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Author Archive | Geoff Stewart

3 Ways To Find Great Volunteers

One of the greatest challenges of leading an ministry is finding gifted and dedicated people who want to serve. There are obviously bad ways to recruit including begging, pressuring, desperate sounding announcements and while those might yield a few, chances are someone responding to a desperate situation in a pressure filled impulsive moment will probably lack the stick-to-itiveness you desire in a leader. So here are 3 trench-tested ways to find the best volunteers out there.

Sow Seeds: Serving in our student ministry or any ministry for that matter should be a decision that is prayerfully considered and discerned. Saying yes to giving up 5-8 hours of your week means saying no to other things, thus this decision is not one best made in haste. Because of this reality, we are always talking to people who we believe might be great leaders next year or a few years from now and asking them to consider if our ministry is a place they can see God using their gifts. Having the time to think also gives them the time to prioritize the other things they are committed to so that if they do decide to serve each week, they will be all in and focused and engaged, not maxed out and regretful.

Train them Up: The best volunteers are often the ones who already have the DNA of the ministry, the ones that get the mission, that get the values and want to stay connected and serve where they had been served. Many youth workers would argue that they need to take a year off, and we do not share that value. Some of our strongest leaders of our preteens are 18 and 19 years old, they are crushing it, with very little training. Being someone that came through the ministry, they typically all get the WHAT pieces, we simply need to build into them the WHY of the ministry and let them run with it.

Talk it up: Lately the best way we have found to find volunteers is when people who serve already talk about it, tweet about it, instagram about it. Every Thursday night we throw the best party of the week and lots of people see that and say, “I want to be a part of that”. People want to be a part of something, something bigger than themselves and when they hear stories of life change, they see leaders who are passionately serving, they want to be there, they want to know more. Passion is contagious. Don’t be afraid to encourage your leaders to talk about youth leading, about why they do it and the things they see God doing in the lives of their students as well as their own. Holy Gossip is the best, give people something to talk about.

Great volunteers are hard to come by, but don’t be disheartened if you don’t find them right away. These three ways have been highly effective at helping us find an abundance of talented people who want to serve and lead our students. Give it a shot, and if you you have other ways that work, comment below!

-Geoff Stewart  geoffcstewart

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How You Made Them Feel…..

This week the world lost a profound writer and poet in Maya Angelou and reflecting about some of things that she’s said that have transformed our culture, which have filled Twitter and Facebook since here passing, one has struck me hard as it pertains to us as Youth Workers:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

As someone that has worked with High Schools students for nearly 14 years now, I cannot think of a more truthful quote for what we do. When I think about the interactions and relationships our leaders and I have have with the thousands of young people whose lives have crossed paths with ours, I pray that this is idea would be true and here is why.

Students forget what we say: Prepping a message each week is likely the single most time consuming task of your work week and when the next week roles around, chances are students might remember a fraction of a percent of the words that you so diligently nuanced. They were there, they listened and some of it was subconsciously filed away. Likely one day they will find themselves in a conversation where something we taught, that was marinating in the back corner of the grey matter in their head comes to mind and they will remember it was you that shared it with them. But if we are honest lots of the words go in and many don’t stick.

Being there isn’t always enough: I go to enough of our student’s concerts and events to know that there are lots of people there, people who have given up their time and traded other opportunities to be there, but the truth is, many aren’t really “there” at all. They are head down, immersed and totally taken by a tiny screen in their, scrolling through emails, cat pictures, 10 best lists and Buzzfeed posts. They seem to want to be anywhere but at that game or show. Students often look up and don’t see a parent or friend’s encouraging face, but the top of their head as they stare intently at their lap. Simply being there isn’t enough, serving them out of any sense of duty or obligation isn’t from the heart and young people know that and can sense the lack of authenticity a mile away.

How you make them feel matters: We can teach all day on the love of Christ, the unconditional nature of the Fathers love for us, but it’s the ways in which we live that out that show it, that allow students to feel loved. The way that we serve and lead students communicates something to them, students feel a lot, their emotions are strong, dynamic and the emotional antennae are constantly searching. In the course of a school year we serve students in a lot of ways:

We listen to them

We pray for them

We challenge them

We sit with them

We cry with them

We sacrifice for them

We cheer for them

We do life with them

One of the legacies of our ministry to students should result in them feeling something, not just warm fuzzies, but feeling in their heart that no matter what they do, where they go in their life:

They are Accepted

They are Safe

They are Loved

They are Encouraged

They are Valued

They are Heard

They are Acceptable in the eyes of Jesus and are invited into the family of God.

20 years from now, students will forget the many of lessons we taught, the content of the conversations that we had at Starbucks or the games we showed up at, they will remember however they way all of these things made them feel. All of these feelings are a reflecting of the unending love of Christ for us that we in turn reflect to our students.

- geoff stewart @geoffcstewart

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10,000 Hours

Last week I was sitting waiting for a student to arrive, so we could go and grab a soda together and catch up on life.  I turned on the calculator on my phone and started crunching some numbers. I added up all the hours that I have spent as a volunteer and as a paid Youth Pastor.

To my surprise, that number was over 10,000 hours which if someone was to be in full time youth ministry for 5 years, you too would find yourself with 10,000 hours under your belt. I now recognize that most people reading this spend some of their time at work doing things other than ministering to students, so it might actually require 6-8 years to attain those hours, but still it begs the question:

What do all those hours add up to?

If you have read Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers” you will discover his theory that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of doing something to be considered a master at it. He looks at those that are highly successful in their field, skill, sport, talent etc and found that those that were at the highest level most shared the commonality of dedicating a minimum of 10,000 hours to their craft.

Many, including myself, would argue that there is no way to master anything related to ministry.  We are serving the One who is ultimately in control but I think that after this much time it’s fair to say when I meet others who are the same, are much further in their tenure.  We can agree, however, there are some things we are pretty confident about:

1 – Mistakes Happen – I have made tons of mistakes, too many to count and some of them horribly foolish.  However, if there is one thing I have learned, it is, to not make the same mistake twice. We owe it to our team, to our students that we never waste the opportunity to learn from something that went totally sideways and also to never willingly do it again. There is forgiveness from parents, Grace from God and understanding that dealing with high schoolers is not predictable in any way shape or form. You will look back and wonder sometimes, “WHAT WAS I THINKING?”

2 – You’ve Seen A Lot – I talked to my leadership team this past weekend about being 10,000 hours in and I said that while I hadn’t seen it ALL there were few scenarios that we hadn’t faced at some point. While each instance in itself has its own unique challenges, I am thankful for all that I have seen because now when a leader comes to me with something that they feel is way over their head, I can reassure them that this is a situation we have dealt with before. That being said, if you are new to ministry, please take the time to find men and women in your area that can help you walk through these challenges, share their mistakes and encourage you when you don’t know what to do. There is so much wisdom out there, you would be crazy to not tap into it and by crazy I mean foolish. (Prov 12:15)

3 – It Just Gets Better – In 10,000 hours you definitely learn to fine tune certain elements and over that time you start to find your strengths, your sweet spots and those areas of ministry that bring you life and others that drain you. When I meet people that have been serving in student ministry long term, they often seem to have a tremendous understanding of themselves in the context of ministry. What I mean by that is that they know where they are uniquely gifted and have built teams around them both paid and unpaid that can support them staying in the strengths and vice versa. While the slug of the early days and finding out all things I was lacking at were difficult, they have made the season I am in now so much better. I know what brings me life in ministry, I see where God has uniquely gifted me and where He hasn’t and I work hard to spend more time in my gifting, finding those that love doing the things I am not strong at.

Am I a master? Far from it. But that can be said for anyone in this field, even those that have been at it for 30,000 hours! With time does come experience and an informed perspective from which to work and that ultimately shapes a leaders reactions to situations and challenges. While I am confident in certain areas, there is one thing I am certain of and that is, that I love serving and leading High School students to Jesus more now than I did on day one.

Here’s to another 10,000 hours.

Geoff Stewart Twitter @geoffcstewart

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What If I Just Don’t Show Up?

I used to think I was the only one that felt like this. I thought I was the only person who two hours before our youth event that my mind raced about what if no one shows up?, what if the night is a flop?, what if my talk sucks?, what if leaders no show? What if…….?

Last winter we held our first ever Winter Camp, and like anything that is new, there was a bit of uncertainty around student buy in as well as doubts around if we were as prepared as we needed to be. I like many of you work much of my week alone without the benefit of other full time staff in my department and in the midst of the quiet of my office I have allowed my mind to wander to places of doubt that are not healthy for myself, our leaders or students. The fact that leadership can be a lonely place is an accepted reality of ministry, but it is vitally important to understand that self doubt is a common experience and one that for many can be debilitating and draining.

On the friday morning of the first day of camp last year for the first time in my ministry career I woke up, checked my phone, and instead of getting out of bed, I covered my head with the pillow and thought:

What if I just don’t show up?

What was I saying? Just not show up? We had worked so hard to create an incredible camp experience, students were excited but somehow I wasn’t.

Now as I Look back now at that day and the year that followed, I have learned a lot about myself, about ministry and from talking to lots of youth workers about this exact thing. Here is what I learned and I hope can be helpful to you:

You are not the only one: That morning I felt like a total failure, I felt that I was the worst youth pastor, my students deserved better, my leaders deserved better, my church deserved better. I go on Twitter and Instagram and see great events and youth workers who are #Pumped about how great the event is going to be and that morning I felt like #crap a total #loser. As I shared with other pastors this year at various gatherings, conferences and events I realized something, I was not the only person who had felt like this, in fact far from it. Self doubt and feeling overwhelmed sometimes is pretty common, but no one ever tweets about that. Instead we let ourselves grow in discouragement from watching other leaders “highlight reel” posts, with no mention of the tension and fear that lies beneath. If you have ever felt worried that you event was going to be a total flop, you are not alone.

It’s not a lack of faith: This is probably the least helpful piece of advice that one could have given me when I was in that place of wanting to give up. It had nothing to do with my faith, it was simply a feeling of being completely overwhelmed with doubt. Doubt of my capability, uncertainty that I had done enough or that what we had worked so hard on would be any good. I wanted to simply pull the pillow over my head and give up. I knew God was going to work no matter what I did that weekend and that inspite of my best efforts or inspite of any oversight that I might have made in planning. I wasn’t lacking in my faith in God, I was lacking trust that I was still the right person to be shepherding my ministry and students. God hadn’t changed, I just felt that I did.

Bring people into your struggle: Having a trusted circle of leaders and mentors is key. Ministry, like life is not meant to be a solo sport. After feeling so discouraged and anxious about camp last year, this year I chose to do things differently. This time I brought others into the fold of where I was at, creating an open dialogue where we can encourage and pray for one another. I can say with confidence that this was the turning point for me as for the first time I didn’t feel alone. My core leaders knew for the first time where I was really at, where I was nervous, where I felt we were unprepared and where I needed an extra hand. Knowing where I was at a year ago, this year our team stepped up, we shared the load of camp in a way that we have never before. The same has been true of every event in the last 10 months which have all be joint efforts among many people. We’ve have shared the load, shared the wins and that has been the best outcome of all of this. I have watched as God humbled me to admit I don’t have it all handled and this has allowed our leaders to lead in new and bigger ways than ever before.

The single biggest outcome of all of this has been the slaying of the idol in my life, that I had to do it all and the success or failure of every element of our ministry was solely on my shoulders. This is the furthest thing from the truth, I am a part of a team, a team that supports me and that I am able to support, and a team that cares about my heart and encourages me. As we have grown in our ability to be honest with one another so to has our connectedness to mission that God has called us to as a ministry and for this I am very thankful.

-Geoff @geoffcstewart 

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Being A Relationship Broker

There are so many things I love about youth ministry, and one of my favourites has to be the incredible network of youth workers, friends and congregants that are afforded to people who do ministry in the local Church. The diversity of people, vocations, passions and connections is immense and the opportunity for us is to be brokers of those relationships

A few days ago I was able to connect with a friend of mine who was in town for a short time. He is a successful and well known Christian artist, incredibly humble and someone who has so much wisdom to offer. In the same week, one of our volunteer worship leaders named Amber came and talked to me about a growing sense that God was calling her to more seriously pursue music ministry. So I did what I thought I should do, set a up a coffee meeting for the three of us so that Amber could connect with him and ask questions that I would never know the answers to. The meeting was a huge success and here are 4 reasons you should be setting these meetings up too.

1 – You know a lot of people: Being a pastor in a church means that you know more people than most, and usually in a more than surface level way. You know people’s stories, their giftings and vocation and now its time to use that knowledge. You have more connections than a cross country Greyhound bus trip and it is high time to leverage them. It would be easy to hoard those connections or forget that there are people you know who want to serve and don’t know how, and others that need help and don’t know where to get it from.

2 – It’s generous and facilitates generosity: They say it’s not what you know, its who you know and those relationships are valuable. Relationships are an extremely valuable resource that each of us possess, but many don’t realize the impact that being generous with those relationships can have. Recently a family from our ministry had a flood in their kitchen. With no insurance and facing a $20,000 repair bill in early December they didn’t know what to do. I called a contractor from the Church told him about the situation and he stepped in and took care of the rest and a few weeks later they have a brand-new kitchen and thanks to his relationships with vendors that he leveraged, the family was handed an invoice for zero dollars just before Christmas. I did almost no work other than connecting two people that otherwise would have not known one another. Lets stop hoarding our connections!

3 – It could change someone’s life: Connecting two people who don’t know one another can be risky. They might hit it off, it might be oil and water or just be plain awkward, but with all the risks, the potential gain still outweighs possible negative outcomes. As I sat and watched this meeting between Amber and my friend I was struck by the fact that this meeting might be a life changing moment. In a 40 minutes meeting Starbucks, she was able to flush out this calling with someone else who was called to worship, she was encouraged by someone that had no obvious obligation to do so and was invited to apply to study in London for a year to pursue a further exploration of a call to ministry. It took only a few minutes to organize, but those minutes could end up having a lifetime of impact.

4 – It’s a blessing to all: For a student getting the opportunity to meet someone they respect with a ton of experience and credibility in their field is a huge gift, the same goes for person meeting them. Having your skills and wisdom valued will always pump your tires up and having the opportunity to bring an experienced balanced perspective is something I value each and every time. For the person organizing that meeting, the experience is equally fulfilling as you see this exchange of curiosity and knowledge.

There is something beautiful about the inter generational nature of the Church, as a people from all walks and stages of life come together. Each of these people has a story, a skill set and something to offer someone else and it is our job as ministers to bring people together and broker the exchange of knowledge and wisdom that one generation could inspire or serve the next.

-Geoff @geoffcstewart

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Stop Sweating The Numbers

Since the beginning of time, or at least when youth pastors came onto the scene, there has been lead pastors, elders board members, and lets face it, ourselves, sweating the attendance at youth group. Growth is celebrated, decline is lamented and steady attendance is questioned. Numbers are a funny thing and one of the only quantifiable metrics we have.

Before I came to work as a Pastor I had a great job managing an Auto Collision repair facility. Every night at 8pm I would get a report emailed to me with the day’s numbers. Every aspect of the business was dissected and summarized to show where my opportunities were and where I needed to improve to reach the goals set for my location. For years I felt the anxiousness of opening the report each day, seeing where I needed to do better and constantly feeling like what I was doing wasn’t good enough.

I was two years in before I had an epiphany and changed my approach to managing my staff and store. I decided I wasn’t going to look at the numbers anymore, each night the email would show up and I would delete it as fast as it came in. I decided that I had been doing it all backwards and switched my approach. Instead of focussing on the numbers, I focussed on people. I told my team that I would only let them know how we did at the end of the month and our focus was strictly on people and nothing else.

I switched my focus to making sure that everyone who came in the door was taken care of, followed up with, and had all their needs known and subsequently met. I knew their concerns, learned about their families and jobs and took an interest in them as a person more than a customer. I focussed on all the parts I could control and it was a game changer and within months we were setting records for same store sales month after month.

This is a principle that I have applied to how we do ministry and here is 4 ways to stop sweating the numbers:

1 – Focus on the ones you have: At the shop, we made it a priority to take the best care possible of every person that walked through the door. The same is true at youth, our goal is to take care of each and every student, know their name, know their story and know why they showed up. Instead of doing a head count, we commit to pastoring everyone who walks in the door.

2 – Don’t sweat the ones that don’t show: I am sure we have all be here, looking around the room and wondering where some of the students are and running all kinds of scenarios as to where they might be. When we do this, we cause ourselves undue stress and anxiety and more than anything miss the opportunity to engage the students that did show up. Don’t allow the ones that didn’t attend to lessen the experience of those that do.

3 – Control the things you can: There are many pieces of the youth night that we have some control over like ambiance, games and organization to name a few. There are things that you can do, and things you can’t; we need to do everything within our power to make the youth night the best possible. God is going to do what He is going to do, students are going to perceive what they will and the Holy Spirit is going to teach and convict. Our job is to help facilitate and create spaces where students can encounter God and be challenged to think about what they believe.

4 – Don’t play the numbers game: I may not be popular for saying this, but do your students, leaders and fellow youth pastors a favour and please don’t tweet your attendance. Firstly because it is not a true indicator of health; it is an indicator that students showed up. Secondly I am not sure it’s great for the Kingdom. Seeing record attendance is exciting, but I rarely hear about record low attendance, or “50% of my students went to a football game instead of coming to youth tonight”. We brag about the highs; but rarely in context, and almost none of us boast of poor attendance. I am convinced that publicly announcing attendance does more harm than good for other youth workers and does more to discourage than build up. Students are less concerned about record attendance, than showing up and having their name known and having an adult leaders who care for them and pray for them.

-Did you have a great night at youth? Tweet about it! 

-Did students give their lives to Christ? Tweet about it! 

-Did you have record attendance? Keep that one to your team? 

When we live and die by attendance numbers we allow something other than the Love of God to determine our value.

It was remarkable to watch how the numbers seemed to take care of themselves when we stopped focussing on them and just took care of people. In the context of our youth ministry, we have seen the health of the ministry and spiritual growth increase when we stopped living and dying by how many people we could get through the doors each week. Instead we focussed on the spiritual health of our student because things that are healthy grow.

Do yourself and your stress level a favour and stop sweating the numbers.

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What Really Matters To Students

The grind of youth ministry is unlike most jobs. Late night messages from a student in crisis, overnight events, ski trips, retreats, parties, recruiting and training volunteers to name just a few. For lots of us another part of our work involves connecting with other youth pastors through networking, social media, conferences and speaking events all of which make an already full schedule even busier. It is so easy to get caught up in all sorts of things that are peripheral to the job, and can come at the cost for the students we are entrusted to lead. This fall I have been really focused on being available to connect with as many kids as possible each week. Prioritizing my work in the morning and leaving the last few hours of my day for students has been life giving for myself and I pray, the same for the students.

Those times just sitting with a student, treating them to a coffee, focused on them, hearing their heart, hearing their struggles and encouraging them is powerful and in my mind a large part of what youth ministry it about. I know that an adult taking time out of their busy schedule was a huge moment in my story and I pray that I can create spaces for the same thing to happen in our ministry. Leaving a series of back to back meetings at our local McDonalds  yesterday I was once again reminded of the things that truly matter to our students and reminded of the things that don’t really matter.

What doesn’t matter to students:

1 – Who follows / mentions us on Twitter

2 – What conference or event we spoke at on the weekend.

3 – How many people read the things that we write.

What does matter to them:

1 – That we love Jesus and passionately model that relationship to them.

2 – That we sincerely care about their life and their story. We know their past, but remind them of the future they have in Christ.

3 – That we encourage them and pray for them often, they know we are for them and have their back.

4 – That they don’t feel like a burden and when we meet them, we are focused and nothing else matters.

In the midst of opportunities and distractions, it’s so easy to forget that the students that we lead aren’t very concerned about all the peripheral stuff. These things are important and valuable, but they need to be secondary to our primary call to Pastor our students. What our students need from us is to Pastor and lead them, to accept them and encourage them, be there when we say we will and passionately shepherd them. Our integrity to speak about leadership is rooted in us being healthy, rooted leaders at the local Church level working in the trenches.

Geoff Stewart  – @geoffcstewart

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4 Things Every Volunteer Leader Needs To Know

As the school year ramps up and our team begin to get back into the groove of things, it is important to give volunteer leaders a refresher on what being a leader is all about.  In the midst of communicating a lot of information to our team, that these were the 4 things that each of them had to know:

1 - They are frontline workers: As youth pastors I am convince we get way too much credit for the work that happens in our ministries. Our leaders need to know that they are the ones on the front lines. They know the pulse of the group, they know what students are struggling with, where they are growing and where they aren’t. Because they are so in tune with the lives of students, it is imperative that they keep us informed on the ebbs and flows of their group so we can know how to support, pray for and shepherd our students. When our leaders know they are responsible to keep their finger on the pulse of students, it builds the connection between Pastor and leader.

2 – They ARE Pastors: We may carry the titles, but the role of pastor in the context of a youth ministry really does end up on small group leaders and mentors. Odds are for many students in your ministry, their small group leaders is probably spends more time in a week talking to them and teaching them about Jesus than any other adult, including their parents. As the Pastor to their small group, leaders must understand their job it is to encourage, challenge, sometimes rebuke and help cultivate young people who are pursuing Christ. We are their to support and equip them, and when the challenges exceed their ability or pay grade, to step in and walk beside them.

3 –  Students are Watching: Like it or not, your life is on display online. Through Instagram, Facebook, twitter and any number of more obscure social media platforms, students have unprecedented access to the lives of your leaders. Volunteer leaders need to know that we are called to be set apart, and not just at Church and Youth Group. Our volunteers need to know that few things will be more destructive to the effectiveness of their leadership than living a double life and being seen as just another “hypocritical” Christian.

4 – Their Voice is Unique (and powerful): There are a lot of voices speaking into the lives of students, friends, family, teachers etc but the voice of the small group leader is unlike any other. Students have to listen to authority figures in their lives like teachers and parents, but there is something amazing about youth ministry leaders. They have authority, but students choose to come under it, students choose to listen. They have to listen to their parents, they have to listen to their teachers but them choosing us to mentor and lead them gives us a powerful influence that we of course need to be careful to no abuse. Recognizing the uniqueness of the leader student relationship allows leaders to encourage and challenge students in ways that others simply can’t.

Being a volunteer leader is no easy task, but keeping them focussed on what they’re doing and why will set your team up to have an incredible year.

Geoff @geoffcstewart 

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Remind Them: It All Matters

We are a few weeks into the ministry year and our team is really starting to hit their stride. Leaders are finding their groove, students are getting back into the routine and for the most part our youth nights are happening with few noticeable glitches, but of course behind the scenes there we a few bumps here and there but who doesn’t love a challenge?  In our ministry we have all sorts of people serving in all kinds of areas including: small group leaders, door hosts, welcome centre hosts, cooking teams, student band members, tech volunteers, set up and tear down crews amongst others each having an important role to play.

Sadly,  of some of the positions lend themselves to being perceived more “important” or at least more glamourous than others. It is because of these perceptions that it is vital to each volunteer on your team for them to hear that what they do matters, no matter what it is they do. I try and make a point to let every one of our volunteers know as often as possible how proud I am of them. That I am proud of the fact that they serve so loyally and with so much heart, but also to help them see where their piece of the puzzle fits into the big picture of what we do as a whole.

Here are a few examples of notes a I might send or encouragement I might give to our team.

Welcome Team: Thanks so much for being the frontline of our youth ministry. Coming into a big group of teenagers they don’t know can be really intimidating for many students and their first impression of feeling welcomed or not will greatly affect whether or not they come back. Thanks to you being so incredibly friendly and helping them feel safe and welcome here because without you, that new student may never hear the what Jesus did for them. We are so thankful to have you on the Welcome Team!

Cooking Team: Thank you so much for making dinner for the band and set up crew, you have no idea how much time is saved by have students eat here, but more importantly how much closer the student leaders are because they get to sit and break bread together each week. As the students and leaders eat together, it is fun to watch the bond between them grow as well.  Your serving of this meal leaves more time for the band to practice and be prepared for when they are to play later. Enjoying this meal together is a highlight of my week, thanks for helping make it happen.

Tech Team: Thanks so much for your hard work in setting up the band, the lighting, the slides and all the games. Your hard work behind the scenes is invaluable to what we do here at Journey. Your passion to have the music sound great and have the lights just right helps create an atmosphere that isn’t distracting, but facilitates students experiencing and meeting with God through Worship. Many people will have their first tangible encounter with God in a Worship service and it is thanks to people like you that the environment exists where that can happen. Thanks so much for all the time you put in, it is noticed and greatly appreciated.

There are so many others that we could list, but helping each person see the value that their part plays in the function of the whole is vital to your leaders feeling engaged and encouraged that it matters, that it is Kingdom work and through it God is being glorified.

-Geoff @geoffcstewart

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A Reason For Everything

Summer is nearly half over for us here in Canada, students are still loving life at summer camp, and traveling to places near and far. While our students are sitting our basking in the son, many of us are hunched over our desks penciling in the next season of ministry. One parts of the planning process that should not be overlooked before starting this fall is a full evaluation of every element of your program, start to finish.  Being thoughtful about why an element is included or why not, is vital going into fall launch and here are a three reasons why you need to have a reason for everything.

For God:  Our first job is to point young people to Jesus and create mission/vision/value around that. If you don’t know why you are doing it, it needs to go and if some element does not point back to the mission of your ministry then why do you do it? First and for most we are accountable to God for what we do, and doing something “just because” is not good enough if you ask me.

For Students: Modelling for students that every facet of our lives matters to God is important and the same should be true of youth nights. We are not shy about explaining why we do what we do at Journey and I think it is a great teachable moment when students ask about our rationale behind a decision.  Our student’s time is valuable; and when we have them, we will always try and make the most of it and from start to finish our goal is create space for students to encounter God, to connect with a caring leader, to learn about Jesus and to Worship Him. Having a clear purpose of your youth ministry will benefit the spiritual growth of your students.

For Parents: Parents have been known to be critical of youth programs (hard to believe I know)  sometimes because the one they were a part of 30 years ago was not like “this”. For those parents it is wise to be prepared when they start asking questions such as:

-Why is the Worship so loud?

-Why do you allow secular music to be played in the Church?

- Do you know what the Harlem Shake is really about? 

-Why do you allow saved and unsaved students in the same small groups? (Actual question)

-We never had small groups on the same night when I was in youth!

-Why don’t you play more games? My kid just wants to have fun. 

- Are V-Necks that deep even legal? 

It is pretty easy to disarm a concerned parent when you have an articulated thought out reason for doing what you do.  If they question an element of your program and you don’t have a rationale for why you do it they way you do, watch out. Parents may not agree with you, but will respect that you have thought about their concern before hand.

For the sake of supporting the vision that God has given you for your ministry, and for making the most of every opportunity that you have when your students are in the building, its vital that you have a reason for every element of your youth night from the time the first student arrives until the last one gets picked up.

-Geoff Stewart @geoffcstewart 

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The Best Event We Do All Summer

 As the school year is winding to a close, I am getting really excited about this summer in our youth ministry. I love summer time, its the change of gears, its the relational time, its students dropping by the office to hang out, it’s magical and for our youth group, its high time for events. We have lots going on because after all,there are students around and many have little to do, so lets harness that energy. Between 6  major events, including day trips to the water slides, trampoline park, a golf tournament and others there is a lot of high energy stuff,  but there is one weekly event that has taken on a life of its own.

In the city I work in there  are three major high schools and right near all of them in an area commonly know as “uptown” sits a McDonalds location that is always filled with students. Seeing that they are there anyway, we decided three summers ago to launch “Uptown Wednesdays”. From 1-3pm every Wednesday of the summer we meet at McDonalds and if you come we will buy you and ANYONE you bring a soda. Here is what is awesome about that:

Drinks are $1 ($1.05  including tax) – So if 40 students show up, we are spending $42 to have a two hour relational time with them and have them connecting with other Christians and students from other schools. Students love free stuff and a youth event that cost’s $1.05 per students is money well spent.

Outreach: This events is one that so many students bring their friends to in fact last summer multiple students I met in the summer that were guests of our students came to youth and got plugged in because they knew myself and some of our leaders. Building trust and relationships with new students before September is helpful for them to act on the invitation to the group in the fall. This safe off-site space is their territory and thus much more conducive for students to invite their friends to.

Shepherding- Its so great to check in with our students and have some real one on one conversations, ask about their life, how we can pray for them and encourage them. Our regular gather might be off for the summer, but pastoring our students happens every week and happens at McD’s. Real life doesn’t take the summer off and in the midst of a lot of free time and parents busy working, students often open up about things that they have finally had time to think about and process and thankfully we are there to walk with them.

I fall in love with Youth Ministry again – In the midst of a really busy year and working with adult volunteers and attending staff meetings, I often find myself longing to connect with students and with the size of our group that isn’t always possible. Small relational events remind me of what God has called me to do. It’s those conversations that help me see the world through their eyes, and understand for a moment what its like to be in high school in 2013 and hopefully be a better pastor to them.

-Geoff @geoffcstewart

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