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!
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.
Weekends are a great conversation starter for students. But small groups are where the conversations can continue and where spiritual growth can happen. They are where transformation happens. They are where leaders can push, encourage and challenge students in their faith and really open them up to what God has planned for them.
Last week on twitter (@neelym) I posted a link to an article about the movie Divergent and some intense themes in the movie about sex and relationships. A fellow youth worker read the article and reached out to me with some questions regarding the topic of sexual abuse/rape and how we talk about it in the context of our youth ministries. One of the comments that stood out to me was that when the topic had been brought up previously in their ministry, people including leaders became uncomfortable with it and made jokes to lighten the tension.
Rape and sexual abuse is not a joke. (Is this mic on?)
Statistics are that 1 in 4 girls have REPORTED sexual abuse. If there were more safe places for students to tell their stories, I am sure that statistic would be higher. This means that YOUR ministry has been impacted by sexual abuse.
This is not a joke. I would love to see churches become the safest place for girls…on multiple levels…safe from danger and safe to tell their truest story.
How do we became that place?
I hope that our ministries are the safest place for girls. I hope that each time we speak to our students, each moment we interact with our students…they would feel both safe from danger and safe to tell the truth.
What are the ways that you make your ministry safe?
As much fun as ministry is and can be there always is a time in which you need to confront a student or leader with life choices they are making or they are being disruptive in service. Let’s be honest, no one loves confrontation. It can be very hard at times. Even though it’s tough it is important in ministry to handle conflict with students and leaders well. A confrontation handled well can help launch them into the next level of personal growth in life and with Jesus. A confrontation handled badly can cause way more damage to the situation than their was before you entered into the situation. Hence, the importance of handling conflict well.
So what do you do?
What else would you put? Add to the list?
Matthew 28:18-20 – “Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’”.
I have been thinking a lot about discipleship lately. It’s hard. It’s so worth it. I have been thinking about how I myself have become a disciple of Jesus. I have been thinking about how we as a ministry are making sure we discipling students in a way that they would be making other disciples. My office mate and I were talking and he said something pretty great which got me thinking. He said, “I’m not concerned with how many students we baptize, I’m concerned with how many of those we baptize end up baptizing others. How do we get better in this?” Such a great question isn’t it? It’s a challenge we all need to take seriously and step back and look at how we are doing this.
Looking at what a disciple is: 1) someone who is willing to “go”. They knew what they saw about Jesus and had to go out and tell others about Him. We need to make sure our students KNOW what they believe to go out and tell others. 2) Disciples challenge others who believe to be baptized. While baptism is not what saves a person, it is the public confession of allegiance to Christ and willingness to enter into Christian discipleship. 3) a disciple reproduces themselves. While only some believers are gifted in teaching, all believers are called to share what they know about Jesus with others growing in their knowledge of Christ.
So what does this look like for you? How can you measure this in your ministry? I don’t know. I do believe that our small groups are the beginning of where many disciples are started but we always need to be striving to be better. I just know it takes a lot of time and it mostly stems out of a lot of relationships. As I look back on my own journey of discipleship, I can pin point certain people who were instrumental in my faith. They time they spent with me and the things they talked to me about regarding my faith made me who I am today and I’m grateful. Those people were Greg Tisor, who I used to volunteer for and now is a senior pastor and Mike Brook, who is now the college pastor here at Saddleback. They spent so much time and intentional in their relationship with me pointing me to Jesus.
I’m sure many of us can look at our stories and realize the same thing. There was a lot of time and a relationship in which helped us turn towards Jesus even more and I would love to hear your stories! DYM is a family and how do you get to know your family better? You share stories, so share in the comments below:
How did you become a disciple?
So you want to make a change in your ministry? Get ready! There is a ton of things that come a long with changing something in your ministry, some great things and some challenging things.
It’s an uphill battle. If there is a certain culture or thing that has been going on in your ministry and you want to change it, know that it is going to be an uphill battle. Programs can be easy to kill but a culture dies slow and fights hard. People get comfortable with status quo and change ruffles feathers. Just know it will be a fight.
Just because you are passionate doesn’t mean others will be. There have been things in life where I get really excited about certain things and when I tell others they are not nearly as excited, as I want them to be. If you want to lead a shift, you need to get others passionate about your version and start to help them see it like you do. You have to be a passionate leader who lays clear vision so others can effectively see the direction you want them to go.
You have to a broken record. Some of the greatest advice I have ever heard when it comes to casting a vision for change was: “When you start tot feel like a broken record because you repeat the vision over and over is probably the moment when your team is just now beginning to process the vision in general.” We have to be willing to be vocal and be consistent at it. A culture shift will take time.
We can’t change people. Only Jesus can. If we feel God is leading our ministry one way and we are seeking after Him and wanting to do what we feel he is calling us to do, the best first step is prayer. Pray for clear vision. Pray for clear communication. Pray for your team and their hearts. Pray for your ministry and your student’s hearts. If it is where God wants you to go He will begin to change the hearts of the people. Warning: this could take time.
It’s worth it. The uphill battle, the vision casting, sounding like a broken record, the hard work, the sacrifice, the constant conversations, the struggles, the fights, the hard conversations, the yelling, the praying, the struggle is all worth it if it is going to produce better disciples of Jesus in the end.
We all have a routine. We also all have a routine in our services and small groups, and this is okay. I think there is a healthiness in routine in our groups. Our teenager’s worlds are constantly changing. Their bodies are changing, they are changing in mental development, and the world around them is changing. So having a consistant routine in our groups is a great thing because they can count on it. I think it is healthy.
But with all of that said, I think it is okay to switch things up a little bit at certain points. What do I mean by that?
My small group meets every Wednesday night from 7-9pm. The order usually goes as follows: show up, eat dinner, hang out, bible study, prayer dismiss. They know it like clock work. So this last week without letting them know but working with the parent who lets us use their house, they showed up to a pool party BBQ. The pool was heated, the BBQ was going, we had extra swim trunks and we enjoyed a night of fun and hanging out together. Why is this a big deal? Because we all ended up in the spa after dinner and we had some of the greatest conversations we have had since the beginning of the year. Shaking things up a bit can open the door for a conversation that the students themselves didn’t think they would be having coming into group. Plus who doesn’t like a pool party?
Another example would be this week in our Life Group Workshops. For workshops we have all our small groups come to our student building to get some teaching about a certain topic. It is great because it gives our leaders a break and they can just be with their students. In the middle of the message, we had all of the students get up and walk outside to a designated area we previously set up for a point in the message. Students were shocked and went along with it, but they loved it. When coming back into our room from the message where they were used to the band being on stage for a time of worship, the band was set up in the back of the room, behind everyone. The only thing on the stage was a cross. We prompted students to respond in what ever way the Lord was leading them. Some stayed in their seats and read the words, some stood with their hands raised, and some came and sat at the foot of the cross. All while the band was in the back of them room leading in worship. It definitely was awkward at first because we are used to reading the band on what to do, but students soon realized the band didn’t need to be in front of them and they only needed to focus on the cross and its meaning and they began to worship in a way I have never seen. Students then began to pray for each other around the room. It was so good!
Point? While routine is great, don’t be afraid to change things up once in while to get students out of the “church routine” because I believe you will get their attention and they will be more open to how God wants to move that night.
A few weeks back I spoke on the topic of pain and suffering. Something happened in my message that has NEVER happened before…
A little background:
I had done a little “research” and read some books that several of my students had been talking about lately. Most of these books are written by John Green. I now refer to him as the Judy Blume of this generation. These books are filled with sadness, love and even hope…but they address the suffering that young people may face in their life. His books include: The Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns and An Abundance of Katherines.
I recently read The Fault In Ours Stars. This book is a best seller and is currently set to come out as a movie in a few months. This book had a few great quotes that fit right into my message on pain.
When we flashed the image of the cover onto our screens…and I referenced the book…the room erupted with noise. I kid you not, there was moaning and gasps coming from everywhere in the room. It was like I had posted a photo of a cute kitten being held by a newborn baby. In that moment, by using the book cover and the simple quote from the book I was able to draw almost every student into this tough conversation regarding pain and suffering.
This moment reminded me of the power of being aware and being interested in what is happening in the lives of our students.
Being aware says I know what’s going on in your world…and being interested says that it matters to me too. A easy and simple step that earns you credibility to speak truth into their lives.
I want to be more aware and more interested. How do you say engaged in what is going on in lives of your students?
I love my adult small group. My wife and I are in a group with 3 other married couples from the church and we have been meeting together for over a year now. Tuesday nights have quickly become one of my favorite nights of the week for many reasons. When I was explaining to someone why I loved my small group so much it made me think of the small groups we as youth pastors lead. Students should feel the same and get the same things about their small group as much as we feel and get out of our own. Here are some things I love about my small group that I need to take a step back and look to make sure I am providing the same type of experience for our students.
It can be really easy to be getting what we feel we need rather than making sure we are doing the same thing for the ministry.
I can take a deep breath. I know when I walk into small group I can take a deep breath of relief because I know this is a safe place. What I am feeling and wrestling with won’t be judged but will be talked about openly and be prayed for and I will be encouraged by the people in my group. Are we making sure we are creating the same environment for the guys in my group? Am I created a place where they feel they can be real and open about things happening in their life? When they walk in the hoe we meet in do they take a deep breath of relief?
I’m expected to be challenged to grow. I know when I come into group we are doing to be gong through a certain topic and Scripture and we are going to asking tough questions to get us thinking. I walk into group knowing and expecting for me to be challenged in my faith and how I am living it out in my every day life. Is this the same thing my students know when they walk in? Do you expect to talk about things that will challenge them or do they think this is just a place to hang out and mess around at? Students should know being challenged and the expectation of growth is part of being in a group. That means being called out in a loving way, being held accountable, and answering tough questions to get them thinking is expected when they come to group. They shouldn’t be surprised when this happens because it is what they signed up for and what a group is al about.
I am expected to be authentic. When in group we are to talk about life. Not our Instagrammed, highlight reel but the life we don’t usually let others see. We talk about work, relationships, spiritual and emotional hardships. While we talk about them we are expected to be authentic with how we are doing with each of those things. Are the guys in my group expecting the same thing? Is this known? It can be really easy just to show up to group and give some ready-made answers and not really engage in conversation. I try to let my group know that chances are if they are not sharing and being real and authentic here at group, they are not being real and authentic anywhere else in their life outside of group. Group is the place to talk, vent, question things they are wanting to go through or if they are going through something in life this is the place to be real about it. It’s healthy to have this place set in our lives.
I’m in a small group for a reason. It’s where life change happens, I truly believe this. If I am growing in areas in my own life I can help my students grow in areas of their lives. If I was not in a small group and I was telling students to be in one, that defeats the purpose. I’m shocked at how many push small groups knowing how they help in growth in our lives but are not in one themselves. My challenge to those who are not in a small group themselves: be the model of what you want to see in your ministry. You will grow in many areas when you are in a group like described above. When you grow and model this with your students, you will begin to see growth as well.
So this weekend I got to hang out at the Youth Specialties Team Training in Chicago. I had a blast. I got to learn. I got to meet a ton of new people. I love the team trainings because they are way smaller than the national gatherings and you can bring up to 15 people on your team for $399 total. It’s a pretty sweet deal. As I’m sitting in my hotel room, here are my top 3 highlights from the 2 day conference:
Message by Doug Fields:
Planned Discussion Time:
Like I said. Loved it. It was such a great time of meeting people and learning. I would recommend you going if it is going if it is coming to your area! Have you been? What was the best part?
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!
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:
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!
Ministry can be busy. I think we all know this. When it comes to meetings and when it comes to our weeks we have an agenda that we go by. There are people to meet with about certain things. There are meetings that have agendas about programming, planning events, people to touch base with, things to reserve. There are one-on-one meetings with a purpose because they need help or they are helping us. Our week is jam-packed with agendas. This is not a bad thing. Stuff needs to get done, ministry needs to happen people are going to need things and talk to us.
I feel sometimes we lose the simple pleasure of meeting with students with no agenda. I got reminded of this the other night. A group of students I got to hang out with for a good amount of time up at our winter retreat invited me to come to dinner with them. I did. We went to Chick-fil-a and it was delicious. It was myself and 7 other students. There was no agenda. We literally were just there eating and hanging out. We talked about movies, the classes they were in, favorite TV shows and what their parents do that bug them. No agenda. No motives. Just a pure hang out and quality time laughing and just being together. There was another night were I hung out with two guys in my small group for 2 hours at Starbucks just hanging and talking life. Again, no agenda. Just being with.
It was refreshing.
We as youth workers and ministers get caught up in the hustle and bustle of meetings and people needing things from us and the fact that we need some things from people in order to make our ministry and our church run. There has to be an agenda otherwise nothing gets done.
I think sometimes we need to make in our agenda a “no agenda time” just to be with students.
No plans. No motives. No agenda. Let’s not get caught up in the craziness of running a ministry and miss out on some of the greatest ministry moments we can have with students… simply just being with them, laughing with them, talking with them about nothing.
When they feel comfortable enough to just hang with you when the “big stuff” in their life goes down you will be the first one they come to and you can speak God’s truth into their lives during that time, furthering your relationship with them and helping them further their relationship with God.
I would love to hear your thoughts on something that has been running through my brain lately regarding baptisms.
Do you ever get that gut check that a student may be getting baptized for the wrong reasons?
What do you do?
They say the right things but something doesn’t feel right..do you go ahead and baptize them?
What is our responsibility in making sure a student understands fully the statement they are making in baptism?
What do you think? Share your insight!