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. 


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The "No-Show" Generation Part 2

Read Part 1 HERE

In my previous post I wrote about the changing climate of youth ministry. Ten years ago it wasn’t difficult to get students to show up to an exciting youth ministry event, but now it isn’t so simple. Changes in students’ schedules, American culture, and family dynamics have made it more challenging to get students involved in our ministries.

I’m not interested in sacrificing truth or changing the priorities of my ministry, but I do want to make changes and adjustments to help me better connect with this generation of students. Here are five of my suggestions to reach a group of students that is busier and possibly less interested in the church than ever before.  Read more HERE . . .


Check out more helpful articles at LeaderTreks.org

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.

Read the rest at LeaderTreks

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

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Lord's Love

But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life.
Psalm 42:8

I never feel "unloved". In fact, love is not a feeling it is a choice. Amazingly enough the Lord chose to love me. His love does not quit or fail. His love is not dependent on my behavior or even obedience. That can be hard for the human mind to fathom, we live in a world where "love" is often the reward for doing something or being a certain way. The Lord loves me. He even loved me before I was his child, adopted into his family by putting my faith in Jesus as my Savior.

Even more amazing . . . the Lord loves you. Think about what you have done in your past. Doesn't matter. The Lord still loves you.

So the question this morning before we head out to live out our day is this: What have we done with His love?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

After the Students Go Home

Last week we had our first ever Night Camp. This camp came about as the result of a “failed” attempt for another event. So we experimented and Night Camp was born at our church. The great news is that our “failure” became a great success!
What about after the event? You know how it is to come home from a camp, an awesome event or even just an incredible night at your weekly youth large group gathering and having a “ministry high.” But if you don’t capitalize on opportunities after the event, you’ll miss huge areas for growth. Here are some steps to take after the event.

Read the rest over at the LeaderTreks blog


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Night Camp 2016

Last year our older students were ready for a change of venue for their summer camp.  In the fall of 2015 I started thinking about what to do for a camp experience for our older students.  I kept in mind that most of them have summer jobs so I decided a shorter camp of only 4 nights and 5 days.  I also wanted to challenge them to go deeper, so the camp was going to focus more on discipleship. 

I started searching the web for camps to rent.  Found nothing that jumped out at me.  I then went back to a place I always love and that's the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley.  I found a retreat cabin there that was built specifically for church groups.   Great set up in the cabin, fire pit outside, swimming holes in nearby creeks and rivers.  We were going to float down the Shenandoah in inner tubes.  On paper and out loud it sounded like a fun adventurous week for our students.

Then came the sign up.  Three students!!  Three students?!  What was up with that?  I had already booked the airline flight for my friend, Steve Turrentine, to come and teach on prayer during the week.  I had already created the morning prayer journal/devotional for our campers to use.  We had our adults and cooks all lined up.  Deposit paid on the cabin.

What a huge let down it was for me.  I wondered to myself what in the world is going on?  After speaking with others in youth ministry I'm finding out this isn't just our group.  Youth ministry is changing.  Part of what some of us are seeing is students are not signing up for the events, the camps, etc. like they used to.   That's a blog subject for another time.

So I spent a good day or two just thinking about what to do.  Night Camp was born in that process of trying to figure out what was going on.  I decided that if they weren't willing to go experience a fantastic trip with loads of adventure and fun maybe they want to just stay home. 

Here is what Night Camp looked like last week, July 25-28:
7 to 8:15 - Campers arrived; ate supper; played games on the front lawn with music thumpin
8:20 to 8:30 - We moved up to The Loft for a fun interactive game with prizes
8:30 to 9:30 - We had worship with our church band and our student band; Steve taught on prayer
9:30 to 10 - Late night snack and games on the front lawn
10:00 camper went home; slept in their own beds; went to work during the day and then showed back up at night and we did it all over again.

Here is what I saw:
> I threw the invite to Night Camp out to other local churches, another youth group joined us and a few students from a couple of other churches attended.
> Student were engaged.  They loved the fellowship time and meals.  They were active in worship.
> Students prayed out loud in the worship time during times of prayer.  Amazing to listen to them pray my heart was encouraged.
> Missing students returned.
> Students brought friends.
>  The number of campers grew each night.
> Adults and students got involved using their gifts to serve.

Was there room for improvement?  Of course, always is.  But with the list of results I just shared I realized that what I would consider a ministry flop or failure birthed a ministry success.  Night Camp was a great success!

So is there a future for Night Camp?  I'm a dreamer and so I'm dreaming big for next year's Night Camp.  Stay tuned for details!


Night Camp '16 - Night 4 from Nags Head Church on Vimeo.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

When Plans Fall Through

I recently wrote a blog post for LeaderTreks about when your plans for an event fall through.  This week we are in the middle of Plan B.  It is going great!  I'll post after the week of Night Camp 16 and let you know how it goes.

In the meantime I encourage you to jump over to LeaderTreks and read the article.


Friday, July 22, 2016

Family Mission Trip

Sorry about my lack of blog posts the past couple of months.  In the last 5 weeks I've been to 3 camps and we are launching our own "Night Camp 16" (which I shall blog about at a later date) on Monday night.   So busy and time is flying by.

If you follow the blog you know that the past two years I have taken students and team members to the island of Eleuthera on mission trips.  I'm so stoked to be going on our first family mission trip to Eleuthera in a few weeks.  Our family will be doing work with Camp Bahamas and in the community.
My kids, 12, 7 and 7, will get to experience missions first hand, and my whole family will get to see what I have been so excited about the past two years.

You can check out more about my trip HERE


Friday, July 8, 2016

My Family and Summer

Here we are in the midst of the summer break months.  For most student ministries this can be the busiest season of the year.  Many student pastors take advantage of the fact that their students have more free time.  It’s camp season!  It’s mission trip season!  It’s retreat season!  It’s  music festival season!  

If you are like me you are finding yourself out of the office more and around students more and this is what we thrive on because student ministry is our passion.



This can also mean less family time for us as student ministers if we aren’t careful about our scheduling and planning.  I get the question from time to time, “Why aren’t Misha and the kids with you?”. 

I have a few reasons why they aren’t with me: 


> Fresh.  I want student ministry events to be something exciting and new when my children enter middle school.  I don’t want them to be “pros” at youth camp or the mission trip.  I don’t want them to have the schedule memorized.


> Focus.  When I’m at camp or even at Student Church on the Beach (our Sunday worship gathering  in the summer months) I want my focus to be on our students and not on my children.  


> Simpler.  It’s easier for my family.  If you have kids you know it’s often easier to take care of them at home and stick to your normal schedule.  It is more work on my wife to care for the kids away from home.  Many times the accomodations aren’t equipped to handle families.  On Sunday night it is a lot of work for my wife to go home from the beach without me and get the kids showered and into bed.  Have you seen my daughter’s hair?   Getting sand out of her head is no easy task.  Beach clean up goes much easier when done in tandem as mommy and daddy, at least it is for our family.



Life can be stressful enough as parents of twin 7 year olds and an 11 year old and throwing a wrench in the routine, for us, doesn’t make it less stressful.



Because I’m at work and the students are my focus on a trip I may see my kids throughout the day but there really isn’t quality time.  In fact I get better quality time conversations with them if I Facetime them once a day from camp or the mission trip.



Doesn’t this take away from your family?  Yes and No.  There are some things that simply come with the territory when you are in ministry.  Your family learns to be flexible.  They get used to someone texting or calling you during dinner to ask a question that could have waited until the next morning when you are at the office. 

Last week I was at camp as the camp pastor.  My only real responsibility was to get up and preach the messages and then when I walked about camp or hung out I would strike up conversations with campers.  On this trip I took my youngest to hang out with me.  He loved being outdoors all week and since I wasn’t responsible for students it was easy and fun to have him along.



How do I cope with being away from my family?  

>Technology.  In the words of Kip, "I love technology".  I sat on the porch of my cabin on our mission trip to the island of Eleuthera with Camp Bahamas Missions and Facetimed with my wife and kids.  Each day I would communicate with them.  I do the same when I’m at camp.

>Church Support.  My church understands that I must first be successful as a father if I’m going to be successful as a minister.  I’m allowed to take some comp time after trips such as camps or mission trips.  I usually take them near the end of the week so I can spend 3 or 4 days at home with my wife and kids.



You may “tick” differently and function fine with your kids running around at camp or on a mission trip.  If that’s you I say “go for it.”

  Figure out what works for your family and make sure there is balance but most importantly keep your family as your priority above your job.



Monday, June 6, 2016

Teamwork Takes Work

You survived the interview process, you moved to your new church, you are still unpacking boxes at home.  You have sat in your nice new office and asked, “Now what?”.   What is next for you?

What if you arrive to a student ministry that already has an existing team of volunteers?  Great!!  What a blessing and what a place to find yourself in!  Now it’s time to work with this team.  If there is anything I have learned over the years about teamwork is that teamwork takes work.



Get to know them.

Spend some time with the team.  Create some space and time for your team to get together and just have fun.  Building relationships takes time but I have found that having fun together is a great way to start off a relationship.  
Spend some time with each team member individually.  You may meet them for coffee, lunch, have their family over to dinner.  Ask questions that will help you come to know them and understand their personality, their passions, what they view as priority in ministry.



Listen!

Most of us who find ourselves in the position of youth pastor have the same gift as senior pastors, the gift of gab.  We like to talk and some even like to hear themselves talk.  We can’t get to know others if our voice is the only voice being heard.  Focus on listening.  Ask the questions about the past, ask about their dreams for the future of the student ministry.  Listening shows that you truly do care about their opinions.  It may not mean you are going to act on all of their suggestions but at least you will listen and weigh out what they have to say.



Pray.

Pray together as a team.  Pray for each other.  Know their prayer needs.  Pray for them individually both in your own personal quiet time and when opportunity arises to pray with them.
Prayer can bring your together in unity like nothing else can.  Don’t get caught up in praying for Bill’s Aunt Ethel’s toe injury.  Focus on spiritual needs as individuals as well as what you feel you need to pray for the youth group.

Share the why.

Sometimes people struggle the most with change if they don’t know the “why” behind the change.  Your arrival represents a certain amount of change.  This team may have had a rough experience under the previous leadership.  This team may be tired having carried the load of ministry without a leader for months or even years.  This team may have been functioning great without a leader. 
There is so much potential for damage if the new youth pastor arrives on the scene and immediately starts changing things.  When change has to happen make sure to have the meeting before the meeting.  Sit down with the team and explain the coming change and why the change is going to take place.  Listen to their input and possible fears about the change.  Hopefully if we communicate the “why” behind the change the team will understand and follow and support the change.

Have Fun!

I know I mentioned this earlier but get together and have some fun.  When was the last time you took the student ministry team bowling without any students?  When did your team get together at someone’s house for a game night?  When did you eat pizza together because you didn’t have to? (the good pizza, not the single topping or just cheese)  Party together.  If you spot someone on the team who has a nack for organizing fun fellowship get together with that person and brainstorm on some fun your team could have together.

Love your team!  They are your biggest supporters and your best backers.  They will gladly dive in the trenches and serve with you when they know you genuinely love them.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Team Work!

You survived the interview process, you moved to your new church, you are still unpacking boxes at home.  You have sat in your nice new office and asked, “Now what?”.   What is next for you?

I remember when I started it was me, myself and I.  That is not the make up of a very good student ministry team.  I learned rather quickly that I needed to surround my self with others who love ministering to students and to lead the way on building a team of volunteers.



Not having a team is a dangerous place to be.

Protection - you need to be protected from any allegations that could jeopardize your ministry or the reputation of your church.  Never, never be alone with students.  A team gives you that safety net for you, the church and the students. 

Burn Out - you may start off killin it in ministry getting everything done, all details in order, planning great events but eventually is will catch up to you.  You will get tired, worn out and find yourself in a physical and emotional place that just isn’t healthy. 

Create a Culture - if you go for a year or two doing student ministry alone you will help create a mindset of “that’s why we hired you.”   You’ve been doing great all along without any help why should we jump in and serve now.

Vacuum
- when you serve alone you create a vacuum devoid of any input or advice from others who have the same passion to invest into students lives.  Everything depends on what you come up with.  Creativity can be stifled.  This is why some youth pastors only last a couple of years at a church.  Once their “bag of tricks” is empty they don’t know what else to do so they move on to a new church and start all over.



Build the Team


The List - compile a list of every possible type of volunteer your student ministry could use.  Small group leaders, foodies, event planning, transportation, teaching material, tech, etc.
I have always wanted a grandpa and grandma to be at our front door and high five and hug students as they arrive and then to do the same when the students leave.  Think outside the box.  If I could have a team with everything . . . .   You never know you might have some folks in your church who have incredible untapped talent and leadership skills to help you.

Eagle Eye - keep an eye out for the adults in your church who you see have an automatic connection to students.  That young couple you see standing in the aisle after every worship service talking with teens, go to them and invite them to coffee and discuss the possibility of them serving with you.  Let them know what you see in them and the potential that exists to impact the lives of these students.

Gather and Cast - gather together those who you think might have an interest in joining you on this adventure.  Make some coffee and buy some really good pies (everyone loves to be fed good food).  Have them over to the house for a meal.  Then cast the vision of where the student ministry is going and your ultimate goal for a student’s life.  Then let them know how they can be involved in helping change lives and disciple teens.

Share the Excitement - you are passionate about student ministry, that is why you do what you do.  Some people may not be involved but when they see your passion and hear the exciting things happening they may jump on board.  When we hear “Help!” we picture in our mind someone drowning.  We don’t want to ask people to help.  We want to invite them on an adventure.
I learned this at a Refuel Retreat with LeaderTreks: When someone in the church asks you how the youth group is doing don’t respond by saying, “It’s going great”.  Respond by first stating your purpose in a sentence or two, then follow that with a 3 or 4 sentence story of something exciting that has happened recently. 
Looks like this:
“Hey Andy.  How’s the youth group?”
 My reply would be, “You know we are reaching students to discover life in Christ.  We took students on a mission trip and for a total of 6 weeks they worked though a quiet time journal.  Billy asked me when he was done what he should do next and I suggested study the book of John.  Billy journaled his way through John and has told me he is now in the book of Acts.  We are seeing students growing in their faith.  Will you join me in praying for Billy and the other students to continue to grow in their faith?”
   
This is like fishing.  You throw out the bait and then you set the hook.  If nothing else you will be spreading the excitement of what is happening in student ministry in your church.  When people see something exciting they want to jump on board.

(my next post will be about arriving to an existing team of volunteers)

Monday, May 23, 2016

Great Mission Trip Opportunity

If your student ministry is in search of a great mission trip opportunity at an affordable price then I highly recommend CB Missions.  Camp Bahamas is doing incredible outreach and ministry on the island of Eleuthera and their camp is reaching the children and youth of the Bahamas.  Our group has gone to Camp Bahamas and Eleuthera the past two years and both trips have been a great students for our students and leaders. 

Here is our video from this year:


Team Eleuthera 2016 from colemanshots on Vimeo.

Here is our video from last year:


Eleuthera 2015 Short Version from colemanshots on Vimeo.

Friday, May 20, 2016

I have an office and a desk! What?!

I remember my first youth ministry office, it had a desk, office chair, a book shelf and two chairs for people to sit in.  On the desk there was an intercom an old school radio shack -like intercom.  Keep in mind this is the early 90’s so I was stoked about the intercom.  The administrative assistant’s desk was just on the other side of the wall but we had an intercom.  I found that to be amusing.  I remember the first day in the office I sat at my desk all excited about my new adventure and intercom.  I pushed the talk button and said, “Joyce, I would like my coffee with cream and sugar.”  The reply came back over the intercom, “Andy, you can get your own coffee.”  All this done with the door open between our offices.



So here you are!  Your new office!!  What are you going to do?


Publish Office Hours - Make sure the folks in your church know when you can be reached at the office.  This doesn’t mean you won’t be at the office more than these scheduled hours but it can help people know when you are available to talk.  In my setting I have a daily dry erase board on my door.  On the board, each Sunday, I write the hours I’m planning to be in the office.
It’s also wise to encourage people to call first and  make sure you are there and available to talk.  You can do this through a parent email or monthly newsletter or even put your office hours on a google calendar linked to your parent page of your web site.  (no website?  build a simple informative one using Wix or another web site builder app like it)  I’ll be honest, in our setting,
I maybe get visitors who come to my office on purpose about 5 times a year.  Texting and cell phones have changed much of church office interaction with church members.



The Closed Door - If you are writing your message, working on curriculum, praying, reading and don’t want to be disturbed you could have a closed door policy.  When the door is closed I’m focusing on a ministry task and I need some uninterrupted time to work on it.  For me, outside noise in the office area is tremendously distracting when I’m trying to work on a message/lesson so I will shut my door.  Does this means that someone shouldn’t interrupt if there is a ministry emergency?  No.  But don’t interrupt if you need to know who is in charge of ordering the paper products.

Let Someone Know - Youth ministry pulls us out of the office often, we aren’t like bankers who sit in an office all day.  We will leave the office to meet a volunteer over coffee, go to a ball game after school, go home early because there is a youth event later that night.  I recommend you let someone at the office know where you are going and what you are doing.  Accountability can be a good thing.  If you are in a situation where the youth minister before you could never be found and no one ever knew where he was it is vital you tell someone.  You also should have clarified in the interview process what the church’s expectations for office hours are and made sure they jived with what you know youth ministry will involve.

Keep it Straight -  My office isn’t the best example.  I’m not a neat freak but I can easily straighten it up in a matter of minutes.  I also have a system to my desk which helps me in my productivity.  If you do have people come to your office and it looks like their teenager’s bedroom you aren’t going to make a good first impression.  Mail, read it and file or throw away.  Yellow legal pads are my friends.  I have 3 stacked on my desk right now in a tidy corner.  One has camp messages I’m working on, another has the notes I’m working on for our current series, the third has projects I’m working on.



Google Calendar -  or something similar.  I love it because I can share it if needed but the main reason I like it is because on the right hand side of the calendar is my to do list and I can plug in deadline dates.  This really changed my unorganized office life.  I used to hate administrative type stuff but over the past several years I’ve started to like it and now enjoy my “to do” list.  Stay organized.  We don’t instill confidence when we don’t know what is happening or miss an event etc.

Get Out! - we can’t accomplish student ministry by spending all 40 to 50 hours a week in our offices.  We have to get out.  Go to a ball game, meet students for coffee, have dinner with some parents.  Also get out to spark some creativity.  I occasionally will find an off campus place to read and study or to plan.  The change of scenery really helps my mind.



Enjoy your new office!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Managing Life Series - Family

Sunday night at Student Church we continued our series on Managing Life and we talked about Family.  We opened with Good Good Father by Chris Tomlin and then went right into a rather lengthy message on Family.  Students responded well.  We followed up with Hang Time and during Hang Time we ate a large family meal together with ham, potatoes, mac and cheese and dessert.

Here is the outline:

Illustration:  My childhood and breaking my brother's cap gun.  Family can be tricky.

Genesis 1:24-28

  • Family is God's IdeaGenesis 2:15-25
  • You are a giftPsalm 127:3-5
  • God placed you in your family
     
    (we discussed God's sovereignty and broken families/world and parent's responsibility to God)
        Now What?
  • Be Responsible
    • Obedient
    • Respect
    • Honor
Ephesians 6:1
Colossians 3:20
Ephesians 6:3
Exodus 20:12

I talked about this cycle:
Parents tell you to do something > You Obey > Parents Joy > Leads to Trust and Freedom
Obedience has it's benefits.



Next Steps:  (Always give students an opportunity to move forward and grow in their faith)

____  Ask for forgiveness

_____ Ask parents to start having a family devotion/prayer time (this will blow them away, and you will grow closer together)  I set parents up for the win by sending them in advance a family devotion I wrote to go along with this message.

_____ I need to start showing respect and obedience

_____ Be Responsible  (fill a role, help out around the house, help out)

Friday, May 13, 2016

It's the New Youth Pastor!

I’ll never forget the handful of men from the church that drove a U Haul truck up to my house to move us.  Misha and I had packed everything.  We had it all boxed up and marked the boxes with what room.  We were ready for them by having all the furniture in the living room and all the boxes in the front bedroom.  The men showed up and loaded all our belongings into the truck.  Misha and I loaded the dogs and cats in our car and pick up truck and walked out of our house that we owned to head off to a house the church would be renting for us.  



When we arrived after the several hour drive there was a crew waiting at the house for us.  Ready to unload the truck.  People were carrying boxes and furniture and asking us where to put things.  Some ladies organized the kitchen with our dishes and kitchen stuffs, it’s always fun trying things in the kitchen because you didn’t unpack the kitchen, someone else did. 

The church was excited for us to be there.  They had been so long without a youth pastor they were ready for one and they settled for me.  

I remember unpacking what little bit of books I had in my office at the church.  I had never had an office in a church before.  This was all new to me.

I sat behind my desk and it hit me.  Now what do I do?  Remember I had no education or schooling in the area of youth ministry.  I had read some books and had hands on experience.  That was it.  What next?



So if you are the new youth pastor here are a few suggestions:

Get to know the church.  It takes time to get to know the people.  Learn who the leaders whether they are official leaders or the unofficial leaders.  Look to build relationships with the key power brokers in the church.  Meet them for lunch or coffee.  Figure out how to get invited to their house for Sunday lunch.  Invite them to your home for Sunday lunch.

Get to know the Pastor
.  It takes time to build a relationship.  I was blessed in that the first pastor I worked with was such a super guy and easy to build that relationship with.  I enjoyed his company from the get go and we “clicked”.  Ask your pastor to carve out even a half hour or a lunch with you each week so he can give you an “orientation” of the church.  He knows the Ins and outs of the congregation, who you want on your side, who will be a negative critic of everything you do. 

Get to know the students.  Plan some simple but fun events where you can spend time with the students and get to know them.  Drop in and have lunch with them at school if the school allows.  Open campus?  Great!  Meet them for lunch at Taco Joe’s.  Have conversations that ask open ended questions.

Get to know the parents.  If your group is small you have the luxury of meeting some parents for dinner or inviting them over.  If your group is large you may want to plan a “get to know you” event and fellowship together but also find out what the parents are expecting from you and let them know what you expect from them.

Discover Direction.  You are going to need to discover the direction of the youth ministry and where to take the ministry next.  Start thinking about a teaching scope, what will you be teaching the next several months to a year.  As you get to know the students better you will know better where to take them in the future.  Down the road a bit you can plan out your teaching that will cover from the sixth grade all the way to the senior year, after all you plan on being there a long time.  Right?



Wednesday, May 11, 2016

How to Last in Youth Ministry

One student ministry resource I love is LeaderTreks.  Great material for student leadership and for discipleship.  Check them out!  I'm honored that LeaderTreks invited me to write a blog post for them.
One student ministry resource I love is LeaderTreks.  Great material for student leadership and for discipleship.  Check them out!

I'm honored that LeaderTreks invited me to write a blog post for them.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Before You Sign the Dotted Line (part B)

you can read part A HERE



In my previous post I shared my experience of being hired at my first church.
If I had to do it all over again I would have done it differently.  If I were to be sitting across the table from a guy who is about to launch out in search of his first youth ministry position I would give him the following advice:



1.  Ask questions.  The church, search committee, pastor will ask you questions, lots of them probably.  So ask them questions:
  •     Why did the last youth pastor leave?
    
  •     What are the expectations of the church?
    
  •     What are the expectations of the pastor?
    
  •     What is the job description?
  •     How many pastors has this church had in the past 20 years?  (if the church is going
  •     through staff like a kid through candy in a Pez dispenser I wouldn’t proceed any further)
  •     How will the lead pastor support your role in the church?
  •     Is there a committee I answer to?  Who is my direct supervisor?
  •     What is the salary package?
  •     What are the benefits?  (vacation time, insurance, retirement, etc)

2.  Vision and Purpose.  Find out the vision and the purpose of the church’s student ministry.  If they have one that you can’t align with you may find your job to be a frustration rather than a joy.  If they don’t have a vision and purpose statement then you have a clean slate to create one. 

3.  Change.  How open is the church to change?  Each one of us have different strengths and passions.  You are different than the last guy.  How will those differences impact the direction you will take the student ministry?  Will you have the support of the church’s leadership?  You may find that the student ministry is meeting 4 times a week and that is way too much and want to change that.  Would they be open to that change?  You may find they meet only once a week and feel they need a second time to get together perhaps for deeper discipleship or for outreach.  Would they be open to that change?  Tell them up front some things might change and be done differently and see if they are open to change.

4.  Leadership.  Spend time with the church’s leadership and ask probing questions.  Interview them as much as they are interviewing you, if not more.  If the church is led by deacons ask to meet with them and come loaded with as many questions as possible.  Even ask them the same questions you ask the senior pastor, the committee, etc. to make sure the church is on the same page.  Point out any discrepancies you discover if the leadership, pastor, committee aren’t all on the same page.  Clarify with the leadership so you know what you are getting into.

Spend some time with the senior pastor asking questions.  You have to work with and support the senior pastor’s leadership so you better make sure he is someone you can get along with work with.



Meet with the youth ministry volunteers of the church.  They are vital to your success.  No volunteers may be a red flag.  The volunteer who plans on bailing when your hired may be a red flag.  The volunteer who controls everything and runs everything without the input of the other volunteers may be a red flag.


Meet with the parents of the students.  Find out their expectations.  Probe them with questions to find out their level of support for you.

5.  Expectations.  Ask for a written job description that lists expectations.  Most churches do evaluations and it’s hard to be evaluated if there are no known expectations.  This protects you and the church, the job description may also throw up some red flags you may need to investigate further.

6.  Be clear.  Be clear with your expectations of the church, senior pastor, committee.  Make sure they understand that while you know pastoring is an on call 24/7 position you also need time for yourself and your family.  If you have family make sure you clarify the priority that your family comes first in ministry.  You can’t help minister to families if you are neglecting your own.



7.  Doctrine and theology.  I’m amazed how many youth pastors take positions in churches they don’t even line up with doctrinally or theologically.  “Well I just want to minister to students.”  I get that, I understand that passion, but you are setting yourself up for a short term position in a church if you can’t agree with the church’s doctrine and theology.  I scratch my head when I watch a youth pastor go from a Baptist church to a Methodist church to a Church of Christ to an Assemblies of God.  I know those are “just denominations” but denominations believe differently about the Word of God and that’s why there are denominations.  Eventually it will get to you because you disagree.  You want longevity in a church?  Make sure your beliefs line up with the church’s beliefs.

8.  No guarantees.  From talking with other youth leaders in other churches, in hearing the “war stories” I know that unfortunately there are no guarantees.  If you are going to sell your house you can empty it out and paint it with a fresh coat but underneath that paint is the old paint, possibly bad wiring in the walls, plumbing issues.  Fresh paint can make the house appear in great shape but digging a little deeper can expose the problems that may be lurking beneath the surface of that home’s walls.

A church can do the same thing.  A church can paint a great picture, can tell you how much they want to see the church packed with students, how much they will support you.  A church can make it look like the ministry position of a lifetime.  Then you are there for several months and the honeymoon ends and you realize that you have no support, no volunteers (that’s what they pay you for), out on the end of the limb by yourself.

9.  Don’t rush.  Chances are the church has been taking months or even years to find a new youth pastor.  Take the time to do the due diligence.  In twenty-one years of full time ministry I have only been in 2 churches.  My goal when I came to each church was longevity.  I didn’t want to be that statistic of lasting only two or three years.  Rushing into a position or jumping at the first one to come along may be detrimental to you, your family and even the students of that church.


The above is not an exhaustive list.  I know that the more time spent thinking through a position at a church and praying about it the more likely the ministry will be successful.  I have seen many with a passion to reach students jump into an unhealthy church/ministry situation in the name of "reaching students" and then find themselves miserable and then that is followed by throwing in the towel at the church or in ministry all together.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Before You Sign the Dotted Line

Part A

I knew God was calling me into full time student ministry.  I also knew I had zero training, schooling, education in student ministry. I grew up as a pastor’s and missionary’s kid so I was very familiar with ministry and the church.  I had a couple years under my belt as a volunteer youth minister but that was it. 

 

My approach wasn’t the best but it seemed to work.  I looked to see what churches in our denomination in our state had openings for youth pastor.  I found three churches who were looking for a youth pastor.  So I sat down at my Gateway computer and typed up a resume.  I remember thinking, “Who is going to hire a guy with no education in youth ministry?”.  Several weeks later I received a call from a pastor informing me that their search committee would like to interview me.  I was quite shocked.  It worked!



I did the interview.  The position wasn’t offered to me that day but I remember, as I drove off with my lovely wife to make the several hour drive back to our home, telling Misha that we needed to start collecting moving boxes.  I was confident that this was the church.  Even without the job offer I knew that this was where I was going, it was that clear to me.



A couple of weeks later I was asked to come meet the church, share my testimony, and be interviewed again . . . by the entire church.  After the morning worship there was a lunch and then for what seemed like an eternity I was asked questions.  All kinds of questions.  Had I been older and wiser I know I would have had some better responses to the questions.  I also would have been able to see through the questions to the heart of the question, why the person was asking the question.



I made it through the process and the church voted and I was hired.  I had my first student ministry position.  I was thrilled and excited.  I’m an entrepreneur at heart so new adventures always excite me.  Honestly I’m surprised any church would have hired me.  

As I look back I feel sorry for that youth group.  I was green, fresh and fairly stupid.  I know that I would be a much better youth minister to them today then I was then but of course after we do something for a long amount of time we would hope we are improving and sharpening our skills.


In my next post I'm going to give my advice, for what it's worth, to the new guy who is about to sit down to interview at a church.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

How It Started

Twenty-Four years ago I was sitting in a small church in a small town in Oklahoma.  I was already fully involved in the ministry by running the sound each Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday evening.   Yes, our church met three times a week, yes many times I wish we weren’t meeting.  I often went to church out of commitment but not out of desire, often out of a sense of obligation. (that’s another blog post in and of itself)



During my few years at this small church I watched the youth Sunday School class, which consisted of a handful of students, get a new Sunday School teacher each year and sometimes more than one teacher each year.  I had absolutely no desire to teach.  I had absolutely no desire to work with youth.  BUT I understood that as a member of that church I had a responsibility to do whatever needed to be done.  Sometimes you serve because it just needs to be done.  Its better and more enjoyable to serve when it fits your *SHAPE.

I found myself sitting in a room in the church with 5 teenage faces staring back at me.  So like any good Southern Baptist teacher I cracked open the quarterly and started teaching.  I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the best teacher, I wasn’t the most prepared teacher but I knew I could give these students some stability and not see them handed off to a different teacher once or more per year.



Over time I started to get the hang of it.  I even started to enjoy teaching students.  Next thing I knew I was going with them to summer camp, taking them to amusement parks and planning events and activities.  A gentlemen in our church donated a storefront for us to have a “youth center”, a place for students to hang out.

I never had this moment in life where I knew, “When I grow up I want to be a youth pastor”.  I literally fell into the calling.  I volunteered and then eventually realized that this is what God wanted me to do full time with my life.  I remember our little church paid my way to go to Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth for a youth ministry conference.  That weekend conference was confirmation.



The next step was to figure out what to do.   How do I become a youth pastor at a church?  I was already a youth minister because I was ministering to students.



How did it start for you?
When did you sense God’s calling on your life for youth ministry?

Thoughts for you if you are just getting started on the youth ministry journey:



Be open - You never know what God might have in store for you.  Be open to God’s leading and direction.  He may change the direction you are heading.  He may want you to do something totally different from you thought you might want to do. 

Volunteer - If you are at that point where you know you want to minister to students then roll up your sleeves and volunteer in your own church until God opens the opportunity he has for you.

Don’t rush - Let God take the lead.  Be patient for His timing.  What He has planned for you is best and you don’t want to get in the way of that.

Read - Get your hands on some books about youth ministry and read.

Research - What are churches looking for in a student minister?  Do some digging, ask some questions, talk with some youth pastors for their input.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Drain

Ever had a ring or something valuable fall out of your hand and go sliding down the sink towards the drain?  You try to snag it with your hand but miss and even make a few attempts before it’s too late.  The ring goes sliding down the drain.  It’s a helpless feeling.



Same thing can happen to us in youth ministry.  I’ve seen times of plenty and times of scarcity.  Times when our little youth room was packed and times when we gather together and scratch your head trying to figure out where have the students gone?



It is a helpless feeling because you are watching it go down the drain and you are making attempts to stop it from happening but the attempts fail.



So you evaluate.

Are we teaching God’s word in a way that students find it relevant and practical to their daily lives?  Yes.

Do we have a team of caring adults investing into their lives?  Yes.

Is our meeting space attractive and appealing to students?  Yes.

Are we clearly communicating our vision and purpose?  Yes
Are we communicating with parents? Yes
Is the food awesome?  Heck yea!
Do you include time for students to build relationships?  Yes.

Have you created a place/atmosphere that students can enjoy? Yes.

The above are things that we as youth ministers can control.


What we can’t control as youth ministers:
The support of parents.

The parents making Student Church a priority.

Students making their youth group time a priority in their lives.

Students bringing friends.

Students making guests feel welcome
Travel ball

But don’t pull your hair out!  Don’t get depressed!  Why?

If we do our best that’s all we can do but more importantly listen to these words from our Savior:
"
Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it."  Matthew 16:18


We are to be faithful and do what God has called us to do.  The rest is in his hands.



Focus on the students he has given you.  Perhaps this is a season where the focus of the youth ministry is turning to something different to help build a stronger base or foundation for what is to come in the future.



All youth ministries go through cycles.  It’s natural.  I’ve heard youth pastors say, “All I seem to have is middle schoolers”, then a couple years later, “All I seem to have is high schoolers.”  You can’t explain these things.  Right now we have more middle school boys than girls.  How does that happen?  It’s usually the other way around right? 

We can do events that bring in the numbers but in the long run most of those numbers won’t stick around, won’t follow.  There is a smaller number that you are truly discipling.  So go for it with all you’ve got!

The point of this whole post is this:
Focus on who God has given you.
Be responsible in teaching and equipping them to grow and to reach their peers.
Realize that you can make conditions conducive to growth but you can't force growth.  
Let Jesus take care of the growth.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Managing Life Series Video

Recently discovered fiverr.com for graphic work and video.  Below is the video I had made for our new series that starts on Sunday.  This video cost us $35.  It's better than anything I could make, I don't have a graphic or video department.  Fiverr saves me lots of time.



Managing Life from Andy Lawrenson on Vimeo.

Friday, April 8, 2016

What Next?

The mission trip is over.  Everyone is unpacked, well, almost everyone.  Pictures continue to get posted and shared.  Friends, family and church folk continue to ask, “How was the trip?”



My question, “What is next?”  What is next for this team of sixteen?  Eleven students who for the past five weeks spent time each day in quiet time working their way through two different journals, raised the $1,000.00 each they needed to go on the mission trip, worked really hard on the trip, experienced the joy of sharing Christ with the little kids in the park, experienced the “mission trip high”. 

What next for the team?  They go back to school, playing ball, working their jobs. 

How can we bank on the investment this mission trip was in their lives?



Expose them to opportunities to share
Sunday night during our weekly student church we gave the whole team opportunity to share about their entire trip from the preparation to the last day of outreach in the park.  Give students an opportunity to talk about their experience.



Follow up with a letter

I sat down and wrote each student a letter to thank them for going on the trip and in each letter included something specific to that student that I observed on the mission trip.  I used this as an opportunity to encourage them to continue on with their great attitudes, hearts to serve and passion to share Christ back here at home in their community.  I only had to write eleven letters, if your group is large you may want to pull in other adult leaders to help.  You know how encouraging it is when you get that once in a blue moon note of encouragement.  Imagine how the students will feel when they get a real live letter, not email or text, but a letter at home from you.

Invite
Not only have I invited them to pray about the trip for 2017 but I have invited them to join our student leadership team.  The students just came back from an intensive hands on leadership lab on a tiny island in the Caribbean.  I’m going to jump on the chance to build the leadership team with students who exhibited leadership on the mission trip.

Resource
For a month before the trip the student worked through I Am a Servant from LeaderTreks.  On the trip and even this week at home they have been working through a mission trip journal that focused on Nehemiah.  Next I’m going to invite them to work though another daily quiet time journal on discipleship.  I want to help them have the habit of studying God’s Word and learn to feed themselves so when they graduate and move off to college I can sleep at night knowing our students have been taught how to study the Bible.

Plan

Start planning the next mission trip!  Include this year's team in the planning process.

Whatever you do don't let the mission trip be the "end", make it a beginning.

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...