Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Letters from the Mailbox

On a table in The Loft there sits a standard plastic black mailbox similar to the one at the end of your driveway.

Outside of the mailbox are scraps of paper.  Students can write their questions, verses or topics that they would like for us to study at our weekly youth group gathering on Sunday nights.

We will be doing this for the months of May and June.  This gives students the opportunity to have direct input into what our messages cover.  It also helps us to speak to the needs they feel they have in their lives.  If one student is thinking it then chances are other students have the same questions, struggles or interest in the same verses from the Bible.  Students can also choose to remain anonymous or write their name on their "letter".

We will also create some PODz discussions (small groups) so following the messages the students can get into their small group and discuss and dig deeper with their small group leader.

Will we use every "letter" in our series during these months?  Probably not.  But we can file the unused "letters"  away for use at a later time. 

The last time we did this was around 3 years ago.  I look forward to building the messages from the "letters".  Later I will post the message themes/topics so you can see what our students were interested in.  Should be a fun adventure over the next couple of months.

Best part - we don't have to pay those crazy prices for stamps.  Even better than that we will get a glimpse into the minds of our students.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Challenge

Some of our older students expressed some discontent about our youth group gatherings.  We had some good healthy debate together.  Many of their suggestions we had done in the past, changes that made no change in growth both spiritually or numerically. 

What it boiled down to was the desire to go deeper in studying the scripture.  Obviously when you are teaching 6th through 12 grades and students who have known Christ for a month to students who have been Christ followers for years you can't teach at the top of the maturity scale or at the bottom.  You have to aim somewhere in the middle and give them all one thing they can take home and apply in their lives.

I get nervous when I hear believers say they want to go deeper because that often means gaining more knowledge without any application in their own lives. 

One student was talking about topics we repeat "all the time".  As you know in youth ministry their are certain topics we will hit on an annual basis.  One topic the student pointed out was, "you talk about reaching out a lot."  My reply, "Yes I do.  And when you guys catch on to this and start applying it we can move on."  (same goes with honoring parents, relationships, purity, etc.)

I also understand that if I were an 11th grader and had been in the youth group since 6th grade I would probably crave something different.

So last week on our high school only Facebook group I challenged the ones that want to go deeper to read Judges 3 - 7 during the week and journal each day using the SOAP method.  (Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer)  5 students took up the challenge.  During our Hang Time last night we gathered out on the balcony and spent about 20 minutes talking about what we learned in each chapter and applied to our own lives.

I'm praying they keep it going.  I challenged them to read the next 5 chapters this week.  We will gather again and discuss as we did this week.

I didn't have to order curriculum.  I didn't have to spend hours preparing a 2nd Bible study.  I didn't have to create a time slot on another day of the week for a meeting.  Students didn't have to purchase a study guide, they used a notebook and a Bible.   I simply used my quiet time study and talked with them about what I was learning as well.  We were all on the same playing field.  Hopefully this will help them to go deeper in their own study of God's Word.

Truth be told we as youth leaders are often spoon feeding the students when they should be diving into God's Word on their own and feeding themselves.  This is part of producing disciples not just converts.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Why are we here?

Last night we walked through why we are here as a youth group.  We have several new students and it's been a year since we had a message devoted to simply spelling out our purpose and strategy.

What is our purpose?

“Reaching students to discover life in Christ”
Matthew 22:36-40
Matthew 28:18-20

What is our strategy?  No purpose or vision is successful without a plan of action.
Challenging and equipping our students to share their faith with their friends.
1 Corinthians 9:16-17

After a student puts his or her faith in Jesus Christ their lives change as God reconstructs them into who he wants them to be.
2 Corinthians 5:17
Colossians 3:10

The Reach and Reconstruct is Repeated as students are seeing their friends come to know God through Jesus Christ.

Momentum.  We spent some time talking about how momentum builds and how the students can be part of the momentum but also how they can bust the momentum.  Their simple act of being there at youth group helps momentum.  Church is vital to our health and our youth group isn't separate from the church, our youth group is the church.
Hebrews 10:25

After the message* our students broke up into their small groups to discuss the message and to study and discuss 2 Corinthians 5:11-21.

*we had students lined up in advance to read the scriptures for the group as we went through the message.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Taking Notes?

In my mind I have a dream of students gathered before me learning and writing down every word that proceeds from my lips.  It's a dream!  Can't I have a dream?  It's not reality.   Not even gonna happen.  But we do have some students who learn visually so we put things up on the big screens for them.  We also have students who learn just fine by listening.  We have students who learn as they talk it out so we provide discussion in our PODz.

We used to do fill in the blank notes for every kid back in the day.  Many used them for passing notes to each other.  The studious students used them.  BUT it created more work.  So I wanted to get back into giving the students who want the opportunity to take notes a tool to use without having to create a fill in the blank sheet each week.  Plus I think these youth are smart enough to write down what they feel is important or speaking to them.

I also added an "on my own this week" section.  Each week my goal will be to have a section of scripture or a "homework" assignment for students who would like to go a little deeper into their study of God's word. 
  We also have the students who learn when they write.  So for those students a note sheet is a nice tool.

On the bottom is the "My Next Step" section.  Each week when we teach we should expect there is a next step for every person in the room to take students and adults.  I'm leaving them a little place to write down that next step to help them confirm what is taking place in their heart and life.

My hope is this tool will get some good use.

Do you do anything like this with your students?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Lead Like Joshua

I have been reading through the book of Joshua in the mornings.  Lots of good leadership examples in the life of Joshua.
This is from my journal today:
Joshua 24

Joshua gathers the tribes and their leaders and reminds them of what God has done for them. From bringing Abraham out from worshipping other gods to delivering them from Egypt. Joshua reminded them of how God:
>established them as his children
>cared for them
>protected them
>provided for them

God has established me as his child.  God has cared for me, protected me and provided for me.

In this chapter is my favorite line from Joshua.
Verse 15 "...Choose today who you will serve"

The choice is before Israel to choose to serve the gods from their ancestor, Abraham's, land. The choice to serve the gods of Egypt. The choice to serve the gods of the displaced Canaanites in the promised land. The choice to serve the one and only, true and living, God.
They chose to serve God.

I have a choice to make as well.  Who will I serve? 

My other favorite line from Joshua is also in this chapter.
"But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord."
Joshua was not only a leader of a nation but he was a leader in his home and family. His family didn't get the option to choose. Joshua pretty much said, "this is how it's going to be in my family."

Leaders in the church must first be leaders in the home.

What is your choice? Who will you serve?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Sheepdog or Shepherd

Great post from LeaderTreks.   Good reminder of what we should be and do as shepherds of students.
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