Another great YS Idea Lab video from the National Youth Workers Convention this past fall – this time Neely McQueen talks with Tim Eldred about helping students truly own your youth ministry. Good stuff to challenge you here!
Today was a non-stop kind of day for me. Ever have one of those. I had a meeting with a volunteer, then a long, tough phone conversation with a parent, edit a sermon that a high school student is giving this weekend and meet with a friend who needed some encouraging words. Non-stop. If I am being honest, I would have not felt as rushed if it was not spring break in our area and if we did not have a bunch of students coming in and out of our offices all day long and if I didn’t have students come sit on my office couch and interrupt me while I was working. When asked, “Why are you here, in our offices? On your spring break?”
They say, “Because you guys (HSM staff) are here.”
I love it.
Jesus was available. When he was asked to come to a guys house to heal his child a woman touched his cloak and he stopped to engage her. He had stuff to do, but he chose the relationship with the women over the task that was on His “desk”. Look what happened when he did that.
Obviously my tone above is one of a joking manner. Hopefully you got it. Was my day stressful? Yes, it really was. Was it interrupted at least 5 times today by students coming in and sitting on my couch? Yes, it actually was. Would I trade that for getting my work done quicker? Absolutely not.
As youth workers, I think when we get interrupted from our office hours because students want to hang out with you, it means we are doing something right. It means we are not only locked to our desk (which sometimes we clearly need to get stuff done) but we are making lasting, meaningful relationships with students who are choosing to come to a lousy office to hang out with you instead of being somewhere else. That is amazing.
So stop. Pay attention. Turn to that student on your couch and engage them in a great conversation. A fun conversation. Take them to Starbuck’s really quick. Yes your work will be pushed back a bit but that relational time with them is priceless. Know you are doing something right outside your office when students are willing to come chill with you while you need to be in your office.
Be available. Be present. Enjoy it. We have the best jobs on the planet. Students mess up my work day, but I love it.
Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Was reflecting on this passage of Scripture last week, shared some of it with my team and thought I would share some thoughts here on the blog as well. Hope it is helpful and encouraging to you today!
A good youth worker is part of a team
This passage stresses the importance of unity. A youth ministry team must have one-mind, one vision and one goal. These individual parts alone can do only a little, collectively their force is magnified exponentially. Get on board with your church’s vision, and make sure your team loves each other and are all headed in the same direction.
A good youth worker is unselfish
Youth ministry is about others. It is about helping those in need. It is about everyone else, then you. In the passage it refers to people who are out for their own gain, or who are in the trenches for the recognition and spotlight. Check your heart today to see if you are looking out for yourself, or constantly shifting the focus to yourself.
A good youth worker is a servant
Always pick up the trash in the church parking lot. Never be above everything. Clean out the rain gutters. Shatter the stereotype of entitled youth workers. Change the perception of youth ministry in your church culture. Give, give, give.
May this describe us this week!
Every once in awhile I like to do “anonymous question” night in our small group. I hand out a bunch of index cards and tell students they can ask any question about anything they are wondering about God. It can be something they have been too “afraid” to put out there or maybe a pondering they are just too embarrassed to shout out in front of friends. We compile the questions, shuffle them up and then the leaders take a stab at answering them. Inevitably there are a number of, ”Am I still a Christian if I do, have or want to…” type of questions.
It made me realize before I can answer any of these questions I needed to ask one simple question first:
What is a Christian and how do you know if you are one? (OK, 2 questions.)
You are thinking,
They know that, many of these students have grown up in this church they know this answer.
Actually I think you will be surprised at the answers you receive. I often hear,
If you are a good person.
If you follow the commandments.
If you believe in God.
In the mix someone inevitable says:
You believe Jesus died on the cross for your sins and then rose again on the third day.
You asked Jesus into your heart.
Then I ask:
What does that mean for you? How does that change things in your life?
My favorite passage to go over all of this with students is Romans 10: 9-11
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”
Before I can answer any “Am I still a Christian if?” We need to understand it’s not about what we DO it’s WHO we belong to. I like to explain it like this:
When you are a toddler you know you “belong” to your parents. You trust they love and want to take care of you. It’s expected they will meet your needs and ensure you are safe. You are theirs and this makes so much sense you barely think about it. The love you feel makes you want to follow them around and be like them. You may not get every action “right” but out of love for them you want to be close to them and learn how to be just like them. This is what it means to confess with your “mouth” and “believe” in your heart.
Yes, we need to understand the weight of our sin and the power of the cross and resurrection. Yet, It is the choice to know we now are no longer slaves to sin, but are part of Christ’s family and accept that position fully.
Then I go on and say,
Based on what we just talked about are you still a Christian if you do things that are wrong?
I follow it by saying:
Our relationship with Christ is not contingent on anything we do or don’t do. It’s about us accepting who He is fully, what that means and making the choice to be His. This is a Christian.
However, you can get “stuck” in your relationship with Him. We can know we are His and make the choice to still not live like it.
Now the question is why are you asking your question? Is it a genuine mistake or a choice? Are you really just trying to see “what you can get away with?”
There is a difference between guilt and repentance. Some of us just want to really do whatever we want to do. If you belong to someone, you are their representative. So when someone says, ”That’s God’s kid over there.” What are they saying about you?
I love the anonymous questions, they always help me see where my students are at and to know their struggles. The cry of my heart of course is they simply would know one day that when you know who you belong to, you are afforded all the questions.
How do you answer the “Am I A Christian If?” questions?
Weekend Teaching Series: You Own the Weekend (Tesoro High School)
Sermon in a Sentence: God loves you … now.
Service Length: 64 minutes
Understandable Message: We haven’t had an adult on stage in 5 weeks. We’re in the thick of our annual You Own the Weekend series and this baby is running strong. Tons of new students. Tons of students involved. Tons of fun. Not that it hasn’t been work, just that the works is all behind the scenes and the stage time is all students. This weekend students from our local Tesoro High School took on the challenge of running a weekend from start to finish and did a great job communicating God’s love for everyone with a powerful message, a great video, fun and an awesome testimony. They were totally dialed in – their message was on point and loud and clear!
Element of Fun/Positive Environment: The opener was hilarious – a fun over the top version of the Hannah Montana classic Nobody’s Perfect. They did a great job of tying that into the message as well. Lots of warm greeters, amazing decorations and solid videos.
Music Playlist: Nobody’s Perfect [cover], Alive, Divine and Holy, Majesty, Grace
Favorite Moment: I loved Sheridan’s testimony video. Her mom came with her to a Worship Together Weekend recently and trusted in Jesus! She was baptized just a few weeks ago in a jacuzzi right before a major cancer operation, what an amazing story of God’s faithfulness and love. Amen.
Up next: You Own the Weekend (Santa Margarita High School, week 6 of 6 = series finale)
Easter is one of the busiest times of year for a youth pastor and we’re here to help you win! This Easter Bundle has everything you’ll need for April: 4 messages, 4 games, 4 videos, 25 daily devotional texts (yep, the phone kind), a friendship evangelism tool, a new believer kit, and 4 in-depth classes to help your students build a strong faith foundation!
25 SMS devotions
1 friendship evangelism tool
1 new believer kid
4 in-depth classes
Check it out!
DYM blog reader Dave sent along this video and suggested we post it on the site. Here’s how he ran across it:
My pastor played this video before communion. It is very powerful and insightful.
I think it will be good for the DYM blog as another resource for youth pastors to use to make communion a little more real. I did not see an official music video of Beloved, but there are some good ones people can use to play the song, while giving out communion. Or have the band play the song while giving communion.
The other day, my teens and I attended a workshop during which we had the opportunity to practice contemplative prayer. After doing so, the facilitator asked people to share their experience with 2-3 people near them.
My teens’ body language suggested it’d be good to share our experience as a table, with a larger group than the facilitator originally suggested.
When the facilitator saw us doing this, he walked over and stopped us, saying, “I said to share in groups of 2 or at most 3. If you don’t, a couple of you will talk the whole time.”
Though I think I hid my reaction from my students, I was horrified.
Who did this stranger think he was to tell me – the person who works with these teens on a daily basis – how best to minister to them?
Who was he to suggest that I – a veteran youth worker – couldn’t facilitate a discussion that would allow everyone to participate?
Despite my frustration, I recognized the inappropriateness of arguing with the facilitator, so we complied with his instructions. Though the adults in this workshop talked in their pairs for the next 10 minutes, my teens quickly ran out of things to say and sat in awkward silence.
As I reflected on this later in the day, it occurred to me, how often do I do the same thing to my small group leaders?
How often do I assume I know how to better minister to kids than the lay leaders who work with them on a weekly basis?
How often do I act as though my well-trained leaders can’t actually facilitate a good discussion?
No doubt, more than I’d like to think.
Having realized this, I’m determined to take the following steps, steps I hope will give adult leaders the respect and authority they deserve.
1. I will consistently remind leaders that because they know their groups well, they have the freedom to adjust small group materials in order to best meet the needs of their particular group. I will remind them it’s OK not to ask every question; That the quality of their discussion is far more important than the quantity of questions asked. Then, when I see leaders making adjustments, I’ll trust their judgment rather than freak out.
2. When I sit in on a small group discussion, I’ll do so as a participant, intentionally behaving in a way that gives and shows respect for the small group leader’s authority.
3. I will give away my title, reminding my leaders they are youth pastors too.
4. Since my leaders are youth pastors, when a situation arises that involves one of their kids, I’ll involve them.
5. I will regularly ask leaders how I can help them better minister to their kids. Then I’ll do my best to give leaders what they need in order to flourish.
What else do you do to give your adult leaders the respect and authority they deserve?
Have you ever been in a situation where you really did not know what to do or say? Of course you have, you are in student ministry. We all have been (or I promise you will be at some point) in a position where we step back and think to ourselves, “I don’t even know what to do in this position. I don’t think I signed up for this.” We get that random call from a student or parent explaining some heart breaking situation from their student or from a friend that blows you out of your seat. And you are the person they call because you are the pastor, expecting something.
I can write this because I am in the middle of something right now with a former student of mine. I have never been in a situation quite like this, so I’m taken back a little bit. So what do we do in situations like this when we come to them? I thought I would share some of my own thoughts as I go through this process:
I can do nothing- Really though. I cannot change anybody. I do not have this power. The Lord does though and I know he can work through me. I know I can be there and be present, so that is what I am going to do. (Just wrote a full post on this, click HERE to read it.)
Pray- Be praying for the student involved. Be praying for their family. And be praying for yourself. Pray for the student and family’s mind and hearts for Him to move. Pray for the Lord to use you in a way that is effective.
Seek knoweldge- In the past few days I have called a few pastors and volunteers who have dealt with situations that are similar to what I am now. I have seen what they have done and any advice they can give me to best handle the situation in a Godly manner.
I’m there to serve, not to fix- I constantly need to remind myself I’m there to serve the student and their family. It’s not about me saying anything or doing anything, but being there to serve. Sometimes in the midst of craziness, your being there is one of the most comforting things.
Listen- I tend to walk to fill awkwardness with my dumb mouth. When we go into some scenarios we tend to talk too much when we really need to be asking good questions and listen instead. If we look how Jesus handled difficult situations, he was the master at asking great questions. Let us learn from him.
Seek His peace- Finally, we need to seek His peace daily by filling our minds with His Word, lifting all things to Him in prayer, and sitting at His feet in awe and reverence. It is only by His grace, mercy and love that the stresses in our lives (and students lives) can be managed.
Last weekend, I had to endure a five hour pre-licensing course to become a ‘safe, courteous, defensive, and drug and alcohol free driver’ in the great state of New York. There were 35 people attending that course, and I was one of four adults. The rest were teens, excited high schoolers about to get their first driver’s license.
I was irritated by how ineffective that course was. Not so much for me – I’ve had a driver’s license since 1997 so believe me, I know how to drive – but for those teens. The course started with a 40 minute video on how alcohol affects our brains. In itself an important topic, especially for teens, but everyone was asleep after the first minute. The video must have been at least fifteen years old judging by the hairstyles, clothes, and music. It was an alcoholic’s worst nightmare, considering the constant images of people drinking and having fun (the man siting next to me confessed he was a former alcoholic and he agreed with me!). I don’t know, but it sure looked like drinking made you have a lot of friends and a lot of fun. Except for that part where you get arrested for drunk driving obviously.
But it was more than that. The video explained in excruciating detail – and I’m talking about molecular level here – what alcohol does to your brain, why you react slower for instance. They kept showing poorly made animations with firing synapses or something. There was so much technical jargon that nobody except a neurosurgeon could have understood it. Even I was bored, and I have a healthy interest in how the brain works!
The two other videos that were shown were equally boring and ineffective. An old white guy in a suit telling us to use the ‘Smith system’ (a 5 point system, which I have forgotten already) to become a defensive driver. There were looooong minutes of footage of some dude driving a car and explaining to us why he was changing lanes, or whatever. The other video was a driving test with questions so stupid the whole group laughed.
I’m explaining it to you in a bit detail, so you understand me when I say this. This was a very ineffective way to reach teens with a message. If NY state wants teens to become responsible drivers, this course failed miserably in achieving that goal. Here are some quick takeaways on effectively reaching teens with your message:
- make it culturally relevant: you really can’t use a video that’s more than 5 years old, except if you want them to laugh.
- use language they understand: test drive your talk or video for a group, see if they understand it. Have someone read a transcript and circle any words he/she doesn’t understand. Extremely helpful. Also, do they really need to know all the theoretical details? Demonstrating how alcohol affects your brain is more effective than explaining why if you ask me.
- use examples from their daily lives: teens don’t learn as much from adults (especially boring talking white men) as they do from other teens. How much more powerful this video would have been if they had interviewed or shown teens who had learned valuable lesons the hard way!
- be realistic: the video about alcohol was plain weird, everyone drinking seemed to have a wonderful time. The guy they showed getting in his car was so dead drunk that it was completely unrealistic. How are you portraying sins? It’s okay to show the tempting side, but are you painting a fair picture that does justice to the complexity of some issues? With teens as the primary audience, I would have dedicated more attention to peer pressure for instance, or appointing a designated driver.
- choose one key message: nobody can remember 5 points, not even if you give it a fancy name, or make your points a nice alliteration. Effective messages have one key message, and everything must contribute to communicating that message. I watched 40 minutes of video and I have no idea what the key message was, other than that alcohol affects your brain negatively. Even if they had chosen a relatively logic key message, such as ‘don’t drink and drive’, the video would have been so much more effective.
- take your audience seriously: make sure to adequately assess what level your audience is at. Don’t oversimplify when you don’t have to. The best thing is to aim slightly higher than where they are, so there’s stimulans to grow.
The next step for me is to take a road test. Can’t wait to see what lessons I can take away from that experience :)
Another fantastic YS Idea Lab – this time Neely McQueen hosts Charles Lee on the subject of creating innovative cultures. Now that’s a mouthful! Enjoy.
You can’t log onto Facebook right now without seeing someone post the results of some personality quiz they took online. We thought we would capitalize on that fad and create a personality quiz of our own: Which HSM Team Member Are You?
Through the quiz, we are able to connect with our students in a really fun way. It has been so much fun to see students come up to team members and say, “I got you on the quiz!” or post a screenshot of their result on their Facebook page or Instagram! It helps add a connection (as small as it may be) to our adult leaders and serves as an opportunity to meet new students! It also helps outreach a little to unchurched students. The idea was that this could go viral and that students would post their results on social media—and it worked! The response we got was overwhelming! So by them sharing the link, their friends have an opportunity to take a quick test, have a quick laugh, see a face/get a name of someone that they can meet, and get more info about our ministry.
It worked so well for our ministry and can be a fun thing to do in yours. Uquiz is a free online quiz creator that helped us put together ours. They make it super easy to create and share. So the next time you get your team together have them fill out a quick survey and put together a quiz of your own!
Was talking to a youth pastor in Indiana this past week who has a significant reach into the 4 high schools in her area. Our conversation inspired
There was a meeting I used to attend that consistently went over it’s designated time. It was frustrating and I found myself resenting the leader. I was not alone so we addressed them. They had not been aware of the issue and were thankful for the feedback. That very next meeting…we still went over.
Running a meeting is difficult because the amount of pressure people put on you for using their time. If you waste it people are not going to be happy. To avoid wasting people’s time and energy in a meeting you need the right steps to run it effectively.
Here are five steps I use to make sure tasks are accomplished and people feel like I’ve used their time wisely:
STEP 1: Set an Agenda
Meetings that have no direction are the most painful ones to sit through. By creating an agenda you give people a framework of what to expect. If the conversation goes off on a tangent you have a path to get people back on task. Before your next meeting:
- Take a few minutes to develop one.
- Share it ahead of the meeting with the attendees.
- Ask for their feedback (i.e. what they would like to add).
STEP 2: Stay True To The Time
If a meeting starts late you will rush through important material. To make sure you maximize your time, start when promised (even if everyone isn’t there) and be prepared. If you promise people an end time then keep to it. If you start to go over make a plan to continue at another time or ask people if it’s okay to go over. When people see that you use their time wisely, they’ll trust your leadership.
STEP 3: Allow Conflict
In order for a meeting to be productive their needs to be conflict. That does not mean fighting and yelling; however, tension can be good. It allows people to express their thoughts which could lead to better ideas and outcomes. If someone disagrees with you and holds that back they are doing you a disservice. Also, unaddressed conflict can turn into resentment. In the end it might feel uncomfortable, but it will allow everyone to be honest and authentic.
STEP 4: Conclude With A Plan
Your team needs to know what’s next at the end of a meeting. If you do not develop action steps to take care of the topics of discussion your meetings will become repetitive and redundant. Delegate responsibilities with tangible steps. Write them down and review them at the conclusion of your meeting.
STEP 5: Follow Up
Doesn’t matter if it’s in an email or with another meeting, follow up is important. It’s a way of holding other accountable and making sure deadlines are reached. If your team accomplishes the goals that you have set forth then morale will increase. Everyone loves being set up for success.
Make meetings worth it by putting effort and energy into the preparation. Communicate the meeting’s expectations and allow feedback. When people see that you care about their time, they’ll give you grace when you mess up. They’ll also honor the time and energy you pour into becoming a leader.
What other steps would add to creating a highly effective meeting?