some expectations we point out along the way.  We don't expect a first time guest to "fall in line" with all of our expectations.  We also don't expect unbelievers to behave like believers.  We do expect believers to behave like believers.
Perfection.  We haven’t reached perfection in the safety area, not really sure that any youth group (or school) has either.  We do the best to our ability to keep students safe.  If a parent is looking for a perfectly safe environment for their child they won’t find one, even at home.  Sitting students in chairs in rows without allowing them to interact or have fun isn’t safe, it’s sterile.  Sterile doesn’t promote growth, sterile doesn’t have teachable moments.
What does your youth ministry do to be “safe”?

New Site is up and Running

My new web site which now hosts my blog posts is up and fully functional. You can check it out at andylawrenson.com . There is also a mon...