Thursday, December 09, 2010

Philosophy of Youth Ministry

I remember back in my days of college that during my youth ministry class, I wrote a paper on my philosophy of youth ministry.  A why I do (or wanted to do) what I do.  I remember that writing the paper was hard for me because at that point, I had not actually done youth ministry.  I had been a part of a few youth ministries but never led one.  I remember struggling through the paper trying to come up with the correct answers.  

I don't have that paper anymore (I wish I did) but I remember the focus being on relationships.  I remember writing about spending time with students, talking to them and just being there for them.  I now know that there is more to youth ministry than just hanging with students.  You have events to plan, parents to deal with, adult leaders to train and a church staff to work with.  All of these things have shaped my "philosophy" of youth ministry over the years.

My philosophy is kind of a mixed bag of different ideas that I have read about and adopted over the years.  My youth ministry philosophy is called RSS (Relational, Sustainable, Simple).  I believe these three components are the core of why I do what I do.  I believe that these three pieces help to form a youth ministry that will withstand the test of time.  I have never been a big fluff person. I don't have a super dynamic personality.  RSS, to me, will help build a ministry that isn't lost in programs and isn't tied to any single person.  Let me explain.

Relationships are the key to any ministry within the church.  If people don't feel accepted and loved, then they will find some where they will.  In youth ministry, this has to be more than the youth pastor.  We must teach others to be relational.  We must teach them how to talk to a student, be friendly and let others know they are willing to listen.  This is scary for most adults, and some students, but it is essential to making students feel welcomed in your ministry.

Sustainable ministry is a concept by Mark DeVries, that I believe all ministries need to adopt.  The goal is to build a ministry that is a church ministry, not just based on a single person (normally the youth pastor).  The churches role is to provide the resources (money, facilities, personnel) to put the ministry in a position to succeed.  The youth pastors job is to build a structure of ministry that goes beyond themselves.  I believe this is replicating yourself to allow other adult leaders to be the youth pastor to a group of students.  This is not an easy concept for some to follow but is essential to building a ministry that will last once the youth pastor is gone.

Simple Student Ministry is a concept by Jeff Borton.  (Simple Student Ministry was written to follow the book Simple Church by Thomas Rainer.)  The thinking is that our ministries do not have to be so complicated that students get lost in programming and events.  How many of us as youth pastors have complained about being to busy.  I believe this to be a very clear message to everyone.  I have learned over time that students aren't drawn to programs or events but to people.  Yes, they may come to your events but will they stick around.  I have taken this concept in our ministry and built not only simple one but one that is consistent.  Most of our events take place on Sunday night (our normal worship time) or Friday and we try to stick to the same night each month.  We also simplified our ministry by using our small groups to have events on their own, so we weren't always planning large events.

Some might look at this and find it to be very elementary in thinking but believe me, putting RSS to work is something else.  My philosophy will continue to change and develop as I learn new things and get into different situations but I believe that right now, this is a great way to run a youth ministry.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

If the church was like Boy Scouts...

A couple weeks ago I had the privilege to watch the Eagle Court of Honor for our local Boy Scout troop.  I have been to a few of these during my time here at Platte Woods and it always amazes me to watch these boys who have committed so much, reach a major milestone within the Boy Scout organization.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

When the games aren't enough

I have been sensing a shift in youth ministry over the last few years. I have seen articles that confirm what I have been thinking. I am thankful to say youth ministry is moving away from the idea that games will bring students in. We are moving away from the fun aspect and focusing more on God. Don't get me wrong, I believe games are important. I just don't believe they need to be the bedrock of youth ministry and students are agreeing.

Games have been a part of youth ministry for a long time. I remember being in youth group in the late 80's/90's and we did all kinds of games. Ping-pong was my favorite. Today, you will find a game in almost all youth ministries across the country. Games like dodgeball, foursquare, games system and board games. Games during worship, lock-ins retreats and get togethers. Youth Pastors use them to draw in kids as a fun element that people like. Some youth ministries are only about games and some use them sparingly or not at all.

Here are some things that can happen if games are center:
1. You will have to always been prepared to play a game. If games are your ministries focus, then you will always need one. The games will always need to be better than the last one played.
2. Students will believe that church equals games. I believe this is the biggest issue. We have terrible problems with students leaving the church when they go to college and I think part of that is because youth ministries are so different from the larger church. Students get used to the fun times and expect church to always be like that.
3. Once the games are over, the students will leave. If games are the main focus, students will come to expect them. If you try to have a time without them, you will see your attendance drop.

Don't get my wrong, I think games have a place but we need to not make them the entire focus that our ministry is based on. There are positive uses for games like to build community, break up a worship service or just to get to know students (almost all your students will have a game system at home). Games can help break down some walls that new students may have when coming into your ministry for the first time.

We need to focus our time with students and help them see who God is. If a game breaks out because of that, then no biggie.

What do you think?

God's Will

"How can I say I trust God but then get mad when things don't go as I plan."

This saying has become a mantra of mine over the last couple months. I can't really say what is going on but I have been battling some things that I really wish would have been different.  There have been many times in my life when I relied heavily on God to direct me in the way He wanted me to go. I would pray almost constantly for Him to show me His will.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Being Kingdom Minded

Last week I blogged about the book "It" by Craig Groeschel. The book is written to churches who are struggling with growth and energy. The It is God's spirit being in a church and being active in building the kingdom of God.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have had struggles with some serious questions about how our youth ministry is doing.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Book Review: It by Craig Groeschel

I usually am reading about 3 books at a time. I have read a 1000 page book in just 8 days or a 100 page book in a couple months. I decided since I read so much that I would start sharing my insights with the blogging world and maybe someone will get something out of it also.

Friday, February 26, 2010

SYMC Day 2

Minute to Win It - Kleenex Chaos

Wow, that is how I am describing the first official day of SYMC. I can't beleive how much went on today, how much I learned or how long today was. I said it yesterday, I am so thankful to be here and can already feel God using this to change me and help me grow.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

SYMC Day 1

Unloading some Sack Chairs

Day 1 of our official visit to Chicago was awesome. I had so much fun catching up with some old friends and meeting some new ones. I really need this weekend to unwind ad just other about some things going on. The Simply Youth Ministry Conference is more than just a time to come and learn but a time to relax, connect and enjoy the presence of like minded people. The funny part is, there are no denominations here. We don't care where you are gouge but how we can help you get there better. All of us here have a passion for students and seeing them come to know Christ in a real way.

SYMC 2010

So this week is the Simply Youth Ministry Conference in Chicago, IL. Last year we brought a total of 4 people, this year we are bringing 12. I am super excited about it. Not just for the chance to catch up with some oft youth pastor friends from around the country but also a chance to spend some time with some of my core leaders.

God has blessed Flite Ministries with over 30 wonderful adult leader who are committed to haring the gospel with students and making them feel loved. This conference is only going to make them stronger and more prepared. Our group is very diverse. Most of them are parents of students on our ministry and some have none. Some are younger and some are older. We have some couples coming and some flying solo. All of them are great people who have given up a weekend to learn how to reshuffle students for Christ better.

I know that this conference will help our adults become better youth pastors to our students. Each adult represents a different set of students in our ministry. Each of our adults are atteding different seminars and then we will be pooling our knowledge together.

I think I am also going to purhase the entire conference so I can take it back to our other adult leaders who weren't able to make it. I can't wait for our team to get here on Friday.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Christian vs Disciple

The other day, my friend Jason Curlee twittered the statement   "Number of times following words are found in the Bible: Christianity - 0 Christian - 3 Disciple - 263 Think there's a message here. Thoughts???"  As I began to think about this, it struck me that he made a statement that I have been looking for.  You see, in my 30 years of being involved in the church, I have come to the startling conclusion that not everyone who comes to church or even calls them self a Christian actually is.  I know, I know, it is hard to believe but it is true.  Most of them would consider themselves "good" people, so they think that by going to church they are Christians.  Unfortunately, outside the church you couldn't tell they were Christians.

I did a look up on Google (define: disciple) and this was one of the answer "A person who learns from another, especially one who then teaches others; An active follower or adherent of someone, or some philosophy etc".  You see, anyone who believes in God will call themselves a Christian but only Disciples are actually living the life that God has called them to.  To me a disciple is someone who is continually trying to learn and grow into the person they are following, in this case Christ.

I think in some churches, we don't want to rock the boat, so we don't challenge our members.  We don't push them out of their comfort zones.  I know in working with students, you always think about how busy they are and you don't want to make them feel bad about not having a relationship with Christ.  We can't upset the status quote (seems I hear a song).

So how can you know you are a disciple and not just a Christian?  Here are some things I think about.

  1. You have a moment when you knew that you needed God more than anything and you gave your life to Him.  I think we equate church attendance with godliness.
  2. God is more than just a word you use when you swear.  Your life has changed since you gave your life to God and you spend each day trying to live how He wants you to.  Not perfect but working at it.
  3. You are continually learning, growing and sharing your faith.  This speaks for itself.
Now please don't take anything I said that wrong way.  I want every student in our ministry to be a disciple not just a Christian.  I want our students to be people who live their faith and not just say it.

What are you, a Christian or a disciple?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

How much Church is too much?

How much church is too much?  This is a question I have heard asked, specifically about the amount of time that a child spends at the church.  I was one who, as a child, was almost always at church.  The church was my home.  I went to school there, I played sports there, hung out with friends and learned who God was.  So the idea of having too much church is foreign to me.  My own kids are almost always at church.  

But when I hear this statement, I begin to think about how much time we spend doing other things.  How many hours do we sit watching football games?  Playing video games?  Hanging on Facebook?  Practicing for sports? Band? etc.  How can we as parents say that too much church is a bad thing, when if we looked at the rest of our lives we would actually see how little time church takes up.

Now, I will say that if you are in church and just hanging out or you don't feel like you are getting anything, I might understand.  But if there are opportunities to learn, grow, fellowship and love God, then you can never have too much. 

I see two major problems when it comes to how we think/do church:

First: I think we are too segregated as church.  Overall.  If you are a parent, you come in, bring your child/student to an age appropriate area while you go to church or Sunday school that is specifically designed for you.  Your child is entertained/taught by child experts to meet their specific needs.  There is not much interaction between parents and child during church.

Second: I think part of our problem is that we don't see church the way we need to see it.  I feel we see church as just a building where we go, fulfill our religious duty and then go home.  If this is the case, then no wonder we can think that you can spend too much time with God.  How often do we enter church expecting something to happen.  How often do we go, "Ok God, I am here. Show me. Use me".  I think instead we walk in and go, "Ok, let's get this over with".  We sing like we are supposed to.  We recite liturgy when we need to.  We listen to the preacher like we are supposed to but usually not expecting to hear anything new.

I have always seen church as a time for me to grow closer to God.  A time to come and enjoy the presence of other believers, worship Him through song and here a message from someone who has studied and been lead by God.  Now, I don't always feel like this.  There are times when I am in church because I have to be, and I think that is ok.  There have also been times when I have come with a bad attitude and through the service been changed.

How do you see church?  Do you think you can really spend too much time at church?  Let me know.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Handling Mistakes in Ministry

Over the course of our lives we will make tons of mistakes.  Some of them will be very minor to very major.  Some mistakes are made because we take risks and we aren't sure of the outcome.  Other mistakes are made because we become arrogant and think we know more than we do.

Mistakes are going to happen but how we deal with them is going to define the type of person we are.  In ministry we make all kids of mistakes like 

  • Sending out an incomplete email or one that isn't worded right
  • Not giving out all the details to an event
  • Blaming the wrong student for setting the garbage can on fire
  • Forgetting to talk to the parents of the student you sent home early from an event

In ministry, everyone in the church is your boss, so you are trying to please a whole lot of people with a whole lot of ideas of what you should be doing.  We serve the entire church, not just those in our ministries.  This makes for a lot of fun some times.  We need to learn to read the signs and do everything we can to make the matter worse, rather than being arrogant and "taking a stand" for our beliefs.  If people don't like us or our ministry, we won't be as effective as we need to be.

So how can we handle the mistakes we know we are going to make?

  1. Be Humble.  You might have to eat some crow but understand you are working toward the kingdom of God not ourselves.
  2. Listen Closely. Do your best to hear what someone might be telling you and do what needs to be done to resolve the issue.  We need to hear the other person and their perspective in order to understand where they are coming from.
  3. Learn and Grow.  Take any issues that come up as opportunity to grow as a Christian and a minister.  We are put into situations by God in order to better ourselves.
  4. Be Open and Honest.  The more transparent you are in your ministry the better but know how to discern.  The more good information you put out there, the less material there is to attack you with.
Ultimately being in ministry is about being humble to those you work with.  You might not like it all the time, but you will need to figure out which battles are worth fighting for.  If we take the time to see how those mistakes are affecting other people and the situations we are creating, we can be better at handling those mistakes with Godly precision.