LIVE High School

Friday, September 26, 2014

Campus Ministry Made Simple

As we are all getting back into the swing of the new year I wanted to take some time to talk about Campus Ministry, or specifically things you can do to minister to your local schools. I know that not everyone who reads this is going to have the same relationships with their local schools as we do in my area but some of the ideas apply no matter how open your school is.

A little background on my setting. I am at a rural church that sits VERY close to the border of 2 counties in Kentucky. I have 8 schools represented in our student ministry. The bulk of the students come from 4 schools though, the one county high school and middle, and the other county high and middle. We have one at a private school, one at the city high school, one at the city middle school, and a good amount of home school students. I divide up my time between three for lunches, one county high, the same counties middle school, and the other county I get to in one day as the middle and high are in the same building so I get to sit through all the lunches.

1: Eat Lunch:
Easy enough right? If your campus is an open campus and allows youth ministers to visit, eating lunch with the students is a great way to help foster relationships with them outside of the four walls of the church building. It is also a great witness to students who don't go to your church, they see you there and know you're active in your students lives. TIP: Go eat lunch on Wednesday's when possible, that way you can remind students about youth group that night. And always eat the school food, no matter how gross it is. I think that has to do with suffering for Christ!

2: Sports Events:
No matter how open your school is, you can always go catch a game. Even if you do not have a student that is a player, I'm willing to be at least one or two of your students will be there as spectators. Sit by them, talk, buy them a Coke, and cheer on their local team! TIP: Buy a t-shirt from every school you have represented and wear it to the game. Students like seeing that you're cheering for the same team they are. I have a closet full of our school's t-shirts.

3: Outreach:
One great way to outreach onto campus is, feed a sports team before a game! This year we have fed both of our county high schools football teams. It was a tremendous time to connect with students who do not know me, and more importantly their coaches. Do not make this into a fishing expedition! You're not there to win people to your church, you there to win souls for Christ. TIP: Ask the coaches and staff how you can pray for them. When they know that there is a person out there that cares as much for them as the students, you'll make a life long ally at that school.

4: Principals matter:
Get to know the principals! A lot of school principles are Christian, it would actually surprise you. They might not be able to show their faith a lot at their schools due to the law, but that does not mean they are not as passionate about caring for students as you are. I am lucky that one county principle attends my church and has daughters in my student ministry, so we have a natural connection. The other principal I need to get to know. I know he is a Christian, he spoke at the back to school bash hosted by a local church about his faith. We are planning an idea for next year, where each of the local high schools get a spirit night, they decorate the youth room how they want it (we are encouraging school colors and decorations), we are encouraging them to go all out. Students from that school will share their testimonies etc. We are also going to try to get their principals to come and share their faith with them. TIP: Share a Coke. Find out if the principal is a diet or regular person, and find a Coke with their name on it. Keep it cold and when you drop by the school, drop off a Coke.

5: Volunteer:
At my last church one of the best outreaches I had? Being ball boy for the soccer team. I went to a game and they did not have a ball boy for one side of the field. I volunteered to help out and it was a tremendous outreach. The parents saw me going up and down the sidelines wearing our youth group t-shirt with our church name on it. I heard a few parents ask around as to who I was, then our students parents proudly said, "That's our youth pastor!" I had parents talk to me after the game, I even made an awesome connection with a student who did not go to church, the students parents asked me to talk to him. Volunteer, even if your not in good enough shape to run down soccer balls. Ask a coach if you can help them by getting their water and handing out drinks to the players. Ask to help keep stats. If you are EMT certified ask to help the trainer. Volunteer to work the concession stand. TIP: There is no wrong way to do this! Just put yourself out there!

Until next time! Just keep swimming!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Easy to implement Parent Ministry Ideas

So I was thinking the other day what are 3 easy principles that ANY youth minister could do to minister better to parents. What are 3 principles that would make any youth minister an all-star in the eyes of his/her ministries parents?

Communicate:
This is one principle that cannot be stressed enough. If you do not communicate well to parents then you are just making your own job harder on yourself. People forget things, chances are you do too. So if you fail to communicate when a dead line is, your not only going to have the ones who would forget no matter how you communicate but you've also added to the pile the ones that would have gotten it in on time. I tell our parents I will do everything I can to reach them at their preferred method of communication. I jokingly say I communicate by website, social media, email, snail mail, phone call, text service, face to face, walkie talkie, morse code, and smoke signals. I want to make sure I put the ball in the parent's court. I want to make sure that if they forgot something, it is not because I didn't communicate it.

Proper planning:
I made a mistake recently, I know shocking right?!? I scheduled a fall retreat at the end of Fall Break. I violated a principle I live by, think of the family first. I did not check the temperature of our group, in my defense it's my first year at my current church. But there were quite a few families that take vacation during that time. I should have known better! Always plan your calendar with the family in mind. Don't schedule an event during the week of Christmas and expect everyone to attend! Your setting yourself up for frustration and the parents up to look like the bad guys when they tell their kids they can not go to that youth event. When you plan with families in mind, parents will see that you care about their family time.

Set a good example:
This one is a odd one, but set a good example. If parents and students see that you value your own family, then they may place more value on their own. I love it when my girls get to sit in on a youth event, now my girls are young so they can be a distraction so I pick and choose carefully. But I'm not above picking my daughter up and spinning her around like a ballerina in front of my students. I have no problem giving my wife an appropriate kiss (read APPROPRIATE) in front of my students. I want them to see how highly I hold my own family. When you communicate to your students parents that you value family then you cannot neglect your own. This can be hard if your a single youth pastor, but I challenge you with this. How much do you talk up your own parents? How much do you make your parents out to be hero's in your life? Now I understand this isn't always the case either. You may have had a bad childhood, but talk about the person you view as your parental figure. Even if the only thing you have is saying "When I turned to Christ. I finally figured out how much a true Father loves his kids." Place a great value on the family dynamic.

Just a few small easy things you can do to set your parents up to win. Until next time! Just Keep Swimming!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thoughts on....30 Hour Famine


Our youth group is getting geared up for our 30 Hour Famine event. We are starting our event next Friday. I know, I know, I'm a little bit of a rebel because we do not do ours in the spring like everyone else. The reason I don't do it in the spring is, honestly, I don't have to! I have a ton of other events we do in the spring that cannot be done on a different date, so I always bump 30 Hour Famine back to a fall event.

I love 30 Hour Famine! I've been doing the Famine since my first youth group, over 5 years ago. We've missed some years here and there because of transitions. But I always come back to the Famine. Why? For the first 4 and a half years of my ministry I was a volunteer or part time youth worker at churches with very limited budgets. 30 Hour Famine does not cost the youth group anything. It is a great event that teaches teenagers about allowing their hearts to break for what breaks God's. The TRIBE game that you play during the event is always awesome and really helps teach kids about the things that children in Third World countries face every day.

Now obviously these games do not give a teen first hand knowledge of the dangers, that would take the teen going overseas on a mission trip and seeing these dangers first hand. If you've been doing youth ministry for any length of time you know that not ALL teens are going to do that. This event is a "getting your feet wet" sort of event.

Another awesome aspect is the addition of a FREE curriculum to accompany the event! World Vision partnered with the folks at Simply Youth Ministry and are offering a free 4 week LIVE curriculum that revolves around the 30 Hour Famine. It has 3 weeks of lead up material and a lesson for the Sunday after. It is an awesome way to set you event up via lessons and inform your students about it.

One thing I usually add to our event to add to the experience is a Water Walk. On Saturday morning when everyone wakes up, we walk for around 5K (3.1 miles) to go get water. This simulates the normal chores that face children overseas who do not have access to water in their own homes. In the past we've had students carry 1 gallon jugs of water, which we then donated to the church's emergency supply closet. We have also set up kiddy pools 5K from the church filled with water and mud. The students then filled their containers and hiked back to the church with it. This gave them a lesson in clean drinking water too. (Obviously do not have you students drink the dirty water).

Another thing I have added as more of a parent ministry aspect is to invite the parents to cook or help cook the Break-the-fast meal. This gives them investment into the event and they get to see their students at their hungriest point. They get to talk to their child as the event wraps up and they get to see first hand the experience the student has had. You can also encourage your parents to participate in the fast as well. Another good bonding time for the parent/student is to encourage the parent to cook the students favorite meal for lunch the following Sunday or even that night if the student is still hungry.

I've also been pondering ways to improve on the 30 Hour Famine. Some ways World Vision could take an already great event and take it over the top.

A Student App
As we all know students live on their smart phones. Set up an app that allows them to collect donations, play short videos explaining the Famine to donors, and have fun interactive elements like a 30 day lead up devotional, a prayer guide that allows students to pray for specific hunger needs world wide leading up the the Famine, and a informative feature that teaches them about areas World Vision helps leading up to the Event.

TRIBE Gear
I know I just said I like doing 30 Hour Famine because it is Free. Now I am a full time youth minister and thought that it would be cool to have TRIBE gear in the 30 Hour Famine store. Mainly colored bandanna's with the 30 Hour Famine logo on them for the tribes. I usually grab colored bandanna's at Wal-mart for our tribes to wear during the game, to give them a sense of identity. But it would be cool to have these as a keepsake for their 30 Hour Famine experience, with the logo.

TRIBE Store
A few years back World Vision partnered with Made for Good to produce their Famine Wear. As youth ministers know, teens love t-shirts. These shirts look awesome. I say look because I have no idea if they are awesome. Since we do our Famine in the fall, by the time we get ready to try to order shirts, they are always either sold out or only have XS and 2XL sizes. With the advent of Teespring and smaller print on demand companies, there really is no excuse not to be able to get these shirts later in the year. We've always resorted to just making our own T-shirts but I would love for my students to have access to the "official" shirts.

Follow up Video's
During the Famine we get the cool lead up video's introducing the kids to various children who are suffering from hunger. And we can designate our funds to go to a specific area. I would love to see videos of a child from the specific area you chose to designate your funds to, and a follow up video to show after the Famine about how World Vision's work has help nurture the child back to health.

30 Hour Famine Year Round
My students are all about long term impact. They want to see how their funds change lives year round. Most cannot afford to sponsor a child on a monthly basis though. I would love to see World Vision partner with someone like Ricebowls.org and have something like a rice bowl change bank that students, and even kids in our children's ministry could collect change for to send in to keep the impact going year round. Maybe even offer a store that sells 30 Hour Famine shirts and gear that students could buy and when they buy a shirt it provides 25 meals for a child ( or something similar).

These are just some of the ideas floating around in my head that would take a already great event and just make it ridiculously over the top awesome! If you have not ever done a 30 Hour Famine before, what are you waiting on? Join up and help "Release the Feast" to hungry children all over the world!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Youth Ministry Apps

            Last week a new app hit the youth ministry world. If you haven’t checked it out it’s called Youth Ministry Tracker. It is a self-contained youth ministry database for iPhone (because we all know what the superior operating system is). If not only keeps track of your students; it tracks attendance, gives you real time attendance stats, allows you to set up groups and text said groups, and it makes it easy to get new students info (you just bring up the new student function and hand them the phone). It works great of small to medium size youth groups. Mega churches though could find the app helpful for small groups.
            I write that not as an advertisement for the app, although I have enjoyed using it. It got me to thinking, what does the future of youth ministry apps hold? So I did some dreaming of apps that I would like to see made that would help me out tremendously.

A Youth Ministry Form App:
            I would love to see an app that is preloaded with all sorts of useful forms for youth ministry. When you buy the app it asks what the church/youth groups name is, what the youth ministers name is, and maybe asks you to load a group logo (optional). The app would then fill in areas on the forms with your logo, enabling you to have a customized release form that the parent just signs on your iPad or tablet. You could have a customized small group covenant. A custom volunteer application form. The possibilities are endless. The app would also save your forms as .pdf files in your Dropbox account.

Volunteer Management App:
            I would love to see an app that would help you manage your volunteers. It would keep their info in database form, allow you to know what their specific skills are, who the students that are in their small group are. It would also allow you to start a background check from the app and track it’s progress. The app would also allow you to email all of your volunteers from with in the app and send them training articles and videos. It would also get information in your hands such as volunteer’s birthdays and anniversaries, and would send you a notification of these.

Youth Ministry Devotional App:
            I would love to have an app that students could download for free. The youth ministry would pay a fee for a subscription for a certain number of users. The students would enter a subscription serial number provided by the youth pastor and it would grant them access to selected devotionals chosen by the youth pastor. I would love to see devotionals like the Simply Truth Bible, One-Minute Bible, and On Track’s Devotions on here. It would give students access to their devotionals on the go on their phone.

Just some of the ideas floating around in my head. Until next time! Just keep swimming!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Product Review: Simply Youth Group


Awhile back I received an email from Simply Youth Ministry. While at my previous church, where I was a bivocational youth minister, we participated in a Group Mission's Trip. While there I filled out information including the fact that I was bivocational. Prior to my last church, I was a volunteer youth minister at a small church. So to say I have a special spot in my heart for bivocational and volunteer youth ministers is an understatement.

In this email the crew at SYM were laying out the vision of a new product they were working on and they needed beta testers. This product was a curriculum developed to help bi-vo and volunteer youth pastors in their ministry. It was to be a video based curriculum which was basically a youth group in a box. It starts off with a simple game, then goes into a video lesson usually including an inspirational video, then it goes into a discussion time, and then a scripture tie in. It requires little to no preparation time for the youth minister, thus freeing them up to spend more time focusing on building relationships with their youth group.

As I am reading this email I am thinking, "What a tremendous resource!" I could not think of anything better as a bi-vo youth pastor at the time that could help me spend more time with my students than a lesson that required no prep on my part. Why? Because we are busy!

The time in my life I am talking about was a very busy time. I worked a full time job from 7AM until around 5:30PM every day Mon-Sat with one day off, I was a part time youth minister at a church that was around 20 minutes from my house, I was a full time college student taking classes online every night, and was married with two young children which included all the trappings of family life; soccer games, karate classes, and school events. So what little time I had free was usually spent preparing youth minister lessons or events.

The benefit of Simply Youth Group cannot be understated. More free time for you to spend building relationships with your students. To me that is worth an immeasurable amount of money. But $40 a month is a very cheap price to pay for a top notch curriculum. That is only $10 a week! Skip McDonald's for dinner one night and your set!

Go over to http://www.simplyyouthgroup.com and check it out! Score yourself a free month trial while your there and see how good it is for yourself!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Grace



Anyone have a friend on Facebook or Instagram that is “that guy”? You know the one I’m talking about. He/She always posts pictures that look absolutely amazing, and it looks like they have an absolutely perfect life? I have a few like that. I even follow some amazing pastors on these accounts that are people I would consider to be spiritual giants. They post these amazing pictures of their quiet times in the mornings that make my 5-10 minutes that I try to steal away in my office look pathetic.

The fact of the matter is, no one is perfect. This also applies to our students. Often times when we plan events we plan based on the fact that our students will come in like little church angels, they pull out their bibles that have been perfectly highlighted with awesome notes in the margins, they will take out their binder which has every last one of our lesson handouts in them perfectly marked with the notes they were taking from our talk, tucked inside the binder is their Sunday School book, before class starts they offer to say the prayer, they give you their offering that they want donated to starving children overseas, they sing to every last worship song we play, they are perfectly attentive and considerate of other students, before they leave they double check to make sure all of their deposits are turned in for upcoming events and they make sure all their paperwork is properly filled out, and when they notice all the trash left over near the snack area they run over to clean it up so you don’t have to. Ahhh, the Insta-student! The one that’s completely perfect that we never have to worry about. The one that makes our life SO EASY!

You have those in your ministry right? If you are anything like me and the three churches that I have served, I DOUBT IT! Students are humans, just like we are. Like us they live very busy lives and often forget things. They don’t take notes, but that doesn’t mean they don’t listen. They don’t clean up, that doesn’t mean they don’t care. They forget to turn in their permission slips and deposits on time, that doesn’t mean they are out to get you. They forget to bring their offering, that doesn’t mean they hate starving orphans. They are shy and don’t want to pray, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a deep spiritual connection with Jesus. They forget their Bibles and Sunday School books, that doesn’t mean they don’t have one. They leave trash and our lesson handouts lying all over the youth room, that doesn’t mean they didn’t like our lesson. Students, like every youth minister I know, need a lot of grace from time to time.


Good thing for us, the God I serve is full of grace and mercy. He is faithful to forgive me when I mess up, so the least I can do is understand a teenager when He/She messes up. Just a little encouragement for you this week!

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!