Archives For Discerning your students

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This last weekend I took my incoming seniors away on our annual Senior Road Trip. This is the kick off for our intentional Senior Confirmation program that is a year long investment in our oldest and often, our most burnt out students. The purpose of this trip is to build community, inspire leadership, and solidify faith as they launch into adulthood.

This year one of the elements was to watch Remember the Titans and have a discussion on leadership. To my horror, that movie is already 15 years old. For me, who is old and been at this a while, 15 years is recent. But to our students, this movie couldn’t be more dated. Although they enjoyed watching a young Hayden Panettiere and Ryan Gosling.

Thankfully,for as dated as the movie is, it is such a compelling movie that it held their interest for most of the 2 hours. As we watched this movie as a group and discussed afterward, there was one simple point I wanted to drive home:

Unless our student leaders take up the mantle and vision of what our ministry can be, we will simply be just an average, run of the mill student ministry. But if they embrace and own the vision, they will be the anchor in making our ministry great!

In the movie, Denzel Washington’s character, Coach Boon, had a very clear vision and plan for his team. He had an awful situation he was handed with incredible racial tension and politics from the administration, parents and from kids. Despite these obstacles, he went forward with his vision and leveraged all of his leadership capital to create an environment on his team, where this dream could be realized.

But all of his dreaming, all of his hard work, and all of his pouring out his guts into this program and into his students, the team was still divided, selfish, and impotent. It wasn’t until the two leaders of the team actually decided to lead. In the turning point in the movie, when Gary Bertier leveraged his status and political capital to come down on one of his white team mates, and Julius laid down an incredible hit on one of this black team mates, followed up by the two leaders embracing. Ok, they hit each other and yelled, but that is the boy version of embracing.

From that point on, this program was no just Coach Boon’s. It was the students.’

I found myself getting emotional a little bit with our students during the discussion, because for the first time in a long time, I had a way to express to my students my heart and dream for them and for our student ministry. But I couldn’t just express my dreams, I also had to express my anxiety and fear because my heart for our students can not move forward unless my seniors embrace it and own it. What a scary thing to realize that our leadership only goes so far.

For our ministries to be great, we can only control what we can control, which is only the environment where ministry can happen.

It isn’t until our student leaders, in our case, our seniors step up and leverage their status and political capital to lead by example and model deep and inviting relationships, and an authentic and active pursuit of Jesus.

My desire is to have a great student ministry! Not great numerically, but great in its impact for Jesus and his Kingdom. Great in the way it models the household of God, and great in the ways that our students run after Jesus in a fully authentic way. This is my dream and I will work until I die to create environments that allow this happen. But this can only truly come into fruition if my seniors embrace this vision and make it their own. Please, oh please, class of 15, don’t settle for a cliquey, run of the mill youth group, but embrace all that God has for you and for our ministry! Leverage your time, your relationships, and lead your peers to the feet of Jesus our King!

Let’s Do This!

051912-MLB-Cleveland-Indians-PI_20120519231611104_660_320I think programatic youth ministry has gotten a bad rap over the past few years or decades.  A solid program is the skeleton in which relationships can be built and faith gets formed.  With no program, there is just you and a half dozen kids.  Every great youth ministry has a program that is fun, engaging, inviting, and points towards Jesus. But a good reminder is that no matter how amazing our programs are, how many cool lights and graphics we have, what are online presence and platform has become, without personal contact we have nothing.

At its very core, ministry is about relationships.   Now I know you are pretty smart and know this.  But before you skim down to the end or click to a new page, ask yourself if you really do know this?  A good gut check is to take a look at your calendar and see how you spend your time. Of all the hours you have allotted to pull of ministry, how many of them are spent building relationship, doing contact work, texting your guts out, facebook and instagram stalking, buying ice cream and coffee for, calling, etc. Chances are less and less of your time is devoted to these things.

I am watching this alarming trend among my good friends who are youth workers.  They think that clever programs and graphics with witty names draw kids to youth group.  Worse, some actually think it is their teaching.  While clever programs and solid teaching are vital for solid ministry, it is the hidden hours of connecting with students individually, seeking them out, listening to their stories, building memories doing silly things, goofing off before and after events, and mostly remembering the little details of their life that allow them to be seen and cared for.  And when students feel seen and cared for, then they are willing to engage in a program and even let their guard down enough to wrestle through the intimate and dangerous issues of life and faith.

As you gear up for your fall program, work hard to have epic games, clever videos, and sassy graphics.  Knock your program out of the park!  But DO NOT NEGLECT THE THINGS YOU DID AT FIRST!!

Make contact with those kids, see them, love them, build friendship with them.  Then and only then will your hopes and dreams for your program be realized!

Happy Fall Kick Off!

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How he loves!

For as long as I can remember, everyone in ministry has been trying to communicate to this broken world that there is a God and that this God loves them very much.  So much, that He gave His only son to pay for our sins so that we can be in restored relationship.  And in this restored relationship, we can now be fully embraced by God and live in the spotlight of his love and affection.  We sing our anthem, “How He Loves,” and our congregations and students swoon and weep as they celebrate over and over how much God loves them.

And the warriors of transforming God’s image from a one of judgement and wrath to love!  In fact they have won so much that nobody in the western world would even consider that there is a God who has anger or wrath.  Ok, maybe some old skool boomers, and for sure some old skool boom catholics.  But any and everyone else has a one dimensional view of God and that is that God is Love!

Instead of our culture reciprocating God’s love and returning His affection, we have become spoiled brats.  

I recently was part of an intervention between some parents and their out of control daughter.  She had been failing out of school, experimenting with drugs, and become toxic to her entire family system.  In an evening blow up, I was called in as reinforcements.  What sparked this outburst you ask?  The parents decided that the first step of regaining order back into their home, was to take the phone away.  NOOOOOOOO NOT THE PHONE!!

Students’ phones are the only thing in their life that seems to matter to them.  And loving parents who ooze love and grace to their kids and provide everything they could ever need or want, doesn’t seem to reciprocate respect, love, or kindness.  Instead, when the parents step in, for their kid’s own good, they through a huge temper tantrum.

Most of us our as spoiled and as entitled as the students we work with. 

This sounds like a lot of Christians I know.  We love that God loves us, and that means that he is to never stop pouring grace and blessing on us.  But when that gravy train ceases either by God’s providence, or our dumb choices, we freak out and throw in the towel.

Love being received by students doesn’t cause them to change their life.  And this is true in my own life as well.  But what does cause life change is when we love somebody, we actually want to be more like them.

Think about your students for a second.  Whoever is the alpha in a group at school or in youth group, the rest of the group tries to become more like that person in order to win their affection.  Or, in a more noble way, think of how you love the person you are dating or married to.  Because of your love FOR them, you long to to find out what pleases them and blesses them and work towards that end.  You don’t sit around receiving love FROM them and then return the favor.

A fundamental change in focus:

If we really want our students to experience life change, then I think we need to change the focus of our ministries.  Everyone gets that God loves us, but nobody gets that we are to love God in return.  Maybe that needs to be the focal point of our ministries these days.  What matters is not that you believe that God loves you or not, what matters is whether or not you love God.

Life change happens when we love!  Now when we are loved.

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It should have been a bust!

For months, I have had a buys backpacking trip on the calendar. This one event has become my favorite event of the year. We take guys away for a weekend and have an adventure in creation where they get to unplug and be guys!

But this trip almost didn’t happen. For a number of reasons my numbers went from 20, to 15, to 10, and all the way down to 5 on the day of the event. My soul was crushed. Once again I got to feel the angst of planning a party that no one wants to come to.

But instead of throwing in the towel, I decided to forge ahead, but with a new plan, and a new purpose.

The more the merrier

With a wounded heart, I decided to make this at least make this trip a win for me. So I strong armed all my guy youth staff I could, then reached out to college kids who were back for the summer, and filled up our spots.

With a few phone calls, this trip went from a “high school guys’ camping trip” to “Ben’s favorite peeps over 4 generations of student ministry” trip. And while this trip wasn’t exactly what I dreamed up at the beginning of the year, it was a trip that actually filled my soul and accomplished way more then I could have ever expected.

Guys need Men to look up to:

On this trip I had my 5 high school kids, then 3 college guys, then 2 post college guys, and 3 adult men at different stages of life.  Goofing around was great.  Day hiking peaks was great. Eating gross freeze dried food.  And dealing with the gas that followed.  But the biggest highlight was sitting around in a circle on our last morning together.

Every guy shared a verse in scripture that is meaningful to them right now, and the responses were amazing.  Not amazing because so many guys are sold out for Jesus, but amazing because every guy shared in a way that was deep and authentic.  The sharing ranged from fully doubting faith, to feeling like God is calling them into ministry.

As everyone shared, I noticed an amazing thing taking place.  The high school guys were watching the college guys, who were watching the adult guys.  And by having guys to look up to, their current drama and angst was now placed in context.

After sharing, there was some organic conversation that arose between our high school kids and the adults as we hiked down the hill.  Instead of shame or guilt for their struggles, they were affirmed for their authenticity.  Instead of faking some idealized version of manhood, these guys got to see that doubt is a natural part of faith formation.

For the guys on this trip, and for the guys in my ministry, I am convinced more than ever, that the way through is by simply living life on life.  Guys need men older to look up to and guys younger to pour into.  When this happens, the smokescreens, apathy, and doubt can be part of the faith process and not simply roadblocks.

I am thankful for the older guys in my life.

As I reflect on this last weekend, I am so thankful for the older guys in my life that walked with me through all sorts of crazy seasons of life.  I am thankful that they modeled love for Jesus and a love for me.  My prayer for the guys on this trip is that they too would come to love Jesus and love one another.

I am thankful that our ministry has a number of guys around who are pursuing Jesus and willing to share their lives with these high schoolers.  For it is life on life where transformation happens.  And as we share life we get to wrestle through doubt, bust up smokescreens, and invite these younger guys into the wild adventure that is becoming a godly man.

Graduation

What do you want your graduating seniors to leave with from their time in your student ministry?

I used to have big dreams for my students when they graduated and moved on from my student ministry.  I wanted my students to be grounded in their faith, solid in their theology, disciplined in their life and life style, pure in their convictions, and ready to jump into college with a heart for ministry.  Their college pastors would be so impressed and would be able to launch my students into vital ministries to reach their college for Jesus.  Oh, those were some good dreams.

As I got older and a little more jaded, I lowered my expectations.  I wanted students who could articulate the gospel and who were ready to jump into college clear in their theology and disciplined with their convictions.  Maybe campus ministry wasn’t for everyone.  I was willing to let that go.  Oh, so jaded.  Hahaha

My dreams for my students are much more simple these days

I am still wrestling with this is a dream from God or a pragmatic approach lowering my goals to something I can actually achieve.  Either way, I have landed on a goal for my seniors that helps me work backwards and informs my student ministry, and keeps me full of hope and grace.  It is simply this:

I want my graduating seniors to have a positive experience from their time at church and exposing them to a faith that is worthy of consideration into adulthood.  

Everything I do for student ministry is to help students feel loved and valued by our church community.  Church is a place where students are seen and cared for, where they are given every benefit of the doubt, and they are loved and welcome no matter what.  This goes for them, their friends, and their family.  No matter their background, their lifestyle, their socio-economic class, their sexuality.  No matter what, they receive unending love and grace by me, my leaders, and the pastors at large.

The faith we lay out is a faith that is complex, deep, and transforming.  There is little room for flannelgraphs, bumper stickers, or slick graphics.  Faith in Jesus is some of the deepest waters you can swim in.  These deep waters are hard to understand and grapple with as a 14 year old, and a little less so as an 18 year old.  But our students need to not be fed simple spirituality that crumbles at the slightest push back from a professor, moral failure, or personal crisis.  These non easy answers are difficult on the short term, but will save their soul into adult hood.

I love Jesus and I want my students to love Him as well.  

The best way for this to happen is for our students to maintain a positive view of the church and have enough great touch points with Jesus that they would consider putting their trust in Him when they are adults.

As you get ready to launch your graduating seniors into the big, bad world, what is the legacy you want to pass on?  What is the main thing you want them to hold on to as they leave?  My hope for my seniors is a love for the church and a faith that is worth considering into adulthood.  You?

I think baseball is an amazing sport. On the surface, it is a simple game, hitting and fielding. But the more you dive into the game, the more you see the deep strategy, pitch selection, and the never ending statistics. Since my dream of becoming a professional baseball player didn’t pan out, I am now putting that pressure on my son. So, this last spring we signed him up for his first season of T-ball. It is quite an entertaining sight to watch a group of 5 year olds learning the game of baseball. The first season of T-ball is just that, learning the very basics. By the end of the season, this kids mostly know their positions, the direction to run around the bases, how to hit a ball off a T, and that is about it. But the foundation has been laid and a trajectory set for these kids to become legitimate baseball players and for my son to fulfill my dream of playing in the Bigs!

But, even more than my son playing professional baseball, my dream for him is to be a godly man who loves Jesus. And as he loves Jesus, to live a life that reflects that love in his personal life. As his personal life reflects his love for Jesus to live “within the culture as a missionary who is as faithful to the Father an his gospel as Jesus was in his own time and place.”

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As spring is fully upon us, and I reflect on our ministry and the students that have come through the doors this school year, I have realized that there are quite a large number of students who have come and gone and no longer part of our youth ministry community.  I get that sports, school, schedules, etc are the cause for a lot of this drop off.  But most of the reasons that initially caused students to drop off or fade away are no longer part of their reality.  They are now simply out of the habit.  So, the real question is, how do we get these students back in the habit of being part of our community?  Here is what I do: Continue Reading…

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As I have watched Frozen over and over and over, I have found myself approaching this movie from all sorts of different fronts.  But this last time I watched it I saw something I never saw before, Anna is the ultimate youth worker.

Anna is young and idealistic and pursues her sister (our students) with all of who she is.  She longs to be connected and share life and even though she is shut out from the bulk of her sister’s life, she has nothing but hope and good will for her sister.

Elsa is the classic student.  For whatever amount of personal pain and shut down they have experienced, their world is pretty egocentric.  She is special, in fact, the most special kid on the planet. And this uniqueness means that she is misunderstood and angst ridden.  She runs away to protect others, and really herself.

Even though Anna has been shut out and shut down, she always runs after her sister, always hopes for a restored relationship, and selflessly gives up her life for the sake of her sister.  And this selfless love, in the end actually restores relationship.

My hope is that my heart would be more and more like Anna’s.  

  • That I will always leave the safety and comfort of the castle, of the 99 and run after the one.
  • That I will not get bitter or disillusioned when my pursuit is not reciprocated.
  • That, in the end, I would actually gladly lay down my life, pour out my life over and over again so that by some possible means relationship would be restored; relationship with me, and mostly relationship with their Heavenly Father.

I love that there is so much to think about and process in this movie.  For me, this time around, I am thankful that God used it to touch my heart, to soften it, and remind me again of what I am truly called to do and be as a youth worker!

“Do you want to build a snowman?”

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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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I love at attractional ministry as much as the next guy.  I love the hype, the big games, the thrill of the crowd, the dynamics of a full room.  In fact, most of how I judge my effectiveness in student ministry is by how full I can get the room.

But one of the pit falls of this approach is that us youth workers end up ministering to the “crowd” and not to the individual students.  As a crowd, students generally play ball.  They engage games, seem to engage in worship, listen quietly and give us adults the answers we want to hear in small groups.

This is all well and good and strokes our ego.  But my fear is that as we engage the crowd, we loose sight of the individual students, their stories, their issues, and their world view.

The more time I spend with students, I am convinced that students are more than rebellious teens, or broken in need of healing, but they are straight up lost.  They have no idea what end is up or who or why they ended up where they are or do what the do.

Even though they may play ball in our system, the truth is that their world view is so far removed from ours.  And if this is the case, the we must as the question, “What are we really doing as a student ministry?”

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My best “go to” game!

February 19, 2014 — 6 Comments

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Ok, it is Wednesday and you have been cranking out a semester and a half of youth ministry.  Are you looking for a simple and fun game that takes practically zero set up, engages the entire group, AND is actually pretty fun?  Then this is the game for you.  (I am not taking credit as this game’s inventor, I just love it and it has been my go to for over 10 years)  No, its not shuffle your buns, which is my, not fun, go to, game.  It is a game called:  CATEGORIES

SET UP:  Circle of chairs, pitcher of water, cup of water.  This game is great for groups of 10-30 or for large groups, simply divide into groups of 10-30.  Have everyone sit in a chair in a circle with one person in the middle.

THE OBJECT:  The object of the game is to simply not get splashed with water.

RULES:  The person in the center of the circle picks a category.  They could pick any category.  Some simple ones that can get you started are: states, subjects in school, subjects in school, baseball teams, candy bars, cereal, boy bands, people in the room.  Once a category has been called, the person in the middle tells me, the leader the specific item in that category.  (This keeps everyone honest)  Then I take the pitcher of water and pour some of it in the cup of water and give it to the person in the center.

GAME PLAY:  The person in the center calls the category:  Candy Bars!  Then goes around the circle so that everyone takes their turn naming a candy bar.  The people sitting down call out candy bars hoping to not say the one that the person in the center told the leader.  If they say “Snickers,” the item that was told to the leader, then that person gets splashed with water.   Or if someone repeats what someone else said they get jacked with some water as well.  Then the person who got splashed takes a turn as the person in the center.

That’s it!  Enjoy!

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One of the most important aspects to a balanced and thriving student ministry is having an intentional scope and sequence to your curriculum.  We must be intentional with what we teach and to use the limited amount of time we have with our students well.  And while many of you are thoughtful about your teaching and are biblically deep, contextually astute, and clever as all get out, there might be one significant area that gets left out.

I am sure that you would agree that our culture is getting more and more coarse.  Students are increasingly self absorbed and rude.  Maybe the truth is that you don’t even realize it anymore or have simply died to it.  Maybe you think that you will lose street cred if you push back against their entitlement mentality.  Or maybe you are satisfied that you can at last get them to say grace when you are all together for a meal.

As students become more and more isolated, they have fewer and fewer places in their lives where they actually have to consider others.  Their music choices, their movie choices, their food choices are all individualized.  Whatever they want whenever they want it is their instinct and highest value.  If at any time a student is done paying attention in a group, they simply need to plug in their ear buds, check facebook, and check out.

Why manners are important:

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Bribery_Pays

I remember it like it was yesterday.  I had an outreach event where we used a raffle with a huge prize as an incentive to have kids come to youth group and to bring friends.  The prize was HUGE and so was the criticism I received form my intern and her recently received B.A. in youth ministry.  The bribe worked and a ton of students came to our student ministry, and this event turned the corner in momentum of for our ministry.  And unfortunately turned my interns heart away from me and student ministry.  Which leads me to this question:

Is there harm in bribing kids to come to youth group?

Now, before you get all judgmental or self righteousness in your theology, why are you really opposed to bribing kids to come to youth group?  I’ve heard the arguments:

  • That people live out the gospel that they are introduced to.  
  • That bribing kids doesn’t correctly portray the life of faith that we are called to live.  
  • Bribing highlights students selfishness and doesn’t help students live the kingdom life that they are designed to live.

But aren’t these arguments simply the pontificating of youth workers who have given up a little bit?

Remember back you your middle and high school experience.  Why did you come to faith? Was it a cute boy or girl?  You didn’t want to go to hell? Jesus would give you a better life?  We are all selfish and self absorbed at first.  Meeting some of these needs is just getting our foot in the door.  And Jesus does that with us, we do that in every other ministry, and for students, it is the same.

#bribing4jesus

What do you do to get kids to come to your program?  How is that not bribing?  What if you embraced that reality and capitalized on it?

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#pearlsbeforeswine

Context: Driving a couple of high school boys to youth group talking about movies and the ones we want to see and the ones we are bummed we missed while they were in theaters.

Student: I really wanted to see Don Jon.

Me: That movie has an interesting premise. All that porn that you look at ultimately messed up your relationship with the woman you want to love. If you aren’t careful you will get used to porn and prefer it to actual sex and then you and your relationship / marriage will be in trouble.

Student: I just think Scarlett Johansson is hot.

#bestjobever

(Here is some further reading on how porn is changing sexual appetites from the NY Magazine.  The Porn Myth.)

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Ever since my first day in student ministry, my number one goal has been to cancel Sunday School.  I mean, come on, everyone knows that Sunday school is the dumbest ministry model on the planet.  It is awful on just about every level.  9:00 on a Sunday morning is the absolute worst time in the entire world for any sort of ministry, especially to adolescents.  We try and try and try to make this hour of spiritual formation relevant and matter to a group of kids who could actually care less.  But it seems as much as we try to put a nail in the coffin of this antiquated mode of ministry, I could never muster the political capitol to pull it off.  That is, until the perfect storm of events allowed me to do just that.

This last spring we had to move our entire church off our main campus to a hotel ball room while we underwent some construction and renovations.  We went from two services with spiritual formation and student Sunday school during the first gathering, to a situation where we were only going to have one service.  The best part is that I didn’t even have a choice.  There were logistically not enough rooms to do church, children’s ministry and Sunday School for students.

When I was approached with this dilemma, I hung my head in grief and said that I would, reluctantly, take one for the team and cancel Sunday School.  On the inside, I was freaking out!  It just happened.  My dream for almost 20 years became a reality and it actually gained me political points instead of costing every point I have ever earned.

And I have to tell you, those first few months of not having Sunday School was a dream come true.  There was no more Sunday morning anxiety or dread for having to face a room full of apathetic and judgmental kids.  No more dealing with the zero feedback on the incredible curriculum I have put together for the morning.  Yes, my only responsibility was to simply glad-hand students and their parents as they walked past to their seats, and again as they left.  I WAS FREE!!

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR:

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Christmas and divorce

December 9, 2013 — 1 Comment

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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.

With that being said, this conversation did help me realize that because all parents don’t expect to be divorced, don’t expect to have divided holidays, and now don’t know how to navigate the holidays, specifically Christmas in-light of their new divorced situation.  Here are a couple of helpful tips to navigate this new family rhythm:

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There have been a number of articles, (here, here, and here) and news stories about how young people are leaving Facebook in droves.  I get that part of it has to do that it is because parents are there and they want autonomy.  And while I will not disagree with this theory, I think there is something else going on.  What if students departure from Facebook was not just about autonomy, but about developmental stagnation.

Facebook made its name by connecting college students through a social network.  College students were able to connect with friends, classmates, and people with like minded passions.  College students by where age are more mature and socially developed than students in high school and middle school.  Especially in the beginning back when college students still actually talked face to face with one another.

To survive and thrive on the Facebook platform takes some social chops.  You have to know what to post, how to present yourself, what to reveal about yourself and at every turn there is an opportunity for feedback.  You can like something and comment on something and all these interactions are visible to your entire network.  Managing this actually takes skill, humor, wisdom, and discernment.   Oh, and most importantly, this takes actually knowing how to maintain friendships.  Hence, “friends.”

I think students are departing Facebook in droves because students don’t know how to have “friends.”  

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How do we help a generation who has no sin see their need for a savior?

A major part of our calling as youth workers is the vital task of evangelism. Unfortunately the tyranny of the urgent puts our true calling on the back burner. We have programs to run, bible studies to lead, and parents to keep happy. As great as these are to do, very few of us got into student ministry because we love programs and managing parents. Many of us got into student ministry because we have a heart for this broken and lost generation. We are cross cultural missionaries called to the field to connect with early and mid-adolescents so that, by any means necessary, they will come to know Jesus.

“I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some “ 1 Corinthians 9:22

Classic Evangelism: This verse sums up the classical understanding of evangelism. Simply we want people who don’t know Jesus yet to know him as their Lord and Savior. We want to use whatever means, whatever stories, whatever programs, whatever resources are needed to do it.

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Retelling a lost story

October 21, 2013 — Leave a comment

This article was originally published at youthworkerjournal.com

wicked

Remember This Movie: Lions and tigers and bears, ___________! If you could immediately fill in the blank, then, whether you realize it or not, you have been impacted by culture. If upon further thought, you could fill in the blank and your mind went to Dorothy and her companions walking along a yellow brick road towards Oz, then you have some context for that cultural expression. And if the conclusion of that statement causes you begin to think about your favorite scenes, smile at the munchkins, hum a song, and even have fond memories of seasons of life when you enjoyed watching the film, then you are part of the generation that has been impacted by the movie, The Wizard of Oz.

Many of us have grown up with this movie. We know the songs, we know the stories, and we know the characters. We have seen poor high school versions of this movie, and even a brave interpretation of the story by Micahel Jackson. And because this story is so ingrained in our current pop culture, there was a place for someone to come along and use that story to tell a fuller story. And that is exactly what happened in the production of Wicked.

In case you haven’t seen the play, which I highly recommend, let me give you a quick synopsis. Wicked is a more complete story of what is going on in Oz during the time of Dorothy. The movie is Dorothy’s story, and the play is the unfolding drama between the two witches, Galinda, the Good Witch of the North and Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. All by itself, Wicked is a compelling play with great characters and music. But what makes Wicked amazing is that it so incredibly clever.

Wicked tells the story by weaving in and out of the movie the Wizard of Oz. They reference people, places, and scenes. It is as if you get to walk through Oz and occasionally cross the yellow brick road just missing Dorothy and her entourage. During the entire play you have, “Ah, ha!” moments as you put all the pieces together. I found it to be a great evening of fun and incredibly refreshing. As I was driving home, I realized how much more I would have enjoyed this play if I had rented the Wizard of Oz before and re-familiarized myself with the original story. There was so much I missed, and if I weren’t so cheap I would have done that.

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Orange is the new Black

September 30, 2013 — Leave a comment

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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.

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