Fun

This video has been making the rounds on facebook. Here’s what it made me consider…

There’s often been a lot of debate between youth ministry guru’s wondering if we spend too much time entertaining students and not enough energy goes into teaching Biblical truth.

In this video, the experiment was to see how much more people would walk up the stairs (and ultimately exercise more), if they created a fun way to do it. Normally people would likely take the escalator and take the ‘lazy route’ instead. Isn’t that human nature for so many of us?

Well, I think that it is not that different when it comes to spiritual exercise. So many of us (and especially busy students), will often will try take the easy route in discipleship. As we know, there are no short cuts to discipleship… However, what happens when you and I take time to research great lessons and incorporate fun and creative ways to communicate Biblical truths? Do we see students take good steps in their faith?

If you are like me, I want students to be excited about Jesus and excited about growing in a deeper relationship. It’s important that I find ways to help students take the best steps in their faithwalk. Sometimes I need to pray and think harder about how to make those steps fun while also partnering with the Holy Spirit to see lives transformed…

To simply say that any fun element is shallow in youth ministry neglects the need to engage and excite students with the truth of the gospel. I believe that creativity and fun should be core values in every youth ministry to help students take ‘healthy steps’…

Final Thought:

If you are like me, it is easy to spend a lot of time on content or an idea. There have also been times when I have spent too much time on a fun element and my message / study has been lacking. It’s important that we strike a good balance between creating solid material that will be engaging with fun elements too.

Phil <><

Character…

Today on Twitter Rick Warren gave a quote that I think every youth worker should take to heart and consider…

Never waste energy trying to be well-known. Today’s hero is tomorrow’s zero. U work on character & leave reputation to Him…

Many people hold fast to the sad reality that many youth workers will leave ministry all together because of burn out. I believe that burn out itself can be avoided if we build a foundation in are own lives that is centered on the power of God and building healthy character. Let’s be real honest for a minute about the world youth ministry shall we?

It’s easy to play the hero isn’t it?

It’s easy to want to be the hero isn’t it?

  • We have students who look up to us who think that we somehow have a different connection with God altogether…
  • Some of us love ministry because students make great followers and it feels good to have people look up to us…
  • We have parents who are working as hard as they can to help their kids succeed, but see us as ‘answer’ sometimes… When we do well for them, we can elevate ourselves to hero status…
  • We go to youth ministry conferences and it’s easy to look at the guys and gals on stage and consider them as a hero in youth ministry…
  • Sometimes in the trenches we grind out a week and do our best for God, but yet secretly hope that we have been noticed by someone important… Am I right?

The Problem: When you and I constantly long for hero status in ministry, it is easy to make decisions that over time can easily lead to burn out… We say yes to be the hero and say no to staple foundations that will help us hang in for the long haul…We search for the hero status and lose sight of our walk with God. We strive for the recognition while we are unable to recognize when we are being unhealthy with our schedules… And the worst thing I think: We lead students to follow unhealthy habits that could be huge stumbling blocks for them now and later…

I have learned some of these tough lessons at times and I have seen some good friends burn out and fall because of the hero focus. I want to be honest enough to uncover the ‘hero shortcuts’ to ministry. However…

When We allow God’s Power to Build our Character:

1) We have Clearer Vision for a Health Ministry

2) We are not Swayed by the ‘Latest Thing’

3) We  give the Glory to God, not ourselves

4) We Lead Students to Follow Jesus, not the Hero

5) We Hang in the Long Haul…

This week, I encourage you to ask God to show you how you are motivated to make your decisions? Are Secure in who you are or are you being the hero? Are confident in the character God has given you? Do you need Him to lead your decisions better?

Bottom Line: Are you and I Heroes in ministry or do we have Christ-centered character?

Phil <><




Ownership…

Last week I talked about “Listening” as being a key to healthy and successful ministry. This week I want to looked at an area of youth ministry which should be a given, but I often feel is greatly overlooked: Ownership…

Ever hear leaders say, “Sometimes it is easier to do it yourself”? In student ministry, I think it is ALWAYS easier to do it yourself. And as leaders of ministries, that is often exactly what we do don’t we? Things get done, events get planned, programs run smoothly… But is that a good thing?

While we might be running an organized and well executed ministry, I think it is better to run a ministry that has potential to have, “holes all over the place” if it means we are giving students ownership of what is happening. In the short-term it can be messy, but in the long-term, there is a greater reward for the students we minister to…

1) Students Belong: The greatest need I see in every student  is the sense that they belong somewhere or to something. Giving them a sense of ownership and walking alongside them builds confidence, allows them to learn in safe way, and most of all, they feel like they belong. If students don’t feel the sense of ownership through belonging, I have seen that one or two things can happen. First, they might not stick around… Second, they will quickly become spectators instead of owners. Spectators can often turn into critics…

2) Students Become Long-Term Leaders: I am convinced that the likelihood of students being committed to a church (and having a strong faith), after high school is hugely dependent on how they learn to lead while they are in our ministries. It is imperative that they not only discover their gifts, but they are able to put them into action in a safe environment of a student ministry. More than that, it is imperative that students find avenues to lead and contribute to the overall church and minister alongside all kinds of people. If however, students only ever serve within a student ministry, is it any wonder that the transition from high school into ‘regular church’ is tough? Therefore, it’s important that students lead and serve in our ministries as well as with people in ‘big church’ that they might not normally come into contact with…

3) Ownership Builds Numerical Growth: I will never forget reading about Billy Graham’s incredible ability to predict the turn out of one of his huge gatherings back in the 80’s. People were amazed at how he could accurately predict how many people would come to an event. When asked how he could know, (thinking that maybe God had spoken to him personally), he shared his simple formula: First, he  found out how many people were involved with the planning and production of the event. Second, he would multiply that number by a figure he had come up with through years of observing attendance. The greater the people involved, the greater the number attending. In other words, the greater the number having ownership, the greater of people who will come…

Note: While numerical growth is not the goal, it certainly will become the fruit of having a healthy ministry that builds ownership into it’s DNA.

Therefore, not only is ownership crucial for helping students to belong and become, they are also used to build the ministry they are in… The hope is that new students would plug in and find faith and the same sense of ownership.

My next step is to ‘steal’ a series idea from Josh Griffin (morethandodgeball.com), where he has students lead a whole message series called, “You Own the Weekend”. This is a great way to build ownership for students. Check out Josh’s blog for how he does this…

Phil <><

Listening…

Last night I met with a group of my high school students at the local Panera Bread to hang-out, talk, and…. listen.

If you are like me, it’s so easy to get bogged down with planning, message writing, and meetings. It’s easy to become task driven and focus less on just ‘being’ with students. Last night I was truly blessed to be around a group of students who are excited about God, are excited to see their friends being reached, and excited about growing deeper in their faith. Last night was a time to listen to their hearts, their ideas and their hopes. Here’s what was impressed upon my heart from our time together…

1) We Discover the Real Issues Students Face:

Students foundational adolescent issues tend to not change too much in that they still desire Identity, Autonomy and Affinity. (Marko in Youth Ministry 3.0). However, when as, Chap Clark puts it, we “sit on the steps” that lead up to student culture, we get great insights to students current issues and needs. Last night was one of those nights for me as I discovered so many things that I was unaware of or had not considered. As I look forward with my teaching, planning and implementation, I am able to focus my energies to support students in areas that they truly need .

2) We move from Colonialism to being  a Missionary:

In his book Youth Ministry 3.0, Mark Oestreicher talks about the importance of seeing ourselves as a missionary. In other words, seeing ourselves as someone who is foreign to a culture and comes in and listens to the locals and understands them first. Coming from England, I am all too aware of British colonialism in the world where the Brits went in to foreign lands and insisted that the locals follow the British customs and cultural nuances. What happened? The Brits got kicked out! Now, I hope you and I don’t get kicked out of our churches or ministries, but it’s important to consider if we are only imparting our own set of agendas and ideas on students. Are we ‘colonizing’ or being a missionary to these students.

Now bear with me for a minute as I say this. I am aware that there are many things that students do not yet see in their lives that are imperative to know and live by. I am aware that students ‘felt needs’ are not always what they really do need… However, they are less likely to listen to us unless they know that we have taken time to listen to them first…

3) We give Ownership to Students:

This was huge for me last night. As I sat and listened to students talk about what they are seeing in our ministry and what they are excited about, they were owning the ministry with their words and their plans for the future. As they talked, they got lit up with ideas and dreams –  they began to take ownership. When students can put the ministry vision into their own words, it is better that a well-crafted vision statement in any student ministry.

4) We Hear Honesty

“Phil, you give great messages, but when one of us can back up what you are saying and can be involved in your message, it has a greater impact”. That was my takeaway last night, among other things. It can be hard to hear that kind of stuff can’t it? But, when we listen long enough, students can feel like they can communicate their true thoughts with you. Ultimately, it will lead to creating a better and more effective ministry. My ego might take a hit, but who is more important here?

5) We Send the most Important Message:

I think the most important factor for me was that they heard the most important message last night. “I care about you guys. You are important and you can make a huge difference”. I didn’t say it with words, I communicated it through listening…In coming weeks, when you and I stand in front of students with a message or study for them, I am convinced they will hear better when they know that we care deeply and have their best interests at heart.

So this next few weeks, I encourage you to hang out, have fun…. and listen.

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