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Throwing Away Stacks of Youth Group Promo Cards

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There’s nothing worse than having someone design a killer print piece for your youth group than throwing a kajillion of them into the trashcan. So you found a student, volunteer or maybe even paid someone to create a rave card, postcard or calendar. They are beautiful. You are in love.

Getting your calendar printed is only half the job! You worked hard to get it looking good (or maybe used a calendar template from DYM) and that is very important, but getting them distributed is another beast all together.

So make sure you finish the job! Get your calendar into parent’s hands. Send them out the door with every student when they leave youth group. If you printed up some rave cards for your big overnighter coming up, make sure you rubber band a stack of 5-10 of them for each student to give out to their friends. If you can get permission, have your students put a summer camp info card under the windshield wiper of every car in the church parking lot on Sunday morning.

A huge mistake is making a big print deadline, and having great info and design no one sees. If you print something … make sure to finish the job and get it into people’s hands, too!

JG

5 Keys to a Youth Room Makeover

As I mentioned last week, one benefit of taking the summer off is that it gives leaders the time to invest in other things. One of the things I routinely invest in during the summer is our youth ministry’s space.

Roughly every other year, we hold a youth room makeover on a summer afternoon. Successful youth room makeovers include:

1. Cleaning. Let’s face it. By the end of the year, lots of life has been lived in your youth room, which has likely seen more than a few spills by that point. So spend the first part of your time together throwing out trash and deep cleaning your space.

2. Ridding the room of relics. Oftentimes, youth rooms become treasure troves of mementos that were deeply significant to the group… Twenty years ago. To keep your space fresh, intentionally purge relics from the room. Send teams of freshmen through seniors to canvas your space. If no one on a team can identify what a memento was from (or the story behind it), repurpose it or pitch it. Doing so then creates space for new mementos – treasures that will hold deep significance and memories for your current and even future students.

3. Rearranging furniture. During each youth room makeover, discuss your plans with your teens for the coming year as well as your projected growth and therefore, seating needs. Then, if possible, rearrange the furniture in order to make the room work for your new constraints. Doing so not only breathes new life into an old space, but it also teaches teens to expect (and not fear) other, more significant, changes in your youth ministry.

4. Painting. To be sure, youth rooms don’t need to be painted every other year. However, when the time is right, painting your space (or even a part of it) is an easy way to keep it from becoming dated.

FLY

5. Making custom artwork. Prior to each makeover, purchase white canvases in a variety of shapes and sizes along with paints and paintbrushes. Then, lay out the supplies and let students go to work. Give students permission to paint whatever they’d like: Abstract works with shapes and textures; Their favorite quotes or phrases; Humorous or serious pieces. Remind students that as people created in the image of God, they are creators. Challenge them to silence their inner critics and create something. Once done, hang students’ canvases in your space. Canvases brighten up your space, allow it to reflect the unique personality of your group, and are relatively inexpensive, something that allows you to frequently change out your wall art.

Take it from me: Taking a few hours over the summer to work with teens to give your youth room a makeover is time well-spent. Doing so gives new students ownership of your space. In the process, it also helps ensure your space stays warm and inviting.

5 Minute Youth Ministry

Doug Fields Invitation to Be a Part of Student Leadership Conference 2014

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Dear Youth Worker,

Every year I made it my goal to have every single summer detail figured by Easter. And every year I never quite made it… please tell me you can relate. I was always tinkering with programs and adding new summer opportunities to the calendar.

My guess is that you might still have some loose ends with your summer calendar plans too. Hopefully you will leave yourself a couple days between activities to catch up on sleep, collect permission slips, and just maybe vacuum out the church van.

As you may know I have hosted Student Leadership Conferences for about 10 years and this summer we’ve got 3 dates and locations that we want to invite you to attend. We don’t want your entire youth group… just those you’ve identified as leaders (or potential leaders). If you can’t come, consider sending a responsible volunteer.

Why? For several years I have seen firsthand the return on investment when teenagers attend SLC. I watched it up-close in my own ministry, and I have seen it played-out 1000’s of times with other youth ministries across the country. When student leaders are invested in, they become servant leaders and they pursue opportunities and possibilities. They begin to lead and serve in your youth ministry instead of occupy chairs waiting to be entertained. Some student leaders begin to disciple younger students while others reach their school and city. Bottom line, teenagers who attend SLC return to your church different. This is why I will continue to provide this conference year after year.

I want to invite you to identify some students to attend SLC this summer who you want to return different than when they were sent. I can’t wait to meet you and help strengthen your ministry by training your teenagers. For more information about SLC, including schedule and how to reserve your spots, please visit us at www.studentleadershipconference.com

It would be my honor to invest in your student leaders!

Doug Fields

Do You Talk Too Much?

Small groups are all about discussion. that is one of the many benefits and draws it has for teenagers to even consider joining one. Fellowship is a huge part of it as well yes, but having it be a place where students can actually have a discussion about faith, what the Bible says and what they believe is huge. From talking with leaders from all over, one of the biggest set backs are leaders who dominate the group. If small groups are the place of discussion, they definitely are not the place for the leader to give a 30 minute sermon, pray and then dismiss.

Here are some thoughts when it comes to leading an effective small group:

  • Is small group time about you showing off how much you know about this subject? Or is it a time where you get to see how much your students know about it?
  • Do you like to hear your voice more than you like to hear about how your students wrestle with whatever the topic or passage is?
  • Do you spend so much time studying (which is not a bad thing at all) that you want to make sure you say all you need to say int he group time?
  • Do you say, “Any questions?” at the end of your teaching time or do you start with a reading of the passage and ask, “Any questions?” and allow students to dictate where the discussion goes?
  • Do you value your own questions or do you value the questions your students are actually asking?
  • Do you want to show how close to Jesus you actually are or do you want to help your students get closer to Jesus through discussion time?
  • Do you talk way too much or do you know how to ask the right questions to get students talking about their faith?

When we get students to talk about their faith it means they are actively thinking about their faith. When students get to talk about their faith, we get to see the state of where their faith is in real time. When we stop talking and ask good questions, we get to teach more on who Jesus is and what He wants to do in their lives because we get to help guide them in their faith and doubts and help them develop their own, solid faith rather than the faith we tell them to have.

First 2 Years: The Church is for “Bad” Guys Too

Bad Guys

I recently had a really troubling conversation with someone about a former friend of theirs. Their friend made a really big mistake and it cost them severely in their marriage. The way that they were talked about and the way that they were abandoned by so many of their friends broke my heart and I was puzzled why it wasn’t breaking the hearts of their friends. Or their church. It seems as though people only see them as their mistake. People only saw them as a bad guy.

When it comes to man, I’m not sure if there is always such a thing as “good” guys and “bad” guys – it isn’t that black and white. We are all broken people living in relationship with one another. We are bound to make mistakes and damage those relationships in the process. But our action, our sin, does not define us. It isn’t fair to deem a person wholly good or wholly bad.

Our actions sure have consequences, but those consequences should never be abandonment from the Church. The Church isn’t just for the people that have been hurt, it is for people that have hurt others as well. I think that what we all forget is that we are all one sentence, one action away from becoming a “bad” guy ourselves. We are all capable of moral failure. Don’t ever forget that.

Think about yourself, your ministry, and your church. How do you think about others who have sinned? How are you teaching your ministry to love those who are hard to love? Do you, do your students, does your church, fully believe that the Church is for everyone?

Colton [Email||Twitter]

Rebooting Student Leadership

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I am excited to be rebooting our Student Leadership program. Due to staff shortage for the pass year we had no real student leadership program in place. And we have felt it in our ministry. We’ve had plenty of student involvement and even students stepping up to serve but we have seen student ownership of the ministry go down.

All that to say…I am excited that I get to take the lead on the reboot. Here is what we are going to focus on:

1. Growing in your faith- We’ll spend a lot of time focusing on what it means to grow on your own and how to build space and time for the practice of HABITS in our busy lives. We’ll pray and read scripture together…so students can learn how to do these things on their own.

2. Embracing servant leadership- It is important for our students to understand the model of leadership that Jesus demonstrated while on earth. We won’t be the ASB or the cool club kid at church…we’ll be the ones who serve…who wash feet.

3. Understanding your role in the family- Our student leaders will learn what it means to be part of the family. They will see and experience the ins and outs of our ministry. Not only will they see them, they will learn about their gifts and how they play a part in the family life.

We’ve calendar for 6 Summer “training” days. We’ll spend time together serving our church, community and world while talking about the basics of faith and leadership. In the fall, we’ll schedule monthly training meetings…with these times we’ll bring in other staff members from our church to teach on leadership principles. I am really excited about the reboot and the potential it has for our students and for our ministry.

Do you have a Student Leadership program at your church? What does it look like?

(One of my favorite ways that I have been able to encourage my student leaders is by taking them to the Student Leadership Conference. If you have a student leadership program or want to start one, you should consider checking it out. http://studentleadershipconference.com)

3 Action Steps To Improve Your Ministry

Two weeks left and then we’re done.  Thursday, May 1st we are going to wrap up the regular season of our student ministry.  Then we’ll break for a month before heading into summer programming.  Usually summer is organic with little structure.  It’s a time for us to be SIMPLY AVAILABLE.  

The reason for the change in structure is because we focus most of our energy to improve by fall.  Granted we are always tweaking and readjusting, but there are certain seasons when we break things open and really take a deeper look at what needs to be done to create a more effective ministry.  Three action steps we take to improve our ministry are:

ACTION STEP #1 – Survey The Rookies: No one has a fresher perspective of your ministry then the men and women who started serving in the last year.  Ask them to give you the brutal truth of what went well, what was not clear and where you could improve.  Their feedback might be sobering; however, it will help you get out of the trenches and see the big picture.

ACTION STEP #2 – Feed Your Team: During the year most of your focus is on the teens and their families.  Block out certain seasons where you just pour into your volunteers.  Survey where they would like to grow as ministers.  Give them resources to review.  Take them out for a bite one on one and just let them know how grateful you are for their commitment.  A team that feels fed will strengthen the core of your ministry.

ACTION STEP #3 – Rest: Everyone needs to take a break.  If you don’t find time to stop and breathe you’ll only find yourself resenting the job you love.  Their are spiritual, physical, and emotional consequences to not giving yourself some time to walk away.  Look at your calendar and plan a day (Or a week) where you just focus on enjoying life.  Put up away messages and turn off the wifi.  When you return you’ll have a clear perspective and a whole lot of energy.

You should always look to improve your ministry.  There are always more teens to reach and more families to impact.  Set aside seasons in your ministry when you can perform the right action steps.  Put them down, share them with others and watch your ministry grow.

What other action steps should youth ministers take to improve their ministry?

POLL: How often do you do youth group events?

I get this question all of the time from new youth workers – how often should I do youth group events? There are all sorts of different answers to this question depending on the size of your group, your goals, your church culture and more. So before we jump into that – let’s get a starting point: How often does your ministry have youth group events?

JG

My Spiritual Fitness Pal

I recently started using the MyFitnessPall app. It’s brilliant. You log everything you eat and the exercise you do, and it shows you how you’re doing calorie wise. It evens gives you a breakdown of essential elements like certain vitamins, or sodium and registers if you’re getting enough, or too much of these.

For instance, I never realized my iron intake was fairly low until I started using this app. Within days, I saw that my iron percentage was consistently way beneath what is recommended. So I made some changes in my diet to make sure I ate more iron.

You don’t know where you are until you start measuring it. It’s a truth I realized again when I started using the MyFitnessPal app.

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But what about spiritual fitness? What would you have to keep track of to make sure you’re spiritual healthy?

Going to church

Reading your Bible

Personal prayer time

Memorizing Bible verses

Tithing

Serving in the church

If you were to score high on all these items, would it truly indicate you were spiritually healthy?

I doubt it.

Spiritual health is about your heart, about things only God can measure. It’s about love, love for God and love for others. And while serving and tithing may be an indication of loving others, you can give away all you have and still not be spiritually healthy if you do it for the wrong reasons.

A Spiritual Fitness Pal, one that could truly measure how spiritually healthy you are. What would it look like? How can you measure love?

3 Learnings from You Own the Weekend

We just finished another incredible year of our weekend teaching series called You Own the Weekend. Students from various high schools planned and executed our weekend service. The heartbeat is two-fold: 1) get students involved in the weekend service and serving in a ministry, and 2) make sure an invitation of some sort hits every student from that school that week. It has been one of the highlights of our student ministry for several years running – thought I would share some takeaways coming off the series:

Students bring their friends and family to something they helped pull off. In short, there’s a direct connection between student ownership and friendship evangelism.Every wonder why your core kids aren’t bringing their friends to church? Maybe it is because they had nothing to do with the creation of the service! When students build it, they will come. So many stories in our youth ministry now start with “well, I first came to You Own the Weekend” or “I trusted in Jesus during the series.” Really incredible stuff! It has becoming commonplace to hear someone say “I was brought by…” or “I wanted to see my friend…” We always emphasize friendship evangelism to our entry-level program, and I know it does happen on a regular basis. But this blew the normal response away.

There are all sorts of gifts waiting to be discovered.
 One of the favorite moments of the series was when a student who attends every week got up and shared his testimony. There are star kids who were born and raised to take the stage and teach and I’m super proud of them as pastors. But I’m also excited about the invisible students who showed up during the series. Unexpected people pitched in, decorated or took the stage to share in the message. This series served as a great reminder that some of your best pastors are probably already sitting in youth group. So many gifts, just under the surface waiting to be revealed.

Students should own every weekend.
 Here’s an obvious ministry-changing takeaway – so … why doesn’t this happen every week? To some degree, there’s a special magic to You Own the Weekend that just can’t happen week in and week out – but I want to see this momentum spread through every series we do. I want student teachers, student editors, students pastoring, student emcees, student testimonies and more every weekend!

This is a game changer for us! Give You Own the Weekend a shot next year in your youth group, too!

JG

Retreat / Camp Youth Group Rules Video

Travis and Colton put together a fun video for our College Ministry retreat a while ago and I thought it was totally worth sharing. Steal the lyrics and make it your own, so funny!

Another incredible rules video from Matt McGill not to be missed as well! His timing … and the pink/purple stuff kills me every time. Genius!

JG

GUEST POST: Power of a Thought

No matter how together we have it, there comes a time when we are vulnerable to fall. Sin has its way of creeping in on our lives at points when we are weak. It starts with a thought, and when you entertain that thought, because that’s all it seems like, is a simple thought…..it becomes reality. All of a sudden, you find yourself doing exactly what you were thinking of doing but didn’t think you would actually do. That simple thought has the power to bring pain, grief, and consequences you were not prepared for.

This is why God says to renew our minds with the Word of God.” (Romans 12:12) We become new creations, transformed into His image when we do so! That’s what I want to look like, I want to look like Him. I want others to be able to look at me and see His love shining bright in me and through me. Even through times of struggle, I am going to get back up and stand firm in my faith. We all should. We should stand together, as one, believing what He says is true. He says we are heirs of Christ, made in His image, one with God.

Believing in His truth changes the way we live, the way we act, and the way we chose to love others. He’s got our back no matter how hard we fall; all we have to do is trust in Him. He will pick us back up and continue to walk by our side through the darkness and into the light, showing us His ways and how to walk in them.  He will take our thoughts and turn them into God thoughts; we just have to be willing. Cause He is able.

Share a God thought for those struggling with wandering thoughts below! 

Ashley Fordinal is the Children’s Church volunteer at Family Life Church in Sulphur Springs, TX.

4 Roadblocks To Small Group Growth

As groups are winding down for the summer I’m just reflecting on how groups grow and how awesome it is to see some leaders just dominate their groups and they are growing in their faith. I love it. I had a conversation with a few leaders a couple weeks ago about things that keep groups from growing. Here are the top 4:

Focusing on knowledge. Wait what? Isn’t that what a small group Bible study is for? To learn? Yes, but what good is knowledge if there is no application in one’s life? Paul says, “Knowledge puffs up but love builds up”. How does a group love? One of the biggest ways for your group to grow is to serve with them. Watch them grow when they are getting out of the circle and into the community. In James it says not to just listen to God’s word but to go do what it says. Growing groups serve others.

Forget Jesus is there. Sounds pretty elementary right? A non-growing group does it’s own thing. Maybe there is only focus on fun rather than actually sitting down and going through a study. A growing group remember that when two or more gather in His name, He is present. They know Jesus has power and that through conversation is where student’s faith is stretched as they wrestle with certain topics. They go through the curriculum provided by the ministry. They pray together.

You talk too much. Some leaders love to hear themselves teach. The only problem is, sometimes the students don’t. Small group is not the time to preach a sermon for 20 minutes to students. There is a time for this and it’s called church. Growing small groups are a place where the leader is a discussion facilitator not a preacher. Are there teaching moments? Of course. But growing groups have leaders who will know how to ask great questions and get students to think critically about their faith and help walk them through their thought process.

Why so serious? No one wants to come to a boring group. Especially students. Studying is great. Talking about faith is great. Bible discussion is great. But I see growing groups have fun! They don’t only talk about things of faith but things that are going on in their lives. They go see movies together, go eat together after youth group, they go play ninja tag in a park late at night. I love fun. Our jobs are fun so small groups should be fun too because even though you are having fun, some of the best conversations come out of having fun because having fun breaks down walls and barriers. Don’t be all business, go have fun with your group and see it grow.

What else do you think keep small groups from growing? What would you add?

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(Want to help train your volunteers/small group leaders? Click HERE to check out all DYM’s volunteer resources!)

Using Instagram to Promote Events

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We don’t do a ton of announcements at youth group. We have a text list we really concentrate on, but there’s an unspoken limit how much you can send in a week directly to someone’s phone. We print a few pieces a year but not very much, honestly. Facebook still works, but barely the return it used to have. So how are we getting word out to our students and parents about events, activities and opportunities?

Right now, Instagram is our primary way of getting the word out about youth group meetings and events. We have and official Instagram account for our student ministry, but also work hard to provide graphics that people can post on their own. So we’re hoping that yes, people follow our Instagram account, but we’re also hoping that they’ll take the images and run with it themselves. For our recent You Own the Weekend series, it was fun seeing Instagram feeds literally flooded with invitations for students to come to our youth group.

Just an idea worth sharing and maybe worth stealing!

JG

Thank You Letter to You Own the Weekend Students

We just finished the incredible You Own the Weekend annual series in our High School Ministry – it was an awesome 6 weeks of students doing EVERYTHING in our ministry. Each high school was assigned a weekend, picked and theme and pulled it off with an adult mentor. No adults have been on stage for almost 2 months. Incredible!

Here’s a letter I’m sending to everyone involved with it today:

HSM students,

I couldn’t be more proud of you!

I just had to write and share the 3 awesome things I love about what you did the past few weeks during the You Own the Weekend series:

1) You invited your friends – I’ve met more brand new students that visited our ministry in the last few weeks than I have in the past year combined. That could only happen if you are inviting your friends – and you sure did! Not only that, I know several students that accepted Christ this past month and you had a HUGE part in that. So many faith stories start with You Own the Weekend. So proud of you! Incredible.

2) You served the church – it was incredible seeing your creativity and energy. From great object lessons to inflatable cougars, greeters, awesome messages, fun openers, skits and great music, you used your talents to serve God and do His work. My prayer is that this is just the beginning — that you’ve got a taste of what it would be like to own every weekend. What a great model for other students to see in action! Thanks for loving our youth group and loving our church. So proud of the way you served!

3) You started a movement in your schools – don’t let You Own the Weekend end with this series! Start a movement on your school campus, create a culture where students are invited to church and are greeted warmly and openly when they arrive. Live out your faith this week wherever you go.

Love you guys SO much – have a great week!

Just noticed the resource we created to help others pull off a You Own the Weekend series is this week’s $1 Download. Grab the You Own the Weekend resource right now and do one of your own, too!

JG