Who do you recruit to be volunteers?

Who do you recruit to be volunteers?

One of the worst feelings I've ever had in youth ministry is the feeling of going at it alone, feeling like I was the only one who cared for students at my church. Most of this feeling came because I really was the only adult from our church who was at youth group helping connect and pull off our program.

It doesn't take many nights like that, or trips where you find yourself scrambling at the last possible minute to find an adult to drive for you, that you are willing to do whatever it takes to recruit volunteers. At this point in the ministry it doesn't even matter if they like kids--just give me a warm body!

Getting Volunteers Now:

Ok, if you are in a situation like the one I described above, you simply need to just get a warm body in the room. I know it doesn't sound like much, but you cannot be doing this alone. First for spiritual and emotional reasons, but also for legal reasons as well. If you are holding out for some adult who will attract kids, interact with them appropriately, and help nurture a healthy version of Christianity, you will die holding your breath.

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The importance of appropriately differentiating your faith from your student's

The importance of appropriately differentiating your faith from your student's

Most youth workers, including me, have been doing student ministry since they were students themselves.  Because of this reality, there is often an unchecked issue brewing just below the surface.  This is that we often fail to differentiate our spiritual development and needs from those of our students.

Remember being a high school student?

There was a time, and maybe you are still in that time, when you remember being a high schooler and you remember the spiritual journey of that time.   This memory is one of the things that makes you such a great youth worker.  I remember how great it was when I first started out in student ministry.  Whatever I was learning, however I was growing, only added fuel to my growing passion for students and for them to encounter the living God who was rocking my world!  In fact, I have found that it is always best to teach from a place of authenticity and personal growth.

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Top 10 ways to survive reentry from #OC16

Top 10 ways to survive reentry from #OC16

Orange 2016 is over, you have checked out of your hotel, and it is now time to head back home. For the past several days you have had the amazing opportunity to be free from leadership responsibilities, drama, and obligations. You have been able to wonder around as you please, sleep in, visit with friends, and stay up too late. You have been encouraged and sharpened spiritually and vocationally. And it is now time to wrap it up and reengage life, real life, the life to which you were really called to live. If we are not careful, it is easy to come in at the wrong angle and disintegrate as we reenter. It takes intentional effort to maximize all that God has done in you this week and to make sure the seed lands in fertile soil. Here are 10 simple ways to survive reentry:

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Best Breakout Session at #OC16 : Doug Fields and caring for our hearts!

This is Doug, but not from his breakout.  

This is Doug, but not from his breakout.  

Doug Fields is the true Godfather of Youth Ministry!  Singlehandedly, he has written everything there is to be written about youth ministry.  He is a brilliant entrepreneur and has left his imprint on just about every youth ministry in America.  This alone makes any seminar he teaches a must attend.  

While his resources are incredible, what made his breakout on day 1 the best seminar of the Orange Conference was that Doug got to lean into what he does even better than crank out curriculum and resources, he got to be a pastor to pastors.  (And man, did I need that!) 

Doug's seminar was about caring about the private and hidden parts of our life and hearts so we fully live into the youth workers God designed us to be.   

Doug was candid and warm as he reflected on his ministry legacy and the awful reality of the mega crashes and burns by people in our "industry."  We all have a light side and a dark side, but what gets us into trouble is when we don't care for our hidden lives and crash and burn.  

For those of us who long to do ministry for the long haul and don't want to crush our church, our ministries, or our families by our crashing, then it is VITAL for us to do some self care, to get off the freeway periodically, pull into a rest stop and do the hard work or reflection and evaluation to see how we are really doing. 

Doug compared our inner life to a basement.  Some are finished, some unfinished.  It isn't until we do the work of finishing our basement, that we can be free to use all the square space of our souls as well as prevent the danger zone! 

Doug listed out 6 rooms that may need some attention: 

1) DRIVE:  This is the room where driven people are gratified by their accomplishments; where status is important and who's hunger is rarely satisfied.  Because of completion, this room gets neglected and we cover for it by being busy.  The way to clean up this are is to work towards authentic community and practice vulnerability.  When you die what do you want around you?  Accomplishments or people?

2) TIME:  All of us have 1440 minutes in a day.  The question is, "What are we going to with those minutes?"  To get this room in order we need to identify and track the rhythms of our time, figure out when we are most productive, and then leverage this new information.  We schedule our own time and control our calendar.  We must recognize that every yes is a no, so guard your yeses.   

3) STUDY:  We are called to continually be a learner.  If we stop growing we will die.  But rather than be skimmers or even jacks of all trades, we should be diving deep.  Our world is complex and navigating ministry in this world takes depth of knowledge and character. So, we must make space in our schedule to dive deep.

4) SPIRITUAL STRENGTH:  This is the foundation of who we are and what we do, and is often the most neglected.  We work in and towards the Kingdom of God and we are empowered by the Holy Spirit.  But unless we "work out" our faith, we will not be able to fully live into the people God has called us to be.  Even more, we must be reflective and aware enough to know the indicators when we are becoming spiritually weak.   My indicators are cynicism, anger, and a susceptibility to temptation that can crush me.  To prevent this, we must carve out consistent time to be with Jesus.

5) REFRESHMENT:  God modeled this for us.  6 days of work, one day of rest.  It is even one of the ten commandments.  Don't commit adultery, don't murder, REST.  When and how will you rest?  Carve out time, unplug, and make it sacred!

6) CALLING:  Called people have a strength from within.  It is what drives the stake in the ground.  Calling is more than a job opportunity or career advancement.  Calling is living into the unique thing that God crafted you to do and be in this particular time and place.  We must realize that one bad decision can crush us and squash this calling.  So we must know our own limits, know our own depravity and work our guts out to live in health, so we can do this for the long haul!

The Orange Conference this year was truly amazing.  There was so much content, so much collegiality, so much of everything!  I am full to the brim.  My brain has been stretched, my heart has been made full, and God showed up and revealed some pretty big things for me and Him to work out over the next few weeks, months, and even years.  

I am so thankful for Reggie Joiner, his team and Doug Fields for this particular break out.  May God continue the good work that he has begun in us will carry it onto completion! And may all honor and glory be to Jesus. Amen!

The opening night of #OC16 was off the chain!

The opening night of #OC16 was off the chain!

After a full day of travel and the soft onramp of some initial breakout sessions, it was finally time for the kick off session at the Orange Conference.  With 8,000 fellow ministry professionals and volunteers in attendance, the place was full of anticipation for the night to begin.

In classic Orange style, the opening skit was fun and set the stage for the week to come.  

The theme of this year's conference is "Monday is Coming."  For all the prep work of getting ready to get here, I have to admit, I was not that excited about this theme or where I thought it was going.  But, like always, the people at orange went above and beyond to make clear that Sunday is not the center of our ministry universe, rather, Monday is Coming.  

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Top 10 ways to get the most out of #OC16

Top 10 ways to get the most out of #OC16

Can you believe it? ORANGE 2016 is finally here!! That most amazing gift a church can ever give to their youth worker, a youth ministry conference!! Your bags are packed, your room is booked, and it is time to go and get some freebies. For one weekend we get to take off our mantle of responsibility and leadership, and become participants, students, and receivers. Whether it is Youth SpecialtiesOrange, Simply Youth Ministry, or I Still Do, a youth ministry conference is the one time a year that us youth workers get to actually go to camp, and not just put it on. 

And like camp, there are some things that we need to do to prepare ourselves so that we can have an amazing time and get the most out of our time away. Every year before we take students to camp or on mission trips we give them a little pep talk, so here is yours :) These are the top 10 ways to get the most out of your conference experience.

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Getting Pumped for #OC16

Getting Pumped for #OC16

Monday morning is here and it is time to start wrapping up my loose ends here at Marin Covenant Church and get my last few touches with my family.  I only have today and part of tomorrow here in Northern California to get done all that must get done in my normal life.  I must do this well, because at the exact same time, I am also starting to aim my thoughts and heart towards Atlanta.  

I have to admit, it is a strange thing to be dreaming of Atlanta, but for me, this next week in Atlanta is my version of Winter Camp!

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The beautiful butterflies we serve as youth workers

The beautiful butterflies we serve as youth workers

Our students are beautiful flowers!

One of my most favorite things is getting the opportunity to spend time with our students in smaller settings that are more conversational.  Every time I leave my conversation with these young people, I am struck with how totally different their world view is from mine.  

As an older person, as an older Christian person, as an older Christian person who has some Calvinistic and GenX baggage, I see myself through a broken, sinful, and degenerate lens.  And it is only through the grace of Jesus that He has died for my sins, rose in power to redeem, heal and empower me, so that in Him, I may actually become a masterpiece made for good works.  

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Would a "Parent / Teacher" conference work in student ministry?

Would a "Parent / Teacher" conference work in student ministry?

I care so much about my children's development: As a parent I spend so much time worrying about my own kids and their development.  When my son plays soccer or little league, I am always judging him and his ability compared to his peers.  If everyone is hitting without a T and my son can't, then we go home and spend the week practicing hitting.  I love my kid and I want him to succeed.

My son is in first grade right now and is learning how to read.  In the same as baseball, I am trying to get an understanding of how my son is developing academically.  Is he on grade level, is he falling behind.  If he is, then I want to work with him so that he will succeed.

In both these instances, I long for feedback, for help, for training.  When the coach says, "Dad, you might want to play catch a little more with your son." Then I do.  When the teacher ask, "How many minutes are you reading a night?" I get the hint that we need to step it up.  While in the sports world it is a little less formal, in the academic world there is an actual process for this kind of feedback, it is the parent / teacher conference.

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Are you emotionally ready for the spring drop off?

Are you emotionally ready for the spring drop off?

It is that time of year.  The most dreaded time of year, Spring!  While the weather is great, and baseball season is upon us, the lives of our students are beginning to disengage from the programmatic rhythms of youth group.  They call it senioritis, but I am still confused how a sophomore has senioritis.  The truth  is that our low stamina students are checking out of this school year.  With all of the ways that students were dialed in to their many activities early in the school year, now only one or two hold their interest.  In the case of my students that includes a spring sport and a love interest.

The truth is that there are actually ton of reasons that students begin to disengage during spring semester; some good, some dumb, but no matter why, the what is real and how we cope with it matters.  

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A spiritual formation plan for every student

A spiritual formation plan for every student

I think we are in agreement that the world of behavior management is the Church is coming to an end.  For too long the Church has sent out a rubric of behaviors that would be indicators for the rest of the Church and would qualify people for full inclusion and even leadership.  This rubric included our language, music, politics, modesty, abstaining from alcohol, sexuality, and sexual activity.  

But as our students are becoming more and more amoral (or maybe they have always been, but are now free to express that in public) a behavior rubric doesn't seem to be a good fit for the faith development of our students.  

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"I'm too busy" is a lame excuse for your students and for you.

"I'm too busy" is a lame excuse for your students and for you.

I am sure most of you can identify with putting together an amazing student ministry event and a significant number of students couldn't make it because they were too busy with other things. Maybe you are experiencing your numbers dwindling at youth group because of the busy epidemic. Sports, plays, school, dance, vacations, college applications, general stress. All of these contribute to the knee jerk response, or excuse for why students don't show up for things. It is so easy to get down on students for their crazy schedules and their skewed priorities. But the truth is we are just as much to blame for self-important and busy lifestyles as well. Many of us would say that community, accountability, and prayer are vital the spiritual health of students. But the same is true for us youth workers. And whenever we have opportunities for youth workers to connect with one another for community, friendship, encouragement, accountability and prayer, I am overwhelmed by the total lack of interest.

Just like our students we throw out the busy line whenever that monthly gathering rolls around. We are busy, our jobs are demanding, but the truth is we are not too busy. You know this is true because in your life you always make plenty of space for the things that are important to you. If you value something, you make it happen. It is the crux of human nature.

People Do What They Want To Do:

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Post Easter Devo: We are promised the presence of Christ

Post Easter Devo:  We are promised the presence of Christ

ENCOUNTER:  Read John 14:15-27

This last week we celebrated Easter!  It was such an incredible Sunday for us all to be together.  But, what I think made it incredible was that we allowed space for both the natural and the supernatural.  

Death, the unknown, grief, worry, anxiety, are all part of our normal and natural lives.  All of us experience these things, and when we do we find offense because somewhere deep in our bones we know that this isn't how things are supposed to be.  In the depth of our soul we know that we were made for LIFE!

What is so wild is that Jesus never promises wealth or comfort.  Rather, he promises his presence.  Sometimes I think I would rather have wealth and comfort, but all we have to is read the magazines at the Safeway checkout to know that those aren't the answer. 

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Developing a Solid Ministry Plan : Part 3 Having a Youth Group that Rocks!

Developing a Solid Ministry Plan : Part 3 Having a Youth Group that Rocks!

Your Youth Group Says It All:

For as solid as your ministry model and philosophy are, and for all the amazing events you have put on your calendar to wow kids and impress parents, what actually happens at youth group matters most.  What happens during the hour and a half of youth group says everything about you and your ministry plan.  It communicates to your staff, your parents, and your students what your ministry is all about.  The liturgy of the evening, the way it is led, who's up front or if there even is an up front, where people sit if they sit at all, what you sing, and what you teach, no matter how you teach it--all communicate your ministry plan.  If that's the case, then pause for a minute and think about what your youth group time says about your ministry model or philosophy.

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Good Friday : I Thirst

Good Friday : I Thirst
Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”

I often forget that Jesus was fully human.  He experienced life, the joys, the sorrow, the pleasures and pain that all humanity experiences.  And it is on the cross where Jesus reminds us again that his work on the cross was not just for the transactional need for atonement, but for the full relational redemption that can be

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Developing a Solid Ministry Plan: Part 2 Creating and Implementing Purposeful Events

Developing a Solid Ministry Plan: Part 2 Creating and Implementing Purposeful Events

Your Youth Group Says It All:

For as solid as your ministry model and philosophy are, and for all the amazing events you have put on your calendar to wow kids and impress parents, what actually happens at youth group matters most.  What happens during the hour and a half of youth group says everything about you and your ministry plan.  It communicates to your staff, your parents, and your students what your ministry is all about.  The liturgy of the evening, the way it is led, who's up front or if there even is an up front, where people sit if they sit at all, what you sing, and what you teach, no matter how you teach it--all communicate your ministry plan.  If that's the case, then pause for a minute and think about what your youth group time says about your ministry model or philosophy.

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Developing a Solid Ministry Plan : Part 1 You must have a Solid Ministry Model

Developing a Solid Ministry Plan :  Part 1 You must have a Solid Ministry Model

What Is Your Ministry Model? 

I remember meeting with one of my interns at the end of her first week on the job. After attending the fall kick-off to our youth ministry year, she commented that our youth ministry was obviously a big, fun / Young Life model of student ministry. I was intrigued by the quick classification of my ministry by someone who had just shown up on the scene.

One of the things a B.A. in Youth Ministry provides for future interns and youth workers is a solid philosophy. And not just a solid philosophy, but a solid model of ministry. The problem is that, while developing a philosophy and model in a classroom, there is little space to consider other vital factors when determining which models to employ. One thing that actually being a youth worker does is find the sweet spot where the philosophy and your unique context meet, allowing you to accomplish solid ministry.

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A simple approach to Bible Study

A simple approach to Bible Study

 ENCOUNTER: Read Matthew 24:3

What are you curious about?

There are so many things that capture my thoughts, so many rabbit trails that I find myself on.  I got a new running watch and couldn't figure out how to program it, so I googled it, which got me thinking about my new training schedule, which sent me to look for a race to run, which got me to a clothing site, to swim suites, to the ocean, to surfing, to wipeouts, to epic fails!  And like that 45 minutes were wasted and my original issue didn't even get resolved.  

Bible Study is the spiritual practice that helps keep our thoughts and curiosities within the rails. We all head off on in different directions and there are many shinny objects that catch our eye.  I think God might have actually made us this way.  In this passage in Matthew, the disciples who were with Jesus were not simply satisfied to be in the dark, the wanted to know more, they asked questions.   

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Youth Ministry Discipleship: The finish line has changed

Youth Ministry Discipleship:  The finish line has changed

For as long as I have done youth ministry and for everything I have read, it seems like all of us in student ministry are all aiming for an 18 year old finish line to our discipleship training.  We bust our humps for kids in their middle school and high school years with the hopes that we will launch fully formed disciples of Jesus into the big bad world where they will be ready to join ministries, attend churches, say no to all the temptations their culture throws at them, and then feel like failures when none of that happens.  

Maybe what we are aiming for is short sided and outdated?

Everyone agrees that adolescence is lengthening.  Except, nobody is living like this is true.

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