Thursday, October 22, 2015

Student 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.  Adults 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.  Teach them not just about corporate worship but also, by example, show them what following Christ daily looks like.  Parents, does your teen see you with the Bible open on your lap having your daily quiet time?

This isn’t the ultimate list and I’m sure my student ministry friends can think of some more.  You can have the most awesome student worship band, the best teaching, the craziest games, the coolest events and trips and still lose the battle to one of the impact killers listed above.  So what do you do?  Focus on the faithful, focus on the students who desire a lasting, growing relationship with God.  Don’t neglect the ones who stray, reach out to them but don’t let them steal the time away you could be investing into a students(s) who wants to grow.  

The one thing I didn’t list above but has much to do with our responsibility is to plan and prep.  Make sure you are planning and preparing for each student worship gathering, don’t wing it, don’t wait until the afternoon of the gathering, don’t count on the Holy Spirit to bail you out every time for lack of preparation. 

Students will come and go.  There is no way you can 100% effectively close the back door.  Don't let students who fizzle and stray steal the joy you find in ministering to students.  Stay faithful, often you won't see the results of your efforts until the student is an adult.

Friday, October 9, 2015

"I have a great idea!"

If you have been in ministry longer than a week you have experienced the following scenario:
“Hi __________ (insert your name here), I have a great idea for the youth group (or insert your ministry here)!”  Often the idea comes from someone who has nothing to do with the student ministry of your church.  Sometimes the ideas truly are great and sometimes they are not.  Most of the time they mean well.

Regardless of who says this or if it is a great idea or not I have a few thoughts:
Opportunity to Equip 
This is an excellent opportunity to equip someone minister.  If it truly is a great idea have them submit a plan and turn them loose to lead it with your input on expectations.  Maybe the person’s small group or Sunday School class could get involved in leading the event.


Look at the Calendar

Sometimes it is a great idea but you know your community’s culture and calendar.  Would the idea actually work?  What’s happening the week before and the week after that might get in the way of people participating in the idea.

Ask the Idea Gal Some Question
How does this fit into our church’s vision and purpose?

What will this event accomplish in the lives of students and or our community?
What are your goals for this idea? 
If the idea requires money where will that money come from?

Will it Work with the Student Ministry Plan
What do you have going on this year in student ministry and how will this fit into your strategy and plan?  Sometimes great ideas are brought to you a few days or even a week or two before the event.  I often get approached from other ministries in our community inviting our youth to participate in an event and many times there is not enough time to promote it.  I received a call on a Monday inviting our youth group to an event on Wednesday.  The person even wanted me to take the time to call each student.  Poor planning = Poor Success.  I would encourage you to map our your entire year’s student ministry from messages/lessons to events and activities.

Learn to Say No
For most of us it is hard to say "No".  Too many times I agreed to do something because I didn't know how to say "No" and I ended up dreading the entire process or event.  Figure out your parameters for saying "Yes" and "No".  Is this something someone else can do?  Is it something that only you can do?  Is it part of your ministries vision and purpose?  Do you have the time to invest to make it a success?  Is it something that God wants you to do?

Be Honest with the Person:

Thanks for your input.  I don't think it is a great idea.
Here is why I don’t think it’s a great idea . . . .  Maybe you can tweak the idea and come back with a plan. 

I honestly don’t have time to plan out this great idea
We all have much on our plate and most student ministers are wearing multiple hats in their church and doing at least two different full time positions rolled into one.  So we can’t truly give student ministry 100%.   We already have messages and worship gatherings to plan as well as activities and events.  So we are busy in ministry and we have family life and a private life on top of that.

I don’t have the time to give what would take to make this a success.

Seize the opportunity to let this person take the lead in a ministry event.  Equip them to lead, that would probably be a better use of time because the more leaders the more you can accomplish.  Perhaps come up with an event form that helps give guidelines and deadlines.  (I’ll blog on this in the near future)

I won’t do well leading this because it just isn’t my passion.

BUT I can see you are passionate about this.  Can you take the lead on this one?  We all excel in areas we are passionate about.  I’m not passionate about car washes therefore I don’t do car washes.

Get ready because someone near you has an idea!

Monday, October 5, 2015

5 Things Every Adult Needs to Know About Teens

Teens need relationships with adults in their church. 

Students who had at least 5 adults investing into their lives are more likely to continue their faith walk after high school.  Too many churches hire a youth pastor and expect him or her to do all the work, all the investing, all the planning, all the teaching.  
No one person can be all of that to all the students in a church’s youth ministry.  Jesus was the son of God and he invested in twelve and then those twelve went on to invest in others.  More on this HERE.

Teens need to serve.
Teenagers who are Christ followers have spiritual gifts and those gifts are not to be kept to one’s self.  Give students opportunities to minister and serve in the church and in youth ministry.  We all know the satisfaction you feel when you take what God has given you and accomplish something, complete a task, or simply help someone.  Students have that same need.

Teens need examples.
Teenagers need to be able to look at the adults in your church and see examples of what a Christ follower looks like.  When they look do they see servants?  Do they see ministers?  Do they see missionaries?  OR do they see pew warmers?  Bench sitters?
 Do they see adults worshipping the Lord Jesus Christ in spirit and in truth?

Teens are the church.
Does the phrase, “these kids are the church of the future” drive anyone else nuts or is it just me?  If a teen has put their faith in Christ then that teen is part of the church, today, here and now.  So treat them as such.  What do you expect from the members of the church?  Put those same expectations on teenagers.  This helps them to learn how to be an active, responsible part of the church.  Let them lead!

Teens need to be “self-feeders”.

Equip students to learn how to feed themselves from God’s Word.  They won’t always be in this cozy warm incubator we call “Youth Group”.  They are going to step out into the real world and if no one has taught them how to feed themselves they will starve spiritually.  Help them learn to have a world-view that is filtered through the lens of the scripture.  Ask questions that make them think.  Give them material to use so they can have their own personal daily quiet time.  Ask them, one on one, “What was did you learn last week in your daily quiet time?”  (and be ready to share something from your own daily quiet time)  A shepherd takes the sheep to a place to feed, provides the opportunity for grazing.

The above 5 things aren’t an all inclusive list and they don’t guarantee a kid won’t walk away from their faith when they graduate.  Our responsibility is to shepherd and equip and then the choice is theirs as to what they will do with what they have been given.

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