Thursday, October 30, 2008

Day 6 (late), Cheap Thrills

The best part about being a youth pastor is all the stuff we get to do outside of the church.  This year alone I have been to Guatemala, Colorado and all over Missouri doing youth ministry.   This upcoming year will take me back to Colorado, to Texas, more places in Missouri, Chicago and California.  I love doing events with our students.  The ability to hang out, spend raw time with them is invaluable to building relationships.  You learn a lot about students on an 11 hour overnight bus ride to Colorado.  

For most youth groups, putting events together greatly depends on the amount of money that event is going to cost.  I have worked in youth groups that had no money, some money and plenty of money for events.  I have dealt with students who never had to worry about an event cost to students who could never afford any event.  I have run events that ranged from free to $30,000 plus.  I love putting events together and seeing them accomplished.

I want my blog to be a place for everyone to get some help with youth ministry or personally, so today I am giving you my cheap thrills list of events.  This events are free or really cheap (sometimes a relative term).  These events can be good for any size group.

  1. Camping - find a close state park, grab some tents and head out for the night.  The rental on tent lots is usually less than $10.  Bring a football, Frisbee, marshmallows and you are all set for a great night of hanging out and building relationships with students. [National Parks]
  2. Video Scavenger Hunt/Mall Hunt - Most of your students have cell phones that have either photo or video capability, so needed video cameras isn't necessary.  Think of some landmarks in your area, or some silly task for your students to do (ie Have your name paged over the loud speaker of a local grocery store), add some points to it and give away a silly prize.  The Mall Hunt is easier because you are in a confined area, but the Video Scavenger Hung gives you more options. 
  3. Movie Night/Game Night - visit your local blockbuster, grab some popcorn and just hang out for the night at the church or a students house.  Or you can just grab some board games, setup some tables and play.  This leads to a very relaxing time to just hang out and visit each other.  Word of caution: always pre-screen EVERY movie you watch and make sure it is appropriate. [Pluggedin Online]
  4. Hens & Roosters - this is our girls and guys night out.  We separate each group and let them go off and do their own thing.  The girls usually do some makeup/pedicure/movie thing at the home of one of the female adult leaders and the guys can raid the house of the student with the best video game system.  This night has great opportunity to be creative
  5. TPing Senior Pastors house - if you are a brave soul and your senior pastor loves practical jokes, then go for it.  The students will love it.  Just make sure to have your resume up to date and have hit Youthspecialities.com to look for a new job.
There are tons of things you can do with a group of students.  Some other ideas could be bowling, roller skating, hanging out at the local mall, heading to a downtown area or renting laser tag equipment.  We had laser tag at our church last week.  It cost us $10 per unit and we rented 30 units, we then charged each student $20 to play (we included food).  The students loved it and we saved money versus going to an actual laser tag place.  We had so much fun.

When planning events, here are a few tips to remember.
  1. Make sure to go through the entire event in your head to make sure you have all the bases covered, especially when talking about over night events like lock-ins or camping.  I know there has been times when I thought I had everything planned out only to miss a couple hours of dead air times where the students weren't sure what to do and I wasn't sure what to do.
  2. Plan for more students than you expect.  It is easier to cancel than it is to try to scramble to find a place to go.  Adults have no problems with me canceling them from an event but getting them at the last minute is like pulling teeth.
  3. Add a cushion into your cost for unexpected expenses.
  4. Be flexible - don't plan out every minute of an event and expect students to follow.  As much as we plan, there is always some student who is slower/had to go to the bathroom.  Build in a little time cushion
  5. Always arrive home when you said you would.  A major pet peeve of most parents is that organizations (school, church, scouts, etc) never return when they say.  I have had many compliments from parents when I arrive back on time.  If you are going to be late, use cell phone technology to have all the students call their parents as soon as you know you are going to be late.  Parents appreciate it.
Event planning is one of the biggest tasks that youth pastors do.  Some of us are good at it, and others of us are horrible.  We need to remember that we have enough trouble getting students to choose youth events over everything else in their life, so with a little prior planning and research, we can make all the events we do worth their while.

Keeping Your Sabbath Holy...

I enjoy what God allows me to get paid to do. I believe youth ministry is one of the best professions out there. What other job pays you to go skiing, spend the day at amusement parks, lead students to God and watch how God transforms their lives. I went to a place called Jaeger's to play paintball one weekend with students and started talking with one of their employees about his getting paid to work at a paintball field, I told him that I actually got paid to shoot my own students with a paintball, he became jealous. Life in youth ministry isn't all wine and roses, but there are some trying times.  I have been yelled at by parents, criticized by pastors and had students leave my ministry because they didn't like what I was talking about.

The bad part about loving your job is that you don't always see when you are spending to much time doing it.  In a book by Doug Fields (I think), I remember reading a story from a youth pastor wife who ended up leaving her husband because he thought ministry was more important than family. Since going full time just 18 short months ago, this has been a hard lesson to learn. My wife has gotten in the habit of telling me when I spending to much time in ministry. There was a time a few months back where I was out of the house at night for 3 weeks straight. Boy did I hear about it.  Since then I have learned to love my day off. Each Monday I relax and rest myself from the week before and clear my head for the upcoming week.

Here are a few things I do to relax from ministry. This isn't anything amazing or groundbreaking, but sometimes it is the smallest nudges that move us along
  1. Sleep in - This is something I only get to do on my day off.  I think sleeping in helps me just to relax and get some needed shut eye.
  2. Spend the day with family - On my day off, I usually keep my 3 year old home from PDO and we spend the day together.  We like to watch Disney channel, walk to McDonalds or the park or just hang out.  During the summer my wife is off on Mondays, so we spend it together running errands or going on adventures.
  3. Find a hobby and do it - Having a hobby helps you to keep your mind off of youth ministry for a while.  This can be anything really, just something that keeps you busy.
  4. Eat lunch with a friend not connected to ministry - Take some time to be with someone where you won't talk about ministry.  I know this is incredibly hard for those of us who love our job, but sometimes we need to do it.
  5. Talk a walk and let God refill you - Spending time with God on our day off is the biggest refiller we can get.  I know for my normal week I am so rush sometimes to study for lesson or small groups that I don't take the time to spend it with God.  Use your day off to quiet your mind and allow God to lead you places.
Like I said, none of this is groundbreaking thinking. My best advice to you is to slow down at least one day a week. For pastors, our Sabbath is not on Sunday but sometimes Monday, Friday or some other day of the week. Use that day to let God revitalize you so that you are easy and able to talking the busy week ahead.

Nov. 2nd, Pray for our leaders: Election Prayer Stations

Today we are 2 days away from electing the next president of the United States. Some say this is the most important election because we will either have a black president or female vice-president. I think that is important but this isn't the most important election ever, in my opinion. My youth group has no one who is able to vote, student wise, but we have talked about the election and even had a mock debate with some of the students. I know that some students don't care because they don't see any implications to their own life but we have talked about it none the less.

Tonight we are doing something different than our normal worship service, we are doing prayer stations for this years election. Each station we have will last 5 minutes and focus on different aspects of the elections. I hope that students understand the importance of praying for our government officials. Whether we like the person who is the president or not we must pray for them. Our world is dictated by the laws they sign and the actions of their life. We may not like that bit it is the truth.

Below you will find the 12 Prayer Stations and what each station represented and a short description of the supplies needed.  I know this is late in the election season, but maybe you can use it for something similar.

1. Obama & Family - Printed out pictures of all for candidates (and their families), list of policies & stances, pens & notepads
- Have students hold each picture and pray for that specific candidate and their families
- Have students read each policy and pray for each stance the candidate is taking, whether they agree or not.
- have the students write letters to the candidate letting them know that they prayed for them
2. President/Congress/Senate/States - Print out of Congressional and Senate Members, Governors, etc
- Have students read through the name of the members and pray for each one, the upcoming election and decision they might have to make
- Possible ideas might be staffing, foreign policy, war and local issues
3. Economy - Monopoly money, house pieces, and game pieces (car, dog, etc)
- Have the students hold the money and think about the financial issues going along
- Pray for their parents who might be struggling
- Use the houses and game pieces to pray for specific pieces of the economy
- Ex. gas prices, stock market, housing market
3. USA - small puzzle of the United States
- Have the students put the puzzle together and pray for each state as they do it.
4. God Bless - Bibles, Candles, various prayers of blessing
- Print out 5 or so prayers of Blessing for students to read 
- Use candles for students to light to represent their life in the whole world
- Have the Bibles open to Matthew 5 and have students read the sermon on the mount
5. World - world map or globe, push pins or sticky notes
- Tell students to choose a place on the globe that may be going through a natural disaster, political trouble or just a place where friends and family live
- Let them know that we are not an independent country but one connected to the whole world
6. Church & Youth Ministry - directory for church & youth group, symbols of the church, pictures of pastoral staff
- Tell students to flip through the directories, pictures, symbols and pray for the church and youth ministry (could also use other ministries in the church)
- You could highlight the ideas of the church, how they might differ from the candidates
7. Self - mirrors, dry erase markers, markers and erasers
- Have each student look at the mirror and either circle or write out things they don't like about themselves or traits that they believe holds them back
- Once they are done, have them erase the marks and pray to God to use them in spite of their perceived problems.  Remind them that God uses everyone and all of us have problem areas
8. Worship -  ipods/mp3 player/CD player,  worship music, headphones (over the ear)
- Tell students to put the headphones on and listen to the music, allow the music to relax them and let them listen to how much God loves them.
9. Braided Life - string to be braided, many different colors
- Have students create a bracelet out of the string on the table
- Tell them to pray for everyone they are connected to (ie family, facebook/myspace, school)

I ended the night with Jesus for President: Litany of Resistance.  I think it gives a great idea of how we should be living our life.  This is a responsive reading that you can either put on a projector or use a handout.  I did the projector but think the handout would be good because the students can take it home and think about it.

I want you to know that I didn't come up with all of these by myself.  Some of them I got from CreativePrayer.com.  They have some great ideas that you can use and modify like I did.  My kids really enjoyed this and took it seriously.  I had fun watching the way the Jr High went through the prayer stations and then how our Sr High did it.  I was impressed with both groups and glad they liked it.