In 1727, a community of believers in Herrnhut, Saxony, in what is now the eastern edge of Germany, started praying.
They didn’t stop for 100 years.
I’ve been in youth ministry for over five years, and one of the events I always look forward to is Disciple Now weekend. If you don’t know what Disciple Now is, it’s a weekend retreat filled with worship, bible studies, fellowships, and mission projects. Students stay at host homes, and in some sense, it’s like a wee
It was September 19th last fall when my friend and illusionist, AJ and I headed to the high school in Negaunee, Michigan in the upper peninsula of Michigan for two assembly programs and a rally presented to 730 students. AJ brought down the house with his gravity-defying performance. Hearts were softened and defenses came down.
People often ask me what I think about the future of youth ministry. My response usually surprises them. I am VERY excited about the future of youth ministry. As a matter of fact 2013 could be youth ministry’s break out year. This may be the year that…
1. A lack of budget triggers a more mature approach to youth ministry.
Last night was an amazing time for students in our area.
Several churches moved away from issues that divide to focus on what it means to be ONE and have unity in Jesus. There were Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Bible Church and others who participated in a time of worship, giving attention to the Word and prayer.
This year marks a milestone in my ministry that I frankly never thought I would see. When my church graduates our seniors this year, we will be graduating a class that I met as 1st graders.
As I finish my 11th year and enter my 12th here at Calvary Bible Church, I am astounded by how wonderfully blessed I have been to be a part of this family.
In my community, a student prayer movement began in January of 1998 at one suburban high school – but it didn’t stop there.
Two student leaders and about twenty other students at Maize High School began praying for a spiritual awakening on their campus, for the salvation of specific students, and opportunities to share Christ with them. In February
I have been thinking about writing a post on this topic for a long time now because I believe it’s an important subject. Every time I think about this topic, Bill Withers classic song “Lean on Me” comes to mind. It’s true that as student pastors, we need other
You have probably heard the story of Charlie Frank and his elephant Neeta. Frank raised her from birth, training her to be a circus performer. When he retired he gave her to the San Diego Zoo. After 15 years of being separated, Frank visited Neeta. He was 100 yards away from her and he called to her and immediately she came to him and performed her old routines on his command!
On October 1, Dan Maltby, one of the Network founders, went to be with the Lord at age 65.
Dan battled early onset Alzheimer's and is survived by his wife Dee, daughters Lauren Maltby and Jessica Goulet and their son and Dan's grandson, Chasdan Goulet. The service was held October 5, 2012 in Fullerton, California.
Dan was the organizer of the first Network Forum in 1979, helped found the Network in 1981, and served for many years on the Network's Board of Directors.
This article, Ministering With Open Hands, written by Dan gives an interesting story about the vision and spirit that inspired the birth of the Network.
We heard it, but we could hardly believe someone would actually say it. Our area network coordinator was talking about some calls he'd made since our last meeting – calls to encourage a few sporadic attendees. In one such conversation, he'd shared the content of our meeting and the area's vision for networking. The response? “You haven't convinced me why I need to add ano
People in every sphere of our culture speak of unity, of partnership - hoping to work together for a common cause. Yet, our everyday experience reveals that unity is often an idyllic dream, or given only lip service by politicians or power brokers to gain support for a cause for which they want “your support.”
Two weeks ago this message appeared on our Facebook page.
“Great to see you both on Facebook. It has been a long time. Thank you for ministering to me as a not all together teenager. You made a big impact on me whether you knew it or not. God has blessed me with a godly wife of 22 years and four God-loving children. Wow, where has time gone! Thanks again for being faithful.”–Todd
A few years back I had a conversation that really impacted me, and caused me to ask some tough questions about how I viewed my role as a youth minister from a kingdom perspective. One of our shepherds asked if I knew why one of our senior girls had not been around in a while. I explained that she had become involved with the youth ministry at her boyfriend’s church. I then went into further detail explaining that she was still regularly attending church services, there was no bad blood between us, and judging from our last conversation, she was doing really well from a spiritual standpoint. I was very clear that she was not a ‘senior dropout’, she was simply at another church.
What is wrong with the Youth ministry Machine of today? Perhaps we don’t have enough programs for students? Maybe we don’t have enough resources available? Or there is of course the chance that the problem with youth ministry is that the youth fail to see our genius?
Ever feel alone in ministry? Boy, I sure have. I remember one time being so depressed that I could not even get off the floor to go to speak at my youth group. Isolation, abandonment and desperation can all combine to push us away from those who can help us most. Thankfully, I had friends in ministry who took the initiative and helped me work through my issues. But
Our society places a high value on rugged individuality. Many a hero sweeps in, saves the damsel, and defeats the enemy all on their own. Maybe there is a sidekick along for the ride. However, when it comes to transforming the lives of millions of teenagers, no one can do it alone.
I'm convinced that if God doesn't continue to show overwhelming mercy and grace in my life AND if I get sloppy in my interaction with the opposite sex I'm on a collision course with moral failure.
Just to be clear, this blog isn't in response to current relationships and inevitable moral failure for me, but stories I've heard that have gotten my attention.
Over the last 10 days I have had no less than 5 conversations with men who have fallen morally. A dad, a youth pastor, a ministry leader, a pastor, a father were all included in my conversations.
What would happen if you get leaders from major youth ministry organizations to come together for a day of prayer?
Last week I was privileged to attend when NNYM gathered together 15 leaders in Costa Mesa, CA for a prayer consultation. Mike Higgs, founder of Sondance Inc. and Barry St. Clair, Director of Reach-Out co-led the event. Here is their summary of what happened.
My wife and I are preparing to go on a weekend backpacking trip with Biola University students who have varying levels of back country skills. Their success on their trip depends highly on what they choose to bring with them.
When backpacking, everything that you need must be taken with you. That is the challenge, for any distance travelled will be with all that stuff. So it becomes a balance between comfort and necessity.
This weekend, my wonderful wife Donna and I leave for Russia to lead our seventeenth mission trip there. Those who know me understand that these two weeks in Russia are a part of my “second life.” I love the opportunity to get back to Russia and focus on reaching out to non-believing youth in a foreign culture as well as ministering to a great group of youth from the USA. We will be joined by another group from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida who will help us host a five day English camp for selected students from Moscow.
Over the years I have been blessed to see many students rise up and become the active ministers of the Gospel that they are called to be. It has been my experience that when we create an environment in our ministry where students are able to grow deeper in their relationship with the Lord you always see increased kingdom impact. Expectations are not something to be feared in fact they are freeing. To be clear I am not talking about expecting our students to become perfect rule following drones that “toe the line” and seek to make their youth leader happy in order to receive some special blessing! The expectations I am talking about are simply that our students understand that they have kingdom value and power now and not merely when they grow up. I am talking about a simple expectation that all believers should have on themselves: the expectation that we will grow in Christ and be used for His purposes.
Networks that flourish and thrive will typically need to overcome a couple of simple yet significant issues that go beyond geographical or denominational differences. Without fail, youth leaders are are busy people. They have duties to perform, people to see, and tasks to add to their calendar. When they show up for a network meeting, their focus and reasons for being there can vary. Every youth leader can benefit from building stronger relationships with other area youth leaders. However it is not going to be the result of Facebook interactions or sitting in the same room talking about the weather. It takes intentionally moving towards deeper discussions.
Twenty years ago I was already experienced in youth ministry, both as a volunteer and vocationally after having served at a couple of Christian Camps & as a youth director at a local church. However, I had initially started college with the intent of getting a "real job," and had focused my studies towards a eventually obtaining a law degree.
Kendra Creasy Dean in her book Almost Christian writes, "American young people are, theoretically, fine with religious faith -- but it does not concern them very much, and it is not durable enough to survive long after they graduate from high school." (p. 3)
I have been wondering why students are not growing a sustainable life transforming faith? Here are some of my ideas:
Charlie* used to be a Youth Pastor, overseeing a ministry with hundreds of teens in regular attendance. At one point though, he dramatically failed at maintaining personal holiness. Since then, he has sought the forgiveness of many. He has also done extensive individual and marital counseling.
"Build it, and they will come."
That may be a great movie tagline, but it doesn't necessarily work for building a healthy ministry network in your community. It’s not enough to just open your doors once a month, invite a bunch of youth workers, set up chairs around a table, and expect that will result in more ministry to youth. We have got to give youth workers a good reason to leave their offices to share their lives and ministries, and to be part of a community-wide vision.
In a world where students are rewarded for mediocrity I firmly believe that it is time for the church to set itself apart by expecting more from our students! If Jesus could change the world using mostly teenagers (see Matthew 17 for a clue as to why I believe He did hint only Jesus and Peter owed taxes and to owe taxes you had to be over 20) than why do so many youth leaders, parents, pastors, and students themselves expect so little from students? I confess I was once a leader who expected too little from students.
Think of each rail as Relationship and Strategy.
The tracks are laid on the ties/foundation of Prayer. It is hard work to lay the ties and tracks; but once in place, we can really move to where God wants us to go. Prayer is the work! Prayer is the foundation. Prayer is what ties it all together and keeps it level and balanced. Relationship and strategy must flow from prayer. If you try to lay the tracks of relationship and strategy without the foundation of prayer or run your train into town with out tracks, you will have a train wreck.
I still remember my first day in youth ministry. I was a wide-eyed idealistic 17-year-old kid who was asked by his youth pastor to become a small group leader to a bunch of junior high boys. Wow! I had big plans. These plans included being used by God to revolutionize these kids thinking about Jesus and I was going to mobilize them to do ministry and reach a community for Christ.
I recently had a conversation with a student - leader about dating and relationships. Nothing earth shattering there of course. We all can recount endless counseling sessions with students about this extremely prevalent topic in our youth groups today.
What makes this conversation interesting has more to do with a realization I had shortly after it was over: this little impromptu talk may indeed have been about dating, but another thing it revealed goes much deeper and can teach us a great deal about the dilemma our students face each and every day.
Do you have days when you question the call of God on your life to do youth ministry? Perhaps you are wondering about your purpose and the worth of what you are doing.
Take heart! We have all had days like that, and it would be tragic if you listened to the lies of the heart often prompted by Satan. As a “lifer” in youth ministry, I have seen God’s faithfulness and promise to those of us doing a mission that no one else can do!
Have you ever felt spritually thirsty, where your soul feels dried like a sun-baked desert? You are not alone. I am a great fan of Henri Nouwen. His depth and simplicity brings me back to what is truly important. I just reordered his book "Out of Solitude" that I loaned to a friend. In this book Nouwen shares the story of Mark 1 where Jesus spends a busy day of ministering, healing and preaching. Then He goes into the wilderness for time with His Father. Even Jesus needed time to reconnect and take care of His Soul.
Over the past couple of months I have written several short blog posts and have been honored to speak in several venues in New England urging my fellow youth workers to join the growing movement toward handing ownership of Student Ministry back the rightful ministers: the students.
Do you have your elevator speech ready? You know, the speech you give when someone asks what you do? Take 30 seconds to describe yourself are and what you do (the approximate length of time you have with another person in the elevator). This past weekend I gave that speech a number of times at the National Youth Workers Convention (NYWC). Don’t get me wrong, I love sharing the story of Youthmark, but, I long for the deeper conversations with trusted friends.
Student Ministry Leadership in many ways is a culture in and of itself. I love being a part of this unique and diverse tribe! I am a firm believer that we (Youth Leaders) are better together. In nearly 20 years of being “in charge” of a variety of ministries (church and parachurch) I have found great value and blessing in being connected to other youth leaders through gatherings of all sorts-- local, national and virtual.
The National Network of Youth Ministries has tallied the results, and learned some things about youth workers' networking habits and desires. In addition, five respondents will walk away with iTunes gift cards for their efforts!
Almost 500 responded to the NNYM survey. Of those who submitted information at the conclusion of the survey, five were randomly drawn to line their iPhones with some new music:
As a Pastor of Student Ministries I firmly believe that we must stop making youth ministry about us and come to a place where we are brave enough to hand this vital ministry back to its rightful owners: the students. We must empower them to become the kingdom warriors Christ has called them to be. We need to realize that this ministry is not about us in any way. Nor should it be a ministry where we hand feed those we minister to; because quite simply it isn't working and it is wrong thinking.
If you are on this site, chances are you are already well aware of youth worker networking. You have probably come across NNYM, denominational networks or other grassroots efforts to rally the youth worker troops.
But one of the major questions I hear (from those that I think have not benefitted from networking yet) is, "Why bother?" "What is the point of networking? I mean Wes, don't you know that I already have too much on my plate and I have parents knocking on my door, students needing my attention and a pastor who doesn't really get why I do what I do, not to mention my family at home?"....I hear you.
I had an interesting day today.... not really that different than others, but a day that brought to mind the reality of the work I have given my life to. A day that reminded me of the frailty of human life. A day that reminded me of my need for total dependence on my Savior, Jesus Christ! While working out at the gym this morning, I had no idea that this reminder would come. And, while not expecting it, I certainly wasn't thinking that I would be given such a vivid picture of the truths of God's Word.
In my opinion it is clear that until we cultivate an atmosphere of high expectations in our ministries we will continue to wallow in a ministry of mediocrity. We will continue to hold our students back from being the tremendous champions for the kingdom our Lord intends them to be and instead produce a generation of underachieving cultural Christians who wander through much of life with a weak or non-existent faith.
The Elephant Graveyard
I recently watched a documentary about the Elephant Graveyard. Fact or fancy, the tale goes something like this (oversimplified is an understatement). Older Elephants get the sense of their impending demise and travel sometimes thousands of miles to die in the "Elephant Graveyard". The EG is rumored to be littered with thousands of tusks and elephant bones.
You can’t always predict what will happen when you plan a simple youth group retreat. Sometimes, God messes with your plans.
Looking back, that’s the testimony of Rick Eubanks.
Who’s Rick, you ask? He was the Minister of Music and Youth at Crestmont Baptist Church in Burleson Texas from 1975-1995.
This was a “pregnancy” that was full of humble beginnings and wonderful surprises. And like radio newsman Paul Harvey used to say, “And now, the rest of the story.
Over the years I have found myself increasingly convicted that my main role as Pastor of Student and Family ministries is to empower our students to recognize and seize their God ordained position as a part of the “current generation” of the church. It drives me crazy to hear well meaning people state that the youth are the future of the church.
I am a work-o-holic. There. I said it. I admit that I love ministry. I love everything about ministry. I have used ministry to explore every interest I have under the sun and give a spiritual context for it. From media to music; academia to pop culture; I have used ministry to satisfy and stimulate my curiosity of a vast array of walks of life. I don’t mind working long days, weekends, nights and early mornings. Many times, it is my work that recharges my battery, especially when I see others stimulated by what I am doing. However, although ministry at times is an idol for me, it’s not my biggest sin.
No, I don't have gas. I wish it were that simple.
I recently had to let a volunteer youth leader go. It sucked. Within our youth ministry community, leaders are not just church members – we are like family! And letting a family member know that it's time to step down from youth ministry is hard. Especially when it is not a cut and dried issue such as moral failure. Some poor choices were made that called for a period of time away from youth ministry leadership.
Before the dreaded conversation, much prayer took place. But I also spent some time looking around the internet for some guidance. To no avail. The only information I could find was on “when it's time to let go of a volunteer ministry leader,” but nothing on HOW to let them go. So I found myself in some conversations with God and with other ministry leaders I trust. And before I turned the key in the ignition to meet with the volunteer I was about to have a hard conversation with, I penned a plan.
I am a follower of Christ. I am a committed follower of Christ. I try as best I can to be like Christ. I know others that follow Christ with all they have and all they can give. I know many, many today that live their lives as though they are literally following the Christ and that is a great way to live one's life. But, is that it?
Is following Christ all about the first 4 books of the New Testament? Is following Christ only about the “red letters” in the Bible? Is following Christ only about how He lived? Is there anything else? Does following Christ include the writings of Paul or John, James, King David, Ruth and the rest of the Scriptures? Does following Christ only include the great writings of practical theologians that speak of being the hands and feet of Christ? Does following Christ exclude the hard things such as doctrine, theology and hermeneutics? Seriously? Really? Yes really.
We have another great recource from our friends at ym360. They are committed to equipping youth workers with Bible Study resources that are Bible focused, creative, and culturally relevant. These FREE devotions are a simple way of demonstrating this commitment.
The newset set of FREE devotions are titled "Plugging In: 3 Devotions On Connecting With What God Is Doing."
The devotions focus on being on mission with God is the call of all Christ-followers. Yet, God can’t use us if we’re not plugged-in to what He’s doing.
People hurt each other. We know that. We even know that “Hurt People Hurt People“. That’s a great book that shares the majority of people who habitually strike out at others, are deeply wounded themselves. Duh! But it’s by a Ph. D and it goes way more in depth, so if you have a chance, read it.
Being hurt by someone is never easy or fun but when we are hurt by people who are so hurt they need bellhops for their emotional baggage, it’s easier.The hardest hurts are by those that we are closest to. The ones that we have shared dreams with, created positive futures and gone to battle with or for. They can be family or people who we consider family from work, church, school, small groups, or anyone we are close to.
Hurting Youth Workers
A couple of years ago, I co-lead a “Help and Hope for Hurting Youth Workers” workshop at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference. Aaron Giesler was the other co-leader and he said something simple yet profound that I have remembered it and used it with others ever since then. He said, “Good people do bad things for good reasons.”
I’m sure he didn’t originate that idea but it has stuck with me, ever since. Think about your own life and experiences, probably it was rare that someone sought to destroy you, crush your heart or betray you.
Have you noticed that some moments are so often recounted that they become the very definition of joy?
On a lovely Spring day, I was driving on a side street, on my way home from work. Up on the left side of the sidewalk, I saw a dark-headed young girl, about 4 years old, peddling her red trike as fast as she could, laughing merrily to herself.
She clutched the string of a blue balloon in her right hand and was dressed in bright yellow, totally enjoying herself. As I she came to the end of the block and I came to the stop sign, our eyes met and we shared a long smile, wave and a “knowing”. It has become a Kodak moment for my soul and I can’t help but smile contentedly as remember that day, that freedom, that …bliss! When a joy is shared, even with a stranger, you’ve shared really something pretty sacred.
What sacred joy have you experienced?
One of the most terrifying words in the English language is “regret.” It is terrifying because we do not get a reset button, we can’t get back time. It is even more frightening when we realize that we’re not promised much time. James 4 says that our life is a “vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” In light of the fact that time is irreplaceable and limited, how should we live? Should we just coast and wait until it’s all over, or should we make the absolute most of this valuable resource? The former leads to disappointment, the latter leads to satisfaction and peace. To live free of disappointment we must live with excellence, continually improve, have integrity, dream big, and let go of past issues.
Can we talk? Can we talk about something really tough to talk about?
How P.C. Are you? How P.C. is your student ministry? Really?
I grew up playing pee wee baseball and pee wee football. I played hockey on a rink made in a park, on a creek, on a river, the street, the gym floor…where ever we could play. Oh, and we kept score. My friends to this day talk about all the fun we had. I played park district baseball. I didn’t play alone, all my neighborhood friends played on separate teams. When I stepped up to the plate and my very good friend was pitching he would throw big curve balls because he knew I couldn't hit them. I wiffed 3 times-- struck out by a very good friend. Did we laugh back then? No. Was it fun for me? No. In the moment was I glad I struck out? Of course not. Nevertheless I ultimately grew. I had to learn how to hit a curve ball. We kept score. We talked about it. We poked at each other about which team was winning more games and so on. Personally, competition was extremely good for me. I learned how to win graciously. I learned how to lose without hanging my head. I learned how to cooperate within a team for a common goal-- winning. I learned some very important things through winning and losing. Frankly, this P.C. ideal about not keeping score- about not hurting kids feelings is just plain screwy! Is it not okay for a youth worker, youth pastor, or anyone to say-- “Be quiet already. I'm not following this way of thinking”?
I have had this problem for a long time now. I think BIG! I dream of a Student Ministry that is BIG. That is huge. That says to every student in every High School that this ministry is for you. That our students, that our leaders, that our team, that our philosophy, that our direction, that our message, is for every Middle Schooler, every High Schooler, every College/Young Adult student in our surrounding area.
I have been at this thing called “youth pastor”, “youth worker” for quite some time now and I can't stop thinking BIG. I can't help it.
Do I care about numbers? Some would say, “Oh yes, this guy cares about numbers.” I say if that is what you think, so be it. Some might say “He only wants to build his own kingdom.” If that is what is said, so be it. Some might feel that I only care about evangelism and reaching students. Alrighty then, and the problem with reaching students is what? I have heard all the stuff for years. Quite frankly, no big deal. I know the truth and as a leader, I must push on with the vision, with the passion, with this big ole heart for students, all students that the Lord has given to me.
Courtesy of Mikey's Funnies...
It's amazing what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States. I was thinking about this last night as I was giving my three year old a bath. Ok, I should probably disclose right up front that I have ADHD and am usually thinking of multiple things at any given time. I was also thinking about the four teen suicides that have taken place in my community since September. The youth pastor in me aches for the families and friends dealing with these losses. The daddy in me weeps at the thought of one of my three boys ever feeling that suicide is the only answer to their problems. I was further saddened by the statistics I had read that according to the Center for Disease Control, suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15-24 year olds, and fourth leading in 10-14 year olds.
What is your favorite “secret sauce” from a special restaurant you enjoy?
You know what I mean: You are eating with friends at PF Chang’s. Your waiter appears and offers their special blend of a spicy/hot/zesty sauce for your meal. Or, you are sitting in the drive-through line at your local Chik-Fil-A ordering the #1 chicken sandwich meal with an extra large sweet tea. We are all very aware that it’s the secret sauce that keeps us coming back for more.
There is even a web site dedicated to helping us to replicate the secret sauce from our favorite dives. [Click Here for Secret Sauces]
But what is the secret sauce in your student ministry?
I have become a lover of all things Walt Disney in the past few years since our family first visited Disney World on a delightful mild week in January.
What truly struck me was Uncle Walt himself. The story of how he inspired people and was able to build a team of people who, together, would make history in the field of animated film as well as amusement parks.
The more I speak with youth workers the greater the need I see for them to connect with others like themselves. Frankly, I'm surprised at how unconnected many of them are. Youth ministry is done in the context of relationships. Youth workers need one another -- Networks work! (Connect to excerpt from Doug's talk at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference, 2009)
Here are nine reasons I believe youth workers should regularly connect with other youth workers:
When you're connected with others you can share resources. Practically, this saves you valuable time and money and makes you a relational steward.
One of the reason I love meeting with other youth workers is because I feel safe. I feel understood. I feel known. This is a result from meeting with those who know what I do and what I’m usually feeling or going through.
Every time I gather with youth workers I’m amazed at how much I learn by simply listening to their stories about church, parents, teenagers, volunteers, etc. Other people’s life experiences are a classroom for those willing to learn.
I love hearing what other youth workers are doing. When we share ideas, it’s so much easier to “steal” with permission! My favorite network gatherings were when we would show up every month and share copies of all we had done during the month.
This one is HUGE! So many of the questions that I receive to answer on our Simply Youth Ministry podcast could be better answered if they were asked within the community of other youth workers. Veteran youth workers are really sharp people and can aid with personal and strategic questions.
One of the many elements that I enjoy about meeting with other youth workers is the theological melting pot that shows up. If you choose to meet with people in your own denomination, great! But when you gather with people who are theologically diverse (though unified on the essentials important to you), I find we have much to offer each other.
I love it when networks pull off events for either the local community or the faith community. It’s so great to see youth groups doing things they probably couldn’t do on their own, yet find the ability to do because of the connections within their network.
Teenagers need to see that youth groups and youth leaders are willing to work together to accomplish things for the bigger picture. The youth group down the street isn’t the enemy—the Enemy is the enemy—we need to model that reality.
Networks that meet consistently and for long periods of time become the foundation for great long-term relationships. I’ve experienced this personally and I’ve seen a depth of friendships forming across the country from those who said “yes” to a network gathering.
Bottom line: As youth workers we are “better together”! If you’re not currently connected with a group of youth workers, PLEASE click here and begin searching for one near you.
Editor's Note: This article is a reprint from Doug Fields' blog at www.dougfields.com. Used by permission.
Over the course of 15 years, the tug of war on my heart and mind in student ministry became predictable.
Every year I felt torn between the desire to do more/be more in the lives of students VERSUS the desire to do less/be less, hoping that might translate into being healthier.
For the first five years in student ministry I worked on average 70 hours weekly. It was a season when I had more margin to spend my time that way. Is that an excuse though?
Recently I had the pleasure of meeting up with a few guys from the Marshfield, Wisconsin youth ministry network. The candor and honesty in the group was refreshing! I could tell after a few minutes into the network meeting that these guys have a healthy network because of the jovial nature, honest sharing and humble leadership that I observed.
The following started as a letter to NNYM Dallas and Collin County network leaders but quickly became a diatribe on the state of YW networking as we know it, why it sucks and how we MUST work to make things better. This is a letter to ALL youth workers.
I used to think network groups were solid; set 'em up and let 'em go. After 18 months of formally working with the National Network of Youth Ministries as the Metro Dallas Coordinator, overseeing Dallas and Collin Counties, I can truly say: I couldn’t have been more wrong. Youth worker networking groups are liquid, and I’m trying to find ways to embrace that and find traction for our groups, both for today and tomorrow.
This year, as I start a new school year of ministry at my current church, I have realized that I am now the longest tenured church youth worker in my town and the third longest in the county that I live. For some, this may seem like an amazing accomplishment but in reality it really is more of a concern. It would be one thing if I could say that I was in my tenth year of ministry at my current church but this year only marks the beginning of my fourth. At four years, I shouldn't be the church Youth Ministry elder in my community.
My wife and I quite possible have the two brownest thumbs in California. Give us a drought-tolerant cactus and after a few months, we will show you a dead cactus. A few years back I was trying to do something about "The Great Campbell Desert", otherwise known as my front lawn.
I diligently went to Home Depot, bought some strong fertilizer and grass seed and even a hand cranking seed sprayer. With enthusiasm for a green lawn, I proceeded to seed and simultaneously fertilize the desert. I watered and waited for weeks - but nothing happened. My problem wasn't the wrong seed or fertilizer; it was forgetting to till the hard-packed soil.
The silly thing is that I never bothered to talk to my neighbor across the street - who is a landscape architect - or the neighbor to his right - who is a gardener. Thankfully, the gardener must have had some pity on me, because after a couple of months he walked over and gave me some basic tips on growing grass (the legal stuff). His advice worked; my grass is now about 80% in!
My failures in gardening taught me a good lesson on why unity matters and why leaders and churches often fail.
Unconditional worth means that each person has infinite, unchanging worth as a person. This worth comes with a person’s creation, and cannot be earned nor lost by poor behavior. This is not the same as market or social worth, which clearly is earned and lost.
This core worth is not comparable. So you might be a doctor and I might be a teacher, but worth as a person is equal. In theological terms, worth as a person is a given; each and every soul is precious, because it is created by our loving Father.
The core self is like a crystal of great worth. Each facet represents a beautiful potential or attribute in embryo. Each person is complete in the sense that he or she has every attribute needed...
Tired? Burned out? Too many problems and too little time? As youth workers we have all experienced all those emotions and have wondered how to stay intimately connected with Jesus in a disconnected world.
Recently, I chose to do something about it for my own soul. I attended a one-day retreat that our Christian Formation Director, Kristi De Vito, put together. It was incredible to take a day away and work through exercises designed to help the youth worker find time with God and overcome burn-out.
Kristi De Vito has served in ministry for over 30 years and is on the leadership team for the National Network of Youth Ministries, where she currently serves in the area of Christian Formation. Her focus is on the soul-care of individuals by providing venues for small groups, one-on-one connection, reflective retreats and other formational opportunities. Kristi's passion is to help youth workers take time to be with God and deepen thier relationship with Him.
Here is a video that shares her heart. On her website www.quietreflection.org, she lists resources to help you (and your students) find ways to be still and know that He is God.
What is your network like? There are 1200 networks registered with NNYM across the nation. And youth workers are connecting together in over 60 countries! Each network is unique even though it has the same DNA.
David Kurtz is a member of the network known as WayNet in Wilson, North Carolina. He shares about how his network is reaching teens in the Southeast. Our Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordinator, Brian Coday, connected up with him and took this video. Listen as David talks about the shared relationships, resources and strategy that comes from youth workers working together.
The question came from one of the leaders gathered for the annual Youth Ministry Executive Committee (YMEC) meeting in May.
For the past 21 years the National Network of Youth Ministries has hosted presidents and executives of national youth ministries for an annual meeting to interact, sharpen and build relationships.
One of those leaders called to the attention of the group: “Where would youth ministry be without the Network to bring us together?”
Getting outside of the bounds of your organization to work with other youth ministries can be a lot of hard work! Many youth leaders are overworked. David Blair knows what that it like. He has been in youth ministry over 25 years and now works in national leadership of the Church of God (Cleveland) denomination. His deep ministry passion is to develop leaders who are sensitive to the culture, relevant to a generation, and empowered by the Spirit of God.
In this video he shares why he sees youth minstry networking as a vital to his passion of leadership development in the local church.
David is a department dean for Youth Leaders University and you can see more videos empowering youth workers at YLU.
I made a good decision this weekend, but it took me a bit too long to make it. I decided to stop watching a show I used to love.
Several years ago, I went through a real intense growth period in my Christian life. I was learning a lot from the Lord and learning it fast. One of the decisions I made during that time was that I didn’t want to be entertained by things like sexual jokes, adultery, cursing, vulgarity and cruelty. I knew that God had called me to live with purpose and for Him, and I didn’t want anything coming in my way.
Then my friends started telling me how funny a certain television show was.
Last night, some things happened that I felt were unfair to me.
It involved spending money. Whenever I have to spend money on, or because of, someone else for a reason that I feel is unfair, I get upset. I told myself that I had the right to be upset, because Josh and I don't have a lot of money. Since we don't have a lot, people shouldn't expect anything of us, right? They should be the generous ones, because their paychecks are bigger than ours.
But what God showed me last night was that I have been living with a stingy spirit.
Lots, actually. The most current research paints a picture of the risks that teenagers deal with, including family issues, physical and mental health concerns, and developmental factors that underscore how important mature, steady adults like youth workers are to help provide direction, encouragement and stability in their lives. Here are some of the issues:
Young people are experiencing family breakdown. According to contemporary statistics, 51% of first marriages in 2006 ended in divorce, and 50% of all divorces involve children under 18. In 2007, 22% of all families with children under 15 years old were one-parent families.
Our young people are hungry for God but what are we filling them up with? For many of us, our motives are pure and we are considered a success based on our numerical attendance or the enjoyment that the kids get from our programs or events. But what if what we are actually doing is hindering kids from having a deep, personal and profound relationship with Jesus Christ? What are ways that we hinder our youth?
When my wife and I look at the journey of our dating years and marriage, we like to refer to the “holymess” of our relationship. Our marriage is a holy, great, awesome thing that has taught us a lot, but that is in part due to the messy times we have faced…and are still facing in some regards. The holy parts of a relationship go hand-in-hand with the messy parts. In fact, to have a truly deep and godly relationship, you can’t have one without the other.
Almost 40% of NNYM members list “college” as part of their ministry involvement. Although most of our focus is on middle school and high school-age youth, an important national event for collegians is scheduled for February 25: The Collegiate Day of Prayer. Please keep reading for more information from the organizers...
In two weeks I turn 42 years old. It is not a huge deal, but it has caused me to reflect a little. I am not in some mid-life crisis where I am going to sell all I have and get a new sports car or move to Tahiti. I would like a nice fishing boat, but that is more of a wish. No, I have been reflecting on what I have been doing with my life. I started in youth ministry when I was 19 years old at a little store front church in South Florida. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I have felt called and driven to continue in ministry ever since.
Bob and Mary Dunn serve as the NNYM state coordinators in Arizona. They lead the way in strategic networking. After a recent coordinators summit, I had opportunity to interview them to get the inside scoop. Check out what is happening in Arizona.
Which is more important, what we believe or what we do in youth ministry?
It would be easy to debate and discuss this Q (which we will certainly do), but when it comes down to choosing only one of two options on a given weekend for our teens to participate in, what option would we choose? For instance, would I take my students to serve at a homeless shelter or take them to a worldview conference?
Some experts have estimated that the average term a youth pastor stays at a church is 18 months. I'm not very good with math, but that appears to be more than one year and less than two.
Are you in youth ministry for a paycheck, for some good ministry experience, or as a "stepping stone" ministry? Are you trying to gain experience for another job as a "real pastor?"
I've had to ask myself these questions during my time as a youth pastor:
Julie is a youth worker who sees the need for networking. She shared with me at Youth Specialties' National Youth Worker Convention how important it was for her to link with other youth workers in the Denver area. Listen to her story.
Austin Duncan, the high school pastor of Grace Church in Sun Valley, California, offers his personal apology for being in ministry to teenagers:
I love student ministry because:
1. I love evangelism (Matt 28:19). The wise youth minister is an evangelist at heart and desires to see young men and women give their lives to Christ. The students in our churches pose a tremendous opportunity as a mission, an unreached people group of sorts, in our own church.
Youth workers in Salt Lake City are sharing their experience of community with the youth workers in St. George! After one of their own moved from Salt Lake to St. George, Jeff Stevenson (Utah’s state coordinator), myself and four other youth workers jumped into Jeff’s wife’s van (thanks, Britney!) and headed on a four + hour road trip to share our passion for youth workers coming together in their own community for relationships, resources and strategies.
Local Network gatherings serve as a “lifeline” for youth workers around the nation in over 1,000 locations. The relationships that occur in those local gatherings cut across denominational, racial and cultural boundaries.
The vast majority of Network Coordinators volunteer their time to organize and lead their local group of youth workers in cooperative efforts, prayer and accountability relationships, and so on.
WHY? Because they recognize the needs in their communities are greater than their individual ministry or church can meet.
Have you connected with a local Network in your area? Click here to get started.
The National Network of Youth Ministries was formed by a group of youth workers who desperately wanted to see the Great Commission fulfilled among young people. Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:19, commanding us to go and make disciples of all nations, were the driving force behind the birth of NNYM.