Posts Tagged With: Youth Ministry

Gearing up for VBS

It’s only two weeks away.  I have a love/hate relationship with Vacation Bible School.  I love that you get children and families into Church that otherwise wouldn’t attend.  I hate the prep, the stress, the always-never-enough volunteers, and the hectic week that VBS is.  Don’t get me wrong all of the headaches that come with VBS are worth it.

Recently, We got brand new padded chairs for our fellowship hall.  We had the metal folding chairs; about three different colors, uncomfortable, and half broken.  A member of our church decided that enough was enough and bought nice new stackable black padded chairs.  It was a welcome improvement.

Knowing our VBS theme would be “Colossal Coaster World”  I saved the boxes.  I  could see that they would make great looking roller-coaster cars with some paint and imagination.  Yesterday (Wednesday) we had a small group of only five youth, it’s summer and as a whole we’ve been hurting in the numbers department since graduation.  I decided that after our lesson we would make a quick trip to the store and get some spray paint and have the youth decorate the boxes to look like coaster cars.  They loved it, and it was an easy way to get them involved in something outside of the youth program.

 

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Year to date: Wrapping up Spring and Heading into Summer

We’re halfway through Revival.  Surprisingly, I have extra free time this week.  We’re not having our Youth’s Wednesday Night service tomorrow, so other than running sound I don’t have much to do.

That seems to be the thing with ministry.  Leading up to Revival I was busy promoting, making posters, etc. (Youth Ministers in small churches are the default IT/Advertising/Promotions guys).  That’s done, so now I wait.  I finally extracted camp forms and releases from my students, and mailed it in.  VBS is coming in August.  We’ve got our materials, set the schedule yesterday, and some new members have stepped up and said they would work!

I’m running sound again with my wife for Revival, so I’m making sure that we have all the tracks, songs lyrics in our presentation software, etc.  We have the same man leading worship this year, I think he read my Tales from the Church Soundbooth post.  This year he’s been much better letting us know what songs he’s doing before worship starts.  [He also has a Corvette that was a blast to drive!]

Basically, in the boom and bust cycle of ministry, I’m about to hit a bust after Wednesday (the last night of Revival).  Yay.  About the middle of June we go to camp #1, then July is camp #2, finally VBS is in August.  Then vacation to the Grand Canyon.

Overall, Spring was better than Fall in attendance.  Many of our kids that were uninvolved have come back, and we’ve added about 4 new regulars.  Our association does what we call “Teen Evangelism Nights” (TEN) where students share there testimonies, or whatever God has led them to say.  These are refreshing events, last time 6 students accepted Christ during a student led invitation.  How awesome is that!?  I didn’t do a Disciple Now this spring, but I think I’m going to plan one next spring.  Now we’re just gearing up for VBS.

We chose to do VBS at the end of Summer this year.  This is mainly to build momentum heading into fall.  If we have the numbers last year we can incorporate this kids and their families into our Fall ministries.  My thought process is that when you do VBS at the beginning of summer you get people into church, but then they go on vacation, they visit relatives, and since they didn’t really have the habit of coming to church they don’t pick it back up in the Fall.  At least that’s my theory.

So now it’s just the calm before the storm of summer.

Thanks for Reading,
Robert

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How to Engage Students in Their Natural Environment…School

schoolLogoWhen I first entered youth ministry, my pastor wanted me to go up to the schools and visit our kids during lunch and things like that.  Well going to their plays, sporting events, graduations, 4H and FFA Livestock shows, is easy enough, getting permission to go up to the school during school hours is almost impossible.  Having your pastor or youth pastor come visit during lunch is a thing of the past, it ain’t gonna happen.

This is do to both political correctness (If I let you up here I’ve got to let the “church of satan” guy up here to, and the atheist mom gets really mad about a Christian coming up to the school, she’s ok with the Imam though), there’s also the issue of safety and liability.  Today teachers and school personnel have to go through background check, and be put in a fingerprint database (at least in Texas).  Also, with all the psychos out there, do you really want a school to just let anyone off the streets come hang out with your kids?  Also, I have nightmares of being the Pastor from “That 70’s Show” I D.O. N.O.T. want to be that guy, what a loser!

How I make the school pay me to hang out with students.

So how do I engage students when they are at school?  That’s super easy, in fact I devised a cleverly orchestrated scheme in which the school pays me to be with students during the school day.  Here it is…I [wait for it] signed up [wait for it] to [wait for it] sub.  That’s my secret.  I just applied to be a substitute teacher, I even have a name badge!

My youth minister in High School subbed and it was cool having him up at the school from time to time.  I was reminded about this during our spring revival when our speaker and I where talking and he said it subbed at the local schools so that he always had an idea of what was going on in students lives.  LIGHT BULB!  So I talked to my pastor about it and we agreed that as long as it didn’t interfere with my duties at the church I could sub once a week (I subbed 3 days in a row last week but it was a special circumstance).

I’m going to brag on my pastor for a second.  Sure he’s old, sure he doesn’t get today’s youth, sure it’s just awkward and funny with he tries to talk to our youth, but he has taught me the importance of being a shepherd that’s involved in the life of your sheep.  He’s said many times that you can spend all day, every everyday, in your office reading and studying theology, but that’s not nearly as important as visiting a sick church member, or getting ice cream with a student.  We actually still physically visit guests and church members that have been lagging in attendance.  On one occasion a church member had been in the hospital and didn’t tell anyone at the church.  We had the opportunity pray and minister to a family that we’d never known about if we spent that time studying.

Back to Subbing.  I have an advantage of being in a small town we have three campuses in our district, the Elementary (1-5), Jr High (6-8), and High School (9-12).  There are only about 400 total high school students in the district.  Every time I sub at the high school I see at least 3-4 of my youth, if I make an effort to find them I can see about 10.  I now know there teachers, have an idea of their schedules, and I am much more aware of their work load.  And they see me, I’m in a small enough town that most of the students are starting to recognize me as the youth minister of my Church.  That’s a good thing, but it also means that I’ve got to be careful that I’m always representing myself, my church, and my faith well (shouldn’t I be doing that anyway?).  

And I really enjoy it, you learn a lot about what students believe, and where they are spiritually.  OK, that part’s depressing, but I really like teenagers.  So here is my recommendation to my fellow youth pastors in smaller towns.  APPLY TO BE A SUBSTITUTE TEACHER.  Most school districts are always in need of subs, and they should be able to work with you on when you come in, I say “no” to subbing as much as I say “yes.”  Do get permission from your pastor, he is your boss.

And did I mention you’ll get paid to hang out with youth, isn’t that the whole reason we entered youth ministry in the first place?

Peace be with you,

Robert

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Why I like teaching through books of the Bible

open-bibleFor the last year and a half I have been teaching through the book of Hebrews.  I just finished chapter 6.   I teach through books of the Bible at a snail’s pace for several reasons, if you don’t that is OK, God still loves you…probably.  It’s not the only way to teach the Bible but some would say it’s “the only right way.”

(Disclaimer, I don’t think verse-by-verse teaching is the only right way to teach the Bible, I just prefer it)

I’m going to outline four reasons that I prefer teaching verse by verse through books of the Bible

Reason 1: It’s how I learned the Bible

The first is from my formative years as a follower of Jesus.  I was saved by grace my senior year of high school.  It was then I started attending church regularly again (I grew up going to Sunday School, but had stopped at the start of High School).  I became a little frustrated by the discontinuity of our youth lessons that were mostly topical.  I wanted to know how the Bible fit together and the overarching narrative, not just random tidbits.  I had decided that I would read through the Bible starting from the beginning to see who God really was for myself, and was getting a little bogged down in Leviticus.  I needed someone to teach me how to study the Bible, and a purely topical approach with fancy handouts, wasn’t doing it for me.  

When I started college I went to a BIG church that ran over 3000 on a Sunday morning.  It was a little overwhelming since there were only 43 people in my senior class and 587 on the population sign.  But something happened Sunday after Sunday that I had never experienced.  The preacher was preaching verse by verse through a book of the Bible (I think it was 1 Peter).  He was tying the whole book together, week after week.  The whole church operated that way.  The college small groups spent the semester going trough a book of the Bible.  To me it was amazing, and it taught me to see Scripture as part of a whole.  The single verse is part of a paragraph, the paragraph is part of a section, the section is part of a book, the book is part of a set (Gospel, Pauline epistle, Historical Book, etc) and that is part of the Bible.  And the Bible tells a single story, the story of God’s redemption of his creation through the Life, the Death, the Burial, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord.  I’m not going to lie, when I first started teaching others about Jesus and the Bible I copied this approach.  Even today if I’m dealing with a difficult passage I can go this church’s website and search chapter and verse to see if this pastor has preached it.  (He never concerned himself with fancy titles.  His sermon title would be “John 3:16-17” and so forth.  He spent over five years in Matthew).  So the first reason, I like teaching verse by verse is that it just clicks with me, and it suits my personality.  (Here is a link to this church http://centralbcs.org/sermons if you are interested)

Reason 2: I do it for myself

My second reason is also personal.  I teach through books of the Bible for myself.  I like doing in-depth studies and many have said that “you learn more by preparing to teach than you ever do in a classroom.”  Many times it is extremely difficult to teach a section of Scripture.  I can’t keep the my audience captive for hours at a time.  And I’m not good enough of a preacher to hold their attention for hours at a time.  (Also I don’t confuse length with quality)  You have to break things down into bite size chunks, while still maintaining unity with a whole.  The first book I ever taught through was Romans.  It took me 48 sermons.  I was young, 21 years old, inexperienced, untrained, and pastoring a small rural church while attending the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor  where I got a degree in Christian Ministry & History.  A mentoring pastor told me that I should go with something easier.  “Romans, is a difficult book to teach through,” he said.  And he was right!  But it was the right thing for me.  I was forced to study, to wrestle with texts that I didn’t fully understand, theological issues that I didn’t know the proper names for, correct a lot of false assumptions, and most importantly admit that I don’t have all the answers. I read so many commentaries, had three study Bibles, it was SO hard, but entirely worth it. So selfishly. I preach through books because I grow from it.

Reason 3: I force myself to cover difficult and unpopular issues

My third reason is to force myself to cover hard issues in scripture.  Try preaching verse by verse through 1 Corinthians.  And tell me about what you do when you come across Paul telling people not to marry, about women not being allowed to speak in church, about head coverings, etc.  I don’t know about you but I’m not looking forward to that sermon, but one day I will preach through 1 Corinthians verse by verse and I’ll have to.  Taken out of context, these passages and topics have been misused to a great deal. (Ok the Bible has been twisted for evil purposes for thousands of years, see Matthew 4 when Satan misquotes scripture to Jesus.)

Some try to explain these truly difficult passages away, or ignore them.  But when you go verse by verse you maintain the historical whole of the Book, and are able to look at these difficult passages through their cultural and historical lens to see the bigger truth that God was communicating.  If you just pick and pull verses you can honestly make the Bible SEEM to say whatever you want it to.  That puts you in the same category as Satan, and that’s not a position that you or I want to put ourselves in.

Reason 4: I believe in the long run this best helps my youth.

My fourth reason is that I have a limited time with my youth.  My previous post is about how my core group will be gone in a year and a half.  That’s not much time to teach them all I think they need to know about their faith.  But if I can have them walk with me, verse by verse through a single book of the Bible, they will know that Book very well and will be able to go back to it.  At some point whether they stay in church or not they are going to face a trial.  My hope is that they will remember, “Hey, back in youth group ‘what’s-his-name’ went through Hebrews and there was a part that said something about what I’m going through.”  And, because I make everyone open a bible every week, they will be able to find Hebrews and as they read it they’ll see all the truth of God’s Word.  So the fourth reason is that I believe it helps people learn to use the Bible and learn to understand the whole chapter and verse thing.

I do not lock myself into a single method of teaching, even though I have my preferences.  

Finally I would like to say I’m not saying that this is the one and only way to teach the Bible.  We all have different personalities and gifts that God uses to bring glory to himself.  I do not exclusively teach verse by verse.  I like using the book I’m teaching through as a backdrop to work in short topical series.  For example; when I got to Hebrews 6:1 “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity” (ESV).  I did a 6 week topical study called “Moving toward Maturity” and I covered some basic tenants of the faith that I felt the youth needed to know.  Back when we were studying how Jesus is greater that Moses, I spent a few weeks teaching through the story of Moses, using the Experiencing God study.  I’ll also take breaks to teach about important subjects.  I’m going to kick off the new year with the 5 Solas of the Reformation and as we head into Valentines day I’m doing a series on what the Bible teaches about marriage.  (I’ve got a lot of annoying teenage couples in my group, and 83% of people get married, so it seems like something I should make time for).   [83% is a made up stat, and is a running TV show character’s joke]

So should you teach verse-by-verse through a book of the Bible?  Absolutely, YES!  Should it be the only way you teach? NO!  I say you should because I think you personally will be edified by the effort and so will those you teach.  We should always be pushing ourselves and our congregations to grow deeper in their understanding and relationship with God, and that means doing something different from time to time.  It shouldn’t be the only way you teach because you need to know the people God has placed in your charge and teach them what they most need.  It’s really cool though when your verse by verse teaching happens to hit the right subject on just the right day for and just the right people are there to hear it.  But at the same time, if you are a born again follower of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit lives within you and gives you discernment to know what you should teach.

My hope is that if you are a Bible teacher that has never taught verse by verse through anything you will give it a shot.  If you are a fuddy-duddy who thinks that the only way to faithfully teach the Word of God is to do it verse by verse…well…um… maybe it would be better if you just unread this… and not leave mean comments.  It hurts my feelings.

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. – 2 Timothy 4:2 (ESV)
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How to Maintain Discipline with Youth

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Giving youth a ride home is just part of the job.  My wife and I are constantly taking youth to and from church. It is a good thing we have an explorer that seats seven.

The car and/or church van is no place for horse play.  Today I ended up taking three young men home after church.  They fought over who got the front seat, so I told them to play Rock, Paper, Scissors.  One of my youth feels a sense of entitlement (we will call him “Shortround,” or at least I do) and refused to play and insisted that he deserved the front seat.  I was honestly getting a little annoyed so I unlocked the back doors and told them to get in.  The Ginger got in the back seat and we waited while the other two fought.  He then asked, “So do you care if I just crawl over into the front.”  “Not at all,” I replied.  Oh the joy of natural lessons! By the time they realized what The Ginger was doing it was to late, so they begrudgingly got in the back seat.

Shortround was still being..well..himself.  So I redirected him to quit playing around.  He did not.  I redirected him a second time, his behavior continued.  The third time I had to redirected him I told him that if he continued horseplaying I would throw my cup of ice water on him (it was 40 degrees tonight).  He didn’t believe me, because, “Your wife would be so mad if you did that.” He was ok until our first stop.  He then continued his folly.  He then got very wet.

I firmly believe that follow through is the key to discipline 😀

Also, turning on the rear a/c and rolling the windows down helped drive home an important life lesson.

PS: My wife thought it was hilarious.

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Embracing the Summer Slump

I read a post over this subject on http://www.theresurgence.com, and I thought I would share what my Summer has looked like for my youth group and my church in this small town.

I haven’t felt much of the “Summer Slow Down.” In fact this is one of the busiest summers I can recall.  Our Church had VBS, then a week later the youth and I went to Super Summer at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.  Another week past and my wife and I headed home for a week of Vacation visiting family.  While it was good to see everyone it was far from refreshing as I returned even more exhausted.  Then after another week and a half the Youth and I went to Paisano Baptist Encampment in Alpine, Texas.  Our church owns a cabin there so we can take up to 17 people to camp for free.  Alpine is beautiful, and the camp was structured in a way that allowed me to relax, do some reading and take naps (I took at least a two hour nap everyday, it was amazing).  In the mist of this last camp my wife and I are beginning the pre-service training for a “foster-to-adopt” program.  I can’t believe I’m saying this but I’m ready to slow down and plan 5th Quarters.

During this crazy summer my average attendance has been cut in half.  Some have jobs, others are on vacation with their families, and some have just disappeared.  Total Church attendance has been down about a quarter to a third.  To be honest this was a little discouraging at first but honestly it has made my job easier.  So therefore I’m going to embrace it.

Being your attendance will be down over the summer, and will be inconsistent people wise (as in different people will be in-and-out of town), it’s the perfect time to take a week or two off.  When I first went into ministry I had the immature notion that a pastor should be at his post at all times.  Well, God saw fit that I should spend 3 years outside of ministry working a “real job” so that I could learn some valuable lessons.  One of these is that everybody needs a break, even pastors.  Also, I believe its good to have someone else fill your pulpit, or even in the case of Youth Ministry cancel services from time to time.  You become stale and your church can fall into a rut.  I read a book by David Platt this last week called Radical, it was refreshing to me that I was able to climb onto a rock be alone and do some good reading.  Also, by not having Youth Church on Wednesday night it gave my youth a break.  My hope is that they will miss not having Church, and it will renew their desire.  Also, I feel as though it removes the sense of “obligation” from coming to church.  So by having a few down weeks, I think it will bring about a healthier Youth Ministry.

I have planned zero youth activities outside of camp this summer.  Except for our once monthly game nights, and of course our camps.  Some of my only-ever-come-to-game-night people haven’t been to fond of this, but I’ve been clear that we meet on Wednesdays and have an open gym after Bible Study.  And as a side rant it wouldn’t break my heart if they just quit coming, or get serious about following Jesus.  I’d prefer them getting serious about following Jesus, of course.

So in planning less, and by being awesome and planning ahead for the camps, I have had a lot of free time at my office.  This has been filled mainly with fall planning, reading, and reading.  I’ve also listened to a few sermon podcasts here and there.  I wish I had been more intentional about the variety.  I’ve read Purpose Driven Church, Synergistic Evangelism, Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business, Radical, many blogs, and a good deal of the Bible.

I get to preach this Sunday as my pastor on vacation, it will be the first time that I’ve had an opportunity to teach the whole church.  This Sunday (8/4/13) will mark my first full year of service here.

In closing here are a few tips for your “Summer Slump”

  1. Plan Less, and plan in advance
  2. Take a Vacation
  3. It’s probably not the best time to start a 10 week study over the Trinity, as people will be in-and-out.
  4. Read Books
  5. Focus on reading large portions of Scripture. (I really like the youversion app, and the plans they offer.  I read ahead and I’m really liking the plans they offer.  I also have my phone with me at all times.
  6. Evaluate your ministries and programs
  7. Plan out your goals for the next year.

Peace be with you

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Consecrate Yourself

I was reading through 1 Chronicles today and came across this verse “So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel” (1 Chronicles 15:14 ESV).

The question came to my mind: “Do I consecrate myself to the work that God has called me to?”  “What does consecration even mean?”  Before looking it up context points toward setting myself apart for a religious work.  The Levites would consecrate themselves before doing what God had called them to because the work of God is sacred.  I got to thinking about my primary religious work, preaching and teaching.  How often do I just get up and teach a lesson or Bible Study but fail to recognize the sacredness of being giving the privilege of doing such a task?  I feel convicted because this Sunday I didn’t even look at my Sunday School lesson until Sunday Morning.  That would be the opposite of consecration.

Now it’s time to do a word study.  If you’ve ever gone through Francis Chan’s BASIC Series (you should) he talks about how goofy Christians get with their word studies.  The example he gives is telling his daughter to go clean her room.  She get excited and goes to her friend “My dad told me to clean my room.  We should get together one night and pray about what it would look like to clean our rooms.  Let’s find examples of people cleaning their rooms.”  All the time the dad is like “GO CLEAN UP YOUR ROOM!” So I’m trying not to fall into that trap.  But I honestly have never studied up on what consecration is in the Bible.

Merriam-Webster’s: Consecrate: 1) dedicated to a sacred purpose. 2) to induct (a person) into a permanent office with a religious rite; to ordain into the office of bishop: to make or declare sacred; to devote irrevocably to the worship of God by a solemn ceremony.

I looked up the Hebrew word and the Greek Septuagint

HB: qâdash
kaw-dash’
A primitive root; to be (causatively make, pronounce or observe as) clean (ceremonially or morally): – appoint, bid, consecrate, dedicate, defile, hallow, (be, keep) holy (-er, place), keep, prepare, proclaim, purify, sanctify (-ied one, self), X wholly.

GK: hagnizō
hag-nid’-zo
From G53; to make clean, that is, (figuratively) sanctify (ceremonially or morally): – purity (self).

(as a side note e-sword is a free program that is very useful for studying the Bible)

My ESV Study Bible has note that says “David’s instruction to the priests and Levites to consecrate themselves denotes not only ritual actions and abstinences but also the internal attitude that should accompany the handling of holy things” (ESV Study Bible p724)

So if I am to consecrate myself before preaching, or other ministerial duties.  I need to set myself apart and devote myself to God.  So some questions I must answer.  Do I pray for God’s anointing and power before preaching and teaching?  Do I prepare sufficiently? Am I changed, convicted by the Word of God? Or do I just give a clever lecture? Do a maintain my holiness before God or do I have unrepented of sins in my life and heart?  I’ve been called by God to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus. I must therefore take this great task seriously and consecrate myself to the work of the Gospel.

Peace be with you,

Robert

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Run Away… I should have handled it better

I had a call from a scared and concerned mother today.  It stared with “How could a minister have a run away stay at your home and not even call his mother?”  Well that caught me off guard.  For the record I have not heard from or seen the kid for a few days.  Apparently she had heard that he either had been, or is going to stay at my home.

Nevertheless, I did know this Youth had run away from home since Wednesday Church.  I will not go into all the details of the situation.  But this town has been a series of firsts for me, and I wish I would have handled things differently.  To be clear I did offer to allow this youth to stay at my home so that he would not have to sleep on the street.  I stand by this, I’m not a parent, but if my kid did leave home I would hope a responsible adult would care for them.  I would also expect a phone call, as this mother rightly expected from me (even though she was misinformed).  I also offered to go with this youth to his parents, so they could talk.

Now for the coulda-shoulda-woulda:  When I learned of the situation the first thing I did was go to my pastor for his advice.  The family has been occasionally attending our church.  He advised against me immediately contacting his parents and to allow the situation to resolve itself and people to calm down.  Maybe he was right, he has been doing this for a long time, but I am still upset that I didn’t follow my instincts and go visit the parents.  What I’m really beating myself up about is that I didn’t follow up at all with the parents.  Which resulted in a misunderstanding that resulted in a loss of credibility with this family.

I do know what I’ll do next time:

  1. I will contact the parent(s) of the runaway as soon as I learn of the situation to know both sides issue.
  2. I will still extend an invitation to the youth to have a place to stay, with the understanding that I will let the parents know their child is safe.  (I think this condition is the main reason that the offer was not taken up on)
  3. I will try to facilitate communication between parent and child.
  4. I will do everything I can to ensure the safety of the child.  If necessary by contacting CPS, or Law Enforcement.

I’m going to write out a very clear policy for myself, so that if this kind of thing happens again I can handle it better.  I’m now just praying for all involved.

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