How has your personal spiritual life been lately – specifically your Bible reading?
How has your personal spiritual life been lately – specifically your Bible reading?
Please humor me, this is just the a Youth Pastor throwing stuff against a wall to see what sticks…
The following questions questions come from some of the planning meetings we are having at our church to set down a 2 year and 5 year plan for the ministries here:
These were some of my questions. I don’t really place any of them higher in priority than any others, but I hope that some of them can help you and challenge you in your ministry.
Brent Lacy is Youth Pastor at First Baptist Church, Rockville, Indiana. He is a Dad to 3 Kids, a Web Developer, an IT Consultant, and Blogs about Ministry, Tech, and Culture at MinistryPlace.net.
While I was watching Food Inc. a few weeks ago I had a very peculiar thought… And no it wasn’t I can’t believe I’ve been eating that food… But that one of the farmers they were interviewing, made a comment that as farmers began looking to grow (the size of their farm, make more money, etc.) they stopped looking at the product they were making and the people who were to be the end consumers. Then I realized that as Youth Pastors we are more often than not tempted to try and accomplish this same thing… At so many churches there is either explicit (hopefully not) or implicit expectation of growth. And there becomes this stigma that if your youth group isn’t growing exponentially then you are not a “good” youth pastor. This in turn adds an added pressure or stress to grow… So growth becomes silently more important than the spiritual health of your students. And to get more students coming each week we slowly start teaching “softer” topics and not pushing buttons, and as a result we give students what they want instead of what they need. To the detriment of their spiritual development.
This needs to change CNN recently had an article posted on their homepage about the rise of moralistic therapeutic deism (the idea that God basically wants you to feel good about yourself by being a good person). The thought behind the article was that more and more teenagers are practicing this unauthentic Christianity. Yes part of this trend is based on parents and their lack of living the authentic Christian life in front of their children, but I believe part of the blame should rest heavily upon the shoulders of Youth Pastors. I believe wholeheartedly that there needs to be attractional elements to our ministries. But at the core we as Youth Pastors need to make sure we are being just as foundational as we are attractional. Because the bottom line is this entertaining Youth Pastors beget students who want to be entertained, but praying Youth Pastors beget praying students. If we as pastors began to pastor our students instead of trying to grow our group what would happen? Would we see a drop in attendance? Maybe? Or would we see a rise in fervency?
Maybe we would actually see our group grow because we are training them how to lead their friends and their schools to Christ… But then again what do I know? I’m just a twenty-seven year old youth pastor…
Nathan Derenski is the Youth Pastor Church on Fire Ministries. He Tumblers: www.natederenski.tumblr.com and Twitters: @natederenski
Much has been made of the “students leave their faith after high school” statistic in the past few months. Multiple books are coming out each month helping to try to address it. My friend Sue Tafalla sent me a link to another article on it, and one sentence in particular really stood out:
Imagine a group photo of all the students who come to your church (or live within your community of believers) in a typical year. Take a big fat marker and cross out three out of every four faces. That’s the probable toll of spiritual disengagement as students navigate through their faith during the next two decades.
I’m imagining it … and don’t like what I see. Let’s fight it, friends.
Phil (on our HSM team) is the captain of event planning. He posted the 5 Keys to Event Planning on his blog yesterday and thought you might benefit from the link. Here’s a couple of them, head there for the complete thought:
1. Know the purpose of the event
Why are you doing what you are doing? You need to figure this out early on. It may be an event that you’ve come up with yourself or one that you’re planning for another team member. If it’s the latter, ask! If it’s the former, check that there is a point and it isn’t simply something that you will find fun (though hopefully that will play at least a part). Write a mission statement, one sentence that sums up the event that can come back to to help you stay on track.
Even for a simple parent reception ask yourself what the intended outcome is…do you hope to meet parents yourself, present something to them, help them connect to each other, honor them as ministry partners or just take a moment to pray.
Never put an event on the calendar simply because it was there last year.
2. Know WHO the event is for
Parents, Students, Staff, Volunteers, Newcomers, well connected students, Christians, the whole youth group…
This is vital. If you plan a camp and invite non-Christians then your teaching must reflect that. If you want to run a discipleship retreat, figure out how to attract the specific demographic you’re after and tailor the retreat for them.
3. Work out a budget
Do this early on. Don’t fall into the mindset of “money doesn’t govern my ministry” because in many situations (like on the paper report you present to your senior pastor) it does!
Start with the big costs like Venue, Transportation and catering and then add in the next level of costs like a guest speaker etc.
Remember to ask questions when booking all of these, never assume anything – your budget will hate you for it. Check what you should tip a bus driver (I always ask to have the tip included in the contract), factor in room tax, check to see what A/V equipment is available and whether there is an extra charge. Don’t feel like you’re asking too many questions, remember, you are the client!
We’re making some little name shifts in our youth ministry these days – moving away from calling events by catchy, cool names and calling them by far less cute but very clear names.
Over and over again it feels obvious that insider names are nice for the core kids, but completely alienating for outsiders and confusing for people who bounce in and out. If you’re using a cool name for your youth event, plan on explaining it to parents and new students. If you’re using a Greek word for your small groups, your effort to please your hermeneutics professor will be lost on a 13-year old incoming freshman.
Clear wins every time. Here’s a few examples of what I’m talking about:
HSM Summer Camp
We used to call our summer camp by the destination camp we were attending, so we would call it Hume Lake or Camp Ojai. I love the traditions, but think it requires explanation to adults and clarity when a student shares their testimony about what happened there. Why not just call it camp? So now we call it HSM Summer Camp, enabling us to be very clear about what it is and less about the actual location. It also allows us to change camps without losing momentum or rebranding.
HSM Winter Retreat
This one had a great name originally – Chi Alpha (which means Christ First or Christs’ Ambassadors) – but honestly it wasn’t working in our culture. The students that attended last year loved the event, but when talking about it they would inevitably call it a “spiritual growth retreat” or “discipleship retreat” – so why didn’t we? Now that I think about it – even “discipleship” might not be clear, maybe we should even be considering a more student-friendly and clear word like “grow.”
We’re simply called HSM
I know that “the high school ministry at Saddleback Church” or “HSM” isn’t the sexiest name on the block. I hear of youth group names like IGNITE, maXimum or Warriors of L.I.G.H.T. and I think how boring ours sounds. But the clarity is worth it. Even within our own church, and I love our college ministry (Crave) and junior high ministry (Wildside), but they have to be constantly explained to outsiders.
So that’s what I’m thinking, and where we’re moving these days. Anyone agree/disagree? I’d LOVE to be convinced of the value in creating brand and identities with creative and unique names for groups and events.
I couldn’t be more excited to launch a new non-program for discipleship in our ministry we’re calling Grow on the Go (actually we’re revising and bringing this back from HSM past). We’re taking some simple small plastic bins from Target and dropping in some great biblical resources to help our small group leaders challenge students to take a spiritual step. To get a fuller understanding of how small groups are connected to spiritual growth and discipleship, maybe check out 5 Parts to a Typical Small Group Night or 6 Ways to Help Small Group Students Take a Spiritual Step.
So when a Life Group leader recognizes an opportunity to challenge a student to grow on their own, they have some tools right there (or in the trunk of their car) at their disposal. So what’s inside the bins? Glad you asked! We put 1 or 2 of the following resources in the mobile version of our Grow Booth:
I’m convinced that including a little bit of training on these tools at the beginning of the year and putting them in leader’s hands will make a big difference!