Tag Archives: student ministry

I Love My Student Ministry Team!

About half of our Student Ministry team, from our 2013 Christmas party.

About half of our Student Ministry team, from our 2013 Christmas party.

Today, I just want to take a moment to brag. No, I’m not going to talk about how cool I am. That would be a VERY short post. Instead, I want to talk about how cool our student ministry team is. I can truly say that I am blessed to be a part of one of the best teams at our church. Why? Let me give you five reasons, even though there are many more.

1) I am constantly surrounded with people who love God and love teenagers. There are not many other groups I can think of that sound better.

2) We have a ton of fun! Between games, events, and just being silly, we have so much fun! In fact, I think our students often think we are incredibly weird because we get along so well.

3) They are willing to serve. Not only do I have adults committing to serve as a small group leader ever week, I often have more volunteers than I really need to go on a retreat or other events.

4) There are many parents involved. In fact, most of my team consists of parents, who recognize the value of having an impact on more than just their own child. How cool is that?

5) They are incredibly giving and have huge servant attitudes. Not only are they willing to give of their time, but they are often donating money, their car, their home, and more in an effort to do ministry.

Yes, much of what I do is because of my love for God and my desire to see teens’ lives transformed by Him. However, it does not hurt one bit to work with a wonderful team to accomplish that task. I thank God for them, and I tell them I am thankful for them, but I also wanted others to know just how much they mean to me. I pray that other youth ministers can say the same thing about their team.

Things You Don’t Learn in Bible College: Counting Money

Next up in this “Things You Don’t Learn in Bible College” series is the art of counting money.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Image via Wikimedia Commons

There is not too many weeks that go by when I am not counting money. No, this is not because I make a ton of it. This is because we usually have some upcoming event requiring students to pay some sort of fee. So, after that starts coming in, I count it up, fill out the paperwork, input the data in my computer, and turn  it in to our financial administrator.

Before I start, I will say that not all churches are the same. There are some who are fortunate enough to have a financial staff that takes care of all fees for the student minister. While that can happen, my educated guess is that most are not in that situation. Instead, many ministers have to take care of accepting, counting, and organizing their finances on their own.

It is no secret that student ministers have a bad reputation of being unorganized. They are often the ones that have the messiest desks and offices, the ones who do not turn in paperwork on time, and the ones who are always breaking things. This does not have to be the case, though. So, while the others in this “Things You Don’t Learn in Bible College” posts are generally more funny and observational, this one is going to offer a few pointers. Here are a five tips about counting money that I did not learn in Bible college, but I did pick them up along the way.

Envelopes and folders are your friends. When it comes to organization, there are a few things you need to invest in. Take your pick on envelopes or folders. Either one will allow you to organize all money and paperwork easily. Simply place the money inside, and put it all in the same place, perhaps even filed in order.

Do not procrastinate. This is one of the hardest lessons to learn, but it is essential. Most of the time, you are asking students to turn in their money on time, so you need to honor them by processing it in a timely fashion. Maybe the easiest way to do this is to pick a day and time each week where you will do this. For example, maybe every Thursday morning will be set aside to count the money.

Count in public. I know you are above reproach, and you would never steal from the church. So, prove it to people. Grab someone else to help you count, count it in a common area, or at the very least, keep your office door open. One of the last things you want is to be accused of stealing money. Sometimes, counting in public is hard, especially when students are throwing money at you right before or after youth group. At these times, simply collect it, use your envelopes/folders, put it in a safe place, and count it in a public location later.

Double-check your work. When it comes to money, it is sticky, dirty, and gross. No, this is not a public service announcement for washing your hands. What I mean is that money can easily stick together. I am often finding dollar bills stuck behind another. So, do yourself a favor, and double-check your count. In fact, a triple-check is not a bad thing at all. We are human, and we make mistakes.

Let the technology work for you. While they are not the fanciest things, spreadsheets are meant to keep you organized. It doesn’t take long to setup a simple spreadsheet within something like Excel or Google. Then, each time you receive some money from a family, input the person’s name, how much you received, and the date you received it. Not only does this cover yourself if any issues arise, it will also help those who are on your church’s finance team. If you want to go further, there are more software options that allow you to do more. One of my favorites is Managed Missions, which allows you to track money and more for mission trips.

I know that you probably didn’t learn these things in Bible college. At least, I didn’t. And I know you probably don’t make a ton of money, so you’re probably not accustomed to counting money at home. Hopefully, though, these few tips will help you become a better counter of the green-backs.

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This is the fourth post of this blog series. The overall purpose is to be both fun and informative about the “practical” side of youth ministry that people often leave out of a standard Bible college curriculum. I’ve got a small list of things to talk about, but I’m still trying to figure out if this should be merely an fun 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.

Trying to Pass it On at Open Boston 2014

openboston2013-logo

The other day, someone asked me how long I had been involved in student ministry. Before I knew it, I had counted up over 12 years. Between the two years of volunteering, 18 months at my first ministry, six months of my internship, another year of volunteering, a year of resident ministry, and my current run of over six years at RCC, I was a bit overwhelmed with how fast it has flown by. So, I thought it was about time that I try something new. In fact, 2014 will be a year of several new things for my wife and me. I’ll blog about the other things later, but today is about the idea of passing it on.

After 12 years of student ministry experience, I hope that I have learned a few things that are worthy of passing on to others. So, in February, I’ll be doing my first workshop at a youth ministry conference. It’s called Open Boston, and it is designed for youth workers in the New England area. Specifically, I will be speaking (Actually, my wife will be with me, but I guess I’ll be the “main speaker.”) on “how to do student ministry on a small budget.” While the term “small” can be extremely relative, I feel that I have had quite a bit of experience doing ministry with little money. This does not mean my paycheck, either. Although, that is also small. My first ministry, I did not even have a budget. Anything we wanted to do for the ministry, we had to fundraise. During my internship and resident ministry time, we had a descent budget, but it still did not allow us to do whatever we wanted. Currently, we have a rather small budget, due to the fact that we are a newer church. So, through the years, I have learned how to do ministry with little to no money in the bank.

Now, here comes the tricky part. I hope that I have learned enough to pass it on to others who are in a similar situation. While an incredibly large budget sounds nice, the truth is that you do not need a ton of money to reach teenagers and their families for Christ. Sure, it would be nice to not have to worry about money, but the truth is that Jesus already told us that we don’t have to worry about that in His “Sermon on the Mount.” So, while I do not want to give my entire workshop thoughts right here in this blog post, I will say that it all starts with trusting God to do His part. The rest is important too, but this is the best place to begin — trust in God.

I ask that you pray for me as I prepare to speak at this workshop, and I also ask that you pray for those who will attend the conference. Pray that God does something amazing here in New England. I know He can!

Also, for any student ministers out there who are reading this, I am trying to collect a wide array of ministry budgets, as an illustration for this workshop. So, if you would like to share your budget with me, please email me, or contact me on Facebook or Twitter. I’m mainly looking for your expense budget, which basically means the amount of money your church “provides” in order to do your ministry — the stuff they don’t expect you to get back from event fees, etc. Thanks!

Things You Don’t Learn in Bible College: Stacking Chairs

Here we are again, in the third installment of my “Things You Don’t Learn in Bible College” series. Today, we tackle something I personally dread — stacking chairs.

Chairs-Stacked

When in Bible college, I learned a LOT about doing youth ministry. My professors were great about teaching us practical skills. Not only did I learn the Bible, but I learned how to plan an event, how to budget, and how to develop a curriculum. One of the things I did not learn was how to stack chairs. Now, many of you are probably sitting there thinking, “Are you serious? Do you really need to learn how to stack chairs?” Ok, maybe I did not need an entire class about it, but it would have been nice to know that much of my Sunday afternoons would be spent stacking those things in order to clear some space to do an activity.

Our worship area is multi-purpose, as we do not have much space. So, our large group time at Youth Group takes place there. This means we have to move chairs quite often, if we want enough room to play a game. Believe me when I say that there is an art to it. I don’t know about your church’s chairs, or if you even have chairs, but ours stack a specific way. If you don’t start it off right (with the legs right on top of the other chair’s legs), the whole stack will fall over by the time you get to the third or fourth chair. You must also figure out the proper stacking height. For our chairs, I tend to stop at six, but it is possible to go as high as seven, as long as you do not move them around much after you stack them. Then, you have to learn the best place to store them, either in the room or in another room. All this is basically trial and error, unless you have the same style chairs as us. In that case, follow the above procedures.

Then, putting the chairs back is another art-form in itself. Not all of our chairs have pockets in the back, so we have to alternate. If you have ever been around after an event at RCC, helping with chair setup, you will hear something that has become a mantra: “Pocket, no pocket, pocket, no pocket.” You also have to shape the rows properly, in order to fit them all a certain way that gets the maximum amount in the room. Just thinking about it exhausts me.

There are some benefits to chair stacking, though. The first is that when doing it alone, it provides a time for me to get away from my desk and other things that can get overwhelming. I often put in my ear buds and listen to an audiobook or some of my favorite music. Secondly, and most important, you can meet your spouse through stacking chairs. Ok, maybe that is a stretch, but it happened for me. That is exactly what I was doing the first time I met my wife. So, while I don’t really enjoy this thing that has very little direct influence on ministry, it is nice to know there are some great benefits.

Perhaps you learned how to stack chairs in your Bible college, but that is definitely something they left out of our curriculum.

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This is the third post of this blog series. The overall purpose is to be both fun and informative about the “practical” side of youth ministry that people often leave out of a standard Bible college curriculum. I’ve got a small list of things to talk about, but I’m still trying to figure out if this should be merely an fun 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.

Orange Blogger Week – Fall 2013

orange_week

Hey, everyone. It’s “Orange Blogger Week” again! There are a lot of things going on in the world of Orange. Not only have we been moving forward even more at our church, but reThink is changing things up a bit with their entire service. One of the biggest things is that “YouLead” is now called “Stuff Leaders Want.” This is a service for leaders, and not for just any leader. This is for those who want to grow and help their teams grow. In fact, I am now a blogger for “Stuff Leaders Want.” Throughout the year, you will see posts from me about different things I’ve learned and used from this service. So, get ready for that. Also, as a nice addition, reThink has given me a code to provide you with a $50 discount! Just use the code YLBLOG149 at check-out.

Also, don’t forget that Orange Conference registration opens next Thursday, October 10! If you haven’t attended the OC before, you should definitely check it out. Even if you haven’t bought into the entire Orange strategy yet, it is still an awesome time of growth in ministry. I’m hoping to go as an official blogger again this next year, so if that works out, you can check out my daily posts from the conference as well. Even so, it is much better to go in person, so do yourself a favor and look into it.

Here is a list of others you can check out this week, who are also blogging for Orange:

Continue reading

Get a $50 Discount for YouLead

youlead-orangeAre you looking for resources to help your student, children, or family ministry team? Would you like a steady supply of book reviews/summaries, podcasts, video trainings, case studies, and more to help you grow as a leader? Would you like access to previous Orange Conference breakouts to share and discuss with your leadership team? Perhaps you should look into Orange’s YouLead service.

Developed by Orange, YouLead is designed to develop the leadership skills of yourself, your team and your volunteers. It centers on answering three basic questions: What can I do to continue learning as a leader? How can I be intentional about connecting with my volunteers consistently? What can we do to stay on the same page as a team?  Click here to learn more about a subscription to YouLead.

Just because I like you, my blog readers, feel free to take $50 off an annual subscription to YouLead by using the code: YLBLOG149.

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