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Thirst: 40 days of seeking God through scripture, prayer, and reflection

I’ve been working on a spiritual growth project the past few weeks based on Psalm 42:2:

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

The World offers so much! Unfortunately it takes time and pain to discern its true emptiness. We are promised satisfaction and fulfillment, instead we are handed momentary distraction and self-deception. Even the best this world has to offer never satisfies the needs of our soul. Many of us have recognized a deep longing for something more: God’s presence, the power of his Spirit, and the guidance of his Word.

The idea behind THIRST is simple: each day will have a single verse, a simple prayer, and a thought for reflection. My encouragement and prayer for you is that you would Go and Meet God, his Son is the Living Water which ends our deep thirst.


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Saddleback HSM Weekend in Review: Volume 256

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Weekend Teaching Series:
 Switch (week 3 of 4)

Sermon in a Sentence: God wants us to stop running and follow God’s purpose for our lives.

Service Length: 66 minutes

Understandable Message: We had two members of our team (Hannah and AC) tag team this sermon on the story of Jonah. They took a look at his “big fish” moment and saw what the Lord is trying to teach us about who He is and His purposes for our lives. Hannah focused on our tendancy to rebel against God and how He sometimes has to use “big fish” experiences to get our attention. AC spoke about what focusing on our purpose means for our lives and, more importantly, focusing on the big picture of how we fit into God’s plan.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: For the game, we pulled out a classic “Minute to Win It” game called, Tortilla Head. It is such a fun game to watch! We had a ton of fun with it! Also to spice up the message a little bit, we made an Eye Witness News Exclusive video about Jonah’s disappearance. Totally fun and totally ridiculous!

Music Playlist: We Shine, You Are, You Hold Me, and Tear Down the Walls.

Favorite Moment: This weekend we had a student co-host the game. He did such a great job… better than some of our adult leaders! Makes me interested in maybe developing him and students like him into a role like that more often!

Up next: Switch (week 4 of 4)

Typical Girls Life Group Night

A classic video we’ve played during youth group, Life Group kickoff and leader training. So fun!

JG

POLL: Most Helpful Youth Ministry Resources

There are now hundreds of resources here on Download Youth Ministry and thousands of youth ministry resources and tools that have been created to help youth workers like us serve our churches better. Of the ones listed, vote which one is the most helpful/important to you as you serve students. Vote now!

JG

4 Tips On How To Leave Well

Starting the new position tomorrow at Christ’s Church of the Valley as the Lead Next Gen. Pastor. I’m anxious but exited. I have been off for the best few weeks and let me tell you, time off is great! But with time off I have been able to do a ton of thinking. I have made two transitions from two teams in my ministry calling. One was “eh” and could have done a better job and one was so smooth. When the time does come to transition out of your current position I would hope you would do everything you can to make it a nice, easy, smooth transition for you and for the ministry you would be leaving.

Here are 4 easy things to remember when transitioning out and to transition out well:

  1. When the stirring rises, let people know. My first transition I didn’t tell anyone when I was feeling something and I feel like I hurt some people by doing so because it took them by surprise. The one out of Saddleback, the moment I had an inclination that this was happening from inside me, the next day I talked with Josh and told him what I was feeling and I didn’t know what it meant. To know that he was in this whole process from the beginning was an amazing feeling. We talked, we prayed, we maneuvered through it and it was such a weight lifted off my shoulders because I knew someone I trusted and looked up to, knew and was able to talk me through it.
  2. Talk the ministry up. Whether you are leaving on good terms or bad, in public you talk the ministry up. There is no point going down swinging. If you don’t have anything nice to say, just don’t say anything negative. But in public, to people, and to those who ask why you are leaving, let’s be people who build people up. It says in Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
  3. Their timeline is priority. If you want to leave the people you have been working with in a huge bind, only worry about yourself and get out of there. If your new position can allow for it, ask your supervisor what would be the best timeline for you to be out of your position so they can have enough time to begin to look and scramble to fill your spot. Do whatever you can to respect their timeline. CCV (Christ’s Church of the Valley) was so awesome in making sure Saddleback HSM’s timeline for me leaving was priority and man, it makes a difference.
  4. Set people up for when you leave. Don’t just throw up “deuces” and leave. Chances are you were responsible for a ton of important items. In the time you have left do your best to get another staff member or volunteer and train them in how you did what you did so when you leave, the ministry doesn’t leave with you. Set people up for success. Before I left, I had quite a few meetings with some teammates and walked them through my plans, my thoughts and any items to help them take on what I have been taking on. It shows respect and shows you care for the ministry as a whole.

Saddleback HSM Weekend in Review: Volume 255

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Weekend Teaching Series: Switch (week 1 of 4)
Sermon in a Sentence: God loves us SO much, even though we are broken sinners.
Service Length: 66 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend Jessica Torres taught the kickoff message of the Switch series – if you want to see the series arc for the month you can right here - and did a great job teaching about God’s incredible love for us as sinners with the story of the life and marriage of the Old Testament prophet Hosea and Gomer. She did a great job navigating this challenging and unfamiliar story, and students walked about with a clear understanding of the depth of both our depravity and the depth of God’s love. Well done, Jess!

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We played the fun Box of Lies game (you can check out more on that right here) and had some fun programming elements with the Share a Coke video as well. Great service, fun energy and lots of students serving all over the place. Good program, good message, but as always we want to really value relationships and conversations.

Music Playlist: Wake, Love Came Down, Oceans, Amazing Grace

Favorite Moment: I’m proud of Jessica for taking on this message. Not an easy one, but she poured a ton of prep time into it and a ton of heart. Killed it!

Up next: Switch (week 2 of 4)

MOVIE REVIEW: The Remaining

We’re excited about the new movie The Remaining. We even had one of the screenwriters on the DYM Webshow a couple weeks ago and both Doug and Matt have seen the film and had lots of good things to say about it. Up today we have one of the first reviews of the film, coming from Ciera Horton and her blog, The Write Things. Here’s a preview:

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REVIEW: AFFIRM FILMS’ THE REMAINING

Be prepared to be scared.

Affirm Films’ revolutionary new movie The Remaining wholly immerses the viewer into the total experience of the end times.  Movie-goers don’t just watch but truly feel like they are in the midst of the action along with the characters as they fight for their lives and struggle to find faith during the apocalypse.  You’ll be plunged into the tribulation unlike anything you’ve encountered before.

This is one of the few Christian movies that has truly impacted me.  I have thought about it, considered the possibilities of the plot and discussed it more than any movie I’ve seen in recent memory.  But the reason that The Remaining is so captivating is that it speaks to multiple audiences with a singular message.

The Remaining asks the same question to both Christians and non-Christians: Do I really believe?  One of the main characters was a pastor who was not raptured and who said, “Just because you have a church and a title doesn’t mean you have real faith.”

There are very few movies that can so effectively prompt viewers to consider their own relationship with God.  It’s not about the theology of the rapture, but it’s about personal self-reflection.

This is a groundbreaking film for the Christian industry in that it enraptures audiences by making them active participant viewers.  This movie will surely be talked about, so don’t be one of the remaining who miss out on the conversation.

Read her full review right here!

Saddleback HSM Weekend in Review: Volume 254

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Weekend Teaching Series: Summer Camp Stories Weekend (1-off)
Sermon in a Sentence: A celebration of all that God did at camp this year!
Service Length: 116 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend we went all out – invited parents and students to a big celebration service with a special baptism service right after as well with a huge party and cake, too! There wasn’t a huge formal message, but a ton of messages in student stories shared live throughout the weekend. We also included an “open mic” part of the evening as well where we opened it up to anyone in the crowd. Powerful stuff, and totally unpredictable.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: Huge energy in the youth room, we played all of the camp songs and played the final highlight video as well. So, so fun! One of the best weekend we’ve had in a long time – there’s something special about the youth group after camp. Wow.

Music Playlist: Savior of the World, You Hold Me, Sinking Deep, We Are the Free, He Is Alive

Favorite Moment: I LOVED having the parents in the services this weekend. This is a new annual tradition for sure! WIN!

Up next: Worship Together Weekend (August)

Magnum Clock Giveaway Winner!

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Congrats to Luke from Big Bear Youth Ministry who scored the awesome Magnum Clock for his youth room. We’re so thankful for them sponsoring this great giveaway – if you don’t have a clock in your space / church, be sure to check them out. The best!

JG

POLL: Loneliness in Youth Ministry

My post earlier this week, The Lonely Island of Youth Ministry, and Chris Wesley’s post on the same subject, How to Deal with Lonely Leadership were unplanned but coordinated on a single message. Who knew just how closely we were thinking on the same subject! It inspired today’s poll – vote now!

JG

Do We REALLY Need Policies?

UntitledIt’s interesting how we as the “church” are reacting to the culture surrounding us. I have talked with youth programming that still encourages small group leaders to “hang out” with students beyond programming time while others have considered even transporting students in vehicles not deemed “official” church vehicles is a no-no.

Everyone agrees that social media is here to stay. I read an article recently that claimed todays teens are the first generation to grow up interacting through this method on a regular basis.   Easy access to smart phones and touch screen devices have created a society that is always connected. Just today I saw someone proclaim (over social media) how their small children like to face time friends so they can “draw together.”

There was a time when we could “ignore” certain guidelines based on where we live and the size of our community.   Yet, it seems like every time we turn around something new makes the news on a youth group (or pastor) gone awry.

Why are policies important?

They Make Us Proactive Not Reactive:

My volunteer handbook is full of guidelines based on mistakes and missteps I have made through the years. I wish I had been able to think through scenarios and helped bring peace from the get go.   We can no longer have and attitude that people should “know better.” Brainstorming policies that are (and could be) needed helps you from a position of constantly putting out fires.

They Bring Consistency:

There is always going to be someone on our team who tries to do things “their way,” even when you believe you have made it clear. Writing down policies (and asking your team to sign them in acknowledgement they understand) keeps everyone on the same page. No one has to wonder about expectations and how to carry them out because they have been made crystal clear.

They Bring Accountability and Knock Out Fear:

It’s easy to just put policies in place based out of fear from bad things that are all over the new. It’s also easy to think “that would never happen to us.   We can’t assume anything anymore from either direction. We must remember that our first responsibility is to shepherd students and their families.   When we have policies everyone is held accountable to a standard for the purpose of a quality ministry that helps students.

The fact is we want more of our time to be spent focusing on ministering with students than struggling with issues. There are so many variables we can’t control, let’s make sure to put in attention where we can.

(**Note: DYM offers lots of forms and places to begin on ideas of policies, including an example of a Volunteer Handbook.)

A Ministry On Its Toes

Fantasy Football draft is coming up for me. I love the NFL. I love the fake football draft. It’s great. I remember playing organized football for the first time going into my freshmen year of high school. Everyone was running around and the coaches were doing different drills to see what skill sets everyone has so they can put them in their proper positions. I remember the hitting drill. I remember it because at first, I was awful. The first time ever hitting someone with pads in a drill was against one of the biggest guys on the team. I stood there, on my heels, as the running back ran towards me and got pummeled. DE-STROY-ED! The coaches pulled me aside and explained to me that if I were to wait on my heels and react rather than being on my toes and go towards whats coming at me, I’m going to be flat on my back every time.

Some of us in ministry, are on our heels. Things go as they go and we react to situations rather than plan ahead and act upon it. Sometimes we wait for God to open a door for our ministry to go forward when many times I feel God is just waiting for us to move forward to He can lead us where He want to take us. I am about to jump into a new role and I know God has called me to move forward. I don’t need to apologize for it. I’m going to move until God tells me, “No”. Sometimes, we assume God’s answer is automatic “no” and we look for a “yes”. Sometimes I think God is saying “Yes” and we just don’t see it and we assume the answer is a “no”, therefore we are stuck in our current place.

As leaders, we are called to be on our toes. To be leaning forward. To be on the go, always moving forward. the enemy is coming at us with everything he has and if we are caught on our heels waiting to react we will find ourselves flat on our backs. God is faithful. God is good. We are called to take our ministries forward in whatever that means for you.

Maybe it is:

  • Having that difficult conversation with that student or volunteer you have been avoiding.
  • Getting rid of a volunteer who is cancer to your ministry.
  • Starting a small group ministry but you know it’s going to be a ton of work so you have been putting it off.
  • Planning a few months ahead because right now you are just week-t0-week and you are procrastinating.
  • Changing the “sacred cow” in that ministry because you know that model is not working in your context anymore.
  • Being active in making sure the rest of the church knows what God is doing in your youth ministry because no one seems to care because most likely they don’t know.
  • Talking to your senior pastor about how you need a raise.

What is it that you have been playing on your heels for too long with? Move forward and onward because God provides for those who have enough faith to take that tough step forward.

How To Deal With Lonely Leadership

At the end of a long night have you ever asked, “Why am I doing this?”  That question can stem from frustration, anger and disappointment.  That question can also stem from loneliness.

When you hit the top of the management scale it’s difficult to find encouragement and affirmation.  No one is pouring into you and all your energy is being spent on others.  Leadership can get lonely, but it doesn’t have to.  To face the loneliness you need to:

EMBRACE THE ROLE: It’s important to embrace the sacrifices and additional responsibilities that come with leadership.  In fact you need to embrace the role.  Refuse to complain and lean into the conflict that comes with it.  Not only will you be rewarded with your obedience, but you’ll find yourself less distracted.

JOIN A NETWORK: No one is going to understand how you feel better than other youth leaders.  Join a network, share war stories and pray for one another.  When you recognize that other people are facing the same struggles you are it builds solidarity.  Networks will remind you that you are not alone even if you feel lonely in leadership.

FIND A MENTOR: As a leader you are constantly pouring into others.  You need someone pouring into you.  A mentor doesn’t have to be another youth worker, it just needs to be someone:

  • You respect
  • Who has wisdom
  • You trust to give you brutal truth

To find a mentor look at your church, ask coworkers or people in your network.

LEAN ON GOD: In the end you are never alone in leadership, you just need to trust God.  He is going to lead you in and out of conflict.  He wants you to grow you just need to trust that He is in control.  Spend quiet time with God and track your journey in a journal.

Leadership can feel lonely, but it doesn’t mean you are on your own.  Own the situation and you’ll be able to move forward.

How do you deal with the loneliness that comes with leadership?

The Lonely Island of Youth Ministry

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Youth ministry is lonely. Some of that comes with the leadership territory, and some of it is unhealthy. I’d love to reflect on both just a bit.

Leadership Lonely
This is part of the gig! If you are a leader, there are times when you are going to feel lonely. After you make a tough decision to let a volunteer go. After a big conflict with a parent. After a frustration with an elder over the church van. There’s a reason that the phrase “it’s lonely at the top” has stuck around in our vocabulary for so long. At times, if you are leading you will feel all alone.

Lack of Community Lonely
This is the one that is rough on youth workers. This is the one that challenges your call and increases the strength of temptation. This is the one that cuts tenure short and encourages brain games and dysfunction. Yes there is a reality of lonely leadership, but there is a painful loneliness that is different and far more painful. Sitting alone in the church basement office (been there). Being the only guy under 55 on staff at the church (been there). Serving in a church with a lack of people my age (been there). You drop in your situation here (probably been there too).

Couple suggested remedies to fight against loneliness:

1. Make your spouse your ministry partner – do ministry together. If that isn’t possible (hello 4 kids in my case), download the day together when you walk in the door. Partnership in ministry changes everything. If not your spouse than someone you can trust, you can be close to appropriately, someone who you can share ministry

2. Find a youth ministry mentor or find a solid network – if there isn’t a good youth worker network in your area, start one. And there’s got to be someone within an hour’s drive of you that has been in youth ministry for a little while – seek them out and start a Taco Bell meet up once a month. Chalupas and conversation = double win!

3. Watch the DYM Webshow – we hear it all the time, “it is like we’re doing youth ministry together with you” or “see you in a week at our next staff meeting around the DYM table.” Join in on the fun, just might be the remedy for a little bit of community.

What else do you do to help fight loneliness?

JG

Too Much Change Too Fast Vs. Doing What You Got Hired To Do

As leaders we want to move forward and want results. But as a teammate with your staff and volunteers you want to be healthy. Coming in as the new guy there is the fine balance of changing and moving forward and not being “that guy” who comes in and does a complete overhaul on the ministry within the first few weeks. You don’t want to ruffle feathers too quickly (because I think leaders do and should ruffle feathers eventually because moving forward will scare people sometimes and leaders move forward) but you also do not want to sit on your hands and do nothing because the people who hired you didn’t hire you to do nothing. Chances are they hired you to do something and expect some sort of change in the ministry. So how do you balance this? How do we walk that tension?

Here are some thoughts about how I am going about it:

  • You are the leader and you are there to make decisions. Decisions fall on you and it’s up to you to make decisions on where you feel God is leading you and you don’t need to apologize for this.
  • I’m not making any big transitions right off the bat but I will start to meet, hang out with, coach, train our leaders to make sure we have the right people on board and we are all headed in the right direction. If I work from the inside out then when change does come on the big level, leaders will be on board and be your biggest cheerleader.
  • People are going to question decisions. It’s part of the game. What I hope is that I have communicated the vision of the ministry clearly so while they may question the decision, they would never question my intentions.
  • Change comes with resistance. Leaders push through resistance because they can see what things can be and help people to get there.
  • Leaders care for the team. They are willing to hear out, listen and be there for those they are leading, helping them to get on board with where the ministry is going. We are leaders, but we shouldn’t be ruthless. Pastors are shepherds, they gather, they move forward, they correct and they love their flock.
  • Respect the past while still moving forward. Great ministry has happened before you get there. Honor it, don’t just push it aside but don’t live by it. God has placed a vision and a passion on your heart and choose you to lead it in this time so move towards it.

If you have ever stepped into a ministry with a firm foundation, what are some things you have learned? What are the must do’s? What are the big no-no’s? How do you balance this? Comment below?