Poll Question 2: What is Your Greatest Source of Discouragement?

Let’s face it.  Ministry can be hard sometimes.  We’ve all struggled with discouragement in some shape or form.  Whether it’s pressure to “get numbers,” a leader who questions your vision, a church that doesn’t seem to value your ministry, or parents who are slow to support and quick to criticize, discouragement can show up in various forms in ministry.

As YouthMin.org seeks to encourage, challenge, and equip Youth Ministers, it’s important for us to know what sources of discouragement you are dealing with.  Take our poll below, and help us hear how we can best encourage you in your context.

[polldaddy poll=7955585]

The importance of Time in Youth Ministry

Last year at the Orange Conference, the theme was Focus, but really it should have just been Time, because that’s what everything came down to.

I remember how Reggie Joiner would bring out this big jar of marbles for every speaker that came on stage, and it illustrated the number of weeks that were left for this speaker before their child graduated High School and left home, no longer under their direct influence. A wonderful illustration.

I went right to the product marketplace and bought my own pack of marbles to take home to keep the illustration fresh back home at my office, only mine would be used as a challenge to make sure that every week I was doing something intentional to pour into the life of a student to bring home some of the things I learned. It started out as a once a week thing, Monday Mornings I would grab my box of marbles and reflect on what I had done the previous week and then drop a marble into a jar I keep on my desk. It’s not to say I was only doing one intentional thing to pour into a student per week, but it was more to look back and say “That’s a moment that could and should have lifelong implications.”

This past week, as I was sitting in my office reflecting on my lesson, my jar of marbles caught my eye and got me thinking. Many of these marbles were placed in for different students, and represent 35 weeks or so of intentional ministry. There have been plenty of other moments that could all be marbles, but looking at just what I have, it humbled me to think of how little of an impact was there.

Reggie Joiner marbles

Every Youth Pastor would love to see this jar filled to the brim with Marbles, of course. But what humbled me was reflecting on the idea’s that I’ve been inspired by at the Orange conference the last few years, namely, the idea that for the average student, a Youth Pastor may have 52 hours a year to pour into their life, compared with the thousands of hours that parents have to do the same, and that ministry to students will never be complete unless Youth Pastors are helping parents to harness their time to disciple their teens.

My jar is empty. If you separated it into different jars for the different students in my ministry, it would be even emptier. For some of my students, I’ve got a handful of weeks left with before they graduate out of the Youth Ministry, for others, we’ve got 5+ years. What am I doing with the time we’ve been given to prepare them for the rest of their lives?

This is one of the many reasons I love the Orange Conference and Orange philosophy, because they don’t just spew information out, but they help process what does that look like, what can I shift in my thinking to accomplish more, to make a greater impact in the spiritual health of my ministry.

I am extremely bummed that I have to miss the conference this year, it’s always one of my favorite times of the calendar, but it’s for the amazing reason that my daughter is expected to make her grand arrival the week after the conference, and I can’t be that far away in case she decides to come early!

But I can’t encourage other Youth Pastors to attend the Orange Conference enough. It seriously is a ministry changing event, and I’ve never been to anything quite like it. Plus, if you register in the next few days you can save some money!  Register by February 20th to save $40 off the regular rates. Plus, receive a $50 Orange credit! TheOrangeConference.com

How to Respond to Social Media Criticism Towards Your Ministry

For the past three months, I have been working at the headquarters of Youth for Christ as their Social Media Specialist to learn how to better engage people with social media and blogging at a local and national level as we work to improve engaging with teenagers and the whole community to share the Gospel alongside the church. One of the first missions I had for the position is to put together an all-encompassing social media and blogging policy for the organization that will not only protect the students and families we minister to, but also help the staff people do good ministry and protect themselves as well.

Let’s be honest, if we are serving a God who loves teenagers unconditionally, are willing to say the hard things to parents and senior pastors, or push the youth to do more with their lives than texting and sexting, we are going to rub people the wrong way. We will post events on Facebook, photos from the latest camp trip, a video blog entry on Twitter sharing the upcoming sermon, and people are going to leave mean responses. So instead of deciding to react to how to each individual situation, lets figure out what the steps should be when it is not a crisis situation.

Let me quickly note that there is a difference here between someone being rude, mean, or negative to your ministry on your social media and blogging comments and people directing their words to specific people in your ministry, be it teenagers, parents, or volunteers. The policy below is coupled with a cyberbullying policy that states an immediate removal of posts directed at students that include sexual harassment, verbal attacks, or threats of any kind, mandated reporting when necessary, and direct conversations with the parties involved over the phone or in person.

The following entry into the policy became as follows:

Do Not Delete Comments
A comment, whether positive or negative towards the ministry is still something that can be of value. If it is negative towards the ministry and not vulgar, immediately respond with an apology of the situation (note that we are not admitting guilt here as clarification needs to be made), let them know that you will contact them directly through a private communication through Facebook message, Twitter direct message, or the like, and then immediately contact them. If the situation warrants, discuss what has happened with your supervisor and follow their guidance on the situation.

Go Counter-Intuitive And Win!

This kind of a response is something that is counter to the immediate reaction to the situation. I feel in my heart that they dislike me, that others will be swayed, and I have to stop it now. I worry that my faith is in need of protecting and I have to respond bold, if irrationally. The person just does not get it and I need to fix their line of thinking right now.

But what are you missing out by responding this way? With a thoughtful and quick response, you are showing everyone else that reads this comment that you are listening and care about the person. You show that in the midst of controversy and crisis, you want to dialogue more and get it worked out right. A teenager could read this and think, “Maybe, just maybe, my even scarier problem that I have not told anyone could be heard and not judged by my youth worker.”

I call that a win.

If you find that you want to take the next step with your social media and blogging for your ministry, I would love to help you. We have a track of working with numerous churches, ministries, and blogs(including our very own Youthmin.org!) We are offering social media and blogging consultations here exclusively for ministries to help you effectively share the Gospel and better build relationships.

An Open Letter to Parents

Dear parent of a teenager,

Hey there. It’s me, the Youth Minister at your local church. I just wanted to take a few minutes and share some thoughts with you about your student. I know that no two people will ever see things entirely the same way, but as one who works with students on a regular basis, I just wanted to say a few words that might encourage you and help you with your teenager.

Before you get the idea that this is an “us versus them” sort of letter, let me first say I want to encourage you to keep up the good work. I know that at the very core, we all want the very best for your student. I know that you are working hard, trying to balance family obligations and work commitments, and doing your best to mentor and love your student. Keep that up! The amount of influence you have in the life of your student is remarkable, so leverage that wisely.

If you’d allow me, I would love to share some thoughts with you as we partner together to encourage your student in their walk with Christ.

First, let me encourage you to stay involved in every aspect of your student’s life. I often hear parents say that they don’t want to convey to their student that they don’t trust them. May I say lovingly that your job as a parent is not to trust your student, but to raise them.  As a parent of three boys, I know how easy it is to let them do their own thing, to not worry about what they are watching, what friends they are spending time with, and the way they are behaving around others.  It takes hard work to stay involved, vigilant, and watchful.  But time is short, so invest the time, put in the hard work, and guide and mentor them.  Trusting them comes later.

Secondly, let me encourage you to be a student of your student.  Your teen is navigating a gauntlet of trials, temptations, social networks, interactions, pressures, and more.  Be aware of your student’s struggles, their strengths, and the areas where they need more encouragement.  Study them, stay informed, and know what they are facing.  It does not make you more “righteous” that you have no clue what Snapchat or Kik is, or that you don’t know what your student is posting on Instagram or Facebook.  And furthermore, let me just say that if you don’t have some sort of filters or accountability software on your student’s phone, tablet, and computer, you are playing with fire.  Stay informed, and know your student better than the social networks do.

Probably the most important thing I would challenge you with is to avoid being “friends” with your student.  I see a lot of parents who want to be “best buddies” with their teen, and I implore you not to fall into that trap.  Should you have a loving, playful, deep relationship with your student?  Of course.  But your student needs you to set boundaries, to clearly delineate right and wrong, to set an example, and to train and equip them.  The LAST thing they need is more friends.  Check their social networks, they already have 1,000.  Be their parent – that’s most important.

Finally, let me encourage you to use whatever resources you have available to guide your student spiritually.  There are hundreds of great books, blogs, devotionals for families, video series, local churches, family small groups, and even youth ministries out there than can help you as you seek to help your student grow spiritually.  Tap into anything and everything you can so that your student sees how important their spiritual well-being is to you.  Among those resources is me, your local Youth Minister.  In me you will find your biggest fan, a person that knows students, and a prayer warrior who can encourage you all the way.

Most of all, know that I’m with you, I’m rooting for you, and I’m praying for you, your student, and your family.  I want nothing more in life than for your student to know the joy, the hope, and the peace that comes from knowing Christ.  If I can partner with you in making that happen, or reinforcing the truth of God’s Word that you are already instilling, then let’s go for it!  We’re in this together.  I’m excited about what God is doing in the life of your student, and I know you are going to play a huge role in how God shapes them.  Thanks for trusting me as we partner together!

In Christ,
Your Youth Minister

Tour ParentMinistry.net with the creator

Jeremy Lee is providing an amazing tool to a select few of our readers next week; a private tour of ParentMinistry.net.

If you’ve had any questions about this fantastic site, or how the resource works, this is your opportunity to go behind the scenes and see what all this thing entails, as well as get any and all questions answered while talking about how your Youth Ministry can best minister and partner with Parents.

The tour will be hosted online at 1 PM Central Standard Time on Thursday, September 5th and should be over around 2 PM Central Standard Time.

Space is limited to the first 20 sign-ups, so sign up quick! Just visit the link below, fill out the form, and we’ll let you know if you’re in!

 

Sign Up for ParentMinistry.net tour!

4 Things our Student Ministry is using this year

We’ve got some things coming up in our Student Ministry that we are preparing to launch that I am wicked excited about. Our school year here in Boston (did you catch the wicked?) starts in September, and so I’ve still got a bit of planning to do.  Yet, I wanted to share a few things that I think are going to make our Youth Ministry even better this year, and can help yours a bunch, too!

We’ve broken up our strategy with budget into three sections, and each one of these tools covers one of those main priorities.

We want to invest heavily in our leaders, so we’ll be using YouLead from Orange to train our team.

You can check out YouLead by visiting their site; but to wrap it up in a nutshell, YouLead is a strategic plan to make sure you are still learning as a leader and staying up to date on leadership principles. You get a weekly bit of training for yourself that doesn’t take more than 20 minutes, as well as tons of resources to send out to your team, your volunteers, and even event-planning guides for your leadership meetings. YouLead isn’t a communication tool, it’s a resource to blow up the ability and possibility of your leaders.

Let’s be honest: Every youth ministry in America would be better off if we had better trained leaders. Youth Ministries that kill it have multiple people on staff that have not just a passion for youth ministry, but also some pretty serious training and experience. Those of us in smaller contexts could absolutely use more qualified leaders, and that’s where YouLead comes in. Think of it like this, you can train your entire team for a year for less than the price of you going to one conference. That’s a heck of a bargain!

PLUSthe amazing folks over at Orange have given me a promo-code to give to you for $50 off the yearly subscription for YouLead! Just enter YLBLOG149 and you should be set for a 25% savings off this amazing product!

We want to partner with parents in a way that moves beyond just communicating announcements, and that’s where ParentMinistry.net comes in.

We recently did a Parents Forum, something that I’ve tried in past years in our ministry with no success, and it went above and beyond our expectations. We had to order twice the amount of pizza we had planned on because we had such great attendance, and where I thought families would rush out the door on a Sunday afternoon, they hung around after event talking in ways they had never talked with each other.

I was challenged this past year with the thought that if you want to really partner with parents, quit spending money only on students, quit only doing events for students, and do more for the parents. That became possible with this amazing resource that ParentMinistry.net offers. Once again, it’s a yearly subscription and the price appears high, but if you could see the stuff you get with this subscription, you would immediately see the value and the need for your Youth Ministry. Jeremy Lee has given you everything in a nice package to send to your parents for an online class. But he goes a step further; he also gives you everything you’d need to recreate the resources with your face and branding, to help YOU look like the rockstar, not himself. And that’s just one of the 6 amazing tools this subscription includes.

You can get a monthly subscription for only $35 to check out what the whole year could look like, and I’d highly encourage you to do so. I know this is going to be a game changer in our youth ministry, and if you check it out, you’ll see that reality in your ministry as well.

We want to invest relationally and spiritually in the lives of our students, so a 28-day devotional with weekly check-ins like Know God is perfect for kicking off small group relationships.

This is another great resource from Orange, and I was greatly pleased to pick up a copy at this past year’s Orange Conference. There are a ton of great devotionals for students out there, but what makes Know God stand out for me is that it is something the student is challenged and encouraged to do with an adult leader right off the bat; in fact, I don’t know that it is possible to go through the book without meeting with a leader at least once.

We’ll be buying a copy of this for all of our students in Small Groups and our Leaders to go through with them. You can check out Know God on the Orange Store.

Communication is something we need to improve, so we’re using Simply Youth Ministry’s Communicate texting platform.

I feel like every year for the past 4, I’ve tried to start off strong with a texting service at the beginning of the year. I’ve always shied away from actually investing in one, as I was looking for a free or cheap, bare bones service; but it always faded out after a few weeks in the fall.

This year, I finally decided that if it was something I was going to place importance on, I needed to invest in communication. The choice was simple: there are thousands of services out there, but Communicate from Simply Youth Ministry is for Youth Ministry by Youth Ministry. It’s a bit more money than I would like to spend, but the financial investment should also make it something we keep up with and not let go to waste.

Added Bonus: T-Shirts from Spreadshirt to make our brand legit.

I’ve been in Youth Ministry long enough now that almost every t-shirt I wear is from a youth group event. That collection will grow this year to include sermon series and other promotions throughout the year. Sometimes, we will order shirts for all of our leaders or all of our students, but often this year, we’ll be ordering one t-shirt of this design, one of another, and so on. The best website/service I have found for ordering single custom t-shirts has been Spreadshirt. Want to know how great T-Shirt Printing with Spreadshirt is? Leave a comment on this post with something new you’re trying this year in your Youth Ministry, and Wednesday, July 31st I’ll choose a random winner to get our new YouthMin.org T-shirts with the new logo, as seen in our Facebook community!