Tuesday, August 24, 2010

    The Shape of U.S. Teen Spirituality

    "The faith of teenagers is a picture of contrasts. Teenagers are consistently among the most religiously active Americans, with nearly six out of every 10 teens engaged in some type of group spiritual activity in a typical week. Yet, the spirituality of teenagers is also remarkably diverse and fluid."

    See more from this recent Barna Group report here

    Friday, August 20, 2010

    A Quick Way to Do Fall Planning in Youth Ministry

    Try this easy approach to encouraging youth to brainstorm ideas and plans for the new school year.

    True ministry with youth necessitates involving young people in helping to plan and shape the direction of the ministry.  There are lots of ways to help youth participate in the planning process, ranging from written surveys to forming a youth ministry planning team.  But if you are looking for a fast and interactive way to get the ball rolling, all you need to start are some paper sacks and lots of Post-it notes. 

    Label each paper sack with some aspect of your ministry program.  For example: Bible study topics, discussion topics, worship ideas, mission projects, fellowship activities, outreach to new youth, and so on.  Give each youth a stack of Post-its and a marker and invite them to spend some time writing down their ideas in the various categories.  So, as they write down a single idea about worship, they then drop that note in the worship sack. Or if they write down a topic such as "Could Jesus heal people?" they drop that note in the Bible Study sack. Encourage youth to talk and share their ideas while they write as this will encourage more creative brainstorming.  Challenge youth to think big and not to worry about how practical or economical their suggestions might be.  The goal is just to generate as many ideas as possible.

    At the end of the brainstorm, post sheets of paper around the room, each with one of the labels from the paper sacks.  Have the youth help to stick the Post-it note ideas from each paper sack on to the corresponding sheet of paper.  Finally, give each youth 10 or so stickers and invite them to move around the room, putting a sticker next to their one or two favorite ideas in each category. 

    With this information in hand, you will now have a better idea which spiritual and Biblical issues are most on the mind of your youth, the sorts of mission projects they have a passion for participating in, and the types of fellowship and worship activities that might help to bond your community together in the coming months

    Monday, August 16, 2010

    COMMUNITY BUILDER: The Potter and the Clay

    Use this teambuilding activity to help your youth envision the direction of your ministry together in the coming school year.

    Divide into small groups and give each a ball of clay or play dough and have them sit in a circle. Call out an object (such as bowl of cereal, people waiting at a bus stop, clown holding balloons) and instruct the person with the clay to begin forming that object.  After thirty seconds, shout "pass" and the clay is moved to the next person who continues to try to form the object.  Keep passing until every member of the team has had a chance to add something to the sculpture.  Invite groups to debrief, asking: What was it like allowing other people to change/add to what you created?  Did the final sculpture turn out the way you intended?  How would the end result have been different if you'd each worked alone?

    Now, repeat the activity with a twist.  Invite the first person to begin to form anything they wish, but don't announce it to team. Again have teams pass the clay around the circle, this time instructing each person to change it into anything they wish during their turn.  Debrief:  How was this approach different from the first activity?  What was it like transforming someone else's ideas into something new? 

    Finally, give each member of the teams a small piece of clay and invite them to form anything they like.  Or more purposefully, have them form a self portrait or a symbol representing a gift or talent they have to share with your youth ministry.  When all are ready, challenge the team to attach all their various pieces together into one unified sculpture that represents the sum of all their parts.  Debrief: How did you feel about this version of the activity?  How would you describe your final group sculpture?

    Finish by reading together Jeremiah 18: 1-10. Ask:  What could this passage have to say about our ministry together?  What do you think God wants to shape us into during this new school year?  What will we each need to share to participate in this new creation?  What parts of our ministry might need to be reformed or reshaped?  Working together, what do you hope we can become as a ministry by the end of the school year?

    Thursday, August 05, 2010

    How to Schedule Dreaming, Resting and Growing

    We're excited to offer this guest post by Chris Wesley, author of one of our favorite youth ministry blogs: Marathon Youth Ministry.  Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at the Roman Catholic Parish Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD.  Chris works to create opportunities, environments and relationships that will help students grow as disciples of Christ.  An avid runner and cook, Chris resides in Pikesville, MD with his wife and son. You can read more about him and his ministry on his blog Marathon Youth Ministry.

    I’m not sure how it was for you but when I first got into student ministry I thought a lot of my time would be spent planning lock-ins, ski trips and youth group fun.  It doesn’t take long to realize that student ministry is more than event planning and Sunday school.  I believe the reason most people struggle with youth ministry is because they don’t know how to plan for the long haul, that’s why creating a weekly schedule is important.  With a weekly schedule we create margin, we create purpose and a flow that will help us avoid burnout.  And creating a schedule doesn’t mean filling it up with tasks, we need to schedule time for dreaming, resting and growing.  So what do you put in your schedule, here are a few of my suggestions:
    Vision Casting...if you aren't spending time vision casting, you aren't looking at the future.  You aren't asking the questions: Where do you want to go?  Where is your ministry heading?  How do you want it look in 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years, etc?  On top of a vision think of your mission, meaning, what’s your purpose?
    System and Structures...this includes meetings with point people, staff and looking at how your ministry functions.  This is the opportunity to address problems, obstacles and success that are moving or stopping your ministry.  How do you greet students, how do you set-up ministers, what are you communicating to parents, etc?

    Reading, Research and Writing...We need to find time to grow in our ministry.  Listening to podcasts, reading magazines, books, blogs are all important to growing in our profession. I do a lot of writing for messages and curriculum; however, not every minister needs to be creating curriculum and not every minister speaks, but writing is a form of communication that can help us sell vision.  Creating vision isn’t just thinking about it, it’s about writing it out.  Sometimes I just like to write about what our ministry could be like one day.
    Pastoring Students...This is a tough area to balance because it can often overlap into family time.  It’s important to put into your work schedule time to visit with students, whether it’s before, during or after school.  But it’s important to be scheduled and not random with this because students need consistency and so does your family. Hanging with students should be casual but try not to mix it with personal time...that's for family and God.  If it does involve having the students over to the house, attending an event that might conflict with date night, make sure the spouse is okay with it first.
    Break/Off Time...This is the most important thing to put into our schedule because it is time for family and God...if I'm not giving the majority of my time to God and my family than I cannot be healthy.  My Friday is my sabbath, if I spend it on work, I'm cheating God, myself and my family.  God has called me first to husband and father, second to student ministry.  If we don't know when we leave and when we arrive, things become grey.
    Once you create a schedule, you may want to set a date to look at it again, because it’s something that should change seasonally. As life changes, so does your schedule.  Other than time with God, and family what you give towards the other areas can be compromised from time to time.
    A great leader needs to have direction, direction helps us get where we need to go.  To stay on point we need to pace ourselves accordingly.  A schedule sets the pace, a schedule keeps you going, a schedule means a healthy minister and a healthy ministry.

    I would be interested to hear what other ministers do to pace themselves in order to create a good relationship between their personal and professional life.
    -- Chris Wesley

    Wednesday, August 04, 2010

    Starting A New Youth Ministry Position

    For months we've been meaning to write on the topic of how to transition into a new youth ministry position as a companion piece to this popular post on how to leave a youth ministry position.  But now we don't have to thanks to Brock Morgan's great essay on this very topic.  Here is a sample:

    I was taught by my professor and by many who have gone before me that in the first year you shouldn't make any programmatic changes. "Don't do anything too drastic in the first year," they would tell me. But after 20 years of doing this, here is what I have found. No matter what you do, even if you don't change a thing, but just keep running the same old programs you inherited, some people will be unhappy. Why? Because you're not the previous leader. They will say, "I don't like youth group anymore because its all different." You'll think to yourself, "But I haven't changed a thing!"

    Read the whole post here and pass it on to a friend who needs the helpful tips and the encouragement.


    It was first back in Lent that we shared the idea of adapting the popular Post Secret website for use with youth ministry.  This is the site that features handmade postcards sent in by persons confessing their deep, dark, strange, and sometimes silly secrets. The postcards also make a thoughtful way to invite youth into the spiritual practice of confession.  

    At a recent youth conference, I invited the teens to create a Post Secret card or two, using just ordinary index cards and making available lots of art supplies (glue, scissors, crayons, markers, old magazines, scrap paper, ephemera, etc).  For ideas on what teens might write, see our previous post.  

    As youth finished, they placed their cards face down (to ensure anonymity) into a cross shape we'd taped out on the floor.  When all cards were in place, we taped them all together on the back and flipped the cross over, revealing the various confessions.  During the week, we invited youth to continue adding to the cross, as well as taking time to pray for the various concerns others had shared in their confessions.  It even became a prayer station during one of our evening worship  services.

    As you can see from the examples below, some of the cards are elaborate, and some simple.  Some pose questions, and some share deep pain.  In the end, each was part of helping youth to understand that being completely honest about ourselves with God opens the path to understanding that God knows us and loves us unconditionally. 

    See a few more examples here.