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?
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.
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!
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Thursday, September 11, 2014
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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!