Tag Archives: student ministry

Three Ways to Keep Teens from Graduating from their Faith

This past Saturday, I attended “The Gathering,” with five other youth leaders from our church. It was a training/conference put on by Berea. This year, the main speakers were Sharon Ketcham (Gordon College) and Reggie Joiner (Orange/reThink). While they somewhat came from two different points-of-view, they both had the goal of helping churches change the staggering statistics of the number of teens who walk away from their faith and the church once they graduate high school (and youth group). Their points boiled down to these three main concepts:

Involvement in the Church
One of the issues with many church youth ministries is that they have a great program for teens, but they are not always encouraging the students to get involved in the entire life of the church. Actually, there are some churches who are even opposed to teens serving at all, let along outside the youth group. If we are going to help change the statistics, we need to help teens understand the importance of being involved, and we have to help them understand what roles they can play. At RCC, this starts with a “spiritual gifts inventory” test that we have our high school leaders take. This helps them identify some of the abilities God has given them. Then, we help them try out different ministry roles. Sometimes it works out, but other times, they realize that is not where they belong. If needed, we try again with something else. This is a similar approach we take with our adults. If all goes well, they will realize they are a vital part of the church and not just a teen who attends youth group. The goal is to help them understand this before they graduate, so they will begin craving it no matter where they go for college or work in t he future.

Churches Need to Partner with Parents
If you have been reading my blog over the past couple years, you will not find this as a completely new concept. It is the thought behind Orange. However, this might be the first time I’m writing about it in connection with helping teens now “graduate” from their faith and the church. As with the other concept, this starts when the student is still with the church, before graduating. Churches can do all they can, but the reality is that parents have more time with their kids than the church, so we need to help parents do the best they can. We need to provide resources, we need to be on the same page, we need to pursuing the same goals, we need to champion the parent-child relationship, and we need to support parents in their effort to offer spiritual direction for their kids. Honestly, a teen may not step foot into our church building ever again once they graduate high school, but they probably will keep in contact with their parents. As youth leaders, we need to make sure we take care of our parents, loving them, and supporting their efforts. One way we do this at RCC is through our monthly parent group, where we tell them what we are teaching that month, and we suggest questions they can ask at home to carry on the discussion.

Develop a Strategy
We need to develop a plan for out ministry to teens. Too many churches approach student ministry so lazily. I am thankful to my youth ministry professor, Rondel Ramsey, for teaching me this early on in my ministry career. Reggie suggest a list for “What students need to know.” He didn’t say every church’s list should be the same, but he said this was a good place to start, and I agree.

  1. God’s love is bigger than religion.
  2. I will be present even if you never believe what I believe.
  3. No one’s faith is 100%. “If you don’t allow them to process their own doubt, they will never own their own faith.”
  4. I am not trying to change you.
  5. The Bible is not just a good book.
  6. I want to help you discover a bigger story.

Sure, there are many other ideas out there, and I am definitely not saying that these are the only three keys to keep teens in the church. What I am saying that these are three great ways to start moving in that direction. We are in the beginning stages of offering more for our college-aged students at RCC, as well, so expect more insights and stories later this year on that. Until then, let me know what has worked at your church and student ministry. What has aided in your effort to change the statistics?

Orange Conference 2013 – Follow these Bloggers!

orange_logo.jpgThe 2013 Orange Conference is wrapping up today. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend this year. I am hoping next year will be different. So, because I was not there to blog about the workshops and main sessions, I wanted to pass on a list of amazing bloggers, who have been and will be sharing their experiences like crazy! Be sure to follow these people for both the Orange Conference and throughout the year.

You can also follow everyone along on Twitter by searching #OC13 and #thinkorange.

How Much Do We Have to Hate…?

Tonight, as I do quite often, I taught the high school students at Youth Group. The lesson itself was on the basic Gospel message. After trying to summarize the story and importance of Jesus, I brought up Acts 2:38, where Peter shares a simple message of what to do after hearing and believing this story of Jesus. We talked about belief, repentance, baptism, and living for Jesus. Then, I brought up the idea that we should be sharing this incredibly important message with others.

Earlier today, as I was practicing and doing some last-minute tweaks of the lesson, this video came to mind, and I ended up showing it at the end of the lesson. It is three year-old video blog by Penn Jillette, a comedian and magician mostly known for his part in the duo of Penn & Teller. Penn is a self-proclaimed athiest, meaning that he does not believe in any sort of god, and he also is of the opinion that all religion is bad. While Penn and I would have some disagreements about God, I found this particular video extremely challenging. He describes a time when a fan gave him a Bible after a show.

I think it is great that Penn shows respect toward this guy. The statement that stands out the most to me, though, is the one where he says,

“If you believe that there is a heaven and hell, [...] and you think, ‘Well it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward.’ [...] How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”

Wow! I only pray that this challenged our high school students (and possibly you, reader) as much as it has challenged. me. Further, I pray that I will actually do something with it instead of just thinking about it and letting it sit. I mean, how many people have I not told about Jesus, and in turn, denied them not only the opportunity to have eternal life , but also a better life here on earth? Let’s do a better job, church. Jesus commands that we do a better job!

What is Orange?

orange_weekToday, I realized that I have been writing about the “Orange philosophy” for about two years, but I don’t remember if I have ever taken the time to explain it. So, here is a fairly brief explanation and a video.

Orange is a philosophy of ministry based on bringing the church and the family together, in order to promote the same thing at the same time for the same goal. That goal is to help children grow up to know, love, and serve Jesus all the days of their lives. So often, though, churches and families are not on the same page. In fact, parents often see the church as the place to drop their kids off, go do their own thing, and come back to holy children. However, that is not how it should be, and it often does not work that way.

The reThink Group has coined the “Orange” concept from the “Red” (heart of the family) and the “Yellow” (light of the church) partnering together. It is about the church providing resources and training to parents, helping them take the lead as the spiritual leaders in their homes. Sure, we still have times for kids, students, and adults to learn on their own, but we are always pushing a partnership. Orange provides some curriculum to help pull this off, which is not necessary, but it does help. It is really all about a mindset. Are we going to continue separating the church and family? Are we going to keep “silo-ing” our ministries? Or are we going to bring it all together and focus on the same thing, partnering together?

For those who need a visual, here’s a video from Orange, themselves.

For others who want to learn more, be sure to check out The Orange Tour or The Orange Conference!

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This week is “Orange Week” again, and while I won’t be posting something new every day (as I have in the past), I did want to point you to all the others who are writing about Orange all week. Be sure to check out their stuff!

Amy Fenton Lee, The Inclusive Church
Austin Walker, YouthMin
Ben Read, YouthMin
Ben Kerns, Average Youth Ministry
Cass Brannan
Elle Campbell, Stuff You Can Use
Henry Zonio, Kidmin and Culture
Jared Massey, Small Town Kidmin
Jenny Funderburke
Jeremy Lee, Uthmin
Joe McAlpine
Jonathan Cliff
Mary Carver, Giving Up on Perfect
Matt McKee
Matt Norman, It’s Pastor Matt
Michael Bayne
Nick Blevins
Paul Mannio, Orange Dad
Ryan Reed
Sam Luce
Tom Pounder, Ministry Blackboard
Tonya Langdon, Kidmin 1124 and Special Need Kidz
Wendy Douglas, Saved Sister
JC Thompson, http://jcisonline.com

Things You Don’t Learn in Bible College: Recommendation Letters

mail-28691_640_pixabayIn this second installment of the “Things You Don’t Learn in Bible College,” I’d like to turn my attention to something much more practical. When I was applying for college, jobs, and scholarships, I had to ask others for recommendation letters. Basically, this is a letter, usually written by a mentor or boss, that does exactly what you think it would.

While I sought out many of these letters during my time in Bible College, I was never taught how to write one. I remember one of the first times a high school student came to me and asked me to write one. I was very honored, but I was also very nervous. I ended up going back to some of the letters I had on file for myself, and I basically adapted it for this student. I’m sure it was all right, but it would have been much better if I had written it entirely on my own.

Another time, I remember writing up a recommendation letter for a student, who told me later that she had never participated in some of the things I said she did. I guess I had gotten her confused with someone else or something like that. She didn’t have the heart to tell me until about a year later. However, she did get the thing I was writing the letter for, but part of me feels bad, because I feel as if I lied. Sure, it wasn’t on purpose, but still.

Something that goes along with recommendation letters is applications. Recently, some colleges are requiring more than just a letter. They ask applicants to have a mentor fill out a recommendation form or application. Some of these are just as long as the college application, themselves. I felt as if I was applying to the school, instead of just recommending someone.

Maybe some of you were taught this in Bible College, but it was not in my curriculum. Sure, I could look it up online, and educate myself, which I have done. In fact, I highly recommend that others do this as well. In fact, keeping letters that were written on your behalf is also recommended, so you can have some models and examples. However, I think it would be nice to learn this in Bible College.

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This is just the second post of this new blog series. I’ve got a small list of things to talk about, as of now. I’m still trying to figure out if this should be merely a rant-style or if I should actually “teach” what I am talking about. So… What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Ministry Update – January 27, 2013

ministryupdate

It has been a LONG time since I’ve done a ministry update post. For my original financial and prayer supporters, I apologize for that. I felt as though I needed to share some recent revelations with you all.

Tonight, we had almost 70 students at our youth group event. While some may look at that number as extremely high, and others may see it as a low number, I see it differently. Normally, I hate talking attendance numbers. I think God is more excited about the number of students who know Him and are growing closer to Him. However, this is an exception. Why? Because about five years ago, I was just four months into my new ministry job here at RCC. At that time, we probably had around 10 kids coming on a good night. In fact, the times we broke 20 were really exciting.

I say all this to not build myself up at all! Instead, I just want to publicly thank God for wanting to use me and this amazing team of volunteers He has organized at RCC. It is such a privilege to call this my job! In the times when things are just crazy busy, and it is so easy to forget things like this, I thank God that He finds ways to remind me that He is still in charge, He loves me, and He wants to use me. What an honor!

This weekend, I will go on my sixth winter retreat with our group. The first year, we took around 12, and this year we are taking almost 30. Our summer mission trip, workcampNE, is also growing just as much, if not faster! Four or five of our seniors are planning to attend Bible College, and four of our juniors are considering it as well. God is not only bringing more students through our doors, but He is bringing them closer to Him, and using them in amazing ways in the world around them.

Thank you for your prayers. Thank you even more for believing in a God who answers those prayers!

Things You Don’t Learn in Bible College: Carrying Drywall

tydlibc_drywall_1Today, I am starting a new series of posts on here entitled, “Things You Don’t Learn in Bible College,” where I will discuss the vast number of things I did not learn in my Bible College career. Some of these things are ministry-related, and others are not. Most of them, however, will be things I have had to do while in ministry – the things you wish you would have learned while in Bible College.

First up is carrying drywall. I am literally sitting here, still panting, as I write this blog post. During my 10+ years of ministry (both volunteer and full-time), I have been around various building projects. Today was the first time I’ve ever had to carry more than one sheet of drywall. Man, that stuff is incredibly heavy and awkward! Our contractor (who is, coincidentally, also my landlord) had to leave for the day to take care of his daughter, and he asked me to help the delivery guy when he arrived. That is the last time I agree to something like that!

tydlibc_drywall_2

For those of you ready to call me out, these were 5/8 x 4 x 10 Fireguard Gypsum Boards. Each of those are about 88 lbs, and we had eight of them!

I always thought I was fairly athletic, but my body was not ready for the seemingly nonstop effort it had to put forth carrying those things off a truck, up the stairs, around the corners, and through several doors that kept closing on us. I seriously felt like I was going to pass out afterward.

Perhaps this is just my body telling me that I need to kick my workout routine into overdrive, or maybe this is something they should teach you in Bible College. Either way, I will be much more prepared the next time I get asked to do something like this. My response will be something like, “How much drywall? Who else will be helping? Is there any way I can avoid the feeling I had after the last time?” That’s just one of the things they should add to the ministry curriculum in Bible College.

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This is just the beginning of this new blog series. I’ve got a list of at least five more, as of now. But before I continue, what do you think? Should I keep this up? Let me know in the comments below.

People Come and People Go

Every year at Christmas, it seems that people struggle with emotional issues. My wife tells me that immediately following Christmas is even the highest rated time for suicides. Why is it that when things should be going well, as we gather with friends and family to celebrate, we often get hit with bad news? Sure, that news might come throughout the year, but when it happens around Christmas, it just makes everything a bit… confusing.

Not only did the recent school shooting in Newtown, CT, rock all of our worlds (especially for those of us nearby), other things only add to the sadness. The economic situation is still taking its toll on most everyone, people are very upset with our government for various reasons, and others believe the world will end in just a few days.

On top of this, I’ve just been hit with the unfortunate news that a family in our church will soon be moving. Throughout my five-plus years at RCC, this has happened way more times than I have wanted. I think, as I went into ministry, I always assumed it would be me who would have to be the one to say goodbye as I moved to follow God’s direction — not that I wanted to move all the time, but I just understood God sometimes does that. What I did not realize was how much it would hurt to see others move away. Quite often, it is the people who work in the student ministry. In these times, I can only turn to God and ask, “why?” Why do you bring me an amazing volunteer with a wonderful family only to pull them out later and send them elsewhere? I guess I do understand the reasons most of the time, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

In the end, it does strengthen my relationship with God. Sure, I go to Him with questions of doubt and confusion, but I often come away closer to Him. It is those times when I learn to rely upon Him even more, knowing that it is not people that we need, but Him only. People come and people go. Sometimes, you will make some extremely strong connections, and other times, you won’t. Sometimes, those connections might be broken, and other times, they might last for a lifetime. Nonetheless, it is what God can bring that truly matters. So, through it all, I will trust Him, that He knows what is best and that He is guiding these people — even if it does mean that sometimes those directions are away from me.

Building the Team

A couple weeks ago, I got a chance to chat with a college student, who was just hired as a part-time youth minister. He began asking about the “Orange” family ministry philosophy we have jumped into here at RCC, but the discussion turned to more over time. Before long, I found myself actually providing wisdom about ministry, which was the first time I really felt confident doing that. God has really been teaching me over my 10+ year run in youth ministry. One of the biggest things He has taught me is the importance of building a team.

The above graphic was created by Adam McLane, and it illustrates the reality of youth ministry in the United States. Based on the 2010 census, we are at a ratio of 1 paid youth worker to 427 teenagers. Who can teach, mentor, and disciple 427 teens by themselves? We must build a team if we really desire for every teenager to experience a life-saving relationship with Jesus. Here are some further thoughts connected to this idea:

  • I know I can fully invest in only 15-20 students, and that is only when I am at the top of my game. If I instead focused on 10-15 volunteers, who, in turn, focused on 10 students… I think you get the picture.
  • No matter how hard I try, I cannot be everything to everyone. I am not Paul, and I am definitely not Jesus. I need to find others to bring alongside me who are gifted in areas where I am lacking.
  • I love my current job, but there may come a day when God asks me to move on to something else. If that day comes, the youth ministry needs to continue, no matter if I am there or not. It is not about me.

Building this team might be tough in the beginning, but you can be sure that it is worth it. Like I told that college student… Even if you are not gifted as a recruiter, roll up your pant-legs, and recruit at least one — someone gifted as a recruiter. Then, invest in them and watch the multiplication begin.

No Orange Conference 2012 for Me

Hey, everyone. First of all, I apologize for the lack of posts lately. Life and ministry have been incredibly busy. Also, I wanted to let you all know to not expect any Orange Conference posts from me this week. Normally, my blog would be overrun with all the summaries, photos, and videos I take at the conference, but I was not able to go this year due to budget cuts at the church. I am sorry for anyone who was expecting to live vicariously through me at the Orange Conference 2012. However, here is a list of other bloggers who will be there this year, writing and sharing. Please check them out, as I know they will be great!! I plan on reading them myself!

Hopefully, with God’s help, I will be there next year blogging for you all again!