Safety: The most important value of student ministry

Safety: The most important value of student ministry

The winter camp season has finally descended upon us.  With winter camp comes snow storms, icy roads, dangerous sled runs, and about 1000 other ways for our students to get wrecked!  In my few years of taking kids to winter camp I have had kids break arms, legs, collar bones, wrists, and get concussions.  I have totaled a Suburban and crashed a couple of other cars.  There are polices at our church because of me.

Let’s face it, winter camp is dangerous!  But the real question is whether or not it is too dangerous. 

A friend of mine recently told me about a conversation he had with a parent questioning his judgment driving kids to camp in the middle of an upcoming snow storm.  Somewhere in the conversation the parent said that safety was the most important thing in student ministry!

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Top 10 ways I want our youth ministry to be more like the Ellen Show!

A couple of years ago the day time talk world was rocked at the retirement of Oprah. Her show was enormous in its power and influence and, if we were honest, we would all love to have the "reach" that her show had. But in the 4:00 vacuum left by Oprah, I have come across another, and better, day time talk show vice; Ellen! But unlike the cult following that Oprah attracted, or the crazies Jerry Springer attracts, or delinquents Judge Judy attracts, Ellen has managed to put together a show that is relevant, fun, and making a genuine impact on the lives of people. The more I watched, the more I am convinced that I want my youth ministry to look more like the Ellen Degreneres Show. Here are the 10 reasons why:

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Guest Post: Start ready to walk away

Guest Post:  Start ready to walk away

When I started in youth ministry, it was for a midsize church that didn't have the budget for a full time youth leader.  Even when they found the money, it wasn't much.  But, as an untested, inexperienced twenty-something, it seemed fair, and as a single guy, it was enough to support myself.  But, as sometimes happens with single guys, I met a girl, who made me a less-than-single guy.  We decided to get married, and then came the awkward conversation of finances.  By this time, I had been working at that midsize church for four years, growing their youth program from 6 teenagers into three ministries, serving middle school, high school and college-aged youth, with steady growth and community recognition, two things that I was told were priorities of the church council.  

I felt confident that I was a valued, essential commodity for that church, and after several practice conversations with myself in front of our bathroom mirror, I marched into my pastor's office to tell him that I would need a (modest) raise or I would have to consider finding another position, since I had a wife and future family to support.  He looked at me and breathed a sigh of relief, then told me that they were in a budget shortfall and there was talk of combining my position with another to create a new position, one I would no longer be qualified to fill.  He said that this made it an easy decision.  

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What are you running after this year?

What are you running after this year?

ENCOUNTER: Read Psalm 73

After reading through this Psalm, do you find that you can relate to any of Asaph's laments?  Don't you find it frustrating that those who could care less about God, morality, the future, all seem to be living large.  And at the same time, you often feel like you are being crushed from all sides?

After Asaph has his temper tantrum, he finally takes a deep breath and comes to his senses.  Why not do the same?  Take a second, pause, breath deeply and read the last part of Asaph's prayer one more time:

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Merry Christmas from the Kerns Family

Merry Christmas from the Kerns Family

Remember being a adolescent and that surreal experience of being so hungry, so tired, and continually feeling like an alien in your own body.  There are these season where the growth spirt occurs so quickly that clothes don't fit, coordination becomes a distant memory, and your actual bones hurt.  Growing pains!  But then after that, season of awkwardness and pain, you look back and can't believe that you went from being a child to an emerging adult.  

When you look at this picture you can see that my kids are on the verge of this experience.  My son is 12 and my daughter is 9.  They are children, but soon, too soon, everything will change.  Things will get difficult as they navigate their new bodies and brains and I cope as a parent.  Then in the almost near future they will become these incredible emerging adults who will be embarrassed of this picture and the reminder of how quickly and awkwardly this process happens.  

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Do not be afraid

Do not be afraid
"Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people." - Luke 2:10

There is so much in the world, in my world that causes me to be afraid.  It turns out there is very little that is in my control.  And of all the things that I can control, all of those things inhabit the bottom of my list of things that are important to me.  

I love many people and it turns out I can't control one thin in their lives.  The people in my life have in the past, are currently, or will soon experience crushing loss and be brokenhearted.  They will lose jobs, they will lose love, they will lose relationships, they will lose those closest to them, and they will lose heart.  

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Don't be too quick to ditch Cheesy Christianity

Don't be too quick to ditch Cheesy Christianity

Having little kids has been a challenge this Christmas season. And the challenge has not been so much about trying to navigate the Santa vs. No Santa debate. The challenge came as I wrestled with how much cheese I was willing to serve up for my kids this Christmas in the form of Christmas stories, books, music and movies. Everything in me is repulsed by the cheese. In fact I used to think that it actually was offense to Jesus Christ himself. But as I watch the fruit of hipster parents who are too cool for cheese lived out in their children, the students in our ministry, I am starting to second guess my offense.

I Hate the Cheese! For me and maybe you we think certain things are hip, cool, cultured, and deep. And while these things may be true, this truth is completely lost on our kids. It seems every Christmas there is more and more effort to find ways to make the story of Christmas somehow new and relevant. But the more we do this, the less of the original, simple, and true story gets passed down from one generation to the next.

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Christmas and divorce

Christmas and divorce

This last week I had a meeting with one of my favorite moms.  Her love for her daughter, for me, and for Jesus is palpable.  And for a verity of reasons, due to long histories, and for things that I really have no idea about, this mom is in the middle of a divorce.  While the ethics of divorce are complex and worthy of lengthy discussions full of truth and grace, this blog post is not about the ethics of divorce.

As the youth worker, no one is coming to me for marital advice, or trying to navigate a difficult situation, asking for prayers, or discernment for whether or not it is time to pull the plug on a marriage.  No, I am the youth worker, my job, my calling, is to be the child's advocate, care for them, make space for them, and help them navigate this new landscape.  I actually believe it is not the job of the youth worker to even take sides and spiritualize the landscape.  Our students are only our students for a few more years, but they will always be the daughters and sons of their parents, whether or not they are divorced.  To use our position of power and influence and pick sides will be disastrous for the long term health and reconciliation between all parties, and for all parties and the church.

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Do you want to be great?

Do you want to be great?

ENCOUNTER:  Read Mark 10:34-45

I love Christmas so much.  Everything about it.  But if you actually think about it, how crazy is it to think about the God of the universe, the King of Kings, coming to Earth as a human, and as a human baby at that.  Tiny, needy, and weak.  

Yet in this one act, Jesus set the trajectory for His entire life and ministry.  He is the greatest, He is the Son of God most High!  He deserves all honor, worship, and respect.  He deserves to be listened to and obeyed.  And He deserves our devotion and submission.  

For as much as He deserves these things because He has made himself approachable to all people; no matter their status, economic portfolio, morality, ethnicity, age, or sex.  He lived out one of the greatest truths in God's economy, that those who are the greatest will be the servant of all.  

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An unexpected character around the nativity

An unexpected character around the nativity

For youth group this christmas, we are asking students to look at five different characters that were in close proximity to the birth of Jesus.  Although the lesson was rather simple to make, the conclusions were a little more difficult to swallow.

The Distracted:  Luke 2:1-3

1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to their own town to register.

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If I am honest, I was unthankful this Thanksgiving

If I am honest, I was unthankful this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving....the time we celebrate everything we have been blessed with. The time we gather around the table with friends and family and gorge ourselves. The time when we are asked to share something we are thankful for, but if I'm honest I was unthankful this Thanksgiving.

Let's just say my life has not been picture perfect recently......well, it's really been horrible. Some of it is self-inflicted and some of it just circumstantial. I have been beaten down in every area of my life. Family, relationships, and ministry just to name a few. My wife and I have not had enough time to focus and grow our relationship. Our house was torn apart for an exterminator to rid our house of bed bugs. My grandma's health is shaky at best. I seem to be making all the wrong decisions to help student’s lives change; instead my decisions have led to frustration and spiritual exhaustion in myself and others. These are just a few from the laundry list. Call me Job.

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Our own rumspringa

Our own rumspringa

Rumspringa (derived form the German term “Rond Springen” or “running around”) generally refers to a period of adolescence for some members of the Amish, that begins around the age of sixteen and ends when a youth chooses baptism within the Amish church or instead leaves the community.  (wikipedia) In one of our upperclassman small groups a student made a passing comment that I have been wrestling with for the past couple of days.  She simply observed that their once full table of students during small group time has withered over the the last couple of years.  Where a once a robust small group of 15 was, now a consistent remnant of 6 remain.

As my wife and I talked, we could account for almost every student that has faded away from our student ministry.  And for almost every student there was an explanation.  Most of them were a small changes in priorities that resulted with them being less connected and ended up with them being M.I.A.

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Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts

Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts

ENCOUNTER:  Read Romans 12:3-8

You and me are connected.  Not just because we go to the same church, but because you and I are joined together in the body of Christ.  We belong together.  Even though we are very different we are connected to each other, to share in common cause.  You and I have been uniquely gifted by the Holy Spirit and the joined to one another so that together we can build up the Church and expand the Kingdom of God.  

So the question is, "How has God created you?"  You are uniquely crafted.  God has given you a personality, some passions, and has placed you in a particular context.  The trick is reflecting on all of this to explore these questions and then leverage them for the Kingdom of God. 

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Why does food matter in student ministry?

Why does food matter in student ministry?

I love stereotypes.  I know I am not supposed to, but most of the time they are funny because there is a chuck of truth in them.  And as far as youth ministry goes, pizza is the one and only food group.  Pizza is the anchor to our ministry philosophy and model.  While I try so hard to be healthy and provide food options that actually have nutritional value for our students, pizza is still my go to food!  And when not pizza, then Oreo's and milk.

No matter if you are a health conscious youth ministry or you lean into the way of your forefathers by embracing the Costco $10 extra large pizza, there is something vital to the health of our ministry that is closely linked to providing food for the body and for the soul.

Sharing a meal is a way to share life. 

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The Sin of Dehumanization

The Sin of Dehumanization
But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, 'Raca,' is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.  - Matthew 5:22

If there was one overarching sin that I find most offensive and evil, it is the sin of dehumanization.  And there is nothing like an election season to bring this out in spades!

Spending this week talking with students and colleagues while reading and watching everything I can get a hold of, I am horrified at how easily it is for people to roll dehumanizing rhetoric right off the tongue.  Being in a Blue State, most of this vitriol is directed firmly at Donald Trump and his 

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What youth workers can learn from Jen Hatmaker

What youth workers can learn from Jen Hatmaker

A little over a week ago, Jen Hatmaker did an interview with Religion News Service that has seemed to set the Christian world and all its onlookers on fire.  In this interview Jen came out as not only open, but open and affirming for Gay Marriage.  

Jen Hatmaker has become "Christian Famous" and has grown her platform and influence through a number of Christian Organizations and Publishers, and now her words are proving to have significant power based on this platform.  With this new found influence her open stance that is in opposition of the very institutions and organizations that have given her this platform, is putting everyone in a really challenging position.  

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How do you disciple students who have ZERO touch points with Christianity?

How do you disciple students who have ZERO touch points with Christianity?

Our students are increasingly living in a post-Christian world and this means that they have a worldview and moral outlook that has almost zero touch points with Christianity.  If that is the case, then how do we share the gospel and disciple students in the new world?

The Gospel story is wrapped up in the language of adoption.

We are lonely, alienated, and isolated.  The gospel is the story of a loving Father who leaves the comforts of home (heaven) and runs after the lost daughter and son and invites them back home.

For the "Christian" world, there was rebellion and sin, but the process of coming back into the Christian household was a rather simple process of assimilation.  There was a clear Judeo-Christian ethic that was internalized by those rebellious sons and daughters.  They were rebells, but they knew what they were rebelling agains, they knew what ideal had been lost, and an invitation back into the family brought justification / forgiveness for these sins, and brought healing towards these relationships.

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The Value of Having a Cry Night at Camp

The Value of Having a Cry Night at Camp

I Used to be Really Frustrated by Cry Night:

A few years ago I was invited to speak at a winter camp. Unbeknownst to me, there was a fixed spiritual rhythm to their retreat.  Over this three-night winter camp hovered the expectation of increased spiritual depth, culminating with some sort of significant moment or opportunity for response. I found out about this rhythm solely by accident.

I wanted to have an opportunity for response every time we were together. I wanted each session to carry its own weight and expectation for response. I crafted each session with very unique tactile ways to respond to what the Holy Spirit was doing. And I don’t mean to boast, but these were some of the most creative and brilliant sessions I had ever put together.

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By the power of Greyskull!! (I mean, the Holy Spirit)

By the power of Greyskull!!  (I mean, the Holy Spirit)

For many of us we have a He-Man theology of the power of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is God, the Holy Spirit lives in us when we become Christians, and therefore we can do all things through His power.  

Like He-Man, we think just because we have the "Power Sword" we have power to conquer just about anything.  But for many of us, when we have tried to wield that power, we have come up short.  

in this passage in Ephesians we are told that we will be able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or even imagine by the power at work with in us.  This is an incredible statement.  And one when we put it into practice often leaves us wanting.  But maybe that is because we are a little to short sighted and self focused in our prayers and petitions towards Jesus.  

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Top 5 ways to win over parents

Top 5 ways to win over parents

Let's face it, student ministry is a young person's game.  In fact, if you are a young person and doing vocational youth ministry, you are in the sweet spot.  You can relate well to students, you have band-with for their schedules, and you can see the best in them.  In fact, you were hired for this exact purpose.  

In your youth and exuberance to love kids and be on their team, don't forget to be intentional with winning over their parents.  For if you would like to do your job for more than a year or so, you must win your parents love, trust, and respect.  Here are 5 ways to pull that off.

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