Youth Worker: We Are Confusing Students!!!!

Its-really-confusingThere are church words and phrases that we use all the time that are probably confusing our students. I remember this one lady in church who would always respond when people would ask her “how are you doing” she would respond with “blessed and highly favored of the Lord”. I would think, “what do you mean by highly favored? I mean, does God favor you more than me?”  I think about this incident and how it has made me conscious about the terms I use talking to students.  Now, I grew up knowing all of the Christianized lingo, and I still know it and I use it when it’s appropriate. It is not appropriate when I’m talking to students who are coming to church for the fist time or a student you are mentoring.  The last thing I want them doing is decoding what I’m trying to say while I’m speaking.  Here are some of the words and phrases I replace with regular language.

  • Resting in the arms of God
  • Sovereign
  • Spiritual high
  • Just give it to God
  • Surrender your heart
  • Quiet time
  • Walk with God
  • Christ increase while I decrease
  • Be all you can be in Christ
  • Not my will but thy will
  • Leave it in the hands of God

We use these words and phrases all the time with good intentions, but the likely hood of students knowing what we are really talking about is slim to none.  Be intentional about using regular language so everyone understands you.  If you do need to use words like sovereign give the meaning so students can follow.  Saying ” we all need to have a quiet time with God” is totally true but it’s a metaphor; it’s not really explaining what you mean.  Think about it.

What other Christianized words and phrases do we use that are probably confusing to our students?

hope it helps

ac

Youth Workers: My Child Is Gay!!

respondToday, I got the opportunity to be on The Simply Youth Ministry Show.  We got an email about a youth worker who had parents come and tell him that their son is gay.  While this topic deserves more than 12 minutes, we took it on. I thought I would elaborate more on the topic.

Popular opinion says it’s OK and to each its own and the only people that are speaking out loud in opposition are the people who are screaming God hates gays. Which is completely untrue. I believe that as culture continues to push embracing this life style as the norm, you will have a lot more students with questions.  We need to talk about it.

I’ve had enough conversations to know that there is no easy solution when dealing with students who struggle with homosexuality because every situation is different.  However, I do believe there is a framework that can help you best support and mentor students. As you tackle this hot topic, here are a few things that have helped me tremendously as I support and mentor students in this area.

Knowing the views of your church –  If you haven’t had a conversation with your pastor, elders or who ever does pastoral care with the adults in your church, you need to do it.  It will give you confidence in caring for students when you know the church has your back and supports you.  If you find out that you don’t agree on some things in this area, at least you know where you stand and can start working towards a resolution.  You can also collaborate on a plan on how to best support students. You don’t have to do it on your own.  How you handle this topic is a really big deal.  Remember, since you represent your church, how you minister to gay teenagers needs to reflect your church’s views on the subject.  Inconsistency will only cause confusion in an already tough to navigate situation.

Educate yourself   It’s one thing to know the scriptures stating that homosexuality is wrong; it’s another thing to support someone and mentor someone who is struggling with it in their life.  You must know more about it than just what Leviticus says when it comes to mentoring and supporting students who are struggling or questioning their sexuality.  Read up on both sides of the topic.  Simply Youth Ministry has a new resource written by Shawn Harrison Ministering to gay teenagers.  There is a free sample of the book you can read and check it out.  There are plenty of websites and articles that are pushing a popular opinion driven agenda that you can read up on.  You need to know what they are hearing from culture concerning homosexuality.  Just as important, you must know what the bible says about it.  So do some research because students need to know you care and the more you know the more you are able to be passionate about reaching out and supporting them.

Allow God’s word to guide you   There is a bible verse that speaks to how we should approach sharing the truth of God’s word. Ephesians 4:15 talks about speaking the truth in love.  Paul is saying we as believers must do two things.  One, we must always speak the truth.  We are not called to sugar coat it or hide it in some politically correct lingo.  We are to speak the truth of God’s word.  With that being said, we must also handle God’s word of truth correctly (2 Timothy 2:15), so that we don’t speak truth in a way that misrepresents God’s position.  Secondly, We are also called to speak the truth in love.  That means:

I hope this gives you some type of direction and if nothing else something to talk about in your next staff/leader/volunteer meeting.  Allow God to put a burden on your heart for these students if you don’t have one already.

If you need someone to talk some things through regarding the topic, feel free to email me at acrumbey@gmail.com.  Praying for you all!!!

hope it helps

ac

              

Youth Worker: First Timer Vs Follow-Up

follow-upI get asked about follow-up a lot.  To be honest, this is an area that is constantly changing.  We are always trying new things. What works we keep and we cut what doesn’t work.  I think what you do on the front end is just as important as the follow-up, if not more.  I would even go as far to say that the art of the follow up is thinking through experience of the first-timer.

There are two types of students that come to youth group.  There are students who’s parents go to big church, so they really don’t have a choice and even if they do have a choice their parents are committed to the church so more than likely they attend.  Then there are students who are invited by their friends.  These are students who’s parents may not go to church or students who’s parents belong to another church but come to the youth group because of friends.  I believe students get connected to youth ministry by levels.  Each level has the potential of making a first-timer become a returner.  Lets check them out:

  • First level is invited by friends or parents being members.  Believe it or not students who’s parents are new and join the church have a higher probability of being the most disengaged students in the ministry.  This is because they come knowing no one. Their goal for every service becomes about leaving two minutes before service is over so they don’t look awkward walking out alone.  The other group that comes with their friends are a little less awkward because they are with someone they know.  Nevertheless, this is a level of connection for a student.
  • Second level is the atmosphere which includes the people.  Students can feel the love, care, kindness, and the freedom to be yourself type of atmosphere.  They can also feel judgmental, cold, no real community type of atmosphere.  This has more to do with the people staffed/volunteered during your youth group.  I know getting volunteers can be tough and you can’t be too picky, but if this plays a factor in a student coming back or getting connected, it’s worth you asking for more intentionality from your staff/volunteers.
  • Third level is the service.  Making the service relevant to the needs of students is most important – key word being “needs”.  Students are facing all kinds of crap these days. Students are dealing with things today that 50 years ago they would’ve dealt with in college.  Our job is to bring the hope of Christ to every area of the student’s life.  That may include us sharing with them things they need to hear, which may not be what they want to hear.
  • Fourth level is the opportunities students have within the ministry to get connected.  It’s important that you think about how you can make it easy for students to get connected, regardless to whether they are Christian or not.  I use to coach at a high school and the thing that amazed me the most was the fact that students would sign up just to be connected with others.  They didn’t even know how to play, but saw it as an easy way to make friends and build relationships that could last for a long time.  Create super easy steps and advertise them for students to get connected.  Serving projects have been the easiest way to get students connected. Whether that’s them serving in a ministry or just at a serving event.  Promoting team based atmospheres in those serving opportunities is key.

Now, I’ve had students say they’ve wanted to be a part of the youth group because everyone is just so chill.  Which means they feel like everyone is so real and comfortable with each other.  They said nothing about the service but it was the atmosphere that brought them back.  I tell you this because you need to know there is no perfect formula and there are definitely more levels than 4. What I hope you get from this is that whatever you do be intentional about it because it matters.  I hope this post gets you thinking in this area of the ministry.

What is most successful for us is using a response card…from that card students can let us know if they are new, given their life to Christ, want to get baptized, serve in a ministry, be contacted by a leader, etc…  First-timers are greeted by leaders as they turn in their response card to receive a free ice cream coupon.  We have very intentional conversations with them and they get a free ice cream coupon and so does the friend that brought them.  We are constantly trying new things, because we believe it’s important that no one falls through the cracks.

What are you doing concerning first-timers and follow up?

hope it helps

ac

2012 In Review: yoacblog.com Top 10 most viewed Post!!!!

logo19AI have really enjoyed writing and sharing my learning’s and insights with others in youth ministry.  God has definitely shown me a lot in ministry over the years,  He has also helped me share my thoughts with others in hopes it would help someone else.  Here are the 10 most viewed post on yoacbolg.com.

Also, I started having some of my students share and write some guest post to their peers.  The response has been great, feel free to use them.  Looking forward to more in 2013.

hope it helps

Happy New Year

ac

Youth Workers: The Honeymoon Is Over!!!

honeymoon1Do ministry on purpose! –  What use to be done automatically must now be done purposefully.  When you start dating someone everything is new and exciting. The time you put into the relationship seems effortless and everything flows perfectly.  Well, after a couple of weeks/months/years things aren’t as new as they once were and all the things that were cute early on become common.  All the things you did early on which came automatically now must be done purposefully.  Being thoughtful and considerate towards one another has to be done purposefully.  Because the more the relationship becomes common the more you lose those things. I believe it’s the same in ministry.  When you are young in the game of youth ministry everything is exciting. Loving on students is easy and when you see God doing something in their life, you are screaming “that’s awesome” and it gets you so pumped.  Then you get a few weeks/months/years into it and things become common.

  • You no longer reach out to the new students.
  • When God does something awesome in a student’s life you act excited but you’ve seen it happen a million times, so the enthusiasm and appreciation is not from the heart.
  • You stop fervently praying for students.
  • You no longer show genuine interest in the lives of students.
  • You become the “high-fiver’ that ask students, “how are you?” and hope they say fine so you don’t have to hear about their problems.

The list goes on and on.  When the newness of something goes away you have to become purposeful about it or you become noneffective.

Some areas you might have to be more purposeful in:

  • Reaching out to new students.
  • Being genuine in your enthusiasm and appreciation when a students life is changed.  Know that you are being used by God to change the course of someone’s life forever.
  • Praying for students fervently and expectantly. If you are spending 8 hours a day programming and only 5 minutes praying and seeking God for your students, ministry has possibly become to common.
  • Show a genuine interest in all the lives of your students not just the ones you know.
  • Seek out students who need your time and love.  Ask more detailed questions than just “how are you”.  Ask: how’s your family or how’s your walk with Christ?

What has helped me do ministry purposefully has been keeping a heart of thankfulness.  I have this exercise I do that helps me stay thankful.  I play three of my favorite worship songs and while they are playing I write down everything that I am thankful for.  The first song I write down the things I am thankful for concerning my family. The second song I write down the things I am thankful for concerning individual students, and then the third song I write down the things that I’m thankful for concerning ministry.  When I am done I can visually see all things I have to be thankful for.  Seeing how God has used me in the lives of others gets me excited about what else God can do with my life.  Knowing that I don’t deserve the blessings God has chosen to bless me with reignites the fire for ministry and life in Christ for me.  I do ministry purposefully when I’m reflective and thankful.

So if you can see yourself in this post and you feel like you are just going through the motions, think about what areas you need to do ministry purposefully.  My prayer is that this post starts conversations that moves people back into a healthy place in ministry.  The honeymoon phase of ministry is over, now what?

hope it helps

ac