For Students: 7 Things To Pray Everyday This School Year!!

I remember having a conversation with a student who was not a christian and I ask him what did he think about Christians? He quickly said “Christians are too judgmental”. As we began to talk I found out that it had nothing to do with him but everything to do with how bad the church treated his family. Now, I can’t say if the church was right or wrong but what I can say is this kid needed an encounter with Christ. He needed to know what Christ thought about him and his family. We talked for a while and it was cool to see his heart change towards Christ and the church. This got me thinking about how we seem to be defined by crazy-makers or just incidents beyond our control. I know there are a lot of students who need to encounter Christ just like this. I really want to challenge you all to be proactive this up coming school year:

  1. Pray for students at your school to have a real encounter with Christ.
  2. Pray that God would use you to connect others to Him.
  3. Pray for opportunities to share Christ.
  4. Pray for boldness to share Christ.
  5. Treat others like you want to be treated.
  6. Show dignity to the outcast in your school.
  7. Do what is right. Care more about your character than popularity this year.

Make these seven things your prayer everyday during the school year and watch God bring people into your life or path who needs a real encounter with Christ. Don’t say to yourself I’m not equipped to lead people to knowing Christ. You only have to be two things to be used by God ‘willing and available’ which both take zero skill.

Hope it helps.

ac

9 Ways to Keep Your Volunteer Youth Leaders Motivated!

This is not the end all be all to this topic.  I love starting conversations and getting people thinking.  I was just thinking about when I was a volunteer leader for two years and how I now lead a few of our volunteer leaders.  I know how easy it is to become unmotivated when it comes to being a volunteer. So I thought I’d write some ideas on how to keep them motivated.  I’m pulling from my experience as a volunteer and also as a person who has and is managing  volunteer leaders.

Here are a few ways to keep your leaders motivated and engaged in my humbled opinion:

  1. Allow your volunteer leaders input into the planning process. – This does not mean that they have to be at all the meetings for something you are programming.  You want them to feel invested so figure out an area they can own and allow them to take ownership.
  2. Try to be specific when you are celebrating and encouraging your volunteer leaders. – When I was a volunteer it meant a lot to me when I would get a complement that was related to something that I did specifically.  Example: Ac..it was awesome how you made that student feel so comfortable with being here, even though they didn’t know no anyone.  It didn’t mean a lot because I needed the complement, it meant a lot because it was confirming that God is using me just as he created me.  We all need that from time to time.
  3. Be consistent in meeting or connecting with them. – whether it’s a meeting monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly.  However you connect, be consistent with it.  The more you put into your volunteer leader program, the more it shows them that they are valued.
  4. Make sure that their duties are worth their time being there. – Plan very carefully what they will be doing, if possible let them know in advance.  There is nothing worse than showing up to serve and you end up doing something because things where not planned out.  I know things are never perfect but just be a wise steward of their time and yours.
  5. Avoid having them serve at multiple events if at all possible. – As you plan your calendar think about how not to burn your leaders out, because it’s super easy to do.
  6. Build Community – plan something fun to do together.  Plan a picnic and invite their families, bowling night, pot luck dinner, etc. Whatever you do make it informal and highly relational.  Which means make sure you all are doing something where conversations can be had.
  7. Lead by example and not the iron fist. – Don’t tell them to greet, meet, connect and pray with students if you are not doing it.  We are in this together, so don’t treat them as hired help.
  8. Offer Training and/or Resources related to their job – It says you care about their success.  I wanted to be the best at what was asked of me as a leader.  Training and resources that can better assist them in doing their best is a win win for everyone.  Even if you just have people who setup the youth group room, have a time of encouraging them, and pouring into them whatever God lays on your heart.
  9. Acknowledge their sacrifice and their families sacrifice – They are definitely not looking for you to do this, but when you acknowledge their sacrifice it lets them know that you do not take their them for granted.

Any thoughts?

hope it helps

ac

For Youth Workers: God Changes the Heart!!!

I think sometime this concept can easily be forgotten.  A lot of times we know the answers to a student’s problems before we know the whole story or the cause of the problems.  So we stop listening and we start focusing on our response.  We start trying to lay out our response so that it touches the very core of the issue.  Meaning we are trying to recall every sound bite that has had a high impact in our lives.  We want what we say to touch the students so much that they start to cry and scream out “ I’VE HEARD THE VOICE OF THE LORD AND I AM FINALLY ON THE RIGHT PATH”. Haha….

So what’s the issue with that?, you might ask.  Well, one point I made earlier is that you stopped listening.  The very thing that the student needed you to do, you stopped doing.  When we intentionally sit and listen to students, we say to them that they are more than just someone broken in and needing to be fixed. Listening intentionally to a student says to them:

  1. Someone cares about me.
  2. Someone thinks I’m important.
  3. Someone thinks I’m worth their time.
  4. Someone cares about my feelings.

Listening intentionally will earn you the right to speak the truth of God’s word into their life.  I advise when meeting a student for the first time that you are going to give guidance to, that you don’t even give any guidance on the first meeting.  Allow the first meeting to set the tone for the rest of the meetings.  Here is how you listen intentionally:

  1. Listen with great eye contact and body language. It makes a difference.
  2. Ask questions about the things they really care about in the situation. Even if you think it’s silly or  shouldn’t matter as much as it does.
  3. Affirm when you can. You never know how many people have already made them feel stupid, crazy or ashamed before they spoke to you.  Affirming them doesn’t mean you have to agree with them.  It just means you validate the fact that the issue they are going through is something that should be dealt with.
  4. Start and End with prayer. Let them know that you are working on behalf of the only one who can actually help them.  God changes the heart.Ezekiel 36:26-27

The bible talks about how we can do nothing without Christ.John 20:15:5  If you really think about it that should take a lot of pressure off of us, knowing that we have to rely on Christ to power and orchestrate the life changing work we get to be apart of.   We are just vessels being used by God to spread his love, mercy, kindness and grace to students.  I’ve learned that when I don’t remember this I screw things up.  Because my focus is not on doing my job as the vessel, it’s on being the power source.  The vessel’s job is to house the power and give it something to do.   So when we try and be the power that changes people lives we frustrate ourselves when things don’t work out the way we think it should.

There has been times when I have forgotten that God changes the heart, and I feel the burden to be perfect in that moment so that students are changing.  I must rest in the fact that God wants to use me to do one thing and that is to spread the gospel (God’s message of love) to students.  He did not call me to do his job (which I can’t even do in the first place).  So I would encourage anyone in ministry to be at peace knowing that changing the hearts of students is not your job.  God commissioned you with sharing his gospel (God’s message of love).

Any thought?

hope this helps!

ac

Training for our Weekend Leaders

Had the privilege of training our weekend leaders this past weekend.  We are taking our leaders in a new direction.  They will completely be a part of our weekend team.  They will no longer be just available but will be initiating connections with students.  Thought I would post what I shared with our leaders.

The duties of the weekend leaders (Pastoral Care Team) will be to meet, greet, connect and pray for students.  Our goal as the weekend pastoral care team is to reach out to students that are disengaged and also care for the students that are a part of the ministry.  We are a part of the weekend team, so we will be fully engaged in the weekend programming.  We want to bring the level of relational ministry on the weekend to a higher level of importance.

Here are 6 ways you will serve on the weekend:

1. You will be introduced to the students so they know that you exist and understand your purpose. This will give you the license and confidence to speak into the lives of the students and spiritually lead them.
2. You will also have the opportunity to be a part of the service (could be a video, announcement or handling communion).  We want students to know that you are a part of HSM leadership and getting to know you is just like getting to know staff.
3. You will be assigned a zone in the theater during the service you attend.  You will scout out those students who are sitting alone and sit with them or assign student leaders to sit with them.  You will also control the noise level of the zone, making sure students are being respectful of each other.  During Saturday 430pm service and Sunday 9am service we want all of the students sitting in the lower level of the theater.  Please remember the students in your area who race to sit in the back alone and be sure to greet them after service.
4. You will intentionally connect with students.Instead of standing around waiting for students to come and get prayer, we will be actively pursuing and connecting with students so we can meet, greet, connect and pray.

  1.  Meet – We want to meet students.  We will meet students instead of wait in a corner for them to come to us.  We will reach out to them instead of waiting for them to reach out to us.
  2. Greet – We want to make sure that we genuinely greet them.  Refer to the hand out “Hand Shake Hi to a Hug Goodbye”.
  3. Connect – We want to make sure that we are intentional about our conversation with students.  We want to look for ways in the conversation to suggest a next step.  For new students we want to guide them towards community.  That could range from life groups to serving opportunities within the ministry or summer camp.  You can even suggest grabbing coffee, lunch or ice cream with them at the refinery sometime.  For students who are already in life groups, you can suggest serving in a ministry, missions or summer camp.  We want to make sure students are getting connected.
  4. Pray – We want to pray for students.  While you are connecting through conversations, once an area of struggle, pain, disappointment, hardship and trial appears offer prayer.  We want to avoid saying “I’ll be praying for you”.  Pray for the student right there on the spot.  Even pray for the core students you already know that have been met, greeted and connected.  Go deeper in conversation and pray for them.  Just because they are a part of our core students doesn’t mean they have everything together.

5. You will also be a part of the follow up team. We want to get them connected. If you meet a first timer make sure they fill out a response card so we have their info.  We want to make sure we are able to keep them updated on what’s going on in HSM.

  1. Hanging out with first timers. – We will send our first timers to the growth booth. You will then escort them to the VIP lounge where they can sign their name and get awesome snacks! What if we had KING SIZE snacks…even bags of cotton candy?!  You simply take two minutes sharing about our ministry and how much we are glad they are here.  Tell them to make sure they don’t leave without saying hi to you the next time they come.
  2. Following up with first timers. – Contact the student just to see how things are going. Finding out how can we help them get more connected is our goal.

6. We will have an after service event.  We will do a hang session right after all four services.  The Saturday services can be different from the Sunday services.  Basically, we will have an activity after each service that we will help slow students down so we can connect with them.

how are your weekend leaders active on the weekend?

hope it helps

ac

Conversation Tactics for: Youth Workers

Having a conversation with a new student can be like pulling teeth.  You get all hyped to greet them to only have them give you the least amount of info about themselves.  Getting their name and letting them know you’re glad they came would be a success, anything more is a bonus.  I would say the success to a “bonus” filled greeting would be open ended questions, follow-up questions and being intentional.  So I want to give you a few steps in this area.

In the early stages of the conversations you really want to ask questions that you can refer back to in the conversation.  Examples: family, sports, school, their church history and etc… I do this so that when I hit a dead end I can ask more questions about one of these areas.

Open ended questions are great because you can gauge their level of commitment to the conversation.  A closed ended answer to an open ended question lets you know where they are…not interested. If it’s a more elaborate answer you know they are somewhat committed to the conversation.

Examples of Open Ended Questions:

What has been your biggest struggle in high school and why?

Do you have a crazy coach and how do you manage his craziness?

What are you planning on majoring in college and why?

Are you close with your parents and how supportive are they about (fill in the blank)?

What are some struggles you’re having in your walk with Christ?

How long have you been coming to church and what’s got you coming?

What’s the attitude towards Christianity in your family?

Follow-up Questions:

Listen with the mindset of asking a follow-up question.  The best follow-up question is one that challenges a student to reveal more of them self through the conversation.

Examples:

So how did you feel about your parents saying that or doing that?

So how has your decision to commit your life to Christ changed you?

Why do feel your life is so stressful right now?

The above are just a few examples to get your mind going.  Each encounter will be different so you will have to make them up as you go.

hope it helps

ac

For Students: I Struggle!!!

Share with friends, you never know who might need to hear this!

We all struggle with things. Some are huge and complicated while others are minor in comparison.  When I was younger I used to stutter. I remember times when I would have to say my Easter speech in front of people or even just talk to friends and it would take such a toll on me.  I would pray that I would never have to say anything that would cause me to stutter just because of the  pure embarrassment it brought me.  Sometimes I would want to jump into conversations so badly but I didn’t because I was afraid I would stutter.

I remember a time when I was in a fundraising wedding and I played the part of  the groom.  I was super excited until I was handed what I had to say.  It felt like I had swallowed a dumbbell and it hit the bottom of my stomach.  There was no more excitement and for the next 3 or so months I obsessed over this one word “PLEDGE”.  It hurts to even write it…haha.   I started brainstorming ideas on what to do about this word.  I figured maybe I could change the word to something that I could say without stuttering, but  no other words fit that I felt comfortable saying.  Also, I knew I would have been asked why I wanted to change the word and that would’ve been too embarrassing.  I even thought about not doing the part, but I liked the girl who was playing the bride so I couldn’t do that.  So I went on a quest to conquer saying this word.

Just to give you an idea how bad my stuttering was, I would be in tears if I had to get up and say anything in front of people.  My heart would pound so loud I could hear it and see it coming through my shirt. That’s how crazy it was.  So on to my quest to say this word. I would say the word to myself all day long and then find ways to bring it up in conversations with friends.  I don’t know how, but I could feel the stutter coming on before I would say the word.  For some crazy reason I would be in a great conversation and go to use the word and I would feel the stutter coming up. So I would immediately stop myself from saying it.  This thing was a huge struggle for me.

Finally, I was exhausted at trying so many things and failing miserably that I decided to pray and leave it in God’s hands.  I did and he came through.  When I got to the pledge part I said it!

The first thing that came to my mind was “why didn’t I do that in the first place?”. Life would’ve been so much easier had I made the choice to give it to God first.  Although my struggle wasn’t something I was causing upon myself, the same formula applies.  This is because whether you are causing the struggles or not,  just as much damage  can be done if it’s not handled right.  Maybe you’ve been struggling with something personal and it has consumed you.  It makes you do the very opposite of what you want to do.  You’ve been on a quest to stop and have failed many times.  In your mind you’re thinking “I should be able to stop this”, but you can’t and it’s causing you guilt and shame.  Here are a few things I’ve learned looking back at my struggles and how I overcame them.

  1. I had to admit that I was struggling.  I released the power of the struggle by confessing it to God and someone else (parent, church leader, accountability partner, trusted friend).
  2. I CANNOT fix myself. I have to understand that I am broken and so all of my solutions are flawed. That’s why Proverbs 3:5 talks about us not trusting in our own wisdom but trusting in God.
  3. Give it to God.-Don’t Wait!!! Make God your first option. 1Peter 5:7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.
  4. I had to seek Godly Counsel.  I needed to go to someone who trusted in God with their own life.  I needed someone who understood that they needed to give me the advice God wanted me to hear. Proverbs 11:14
  5. Be a doer and not just a hearer. Follow God’s plan of freedom for your life in the areas that you struggle.

I can’t tell you how many times during the course of my life that I’ve had to follow these steps.  I can honestly tell you that it works.  One of my favorite verses John 10:10  talks about how Christ came that we would have an abundant life.  I believe that the fact God wants to help us with our struggles and worries is the abundant life!

hope it helps

ac