Parents should cram religion down their kids' throats :)

Parents should cram religion down their kids' throats :)

Imagine it is 3:00 pm on the first day of school.

Your daughter or son comes home and gives you a horrible report. They didn't get the classes they wanted, one of her friends was mean to her, your son isn't in classes with any of his friends, and it turns out they aren't going to get to start their fall sport like they thought. So much disappointment all in one day.

As their parent, how do you respond? "It looks like school is going to be too difficult this year for you and I don't want you to have to experience this kind of pain and discomfort, from here on out, if you don't want to go to school or play that sport, you don't have to."

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The Biggest Mistake Young Youth Workers Make

The Biggest Mistake Young Youth Workers Make

The first couple years in youth ministry can be a trying time for many youth workers. At times it seems like each step could potentially have a hidden landmine underneath. While the most obvious landmines are easy to identify—staying within budget, maintaining appropriate boundaries with students, and communicating clearly with parents—one of the most dangerous ones often catches many new youth workers off-guard.

One of the biggest mistakes new youth workers can make is failing to fully understand their relationship with their supervisors.

Maybe the supervisor is the senior pastor, or maybe it’s another staff member. Regardless, there seems to often be a misunderstanding about the real nature of this relationship. I think many new youth workers fail to understand that this relationship is more like a “boss/employee” relationship than they may have expected.

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Sex, Drugs, and Rock N Roll: Seminar for Parents

Sex, Drugs, and Rock N Roll: Seminar for Parents

For the past three weeks I have had the fun pleasure of meeting with a group of parents from my church at teach through a seminar titled, "Sex, Drugs, and Rock N Roll:  Understanding Today's Teen Culture" And for as fun as it was, and for as horrifying as it was, at the end of the day it was really encouraging. 

Being a parent in this time and place is so scary.  To be honest, ever time and place brought with it its unique set of challenges, and that simply means that as parents we must be fully ready to handle our moment in time.  This means taking a good hard look into the abyss, and coming up with some parenting strategies to help our kids avoid, navigate, and if need be, heal from the total chaos in which they live.  

HERE IS A LINK TO MY NOTES FOR THE 3 WEEK CLASS: 

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Sunsetting your youth ministry carer

Sunsetting your youth ministry carer

This last week I was sitting in a meeting with some incredible youth workers from our denomination.  Many of these women and men I have knowns for many years.  And as we were sitting around sharing our lives with each other and praying for each other, I realized that I am witnessing something profound.  Many of my dear friends in student ministry are rounding the last lap in their youth ministry carer.  

Over the years I have had the opportunity to meet with, train, equip, and inspire fellow youth workers.  The highlight of some of the coaching I get to do is walking with brand new youth workers as they navigate the passion and joy of following God's call on their life, and wrestling through the difficult learning curve of vocational ministry.  Walking with younger youth workers has been one of my greatest joys!

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Moving Past Behavior Modification

Moving Past Behavior Modification

While I am sure that most of us want our students to become followers of Christ and to put their unique gifts and talents to work in the expansion of His Kingdom, what we end up valuing and celebrating falls pathetically far from this aspiration. We’ve encouraged behavior modification.

By the time our students are firmly in mid-adolescence we have communicated a very clear, a very boring, and a very hypocritical version of Christianity. You may already disagree with me because I have no idea how much passion and hard work you have put into your gospel centered messages, your exegetical sermons, and 5 point leadership development program.

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How youth ministry crushes your self esteem.

How youth ministry crushes your self esteem.

It is crazy to think about, but I am rounding the corner on 20 years of student ministry.  That is so long.  That is so many hours, days, weeks, months, and years pouring my guts out for students in an effort that they may know and love Jesus some day.  And don't get me wrong, I LOVE IT!!!

But over the last couple of years I have had this awful realization, YOUTH MINISTRY CRUSHES YOUR SELF ESTEEM!

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Let Winter Camp be a Camp High for You too!

Let Winter Camp be a Camp High for You too!

I don't know if it is like this for you, but for me, winter camp is often a programatic event that is surrounded by anxiety and angst.  Anxiety around driving in the bad weather, losing over $1000 dollars because I scholarship too many kids, and all the potential drama and chaos that happens when tons of kids get together with minimal supervision :)

The angst often occurs because of my own issues and pride.  It is difficult to enjoy camp because I have so many ways that the camp can improve their program.  I can't believe the camp didn't choose me to be the speaker and instead they hired some chump who is only half the speaker I am.  I love to sit in judgement of the program and of my kids.  I usually cloak my pride in some intentional, smart sounding spiritual nonsense, but it is pride just the same!

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Time for that dreaded mid year check up.

Time for that dreaded mid year check up.

Every six months I get the dreaded call.  It is the one from my dentist reminding me of my upcoming check up.  I HATE THE DENTIST! I have awful teeth and crazy tartar buildup. It is embarrassing and is never convenient.  But the truth is, because it is a regular part of my life, I get to keep my teeth and my wife :)  If I let my embarrassment over what might be seen or the fake business and importance of my life prevent me from getting a check up, minor problems become major problems and the little annoyances can actually wreck my mouth, ministry, and life.  (see how I just transitioned from my mouth to student ministry :)  )

Now that you are fully into the swing of your second semester, it is the perfect time to take some time for your bi-annual ministry check up.  The reason we do this is the exact same reason we go to the dentist.  We want a healthy ministry that is experiencing growth and fix any problems that are festering before they explode.  But few of us are willing to do the hard work to actually evaluate our ministries, so we don't even know what to fix or where to even begin.  Here is why it is of utmost important to evaluate our ministry as well as our own lives, and some questions for evaluation.

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A new year means a new start: 3 tips on making 2016 a great year of ministry

A new year means a new start:  3 tips on making 2016 a great year of ministry

I love fresh starts.  New school years, new weeks, new months, and even more, new years.  2016 brings with it all the best part of fresh starts.  This new year brings with it a new semester for our students and for our ministry as well.  

What is great about the New Year, that makes it unique to a new academic year, is that you already know all the players and variables.  When I start a new year, I often get swept up in all the hopes and dreams of a new academic year of ministry.  But very soon, I come to realize just what we are dealing with, who the leaders will be, who the flakes will be, and because of all these true facts on the ground I need to readjust my game plan.

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Merry Christmas 2015 from the Kerns Family

Merry Christmas 2015 from the Kerns Family

Dear Friends and Family,

"Brokenness and Beauty.”  If I had to sum up this last year, then this would be the phrase that paints the best picture.  

I had such high hopes of this year being the greatest year on record.  Both Katie and I turned 40, our kids are in 5th and 3rd grade and fully capable, and increasingly independent and moderately responsible little people.  Yes, this was going to be the year of greatness for the Kerns family.  

 

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Do you want to become a national "Youth Ministry Speaker?"

Do you want to become a national "Youth Ministry Speaker?"

I was recently asked about how someone becomes a speaker.  This is a great question and one that almost every youth worker I know wants to know the answer to.  Ever since your first youth ministry conference you have probably wanted to know what it is going to take to get from where you are sitting in the back of a huge venue, to being the guy in HD with a little, over the ear, mic.  

If you have ever wanted to know how to get your feet on the road to Youth Ministry Speaker fame, I mean service for the Lord, here are a couple of thoughts:

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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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Christmas, An Invitation to Belong

Christmas, An Invitation to Belong

More than any other holiday, Christmas is surrounded with family warm fuzzies. On the surface it is a month of preparing your house and making it as warm and hospitable as possible. And we brave the strip malls to buy presents as a way of showing love towards our friends and family. Christmas highlights one of the most critical needs humans have, to be known and to be loved.

Yes the birth of Jesus tells us so much about God and his love and plan for humanity, yes the manner in which he was born shatters all of our preconceptions regarding status and power, and yes we have God exegeted in the incarnation of his Son. But all of these great truths are not found in isolation. They are proved a reality by way of invitation, invitation into the family of God.

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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.  

I found myself in the middle of some Facebook posts and emails to make sure our students will be there and that they will fulfill their commitments to even serve at one of the services.  Even as my programmatic calendar has a break, I am continually in programmatic mode.  And thankfully, in my daily advent devotional, God kicked me in the butt!

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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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Pixinote: Combining the fun of Instagram with the love and care of Snail Mail

Pixinote: Combining the fun of Instagram with the love and care of Snail Mail

Kids love taking pictures of themselves.  They love looking at pictures of themselves.  And they even enjoy looking at pictures of their friends, if they happen to be in picture too.  With the overwhelming way that social media has taken over our lives, you would think that all of these selves, likes and follows would satisfy the deep craving of our souls to be seen and known.  But the sad truth is that it doesn't.  It is simply an echo of the authentic thing we are all looking for.

What if there was a way to leverage technology and capitalize on the social media mayhem, while at the same time giving a gift that our students can hold in their hand, hang on their wall or fridge, and be reminded that they are truly loved!

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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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How blowing up other Christians and piling on actually hurts the cause of Christ in the long run.

How blowing up other Christians and piling on actually hurts the cause of Christ in the long run.

My Facebook has been on fire this last week about Starbucks and their decision to change the design of their red cups.  A few people wrote some blogs commenting on the continual secularization of our society, and then every “enlightened” and “non-consumeristic” Christian decided to shame them into extinction, with just about every news outlet piling on.

For the most part, I love that I have  so many different friends with such different perspectives in my life. With this diversity of opinion, I have come to be a little horrified at the speed in which sidebar conversations or observations turn into full blown internet memes.

Since a snarky Facebook post couldn't quite communicate what I have been really thinking regarding the cup and what that means for Christian cultural warriors and the self- righteous Christians who are stabbing them in the back, I thought I would throw in my two cents regarding the Starbucks red cup into the mix.

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The top 5 WORST youth group games!

The top 5 WORST youth group games!

I have been doing youth group for almost 30 years, from my own middle school years until today.  And over this time there have been so many changes in and around youth ministry.  Some of those changes are for the best, in fact, I think all of them are for the best.  

But every now and then, I like to reflect back on the way things used to be and have my faith grow because God somehow used some horrific games and activities so that by a miracle, some actually came to know and love Jesus.  

Here are the top 5 games that should have never been played on a youth ministry night:

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Free Weekly Devotionals for Youth Ministry (Malachi: The Italian Prophet)

Free Weekly Devotionals for Youth Ministry (Malachi: The Italian Prophet)

Our students know that God loves them.  But is that really enough?

As youth workers we have bent over backwards trying to help our kids know that God loves them.  And you know what, I think we have succeeded.  In fact we have succeeded so much that our students are content to simply exist and soak up the love and blessings from God.  And then when God doesn't show up in the way they want, they throw temper tantrums like spoiled brats.  

Maybe God is inviting our students into a maturing faith?

This week's study is on the book of Malachi.  Malachi is a minor prophet so there isn't too much there as far as volume, so you can't get too lost in strange illustrations and names.  Rather, he cuts to the quick and calls the people of God to step up, mature in their faith, and take on not just the rights and blessings of being part of the family of God, but the responsibilities as well.  

Maybe God might grab a hold of the heart's of some of our students as well this week and give them a longing for the deeper and more valuable parts of maturing life in Christ.  

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