A word of caution to my activist friends from a religious right wounded warrior

A word of caution to my activist friends from a religious right wounded warrior

Disclaimer:  I admit that this post has nothing to do with student ministry and is far away from the normal subject matter that is discussed on this blog.  However, I think that we as Christians must be in the mix regarding issues on race and sexism.  We need to help those in our circles to navigate these difficult topics.  My intention is to find common ground, own the garbage on my side of the street, and move conversation and policy forward in a way that resembles the Kingdom of God.  

I have been brokenhearted by the news of the past few months, especially surrounding issues of racism and rape. 

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The need for our own Advent experience

The need for our own Advent experience

I love my job!  I love that, just about, every waking moment is consumed with concern for the spiritual health and development of my students.  I so badly long for them to know and love Jesus, and because of this, spend a lot of time working hard to provide teaching, experiences, and relationships that will help move this desire along. 

As my fall programming comes to an end and our church is gearing up for Christmas Eve, I have to confess that I almost missed it. 

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What to do when Sunday School sucks

What to do when Sunday School sucks

Because my church is a medium sized church, Sunday School has been the bane of my existence for my entire career. 

(For my friends at large churches, you have managed to escape the hardest part of the job for most youth workers. Because our churches are not huge, we don't have critical mass of students which means we actually have to look into the cold, dead, eyes of students at 9:00 on a weekend morning.  Consider yourselves lucky!) 

For me, in my context, I have found that every 6 weeks or so I am faced with the awful reality that Sunday School sucks. And, would you have guessed, we are right on schedule. that means it is once again time to mix it up so that we can have some sort of benefit for the highest of sacred cows. 

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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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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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Youth Ministry Answers Podcast

Youth Ministry Answers Podcast

This week, the people over at stuffyoucanuse.org are launching a brand new podcast, YouthMinistryAnswers.com.  If you are wondering why you should check it out, here's why:

I love youth ministry with all my heart!

 It is, hands down, the best / worst job on the planet.  And at the same time it is also the easier / hardest job as well.  Depending where you are on your journey, where you are at in your career, and where you are at in general, depends where you are live on these spectrums.  

I often tell young youth workers that there isn't much to pulling off a great youth ministry within a church setting.  But the truth is, that is a lie.  There are a number of things that are vital to pull this off.  There is a very steep, but thankfully short, learning curve to figuring it all out.  

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The Blogging Life

The Blogging Life

This Thanksgiving is the four year birthday for this blog, Average Youth Ministry.  

And what a wild ride it has been.  In just under 1500 days, I will have rounded the corner on a half a million views from people all over the world.  

Over these four years, I began writing this blog as a form of spiritual discipline to help me process trough the joy-filled as well as the perilous mine field known as student ministry.  And within the first year enjoyed some of the dopamine rush that comes from collecting hits, likes, and comments.  And before long, I thought I was going to be famous. 

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Grandma: a youth ministry model

Grandma: a youth ministry model

It is hard to believe that this was my first blog post of all time.  After 4 years, I think I would still agree with myself :)  Happy Thanksgiving!

This last week I had the honor of participating in Grandparents and “Special Friends Day" at a local high school.  This is an amazing Thanksgiving tradition that is a blessing to the entire school.  Grandparents, “special friends,” students and alumni all gathered for coffee and pastries in front of the school office and then headed off to the first class of the day.  The grandparents and “special friends” followed their student through their day and the alumni, who are home from college, got to go and visit their favorite teachers. 

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The Right Medicine to Cure Loneliness, Anxiety, and Depression

The Right Medicine to Cure Loneliness, Anxiety, and Depression

It seems like loneliness, anxiety, and depression are becoming hallmark issues in the lives of our students.

In every context I find myself, with every youth worker I talk to, these three issues seem to be at the top of the felt needs list among adolescents today.

I know that the reasons are varied, and the severity range is all over the board.  But what if there was a ministry solution that was actually Good News to our students who are struggling with this trifecta?

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The Most Important Thing To Do When Raising a Teenager

The Most Important Thing To Do When Raising a Teenager

I have just recently presented one of the most challenging classes eve called “Preparing to Parent your Adolescent.”

For this class I used every tool at my disposal; my 17 + years of ministry experience, access to the personal libraries of all our pastors on staff, and input from my colleagues. As I looked through over 40 years’ worth of books and resources, I landed on three that have shaped me the most and became the core of this class:

Understanding Your Young Teen, by Mark Oestreicher, Hurt, by Chap Clark and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity, by Reggie Joiner.

All three of these are must-reads for parents, youth workers, and those who interact with and love students. If you haven’t realized it yet, adolescence is a complicated and challenging process with a seemingly-unnatural amount of variables that play into the change from child to adult.

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Being Unique Does Not Mean You are the Best

My entire career I have tried my best to be the best.  And every time I think I am there, I simply look into the next pond and realize that I am simply a small fish in a bigger pond.  This is an awful realization, but one that we must get to if we are every going to be both content and fully utilized by Jesus. Here is my sermon from last week about just this.  

Being unique is important, but it is only when we submit to Jesus and leverage our uniqueness for the body of Christ will find hope and containment.  May you too quit chasing the wind and embrace who you are and leverage it for God.

Blessings!

What If You Simply Aren't a High Capacity Leader?

What If You Simply Aren't a High Capacity Leader?

One of my favorite pastimes is reading leadership books and listening to leadership podcasts. Because, in my mind, I am a high capacity leader.  The more that I read and the more that I listen, the more I am coming to an awful conclusion, I am not a high capacity leader.  And I am willing to bet that you aren’t either.

The leaders who write the books and make the podcasts are the best in their industry.  They have proven themselves as leaders through decades of hard work, and incremental gains that have snow balled into exponential growth, to where they are now writing books and making podcasts.  As youth workers, by our very nature, by our very call, and by our place in our organization, chances are we are not high capacity leaders.

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A Great One Year Devotional for Students

This last week I picked up (Extra)Ordinary, a one year, 365 devotional book for students.

I have been looking for a while for a devotional resource that meet my students where they are and be relevant to the felt needs that are impacting and shaping their lives.  And as I read through it, I could not be more impressed with this book, and even more so, be excited for our students to have a resource that will give shape to their times with God and that will be challenging, relevant, and timely.

It is harder than you would think to find a devotional book that is both relevant as well as actually helps students move closer to Jesus.

This book really is like no other devotional book I have come across.

It is like an old skool, “Choose Your Own Adventure” books.  They devotions are not laid out by day, or by week, but by life circumstance.  Depending on what  is happening in the life of the student, they can choose a devotion that speaks about and into that particular circumstance.

Stephen Ingram is the brains behind this creative approach.  He is a both an excellent writer, as well as a veteran youth pastor who has spent over 15 years in the trenches with real students.  He isn’t remembering back to what he think students need back when he was a kid, but he is daily walking through life and faith with students and this proximity to students comes through in this devotional.  (You can check out more of his writing on his fantastic blog, organicstudentministry.org)

This book is just one of a number of great resources from the good people at youthministry360.com.

I am encouraging my parents to pick this up for their kids, and I would encourage you to pick up a few for your students as well.

What are the Biggest Obstacles/Sins Holding Our Students Back From Running After Jesus?

What are the Biggest Obstacles/Sins Holding Our Students Back From Running After Jesus?

I am working on a little project and would love your help.  I have been wrestling with this question:

“What are the biggest sins / obstacles holding back our students from running after Jesus?”  

At first glance, when I think of this question, I immediately go to behavior management and think that it is drinking and sex.  If our kids would just say no to the two deadly sins of student ministry, then they would have no problem running after Jesus.  But the more I drill down, the more I am convinced that there is so much more going on in the lives of our students, and even more in their hearts.

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Have You Grieved Your 20's?

Have You Grieved Your 20's?

Dear fellow youth worker,

I wanted to thank you so much for your faithful service to the church for all of these years.  In fact, you are above average in your attempt to live for Jesus and to help others do the same.  In fact, for many of you called to youth ministry, your call began in your own youth ministry experience and it was during your late high school and early college careers that you decided to serve Jesus by serving kids!  For this, the church, your students, and Jesus are thankful!

You spent your late teens and early 20’s being a perfect model of Jesus.  You actually refrained from sleeping around and for many, turned this burning passion into a young marriage.  You and your spouse got married young and then together set out to change the world.  Because the age gap between you and your students was small at first, you gladly gave up alcohol as to not confuse your students or their parents.  And for the last 5-10 years you have been cranking along just fine.

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The Fruit of Social Media

The Fruit of Social Media

I am not going to lie, I love me some Facebook.  And it turns out loving Facebook works well, because only old people are on it now.  Where there was one Facebook, there is now Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, and the lowest form of social networking, YikYak.  The longer I work with students the more I am seeing the lasting ramifications of social networking overtaking actual human interaction, and what I see is startling.

Like all things we invest our time and effort into, there will be fruit.  If we eat right and exercise, we will be more fit.  If we practice the guitar or the keytar, you will be able to be a rock star, or at least a studio musician.  If you are in the habit of sharing life and being vulnerable with people, you will develop deep friendships, and if you actually spend time in reflective prayer, the depth of your faith and intimacy with God will deepen.  These are facts.

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Want to Preach Like Francis Chan?

Want to Preach Like Francis Chan?

Me too 

There seems to be a strand of ministry leaders who are obsessed with becoming great “communicators.”  In fact the language of how we even talk about this strange thing we do for 20-45 minute once a week is called.  It used to be called preaching, some call it teaching, or sharing, but everyone in the industry seems to now refer to it as “communicating.”

And for those who want to become excellent communicators, there are few more famous that Francis Chan.  Wouldn’t you like to be able to preach like him?  Wouldn’t you like to know what the trick is, what the structure is, what ever “it” is so that you can communicate with the same power, effectiveness, and maybe even fame? 

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Can You Love Jesus and Love Halloween?

Can You Love Jesus and Love Halloween?

This article was originally posted on youthworker.com.

It is impossible to walk through a retail store these days and not be overwhelmed with Halloween. Since the beginning of September, aisles of orange and black decorations, bags of candy and costumes have been calling out to my children, building excitement and expectation for their dream holiday. For my kids, Halloween is a simple holiday that involves their two favorite things: candy and dressing up. For Christians, however, Halloween seems to be a bit more complicated.

No matter how you slice it, Halloween has a dark and seedy past. Its history can be traced to a Roman festival that involved worshiping the goddess of fruits and seeds, a pagan festival of the dead or a Celtic festival celebrating the end of summer. This latter part isn’t that bad, but the celebration of the spirit world coming close to the living world is. It’s difficult to encourage recognizing a holiday that has many touch points with the occult. How can Christians get behind a holiday that, at best…OK, there isn’t anything we can get behind in the history of Halloween.
However, as bad as it seems there might be another way we can look at Halloween—and I don’t mean to pretend we are against it publicly while we quietly celebrate it with our friends and family (like a good wine). I think there is a way we can celebrate and even promote Halloween in a way that honors God and might even bring the kingdom of God closer to your neighborhood.

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How to Deal with a Raging Parent

How to Deal with a Raging Parent

It is pretty difficult to do youth ministry for any length of time and not have some sort of blow up with a parent.  And I have found that no matter how hard I try, every now and then, I find myself at the receiving end of a firing squad.  Most of the time it is from some misunderstanding, but there have also been times when a parent’s rage was deserved.

But no matter who’s at fault, I have found the two silver bullets to de-escalate just about every major conflict between parents and youth workers.  The problem is, youth worker’s aren’t going to like it.

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What You Can Expect at Orange

This April there is an incredible conference for people who are called to children, students, and family ministry.  It is one of the best conferences I have ever been to, and if there is any way for you to get there, you should come.  Registration begins TODAY!!

As you prepare for all the tasks that are on your plate and are caring the heavy burden of ministry this week, I pray that you have a place in your life where you can be inspired and encouraged.  And if you don’t, then maybe this can be that place!  Sign up today and lets get our ORANGE on