Do you have a scope and cycle to your curriculum?

Do you have a scope and cycle to your curriculum?

Writing curriculum is one of the most challenging endeavors a youth worker undertakes.  (I have found that it is hard even writing the word curriculum, mostly because I am a horrible speller.)  As hard as writing curriculum can be, what really makes a curriculum great or awful is its scope and cycle.  And this is where Orange's XP3 Student ministry curriculum hits it out of the park!

It is often confusing cruising through a website and trying to figure out what is going on, why they do what they do, and how it all fits together. I get that 90% of that confusion is because I don't pay attention and skim read. So, I really enjoyed sitting down and having the creators of this material, Jeremy Zach and Jared Herd, explain it to me.

These two guys and their team put together some really great material. But what is even more compelling is the values they begin with as they write their curriculum.

Here are a few values that form the foundation of how this curriculum is put together.

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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 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 

What is Orange?

What is Orange?

This week starts the beginning of ORANGE WEEK. It is that bi-annual event where those of us invested in the Orange strategy spread out and seek to engage and encourage our peers to develop an intentional strategy of partnership between the church and family.

Throughout the week, I will, along with some of my good friends, be sharing our thoughts and reflections on the strategy and support that Orange provides.  If you use Orange and are looking to connect, lets do that, if you are not an Orange person, then I would love to know how you intentionally leverage the church and family toward greatest impact on students.

I am continually thankful for the resource Orange is for me and for our church.  If you have never used Orange or they are not on your radar, their strategy for connecting the church and the family is head and shoulders above anything else out there.

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Guest Post: Our Culture Needs a New Apologetic

Guest Post:  Our Culture Needs a New Apologetic

My friend, Ryan Reed, wrote a brilliant post this last week and wanted to share it with you.  Apologetics is an interesting study.  But what is the defense when nobody seems to have questions or even care? Check out this post and let me know what you think.  Enjoy!

Perhaps instead of defending our faith to a culture that already could careless about it, we need to begin a new conversation.

It is no secret  - or at least it should not be - that American culture has moved past a Christendom mindset into a post-Christian (or some would even argue pre-Christian, depending on the context.) If these words are new you to you, then Google "Christendom" and "Post-Christian" to learn more about it. Several theologians and philosophers have written valuable articles for the church on this topic since the 1970s - nearly 40 years ago!

Essentially, Christendom connotes the perspective that generally-speaking a given culture holds the values and standards of Christianity and the teachings of Jesus in high regard, including specific tenets, morals, and generally held truths.

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An Easy Way to Pick the Brains of the Top Leaders #thinkorange

An Easy Way to Pick the Brains of the Top Leaders #thinkorange

The people over at ORANGE have some great deals in their store this week.  Over the past 3 or 4 years our church and my ministry have been dramatically impacted by the sharp thinking and practical helps of the Orange crew.  They have, hands down, the best comprehensive philosophy for ministry and for leveraging the combined efforts and resources of the church and family so that children and students may come to be life long followers of Jesus.

If you are looking for some new books to read, to be encourage and equipped in your ministry, or just love deals, then check out this new offer:

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A great new youth ministry app

A great new youth ministry app

Out of the front lines of ministry comes an app designed by youth leaders for youth leaders. There are countless web-based, subscription based web-applications for managing youth ministry. But this is the first mobile app to really leverage the device you have with you all the time, your iPhone.

The app is built with features that will be really helpful in ministry. You are able to capture info from students, track attendance for events, monitor attendance trends over time by gender and school, and create smart filtered groups for powerful communication.

Capturing info gets everything you want from students. It would be nice if every teen came with a business card, but they don’t. So you hand them the phone with the app open and it leads them through a series of screens. By the end, you will have everything you need to follow up with the students, and this info helps create really smart tracking metrics.

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Free Discipleship Evaluation Resource from @ym360

20140603-173829-63509256.jpg My friends over at youthministry360 have put together a cool little resource. It's a framework to help you think about and evaluate your ministry's effectiveness at leading teenagers to be more authentic Christ-followers. It's called "The Six (Biblical) Discipleship Traits," and it's a really tool to help you in your discipleship efforts.

Here's what they had to say about it: "We poured through the Bible searching for how Scripture describes disciples. What resulted are six specific traits that all disciples have. By thinking about these traits as a goal of sorts, you can begin to think about what it takes to see these attitudes emerge in the lives of your students.

We're thrilled to share these with you today in a free 22 page PDF that explains each one of the six discipleship traits, shows how Scripture supports them, and challenges you to consider how effective your youth ministry is at seeing the traits realized in the lives of your students."

If you're interested, you can download the PDF over on youthministry360's site by going here:

AYM: The Book

Average Youth MinistryIt seems that every book, blog post, and article I read is about the top 5 ways to be the best at something. But the sad reality is that if you are trying to study up on how to be the best, you can rest assured that you are not the best. What would happen to your ministry and more importantly to your soul, if you embraced the reality that you were simply average. Think of all that energy wasted on striving for something that you will never attain. Now, imagine if you died to that dream of being the best in the world and embraced the reality that you were simply the best youth worker your actual students know. In fact, the truth is, you are the only youth worker your students care about. Maybe together we can remind each other that we are called to love students and help them to love Jesus. In this book, I have put my 40 best / most helpful / favorite blogs all together in one really slick package.  

I get that most youth workers want to have some impressive looking books to add gravitas to their book shelves.  And in some sense this is the best and worst book for that.  It is really impressive looking and tough, but at the same time says that you are striving to be average.  But all ascetics aside, this has been a really fun project for me, and I think an incredibly helpful and hope-filled book for you.  Whether you are a ministry veteran or just starting out, there is something for everyone to chew on and wrestle through.

This book is broken up into five sections:

  • Discerning your call
  • Discerning your context
  • Discerning your students
  • Discerning your issues
  • Bonus Section: Nuts and Bolts

Discernment is the key to health and longevity in ministry!

I have said it before, but it is true: Youth ministry is the best / worst, easiest / hardest job on the planet!  And it seems like the difference between these two polar extreems is where your head and heart are at.  Discernment is the process of walking along this tight rope.  We need input from those around us, from those who have gone before us, from the Word of God, and from the Holy Spirit.  We need to listen and be reflective.

Ministry is not about gaining knowledge or collecting information, it is about spiritual and professional formation.  And this book takes the 17+ years that I have been working out my calling and walk with Jesus and that application into student ministry.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, there won't be very much new, other than all these posts put in a format that is easy to read and a quick reference for you as you crank out ministry.  You will also appreciate that the book form of my posts have actually been edited for grammar and spelling :)  

I wanted to thank the AYM community for your support and encouragement over the past few years as I have worked out many of these issues.  Your input, pushback, and different perspectives have deepened my own walk with Jesus and my call to student ministry.  I look forward to continuing my call as a vocational student ministry pastor and working out my recent call as a writer.

May God continue to bless you in your ministry and care for students and may we together help us keep our eyes on Jesus who is the author and perfecter of faith, of ours' and of our students'.  

Blessings!

PS: If you are interested in buying this book and upgrading your library, then click on the amazon link and have it by the end of the week!  It will give you street cred and helps pay for my kid's braces!  :)

 

God Kills: An incredible book on spiritual formation

God KillsOver the past few weeks I have been reading an incredible book on spiritual formation. It seems like most of the books I have read lately about spiritual formation, Christian living, or about ministry have all had a pretty strong sense of self help sort of vibe to them.  As you can tell by the title of this book, God Kills is not that sort of book.

God Kills, written by Art Greco, has very little to do with life.  For in this book, it is Satan who works hard to give life, but it is Jesus who is in the business of killing.  Killing our flesh and the the things that we so badly long for and have wrongly assumed bring us life.  When, in fact, it is only by Jesus killing, destroying, and eliminating those hidden parts of our soul that pollute our hearts.

Greco goes through seven spiritual disciplines that have seem to gone missing in our current spirituality of personal fulfillment.  With full transparency, we are walked through the spiritual development of a pastor and theologian, and mostly as a fellow sojourner towards the cross of Christ.

As you read this book, I am sure you will notice the deep waters of theology and spiritual growth in which Art swims.

It would be easy to sit in an ivory tower and give some deep pontifications surrounding these disciplines, but instead, you get a peek into an incredibly reflective and brilliant man as he works these disciplines into his own life.

Throughout this book, Art explores the disciplines of:

  1. Humility: God has a bigger plan than the plan he has for you.
  2. Teachability:  Maybe you're right
  3. Celibacy: It's not just about sex anymore
  4. Courage: Be afraid be very, very afraid.
  5. Faith: Pain, poverty and other really good things God doesn't seem to mind you experiencing.
  6. Yieldedness: Live free and Die!
  7. Loyalty:  Look both ways before walking.

If you are looking for a devotional book, or a book that is going to kick you in the butt and spur you on to wrestle through some difficult topics as you grow towards Christ, then this is your book!

If you are noticing a larger chasm between the pop spirituality that is supposed to fulfill your soul and the deeper waters of death and service that are molded by our savior and want to explore this sort of death, then this is the book for you!

If you long to read a book by someone who not only has some good theology and wisdom, but who is currently walking down this road as well, then this book is for you!

I am thankful for a contemporary book that is authentic, humble, and deep that addresses the issues the church at large and that I personally am encountering.  I pray that God will not allow me to embrace the spirituality of self fulfillment, but rather the spirituality that daily lays bear my flesh and hammers it to the cross so that only what is made alive through the spirit will grow and thrive!

I could not recommend this book more and hope that you enjoy exploring some underused muscles in our spiritual development!

Blessings

Youth pastor as Peter Pan, Dracula, or Gandalf

Gandalf-2 Peter Pan is one of my favorite characters.  The desire to never grow old, fight pirates, and fly probably influenced my decision to become a youth pastor more than I care to admit.  Peter Pan has a dark side, however, that we must come to terms with in youth ministry. Think about how our attitudes as youth pastors often betray a Peter Pan mentality.  We think we will get to be young forever by working with teens.  We will be a magical leader who will give lost boys, (and girls) love and purpose.  That purpose is to have fun and fight the pirates of worldliness, boredom, and bad cable tv.  Parents are at best unnecessary and at worst, a roadblock to having fun, I mean to true ministry.  As for the love triangle with Wendy and Tink, I’ll have to save that for another post.  If we don’t come face to face with our dark side, we will become increasingly immature, negligent, arrogant, and dangerous.  All kids are meant to grow up and that includes us.  Youth need parents to be involved in their lives.  Youth pastors and other adults can have great influence in the lives of teens, but not as smug, impressive, show-offs.  We need to leave behind Peter Pan and find a better model to emulate.

As we grow a little older in youth ministry, we start to come to terms with our own mortality.  I don’t mean death, but rather the grim fact that we no longer can keep up with youth culture.  We lose energy for all nighters, late night cry fests, and 16- hour road trips.  We lose that youthful appearance.  It turns out a steady diet of pizza and capture the flag does not keep us fit.  But we desperately want to stay young and relevant so we become secret vampires.  We sleep during the day so we can stay up longer at night.  We feed off the lifeblood of teenagers: their enthusiasm, popularity, and social drama.   We so desperately want some of them to become like us, I mean to become student leaders, that we drain them dry.  Our subliminal message is, “Jesus gave his life for you, so give you life for our program.”  When we are not fed by God we are tempted to feed off of others, and that is not healthy.  If you want to stay in youth ministry for the long haul, embrace the age you are, take care of your soul and be filled with the Holy Spirit.

I would like to propose that Gandalf represents a better metaphor for youth work. Gandalf neither tries to be more or less than he is.  He is aware of his power and of his limitations.   He inspires and empowers the hobbits.  Yet he also rebukes them when warranted.  He spends time with them, guiding and protecting.  He stands in the gap for them when necessary.  Yet he often leaves them to do his own work.  He is not quite friend or parent or even captain of the fellowship.  He is exactly what they need at the time when they need it the most.  By the grace God, so may we.

We are not wizards and ultimately every metaphor breaks down when we take it too far.  Yet through the characters of great stories we can see sides of ourselves that are hidden and dangerous and we can be inspired to release the better angels of our nature.  Our model should be Jesus Christ.  But rather than just mining the gospel for leadership strategies, let’s put ourselves in his youth group.  May we be fed and led before we feed and lead.  May we die to ourselves before we help youth discover who they are.  May the idols of youth, appearance, popularity, and performance be shattered in our lives.

Finally, I leave with you Elrond’s admonition to Aragorn, in Return of the King

“Put aside the Ranger, become who you were born to be.”

1546279_10151943751736819_1779203631_nThis epic post was written by Phil Beaty, a dear friend of mine who has been doing student ministry for over 20 years.  He has walked through these three seasons of ministry and am thankful for him being a Gandalf in my life.  Unfortunately he doesn't blog so I can't give him intraweb props, but thankfully he is in my real life circle of friends and will give you props all day, every day!  I love you homie!

 

 

 

 



[1] For more on this dark side, see Once Upon a Time season 3

 

Parenting Beyond your Capacity: Book Review

Parenting_Beyond_Your_Capacity_Connect_Your_Family_to_a_Wider_Community_OrangeThis last week I read a really helpful book by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof called Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. This is a straightforward book that offers a clear roadmap for parents who want to connect their family to a wider community of faith. And for parents who think that going at it alone is best, Joiner and Nieuwhof offer a compelling argument for the need to invite others into the circle so that our kids have the widest safety net possible as our kids grow into adults and explore a faith separate from ours. Parenting Beyond Your Capacity is kind of like a primer for parents to understand the Orange concept of parenting. Being an orange parent is understanding that "a parent's influence is best realized in partnership with a wider community." And that community is the church. If you are looking for a book to share with parents to help them understand the orange model of ministry than this book is for you. This book highlights 5 family values that are key for the long term spiritual health and maturity of kids and students.

Family Value 1) Widen the Circle: Pursue strategic relationships for your kids.

Family Value 2) Imagine the End: Focus your priorities on what matters most.

Family Value 3) Fight for the Heart: Communicate in a style that gives the relationship value.

Family Value 4) Create a Rhythm: Increase the quantity of quality time you spend together.

Family Value 5) Make it Personal: Put yourself first when it comes to personal growth.

If you are an "Orange" church than this book is key to helping parents understand what the orange philosophy is all about. "When you combine the light from a faith community (yellow) with the heart of a caring family (red), you exponentially expand your potential to make a difference in the life of a child." This is a book that outlines, inspires, and helps parents maximize their part.

Whether or not you or your church have bought into the orange philosophy, strategy, or curriculum, I have found that this book is a great resource for parents. Not only do the authors make a compelling argument for partnering intentionally to a faith community, they offer clear and straightforward guidance about majoring in the majors. Caring for the heart, quality time, creating rhythms and habits that communicate love and value toward their children.

And the best chapter is the chapter on making it personal. It is a kick in the pants for all parents and ministry professionals to make sure that it is real and alive in you as well. You can't pass on what you don't have, and if parents are going to maximize the potential for their own kids to love and follow Jesus some day, then it better be true in their lives as well.

To communicate these points, the authors share a ton of personal stories. They seem to have find that importance balance between sharing stories of struggle and failure so we know they are real parents and can relate to them, as well as stories of joy and success that inspire and give great ideas for parents to try within their families.

I think the best resource orange has put out there for parents is the family time chart. This chart is highlighted in family value 4, creating a rhythm. The basic idea is that parents can be intentional by using the different opportunities throughout the day to communicate different truths in different ways.

The break down the day into four times with each time having a distinct communication style, a unique role as we share a specific goal.

Time: Meal Time. Communication: Formal Discussion. Role: Teacher. Goal: Establish Values Time: Drive Time. Communication: Informal Dialogue. Role: Friend. Goal: Interpret Life. Time: Bed Time. Communication: Intimate Conversation. Role: Counselor. Goal: Build Intimacy. Time: Morning Time. Communication: Encouraging Words. Role: Coach. Goal: Instill Purpose.

This book is chalked full of clear helps and strategies to help parents maximize what the things that are already in their lives and come up with a realistic plan to incorporate the ones that are missing or lacking. As a parent who worries about instilling faith into my own kids and as a parent who doesn't do it well, I never felt shamed or beat up as I read this book, rather I felt encouraged and actually incorporated some of the tools I learned immediately.

I really enjoyed reading Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. As a parent I found it straightforward, clear, and convicting. But instead of being crushed by all I am failing at doing, this book offered great reflection questions and tips to pull it off. And the entire point of the book is that parents alone can not carry the burden of faith development all by themselves, they need others, they need the church.

My capacity is limited, but by implementing these values the capacity greatly increases. I look forward to passing this book on to parents in our church, and if you are a parent, I think this is a must read. As a youth worker, this would also be a great book to highlight or pass out at a parents meeting to help parents understand the importance of what you are trying to do at youth group and why they should help their kids get and stay connected.

For $10 it is a no brainer. (Especially when you make your church buy it)

What do you think of the orange philosophy? Have you read this book? What other books are out there that you have found as helpful resources for parents?

Orange ConferenceI am honored to partner with Orange in this philosophy of ministry.  If you would like to know more about this philosophy and the tools that are used to leverage these two spheres of influence for the sake of our kids, check out whatisorange.org.  And if you really want a taste, clear your calendar and join us in the ATL this spring for the annual orange conference.  I hope to see you there!

 

 

FREE CURRICULUM FOR THANKSGIVING

Thanksgiving-Home-Blog The folks over at youthministry360 have just launched another round of free resources, just in time for Thanksgiving. They're giving away 4 different Thanksgiving Bible study lessons, PLUS a set of Thanksgiving games.

These resources will help you lead students to reflect on what it means to be thankful as Christ-followers.

To download these free resources, head on over to ym360: https://youthministry360.com/blog/free-thanksgiving-content-ym360

And if for any reason you need help or have questions, their team is great about helping out, just let them know!

(Best deal on the intra-web)

Need a partner in building a sustainable youth ministry?

Screen shot 2013-10-02 at 6.41.32 AM Most youth workers I know have gotten into student ministry because they love Jesus and they love kids.  Their heart and passion is often overflowing.  And this initial fire brings excitement, growth, and even some fruit.  If there is one thing youth workers are known for it is starting strong.  And on the flip side, the other thing youth workers are known for is flaming out!

Building a sustainable youth ministry takes a team.

Your initial love and passion can honestly only get you so far.  After about 6 months you have used up all your greatest talks, greatest games, greatest gimmicks, and you can see the fruit of your greatest work is starting to have diminishing returns.  Building a student ministry that lasts takes more than passion.  It takes an intentional plan to build a student ministry that will survive the waves and winds of this crazy job.

Like all buildings, the strongest and most stable are the ones who have the strongest infrastructure.  These buildings are not simple shelters, but they are highly engineered structures that require a team of experts to work together to draw plans and actually build.  And like a complex building, a sustainable student ministry needs much more than your passion and our expertise.

We get for a building project there must be engineers, architects, construction workers, contractors, interior designers, electricians, plumbers, and on and on.  But do you really get that your student ministry needs a team as well.

Orange as a vital partner in sustainable student ministry.

For me, Orange has been an incredible partner in developing a complex and sustainable student ministry.  If you think of all that needs to be done to build an infrastructure, build a program, communicate to students and parents, and intentionally walk with students through life and faith, Orange provides expert counsel and support for all of it.

  1. Orange provides a strategy!  It is rather simple, but profound.  Orange wants to combine the critical influences of the light of the church (yellow) and the love of the family (red).  The Orange strategy shows a generation who God is more effectively than either could alone.   Be the church, partner with the family, sounds good to me!
  2. Orange is a curriculum.  What I love about the Orange curriculum is that it is so much more than a talk sheet.  It is an intentional scope and cycle that engages students spiritually, engages with their families, and actually has an action item that is designed to restore the world.  It is big and bold, comprehensive, theologically deep, and culturally relevant.  The curriculum is called XP3 and they will even give you free sample if you want to try it out.
  3. Orange is an interior decorator.  I have no style.  If it were up to me, I would still splatter paint my youth room, sit on bean bag chairs, and listen to DC Talk.  Orange adds to their amazing communication and curriculum style that is slick and relevant.  They provided power point slides, videos, and music that work with students and helps old guys like me keep it fresh.
  4. Orange gives you the templates.  Writing talks, emailing parents, coming up with creative tweets, finding games and activities that work with bringing everything together all takes time.  And many youth workers spend half their time doing these things.  Orange provides templates for all of it!  How cool if you could copy and paste, add a few specific details of your own, then send a well crafted email to all your parents.  With minimal effort you have now partnered with parents in ways that builds their confidence in you, and opens up all sorts of communication lines with them.
  5. Orange is a consultant.  Lets be honest,  this all sounds good on paper, but implementing it can be difficult.  What is so great about Orange is they provide support.  Jeremy Zach and his team will walk with you through the implementation of this strategy and curriculum.  But what is even more amazing is Jeremy and his peeps genuinely care about your soul and the souls of your kids.  You will find a friend, partner, and pastor in their support staff.

With Orange as your strategy, curriculum decorator, template provider and consultant, you are now free to do what you are called to do!

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You got into this gig because you love Jesus and love students.  When you do it all on your own, most youth workers have little time to actually do the thing that brings them the most joy.  Consider handing over half your hours to a partner that will provide the infrastructure and design to a theologically deep and culturally relevant student ministry.  Then invest those hours in actually connecting with and caring for students.

Programs are not the end all, be all.  But they do provide the structure, the context for ministry to happen.  With a strong program you are now free to be relational and pastoral.  Consider partnering with Orange.  Consider joining me and some of my favorite people in ATL this spring.  And let us all work together to combine the influences of the light of the church with the love of the family so that students may come to know Jesus and sustain that love into adulthood.  

See you in the dirty south April 30-May 2

 

 

Playing for Keeps!! What can you really accomplish in 40 hours?

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How Many Hours Does the Church Get With Kids and Students?

I know that this video clip talks about children's ministry and sunday mornings, but the message is just as clear for those who work with students.  In children's ministry the church is luck to have kids for 40 hours a year.  For those of us working with students the numbers at best double.

If you include youth group, sunday school, and big church there is still no way that we are even close to having 100 hours a year of ministry with our students.  And this 100 hour figure is being generous with our most committed students.  No matter how you slice it, the church is lacking in the amount of face time we get with children and students.  This necessarily isn't a bad thing, unless those of us in vocational ministry think that our time with children and students is the most important and most valuable spiritual formation that happens in the life of kids.

Who Passes Down Faith:

Depending on the tradition you find yourself in, the pendulum is always swinging between the church and the parents as the primary person passing on the christian faith from one generation to the next.

For a long time the church held the distinct role of teaching children the tenets of Christianity and shaping the spiritual lives of its kids.  Traditions like confirmation and CCD (catholic catechisms) were seen an invaluable classes for making sure the christian faith was communicated correctly from one generation to the next.  It was the church who passed on faith, and the family played a supporting role.

Some traditions have completely inverted this concept.  The family plays the main role of passing on faith from generation to generation.  There is a lack of trust in institutions and the institution of the church is no different.  Parents are the ones who will disciple and shape their children and the children's and youth ministry role of the church simply support these endeavors.

No matter what tradition you find yourself in, both are inadequate.  At least in our context families don't trust the institution of the church.  But at the same time, many of the families in our context don't feel equipped to provide the main diet of spiritual formation for their kids as well.  This is the worst of both worlds, no one is leading strongly and the children are missing out solid christian formation.

Instead of Competitors, We Should Be Partners:

It is too bad that there were and still are seasons where the church and the family are pitted against each other for the spiritual formation of their kids.  It doesn't and shouldn't have to be this way.  The church and the family are at their best when they cooperate and work together to combine their influences so that children and students will be able to have the best shot of developing a faith of their own.

It is for this reason that our church has jumped into a unique curriculum and strategy called "orange."  The basic idea behind this strategy is that you combine the two primary influences that impact a kid's life.  Orange synchronizes the light of the church with the love of the family to connect parents and leaders with the same strategy toward the same end.

If church leaders continue to see parents as the problem for all the lack of commitment and faith development that is happening with our kids then we have already established a hostile relationship.  If parents continue to see the church as glorified child care while they encounter Jesus and try to come up with a curriculum and plan for their children they will quickly run out of steam as the issues become more and more complex.

With orange, we have an opportunity to partner fully with parents, to see them as the primary care givers and faith developers of their children.  Parents have 3000 hours.  But the church does have a role.  Those 40-100 hours are incredibly important as well.  But when the church combines with the parents, many more of those hours get to be redeemed so that kids can grow in their faith  and be excited for what a life connected to Jesus is all about.

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Consider Coming to Atlanta and See For Yourself:

Because we are still new to the Orange family, our entire children's and student ministry team is heading out to Atlanta for their annual conference.  If you register early you save $80.  It might seem pricy, but of all the curriculum that is available to those of us in the church, there is none better in taking the partnership between parent and church worker more seriously.

Being orange is a value for our church, for our team, and for our parents.  As church leaders it is foolish to put too much stock in our 40 hours.  The more we maximize our time, equip our leaders, and partner with parents, the more likely that the children and students coming through the doors of the church will actually stick around long into adulthood.

Hope to see you at Orange 2014!

Orange is the new Black

maxresdefault Ok, this blog post isn't about the new Netflix show, Orange is the New Black. But it is about Orange and how all over the blogosphere Orange leaders are spending the week promoting Orange!

What is Orange? That is a good question. Orange is a ministry philosophy, a curriculum / strategy resource, and an epic conference designed to encourage and equip those who are like minded in ministry.

Throughout this week some of my friends and I will will be writing about some of the many facets of Orange and the upcoming Orange conference. There will be product reviews, give-a-ways, and general encouragement towards the Orange strategy. Below is a list of the bloggers who are participating this week. I highly recommend you take a look at them and even add them to your RSS feed.

Children’s Ministry Jonathan Cliff, JonathanCliff.com Matt Norman, It’sPastorMatt.com Yancy Richmond, YancyNotNancy.com

Middle School Ministry JC Thompson, JSisOnline.com

Youth Ministry Austin Walker, YouthMin.org Benjamin Kerns, AverageYouthMinistry.com Jonathan Cliff, JonathanCliff.com Michael Bayne, MichaelBayne.net Ryan Reed, RyanReed.me Tom Pounder, YMSidekick.com 

NextGen / Family Ministry Joe McAlpine, JoeMcAlpine.com Jonathan Cliff, JonathanCliff.com Michael Bayne, MichaelBayne.net Nick Blevins, NickBlevins.com Pat Rowland, PatRowland.com Tom Pounder, YMSidekick.com 

Technology Matt McKee, MattMcKee.com

For me, this week will be spent reviewing some products, talking about Orange as a strategy / philosophy for ministry and seeing if you want to room with me when I go to Atlanta this spring!

But before we get to those things, lets do a quick catch up:

WHAT IS THE ORANGE STRATEGY / PHILOSOPHY?

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WHAT IS THE ORANGE CURRICULUM?

XP3 is the is the most comprehensive scope and cycle of curriculum for student ministry out there.  It is theologically solid, culturally relevant, and easy to use.  To learn more about it, check out the XP3 link as well as check back for some XP3 highlights later this week.

WHAT IS THE ORANGE CONFERENCE?

This is the conference that puts it all together.  For a week in April you have the opportunity to surround yourself with some of the smartest people in the field who want nothing more than to make the gospel come alive for children and students.  And they, like you, are convinced that this happens most effectively when we partner with parents and have children, student, and college ministries link up.

Registration begins soon, so make sure to mark your calendar, save your pennies, and join me in ATL for the orange conference.

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This is Orange week!!  An this means that this week, I will, along with some of my good friends, be sharing our thoughts and reflections on the strategy and support that Orange provides.  If you use Orange and are looking to connect, lets do that, if you are not an Orange person, then I would love to know how you intentionally leverage the church and family toward greatest impact on students.

I am continually thankful for the resource Orange is for me and for our church.  If you have never used Orange or they are not on your radar, their strategy for connecting the church and the family is head and shoulders above anything else out there.

As you think about how you will be trained this year and how you will train your staff, why don’t you consider joining me in Atlanta, GA this April for the Orange Conference. This is an entire conference designed to wrestle with the intentional partnership between the church and the family.

If you use something else and/or something better, would you be willing to share.  We as youth workers continually need to be sharpened, so sharpen away.

The Three Steps to Choosing Your Christian College

As we start up a brand new year, no doubt we will have some students who will be considering Christian college.  Here is a guest post by Michael Juba about some things to help our students consider as they wrestle through this decision.  Enjoy :)

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Education. Nurturing. Spiritual enrichment.

All these phrases—and many others—describe the kinds of experiences many students have at Bible College as well as within their youth ministries. There are multiple reasons that a religious-themed higher education is right for those, especially those who are members of their youth ministry.

Here are some tips to help you when choosing a college.

How to Choose the Right College

What separates Christian colleges from a secular university is simple: Christian professors care about their student’s education and spiritual growth. However, picking a Christ-centered college is about more than finding the closest one; going to a Christian school doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about the education opportunities being presented.

Christian universities, much like state-run universities, all have areas that they’re strong in. Some Christian colleges are better in the sciences than others. Those others might be stronger in literature studies. This college might have a strong youth pastor program. That college might be good in non-profit administration. Knowing the field you want to study will help you pick a college best suited to your interests.

In a lot of ways, this type of college research is the same process you would go through if you were going to a college unaffiliated with religion.

How to Find a College to Suit You Spiritually

Once you've got a list of Christian colleges strong in your intended field of study, it’s time to decide what will be a good fit for your spiritual needs. Christian colleges run the gamut from being fairly hands off, content to let you explore in their safe environment, to micromanaging their students, requiring specific levels of participation in chapels, Bible studies, etc, and the entire spectrum in between the two extremes.

Understand the types of commitments required of the student so you don’t end up in an environment where you feel stifled by the expectations.

And don’t forget to check what denominations the schools are affiliated with. While most schools will accept students of other denominations, going somewhere that matches (or is close to) your own Biblical interpretations will likely help you feel at home. Of course, if you’re looking for a challenge, you could look at a school affiliated with a denomination vastly different from your own.

The Cost of College: Bible Colleges and Their Impact on Your Wallet

A sad fact of life is that a private college, whether religiously affiliated or not, is going to be more expensive than a state-funded university. Investigate the kind of financial aid they offer. You may qualify for a variety of scholarships to help defray the costs. One common way Christian colleges try to help students is by offering is a discount to students who are members of churches within the college’s denomination.

Speaking to a financial aid counselor will help clarify the ways the college will help you become a student. Remember, they want you and will help you get the money you need to attend. Also, talk with your youth ministry leader to help them guide you in making the right decision.

It takes legwork, but with the effort you will be in a great college when your time comes. If you feel there are other steps or tips in choosing the right Christian college then please comment below.

Author Bio: Michael Juba is a writer and marketer from Lititz, Pennsylvania, which was recently voted the coolest small town in America. He enjoys writing about sports, technology, health, home improvement, travel and just about any topic in between.

Youthministry360 is HOOKING YOU UP!

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The folks over at youthministry360 have just launched another round of free resources, just in time for Easter. They're giving away three different Easter Bible study lessons, PLUS a set of 10-day Easter devotions for your students. It's solid stuff that will help your teenagers prepare their hearts and minds for Easter. Easter is such a powerful time for Christ-followers. These tools will help you lead students to both reflect on and celebrate Christ's death and resurrection.
To download these free resources, head on over to the ym360 Easter Vault at https://youthministry360.com/blog/youthministry360-easter-vault.
YES PLEASE!!

10 Lessons leaders learn from leading a Youth Mission Trip

Earlier this week I posted a blog about some of the potential dangers of short term missions.  This post has generated some really fun and interesting conversation among my friends, colleagues, and my little social network.  In the course of these conversations Carrie Dotson, who blogs at summernannyjobs.com,  pointed me to her blog post about some of the benefits leaders get when leading a student ministry missions experience.  She brings up some great points and wanted to share them with you.  I love how there are so many voices that speak into student ministry and always gain fresh perspective when I engage them.  I hope you are encouraged!  (Thanks Carrie) SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Leading a mission trip provides church leaders and involved adults with an opportunity to help the young people in your group learn about the power of helping others while spreading the message of Christ. On the surface, it’s more of a learning opportunity for the youth involved than an experience that teaches leadership skills, but there are a variety of lessons that even the adults on a youth mission trip are positioned to learn. If you’re receptive to the experience and approach leading a youth mission trip with an open mind, these are only a sampling of the lessons you can learn along the way.

  1. The Importance of Your Own Influence – Whether it’s helping the young members of your team make a difference in the lives of others while witnessing for Jesus or seeing the changes you help to effect in the lives of others, leading your first mission trip will help you see just how important you are and how much of an impact your efforts truly make.
  2. The Broadening of Your Cultural Horizons – Traveling to Africa or South America to share Christ’s love through service helps you learn more about other cultures, but so does a trip across the country. Removing yourself from the comfort zone you’re used to forces the broadening of your horizons, a valuable lesson regardless of where you learn it.
  3. Crisis Management Skills – There’s no such thing as a group travel expedition that doesn’t include at least one minor crisis, something you’re certain to learn on your mission trip. There’s also a very real difference between crisis management in theory and the practical handling of an unforeseen difficulty.
  4. Conflict Management Skills – Even the closest friends can have a few conflicts when they’re in close quarters on unfamiliar territory, especially when the parties in question are in the throes of adolescence. Leading a mission trip will teach you plenty about how to diffuse a conflict before it gets out of hand.
  5. How to Serve While Leading – Few experiences blend the responsibilities of service with the duties of leadership as completely as leading a youth mission trip. You’ll be responsible for the well-being and safety of your group members, the management of daily tasks and making sure that you do your part to make an impact while you’re visiting.
  6. How to Be a Better Leader – When you’re removed from the familiar areas of your leadership experience and thrust into the role while navigating a strange place, you’ll experience a very real change in the way that you lead your youth group. The hardships of a mission trip will force your strongest qualities to the forefront and help you reevaluate the way you’re leading at home.
  7. The Scope of Others’ Need – Until you witness real poverty or devastation first-hand, it’s difficult to grasp the depth of other peoples’ need. Seeing the way that people in third world countries or even poverty-stricken areas of the United States live will change your perspective on need altogether.
  8. How to Set and Reach Realistic Goals – When your end goal is so large, the only way to reach it is to break it down into a series of smaller, more realistic ones. Managing and leading a mission trip is a great exercise in goal management.
  9. The Power of a Team Effort – Regardless of how strong a leader you may be, the real difference comes when the efforts and strengths of an entire group come together with one common goal in mind. Witnessing the power of a dedicated group of young people will help you learn just how powerful a crowd can be, especially when they’re committed to making a positive change.
  10. The Depth of Your Good Fortune – Seeing just how difficult the circumstances of some lives are can give you a new humbleness and appreciation for how fortunate you really are. Even if you think you’re aware of how good your life truly is, seeing the joy that far less fortunate people take in little victories and everyday triumphs can put your own life into clearer perspective.

Leading a mission trip not only allows you to make a physical difference in the lives of those you witness to, but also gives you the opportunity to offer spiritual guidance as well. While you’re making such a strong effort to improve the living conditions of those you’ve come to help, make sure you keep sight of your primary goal: sharing the message of Christ.

Are you looking for a missions opportunity for your students?

It is getting to be missions season and I love looking through the many opportunities that are available for our students.  Short term missions is the bread and butter of student ministry and I hope that you are planning on finding some way for your students to get missional, get cross cultural, and serve the poor in what ever context you are and are going.   Nate McHenry is the Founder of IMchange a missions organization that provides missions opportunities for students.  He wanted to share is origination with you, and I wanted you to be spurred on to think biblically, mission ally, philosophically, and theologically as you consider missions.

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Engaging Jesus through the poor

Have you ever asked yourself, "How in the world can I get this student to see that Jesus is what he/she needs?" For the last 15 years, nothing has accelerated my student's passion and love for Jesus and others more than mission trips.  For me personally, mission trips and serving the "poor" have provided unparalleled context to my pursuit of Jesus. Several years ago, I watched (and re-watched and still watch) an interview with Bono of U2 (not just because I love U2) by Bill Hybels that significantly encouraged my suspicions that the greatest way to connect young people to Jesus is through the poor.

James 1:27 (the message) says, "Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.

Next to the theme of salvation, the poor is the most dominate topic throughout the Holy text.  The reason that student's relationships with Christ go deeper in missions experiences is because Jesus is with the poor, marginalized, forgotten, and underprivileged. It is impossible to not see Christ at work in the lives of the poor if you hang out there with any sort of sustained time.  He resides there.  If a student is struggling in his/her relationship with Christ...stick them in an outreach with the poor. It is a transformational epiphany or recognition and reality that places correct context around our lives at a quickened pace. I often liken it to the original Mario Brothers on Nintendo.  Throughout the journey to save the princess, you're given the opportunity to advance your play through "Warp Zones." The warp zone fast forwards your play to higher levels.  Likewise, providing our students with missions experiences will propel them to a new level of relationship with Christ and with people.  There is nothing like a compassion encounter with the poor that stabilizes and reduces the pervasive humanism spirit and reorients us to Christ at the center of our lives.

The light of Scripture

IMchange Mission trips have evolved out of this revelation of "Christ is with the poor."

1. Take a quick look at some of the Bible's commentary on where God resides and spends His time. 

Deuteronomy 10:18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing

Psalm 12:5 "Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise," says the LORD. "Then I will protect them from those who malign them."

Psalm 72:12-14 For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death.  He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight.

Luke 4:18 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed."

2. Now look at how God invites us to the place of His presence and dwelling among the poor.

Proverbs 31:8-9 "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy."

Isaiah 1:17 Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

Luke 14:12-14 Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

I John 3:17-18 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth

5-P's benefits of a Mission Trip in a student's life

1.  Positions a young person to experience Christ in a formative encounter.

2.  Personalizes a common bond for a student with his or her peers in a context that propels everyone toward Christ.

3.  Provides a tangible life and purpose to Christianity in our world today

4.  Postures a student's heart to live their life purposefully for others and not just for their own pleasure.

5.  Pushes away the affections and temporary attractions of this world and molds an eternal reality in the heart of the student.

IMchange Missions

IMchange Missions Trips (stateside and international) at www.imchange.org/mcw. Nearly every student ministry facilitates a "camp or retreat" type trip for their students. These are powerful, meaningful, and often life altering events.  However, IMchange Mission Camps enhance that experience by providing a missions element to that camp event.

What is an IMchange Mission Camp Week? 

You can bill it as a mission trip, a new look summer camp, or call it what you like. IMchange Mission Camp weeks are Sunday-Friday. Your group will arrive on Sunday afternoon around 3pm. After you’ve moved into the lodging facilities for the week, you’ll eat dinner and have your first evening gathering. The evening gatherings are customized for your group. It may include a time of worship, teaching, small groups, etc. We can provide the worship team, speakers, and gathering time direction or you can bring your own (most groups bring their own). Monday-Thursday during the day (8-4pm) your group will serve a community through home repair projects or community service programs. Typically, your group is divided into teams of 10-15 people and sent out to make a huge impact on people’s lives. Teams are assigned one project for the week that may include building a wheelchair ramp, painting a home for an elderly person, building a fence, gutting a home, assisting in disaster relief efforts, etc. Each team will have the opportunity to personally interact with a resident and show the love of God through word and deed. Each evening, when your group returns to the lodging facility, there is some free time, dinner, and the evening gathering. Some groups opt for a fun party on Thursday night after the last day of work. Friday morning is departure time and a ride home with many memories and God-filled stories.

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ACTION STEPS

1.  Go to www.imchange.org/mcw right now and watch the short video.

2.  Fill out the inquiry form on the webpage to initiate the process of a life changing mission trip experience for your student ministry.

3.  Receive a timely and friendly response from the IMchange staff.

4.  Plan your mission trip with the IMchange team.

5.  GO

6.  Do it again!

Love God-Love people,

Nate McHenry

Founder, IMchange LLC

www.imchange.org