At youth ministry resources we are in youth ministry just like you. So our lives are devoted to considering the needs of the students in this generation, how to best reach them for Christ, and how to best equip them to reach others for Christ.
Recently, in that quest, we came up with the idea to start building custom apps for our own ministry and for yours as well. This came out of many things but one of those seeing the prevalence of technology in our lives and the lives of our students and thinking that there must be some way to redeem it and use it to further the Gospel. We still believe this and have seen it work. But there was a flaw in our mindset that occurs often in student ministry.
It is basically when you try to take a one size fits all approach. When we envisioned an app we envisioned what it would be like for our ministry and it has worked well. But while there are similarities between our ministry and yours, for the most part our ministries are unique. The students are different. Their situations are different. Their needs are different. And maybe most of all, the vision for how God wants to use you and them to reach others for Christ is probably different. We failed to realize this and instead put everyone's ministry into a box as far as what an app should like and contain and so many ministry app developers do.
Which is why now we are wanting to right this wrong. We still believe a custom app can be a great service for your ministry, but we want you to get what you need. So it is pretty simple now:
1. Contact us and let us know what you want in your app.
2. We make it happen.
So hop on over and check out our new custom app development program today.
But this lesson doesn't end with apps. It is bigger than that. Just because a book is popular, a training sounds good, or a strategy worked somewhere else, does not mean it is right for your ministry. We cannot fall in line with the church culture and trends in our world and do cookie cutter ministry. We instead we must be unique and fall in line with the will of God. Then as He directs us work a long side our students and our leadership to see what tools will best serve our purpose of reaching our communities and world for Christ.
In youth ministry, you choose youth ministry resources, write sermons, and plan events with a specific purpose in mind. I also assume that you those purposes come through study of scripture and prayer and trying to line your vision up with what God desires. And the great thing is that when we do that, there are specific promises in scripture that God promises to fulfill. But the problem is that too often I feel like we do not see those promises fulfilled in our ministries. Granted, at the end of the day our students have free will so we only have so much control and power, but God is a big God so I think there may be another reason that we are not seeing the kind of fruit we might want.
Have you ever been to Krispy Kreme Doughnuts? If not what you need to know is that they have a red light in the window. And if that light is on you are promised a free doughnut. Now imagine you go in and they do not get that doughnut. You would possibly flip out and demand they fulfill their guarantee, their promise. Why don't we claim the promises of God like that for our ministries? Why don't we cry out and pray that God do what He said He would do in the lives of our students. Too many times I think we just put our work in and feel good instead of going out and demanding more through prayer and sometimes even fasting. Granted God will work in His own time and for His own purposes but their are promises that He must fulfill.
Now here is the other thing, I do not believe that Krispy Kreme would ever deny you your free doughnut. They have integrity and a reputation to upheld. But how much more does God? God is perfect, holy and righteous. God wants to reveal Himself to the nations. So we must know that if we claim His promises He will want to work to fulfill them in our ministries and the lives of our students.
In youth ministry, be it events, youth ministry resources, or just the community of people we are ministering to, we must always be looking forward to make sure we are leading our people in the right direction and preparing them for what lies ahead. But in the process of doing that we often leave people behind because we forget to enjoy the present moment and we often lose people because we forget to appreciate and remember where we have come from. That is why as you evaluate your ministry there are a few things that I suggest you always consider as you make your plans for the road that lies ahead.
The Past- You must look towards the past. Partially so that you can remember your mistakes and learn from them and partially because it is always good to remember where God has brought you from. But another very important reason to look at the past is because there are people who have gotten your ministry to where it is and they are often still a valuable part of their ministry. And even though we should not do things just because we have always done them, it is important to consider why we have always done something and how making a change will effect important people in your ministry.
The Present- We cannot get so excited about the future that we forget what is going on in the moment. Plus, what is happening now, from our students spiritual health to the changes occurring in our community, our a big part of what will guide us as we head forward.
The Future- As you look to the future, you should first of all seek God's wisdom for what He wants for you. Then out of that I believe He will guide you as to where you should go. But please know that in this process I believe He will use the leaders and students around you in your ministry to give you wisdom and insights in to what the best plans may be.
It is important that we be visionary as student pastors and always look ahead. But as I believe you can see, at the same time it is important to remember where we have come from and where our youth ministry is today.
More than likely there will come a time in your life in youth ministry where you wonder if all the youth ministry resources, events, activities, etc., are worth it anymore. This is understandable as this is not always the easiest field to give your life to. You often feel overworked and under appreciated and wonder if you are making a difference. Some of this is reality, and some of this is simply Satan telling lies in our hearts and minds in an attempt to get us to abandon this important work. So in these moments what can we do?
Before I get into some specifics I want to say that for some of us, youth ministry may only be a season of our life, and so we may need to prayerfully consider moving on. But for most of us, I believe this is our permanent calling and we must work to fight through these times of doubt. Because now more than ever the harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few, so we must persevere as we work towards reaching this generation. Which is why I want to cover what I believe to be some of the top reasons why people leave student ministry and how we can overcome these obstacles. Please know that first and foremost is always prayer and community and accountability but there are other things we can do as well.
1. Money - This is not the highest paying job in the world so sometimes you might truly be struggling financially or sometimes you might just want to keep up with the Joneses. If it is the latter, then it is just time to pray and get your priorities straightened out. But if it is the former situation there are some things you can do before you decide to jump ship. One is to realize that God has probably always met your needs along the way so there is no need to fear. Second, see if there is anything you can sacrifice to make things a little smoother financially. You can also pray for God's continued blessing and provision. Finally, if need be, you may want to go in and ask for a raise. This may seem greedy but sometimes it is needed and deserved, and asking never hurt. All they can do is say no.
2. Overworked- This is nothing new in the church. For a long time 10% of the people have done 90% of the work. There are a couple of things you can do though. One is to make sure your vision is clear and you are actually overworked and not just settling in to negativity. But you can also get help. Look for people who you can empower to take on more responsibility so you do not have to do everything and maybe so you do not have to be at every single youth ministry event. Finally, you may want to look and see if you have unnecessary components to your schedule and just get rid of them.
3. Family issues- All I want to say on this is that your family comes first. So if you are feeling that there are difficulties at home do what it takes to fix them, even if it means slowing down or stepping away for a bit.
4. Sin- This has destroyed the life of many ministers. This is why you need clear boundaries and accountability in your life to make sure this does not happen to you. But if you do fall in to temptation you need to confess it and deal with it. You also need to accept the consequences, and hopefully you will be able to recover and not lose the ability to fulfill the calling God has placed on your life.
5. Self Doubt- This happens. We all have doubts at times. This is why I encourage you to have loving and supporting community around you that can encourage you and be a listening ear when you have these doubts. I also encourage you to journal. Write down when students get saved, write down when God moves, write down when you have great conversations. This way you can look back and realize God is using you and working through you and lives are being changed because of the work you are doing.
Youth ministry is not easy and the time may come for you to leave it. But if that times come I want it to be because of God's calling and nothing else. Hopefully these tips will help make sure that this is the case.
Youth ministry, along with the youth ministry resources we use to accomplish this task, are ever changing. Which is why it is important that we not only think about what we need to minister students today, but also for tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow is Sunday and we definitely need to be ready for that, but we also need to be ready for the figurative tomorrow of the future years ahead of us. This is important now more than ever, because with the quickly changing times that tomorrow we are speaking of will be here much sooner than we know of it. This is why I want to share and explain a few words that I believe are not only "resources" that are necessary in youth ministry today but will be absolutely vital for it in the future.
1. Community- More and more we students longing for community and connection. That is why there is a new flourishing social network launching every single day. There are many reasons for this but the main ones are that they are not getting the community they need from the places they used to get it, i.e. the home, and the use of social networks is just giving them a false sense of community which in turn makes them more isolated. This is why we must more and more make sure that our ministries our filled with opportunities for community. This does not necessarily mean lots of fellowships and activities, but could simply mean incorporating small groups as much as possible. Whatever it is though and whatever it looks like for you, the question,"How can I make students feel more connected to God, each other, and a leader?" should always be at the forefront of your mind.
2. Student Driven- Used we didn't mind sitting. I know at least for me, I had the normal teenage energy but I enjoyed sitting and listening to learn. But now students no longer want this. They want to experience and do. Therefore we must give students this opportunity. Our ministries must be student driven in the sense that students should be empowered and equipped to do ministry. And this not only helps reach them where they are, but also corrects the issue of previous generations who were smart in Biblical knowledge but did not actually go out and do anything.
3. Technology- I know, it is everywhere and you may be sick of it. But here is the thing. Technology is not going to replace the Bible or the truth in it. Technology is not going to change discipleship and how we reach the lost all that much. But it is an incredible tool we can use to more easily equip our students to do ministry and make them aware of what is going on. So I do not think we should throw all the old stuff out in favor of technology, which I was kind of alluding to in my first point. But I do think we need to look for ways that it can enhance what we are already doing, from teaching to outreach.
Youth ministry is always changing and this will continue. That is why it is vital for you to constantly take stock of what is happening in your community and your church to make sure you are ready. And in the midst of all this talk of change let me close by being clear on one thing. Sometimes it is difficult to change and that is because the change should not be made. And in those moments you must stand firm and make the wise choice. That is why you must be constantly in tune with God and where He is taking your ministry and have wise counsel around you so you know when it is time to change and when it is not. Having said all of that, I do believe that these three "changes" are things that will greatly improve your ministry now and in the future and are safe to make at any moment.
We have spent a lot of time here discussing youth ministry resources, sermons, and all other things youth ministry related. And anything we have shared and taught comes from years of experiences ( both good and bad), training we have gone through, and the study of scripture. So we believe that what we cover can be helpful to you as you minister to the students of this generation. But as we discuss this facet of ministry and what we believe it could and should look like, at some point you have to fill in that blank of what this ministry is for you.
Granted, scriptural truth and what it means for our lives does not change, but the context in which we minister in does. For example, I live in Texas and minister in what is a suburb of a large metropolitan area. But even though my community is called a suburb, we definitely are ministering in a more urban context. This gives me a specific mindset as I plan to do ministry and plan how to equip and empower my students to do ministry.
You may live in a different state or different country. You may live in a rural setting where the local church is still the center of the community. You may live in a place where the school gladly still allows you on campus or you may live in a place where you have to meet in secret to study God's word and pray.
Because of this it is important that you take anything type of training that is shared with you and see how it applies for you. This is because that while we are all working towards the same purpose, reaching this generation for Christ, the context in which we do it in is different and the students that we work with are probably different.
Therefore it is important for you now to take a few moments, take in all that we or any one else have shared with you about this thing called youth ministry, wrestle with scripture, pray carefully, and decide what this work you have been called to looks like for you so you can best reach the students in your community and the surrounding areas.
Youth ministry is not always easy. Which is why I want to take a moment to applaud you, because I know many of you have a great structure in place of youth ministry resources, events, programs, and relationships that and are doing a great job of reaching students for Christ. Plus, in the grand scheme of things, not many people are actively working towards reaching the students of this generation for Christ and so I thank you for your continued faithfulness in being a part of that work. I just wanted to take a second to share this encouragement with you because not only do you deserve it, but I also know that in ministry encouragement does not come near often enough. But even though we are doing well, we can always do better.
I know you already understand this probably, as you are taking the time to go out and search for more resources and learn more about ministry. But it is important to remind ourselves of this from time to time, so that we remember that even though we might be heading in the right direction we can always improve. This is is a good habit to be in because it keeps us humble, and it reminds us that God is not through with us yet. This then in turn sets a good example for our students and leaders as they realize the same is true in their own lives.
So here is what I want to challenge you to do. I want you to look for one to three areas in your own life or ministry where you can improve. Then as you look to implement those changes and lead out as an example, challenge your leaders and students to do the same. Now as you do this remember to do it with the same attitude that I have. The attitude that says, "It is not that we are doing a bad job it is just that we can always get better."
Please know I am doing this as well. I already know that I need to get more organized because I keep forgetting to do things that I told people I would and I know it makes them feel less valued. I also am working on working less, because I know God has called me to rest and this is something that I really struggle with because I feel like if I am not working I am wasting time or that things might not get done. And I need to realize that this actually boils down to an issue I have with letting go and trusting God.
Your weaknesses may be the same, they may be different, but either way I know we all have them. So take a few moments to identify them today, pray through them, formulate a plan, and then work that plan. Your ministry, your family, and your life will be much better if you do.
A lot of times in youth ministry we tend to over complicate things we throw a barrage of youth ministry resources on a variety of topics at our students along with a long list of things that students should and should not do. Doing this is natural because when you look at the world around us and see how much direction our teens and those around them need, you can not help but want to make sure that they get it and get it as soon as possible. But I think there is a way we can do this without in turn overwhelming and confusing our students or even possibly turning them away. And i believe the way to do this is by doing what Jesus taught.
When asked in Matthew 22:34-40 what the Greatest commandment was, Jesus said to love the Lord your God with all your mind, soul and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. He then goes on to say that everything that has been taught or written can be boiled down to these two things. And if you look at scripture you will find this to be truth. Everything can be summed up or boiled down to loving God and loving people.
So why not simplify your ministry this school year and focus in on these two things? Why not tell your students that Jesus taught that it is all about loving God and loving people and that this will be our mission this year? Because if you do I believe a couple of amazing things will happen. For one your students will be less confused and will have a clearer frame of reference as you study everything else in scripture. The other thing is though that by doing this you will be giving them something to live for instead of just a list of things to avoid and be against. Because when you choose the latter eventually students get burned out and lose interest because they know there must be more to life. But by doing the former you give them something more because they are set out on a journey of honoring God and they realize the weight that each decision carries and the freedom that comes with making the right choice in each situation.
Now, as the year goes on you still can cover a variety of topics. But hopefully you see that by starting here, all of that teaching will be much clearer. And hopefully the lives of the students in your youth ministry will be changed because of it.
Youth ministry tends to follow the same flow of schools. Well maybe not exactly since when they wind down for summer we get more busy than ever. But when the school year rams up we are usually ramping up too with new youth ministry resources and other ideas. With this in mind, I want to give you a few ideas for how you can kick start your ministry in the new school year.
1. Back To School Bash- The idea is basically to do a one night event to kick the school year off with music, games, food, and maybe even some giveaways. This gives your students an easy way to invite their friends to church. Now, I do want to say that events are not always the best idea but this time of year something like this usually works really well. I will say though that if you are going to do this even then do it right.
2. Service Day
- Share the Gospel- What's the point of students coming if they do not hear about Jesus? Make sure the Gospel is shared.
- Make sure students get connected- Make sure your students and leaders understand the goal is to get students to meet Christ and connect with your ministry. Then put things in place to make sure that happens.
- Get the word out.- Canvas neighborhoods, put up flyers, do whatever it takes to make sure students know that this is going on.
- Another idea is just to go out and look for opportunities to serve in your surrounding community. You could basically say that your ministry wants to be different this year and ask people if there is any way that you can serve them. 3. Prayer Night
- This may be the simplest and most powerful. Have a nigh with no games, no candy, no frills, and just pray. Pray for lost friends, pray for schools, pray for families, pray for your church, pray for your ministry, pray for anything you can think of. Then see what God does in the coming year. These are just some ideas that have worked for us. I am sure that you can find others. But mainly make sure that you take advantage of this time of year as an opportunity to relaunch your ministry and move towards even bigger things this coming year.
A lot of times in youth ministry it seems like all our students do is sit, listen, and consume youth ministry resources. But instead I feel that our students should actually be interacting: with each other, with our ministries, and with the world around them. It is important to keep this mindset because not only do I feel like this will help your students grow further in their faith, but will also increase the chances that they stay connected to your ministry throughout high school and a local church in general throughout the rest of their lives. I do not want to just throw this big idea out at you though with nothing to back it up. Instead I want to give you some specific ways that you can make your student ministry more interactive.1. Change your teaching.-
Most of us when we teach are lecturers. I understand because I am this way. And honestly this is a good thing sometimes because the Spirit is moving and you need to just let the truth pour out of you. But too often we do this just because this is the only way we know how to teach. That is why we must force ourselves to be more interactive. There are several ways you can do this but here are a few.
- Do an object lesson.
- Bring a student up to the front for an illustration.
- Pose a question to the crowd.
- Have students text questions in.
- Play a game with a point.
Again these are just a few suggestions and I am sure you can find more. But I will say make sure to change things up and not get in a rut with your interactivity or you will be back in the same boat that you were before. 2. Increase opportunities for small group conversations.-
You probably have small groups once a week at least. You may call this Sunday School or something else. But if this is the only time you have small groups that is not enough. Because it is in these times that students build relationships, get to pose questions, and get to wrestle with life with their peers. This is why you need to encourage these opportunities as often as possible. Maybe you have students break up into small groups after your talk at your midweek service. Maybe you offer a second type of small group meeting during your midweek. You could also make sure that you have time for small groups in all of your retreats and camps. All I know is that I have found that the more time students can get into small groups the better. 3. Empower your students to do ministry.-
This may be the biggest thing, getting your students out interacting with the world around them. They cannot rely on you to do everything for forever and honestly you cannot do everything anyways. So you need to make sure your students know that they can and should be reaching the world around them and then train and equip them to do so. How this looks depends on God's leading, your students, and your community, but just please make sure you are doing this. Because our students want to do bigger things and the world is often giving them these opportunities. And they will take them if the we do not offer them something different. Some of these things will be difficult and time consuming at first. But not only will they benefit your students, they will also benefit you and your ministry in the long run as well.