Kill The Program Now!

When was the last time your youth ministry program led someone to Christ?

When I was in high school, I didn’t know Jesus.  Actually, up until grade 9 I had never been in a church building.  I was always the skater punk who didn’t want anything to do with religion.  Especially, those weird Christians.  I knew about Christians, but I never really knew about the God they followed.  I knew all the rules of things I couldn’t do, but I never really heard about Christ.

It all changed when one summer, a youth worker started to hangout at the skatepark with me and my friends.  This youth worker spend days and nights with us hanging out, drinking slurpees, and having a blast.  Over those months we built a relationship that allowed this youth worker tremendous influence into my life.  Looking back, it was the turning point in my life.  It brought down the walls that held me back from knowing and following Christ.

Looking back on my life, I had to have a relationship with the youth worker before I was willing to check out the program.  This youth worker realized that the program wasn’t the goal, the relationship was.

I often look at my own relationships and wonder if I am emphasizing the program for the relationships.  It is easier to invest time and money into a program; It is difficult to invest in people, especially teenagers.  Teenagers are messy, and crazy, but they need Jesus just like the rest of us.  They also need relationships like the rest of us.

Over the summer, it is a time of reflecting for me, and my youth ministry.  It is a season where we destroy the program.  That means we do no programs!  We hangout with people instead.  There is no hours invested in planning events for students to attend, and what we do is invite students to hangout with us.  We destroy the program and build relationships.

It is a season that always helps clarify the reason why I do youth ministry.

What does your summer look like?

Do you shift gears?  or do you create more programs and more events?

In Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus’ disciples were asking him what was the most important command, and he said this, ”

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  

Did you notice he didn’t say build more programs?  He said, “Love God, and Love People”.  Why is it so hard to do these two things?

When I get stuck in the program mode for too long I realize that my ministry has become about me and the numbers that follow a programatic ministry.  When was the last time you shut down the program for an extended period of time?  How did you feel during that time?  How did people respond?

Looking back to when I was a teenager.  I am thankful that someone shut the program down for the summer.  I am thankful that they spent time with me.  I am thankful that they spend time investing into my life to share Jesus with me.  I am thankful that God used that youth worker to change my life.

What is Spiritual Formation in Youth Ministry?

In a recent post, I discussed the current lack of spiritual formation occurring in student ministries. The average student ministry engine is running good with bigger and better events while the hook of church consumerism sets deeper into our students’ throats. No, I am not anti-fun or even anti-event, rather I believe we need a change in emphasis and focus. I am calling for student pastors to center their ministry cycle on the process of spiritual formation.

Spiritual formation is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot, so it’s important you know what I mean when I say ‘spiritual formation.’ Spiritual formation describes the process of a believer’s spiritual maturation through the continual sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, in which the believer is transformed more and more to the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18; Gal. 4:19). This process is not accomplished solely on hard work and due diligence absent of dependence on the Spirit, but rather spiritual formation is the process in which we balance our human responsibility with the Spirit’s promise to continue His work in us (Rom. 8:28-30; Phil. 1:6). The definition used in this research then is that spiritual formation is the Spirit empowered process in which the believer’s life is conformed to that of Christ’s (Rom. 13:14; Gal. 3:27) through the grace-empowered submission of his life to God’s will (Rom. 12:1-2), and in the context of biblical community. The result of spiritual formation should be a life entirely transformed by the reality of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Spiritual formation is the Spirit empowered process in which the believer’s life is conformed to that of Christ’s (Rom. 13:14; Gal. 3:27) through the grace-empowered submission of his life to God’s will (Rom. 12:1-2), and in the context of biblical community.

Spiritual formation is far too often a discussion that leads to strategies, disciplines, or rules on how to effectively take the reins of your own formation. Although these discussions and strategies are not inherently bad, the line between grace-empowered transformation and human ‘hunker-down’ obedience must be walked with a prayerful balance. Therefore, I am not here to propose a 7-part strategy to grow your students quicker and better, rather historically the Church has broken the spiritual formation process down into three practices; corporate worship, doing life together, and serving others. It is when we understand and emphasize these practices in our ministries that we are able to navigate away from the production of church consumers and toward forming mature Christ followers. In the coming days, I’ll expound more on these three important practices.

Can you look back to a season in the past school year where you saw the greatest amount of spiritual growth in students? What created that environment?

 


This guest post was submitted by Jonathan Holmes believer of the gospel of Jesus Christ, husband to Amber Holmes, student pastor at Wildwood Church, ThM graduate of Dallas Seminary, Co-founder of NYW Hub, collector of books, lover of technology, typer of thoughts

Teaching to Everyone in the Room

After reading an article by Thom Schultz called Why Church Doesn’t Fit Most People, which was a pretty good read, I decided to write an entry about one of the statistics he used. Thom states that research suggests that only 30% or less of people are Auditory learners, meaning that they way they learn is primarily through listening. As a former education major, I had to learn a lot about all sorts of learning styles because as a teacher, you should have an awareness. But, sometimes as a youth minister, I get the feeling that we as religious educators don’t always take the same approach, which doesn’t make any sense. We are educating, are we not? So, if the words Auditory, Kinesthetic, Intrapersonal or Tactual learners seem like I possibly made them up, this post should be super enlightening.

Understanding that there are several different types of learning styles in your youth group, as well as understanding what those styles are, will help you to tailor your educational experience to them and, hopefully, help students learn and retain more information. The first thing we should discuss is the 4 learning types:

Auditory. Like I said earlier, these students learn best by hearing the information and then speaking it out loud. These students are probably some of your favorites, because they want to answer questions and they are able to repeat what you just said back to you, which we often incorrectly attribute to paying attention. You are probably already teaching to these youth, because some of the things they would respond well to is reading aloud, listening to sermons or lectures, and answer questions out loud. Some struggles auditory learners have are written directions and staying quiet for long periods of time.

Visual. These students learn best by absorbing formation be seeing it and storing the images in their brain. These students are also pretty commonly taught toward as a secondary, though are probably not your favorites in the class because they struggle with verbal directions and are easily distracted by noise. But, on the plus side, they respond well to the white-board scribblings we sometimes accompany our lessons with, video lessons and they often maintain fierce eye contact, which we again often misattribute to paying attention. Color coding, providing handouts and writing down key points are all things you can do the help the visual learners in your group.

Kinesthetic. These students learn best by doing something, like moving around or experimenting. They are physical people generally, and will usually be coordinated and action-oriented. They are less comfortable in one place, and that’s okay – let them switch chairs when needed or change positions or couches. These are the students in your group that may be misdiagnosed as ADD or ADHD, because sitting still is not something that comes easily. They can struggle with reading and spelling, too. But, never fear, there are some great ways to engage these students, too. Have these students take notes, the act of writing or drawing what they are hearing can help focus them. If possible, incorporate a game or action into the lesson, like tossing a ball to one another while reciting a verse or learning names. Be aware that physical games as part of your meeting will help calm and focus this student, and plan occasional breaks in the lesson.

Tactual. These students learn two ways: touching or holding objects and relating to other people. As we don’t often teach on the tangible, the latter is where these students will shine. These are the students you may find to be fidgety or drive you crazy ripping up cups or drawing on everything in front of them. Anything with fine motor skills will be a good match for them, though not many youth groups have people typing on their computers or dictating on their phones. The other positive course for tactual learners is group work. So much so that working alone can be incredibly difficult for these students. So, to accommodate, work some partner or group work into lessons. Give these learners a place to interact and learn together. As a follow up, use your social media to give these learners the opportunity to type responses and communicate socially about the lesson.

All together now. Okay, I know this seems like a lot. 4 styles to follow…I can only juggle 3 balls at a time, and even then only for a short period of time. The good news is that this is easier than it sounds and becomes easier and easier with practice. And, it will help a lot in the long run, because students will retain information longer and you will have to re-teach things less often. So, I am going to write out a sample lesson idea below and how I would suggest approaching things so that you cover as many styles as possible. Check it out:

Lesson: The Ten Commandments

Before you begin: Prepare a handout with the commandments written down with space between them for notes.

Begin by having the youth open to Exodus 20 and ask for volunteers to read aloud (Auditory learner). While the reader is reading, write the 10 on a white board, chalk board, giant pad of paper or on the wall with permanent marker (Visual Learner). Then hand out the handout you made earlier and have the youth group up with those around them to discuss what they think the commandments mean (Tactual Learner). Call the group back together and discuss what they talked about, having one of the group members share one or two of their ideas (Auditory Learner) while the other group members pantomime the commandment (Kinesthetic Learner). Then teach what each means verbally (Auditory) while writing down bullet points on your board/pad/wall (Visual). Then have the groups meet again (Tactual) briefly to discuss new, enlightened examples and to write them down on the handout (Visual). As a wrap-up, divide the group into groups of 10, assigning each of them a specific commandment. Then play a game of Steal The Bacon, but instead of calling out numbers, call out commandments (Auditory) and the specific person from each team who’s commandment is called must run to the center (Kinesthetic) and grab a ball/prize/puppy/wet sponge.

So, here are my parting thoughts. First, if a student doesn’t appear to be paying attention, remember that different learners use different senses to learn. Second, if a student is struggling to understand a concept, teach it in another way. Lastly, we were all created differently, so even if this is difficult for you to do, remember that God intended these students to learn the way they do, and part of our calling as youth religious educators is to facilitate all of God’s children.


 

This guest post was submitted by Kellen Roggenbuck, a member of our YouthMin community. He regularly blogs at handydandyyouthministry.com and has been a full time youth minister since the summer of 2004.

Spiritual formation in Youth Ministry

The effectiveness of ministry to young adults has recently been called into question in many Christian circles. The student pastor who ministers to ages 12-18, have felt the brunt of these questions. Many books and blogs continue to roll out the statistics that reveal the diminishing number of students who remain in church after their time in student ministry. A large number of churches have had a complete reevaluation of how their student ministry is run, what their primary purpose is, and even to the extreme if they should exist or not.

As a student pastor, I not only believe that this questioning and reevaluation is beneficial for the future of student ministry, but it is necessary.

Through this reevaluation process, a large amount of ink has been spilled over the viability of student ministry, the purpose of student ministry, and the reformation of student ministry. Although all of these pursuits have been personally beneficial to myself, I have realized that there is an area that has received little to no attention in regards to writing, research, and reevaluation. The area that is currently suffering from attention deficit disorder (like many of my 7th graders) is the area of spiritual formation in student ministry. I believe this reveals two issues about the current reevaluation occurring in student ministry.

The first is that this lack of attention is due to the shortage of thinking theologically about ministering to students.The student pastor is largely undertrained, undereducated, undermentored, and underprepared, which inevitably leads to a complete lack in theological thinking. The second issue that is revealed through the lack of attention towards spiritual formation is that student pastors are more concerned about fixing the engine than checking the fuel. Fuel is what propels you in a certain direction. All student ministries are engines, but not all engines run on the same fuel. One student ministry engine might run entirely off relationships and community, while another might run off of large events and attractional mindsets. Whatever the case may be, a student ministry must reevaluate the fuel that is propelling it forward. If we don’t, the ministry we are apart of might think that it is guiding students and parents towards spiritual formation, but end up producing immature church consumers.

I believe this is exactly where student ministry finds itself currently. The engine was running and student ministries were at record numbers, but the fuel that was moving it was consumerism, entertainment, and sermons teaching moralistic therapeutic deism. Now, student ministers are faced with statistics of the incredible dropout rates and are forced to look around and ask,

“How did we end up here and how do I navigate out?”

 

This is where the re-evaluation and reformation of the fuel is currently happening, but unfortunately what I see as the most important fuel for a student ministry is largely passed over. A student minister will spend days and even weeks thinking up bigger and better events, but never think theologically through the spiritual formation processes at work in his ministry. A ministry must destroy the cheap fuels of consumerism, entertainment, and moralistic therapeutic deism that is propelling its’ engines and replace it with gospel-centered spiritual formation fuel. From this reevaluation of what makes up the central role of student ministries, it is evident that spiritual formation should be the fuel in the student ministry engine.

This reevaluation of student ministry has caused critics to ask the question of “why does student ministry exist?” The question is not wrong, but our attempts to answer this question as student pastors has been poor at best. It is impossible to prove the existence of student ministry through Scripture, unless you adopt a flawed hermeneutic, so stop trying. Instead, realize that student ministry exists wholly because our culture created a people group labeled adolescence. Student ministry is a missional response, not a biblical command. The church’s missional response to this culturally created group of people called adolescents is what we currently call student ministry. The birthing of student ministry was a missional answer to the question,

“How do we spiritually form this new group of people?”

 

The birth of student ministry was for this specific purpose and it is not until much later we see diversions to ideologies of “reaching” this generation or “getting them in the door.” We must abandon the ideologies of just getting students in the church or at events and start again thinking theologically about how to most effectively engage in the practices of spiritual formation with adolescents. My belief is that effective spiritual formation in student ministry must include: corporate worship, life together, and serving others.


 

This guest post was submitted by Jonathan Holmes believer of the gospel of Jesus Christ, husband to Amber Holmes, student pastor at Wildwood Church, ThM graduate of Dallas Seminary, Co-founder of NYW Hub, collector of books, lover of technology, typer of thoughts

Poll Question 5: How Important is it to Network with Other Youth Ministers?

If your town is anything like mine, your church isn’t the only one nearby.  And more than likely, there are other Youth Ministers within 50 miles of you.  Do you connect with them?  Work with them on camps, retreats, ministry events, and outreach nights?  We at YouthMin want to know!

In my own region, we have a lot of opportunities to network and work together with other Youth Ministers.  Countywide youth ministry lunches, camps, statewide conventions like Jr. High Journey, and our Indianapolis Youth Minister lunches provide great opportunities to meet, pray with, and team up with other Youth Ministers.  We’d love to hear how you feel about this aspect of ministry.  We’d also love to hear your REASONING in the comments.  Why did you answer the way you did?  Looking forward to hearing your voice!

Keep being extraordinary!

[polldaddy poll=8062542] [polldaddy poll=8062545]

Poll Question 5: How Important is it to Network with Other Youth Ministers?

If your town is anything like mine, your church isn’t the only one nearby.  And more than likely, there are other Youth Ministers within 50 miles of you.  Do you connect with them?  Work with them on camps, retreats, ministry events, and outreach nights?  We at YouthMin want to know!

In my own region, we have a lot of opportunities to network and work together with other Youth Ministers.  Countywide youth ministry lunches, camps, statewide conventions like Jr. High Journey, and our Indianapolis Youth Minister lunches provide great opportunities to meet, pray with, and team up with other Youth Ministers.  We’d love to hear how you feel about this aspect of ministry.  We’d also love to hear your REASONING in the comments.  Why did you answer the way you did?  Looking forward to hearing your voice!

Keep being extraordinary!

[polldaddy poll=8062542] [polldaddy poll=8062545]