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Sticky Faith

January 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Over the past five years, I have been blessed to get to know Kara Powell and Brad Griffin from the Fuller Youth Institute.  In 2006, I got my first glimpse of the initial findings from the College Transitions Project research when Kara presented at AYME (Association of Youth Ministry Educators).  Since then, I have followed closely FYI’s findings as they relate to what they have coined Sticky Faith.

The College Transitions Project followed the lives of youth from youth ministries similar to yours as they journeyed to college.  The project sought to learn how this transition affected a young person’s faith.  I am grateful to FYI for taking on such an important project and for the practical ways in which they are sharing their results.

If you have not picked up a copy of Sticky Faith, then you need to buy it today.  No one is claiming that the project was a perfect analysis of all the teenagers in this country, however FYI has researched, investigate, interviewed, and faithfully sought to learn and share as much as they can on this subject.  I believe their findings will hit close to home for most of you.

The research itself did not provide shocking results, but instead confirmed many youth ministers’ hunches.  It provided evidence.  Then, FYI has faithfully sought to learn what they can from the research about what makes Faith Stick.  When is the tape or glue holding a young persons identity in Christ together to weak?  How can we recognize this?  What practices can we implement that make Faith Sticky?

You will find insights into the research and practical responses inside the pages of Sticky Faith.  They provide insights into what you can do as a youth worker, how you can help families, and what the church can do to build lasting faith in young people.  I personally was blessed by the chapter on helping parents both in thinking about my own parenting and thinking about how to better equip parents.

Thank you to Kara, Brad, and Cheryl for your investment in this project on behalf of youth ministry over the past 8 years.  We look forward to continuing to learn together how to make Faith Sticky!

After you read the book, check out FYI’s new Sticky Faith Teen curriculum that just came out last week.  You can also try out a sample lesson from the curriculum called How do I see myself after Graduation? by Kara and Brad.  Finally, don’t miss out on FYI’s new parent curriculum either made up of 5 great lessons to help parents

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My Blindness

April 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Am I a racist? I like to believe I”m not.

Is the church racist? I like to believe its not either.

Is my church racist?  We try to act like we are not.

In John’s story of the man born blind (Chapter 9).  Jesus tells the pharisees and us that “If you were blind, you would not have sin.  But now that you say ‘We see,’ your sin remains.  In a recent sermon, I preached in lent on the man born blind.  I found this statement challenging for the church and myself.  I reflected, “I am not a racist, yet I am blind to racism all around me.”

I had great friends in elementary school, middle school, and high school who were African-American.  I had a few in college.  They taught me so much about life, friendship, and … the challenges of racial relationships in Memphis, Mayfield, and a private Christian College.  But where are those friendships in my life today?

CYMT’s second year students are looking this week at a piece of Beverly Tatum’s “Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”  She rightfully points to fear. Why are we so afraid of the other?  Why are we so insecure in our place on the bus that we can’t let others sit beside us?

I live in a community that is insulated from racial diversity – 94% white.  There are many wonderful attributes in our community – value on education, opportunity, nature, safety – but it does not reflect the real world.  I am afraid that we have created a space that keeps others out to protect our insecurities, than a place that is truly about expanding opportunities.   Our community has it all or do we.  We are rich and yet we are poor.  Our blindness and fear has prevented us from a larger world that looks more like the kindgom of God.  I have a fear that my daughters will not be prepared for the world because where they live looks very little like the real world.

My blindness is apparent.  Will I look for new relationships with my brothers and sisters of another color or race?  Will I like the lawyer in A Time to Kill take my family across the “tracks” and overcome our fears while teaching our children.  Can I recognize my Lord and Savior if I do not acknowledge my Brother and Sister in Christ?

Jesus heal my blindness!

Categories: Youth Ministry

Make Church work More Fun – #2 Play Gotcha!

March 25, 2011 Leave a comment

In my recent post 5 Things to make Church Work More Fun, I listed the following things as some ideas for how to overcome the mundane challenges that sometimes come with working on a church staff.

  1. Celebrate
  2. Play Together
  3. Laugh
  4. Share Stories
  5. Worship Together

I promised to unpack them, so here is number 2 play together!  Why are games important to youth ministry, because it creates space for youth to build relationships and common experiences with each other.  In preparing for staff retreats or planning days, I always remember being asked to “do something that is fun and builds team.”  I remember being offended the first time I was asked. Surely, I had something more to offer in leadership that games and team builders.  I did and I did on the retreat. But what I found was that my youth ministry gifts were extremely valuable to our time together, because the games and team builders broke down walls, loosened people up, and create creative space just like they do in youth group.

Over the years, I have led lots of games with church staffs.  Some of my all time favorite moments come from the following activities:

  1. Bowling – you just don’t have to be good
  2. Ropes Course or ropes course activities (its lots of fun to be the leader)
  3. Encore – a great game that involves singing

But my all time favorite was an idea by Paul Bonner my junior high youth minister.  We worked on a large church staff with 60+ staff members.  Paul convinced our senior pastor to play Gotcha!  You may remember the 80’s movie (I guess actually most of you don’t because you weren’t born yet). Here’s how you play:

Supplies:

  • Small water gun pistols for everyone on the staff (or in your youth group)
  • Strips of paper with the names of everyone participating on them (one name per strip)
  • You may want to create rules sheets in case people try to cheat

How2

Everyone receives a piece of paper with a name on it(they should not have their own name and you need to make sure that two people don’t have each other’s names otherwise the game will end prematurely) and a water gun.  Here are the rules:

  • Each participant attempts to shoot the person whose name they receive with the water gun.
  • Participants must keep their names a secret until they shoot the person.
  • Participants can only be shoot under the following conditions:
    • A witness must be present
    • It can only happen on the church premises
    • During working hours
    • Worship service times are off limits
    • Bathrooms are off limits
  • After shooting their person, the staff member declares, “Gotcha!”
  • The person who was “got” gives the person who shot them their name which becomes their next target
  • You can only “get” your target.
  • Your only defense against the person after you is to avoid being got.  So avoid places with witnesses and run fast.
  • Play continues until the winner gets their own name.

Notes:

Giving out names is key to a successful event, because you want to avoid an early end where someone gets their name before everyone else is eliminated.  This happens sometimes if you have an even number of people.  In the scenario below, you could end up with 2 winners who don’t know abou the other.  An odd number of people and making sure two people don’t have each other eliminates this problem.

  • Deech – Mindi
  • Mindi – Lesleigh
  • Lesliegh – Deech
  • Andrew – Julia
  • Julia – Jim
  • JIm – Andrew

Our staff had a blast.  Some took the game more seriously than others.  But after 7 days, our pastors administrative assistant was the winner.  She took me out on day two by simply telling me that the senior pastor needed to see me.

What other things have you done as a staff to have fun?

Categories: Youth Ministry

Encore – Hysterical Singing Game

March 25, 2011 5 comments

When I was in high school, I played the board game encore.  When I became a youth minister, I adjusted encore to make it one of my groups favorite games and group building activities.  Because youth love music and listen to all kinds, this game has the potential to engage everyone and not to many games can do that.  I quick google search showed that the game still exists and that you can purchase it from Amazon for $12.  I have played it for years and never purchased it until today.  I think it will be worth the $12 investment, but you can try it out with your group using my adjusted rules and see if you like it first.

Supplies:

  • A list of words you would might find in a song.  For an hour long game, you’ll need 10-15 words.
  • Something to keep score on

How2

Divide your group up into teams of 3-10 people.  This game is best played with no more than 4 groups and 40 people.

The group on your left starts the first round.  Each round, you will move clockwise with a new group starting.

The leader will share the “word” that each group must sing.  Then beginning with the first group, each group or individual in that group must sing a phrase from a song containing the “word” and 5 other words.  The first group has 20 seconds to sing/say the phrase. Then moving clockwise groups continue to sing/say songs with the “word”. After the first group, the time limit is reduced to 10 seconds.  A group is eliminated from the round if they cannot think of a song or they sing a song that has already been sung.  The last group standing gets a point.

Here are some “words” that work well.

  • Blue
  • Love
  • Heart
  • Train
  • Plane
  • Tractor

You can also use topics like:

  • Girls Name
  • Transportation that doesn’t have wheels ie. walking, running, hot air balloon, etc.
  • Types of Cars
  • Hymns
  • Food
  • Cartoon Theme Songs

Notes:

If it appears they will go forever on a topic, award points to all groups or whoever still remains and move on to the next topic.  If you are playing, it helps to have a piece of paper and pen so that you can make a list of possible songs and be prepared when your turn comes around and to eliminate songs sung by other groups.  You will have to determine what’s a song.  Expect to get commercial jingles and other short jingles in addition to songs.  You’ll have to make the rule “one way or the other.”

Warnings:

Hopefully, your group will understand to keep it clean; but if your group is like my group then a friendly reminder might be in order!

Steps of Justice

March 23, 2011 Leave a comment

If you are not familiar with Steps of Justice, I want to quickly introduce you to Phil Cunningham and the important work they are doing. Take a moment to watch this video and share it with others.  Visit Steps of Justice for a free 30 Day Prayer Guide that you can use with your students to introduce them to the social justice issues that our world faces.  It’s worth your time.

How have you engaged your kids in acts of justice?

Don’t Lose Your Life to Youth Ministry

March 15, 2011 4 comments

My Problem

I can remember counting every hour I worked my first two years in youth ministry to justify a raise.  I don’t remember the exact number, but I went to the personnel committee averaging somewhere around 65 hours per week.  How in the world did I average 65 hours?  Well, I counted the 40-50 that I put in working 5 1/2 days a week.  Then, there were the trips, retreats, lock-in’s, 30 Hour Famine’s, etc.  I would count every hour – all 24 – when on a trip or retreat.  I justified it by saying if something happened in the middle of the night I was responsible and had to deal with it.  Makes sense right?

Wrong.  Sleeping (even if only for a few hours because kids are up half the night) does not constitute a work hour.  Although I did have some interesting part-time jobs where I did get paid to sleep (even if I wasn’t supposed to).  But the argument, I was trying to make did have validity not about a raise, but about how much I was working. Unfortunately, I was working at a church at that time that did not recognize either the need for a raise or that i was overworking myself.

But what do you do when you work all week and then go on a 3-day retreat and are expected to be at a Monday morning meeting? I was headed toward mental and physical burnout and being young and single was not a good excuse.

National Problem

The national burnout rate in youth ministry is 3.9 years! Youth Ministers called by God leave the church to sell insurance primarily because working in the church is too hard.  There are a multitude of reasons for this including lack of training and support, pay, and yes long hours.  The church is responsible for a lot of these conditions, but some of them we have control over and must take responsibility for ourselves.

It’s not  Jesus’ fault either, I don’t think he intended for us to “lose our life” the way so many of us take it.  Yes, give everything in our life to Jesus but that does not mean excluding parts of our life – family, friends, etc. – for ministry.  We should give those pieces of our life to Christ as well.  We have more responsibilities in this life than our job.

Avoiding Burnout

Here are 3 not-so-easy steps to avoid burnout. They are not-so-easy because youth ministers are prone to having savior complexes that lead to overworking.  Some friendly advice from someone who still is learning to do these things.  Get over yourself, and get a life!

Manage Your Time or It will Manage you

The Center for Youth Ministry Training supervises lots of young youth workers. One of the components of the program is that each graduate resident receives a veteran youth minister who walks with them during the 3 years of our program.  One of the key ingredients to the coaching program is time management.  If you don’t learn to set boundaries around your time, your time will manage you and you will lose your life to the church.

It is important for you to learn that you can not do it all.  There will always be more to do.  Don’t trick yourself into thinking that you can take a day off or a vacation when you get it all done.  You will be more productive at your job if you are rested and physically and mentally healthy.    Find a time management program that works for you.  CYMT uses the rhythmic week with our students which forces them to find one full day (3-4 hour blocks) during the week that is down time.  The blocks can move around during the week, but they can not go away!

Friends are people who KNOW you!

Another problem that ministers and youth ministers have in common is that we have no friends.  We have a lot of acquaintances.  Parents of youth, volunteers, church members, other staff can all be surface level relationships.  But do you have true friends?  People who know what’s going on in your life.  If you don’t, then you without a doubt feel lonely.  Who are you in a relationship with that loves and accepts you for who your are?  If you are going to make it in ministry and have a life, you are going to need people like this in your life.  If you aren’t managing your time, then you won’t have time to invest in relationships to have friends.  You don’t have enough time in this life to not have friends!

Exercise makes us feel better!

It’s just true.  Your body feels better when you exercise.  Run, walk, chase a ball, throw a frisbee, dance, hike, or climb!  I don’t care but your body does and you will be a better minister for it.  Again, no time to exercise means bad time management.  In this case, your life actually depends on it.

This blog is as much to me as it is to you!  I’m trying cycling as a physical outlet right now.  I’m trying to avoid working at home at night.  I want to be present with my kids and wife.

What have you found that helps you not lose your life?

I’m migrating this blog to ymblogs.com.  I hope you will join me there!

Importance of Balcony Time in Youth Ministry

March 11, 2011 Leave a comment

I used to coach soccer and one of the most valuable teaching tools I would use would be video of our games that was shot from the top of a stadium.  This video was valuable because you could see the whole field.  I would teach our videographers to only pan from one half of the field to the other.  They always wanted to be ESPN cameramen and zoom in.  But what I wanted was video that would show my players, the whole field.  When they are playing in the game they could only see parts of the field, they could not see how all the parts were working together and how to adjust the parts so that we could be more successful.

Mark DeVries taught me the power of this idea in youth ministry.  He likes to call it balcony time.  Balcony time is a chance to pull back from the immediate needs of ministry and to go into the balcony and watch what is going on.  Balcony time can happen literally by taking a week to allow others to carry the responsibility and watching your ministry happen with a critical eye for how things work or do not work together.  Were new students welcomed?  Did we start on time?  Was the band ready?  Was the game prepared?

Balcony time can also happen figuratively as a youth minister finds time and space to reflect on all the parts of the ministry and evaluate the health of each part and how they are working together.

Offensive and Defensive Coordinators on football teams bring balcony time and ministry time together into strategic planning on the fly.  Many coordinators work from the booths high above the stadium so that they can watch how plays are developing and see the whole field.  They communicate with assistants who are on the field relaying the information to the players.  Other coordinators like to be on the sidelines where they can directly communicate with the players, but they have trusted assistants in the booths who relay what they see.

Unfortunately in youth ministry we often plan on-the-fly, but without the insight of what is happening in the balcony.  We get narrow-sighted by what we are experiencing on the field.  We can not see all the parts and how they are affecting each other and make on-the-fly decisions under informed decisions.

I encourage all of us to take time each month (an hour to 1/2 a day is plenty) to get in the balcony and pay attention to how everything is working together, to use that time to strategically think about how we can improve our communication, our response, our ministry so that we offer our best.

Here are some questions that you might use to guide your reflection:

  • Where are we having the most success (as you choose to define it)?
  • What area of the ministry causes me (us) the most anxiety? Why?
  • What are the challenges facing each area of the ministry?
  • Where am I spending too much time?  Not enough?
  • What volunteers are ready for more responsibility?
  • What areas are under resourced – $, time, volunteers?
  • What am I doing that someone else could do?
  • Are we accomplishing our mission?  Does each program help accomplish the mission?
  • How well are we connecting the youth ministry to the church body?
  • How are our transition points – children’s ministry to junior high to senior high to? Others?

Make actionable steps that you can begin to put into place.  Be sure to take it one step at a time!  From time to time be sure to get feedback from your team about balcony issues.  They may see things that you missed.

Growing together question? How has balcony time impacted your ministry?  What advice would you add?

My blog is gradually moving to ymblogs.com. I hope you’ll join me there.