How do you view status on a high school campus?

How do you view status on a high school campus?

It is not 1985 anymore:

Back in the 80's Young Life was the premiere organization reaching students for Christ.  They were a corrective force for the church and were the key organization to completely transition how churches do student ministry. Because of the influence of Young Life, the church has been able to expand their demographic from a closed group of church kids, into youth groups that are just as missional and inviting as many Young Life Clubs.It seems that the institutional church is always slow to change and slow to change their methodologies.  Since this is true, I am wondering if we are still holding on to a key ministry philosophy of Young Life had back in the 80's.

This philosophy was simple, if you win the popular kids, the leader kids, you will win the campus.  (I have no idea if this is still Young Life's main strategy, but it used to be and was incredibly effective)

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Can't Stop The Feeling! Let the dance party help shape your student ministry!

Can't Stop The Feeling!  Let the dance party help shape your student ministry!

Have you ever noticed that high school students that joking and laughing seem to come pretty easy? In fact, if you really look, most of their interaction is light hearted joking with one another. When my friends and I get together, this just isn’t the case. Our conversations are really deep and important. I wonder why that is? But why it is, is not the topic of this post. The fact that it is, is what I would like to explore.

As youth workers, we are called to connect with students, and to be cross cultural missionaries. We are to enter their world and find places where we can share the love of Christ, to bring the abundant life to them, in their context, on their level. What if one of those thing places was actually good ‘ol fashioned fun. Fun in the form of music and dancing might actually be a powerful tool to accomplish this challenging task.

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Why are kids so APATHETIC these days? It's because they have NO SKILLS!

Why are kids so APATHETIC these days?  It's because they have NO SKILLS!

A couple of weeks ago I lead a parenting seminar on apathy.  I mostly signed up to lead this seminar because our own students' apathy is just killing me!  Especially in spring, it seems like kids fall off some sort of emotional cliff and check out completely.  I started out asking some questions . . .

Does apathy have to define our students?  What is the cause? Are there some practical solutions?

Through a little bit of research and some further conversation, I had a breakthrough on what one of the main causes of Apathy is, along with a possible way forward.  (For the record, I am a simple youth worker trying to understand my students and care for their hearts.  If you have other insights or resources, please share.)

According to Google, Apathy is simply defined as: Lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.  Wikipedia says that Apathy is a lack of feeling, emotion, interest, and concern.  It is a state of indifference.  

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What can Graduation teach us about our calling?

What can Graduation teach us about our calling?

Guess What? It's Not About You!

A call to student ministry is a special and unique thing. We have been called by God to participate in the spiritual development of students. For a very specific and often chaotic season, we get the privilege and honor of being adults who coach, mentor, disciple and journey with adolescents who are exploring their faith and making it their own. What could be greater? As we attempt to live this out in the real world with real students in a real context, this simple and yet profound calling gets blurry.

The students we work with have joys and concerns, victories and losses, growth and set backs. We attempt to be there for every student for every part of the roller coaster ride; and while we work our guts out, pouring our lives into these students, our vision becomes impaired. Because very slowly, without us knowing, the joy that comes from getting to be there for students and walk with them turns and starts to become about us. Instead of being an adult who journeys with students for a season of their lives, we see ourselves as the adult who journeys with them, who advocates for them, who loves them, who will get them through adolescence, who will solve their problems, etc...

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I am at my best when I live out a heart that is full!

I am at my best when I live out a heart that is full!

ENCOUNTER: Read Romans 8:14-16

Whenever I think about living out of a heart that is full, I imagine myself participating in some sort of extreme sport.  My sport of choice is base jumping in a wing suit.  I mean, that would be incredible.

While extreme sports are incredible and adrenaline makes us seem like our hearts are full, the truth is that what is happening is simply adrenaline, a chemical that has been introduced into our blood stream.  What we are talking about when we say live out a heart that is full, is living in a way where you are fully connected to your inner self. 

There is a deep well of love, pain, joys, and sorrows, hopes and dashed dreams that we all keep locked away deep inside.  But the longer we live one way on the outside and keep hidden our true self on the inside, we become more and more detached.  

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The politics of Student Ministry

The politics of Student Ministry

Politics: the art/science concerned with guiding or influencing policy. Add the additional concept of “guiding or influencing people” and we’ve got a good working definition.

In any organization, government or church, there are people and policies that need to be led. Politics is the art through which this is done. Politics is a reality of life, one we can’t overlook.

What makes politics so inherently tricky is the presence of power.

Politics is all about influence and influence is all about power. Power is the lever that makes influence happen. But power within the church is a paradox. On one hand we’re called to be servant leaders, to give up our rights, and lay down our lives for others. On the other hand, we’re called to lead people. You can’t lead without influence, and you can’t influence without power.

In most churches, there are three groups of people who have significant power in shaping the politics of that church. And, in the majority of cases, these people have more power and influence than us youth pastors do. For us to thrive in our ministry context, we must recognize this and work hard to work alongside these individuals.

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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!

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

 

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.  

 

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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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