Here’s another episode of DYM’s 5-Minute Youth Ministry! A quick 5-minute interview on one subject with a special guest. Just a quick burst of training and insight for you to enjoy weekly. In this episode, I hang out with Chris Davis (of Youth Ministry Geek) and talk about the most helpful apps for youth leaders. Good stuff here to consider!
Like millions of others, on Sunday, I watched the Oscars. One of my favorite parts of the show was when it’s host, Ellen, ordered pizza. A few segments later, she escorted Edgar, a stunned delivery man carrying three pizzas onto the stage. Together, they walked into the audience, delivering greasy pizza to celebrities dressed to the nines.
Of course, the moment was funny. Beyond that, however, it also taught me three important things about youth ministry:
1. Blending the ordinary with the extraordinary creates special moments. What made this bit funny was the absurdity of ordering (and eating) such an ordinary food on a night designed in every way to be extraordinary. By blending the ordinary with the extraordinary, Ellen created a moment. In the same way, when we in youth ministry blend the ordinary with the extraordinary, we create moments in which God shows up. When, for example, amidst the craziness of a mission trip, we bring an extra lunch to our work site so that we can share a meal with the family we’re serving, God moves. When, in the midst of a fun-filled weekend retreat, we take time to silently gaze at the stars, students experience God in new and profound ways.
2. Hosts connect people. During the Oscars, as they walked around with the pizzas, Ellen asked Edgar, “Who’s your favorite movie star? They’re here. Who do you want to talk to?” The next day, Edgar revealed his favorite movie star was Julia Roberts, who he did, in fact, serve pizza to. In the same way, as the “hosts” of our youth ministries, we are also connectors. It’s not enough for us to simply connect to teens ourselves. Instead, our job is to help teens connect with other adult leaders as well as their peers. In doing so, we help teens form authentic community through which they can experience Christ.
3. Everyone deserves the spotlight. The look on Edgar’s face as he walked onto the Oscar stage was priceless. He was, no doubt, shocked to find himself in the spotlight in a room full of celebrities. Likewise, there are teens in our ministries who never expect to find themselves in the spotlight. Sometimes they don’t think they deserve the spotlight. Other times, there’s no room for them among the spotlight hogs in our ministries. Knowing this, we need to be aware of who in our ministries consistently stand in the spotlight as well as who’s putting them there. Once you’ve become aware of this, widen the spotlight to include others. Look for potential in the kids who shy away from the spotlight. Consistently make space for teens to try new things. Give each kid in your ministry opportunities to discover and use their gifts to glorify God. Combat their inadequacies by speaking belief into them. After all, as children of God, we are all worthy and valued, absolutely deserving of the spotlight.
When it comes to leading a small group we need to do just that…lead. Leading requires us to do some things that we don’t necessary want to do. When we lead small groups we are going through passages from Scripture and we are talking about life there are some things that are going to come up in your students lives that will require the hard conversation we tend to dread. No one likes to call out someone, but it is part of the responsibilities that we take on when we decide to take a group.
One of the biggest things I have learned in my own life and faith is we grow more spiritually when we are out of our comfort zones. We grow when we are uncomfortable.
As we go through life with students things are going to get messy. When we read about or talk about an issue the student needs to directly deal with we need to be able and confident in helping them walk through it. It should go something like this:
Student will realize what the Bible has to say about a certain thing.
The student then realizes that they need to make a change in how they think or act about a certain thing and this causes the uncomforted in faith.
We as leaders are to guide them towards that action.
Our job as leaders to push our students to make the right decision rather than the easy one.
The student will decide to work towards that action and we as leaders are to walk them through their uncomfortableness to help them grow in their faith.
When we help student navigate through the uncomfortableness of some real life faith issues we know that in the future it will be easier to take on the next challenge to obedience they encounter in the Bible.
Even though the tough conversation of teaching and correction are not what students love, they are critical to have if we want to see our students grow. Growth comes with uncomfortableness. We know that some of the Words of God are uncomfortable but we as leaders know when it demands a change of mindset or lifestyle, they are even more uncomfortable and we need to walk our students on what this looks like.
Embrace the uncomfortable and we will see our students grow. Have those conversations and be intentional with them and as awkward as they are, you can see growth out of them. God will help us through the uncomfortableness and help us to become more like Jesus.
Relational youth ministry is the foundation for our ministry to students. We want to care for them, share life together and journey through the highs and lows of life. So what are the benefits of relational youth ministry? Here’s the “why” we make it a top priority to build relationships:
A focus on relational youth ministry gives …
… students an increased ownership of ministry/faith.
Students who have a significant relationship with a caring adult stick. Students don’t fall through the cracks when they are known, loved and cared for. Connected students still fall away, but we’ve done everything in our power to pour into them to keep the faith. As a general rule, the students with the most relational investment have the highest percentage chance of owning their faith and ministry for a lifetime.
… leaders a more holistic picture of student’s life.
Ministering to your student for the 2 hours a week of “official” small group time is the absolute minimum. What would it look like if we just added a wide open “+” to that time. The “+” could be simple – a text, a phone call, a Tweet, a Facebook message. The “+” could be huge, too – a visit to a students’ game, a visit to the home, showing up at a school play. Whatever the effort may be, it will give you as the small group leader a better glimpse into the world of your students. You’ll better understand them and how to minister to their needs.
… both students and leaders increased openness.
When there is relational equity stored up in a small group there is more discussion. There is more trust. There is more authenticity. Discussions go beyond shallow chatter. There will always be nights when groups clam up, but as a general rule, if you want your group to share, get invested in their lives.
What are the other benefits of a relational youth ministry?
Lupita Nyong’o is beautiful by any standards. The young actress who won an Oscar for ‘best supporting actress’ in ’12 years a slave’ is an inspiration for many young women. But when I listened to a speech she gaves days before the Oscars about how she had little self esteem because her skin was so dark, it made me realize how much of an inspiration she is, especially to African-American girls.
She offers much wisdom in her speech she gave at the ‘Black women in Hollywood’ luncheon, where she won an award for ‘best breakthrough performance’. Her respect and love for her mom is touching and you see and hear the crowd respond to her personal and vulnerable story.
Watch this video with your teen girls and use is as a starter for a discussion on beauty. Here are some suggestions for questions:
- What is your idea of beauty and beautiful?
- Do you think you are beautiful? Why (not)?
- How is your idea of who is beautiful shaped by what you see on TV and in magazines?
- Lupita says this: ”You can’t eat beauty, it does not feed you. Beauty is not something that I could acquire or consume. It is something that I just had to be.” Do you agree with her?
- Lupita also says that beauty comes from the inside and that it’s about compassion. What do you think of that?
- How could you become more beautiful from the inside out and what is God’s role in this you think?
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.
I’ve been having a blast speaking at the Youth Specialties Team Training events all across the sentry this week – looking forward to meeting many of you in Chicago this coming weekend, too! Talking to youth workers in Kansas City this week made me think of this week’s poll: how do you train your volunteers? There’s a few options to choose from, I understand most would answer in some sort of combination, so choose the one that is most important to you!
Drugs. We all know it’s a problem. But when teens hear ‘drugs’, they think of ‘real drugs’ like heroine, cocaine, or marijuna (and even that last one isn’t always considered a drug). Prescription drugs, not so much.
There’s a hidden drug problem, the danger of popping pills. Students take prescription drugs from friends to get them through exams, to help them perform in sports, or to stay awake after long nights. ADHD meds are notorious, like Ritalin and Adderall. Pain killers are a major problem, especially for students who play sports on a competitive level. And even straight-A students may be tempted to take ‘boosters’ to help them achieve even better results.
Only 14% of students say their parents talked to them about the dangers of popping pills, of abusing prescription drugs. At the same time, statistics vary, but a safe bet is that at least 1 in 10 students abuse ADHD meds. And abusing prescription meds can have serious consequences. For pain killers, there’s a high risk of getting addicted. For other meds, there’s risk of high blood pressure, increased heart rate, interaction with other meds or stimulants.
What can you do as a youth worker? First of all, educate the parents in your group on the dangers of popping pills. It’s an issue parents need to be aware of, that they need to discuss with their teens. Trouble signs to look for are weight loss, changes in behavior and an altered sleeping behavior. Also, but this is much harder to accomplish, parents need to become more aware of the pressure of their expectations and how this will affect their kids.
Secondly, talk to your teens about this. It’s the high achievers that are most at risk here, the students who want to perform well in exams of sports, who are working very hard to get high grades, scholarships, who want to ace their SAT’s. Open a conversation about the dangers of prescription drugs, and even more important: about expectations and how to deal with pressure in a healthy way.
As the school year is well half-way over and we are turning the corner on winter into spring I always want to see how things are going with our small groups. I started to think about what are some signs in which we can see that small groups are still gaining momentum in our ministry. If you have these things it is most likely your small group ministry is gaining traction too.
Your small group attendance is catching up to your programmed service. I think one of the great signs small groups are sticking and making a rise in your ministry is when your percentage of students in services is being gained on by the percentage of students in small groups every week. The closer those numbers get to each other, you know your small groups ministry is working hard.
You are adding small groups in the middle of the school year. It’s one thing to launch with a certain amount of small groups in the first of the year, but if you are adding small groups still it means your small groups ministry is doing something right. You are gaining more leaders and you are pushing students into small groups all year-long causing new ones to start. Super strong.
More and more people in your midweek/weekend services are “known”. Small groups are where students can be known. On a midweek or weekend service, their face might be known but because of the craziness of services it’s mostly surface stuff. In small groups we know those students are really “known” by their leader and the relationships carried over from small groups will show up in the midweek/weekend services. Trust me, you will see a difference in culture.
More students are serving in areas of the church. For HSM, our weekend services and events are our open front door where we expose students to the Gospel. Everything we do is to push students into small groups because I believe that is where true life change happens with peers and a caring leader and experience Jesus. When your small groups are in their groove we want to see student then be able to express Jesus in this world through service. When you have more students serving, chances are your small groups are producing that.
More and more stories of life change are popping up. Stories of life change are powerful. They are one of my favorite things. We do student testimonies in services from time to time and you know when your small groups are in full swing is when every single story of life change has to do with the students meeting Jesus and their small groups have a part in being a part of their story. When more and more stories of life change happens you know your small group ministry is working.
If you are having any of these happening in your ministry right now, chances are your small groups ministry is absolutely killing it and god is moving. Keep it up!
One of our favorite songs in our youth group is “He is Alive” by Saddleback HSM’s Cluster of Students. It turned out so great – and you can check out more of their music, including chord charts and more right here.
I had a wakeup call from my Pastor this past Sunday. For 8 years, I have focused on personal growth and self-improvement. Each year I grow stronger than the last. I grew up mentally and verbally abused, while resulted into anger and a low self-esteem. Into adulthood, I hung with the wrong crowd and got involved with some things I shouldn’t have. Now, I am involved in church, volunteering for causes I believe in, am chasing my dreams, FREE from anger and low self-esteem!! Praise God!
For this reason, I thought I understood CHANGE. Although I have heard Philippians 4:8 “Whatever is lovely…think about such things,” I never saw it in the light of change. I am always so focused on what needs to be changed, when I should be focused on things that are lovely and those things will change naturally. And although I have experienced change each year, I have experienced so much exhaustion doing so that way.
I now understand how to let God change me. It’s pretty simple actually. Think on whatever is lovely. See things through His eyes. Spend time with Him. He will overflow from my heart as I let more of Him in. There’s no more pressure on me to pay attention to what area needs improving.
No longer do I have to think about what needs to be changed. No longer do I have to think about improving my study skills. No longer do I have to think about being a better friend. He will change me for me. His way of change leads to peace and a better me.
Who else just received this wake-up call? Comment below!
Ashley Fordinal is the Children’s Church volunteer at Family Life Church in Sulphur Springs, TX.
The other day I went out to coffee with one of our long time volunteers. He has been a life group leader in HSM for the last 7 years and the guy is so good at it. When we were talking I was just listening to him thinking, “This guy knows so much. I’m learning a so much right now.” Then he mentioned that he wished he could pass along what he knows to the younger, newer leaders. As I was sitting there (as a younger guy learning a ton) I asked him if he would be interested in hanging out with some of our newer small group leaders just to start a relationship with them and sort of mentorship with them. His eyes lit up and said he would jump on that in a second. So when I got back to my office, I sent out an email with him and 4 of our newer, younger leaders and they are setting up times to hang out with man who I would consider a pro.
I love this. Giving our veterans a chance to coach our rookies and start some great relationships within our ministry is a win/win situation. Here are some random thoughts on why I want to do this more intentionally:
- It’s free training for our younger guys. Great reason.
- Because we are de-centralized in small groups (small groups meet in homes all over) it starts relationships with leaders who other than our few trainings would never get together and hang out.
- It empowers our veterans to help them invest even more into a ministry they have been serving whole-heartedly for years.
- It gives key volunteers a sense of value and position.
- It gives our younger/newer leaders a chance to ask questions and seek advice from another person.
- It shows our younger/newer volunteers that we care for them and want to see them grow more in leadership and care for their groups.
- Both groups of students will benefit from the interactions between the leaders as they learn from each other.
- Leader care and accountability goes way up.
I’m sure there is a ton more that go along with this as well. As I am sitting here and reading our email thread I just see all the benefits of connecting our older leaders with our younger ones and I know we will be seeing some great things come out of that.
Do you have a system in which you get leaders together to share ideas or train each other? What do you do? Have you thought about it? Let us know in the comments below!
Thought this new article from Forbes was totally worth the read for youth workers. What makes a great leader? Thanks to Shane for pointing it out! Good stuff in the whole article, here’s a clip:
Ability to Delegate
Finessing your brand vision is essential to creating an organized and efficient business, but if you don’t learn to trust your team with that vision, you might never progress to the next stage. Its important to remember that trusting your team with your idea is a sign of strength, not weakness. Delegating tasks to the appropriate departments is one of the most important skills you can develop as your business grows. The emails and tasks will begin to pile up, and the more you stretch yourself thin, the lower the quality of your work will become, and the less you will produce.
The key to delegation is identifying the strengths of your team, and capitalizing on them. Find out what each team member enjoys doing most. Chances are if they find that task more enjoyable, they will likely put more thought and effort behind it. This will not only prove to your team that you trust and believe in them, but will also free up your time to focus on the higher level tasks, that should not be delegated. It’s a fine balance, but one that will have a huge impact on the productivity of your business.
Knowing what you want accomplished may seem clear in your head, but if you try to explain it to someone else and are met with a blank expression, you know there is a problem. If this has been your experience, then you may want to focus on honing your communication skills. Being able to clearly and succinctly describe what you want done is extremely important. If you can’t relate your vision to your team, you won’t all be working towards the same goal.
Training new members and creating a productive work environment all depend on healthy lines of communication. Whether that stems from an open door policy to your office, or making it a point to talk to your staff on a daily basis, making yourself available to discuss interoffice issues is vital. Your team will learn to trust and depend on you, and will be less hesitant to work harder.