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First Two Years: Caring for Graduated Seniors

Recently, we started doing something that we didn’t put a ton of effort into in the past: taking care of our former students. Our team has all been through college and we know that your first few months can be really tough. There is a brand new community, new expectations, and new stresses that can be really overwhelming. We know that there is no harder time than finals season, so we thought that it would be the perfect time to send them some love. We sent them a fun, delicious, and (hopefully) helpful care package. This surprisingly cheap project has made a huge impact with our students and I thought I’d share it with you!

Carepackages

In our care packages we sent:

-Various Candy (chocolate, candy cane, Sour Patch Kids, etc.)

-Popcorn

-Pretzels

-A coloring book (with crayons)

-Oreos

-Gum

-Scantrons and Blue Books

-Reusable water bottle

-5 student-written sards

-1 card from the HSM staff

Surprisingly, we were able to buy all of this stuff (besides Scantrons and Blue Books) from the 99 Cent Store. If you don’t do anything else, at least send the cards. We didn’t just send a card from our team, we had 5 students write to each graduated senior about the impact that they made in each of their lives, reminding them of their continuing legacy in our ministry.

Caring for your graduated students is incredibly important. It allows us to support them in a time when they might feel alone, it allows us to encourage them in a time when they feel overwhelmed, and it allows us to love them when they need it most!

What are you doing to care for your former students?

Colton [Email||Twitter]

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Simple Steps To Lead Big

I find that I’m the mostly frustrated when I’m trying to do it all myself.  I begin to blame volunteers in my ministry.  And then I realize that I’m not delegating, investing or leading.  As a leader I’ve learned the most important thing that I can do is lead.  It sounds likes common sense; however, I’ve found myself so focused on the task that I forget to bring others along.  If I do not lead, then the ministry does not grow.

Leaders need to get their hands dirty; however, to grow as a leader and a ministry you need to lead those around you.  Your time, energy, gifts and talents are limited.  If you want to expand your capacity then you need to lead your volunteers, students, parents and church community.  Sometimes it requires bold moves and huge leaps of faith, and then sometimes just a few simple steps such as:

  • Sitting Back And Listen: If you do too much talking and not enough listening you are shutting off the rest of your team.  They’ll feel unappreciated and undervalued.  It’s important to look at leading as not just directing but cultivating.  When conducting a meeting look to lead and facilitate the conversation.  Make sure people have an opportunity to comes see you to pitch and idea.  Be open and take your time to respond.
  • Affirming Publicly: If someone has a great idea praise them publicly.  If someone knocks it out of the park with their commitment let others know.  Not only will the person feel the love, they’ll feel like being loyal and follow your lead.  Public affirmations can be contagious and when it becomes a part of the culture your ministry will thrive.  You don’t have to go overboard with your affirmation, just giving them credit where credit is due will go a long way.
  • Showing Random Appreciation: While all of your volunteers and students need appreciation, when you share it randomly it goes deeper.  Random appreciation means getting personal and letting that person know you were thinking of them.  When one of your team is the recipient of an random act of kindness they’ll feel the specialness of your act.  To lead big you do not have to thank everyone, just someone from time to time.
  • Making Small Deposits: How well do you know your team?  You can make small investments in your volunteers by asking them about their families.  Get to know their interests, ask them about their life and show interest in who they are.  Invest in small ways, to make a big impact.  When others see that you are investing in them, they’ll turn around to invest in you.

To lead big doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go big.  In fact it’s the small things that can have the greatest impact.  As you sit down to think about how to take your ministry to the next level just keep it simple.

What simple steps do you take to lead big?

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Get The Creative Process Flowing

One of the challenges I feel in youth ministry is to constantly produce messages, activities, small group questions, videos, and reflections.  In order to stay ahead of the curve and come up with different ideas and components my volunteer team and I need a creative process.  It allows us to stay fresh and relevant in an ever changing world.

To produce a growing and moving youth ministry you need a creative process.  Along with producing materials you need to make sure you have a system dedicated to brainstorming ideas and thinking outside the box.  The question is, “What does this system look like?”  Your creative process should include:

  • Making Capturing Ideas A Habit: You need to create an idea bank.  In other words make sure you are capturing, writing and recording every idea that comes to mind.  Whether it’s using software like Evernote or traditional methods like a notebook, make sure you get it down. You might not know what to do with it right away; however, it could be something useful for later.
  • Building In Time To Dream: When you give yourself permission to day dream, you allow ideas to percolate and grow.  Building in time to dream might mean quiet time in the morning or doing something mindless like washing the dishes.  Slow yourself down, reflect, think and again make sure you record whatever comes to mind.
  • Setting Deadlines And Goals: The creative process takes a lot of intangible disciplines; however, it also takes firm ones too.  Create deadlines for projects so that the sense of urgency will move you forward.  It’s easy to get stuck on an idea and the risk is overworking it pass perfection.  It’s similar to over seasoning a sauce, too much time and you might ruin it.
  • Delegating And Clarifying Action Steps: You might come up with all the ideas on your own; however, you need people to help you make them happen.  Whenever brainstorming make sure there is a next step, even if it’s just to revisit an idea.  When you have action steps it assures that ideas are never lost in the pages of a notebook or subfile in your computer.
  • Creating Accountability: Have people check-in with you or your team to see how the project or idea is coming.  Give them details like deadlines so that they can remind you what’s coming up.  Sometimes you might feel like holding back on an idea because it’s personal.  Having accountability will encourage you to share the idea and be bold.

To be truly creative means having a creative process.  Create mile markers and a framework for the flow.  Be intentional about what you do and dream big.  By having a creative process you’ll help your ministry grow into a movement that is impacting in lives.

What’s a part of your creative process?

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First 2 Years: Being Completely Right and Totally Wrong

I work on a VERY opinionated team. Now, that can be a totally awesome thing or the absolute worst. We like to operate under the “best idea wins” principal. Ideally, this should cut down on some of the arguing and provide really productive meetings. However, this can lead to pretty lengthy and “passionate” speeches about why their ideas are the best. One of the biggest lessons I have learned from these meetings is that you can be totally right, but if you communicate your idea in a poor or hostile way, you will always be completely wrong. Here are a few tips that will (hopefully) allow you to avoid that mistake in a meeting:

Check your pride at the door. This isn’t the time for you to win. This isn’t the time for you to prove that you are top dog. This is the time for your team to make the best choices to minister to the students in your ministry. Check your motives and maybe even pray for your heart before you enter into a meeting. Pride is one of the biggest things that can prevent you from clearly communicating your ideas.

Don’t take it personally. If someone doesn’t agree with your idea, it doesn’t mean they don’t like you or they think you’re dumb. Well, sometimes that might be the case, but only on an unhealthy team (which is a whole other blog post). Sometimes your idea is just a bad idea. That’s fine, everyone will end up pitching a bad idea. Don’t get emotional. Be a team player and push through. In the nicest way possible—don’t be a baby.

Shoot down ideas, not people. It is so dang important to watch your tone. Brainstorming meetings only work when people feel like it is a safe environment. Make sure the way you challenge someone’s idea promotes that. If you make someone feel dumb, there is no way that they are going to want to keep participating in the discussion.

What are some tips you would you give on the topic?

Colton [Email||Twitter]

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Pinterest: the perfect social network for youth ministry

If there’s one social network you should be on when it comes to youth ministry, it’s Pinterest. Except this network isn’t as much about connecting with students, as it is about finding hundreds of brilliant ideas and resources you can use in your youth ministry.

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is a relative newcomer in social media land, but it’s one of the fastest growing networks. If you’re unfamiliar with Pinterest, let me give you a quick intro. Pinterest is like a digital pin board where you can ‘pin’ stuff from websites you like, want to remember and want to share. That means that everything that’s pinned on Pinterest is ‘posted’ on some website, you can’t ‘upload’ stuff onto Pinterest directly. You can pin it, thus creating a visual link to that site.

Mind the ‘visual’ part here, this is a big difference between Pinterest and other social media. Pictures are everything here. It’s also what I love about Pinterest, since I’m a fairly visual person.

Pinterest works with ‘boards’, often topics or areas of interest. I have 14 boards for example, ranging from youth ministry stuff, to book wishlist, vegetable garden, low carb recipes and writing. It shows all my interests and I don’t have to limit it to just youth ministry.

Pinterest

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Seder Meal Experience: go deep and authentic this Easter

A few years ago we wanted to do something different for Easter, to make our students more aware of the Jewish roots of the Pesach or Passover fest. We decided to organize a ‘traditional’ Jewish Seder meal, also known as a Pesach or Passover meal, but with Jesus at the centre. You could call it a Messianic Seder Meal.

The Seder Meal is held on the Thursday before Easter and it’s a combination of a ritual meal with lots of rituals that have a deep symbolism and an actual meal with great (Jewish) food. It’s the famous ‘last supper’ Jesus celebrated with His students.

The Seder Meal and Passover Feast (the Passover comes from the tenth plague and the ‘passing over’ of the houses where blood was smeared on the doorframe, in all other houses the firstborns were killed) was instituted by God after the exodus out of Egypt and the Jewish people were told to celebrate it each year. It’s also known as the Feast of the Unleavened Bread, because you’re not allowed to have any yeast in the meal and even in the house, to commemorate the hasty flight out of Egypt when the dough for bread didn’t have time to rise.

The 'bitter herbs' for an important part of the symbolic Seder meal

The ‘bitter herbs’ for an important part of the symbolic Seder meal

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Milestone: we got to 150 products! HUGE sale at Downloadyouthministry.com

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10 ways to remember names


Let’s start with the very basics of relational ministry–leaders know the people they are serving. You might be thinking, “I was afraid you were going to say that. I’m lousy at names.” Well, so am I, and, so are the majority of people/leaders I know. It’s an easy excuse to fall back on.

I recently had someone say to me, “Thanks for knowing my name; that means a lot to me.” I know it means a lot… our name is our greatest possession. I felt good when this person said thanks, because more often they say, “Hey Doug, what’s my name? I bet you don’t remember.” Many times, I can’t. Shame, guilt, and inadequacy quickly follow.

A name is a personal and powerful possession. It’s part of an identity. To know a person’s name communicates that you care.

Here are 10 practical suggestions for memorizing names (well, 9 plus your additional idea).

1. PHOTOS: Take photos of students on your phone and review them as flash cards.

2. REPETITION: Repeat a student’s name three or four times in your first conversation. (“It’s great to meet you Tina. So, Tina, where do you go to school? Hey, Tina, how many times, Tina, do you think, Tina, that I can say your name, Tina, in a sentence, Tina?” Okay, maybe don’t be that obnoxious)

3. GET MORE INFO: Ask for identifying information that can solidify a name. (“Hey, let me see your drivers license, student ID, passport, bail bond, tattoo … “)

4. WORD ASSOCIATION: Associate his/her name with someone else you know of that name. (Dave – tall, thin, goofy hair – Dave Letterman.)

5. STUDY FACE: Study his/her face while you’re being introduced… look for outstanding features and connect them with name (Neil=nose, Moses=mole, Brian=busy eyebrows).

6. QUIZ:
This is risky, but ask the student to test you on it next time they see you. (“What’s my name, Doug?”) Nothing like pressure.

7. WRITE IT DOWN: Write it down (into your phone, on your hand, whatever). The act of writing it will help you retain it–especially if the ink doesn’t wash off quickly.

8. PRAY: Ask God to help you remember and care–we remember what’s important to us.

9. BLAME: Blame old age and give up… or when all else fails… use name tags.

10. YOUR IDEA: add it to the comments section here.

I wrote this a while back as part of a leader training (click here to see the whole thing) that I allowed Interlinc to use. Then, my buddy Brian Berry took the idea and used it for his group and sent me a copy. I thought, “That would be good for my blog.” So, there you go… the genesis of this idea.

Question: What’s your idea for remembering names? Share it here.


[Are you getting Doug's daily blog in your email inbox?] If not, it’s real easy–go here.

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37 Sermon Series Topic Ideas

Sometimes an idea for a sermon series just comes to me, so I quickly write them down in my notebook. Who knows if they will ever be used in our ministry, but hopefully by me sharing what I have thought of and seen, maybe they can spark something in another ministry in order to be used to spread Jesus to students. Let the brain begin to work!

  • False God
  • Hello, My Name is… Jesus
  • The Walking Dead
  • Impossible God (God works in impossibles)
  • Crosswords
  • UnChristian (based off the book)
  • Explicit
  • Love Out Loud
  • Old School (Old Testament Stories)
  • Real House Wives of the Bible
  • Dialoge vs. Monologe (prayer)
  • In It For the Prophets
  • Try Me
  • Prisoner, Pioneer, Preacher (Paul)
  • (Un)Comfort Zone
  • Scale The Walls
  • The Forum (Asking Questions)
  • Sit Down, Stand Up, Step Out
  • Lamb, Lion, Lord
  • Moments (God speaks in moments)
  • Thou Shalt…
  • Reputation: Not Just Yours Is One the Line
  • Secrets
  • I Have Never…
  • Tamed Temptation
  • Can God Really?
  • House of Prayer
  • Pawn Stars (Jesus wants more than collateral)
  • Seeds
  • Keeping It Real
  • Broken Yet Beautiful
  • Too Close For Comfort (Closer to God you become, the more uncofortable we are called to be)
  • Prayer Is…
  • Handle What’s Handling You
  • Clay, Potter, Masterpiece
  • Free At Last
  • Spiritual Shipwreck

If this sparks something for your ministry, let me know! I would love to hear what did with it!

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The flipped classroom in youth ministry

When I was studying for my teaching degree in history, there was a big change going on in the classrooms. We were taught to forget about the old model of teaching for 45 or 60 minutes straight, but instead to divide each lesson into blocks of ten minutes or so. Ten minutes of teaching, ten minutes of independent work, ten minutes of talking about the home work, etc. The variety in activities was supposed to keep the students’ attention…or make the time simply go faster.

We’re on the brink of a new revolution in teaching with the concept of the flipped classroom (see the infographic below). The underlying idea here is that students watch the ‘lessons’ online at home or somewhere else, and then discuss them in the classroom and via online communications. Schools are experimenting with this new model and with promising results so far (aside from a few practical complications like the fact that not all students have a computer and/or internet access).

TED announced recently that they have created a new website to help teachers use educational TED videos (and all YouTube videos for that matter) for the flipped classroom model as well. This opens up huge possibilities for using any kind of video to teach and discuss in several ways.

The concept of the flipped classroom is revolutionizing teaching. How could we use this in youth ministry? (photo: Alexander Redmon)

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Creative ideas for memorizing Scripture

In the church I grew up in, we spent quite some time memorizing Bible verses. We always had vacation Bible weeks for kids where we were taught one or more verses, we did the same every Sunday in Sunday school and even the teen ministry gave it a shot.

But after that, I didn’t devote much attention or time to memorizing Scripture. In the last few years however, I’ve become more and more convinced of the importance of knowing verses, passages and maybe even whole chapters or books from the Bible by head.

If you want to know the many benefits of memorizing Scripture, I refer you to this excellent post (with very inspiring quotes) by John Piper and a more recent one from Sermon Central. I’m convinced that memorizing Scripture is a very important part of discipling our young people and I’d love to do more of this in youth ministry.

Memorizing Scripture is a powerful discipling tool in youth ministry.

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The lasting power of simple images

I was still a college student when I first encountered this image, or drawing actually. My husband and I were part of a Campus Crusade for Christ group and that’s where we first saw it. In the years we spent there, it became sort of funny, because the thing kept popping up in sermons, speeches, talks, Bible studies and testimonies. We referred to it as the ‘Campus-train’ and by the time we left the group, we could draw it off the top of our heads.

It’s a powerful demonstration of the necessity to put the facts first, followed by faith and then feelings. In this postmodern culture with its focus on experiences and ‘what feels good’, the temptation to put feelings first is big. But as we all know, our feelings aren’t reliable and they certainly are no indication or evidence of what God is doing in our lives. It was a deep truth, the depth of which we didn’t even fully realize at that time. Still, we found the image to be a bit silly.

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Introducing the sound of silence in your youth ministry

Do you know what silence sounds like?

It’s a noisy world we live in. We’re bombarded constantly with sounds from cars, our neighbor’s dog barking, crying babies, phones ringing and music playing in stores.

For teens, even more so. They have constant auditory stimuli from their iPod, phone conversations, the racket a huge school full of teens make, games they play or friends they hang out with.

Silence is hard to come by these days. Acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton calls silence ‘the fastest disappearing resource’ and he’s on a mission to record and preserve silence before it’s destroyed by man-made noises (look at this fascinating initiative One square inch of silence for instance).

All the noises we have to process all the time can drive you crazy…as it (almost) did author George Michelsen Foy who describes his quest for absolute silence in his book Zero Decibels: The Quest for Absolute Silence.

We’ve forgotten what silence sounds like.

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A Super Bowl Idea


GUEST POST by Jonathan McKee. Jonathan has become a regular guest blogger on this site! He is the author of numerous books including the brand new Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent, as well as youth ministry books like Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation. You can find his excellent blog here.

A few years ago my friend Brian and I hosted a Super Bowl party with a bunch of young couples from the church. Brian came up with a little idea that added so much fun to the party, that I tried it in a youth ministry setting. Now I never have a Super Bowl party without it.

The idea was simple. Brian made a “Super Bowl Quiz” that people had to fill out quickly before the game began. This wasn’t some test only for football experts; it was a combination of basic football knowledge (how many points for a safety?) and predictions about the big game (Who will win the coin toss? Who will score first?). Brian also always threw in some questions that really didn’t have much to do with football (Will Pepsi or Coke have their commercial first? Who is performing at the halftime show?). All questions were multiple choice. All quizzes were collected before the coin toss.

During the game Brian would record the answers to the predictive questions (Who scored first? Etc.), thus, making the answer key. At the end of the game we’d tally the quizzes and award the winner with a fun little prize.

The quiz was always a blast. So I started taking Brian’s quizzes and posting them on my web site each year for youth workers around the country. Eventually my buddy Todd took over the quiz creation (He’s a Steelers fan. I’m praying for his salvation), and we have provided the quiz for free to youth workers for a decade now.

A few years ago a wrench was thrown in the works for churches that wanted to have Super Bowl parties. The NFL cracked down and began trying to regulate screen size and other elements. Luckily, most of that nonsense has now passed, but a few bizarre rules remain for churches, like, you can’t actually call it a “Super Bowl” party (you call it the “Big Game” party).

As for me… I can’t wait for the “Big Game” this Sunday. It’s an excuse to hang out with friends and family eating pizza and wings all day! Oh… and an excuse to use this year’s quiz, of course!

Question: What are you doing on Super Bowl Sunday? Share it here.


[Are you getting Doug's daily blog in your email inbox?] If not, it’s real easy–go here.

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What if discipling looked like this?

Adam McLane shared this video on the Youth Cartel website and I was just blown away by it. I’ve been thinking so much about the future of youth ministry lately, about sharing the gospel, about discipleship and how to do this in youth ministry…I’m learning so much, formulating a new vision for how I want to do youth ministry. This video really shows where I am right now…

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