A Message To Youth Workers Who Are Struggling

A Message To Youth Ministers Who Are Struggling

I talk to a lot of youth ministers who have been doing youth ministry a long time. 10 or 15 or 20 years. And the more I talk to these youth ministers, the ones who’ve really been in the game a while, the more stories I hear of people who at one time or another were completely disillusioned with youth ministry.

They were worn out, beat up, and frustrated. Over-worked. Under-appreciated. And deflated by the general sense that what they were doing may not matter that much in the lives of many of their students.

But, you know what? Instead of walking away they stuck it out. And here’s the cool thing: In so many of these stories, the individual WANTED to leave. He or she wanted so badly to call it quits but didn’t because he or she didn’t feel like God was giving him or her permission to do so. Through prayer, these folks realized that God had not released them from their call. And so, they stuck it out. They GUTTED it out. Sometimes they struggled for years. But now, these youth workers are 3 and 5 and 10 years removed from their low point, still doing youth ministry. Still impacting lives.

You cannot imagine how common this story is. I hear dozens and dozens of iterations of this each year, story after story of men and women who traveled through the rough times and made it through without giving up. The craziest thing is that for many of these folks their situations didn’t change. But their perspective did.

I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that these youth ministers are my favorite ones. There is a richness and depth to them and their ministries that only comes from persevering through the tough times. They have an amazing perspective on life, faith, and ministry. They are collectively the best youth ministry resource I know of.

Are their youth ministries perfect now? Do they feel fully appreciated? Are all of their kids spiritual giants? I doubt it. And I bet they’re not immune to the occasional period of doubt or frustration.

BUT I THINK THE ONE SECRET THEY’VE LEARNED IS THAT GOD’S TRUE CALL ON THEIR LIFE ISN’T PERFORMANCE, BUT FAITHFULNESS. AND THAT’S A PRETTY AWESOME PLACE TO BE.

So, take encouragement today from their example. If you’re in the midst of a trying season, don’t give up yet. Pray and listen. And don’t make a move until you know it’s God’s will. God may very well be leading you away from youth ministry. But He may also be leading you to suffer through a period of real trial because He has much, much more to teach you. And He knows that the trials are what will strengthen you for a future of powerful, meaningful ministry.

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Help Equip Your Students To Talk About Their Faith

Over the past several years, numerous studies and books point to the same truth. And for many of us youth workers, anecdotal evidence reinforces this truth. What is this truth?

A lot of our students are pretty inarticulate about their faith.

Many of the students in our youth ministries have a hard time explaining their faith. They struggle to put their faith-essentials into words. Faith makes a difference in their lives . . . they just have a hard time explaining why.

I believe the inability of our students to clearly and logically talk about the basics of their faith lies at the root of many of the surface issues concerning our teenagers’ faith.

After all, if teenagers can’t articulate the basics of their faith, isn’t it because they don’t know the basics of their faith? If they can’t talk logically about what they believe and why, doesn’t it point to a serious foundational issue in their faith development?

I believe as youth workers we have to do a more effective job of two things:

  • teaching our students the foundational distinctives of their faith, and
  • helping equip them to articulate, or explain these basic faith elements.

Here are a few ways I think we can take steps toward helping accomplish these two things:

MAKE KNOWING THE BIBLE THE CENTER OF YOUR YOUTH MINISTRIES

Over the years, I’ve found it’s not safe to assume that knowing and applying the Bible happens in every youth ministry. There are youth ministries that place a premium on fellowship and relationship over a knowledge of the Bible. While these elements are vital in discipleship, if serious Bible study is not taking place in your youth ministry, you aren’t offering anything the World isn’t already offering. Your students have friends outside of the church. And many have nice, caring adults somewhere else in their life. But your ministry may be the only place they can come to discover God’s words to them.

DON’T BE SHY ABOUT THEOLOGY

Theology is simply the study of God. So, do you help your students do this? What if you took six or eight weeks to talk about the character of God? If you’re thinking this type of study won’t hold your students’ attention, you’re seriously handicapping the role of the Spirit and the living nature of God’s Word. How can your students talk about the distinctives of their faith when they aren’t being taught them?

PROVIDE STUDENTS SOME BASIC PHRASES THAT ARTICULATE CORE THEOLOGY

What if you took a page out of the more liturgical-based denominations and crafted some really simple phrases that capture the basic biblical concepts you want students to know? Phrases such as, “There is one God who exists and is the Creator of all things.” Easy, right? Yet it’s a core faith distinctive. As these themes come up in your Bible Study, you could take the chance to reaffirm them. You could encourage your students to familiarize themselves with the phrases so when it came time to talk about their faith, they do so through simple phrases backed by deep biblical truth.

ENGAGE IN DIALOGUE

Not discussion. Dialogue. Create moments for your students to talk about what makes their faith distinct with you and with each other.

CREATE SPACES FOR YOUR STUDENTS TO ENGAGE WITH THEIR UN-CHURCHED FRIENDS

What if you could create an environment where your students’ un-churched friends could come and have a talk about religion? Not in a pushy or manipulated way. But in an open conversation where your students and their friends engaged in discussions about the nature of faith and religion. Do it away from church in a small group. Whatever it looks like, the more you can help your students talk about their faith (in an environment where you can follow up with them and correct and redirect as necessary), the better they will become at doing it.

CREATE A CULTURE OF EXPECTATION

Your students need to know that you place a premium on them talking about their faith to others. Ask them about it regularly. Highlight students who are doing a great job of it. Create the expectation that faith-discussions should be a part of their lives. Are these steps the only answer? Of course not. And they aren’t a fool-proof method, either. But they’re a start. And it’s too important a concept not to address.

What are some additional concepts a youth worker might implement to help students know and articulate their faith better?


 

Ignite.YEC.LogoHelp your students ignite their faith at the 2015 Youth Evangelism Conference in Louisville, KY December 27-30. Click here for more details. Early registration for YEC ends October 31st!

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5 Characteristics Of Healthy Discipleship In Your Youth Ministry

But, I think there are some common characteristics of healthy discipleship no matter what context you’re in.

As you read these, ask yourself to what degree you see them in your youth ministry.

1. Gospel Focused
No matter how you teach the Bible, or what you’re teaching, it must be taught through the lens of the Gospel. When we make our Bible teaching too much about application, or cultural relevance, or entertainment, we fail students. The good news of God’s rescue plan for humanity, as fulfilled in Christ, must be the foundation of your teaching efforts.

Too often we make our Bible teaching about doing. Do this. Don’t do that. Right actions won’t make disciples. But consistently bringing our students face-to-face with the Gospel will.

2. Relationally Centered
Relationally centered as opposed to program, or event centered. Think about the relationships Jesus formed with His disciples. Life was shared. It wasn’t Jesus merely dumping information on His followers. There was real relationship. Jesus and His disciples shared life together. It was reciprocal, too. Jesus allowed His disciples choice moments to see His frustration, His concerns . . . the human side of “fully God, fully man.”

We have to embrace the relationships we have with students, not as a means to an ends. We must truly share our lives with them, just as we ask them to share their lives with us.

3. Community Oriented
Healthy discipleship is relationally centered (focus on the individual), but fully embraces the gift of community (focus on individuals). I think this is one area where youth ministers are very effective. We have some built-in advantages working with teenagers, to be sure. But, it’s still a vital component of healthy discipleship.

4. Outward Reaching
You probably already create opportunities for your youth group to serve. Maybe you do mission trips, or volunteer at a retirement home. That’s awesome. Keep doing it. But, I would encourage you to break free from the “youth group wide,” program-centered approach, and to intentionally empower smaller groups of individual students to seek opportunities to impact their immediate world.

Leave it up to them to decide how it looks. But create the expectation that this type of outreach should be happening.

5. Multiplication Empowering
Plain and simple, if you’re doing discipleship the right way, your students will begin to desire to draw other people in. Some of these students might be fringe members of your youth group. Others will be their peers who do not have a saving relationship with Christ. Your role is to help guide and encourage your students to bring these outlying students into your community.

The “front door” of faith for this generation of young people is probably not an invitation to church. Instead, it’s an invitation to belong to a community. It’s “belonging before believing.” The logic behind this is pretty simple . . .

While a non-believer may say “no” to church based on preconceived notions or bad prior experiences, it’s much harder to say “no” to being truly accepted as a part of a community of peers who are daily living out the Christ-life. How much more authentic (and comfortable) is it for this individual to then be welcomed at your youth group when he or she already has a relationship with a group of students? It’s a paradigm shift, for sure, but one that I personally think is both true to the biblical example and where we find ourselves culturally.

And if you’re looking for a really nice (and FREE) resource on discipleship, check out our FREE e-book, “The 6 Traits Of Biblical Discipleship.” CLICK HERE to download it.

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A Free Discipleship Framework For Your Youth Ministry

Found at YM360

The process by which teenagers grow to become more like Christ looks a little different from church to church, doesn’t it? There are some similarities, of course. Some common elements you’d expect to find. But, the actual nuts and bolts of how this happens looks a little differently. But, we all want the same outcome. We all want to see students grow in their faith. We want them to become authentic Christ-followers. In a word, we want them to become disciples.

But what does a disciple look like? How would you define the end goal? The great thing is that we don’t have to try to pull this answer out of mid-air. The Bible has a lot to say about this.

A few years ago, we did a fun exercise. We read through the Bible looking for descriptions of disciples. We wanted to see the picture Scripture painted of what a Christ-follower looked like. As we compiled verses and passages, some common characteristics began to emerge. And as we distilled them further, we landed on six specific characteristics, or traits that all disciples have.

Over the years we’ve taught them in youth ministry workshops and in small groups, both with teenagers and adults alike. And these traits have helped us in our own lives think about our growth as Christ-followers. And because we think they’re a really helpful way to think about what we want our students to become, we want to share them with you, too.

We’ve put together an e-book that passes along these six discipleship traits and challenges you to consider how to implement them in your youth ministry. Our hope is that you can utilize this picture to see your grow closer to Christ, becoming more authentic followers as a result.

To download your FREE copy of The Six (Biblical) Discipleship Traits, simply CLICK HERE.

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Summer is Winding Down…Are You Ready?

Blog found on Youth Ministry 360 written by Andy Blanks

Part of interacting with youth ministers around the country (and around the globe) is that calendars vary pretty widely. For some of the youth ministers in the ym360 Community, Summer is just getting into full swing. But for many of us, the new school year will be starting in the next two to three weeks. (YIKES!) For those of us who find ourselves in this position, it’s time to really start thinking about what’s coming.

For those who find the school year rapidly approaching, you have just enough time to do some of those things you’ve been meaning to do since May but for whatever reason, haven’t.

Consider this our friendly reminder to take the plunge, and get to it!

The start of school represents so much opportunity as we minister to students, but before the time comes, here’s a loose list of things to help you get in the swing of kicking off the new school year:

Bible Study Stuff
• Are you thinking ahead for your sermon series for this year? You’ve still got plenty of time to begin blocking out passages, topics, and themes.
• If you utilize curriculum, have you purchased your curriculum for the Fall? The sooner you do it, the sooner you and your teachers can familiarize yourself with it, making any necessary changes, and beginning your preparation.
• If you need to get curriculum to your adult volunteers, you need to go ahead and get hoppin’!
• We would love to help you with this. We’ve got some great options to choose from if you’re looking for weekly curriculum.

Adult Volunteers
• Have you gotten your team together (however “team” looks for you) and set some goals for the upcoming year?
• Have you started the process of finding those last few adult volunteers you need for this next year?
• What are you going to do for your adult volunteers to get the new youth ministry year kicked off from a training perspective? What plans do you have to help them be excellent in what they do?

Students
• Who are the students that have fallen through the cracks this summer? Those kids with whom communication doesn’t come as easy? Why don’t you make it a priority to contact them and set-up a time to meet with them before the year?
• Have you shared your vision for the new school year with your key student leaders? Have you asked for their input on any changes or insights that might be needed in your ministry? Now’s the perfect time to set this ball in motion.
• Have you followed up with your students on any experiences you’ve had together this summer? Maybe it was a mission trip, or a summer camp. Do you need to reach out to a student you’ve forgotten about or put off?

Parents
• What’s your plan to engage parents in a discipleship strategy?
• How are you planning on bringing them alongside your efforts to lead and teach their children?
• Not only is now a great time to be thinking about it, but to also to be making contact with parents about the upcoming school year.

Facilities
• Is your Spring-cleaning long overdue?
• Could your youth room need a new coat of paint?
• Is it time to throw out that old couch?
• Need to de-clutter your office? A clear workspace is such a symbolic way to start the new year. Maybe you could even rearrange or redecorate to signify a new start to a new year.

Admin Stuff (Ugh)
• Have you put together your youth ministry calendar yet for the Fall? Copied in the football games for the high schools in your community? Put down your retreat dates? If you do it early, you can email it to parents and volunteers before the year starts.
• How do your roles look? I know, it’s not fun. But if you can get a hold on them now, you can save yourself some stress when school starts and things get really busy.

OK, there’s a start! What did we miss? What would you add? What is still left on your list to do to get ready for the new school year?

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