SYMC

Monday, March 24, 2014

Partnering with Parents





After Sunday morning service the other day, I had lunch with one of our ministries parents and their student. This particular family have had a rough time lately, but the parent told me she was glad I was there for her child because she knew I reinforced everything they taught her about the Bible.

So how did we put our youth ministries in a position to win like this? Partner with parents! Let's look at some practical ways to do this.

1: Parents are friends, not enemies!
I know what it's like to be new in youth ministry. I remember the days when I thought, I'm the 'expert' on teenagers I know better than their parents know! I'm the expert after all. If we treat parents as partners and friends, not enemies, a new world of ministry opens up. When you have your ministries parents on your side, your lessons will be reinforced at home and you'll have the BEST supporters in the world on your side.

2: Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Parents LOVE communication. If there is one thing I've learned is you can never over communicate. You can never use to many forms of communication either. Broadcast your news on ALL outlets. Send home a flyer, put it in the church newsletter and bulletin, email it, post it on social media, and all the websites. If you feel like you've over communicated, your half way there.

3: Start small.
You don't have to dive in to a massive parent ministry push overnight. Start small. Send home a copy of the verse and topic that your lesson is over with two simple follow up questions parents can discuss over dinner. Host a small parent and student dinner. Just start!

We had a great time talking to this family and I get the honor of baptizing their daughter next week before I move to my new church. I pray that as you think about parent ministry you will realize that partnering with parents is one of the best decisions you can make. Until next time..

Just Keep Swimming!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Social Media and Youth Ministry




What's up everyone! Been awhile! My last semester in college has been a tough one and I've been contributing over at Ministryplace.net so I haven't been fresh on ideas. Today we are traveling to Paoli Peaks IN for our annual Winter Blast snow tubing trip. Something stuck out at me on the way, it took me five minutes to update all of our youth ministry social media outlets!

Now five minutes isn't a really long time but it got me to thinking about social media and youth ministry. Obviously we want to reach students where they re right? But what is your youth ministry social media strategy?

There are two schools of thought on this.

1: Focus on one particular social media outlet.

The pro's to this concept are simplicity and quality. It simplifies matters when you can say, our preferred method of social media is (insert name here). If you want to stay up to date on our happenings check here. Simple! You only have one social media site to update and keep current.

The other pro is quality. If you only have to focus on the one outlet you can become VERY proficient at the use of that outlet. You will understand it better and know what it takes to make a good post. You will better understand how that platform operates and how to use that platform to reach students.

2: Have a presence on multiple social media outlets.
This is the option we use. We have a presence on the big three (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram). While I am very familiar with all three, I would not say I'm an expert on any given one. Quite often as well my posts don't have the reach or affect that I would like. The pros, however, are you can reach a broader base of students and it leaves no excuses.

On this trip we are taking 5 students. Just out of these five there are all three social media outlets. Two prefer Facebook, in fact one just got a Facebook account last month. Two prefer Instagram and one prefers Twitter. By being on all three I can reach students no matter what outlet they prefer.it takes a balance, you have to devote equal time to all outlets but your reach is broadened.

It also leaves no excuses, students can't say well I didn't know about 'A' because I'm not on Facebook. If you can reach them where they are they cannot say you didn't try.

Want some social media tips for youth ministry?
1: Make your informational posts short. Think Tweet size, students are used to reading and retaining 140 characters or less.
2: Have separate accounts for parents and students. You can keep parents in the know easier if you reach them where they are, typically one outlet back from the students.
3: Monitor your students social media but do not confront them online. Did they post something they shouldn't have? Confront them privately about it, don't have it out in the comments section. Think of it as a privilege that they are allowing you in to that aspect of their life.
4: Use pictures! Want to get a teens attention, studies show teens pay more attention to posts when there is an attached picture or video.
5: Promote promote promote. They have to know you have a page or they won't follow you.

Until next time!

Just Keep Swimming!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Volunteer Impact

I love football! I really do. When I was in high school I hated football. I was in the marching band and to me the football game was just the pre and post show to the bands half time performance. I viewed it as a bunch of dumb jocks pounding away on each other. As I've gotten older though I've come to appreciate how tactical football is. How you run certain plays in certain situations and expect certain results. How a time out called in a critical spot can affect the outcome of a game. I love it.

Upon marrying my wife I was informed politely that I would now be a Cincinnati Bengal fan. My wife is originally from Cincy and she loves her Bengals! I would have to say that the Bengals are my team. I am a fan of football in general though. My wife won't watch any other team, but on a Sunday you will find me watching whatever football game is on. One team that impresses me is the Green Bay Packers. I was thinking about youth ministry and something popped into my head that was really interesting, volunteers and how football applies to them.

Let's take a look at two highly different teams that I know the basics about. First off, the Packers.


Green Bay was established in 1919 the Packers are the third oldest team in the NFL. Originally founded by Earl "Curly" Lambeau and George Whitney Calhoun, the Packers are America's last small town football team. The city of Green Bay only has a population of 104,057, where most pro football teams are located in cities with millions of population. The Packers were named after original sponsor the "Indian Packing Company" which was later bought out by the "Acme Packing Company". 

One thing that sticks out about The Packers and applies to Volunteers is that they are a community owned team. This is unheard of in pro sports and actually will never happen again in the NFL as there is a policy in place to prevent this. The Packers, however, are grandfathered in. Best thing about this? The community has a say in the future of the team. The team is prevent from moving because of a agreement saying they would have to contribute large amounts of money to the Packers Community Fund. 

The community has a say in the future of the team. How about youth ministry? If you have a team of volunteers surrounding your youth ministry it is about the church community in general having a say in the ownership of the youth ministry. A healthy youth ministry is not about a magnetic front man but is more about how the church is invested in it's youth ministry. If your youth ministry is supported by the volunteer community then when you step down the youth ministry will continue on. I recently spoke to a senior pastor whose youth minister stepped down in July. One thing that impressed me was when I asked about the health of the youth ministry, it was maintaining. Why is maintaining good? His church has a healthy core of volunteers who stepped up in the absence of a youth minister and took the wheel of the youth ministry, steering it in the right direction.

How about my Bengals?


I love my Bengals but there is one problem surrounding the team. The Bengals were founded in 1966. Founded by former Browns head coach Paul Brown, who was also the head coach from 1966-1975. The Bengals, named after the bengal tigers located in the Cincinnati Zoo, play at Paul Brown Stadium located near the Ohio River in Downtown Cincy. In 2011, after his fathers death, Mike Brown inherited majority ownership of the team. While the Bengals have certainly turned their franchise around in recent years, Mike Brown is still considered one of the worse owners in the NFL.

The Bengals problem, it has always been about one family and what they want in the team. There is really only one voice that matters concerning the future of the team. Anyone not on board with Browns plans, are usually unemployed. Youth ministry connection? When one magnetic person is the only voice in a youth ministry, that youth ministry is all about him/her. When that person leaves the youth ministry is typically left high and dry. 

Volunteers are an essential aspect of youth ministry and one that can only improve the health of the ministry. Youth ministers must identify and recruit the best possible volunteers to serve in the ministry. Like a pro football coach, the minister must identify volunteers whose strengths compliment the youth ministers weaknesses so that they can compliment the ministry. You don't want a team off quarterbacks but you also don't want a team of all offensive line, neither team would succeed. Until next time, Just Keep Swimming.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Product Review: LIVE Apologetics


The guys at Simply Youth Ministry have done it again! They recently released the new LIVE Curriculum Apologetics study. What an awesome and much needed study. Most teenagers have no idea how to look at things from a Christian worldview. This study will equip them to look at things from a Christian worldview, know the basics of the Christian faith, know what makes Christianity different from other world religions, and how to properly defend their faith. 

One thing that I tell my students is "defense of their faith" does not mean it is a fight. There is no need to get into an argument with your friends who are non-believers. The "defense" part is to defend your faith in your own mind. A better way to describe it is that we are equipping our students to decide what truth is. This curriculum does just that. It makes a point to tell students how to properly engage in a conversation about their faith. 

Like all LIVE Curriculums, Apologetics is very discussion driven. The opening activities are engaging and very up to date. The first lesson has students pulling out their smart phones and looking up a picture that applies to the lesson. The lessons include the script of the lesson leader, questions for the students to discuss that enforce the teaching point, additional discussion questions, and application questions that cause students to apply these principles to their lives. 

Another great aspect of the LIVE Curriculums is the Text Questions to get students thinking about the lesson before hand. THE most important part of the lessons to our ministry is the Parent Email examples that come in the lesson. They include an email to send to your parents to encourage spiritual discussions at home about that weeks lesson. 

All in all LIVE Apologetics is a can't miss for a small group curriculum!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Failure!

So the other night at youth group, as we were wrapping up and I was breaking down our setup, my wife comes running over from our main worship building frantic. She blurts out, "I can't get into the church building there is a snake in the way." You've never seen a room of teenagers clear so quick! Of course the Turtleman in me sprang into action. Luckily all of the teens stayed out of strike range and I was able to get them back while I corralled the snake. After the snake was captured and moved into a field behind our church, I was able to reflect something my wife said. She said you did a good job of keeping the students from getting hurt.

Don't we, as youth pastors, always do this? I don't mean protect our teens from snake bites, that's a gimme unless your in a snake handling church. But don't we always keep our students away from failure? Why would we let the students lead worship, that might get messy and not sound good! Why would we encourage teens to share their faith, they might mess up and look silly in front of their friends! Why would we let students lead the mission trip, they may miss something or even forget the lunch food (true story)!

The best learning experiences I have had in my faith were usually from utterly messing up and failing. I knew the snake wasn't poisonous, I've grown up hunting and fishing in Kentucky all my life, I'm very familiar with the poisonous snakes are in my area. So if it bit a student it would hurt and they may get sick from the bacteria, but it wouldn't be life threatening. As a youth pastor I should be able to see what serious failures my students may face, and warn them of them. But the little bitty failures that could help them grow? Maybe I should let them make those failures. Obviously I'm going to correct a student who has a seriously bad theological view of something and obviously I'm going to report a student that is self injuring. But how about putting the deathly shy student in charge of that mission trip? How about volunteering the youth to lead adult worship? Let them fail! They may get bit by Jesus instead of a snake! Until next time,


Just Keep Swimming!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Make your ministry Parents feel like Rock Stars!




I have a saying in our youth ministry, it really should be added to our purpose statement, but one thing that I strive for, I try to make our parents feel like rock stars. It's something that I've learned in my short time as a parent, that sometimes I just feel like a failure.

Sometimes no matter what I do, I feel like a parenting failure. I get short with my daughters when I'm frustrated, I can't afford some things they want, and sometimes I'm just selfish. I'm sure I'm not the only one out there, so with that in mind, what can I do as a youth minister to encourage the parents of my students? I tell my volunteers that if my students parents feel like a rock star after they're done talking to me, I just won the biggest battle in youth ministry.

What are some practical ideas to encourage parents?

- Every time you talk to a parent go out of your way to give them one encouraging bit of info on their student. Did little Jimmy do something special on that mission trip? Did Sarah go out of her way to make a visitor feel welcome? What about little Timmy did he memorize last weeks bible verse? These are things that tell parents all this money, and all this investment in time they are making in their students is worth it.

- Jeremy Lee from ParentMinistry.net gave me this idea. Have a parent of the month award. Have your students write a essay on why their parent should win the award, choose one, bring the parent the essay, and something like a milk shake or balloons to their work or home and recognize them as the parent of the month. Video tape the presentation and show the video in your youth and adult services. Make it into a big deal.

- Follow your students parents on social media. You have no idea how easy it is to take ten seconds and drop them a line and say 'I just want to say your doing a great job raising Emily, she is very blessed to have you as her parent.'

- Sit by parents at sporting events! Your going to be there anyway, sit with them and join them in cheering for their child.

- Host a fun event just for parents. No other motives, just a time for them to get together with no students and have fun.

Just some great fun ideas to encourage your parents to be the best spiritual leaders of their family that they can be! Until Next Time!

Just Keep Swimming!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Youth Group Programming


I was asked by a friend recently about what our youth group looks like every Wednesday night. So after my discussion with him I figured I'd post what a typical Wednesday night at FBC Dawson Springs Youth Ministry looks like. I will give you a fair warning, though my group is small and very rural, I believe in HIGH quality programming. Our youth ministry programming resembles larger church programming. I am able to pull it off with the help of some great volunteers and dedication to my group.

We typically have youth group for one hour on Wednesday nights. I make sure to have everything set up at least 30 minutes prior to doors opening. I have to set up our chairs, projector, snacks, and information table every week as we share the space in our Activity Building. I do have a stage, speakers and other large things that stay set up though.

Prior to the average student showing up I have some student leaders that show up 30 minutes prior to doors opening to help set up. We open up with a pre show, we play music (typically Lecrae, 116 Clique, or DJ Promote) over our speakers and hang out pitching a frisbee or playing hacky sack prior to  kick off. 

We have a 5 minute countdown to the start of youth group. This video shows over our projector. After the count down I typically do a welcome and we will have around 2 stage games. I use things like power point games (some of our favorites right now are Is That Really In the Bible, and Taylor Swift Lyric or Lamentations), my students really like The Challenge from Simply Youth Ministry, or game show style games like What's on That Cracker, Air Band, or Impossible Shot. There is a reason I do stage games, I have found that stage games are easy for ALL students to do. If a student does a game that requires fitness or strength it limits who will volunteer and if a student who is not particularly strong or is over weight may get embarrassed while playing, so we program games anyone can play.

After games we will usually do one song. We use lyric videos from YouTube. The reason being, I have no praise band. I wish we did but its not possible. The reason we do one song is, my kids don't sing! Well at least the majority. We have some students that do and that's why we do do the one song. Like any youth ministries we use popular Christian worship songs. (Our play list right now is 10,000 Reasons, Whom Shall I Fear, One Thing Remains, and Like a Lion).

After that song I typically do News before I start to teach. Even though my lessons are a lot like sermons they are more interactive than an adult sermon. We typically teach in series, I try to keep them around 3 weeks long. My lessons are usually 20-30 minutes. I usually break up my lessons into 6-7 minutes of teaching, then a interactive part. I usually will include a discussion question where they find a partner and discuss a question based on that teaching point. I also include text in polls, object lessons, or I will even hop off stage and poll the crowd. Anything that invests the student into the lesson. 

We the close in prayer and I always have a student end us in prayer. I won't call on a visitor or a new student but any other student knows they will get called on at some time. 

Thats a preview of what my set up looks like, please don't think you need to copy it exactly, my setting is different than yours. Hopefully this will give you some ideas of something to include in your ministry or at least get you thinking! Until next time!

Just keep swimming!