Crucial Times for Youth Leaders

We don’t have to look around us to much to see that there is so much at stake in the lives of students. Whether it’s the student who is seeking God to find purpose and meaning in life, or a student who is struggling through hurt and pain, or a sold-out student who is wondering how to stay strong in their faith, we have a window of opportunity to minister to these young people. There are only so many hours and opportunities to make a difference as these students navigate challenging obstacles. Or to put it this way: Time is crucial and we must make the most of crucial times as we minister to students

Because it is likely we only have few hours a week and a few years with these students (as well as having many students to minister to), it is crucial that we use our time wisely and well. Here is what I consider to be the most effective use of my time:

1) The first fifteen minutes At our youth program, I consider the first and last fifteen minutes to be the  most important times. Often, it will be the first fifteen minutes that will communicate whether or not we really care as students arrive. It is usually the time when students are most nervous about walking into a room of students and leaders. Therefore, as leaders, even if we have not seen each other since the weekend, it is important that we do not get caught up in “leader conversations” as students arrive. Secondly, it’s important that we look out for nervous or introverted students as they arrive. You can’t take back a bad welcome…

2) The last fifteen minutes: The last fifteen minutes is often where I see students most open to God’s working in their lives. It is here where they will be most comfortable and will be processing what they have heard from the message / study. But, if you are like me, as the evening starts to wrap up, I am already thinking about evaluating what happened and begin conversations with leaders about how things went for them. However, it is important that we look to seek out students and check-in with how they are doing. It is here that we most likely to hear from their heart and be able to minister most effectively to them.

3) The next fifteen to sixty minutes: What I mean by this is the next contact time opportunity with students outside of programs and events. If you are full-time or a volunteer and have a number of students, it is often challenging to know how to reach them outside of your programs with limited time. However, I find that it is small (but impacting) times with students that make a huge difference.  Examples like:

  • Show up to the last part of a sports game if you have a busy week. (Make sure your student knows you were there).
  • Send a note in the mail. With all the modes of communication we have, I find this to be the one students love the most. Everyone loves to get mail!
  • Facebook, text, tweet! Letting students know you were praying for them, encouraging them, or just saying “hi” all go a long way to communicate care to them. Caution: Be careful of getting into deep conversations online and ensure that their parents are ok with you communicating with them this way.

I am sure you have better idea than these, and I know they are not rocket science, but I have found that so many leaders do not do these things regularly. The challenge is to realize that time is crucial and we must make the most of crucial times…

The Best Kind of Vision?

Do you ever have those moments when you daydream and think about what could happen if your ministry were to have all the right ingredients to see incredible life change and transformation? Do ever wonder what that could look like? Do you ever wonder how that happens? If you are like me, I can spend hours thinking about and planning ways to create a dynamic ministry… It’s easy to spend a lot of time (and energy) trying figure out how to “make it work”…

However, the more time I spend in student ministry, I don’t think it is as complex as we might think… I think the answer is not just kept to certain people or churches… I think we all can look forward to seeing ministries with transformation and life change as a regular occurrence. So how does this happen (or start to happen)? Well, first, let’s confirm that it all centers around Jesus and that should a solid foundation for every ministry. But, the question is, how can you and I be used to effectively build Jesus centered ministries..? Well, here’s what I have been challenged by recently… wait for it… I think it starts with vision… But maybe not the same kind of vision that you and I often hear about in church circles. Hang in with me for a few minutes and let me explain…

You can’t be in Student Ministry for too long before you start hearing about and begin to talk about vision. So many churches and ministries have developed well crafted vision statements and we often hear phrases like, “what is the vision for this ministry”? If you are like me there have been times when we spend months working on carefully crafting vision statements to make sure the vision is clear… When things are going well we might expect to hear, “this place has a great vision”… When things are going badly we might expect to hear, “the vision has died” or “there is no vision here”. Do you know what I mean?Here’s what I see with ministries struggling with vision:

Unplanned Ministries: Ministries will often just jump into “what we have always done” rather than stopping to consider their natural uniqueness and the needs of their current students and community.

Side-tracked Ministries: Ministries get side-tracked with too many programs or events and the vision leaks. There are so many competing issues, programs and agendas that the vision becomes distorted…

Ministry Clones: Sometimes it’s hard to see our unique ministry gifting and how we can use that gifting.  Instead we become a clone of another successful ministry. We often jump into the latest ministry model or use others successful vision statements…

So, where am I going with all this? Well, whether your ministry is struggling to discover and enact a clear vision or whether your ministry is knocking the ball out of the park with vision clarity… I wonder if there is a more compelling vision to search for? You see, I think it is healthy to seek clarity and vision for our ministries and I will always seek this for where I am. However, what could happen if we sought out a different kind of vision with the same or greater passion and intentionality?

What if we were to help students PERSONALLY find God’s VISION for THEIR lives?

Unplanned Lives: You see, just like our ministries, so many of our students are just going through the motions and not even considering the incredible vision and plan God has for their lives. They appear to be just going through the motions and unaware that God could use them for amazing purposes…

Side-tracked Lives: And what about our busy students who have learned to take every opportunity that comes there way, yet there lives are defined by constant pressure and stress… Clarity cannot possibly be in view… Instead they live in constant detour mode as they take every path except God’s best for them…

Cloned Lives: So many students simply try to clone themselves and try to be like the the next “successful kid” in their class. As they try to clone themselves they are left wanting more… feeling somehow that what they achieve and discover is not enough.

The Challenge: What could our ministries look like if we were to use our time, talent and resources to work with our leaders and students to discover PERSONAL VISION? What would our students start to do when they discover and embrace their uniqueness? What would happen if we spent LESS time invested in corporate vision statements and spent more time helping students find clarity in God’s vision for them?

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that vision is imperative in our ministries and I believe that we cannot do ministry without having a clear picture of what could and should be. However, I believe that we are sometimes guilty of making this more about a vision statement and programs than we have made it about students and their individual lives… do you know what I mean? Yes, we are responsible to churches and ministry executives and we need to craft a compelling vision and plan… But, how much of our energy do we spend doing this for students in comparison? Are we so focused on the programs and structures that we miss God’s vision for these students individually?

Just asking…

Phil <><

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