Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Fundraising Ideas

Today we wrapped up our fundraiser for the month of January. We had been doing a T-shirt fundraiser. This fundraiser did well, way better than I could imagine. When we were in the planning stage of this fundraiser I didn't think it would net much, but hey! Every dollar is a dollar we didn't have before right?

Here are some fundraiser ideas that might be a little outside the box that might just be the spark you need to get your fundraising season going.

T-shirt Fundraiser:

This is a picture of the shirt we just finished selling. It wasn't your typical fundraiser shirt. The vast majority of fundraiser t-shirts have something to do with your youth group and/or have the camp/mission trip theme on it.

Let me suggest a different approach. Do a church wide t-shirt instead. Take ours for instance. Our church's 'un-offfical' slogan is "It's a God Thing". So we decided to take our slogan and do a yearly shirt with our slogan in the shirt. The shirt may not always have our church name on it but it will have the church slogan. We get our shirts through Fund the Nations, which you can find more about here. The thought process we had for going with a church wide t-shirt is this, there are church members that may not want to buy a youth shirt or a church camp shirt. However, they will usually buy a church t-shirt. This expands your client base and even puts your students in front of church members that they might not otherwise be in front of.

Discount Cards:
I want to caution you on this fundraiser. Having been burned myself by a fundraiser card company, I will say your best two options with this fundraiser is to go with a company that allows you to send back the unused cards, like Peel To Save Cards.

The other option is to do it yourself. What? Yes do it yourself! It takes some leg work but I would rather hand pick the businesses we support and print them myself then ever get burned by another Discount Card Company. You can pick up a packet that has everything in it to help you put your own cards together from our friends at DYM. Check it out here!

Local Businesses:
If you've been in youth ministry for any length of time then you know about businesses like Chick Fil A and Pizza Hunt that have fundraiser night to help you drum up business for them and you make a % of the sales. Find local favorite restaurant instead.

Pizza Inn in our area have these nights and the students help serve and make all of their tip money. Another great local company is Finish Line Car Wash. They allow students to sell preloaded car wash cards and the students make half the money. We do this in place of a normal 'car wash' fundraiser. Another great business is Cheers Gas Station. They have Spirit Pumps that once assigned, for an entire month the students make a percentage of the sales of those pumps.

These are just some ideas to get your creativity flowing. Check with some local businesses and see if they offer similar things in your area.

Just some great simple ideas to help get your fundraising season going! Until next time! Just keep swimming!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

"Un-Assuming" Youth Ministry

A few weeks ago I listened to a nationally known youth minister speak to his youth group. It was a recording of course, but I had hit a dry spell inspirationally and needed something to kind of jolt me and get my gears turning. So I tuned in to this youth ministers videos on Youtube. This guy was a great speaker, everything flowed together, he moved from one point to another, and he incorporated a lot of flash and pizzazz in his message. (So everything I am not!)

One thing stood out to me though like a sore thumb. If I were a teenager who had never been inside of a church before, I would have had no idea what he was talking about. I’m not claiming to know his program set up, so what I heard may have been their program for deeper learning, but he used a lot of phrases like “in Christ” “saved” and “covered by grace”.

This got me to thinking; do I make the same mistakes? I am guilty of this too sometimes! What we sometimes do as youth pastors is that we ‘assume’ everyone who comes through our doors has been in church for as long as we have, we ‘assume’ they know how to properly exegeses Romans 2, and we ‘assume’ they even know what a Bible is or who Jesus is.

One of the characteristics of successful youth ministries that I have noticed in my own area is that they are ‘Un-Assuming’ youth ministries. Not that there is nothing remarkable about them, quite the opposite actually, the remarkable thing is that they address students of all levels. They don’t assume that a student is saved, baptized, and holds a Masters of Divinity degree when they enter the doors of the youth ministry. They have a program that is easy for a non-believing teenager and a teen that is one more mission trip away from that set of steak knives to understand.

So what are some practical ways to make your youth ministry more ‘Un-Assuming’?

1.     Language

Watch the vernacular you use when you speak. Replace words like ‘saved’ with words like ‘a person who has accepted Jesus as the center of their life’. Words like “covered by grace” with “God has forgiven me of something and I don’t deserve it”.

Even though you spent years (in my case more than I like to admit), getting your degree; youth group is not the place to show off the big words you learned in Greek and Systematic Theology class. Save those for another occasion.

2.     Environment

A big help for non-believing students is the environment. Make sure the paint and layout of the room is warm and inviting. Make the non-believing student feel at home when they come in.
A major advantage to this is assigning some of your core students to shake hands and welcome them with a warm smile when they visit for the first time. I cannot count how many students have probably graced the door of my youth group and never received a shake or a smile from another student.

3.     Put yourself out there

I know, youth group time is usually crazy! You’ve got that one student who wants to talk to you about their boyfriend/girlfriend for the 30th time this week, you have that parent who needs to ask you a quick question about the camp deposit that was due last month that they didn’t pay, and your trying to get packed up and out to go spend some time with your family before the little ones go to bed. But how often do you go out of your way to make sure AFTER youth group that you shake hands with that visiting teenager and tell them you hoped they enjoyed youth group and hope to see them again? Take a second and say welcome to them. Your presence as the friendly (if odd) welcoming youth pastor will make an impression on that teenager. Your presence as the aloof, never around, always in a hurry youth pastor will also make an impression on them as well.

No youth ministry or youth minister is perfect, so rest assured you are not the only one out there! But we can all take steps to making our youth ministry a little more ‘Un-Assuming’! Until next time! Just Keep Swimming!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A New Model of Discipleship

Yesterday myself and 3 other local youth ministers gathered at a local school to hangout and eat lunch with our students. When we finished we reconvened at a local wing restaurant to hang out and as most youth ministers do, talk shop a bit. One thing that stuck out in our conversation was discipleship and what that looks like now. We can all agree that the current model of youth ministry discipleship is broken. We learned that the '90's style of youth ministry as it is often referred to was great at evangelism. In the 90's we got really good at getting kids in the doors and presenting the Gospel and getting their 'get out of hell free cards' punched. What we were left with were a lot of students (my generation by the way) who had seeds planted but the roots never grew deep. This isn't always the case because I'm here and am a result of good discipleship BUT the majority left the church because of shallow roots. 

So we talked about what biblical discipleship looked like. It really got me to thinking about what discipleship worked in my life and how it matched up with Jesus discipleship strategy. I've came up with a few common denominators.

Parental Discipleship:
Looking at what Jesus childhood probably looked like, knowing how Jew's historically passed on their faith. We know that Jesus' earthly parents taught him scripture from and early age. We know Jesus prayed the Shema and was taught these things at an early age. 

Most current research supports the fact that students who's faith sticks typically have parents who teach, support, and nurture their child's faith. Teens may say that their parents have no influence on them but statistics show otherwise.

Mentor Discipleship:
Jesus had the 12 disciples but we know He was closer to three and was extremely close to one. We know the power of one on one discipleship. We can see this in Paul and Timothy. We know the power of an older mentor and a young student. 

When you have a one on one mentor discipleship relationship with a student that student gets the condensed teachings. In a large group settings our students are getting a over arching view of what we are teaching, we just cannot condense everything and reach everyone in a simple lesson. When we have that one on one mentorship we are able to really unpack teachings and show them what being a Christian means.

Experiential Discipleship:
Jesus not only taught the disciples, he sent them out to put their faith into practice. Not only did Jesus do that but He often did it without a safety net. He didn't walk around the with the disciples all the time and hold their hands while they cast out demons and spread the Good News. He also told them they would fail but if they failed to knock the dust off their feet and keep on keeping on. 

Jesus knew the power of on the job training. How often do we turn out students loose with no safety net? I'm not advocating just turning students loose on something with no oversight as far as their own safety, but I am saying students should have more ownership of the ministry then we often give them. Experiential Discipleship revolves around students experiencing Jesus on their own. We not only just set up a mission trip but we give them opportunities to lead and experience Jesus on their own.

Self Discipleship:
The disciples did not stop growing in their faith when Jesus ascended. We know that they gathered together for prayer and the reading and studying of scripture. We know that they grew on their own. Students who want their faith to be unshakeable after high school should learn certain habits to grow on their own. Things like a consistent prayer life, consistent reading and studying of scripture, constantly sharing their faith. Notice I say consistent, if they only time that a student does these things is at youth group, they are in trouble. 

As youth ministers we should encourage and equip students to do this on their own. Provide resources but not only that. We should be checking in individually with out students and checking on their spiritual growth and encouraging them along.

We have this misconception that discipleship is lessons and head knowledge. That if we teach a lesson we are discipling teenagers. This couldn't be further from the truth. Teaching them the Bible and the Gospel are certainly part of discipleship but we know that head knowledge is only part of the battle. Students have to put flesh on that knowledge. So what does the new model of discipleship look like? I'm not sure we've found it yet but it should certainly include these aspects. Until next time! Just keep swimming! 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Product Review: Fund the Nations T-Shirts

While looking for a better fundraising T-shirt option than Tee Spring a friend recommended the company Fund the Nations. He has used them for a few years and has enjoyed them. So I decided to check them out. I actually needed a few t-shirts designed. So far they have designed me two t-shirts and both designs are awesome. It also just so happened that I got a free t-shirt from them while I was at NYWC. It is the same style shirt that we are ordering and it gave me the privilege of a test drive!

NYWC Shirt:

It is an awesome shirt! Super soft, even after washing and hang drying. My dyer tends to shrink t-shirts so we machine wash with liquid fabric softener and hang dry. This tends to stiffen up regular t-shirts even after one wash. Not this tee! It is still very soft and is quickly becoming one of my favorite shirts. The design is cool. It is a two ink design, front print only, on a premium shirt. The design is made with an ink that has sunk into the tee versus your normal cheap mom and pop screen printing that just layers the ink on top of the shirt and has a tendency to crack up.

The shirt itself is a Tultex 0241 Men's Blend T-shirt. It is a 65% polyester/ 35% cotton blend side seamed, ribbed crew neck shirt. It has taped neck and shoulders with double needle sleeve and bottom hem. Another interesting feature is the tear away label for those who like to go label-less. More info on the Tultex 0241 Shirt can be found here.

Youth Group Shirt:
One of the designs I needed was a youth group T-shirt. Just one to sell to our teens and do give aways with. I gave them our youth group logo and told them to get creative with it. This is the design they came up with. It is pretty cool in my opinion!

Church Fundraiser Shirt:
This is the shirt that I had them design to sell to our church members to help us raise funds for Camp. We've found that a church shirt design would be more popular with our church members than a youth design. So we gave them our church info and our church slogan. We asked them to design an one ink dual sided print to save some money but still maintain a quality shirt. This was the design they made for us for it.

If you are looking for a great place to get premium t-shirts made with a  great design and done inexpensively; look no further than Fund the Nations. You can find a link for them on my blog!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Guest Post: 5 Reasons We Don't Make Disciples

Before Jesus ascended into Heaven, he gave Christ followers the command to “make disciples.”(Matthew 28:19-20) He stated that His command was based upon the fact that He possessed all authority in Heaven and on Earth.(Matthew 28:18) Yet, when one examines the decline in conversions and church members in Southern Baptist churches, it is apparent that we as a denomination are not being obedient to the com- mand to “make disciples” in the Great Commission. In this post, I offer five major reasons why we do not make disciples.
  1. We don’t love God. Jesus told His disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”(John 14:15 ESV) He is not implying that we will live a life of perfection here, but He refers to the overall posture or trajectory of our lives. We turn from loving ourselves to loving Christ. We turn from loving our sin, including sins of omission, to loving Christ. If we encounter someone who repeatedly sins in a particular area and never repents of that sin, we would say that the individual does not show evidence of repentance and is probably not a disciple; however, the willful refusal to make disciples is a sin of omission against Christ. Can we claim to love and follow Jesus and yet willfully disobey His command to make dis- ciples in light of John 14:15? If we love God, we will make disciples.

  2. We don’t love people. Paul states that the love of Christ compels him to share the gospel of reconcilia- tion as an ambassador of Christ.(2 Corinthians 5:11-20) This love refers both to his love for Jesus and to his love for people who don’t know Christ. When Jesus encounters the leper in the Gospel of Mark, His love moves Him to touch and heal the man.(Mark 1:40-45) The Good Samaritan’s love moves him to act and save the man left wounded on the side of the road.(Luke 10:33-34) Can we say we love our neighbor and not share the gospel with him/her? Can we say we love people and not seek to lead them to Jesus? If we love people, we will make disciples.

  3. We don’t think sharing the gospel is essential for salvation. A recent poll states that 92% of evangelicals believe that people are saved only through Jesus Christ; however, another survey of Protestant church attenders indicates that 48% of Protestants believe that people can obtain eternal life by sincerely following other religions apart from Christianity. Do we really believe that disciples sharing the gospel and making disciples is the only way people will come to saving faith in Christ? Do we think people can find God through other religions as long as they are sincere? Do we think people will receive the gospel apart from the church pursuing the Great Commission by seeking to make disciples? If we believe in the exclusivity of Christ and the need to share the gospel verbally, we will make disciples. 
  1. We don’t share the gospel because we are afraid. Some self-professed Christ followers do not share the gospel because they are afraid of rejection by the unchurched. They might also fear losing a relationship if they share the gospel. It is significant that Jesus’ last words in the Great Commission are, “And be- hold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”(Matthew 28:20 ESV) Christ promises His presence to allay our fears. We can also take encouragement from the evidence of how the Holy Spirit empowered and emboldened early Christians, sending them out to witness boldly.(Acts 4:31) Do we really believe that the Holy Spirit will empower our witness of the gospel? Do we believe in His ability to bring the spiritually dead to life? If we believe in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, we will be bold witnesses of the gospel.

  2. We don’t share the gospel because we do not feel sufficiently equipped. Another reason some people who claim the name of Christ do not share the gospel is they feel they lack training or knowledge to share with people. First, we must remember our role in sharing Christ. We are called to be witnesses who give testimony regarding Jesus and how He changed our lives.(Acts 1:8) We are also called to know God’s Word and the content of the gospel so that we can share God’s Word. Paul told Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”(2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV) We do need to rely on Scripture and the content of the gospel found in Scripture in order to make disciples. Regular intake of Scripture will help to equip us for making disciples. Do we really be- lieve that our role is to be witnesses? Do we really believe that the gospel of Scripture can change lives? If we believe in the power of the gospel and the Word of God, we will use Scripture to make disciples.
None of the 5 reasons for not making disciples listed above sufficiently excuses us from disobeying the Great Commission. If we take sins of omission as seriously as we take sins of commission, our hearts should break over our failure to obey Jesus’ command to “make disciples.” So I ask us, do we love God? Do we love people? Do we believe the gospel is essential to salvation? Do we trust the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in sharing the gospel? Do we believe in the power of the gospel and the Word of God? If we answer “Yes” to these questions, we will make disciples. 

Dr. Tim McKnight is serving as an Assistant Professor of Christian Studies at Anderson University. Dr. McKnight has an earned Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and has served as a youth pastor and senior pastor in several outstanding SBC churches.

You can find the link to Dr. McKnight's original post here: 5 Reasons We Don't Make Disciples

From Kevin: It is great to have Dr. McKnight sharing his posts here on LYMFB. Also keep your eyes peeled on, Dr. McKnights new project. Starting in 2015 you can find some guest posts from myself appearing on there!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

So You Want to Start a Youth Ministry Blog? Part 1

This is the first in a series of posts on the basics of youth ministry blogging. I don't claim to know everything on this subject but a little over 3 years ago LYMFB started and I'm proud of what my little blog has been able to do. It has caused me to grow as a writer and opened doors for me to co-author with a bunch of great rural youth minister and guest blog opportunities on More than Dodgeball and the DYM Blog.

3 years ago LYMFB started as a joke between myself and a friend. As we were discussing youth ministry ideas and thoughts, he jokingly told me I should write a youth ministry blog. I didn't know the first thing about blogs, honestly I didn't even know what a blog was. But I thought, what a better way to get my voice heard?

If your reading this you might be thinking about starting a youth ministry blog, if so this post is for you. If you are reading and what some practical tips on youth ministry blogging, hang in there! The follow up posts in this series will cover those tips.

Here are some practical things about starting a youth ministry blog:

So what is your purpose?
Have a purpose for your blog from the get go! Like a youth ministry mission statement, having a purpose for your blog from the get go will help you shape and guide your posts. When I started my blog the entire purpose was just to get my voice heard in the youth ministry world. It has evolved over time and I would say the purpose of LYMFB is this:

LYMFB exists to bring practical tips on rural youth ministry, parent ministry, and general youth ministry to the masses. Providing youth ministers with practical application, product reviews, and thought provoking questions.

This purpose is what helps me select my subjects and guides my writing. If your looking for a deep theological youth ministry blog, your in the wrong spot! All my tips can apply to a wide variety of settings. So what is the purpose of your blog? If it is to record your journey as you battle cancer and how that applies to your youth ministry, make sure your posts reflect that. If it is to cover the sticky faith movement in the church, make sure your posts reflect that.

Post first.
Even though I don't post as often as I would like, when you first start your blog post as often as you can. If will cause you to be a better writer. The more often you post the better your writing will become. At first writing can be intimidating, especially if you haven't written anything in a long time. So write often. As you gain experience and a following on your blog you can be more selective about when you post.

Just write!
Here is the most magical tip that I can give you about blogging...just write! Your blog is a reflection of you, there is no right or wrong way to do it! There are certain things you can do to make your blog more successful BUT in the end if you want to be you and it gives you a creative outlet go for it!

When I was a senior in high school I nearly failed English class, my teacher told me I would never amount to anything as far as English and writing were concerned. As a result I hated writing, it still is not my favorite thing to do in the world, but it allows me to think things out, to put principles I know about youth ministry in black and white, and just generally makes me a more knowledgeable youth pastor. Two blogs, a lot of guest blog posts, magazine articles, and a (knock on wood) hopefully a book proposal later; I get the last laugh with my English teacher. So just be you, let your blog reflect your personality, let your identity come through in the words, and post about the things you are passionate about.

Hopefully this will give you encouragement as your are starting out! Stay tuned to LYMFB for more upcoming posts for ways to make your blog stand out! Until next time, Just Keep Swimming!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

NYWC Day 3 Recap

Big Room 4:
by Tullian Tchividjian

This big room session was great! In addition to learning that it is pronounced (Tull-ian, like mull) not (Too-lian). Tullian is know for emphasizing one thing beyond anything else, God's Grace. His message hit home so well. He said we tie our self worth into how we perform. Especially as youth workers. We tie our worth into what we accomplish, and when we fail we think was are not worth anything. We have traded the cross into a to do list. We forget everything has been accomplished for us, it is finished not just do it. Awesome reminder.

Family Rooms:

One awesome feature of NYWC were the family rooms. In the family rooms you form small groups with other youth ministers. We prayed for each other, talked about our specific settings, and to work through the themes that NYWC has. Awesome time!

Practical Tips to Improve your Speaking Chops
by Doug Fields

Doug asked us blogger types to please not blog about the contents of the workshop for two reasons, one: it is a new workshop and needs to have the kinks worked out & two: that he wants to eventually release this workshop online free so that everyone can benefit. I am going to honor that but I will say if you have a chance to take this workshop, do it! It really opened my eyes to the art of message delivery. I have always just kind of got up and spoke and not really thought about it. Doug pointed out some really practical tips and great points to think about as I deliver youth talks.


I don't want to name specifics on this workshop but I did not stay in it. One thing I noticed is this, when one is planning a workshop practical application is great. Don't take the entire first half of a workshop to set up your point. Youth workers are in these workshops to get practical application. If your application is very specific, help out the youth workers by giving them the basic principles behind your thesis don't assume they are going to figure out what those principles are.

YS Ideas Lab: Small Church Youth Ministry:
by Stephanie Caro

Mama Caro! This idea lab, which for those unfamiliar is a short interview on a small stage, was all about Small Church Youth Ministry. Stephanie knocked it out of the park as usual. If you are in a small church you owe it to yourself to take a workshop or listen to her talk about small church youth ministry. The one point that stuck out to me is one that I live by. Just because you are in a small church does not mean you can not do the same things as larger churches; it may look different but the principles are the same.

Big Room 5:
by Kara Powell

Kara is an awesome speaker. Her message revolved around how when we say yes to certain things we are saying no to others. When we say yes to something we are inevitably say no to something else. It was a great reminder to keep my priorities straight. Great talk!

Wrap up:
NYWC was an awesome conference. I will certainly be going back next year as they will be in my backyard, Louisville KY! Between the friendly atmosphere, the connections and community made in the Family Rooms, the great speakers, the massive exhibit hall, the freebies, the chance to talk to national speakers, the informative worships, and awesome time to unwind; it was a great weekend! Until next time my friends! Just keep swimming!