Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Be Encouraged, Your Youth are Ready to Lead

As mentioned last week, social media has changed the landscape of youth ministry. By training the youth to become content creators instead of solely being consumers, “the why” of today’s youth ministry is shifting. Instead of the task of “getting them saved” and hoping that they make friends during the process, our culture now calls for us to equip our youth and address 2 needs: that they not only understand their spiritual gifts, but that they also consistently put them to use for the benefit of the Kingdom of God.

In the midst of this transition from a task-based approach, we provide information as to how they can change their world within the context of a relationship with Christ. It is from the collision of faith and life that the students of today grow in their relationship with Christ. Through a consistent engagement of their faith within the context of relationships, the church is then able to help the student understand what gift(s) the Lord has blessed them with so that they may be able to begin shaping the calling that the Lord has placed on their lives.

It’s similar to the older models of youth ministry, but there’s a subtle shift. Just how media today is moving towards an on-demand and interactive approach that grants control to the individual, the church must also move away from one-direction programming or education and instead move more toward a collaborative and engaging model of youth ministry that serves alongside the students (rather than at the students). The model of youth ministry that I’ve just outlined here may cause some anxiety and cause you to jump ahead on the logistics. “So you’re telling me that the students should run everything?” Well, kind of, but not really. You as the youth pastor are still at the helm (and I certainly would not suggest that a church should eliminate all of its traditional programming). How a student-led ministry looks will differ depending on the resources available and the size of the ministry, however the principle of letting students lead remains.

Having a student-led youth ministry may not sound achievable right now (or at best, extremely daunting). Your students’ interest in youth group may not feel like it is at an adequate level in order to make this happen. Your supervisor who lived in the glory days of program-based youth ministry may brush aside such a preposterous concept. The parents of students in your group may raise an eyebrow when you hand a microphone to their student to have them share their testimony or preach a sermon. However, this is expected. Before being distracted by the naysayers and the doubtful stares, it is important to prayerfully consider that whenever we venture into unknown territory, there will always be uncertainty and a bit of fear. Even the Israelites experienced this when seeking the Promised Land. If it wasn’t for a courageous few like Joshua and Caleb who saw through the fear, it’s possible that they may have wandered another 40 years (Numbers 13:30-14:10). The moral of the story? Be encouraged. Be a Joshua or a Caleb, because our youth today doesn’t have another 40 years to wander.

This blog has a focus on small groups and youth ministry. Join us for the journey by subscribing! Please share this post if you felt this was a blessing to your ministry.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Because of Social Media, Today's Youth Expect to Engage

Last week we introduced the argument that the world of today's technology has vastly shifted the landscape of youth ministry. More specifically, social media has transformed the way the youth of today think and how they interact with their peers. No longer are students just consuming; indeed, this understanding that today’s youth have on impacting the world through social media can naturally spill over into how a student lives out their in-person social lives as well.

Our youth is living in a globally connected world today where interaction with anyone and everyone is a constant reality. If the Christian worldview is not adequately relevant or tangible and if it doesn’t give them opportunity to interact with their world, then pursuing their faith can possibly be dismissed from their list of the activities that are vying for their time. In other words, students today may stop attending youth group not because they disagree with its principles or teachings, but because they may feel like it is an activity that they are not connecting with due to its lack of opportunities to fully engage.

Combine the rise of social media with the introduction of other avenues of multimedia, our youth now also control what they consume. Culture used to be dictated to our teens in a one-way direction, where our students were able to listen to and view only what was on radio and television at the time they turned the device on. Now with wireless and unlimited data smartphone plans, just about any form of media is able to be delivered on demand. With Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, Youtube and any other media or streaming service you can imagine, there’s virtually no limit to what is accessible to our youth. The truth is that our students today are more in control than ever in determining what they receive and what they can contribute. A church that refuses to acknowledge the reality of this is a church that shamefully underestimates the spiritual horsepower that a youth group can possess.

As we begin to venture further down the path of student involvement, perhaps it's time for you to take inventory of how your church does youth ministry. Do your students know what spiritual gifts they have and how to use them? How often is a student allowed to utilize their spiritual gifts by taking ownership of a task in your youth ministry? Are there individuals in place to help them succeed in the assigned task? Join the conversation by commenting below and keep in touch as we unpack more in next week's post. Be sure to subscribe and be on the email distribution list to receive updates!

This blog has a focus on small groups and youth ministry. Join us for the journey by subscribing! Please share this post if you felt this was a blessing to your ministry.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

You Must Change Everything You Know About Youth Ministry

Everyone in the church will undoubtedly agree that youth ministry is not what it was 20 years ago. Most individuals will agree that the world of youth ministry is completely different from what it was 10 years ago. But how many today would say that youth ministry from only 5 years ago is nothing like today's youth ministry? To say this would be quite bold, because it would mean that anyone who did youth ministry only a handful of years ago would have very little understanding of today's youth. Perhaps another way to ask this would be, "How many teenagers have recently sat across the table from you and truly opened up about the struggles and challenges they are facing as a teen today?" If the answer is none, then you're not alone. While teens through history have always been at cultural odds with their elders, this generation has brought with it an ever-changing set of challenges that youth ministers must adapt to at lightning speed.

Through technology, the world is unarguably transforming the landscape of communication, and the youth are at the forefront of it all. Published books on student ministry how-to’s used to have some sticking power for a few years. But now? I most likely won’t even read past the cover of a youth ministry book if it was printed before 2012. Social media began to take shape with mediums such as AOL Instant Messenger, Myspace and Facebook in the years of 2000-2004. However, the combination of Instagram’s release in 2010 and the United States crossing the 50% saturation level of smart phones in 2012 is when the youth truly began to incorporate social media into their daily communication and their identity. With that said, books on youth ministry before the year 2012 are in danger of being considered obsolete and unable to address the current experience of the modern-day youth.

Perhaps one of the biggest impacts of what social media has done for our youth is that it has given them a voice. Previously, one’s reach of influence was limited to the social structures that were within the student’s immediate environment (i.e. with their sports teams, their school friends, their family, etc.). Students would go to school and be told what to do and think; they would come home and be told what to do and think; and finally at the end of the week, they would go to church to be told what to do and to think. Perhaps this used to be effective when the world’s experts were highly vetted and fewer in numbers, but the influence that our church leaders used to have has suddenly become diluted in an information age where anyone can publish their opinion. With social media, the entire world is now a potential audience and anyone can now be a valued content creator (literally anyone! Did you know that the highest paid Youtube streamer in 2018 was an 8 year old child that reviewed toys?!). With such an even level playing field, the youth have come to the realization that they are no longer just consumers of the world’s information but also contributors. As a result, they increasingly view their world through the shared experiences of those around them and also have the confidence and knowledge on how they can impact those around them.

But what do you think? Join the conversation by commenting below and keep in touch as we unpack more in next week's post. Be sure to subscribe and be on the email distribution list to receive updates!

This blog has a focus on small groups and youth ministry. Join us for the journey by subscribing! Please share this post if you felt this was a blessing to your ministry.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Love, Learn, Serve

Each small group can be broken down into three components for its format: Love (or Fellowship), Learn, and Serve. A group’s format can be a combination of any of the three, or could even be just one or two of them. In other words, just like a pie, we can imagine the group’s structure to be cut up into three pieces where the size of each piece is determined by the leader and/or group.

Love (or Fellowship)
A small group with a “Love” component to it provides room for group members to have fellowship opportunities. Naturally, every small group has at least some form of the “Love” component associated with it since interacting with one another on a consistent basis helps us build relationships. However, some groups and their structures offer more opportunities for fellowship than others. For example, a dinner-social group where friends get together to have a meal and catch up may be 100% fellowship, while a Bible study may have 50% of their group dedicated to fellowship, while the other 50% dedicated to learning.

A small group with a “Learn” component to it comes together with the goal of working through a curriculum, a textbook, or a portion of Scripture with the intent to learn something new. Typically, as group sizes tend to increase, learning and/or serving components of the group increase as well. In other words, the number of fellowship opportunities may not arise as much when more group members are given the chance to interact and communicate. Thus, “classroom” types of small groups sometimes begin with a lecture before breaking into smaller groups to still be able to provide that opportunity for fellowship with one another. Yet even in these larger “Learn” types of groups, a “Love” component is still needed as too much learning without relationship could make the gathering feel more like a college class than a small group.

A small group with a “Serve” component makes an effort to reach outside of the church walls to minister to others and bring the Gospel to the world. Whether it’s a small group that chooses to feature a “serve” event in the middle of their semester or a group whose main goal is to be a part of service events all of the time, a group that has this component, it still is crucial for the members of the group to be given opportunity for relationships to be built. After all, too much task without relationship creates the potential for burnout and possibly may even risk the individual(s) to lose passion for their calling.

In the end, any combination or breakdown of a group’s structure is great as long as the expectations are communicated and the group’s goals are met. For example, if a group’s goal is to be a Bible study, the group becomes ineffective and loses its purpose if the group members only socialize and never crack open the Bible once that evening that they meet. Similarly, if a leader brings their Bible and begins to lecture to the dinner-social fellowship group, the group in this case also loses focus on its purpose (Revisiting the goals and notes that the group took during the first and/or second meetings can help ensure that the group is on track with its purpose).

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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The Intentional Discipleship of Men

For just Monday and Tuesday of this week, Dr. Tony Evans and his ministry aired a documentary in theaters called “Kingdom Men Rising” which focused on what it means to be a Christian man in today’s culture and society. Featuring NFL legends, musicians, and other prominent leaders in the faith, the film didn’t hold back in challenging men to pursue a higher calling, one in which they are actively fulfilling the role that God is calling them to fill. This is a crucial time where men are being called to step forward and be examples of proper manhood that exhibits love, responsibility, and accountability. Here are a few of the principles that were unpacked throughout the course of the film:

Vulnerability & Presence
One of the principles that the documentary unpacked was the importance of men being open and honest about sharing their life experiences that they’ve learned from. Whether it was past promiscuity, pornography, or habitual escape from fatherhood responsibilities, the men in the film were honest about how their hearts have transformed over the years to be a leader first and foremost for their families. By being open and honest about one’s past experiences, it helps other men understand that they are not alone in their struggles, which is a state of spiritual isolation that the devil tries to get each man to be in. By coming together in community and being a source of accountability and encouragement to one another, we are able to cast out fear and doubt while reinforcing an ideal representation of manhood (instead of maleness).

The main theme of the film was to open up men to the concept of intentional discipleship. At your church, you may find that the 20 minutes in the lobby after service is perhaps some of the most precious minutes of the week to connect with the guys that you can impact and mentor. Some folks dart out the door after they grab their coffee, and this might be the only time of the week you’ll be able to shake their hand, look them in the eye, and truly ask how they’re doing (before the busyness of the week consumes takes over once again). These vital moments are key opportunities to get to find a date on the calendar to grab a coffee or introduce the person to another individual you know who has a common interest with them. Gentlemen, don’t underestimate the 2 minutes you can spend in asking another guy a few questions on how they thought about the service; it could very well open the door in the future to a ministry opportunity of mentorship when you see them in the lobby the next week.

For more information on Kingdom Men Rising, here is the link to the website:

This blog has a focus on small groups and youth ministry. Join us for the journey by subscribing! Please share this post if you felt this was a blessing to your ministry.

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