Seven Things Women Want in Youth Ministry

women, youthmin.org

This post originally appeared here: http://youthmin.org/seven-things-women-want-in-youth-ministry/

Being a woman in ministry can be difficult, especially if you are in a denomination that still doesn’t fully support women in ministry.  That’s my story—I’ve been a Southern Baptist my whole (short) life, and I can’t imagine not being SBC, except for the fact that many churches won’t hire me.  And if they do…well, there’s a whole separate list of complaints.

I have intentionally talked with women all over the internet on Twitter, the youthmin.org Facebook page for women, and in my old university network.  Here is a list of things women want.  They are things that men need to hear, and women need to be encouraged by.

I would also like to point out my alternative title: What A Girl Wants, What A Girl Needs (ha!)

  1. A universally true biblical view of leadership.  Biblically, N.T. Wright can explain this better than I can, and without the whole bias of being a woman ;)(http://ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Women_Service_Church.htm).  Culturally, I believe in a model of leadership for youth ministry that has both male and female leaders who complement each other and meet the needs of all the teenagers in the youth group.  The primary leadership role doesn’t matter as much—either a man or a woman who has been theologically trained and commissioned by God can do the job.  In a society where women leadership is embraced even by our political conventions, why is the church still as step behind on this?  (Now, I warn you: If you are anti-women-in-ministry, I’m not looking for a fight. So don’t throw punches in the comment section. K thanks.)
  2. The same amount of respect as a man. A statement that drives me nuts: “I think it is okay for women to lead, I just prefer a man to.”  Grrr.  If a woman is in a denomination that does not “ordain” women as ministers, a woman can get a position leading a youth group; however they will be called a “director” or “leader” and not a “pastor” or “minister” like a male would in that same role with the same training and experience.  This not only cheapens the title, but cheapens the woman.  I did not get a degree in ministry so that I could direct a youth group, but so that I could be the shepherd, or pastor, for that group.  And even if my denomination “allows” it, many within the church will treat me so that I act cautiously and consciously.  ALSO…don’t refer to me as “the girl,” the “minister with boobs,” or refer to my menstruation when I’m emotional. You might find yourself “man-less” (that womanly sass is coming out here!)
  3. People to quit believing that women are too emotional to lead a ministry.  Many assume that because I’m a woman, I’m going to get so emotional that I can’t handle ministry sometimes.  My emotions rarely hinder me, but mostly help me.  Women are emotional human beings; these are gifts of empathy, mercy, and exhortation. Don’t both males and females, especially children and teenagers, need this kind of nurture?  If I get “over-emotional”, it’s because the Father is tugging on my heart to look at something the way he looks at it.  Men and women both have weaknesses that can hinder them in ministry.  Men and women both have spiritual, but also natural, giftings that are used towards ministry. I think that’s why it’s so important to have both in leadership and in discipleship with teenagers.
  4. Churches to quit making a “youth pastor mold” for its leaders to fit into.  Youth pastors don’t need to be able to play the guitar, have crazy haircuts and beards, own TOMS and an iPhone, be great at sports, and love coffee.  It’s because of these clichés and more that women still don’t “look right” in the role of a youth minister.  Plus, most male youth pastors in the mold wear women’s jeans anyway.
  5. More networking opportunities.  Women by nature need community and affirmation.  So it makes zero sense that there are very few groups dedicated to helping women in ministry.  And I’m not talking some red hat society where women get together and drink tea and talk about knitting (although I enjoy all those things, ha!); nor am I talking some feminist community of women trying to figure out ways to catch men “in the act” of sexism.  I’m talking an intentional community of women investing in each other and equipping each other for ministry.  A group of women who desire to see churches use their members’ gifts in all areas of the church.
  6. More women to set the example.  There aren’t many women examples—women bloggers, women speakers at youth ministry conferences, women professors, women youth pastors.  I went to an SBC university, and there was no woman professor in our entire Theology/Ministry college.  Hate to put this fantastic site on blast, but there are currently no women in the 11 contributors.  Sure, this is representative of the youth ministry community—there aren’t many women.  But women need to stop being afraid of the lack and step up! And—
  7. More men need to be willing to step aside and let women lead.  What I have found is that it is very easy to find female volunteers, but not male volunteers.  When it comes to finding a paid leader, it’s easy to find male leaders, but not females.  Why is this so?  Perhaps it is because males are more aggressive in pursuing those roles.  Perhaps it is because women are still trying to decide whether they can be a leader.  But how many women do you know, that are vocational and have families, that have time to volunteer in a youth group?  And if a woman is called to working with teenagers, why expect her to do it for free just because she’s a woman?  There is a “stained glass ceiling,” and both men and women need to change that.   I believe that ministries, especially youth ministry, need both males and females leading alongside each other and discipling teenagers.  I’m not saying that men need to deny their callings just so a woman can do the job; callings can be in many different forms and at many different levels of leadership.  I’m not some feminist who says “anything men can do, I can do better” but a minister who says “anything men do, I want to do with them.”  It’s terribly important in our culture to model strong men and women, and both men and women need to honor those traits in each other.

3 Things To Do When Your Numbers Are Low

Contributions, youthmin.org

This post originally appeared at http://youthmin.org/3-things-to-do-when-your-numbers-are-low/

We all deal with it this time of year–our numbers are LOW. It usually happens around the holidays, but it can also happen during Spring Break, Summer vacation… or just a random Sunday.  What do you do when your group is down?

Be creative.

You know those fantastic ideas that wouldn’t work for a large group, but could work for a much smaller group? Do it! Use the time to do some kind of special worship or prayer service. Use the time for making more one-on-one connections. Have a little more fun with them than normal and give them something they’re remember.

Let’s be honest… especially during the holidays, students are coming to church specifically to see their friends. They’re not going to school, and they’re locked up with their family. Do something very interactive to get their social needs fulfilled.

Be flexible.

Last week, I had about 1/10 of my normal crowd. Instead of teaching in front of them, I sat down in a circle with them. Instead of teaching a lesson AT them and having them then break up in small groups, we had a very conversational lesson. Did I plan it that way? Nope. But I was flexible and we had a great time. I was able to see that each and every one of them opened a Bible, which was a small victory!

Don’t get discouraged when you don’t have “your numbers.” I think the mark of true youth ministry leadership talent is when you can go with the flow, whatever that flow may be for that day.

Be gracious.

Sometimes we get very passionate and defensive, and shame students for not coming. Be cautious and sensitive–sometimes things come up. Don’t hound or drill students on why they weren’t there… let’s be honest, there are times when WE want to skip church or go to a different function.

Remember that these are teenagers. They are fantastic. Whether you have 5, 50, or 500, it is your responsibility to shepherd them and provide them a safe place to learn about God.

Distinguishing Youth Group from Other Groups

church, Contributions, youth ministry, youthmin.org

what makes the church the church

 

This post originally appeared here: http://youthmin.org/distinguishing-youth-group-from-other-groups/

A recent profile was done by The Associated Press on the rise of “Atheist Mega Churches” in the United States.

These churches look exactly like most church services do–there is singing, community, and an inspirational message. The only thing that makes them different is that the message doesn’t contain God.

I must admit; as I read this article, I couldn’t help but shake my head.  The thing is, I can think of a lot of church experiences that I have had that look exactly like these Atheist churches.  There are a lot of churches with sermons that only throw God in there when it is convenient and comfortable.  They focus on music and messages and meetings that affirm you, which admittedly can have some positive impact; however, they miss the most important component–Christ.

Now, I’m not going to get into this too deeply, for I feel that God hasn’t given me the specific place to call these experiences out.

What I do feel compelled to talk about is this:

What makes your student ministry meetings different?

What makes a Sunday/Wednesday/______ different for your teenagers compared to any other place that they step into in their week?  How is it different from school? Work? Practice? Rehearsal? Clubs?

You see, there should be a difference. I should be able to tell the difference between the Body meeting versus non-Christians, just as I should be able to tell the difference between a Christian church and an Atheist church.

… but sometimes I can’t tell.

In the comments, I would like you to :
1. Tell me WHY it is important that our experiences with the Body should be different.
2. Tell me how YOU strive to make YOUR youth group a place that is different from any other place for your teenagers.

12 Last-Minute Youth Ministry Ideas for AUTUMN

Contributions, youth ministry, youthmin.org

youth ministry fall ideas

This post originally appeared here: http://youthmin.org/12-last-minute-youth-ministry-ideas-for-autumn/

Subtitle: WHY FALL IS THE BEST TIME FOR STUDENT MINISTRY. ha!

I LOVE the autumn season.  You would probably expect that from a female such as myself, because Fall = cardigans + scarves + PSL (pumpkin spice lattes).

But Fall is also FULL of great opportunities for student ministry.  Here are some quick, easy, and CHEAP options for your fall calendar. I was rather brief, so if you’d like more ideas, hit me up below and our community can help you out!

  1. Bonfires. Duh! S’mores, hot chocolate, PSLs, etc! Tell some really stupid ghost stores, maybe do some campfire worship, play some outside games, and try not to let the middle school boys get too close to the fire.
  2. Costume contest.  Make a themed party–80s, Duck Dynasty (if you haven’t already played that card), hillbilly, etc.!   My teen sister’s church is doing a Bible-themed costume party, and her friends are going to be Moses, Bob, and Larry (Veggietales, hello!).
  3. Host a “barn dance.”  Have a little line dancing, hay bales, and country outfits. Make sure no one spikes the apple cider.
  4. Make Hand Turkeys.  I know this sounds super third-grade, but I hosted turkey parties all throughout college, and they were a hit! Have paper, cardstock, glitter, googly eyes, feathers, and lots of other crazy items to glue onto the turkeys.
  5. Pumpkin-carving contest. Have groups compete to make the best pumpkin, and have a prize for the best group. For added ridiculousness, BYOP (bring your own pumpkin).
  6. Fall treat baking night.  This might be more for your ladies, but everyone loves fall treats! Perhaps you can bring them to a nursing home, homeless shelter, food pantry, or pass them around to your neighborhood!
  7. Scavenger Hunt.  It is the PERFECT weather for a scavenger hunt, whether you’re foraging for food, doing an Instagram hunt, or doing a Service Scavenger Hunt. Regardless, PERFECTION.
  8. Group trips. Go apple-picking, pumpkin picking, or to a hay ride. If your church is okay with the paranormal, hit up a haunted house or corn maze.  Keep in mind that they cost a bit more compared to the other options.
  9. Fifth Quarters. Football games are great opportunities to get to know your students’ culture and peer community. Host Rated-PG parties after the football games for students with tons of pizza and games.
  10. Rake leaves. Go rake your neighborhood. Look up all the old ladies in your church’s directory and go invade their yard. Be nice, though.
  11. Chili/Soup Cook-off.  You can do this for fun or even to raise money.
  12. Turkey Drive. Collect all the makings for Thanksgiving dinner in order to feed families who cannot afford it.

These ideas aren’t meant to be mind-blowing, but to get your juices flowing. Have some great ideas? Post them below!

Called…even in transition

church, Contributions, leadership, youth ministry, youthmin.org

am I called to ministry

This post originally appeared on : http://youthmin.org/called-even-in-transition/

I resigned from my church a little over a year ago, on a conviction to move back to St. Louis and take care of some family matters.  It was tough.  I assumed that because God was calling me to do this, He would open up a church position for me in no time.  But after 100s of resumes and 3 months unemployed, I accepted a different position at a ministry group home to teenagers.  And a year later, I’m still there and still looking for a church job.

At first, I questioned God often: “Why, if you’ve called me to youth ministry, am I not in a church?”  I didn’t understand.

A year later, I’m finally getting it:

Calling isn’t a career, but a lifestyle.

Take life by the horns.

Quit being so miserable.  Spending my days obsessing over how I wasn’t in a church and nobody liked me and blahblahblah was a waste of time.  And you, if you are “in transition” like myself, should not waste your time being miserable because you aren’t “fulfilling your calling.”

Find contentment.  That is not, “Well, this is the best it’s going to get, so I’m just going to deal…”  Truly find a way to enjoy life and love it.

Another thing: are you making your family and friends miserable with your misery?  Take it from somebody that got told to “shut up” … just be content and learn to love life where you are.

Quit putting your calling in a box.

I thought that because I was called to youth ministry, that meant that I was only fulfilling that calling by working in a church.  I think my friends and family would laugh at me saying that I’m not fulfilling my calling right now: I work with teenagers 250 hours a month at my job.  I volunteer in a local church.  I work for a youth ministry website.  I honestly think that I just really enjoyed feeling sorry for myself, and I needed to find contentment.

We are all called to minister…and sometimes God calls us to do specific ministries to specific peoples.  You may not be in a church, but there are plenty of other ways to minister to teenagers.  There are group homes, youth organizations, or churches in need of the best volunteers they could ever ask for.

Put your calling in current context.

So maybe you aren’t able to work with churched teenagers… there are still others out there who need the Gospel; in fact, they need to hear it more.  Use this time to use your calling to reach those who are unusually unreached.

You are called to minister to people, not to a building.

PS… if you are reading this and want to hire me, I’m game.

This article isn’t about Miley (It’s about you, jerk!)

Contributions, girls ministry, unchurched, youth ministry, youthmin.org

Okay, that was the name I came up with AFTER this was already published. I’m semi-glad I went with the first one ;)

miley cyrus rock bottom

This article originally appeared at: http://youthmin.org/another-article-about-miley-cyrus/

In an interview with Sunday People, Miley Cyrus said, “I have so many f**king issues.  I am so f**ked up -– everyone does dumb stuff when they are messed up.”

If you keep up with the news in any sort of fashion, you know–at least, on the surface–what is going on with Miley. Some say that she’s a mess and that we can’t let our children around her.  Others say that her behavior is nothing new, that she’s just being your average 20-year old; so why are we all tripping over it?

Here is what I have to say:

Miley is broken.  So are we.

Miley has been in scandal after scandal over the years, as all stars have.  And frankly, it’s easy to sit here and judge her; she’s in the spotlight for all the world to see.  But I have to ask myself: If I were in her position, and people saw my baggage and what was going through, how would I feel about their reactions, if they reacted the same way that we are reacting to her?

Miley came out with a new video on Monday from her new single “Wrecking Ball.”  Unlike “We Can’t Stop,” this is raw.  The lyrics show a glimpse of what is going on.  Here are some of the lyrics:

I put you high up in the sky
And now, you’re not coming down
It slowly turned, you let me burn
And now, we’re ashes on the ground

Don’t you ever say I just walked away
I will always want you
I can’t live a lie, running for my life
I will always want you

I came in like a wrecking ball
I never hit so hard in love
All I wanted was to break your walls
All you ever did was wreck me

Obviously, Miley is going through something. From her disconnected relationship with her father, to her on-again, off-again relationship with her fiancee, to just growing up (she’s 20 years old!); she’s dealing with things.

Let me ask you something–are these issues all that different from any other 20 year old?  Not really.  But because she is in the limelight, she is being judged.  Being 20 years old is hard enough; you are trying to discover your identity and define your place in this world.  Now imagine being a girl who spent her childhood as a star?  Imagine your family business being aired for all to see?  Imagine trying to be 20, but everyone judges every move you make because it isn’t “Disney-esque?”

Another issue I see–and I’m going to be blunt:  For us to sit here and judge Miley, who to our knowledge does not have a redeeming relationship with God, is wrong.  Also, what good is it going to do?  Is condemning her honestly going to lead her to Christ?  What if, instead, there were Christians in her life who supported her, provided her guidance, and maintained a “safe zone” should she slip?  By demonstrating Christ through our actions, we are building a bridge that can show Miley Truth.  How would you have liked it, if in your rock bottom, a bunch of people just started putting your business on blast, talking about how much you have changed, how despicable you are, and how they don’t want you in their homes or around their families?

(And to be even more frank: talking about Miley in a way that does not edify her is gossip.)

That is NOT CHRIST, guys. He met sinners where they were and lived life with them; yes,  He gave them truth, yet he lived life with them regardless.  Paul says in Romans that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!  Not when we had our act together, but when were still in our messed up rock-bottom.

I’ve been reading through Romans lately and meditating on the passages.  The first chapter of Romans sets up the story of Creation and The Fall. Then Paul lays it thick in the first verse of chapter 2 (emphasis added):

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.

Paul continues in chapter three:

None is righteous, no not one…For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

If I had people judge me at my rock-bottom the way Miley is being judged, I would probably have been turned off from God.  I wasn’t perfect; I shook my toosh too (in fact, twerking is not a new term).  I wasn’t wise about my relationships with boys, I cursed like a sailor, and I was teaching Sunday School on Sundays hungover.  I wasn’t where I needed to be.  Even now, I don’t make the wisest decisions sometimes.  But I have people who have honest conversations with me, who don’t judge me, yet still give me Truth.  They don’t condemn me, they don’t act self-righteous.  They invite me to live a raw life with them, helping me through my sin and being patient with me when I don’t get it right away.

Here  is my idea–I think we should be talking about Miley and other pop culture icons with our students. But instead of focusing on what Miley is doing wrong, what if we were to ask: “If you saw one of your friends going through this, what would you do?”  “If you were in this situation, what would you want people to do for you?”  Instead of alienating Miley’s situation, let’s try to identify, empathize, and exhort her.

Humble yourself.  Think about your rock-bottom.  What got you out of it?  How can you translate that to working with your students in their rock-bottoms?

Cut the Crap: Get Transparent

christianity, Contributions, youth ministry, youthmin.org

youth ministry struggles

 

This article originally appeared on: http://youthmin.org/cut-the-crap-get-transparent/

When I went to the Simply Youth Ministry Conference in March, I was stoked.  One of the biggest blessings that I had was being able to meet so many people that I have networked with over the last three years in the blogosphere.  I had some really encouraging and hilarious conversations with many people who have a decade more experience and eons more wisdom than I.

One thing that showed up in our conversations is their affirmation of the characteristic in myself that I sometimes hate: my transparency.  I was often told that my transparency is what sets me apart, and never stop showing that.  This was encouraging for me, as I rarely get transparency from people as much as I show it, and one of the biggest things I struggle with in the personality of youth pastors is their lack of transparency.

So, session after class after conversation, this theme showed up.  In a large-group session, I was pushed to visualize my struggles and let them go.  In this session, we were encouraged to write all of our junk on a hackey sack with a marker.  I wrote junk after junk after junk on this thing.  Then we had to get in a small group and share one thing.  I looked around and saw some very empty hackey sacks, and heard some even emptier answers.  When it was my turn to share, I clammed up.  Yes me.  I walled up and let out some answer that was half the truth, because the rest of my group couldn’t share their junk.  Then we had to group-juggle our hackey sacks, which could have been a great exercise to show the fact that we sometimes not only juggle our junk, but others’ as well…except my group wanted to make a systematic “1–2–3″ countdown in order to pass ours around.  It showed me that even though I may be transparent, and others may say they want more transparency, many still won’t show it.

So youth pastor, cut the crap.  If we can’t be transparent about these issues with one another, then we have a serious problem.

Transparency is hard, I get it.  We are afraid that the truth will drive others away.  We are fearful that if we were to get real with one another, we may be looked at as a Negative Nancy.

But what transparency does is worth it: First off, it makes you feel better. You realize that someone out there gets it.  You begin to understand that you are not the only person struggling with what you are struggling with, and you can solve the issue together.

We are in ministry together.

One of the things I love is the Facebook group community that YouthMin.Org has. Many youth pastors are transparent on there and share their struggles…and even if not publicly, they message myself and other contributors and share their junk with us (and I with them).

One passage that I meditate on time and time again is in Philippians 4, and I’m sure you can quote this by heart: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

But we forget that next verse: “Yet it was kind of you to share my struggle.”  We struggle with junk after junk, but not alone.  We do this as a team.

Feel free to contact me or anybody on the team, and let’s do this together.

4 Easy Ways to Build Rapport with Your Senior Pastor

church, Contributions, leadership, youth ministry, youthmin.org

church staff relationships

This article originally appeared on: http://youthmin.org/4-easy-ways-to-build-rapport-with-your-senior-pastor-leadingup/

As a part of YouthMin’s Leading Up series this month, I feel that one of the most important things that you can do to get your supervisor/senior pastor to be willing to learn from you, and in turn, be “led” by you, is to create a great rapport.

Show them your life.

Invite them over to your house for dinner with your crazy family, or invite your family over to their house!  Share life together, and talk about things other than church.  Use your personal hobbies to bless them–can you grill a mean steak or knit a mean sweater? Bless them!  Show them that you have a personality.

When I secured my current position, my supervisor told me that she fell in love with my personality during the interview and knew she had to have me on her team.  Did I have decent credentials? Sure, but what makes us a good team is that we actually like each other.  We talk about our families, our problems, and our successes and celebrate them together.

Find shared ground.

Oh, you like baseball? love baseball! BAM we’re at a baseball game, drinking 7-dollar Cokes, and cheering on our team. And next week in the office, we will reminisce of how that crazy Cubs fan dumped their beer on us in an angry rage because the Cardinals are the bomb.com.

Memories, people.  Make them!  You don’t like baseball?  Then find things to “geek out” over together–other sports, television shows, exercise, your Molkeskine journals, those hipster shoes, and favorite exegetical techniques.

Invest in their children.

(Joshua Fuentes will talk more about this soon!)

When I ask my supervisor how her son’s football season is going, and even commit to going to a game, it helps our relationship.  I loved mentoring the high school girl of my senior pastor at my last church, and that really did add to the relationship I had with her father.   I even considered dating the adult son of another one of my senior pastors…just kidding.

Be mentored by them or their spouse.

Bonus: You and your spouse are mentored by them and their spouse.  As I said before in 3 other ways, invest in each other.  I am fully convinced that vulnerably and intentionally investing is the only way to build rapport with your supervisor.

What happens when you build good rapport with your supervisor/senior pastor?

The most beautiful thing that will ever happen in ministry:  They will have your back.  They will understand your heart and where you are coming from in ministry.  At my first director position in a church, I came to my senior pastor with a pretty big change in mind.  Because we were invested in each other (common ground: I love to learn and he loves to teach. BAM!), he had my back 100%, even when a few others didn’t.

If you are currently in a position where the relationship is flawed, I don’t think that relationship is permanently doomed.  Try to understand them by investing in them… take out your selfish motives and consider that maybe you aren’t the only person who doesn’t feel like your back is covered.

What do you guys think? How do you build rapport with your supervisor/senior pastor?

The Value of Student Activities in Youth Ministry

church, Contributions, youth ministry, youthmin.org

kids too busy for youth group

This article originally appeared here: http://youthmin.org/youth-group-vs-school-activities/

One of the frustrations that I hear many youth ministers talk about is the fact that their students seem more concerned with extracurriculars than they are youth group or church.

I hear things like:

  • They don’t value God or the church because they miss youth group.
  • They think football is more important on a Friday night than a youth event.
  • They can’t give Jesus just 90 minutes of their time a week.

And I hear you, friends.  I’ve felt like you, and I mean, I still get frustrated.  But I’m a little more empathetic to the students, and here’s why.

Going to youth group doesn’t produce a college scholarship.

That’s blunt, I know.  Yet, with the costs of college, teenagers are trying to do whatever it takes to help pay for it.

Now, there are things that you can do as a youth pastor to help this out:

  • Provide missions opportunities to help them gain community service/volunteer work to put on their resumes. Bonus: make it open to the community of high schoolers and not just your church teens (can you say outreach?).
  • Find a way to have more student leadership positions, so that your students can put that on their resume.
  • Find people within the church who can invest scholarships into some of your teenagers.

I know first-hand that you can be a part of clubs and still be active in church; I participated and was an officer in 8 clubs in high school (I’m crazy, I know); however, I didn’t do sports while in high school, which are mega-time-consuming.  I also know that very few (if any) of your high school students will actually make it to the big leagues… Yet I also know the benefits of being on a team and the skills you can learn from that.  They are valuable skills that I think should be encouraged.

Teenagers need to be able to spread the gospel.

We emphasize to our teenagers about going into their “mission field” to spread the Gospel.  Where else can they spread it?  They can’t exactly spread the Gospel in math class.  There’s lunch period, but other than that there aren’t any real opportunities.

I think we should encourage our teens to get involved in clubs and sports so that they can have opportunities to spread the Gospel in real-life situations.  Otherwise, when they become an adult, their only experiences of sharing the Gospel will be from Missions Projects with their Youth Group.

Jesus isn’t exclusively at youth group.

One of the biggest annoyances to me is when youth pastors say that when a student doesn’t come to youth group, they’re putting their extracurriculars over Jesus. Really?  Are Sunday and Wednesday the only times that Jesus shows up?  And are you really that audacious to say that what you are providing is equivalent to Jesus?

Youth ministry isn’t exclusively at youth group.

Just like Jesus just isn’t on Sundays, neither should you.  We need to learn to reach teenagers on their turf.  

You need to consider the culture.  Honestly, if you live in a football town, why would you put a youth event on a Friday Night?  You should be at the game living life with them and rooting on your student players.  Maybe your students get swamped in the school year and Wednesdays aren’t the right days for you.

Ministry happens at the lunch table, at a baseball game, in a small group, in dodgeball, and in youth group.  It happens in a text conversation, and also in a warm hug.  They may not come to that 90 minute meeting, but is that all you’re offering them?  Small groups and mentors are great alternatives to youth group–just make sure you’re plugging them in and giving them options.

Consider that what you’re offering isn’t more appealing than chess club.

This goes back to culture–what reaches your students?  Maybe that senior girl doesn’t come to Wednesdays because she hates messy games and has no alternative.  Maybe that middle school boy doesn’t come because there are too many girls and he needs a small group of other guys.  You may have to consider that what you have going on isn’t pulling students in, and you may have to be courageous enough to do things differently.

I’m not saying to be “seeker friendly.”  I’m saying be “culturally appropriate.”  Jesus used parables in order to relate the Gospel in a way for people to understand it…and even that went over their heads.  So while you’re not always going to get it right, at least you tried to consider your students and reach them where they’re at.

Now, I get it:  There will be teens to do put up some pretty lame excuses as to why they can’t come. Love on them anyway.

What are some ways that you’ve encouraged your teens to do extracurriculars, but still maintained a healthy youth group presence?

When You’re At a Loss.

Contributions, depression, youth ministry, youthmin.org

ministry loneliness

This post originally appeared here.

I checked the stats on my personal blog the other day, you know, to see if my 12 followers were interacting with it.

I saw that someone found my blog using this search term:

I don’t know what our ministry is about anymore.

I just broke.

What a humbling reminder of the brokeness we feel in ministry sometimes.

And honestly, what do I even say to this?

Ministry is tough, and I’ve concluded that it is because your heart is involved.  There are tons of careers that are difficult and have hard moments, but most of them are jobs you can leave at work.  Ministry is something you take home with you, something that keeps you up at night.  So it makes sense that you will feel this way at one time or another.

I can tell you to do the obvious:

  • Talk to someone about how you feel.  If you get to a point where you are just questioning the entire ministry, you need some help.  Find a mentor, a Christian counselor, or someone who is just a heck of a lot wiser than you are. 
  • Talk to your senior pastor/supervisor.  Get their vision and wisdom.
  • Take a sabbatical or a super-long-sabbath and just breathe.  Pray.

I was completely lost a few months back.  I went to the Simply Youth Ministry Conference and attended theEverybody’s Urban sessions; I was at a loss with my at-risk teenagers and didn’t know what to do anymore.  I talked toLeneita Fix after the session, practically drowning her in my tears.  She quoted my favorite passage, a passage I’ve come to countless times when I’m discouraged:

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.  The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 1 Corinthians 3:6-7

…and then said the most brilliant thing to me:

Sometimes we don’t even plant the seeds.  We may have to dig the rocks out of the soil, to prepare it for the seeds.

Even if you don’t see growth, that may not be your duty.  Some of us have to prepare the path for our teenagers and our ministry—dig out the rocks of apathy and programs that don’t work and leaders that don’t quite cut it. Some of us have to work in our teens’ lives simply to help them dig out the junk that’s in it.  Through this, you (or someone else) will be able to plant the seed and water it. And, when it’s God’s time, that student and ministry will grow.

I wish I had more to say, yet to be honest, this is one of those things that just needs prayer and time.  Words can’t express how much I care for this network of youth ministers, and I pray for you guys daily.  Be encouraged and hold fast.