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As leaders, we often see that our youth have some head knowledge about God and the Bible and can often give the right answers. But as leaders, we want them to have more than just knowledge, we want them to experience Jesus not just know about Him. We are struggling with how to make youth group a place for the youth to grow spiritually...
November 14, 2013 0 4 comments
Resource, Article

Most of the youth I have the privilege of serving come with an edge of skepticism and cynicism. Where this comes from could be the data of a global study, but my context says that it’s a very real thing. “Why can’t I drink at the party?” “What’s wrong with sex before marriage?” “The Bible doesn’...

September 30, 2013 0 0 comments
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There’s no doubt about it. Many youth in this generation are leaving the church. But what if we looked at this as an opportunity instead of an outrage? What if it’s not the person of Jesus Christ that these students are running away from, but rather the claustrophobic nature of our churches’ four-walled worship?
September 24, 2013 0 0 comments
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What just happened? I thought I was just picking my kids up from baseball practice, and suddenly football is upon us? Seriously, hockey season is starting (this is awesome, says the fans)? Sure, we had two weeks off this summer, but I can barely remember those 14 days, let alone the laundry, the cooking, the slumber parties, and the day care schedules for 2013–2014. And then there are the school supplies. Will there ever be a day when we aren’t so financially strapped that I’ll be able to get Starbucks without a fight breaking out? And church is a part of all of that how?…
September 13, 2013 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Youth Unlimited has a new promo video out highlighting their work as a provider of faith forming experiences for teens in the CRC and beyond. Check it out at https://vimeo.com/72990196#.

 

September 10, 2013 0 0 comments
Q&A

When and where does the teaching of the catechism take place in your church? Do you have a separate class for it or teach it through your youth group program? At what age(s) do you teach the catechism? If your church does not have a formal catechism class, how and where is the catechism learned...

September 8, 2013 0 1 comments
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Holy moly! Where the heck did your summer go. Seriously, I felt like you just finished school, and now you’re starting all over again. No more video games, no more sleeping in. And books, I hated books in high school! And the drama! Seriously, the best part of summer is not dealing with the drama and hanging out with the only people that I really care about: friends. And now I have to study again, go back to the grind. Ugh! Is it June 2014 yet? 
September 6, 2013 0 0 comments
Q&A

Besides numbers of youth in attendance, how does your church evaluate whether or not your youth group ministry is successful? 

September 5, 2013 0 1 comments
Q&A

We have a small youth group and have thought about joining with another church to have a joint youth ministry program. We are looking for feedback from any churches that are currently doing that or have done it in the past to see how it was done and whether or not it works.  How do you finance...

September 5, 2013 0 2 comments
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Welcome to 2013 – 2014! If you’re anything like me, you’re probably having a freak out right now. Maybe you have A LOT of loose ends to tie up before the season starts. Maybe you haven’t even started planning. Maybe you aren’t fully sure about this year, and don’t really believe in it yet. Maybe you’ve got parents putting a lot of pressure on you. Maybe you are starting school alongside your work. Maybe all of the above. 
August 31, 2013 0 0 comments
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When I tell people in the CRC what I do for a living, I tend to get the same question in response: Why? And I get it. I recently took a position developing a new project for the denomination: LEAP. I understand the skepticism I encounter. Does the CRC need another program to solve problems that are certainly not programmatic? No, we really don’t.
August 26, 2013 0 2 comments
Discussion Topic

Do you have something to contribute to the Youth Ministry section of the Network? Maybe you have something you'd like to say in relationship to your ministry or group or socially related to youth. There's a very easy way to contribute. Contact the guide (Networks --> Youth Ministry -->...

August 22, 2013 0 1 comments
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No one really knows what happened that night on November 8th, but one thing was certain – three were left lifeless, a fourth left with severe brain damage which he will never 100% recover from without a miracle from God. The one with severe damage as well as two of the three dead came directly from my closest circle of friends during high school, and everything had changed.
July 29, 2013 0 0 comments
Q&A

Hi, everyone, I'm posting this in the Youth Forum because my guess is that if churches are doing this, youth ministries are probably part of the equation!

Our church currently has been holding various ministry programs on different nights of the week: High School Youth Group on Sundays,...

July 9, 2013 0 2 comments
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When trying something new, we must always remember that for many people, seeing is believing. My brother loves building things with lumber and is a visionary who can actually picture something (in his mind) before it’s actually built. But many others simply see a pile of wood... until it’s finally completed. Then it becomes, “Ooooohhh! That’s what you meant!” and they pay him for his work.
July 9, 2013 0 0 comments
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Is that what you believe you actually do? Do you think of yourself as a "Saver of people." The simple and selfish Christian answer is probably yes to that question. But I believe the real answer is "no." An absolute "No!"
June 27, 2013 0 0 comments
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Social missional ignorance is more extensive than feeding the poor, providing beds for homeless, or AA meetings. A socially missional church not only aims to protect the broken, it stands to prevent the issues. And it’s my belief that we haven’t done an overwhelmingly good job of preventing issues because we’ve been afraid to openly or honestly talk about them.
June 20, 2013 0 1 comments
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The other woman spoke, “I love Jesus, but I hate Christians.” “Yea, they’re terrible,” the first woman agreed. They both chuckled a bit and continued on with their browsing, soon moving to another section of the store.
May 30, 2013 0 0 comments
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Much has been written about going on short term mission trips, both good and bad. I would define a short term mission trip as less than one month. Usually they are from one to two weeks. There are many good books written on the subject, one of the best is “  When Helping Hurts” by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert.  I still remember when I first read it, I was half way through and I was convinced we should never do short term mission trips again.
May 21, 2013 0 6 comments
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One of the things I thought when God first charged me with this challenge was that somehow it was going to be so easy. It was as if I was going to walk into my Youth Support Team meeting and tell them how I thought things were sucking, and we were all going to hold hands, pray, smile, cry, and walk out changed and ready for a fresh start. 
May 2, 2013 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

The annual youth ministry conference is being held at Western Theological Seminary in Holland Michigan featuring Pete Ward from King's College, London. The topic is "Made Known: Youth Ministry and the Gospel" and will run Thursday May 9 to Friday afternoon May 10. Please see the Journey website...

April 30, 2013 0 0 comments
Q&A

Does anyone use this Faith Alive youth resource?  I am looking at it for my junior high youth group, ages 6th to 8th grade.  What are your thoughts on depth, discussion starting and "corniness" factor??  Thanks for the input!

April 25, 2013 0 0 comments
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One of my most beloved passages comes from Ephesians 4 where Paul is instructing this group of Christians (who of course know their religion very well) of they way they ought to be acting. And in the middle of condemning them, he cautions them to watch their tongue, among a plethora of other cautions.
April 17, 2013 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Over the past few years, the RCA has been working closely with several of the leaders at Fuller Youth Institute’s Sticky Faith program to give RCA youth leaders opportunities come together and consider how they can best prepare their teens for life after youth ministry and help them form a faith...

March 26, 2013 0 0 comments
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We probably already know his name: former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Ares, now known to everyone as Pope Francis I. The new face of the Catholic church. But even more, it seems the newly minted Pope has a desire to see faith communities bridge gaps that have long separated us by painful memories of the history between evangelicals and Catholics; he has a desire to see the two refocus.
March 20, 2013 0 3 comments

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I'm sorry no one ever responded to this.

I don't think you should feel bad recognizing where you see growth and enthusiasm and focusing on that area.  When Jesus said, "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces,"  certainly this can include young people as well who have absolutely no interest in hearing what you have to say.

I think the real issue at hand is the whole church has become more focussed on attendance instead of lifechange.  I think we all mourn the loss of a young person who leaves the church.  But i don't think it's your fault that the kid was not interested in being a participant in the youth program.  We should not allow a person to disrupt the group, group time is group time.  I may try to engage more personally over a visit, when focussing on him or her is the whole aim.  But if you're not able to get through to someone who is rejecting the church it's not you they are rejecting and it's not your fault.  You only have so many hours in a week to minister, you can only put so much into one person who is not interested.

I doubt you were truly happy when that kid didn't show up.  More likely you were recognizing that they didn't show up even when their body was there.  You probably pray holes in your knees for these kids, that's not giving up.

God bless you as you continue to discern where your efforts are making a difference and don't beat yourself up when a kid leaves or never really was there.  God is the one who changes lives working in hearts, not our talks and programs, anyways.
 

Sorry, John! I agree that I've worded that wrong. It should say "Protestant Church". 

I take it your last questions does not imply that the the Roman Catholic church is not a Christian Church?

Hi Shane: Thanks for the perspective, it is much needed.  I refer you to an excellent article by Mark Buchanan, pastor of New Life Community Church in Duncan, British Columbia found in the Summer 2012 Leadership Journal. The article is titled "When Clean and Unclean Touch." He comments on John 1:16,17 "From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."  Buchanan finds here a "revolutionary reversal."  It was in grace that Jesus embraced sinners, and that embrace often led to their embracing the truth which He declared.  He touches lepers (Mtt 8:3) and He feasts with tax collecters and "sinners"(Mtt 9:9-13). Buchanan sees Jesus reversing truth first and then grace into grace first and then truth. The ultmate example of this approach is found in Romans 5:8: "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Very interesting! I like your analogy of dancing because  it responds to Psalm 149:3: "Let them praise His name with dancing."  If the dance is the tango then we are to be graciously "en-tango-ed" with others in the wilderness!

Shane, I apologize for missing your meaning in "keys behind a screen" analogy.  I'm with you on reducing complacency.  But maybe complacency means different things to different people sometimes too.  " Living out your journey" sounds like worldly self-actualization to me.   It could be similar to living for Jesus, but at first glance doesn't sound like it;  it sounds like a way of disguising it.   Living out your faith on the other hand as you mention, does mean real living for Jesus.  Of course, children of alcoholics, and alcoholics themselves, people in poverty, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, thieves, murderers, drug addicts are in the end sinners (like us) in need of a saviour .   And a saviour changes lives.   Faith without works is dead, both for us, and for those we are attempting to help(James 2).   Those who love Jesus know that friendship with the world is hatred towards God (James 4:4)   "No one who lives in him keeps on sinning" ( I John3:6 and other verses in I John).  I would argue that this is not grey, but a mix of black and white;  in other words the black remains clearly black and the white remains clearly white, but they are intermingled in a struggle with each other.  In normal worldly terms, the struggling white would become destroyed by the black, and everything would be a dull dark foggy grey.   But Christ changes that around so that the white light eliminates the darkness and removes it, so that everything becomes white by the power of HIs spirit.  Complacency is satisfied with a dull grey;  sometimes complacency is satisfied by zebra stripes of black and white.  Christ is not satisfied with that. 

So inclusion is the wrong word.  It leaves the wrong impression.   We witness to everyone.  But we recognize the battle against principalities and powers of darkness and spiritual forces of evil.  We do not include the evil.  And we cannot "include" those who promote evil or condone it.   However, God's grace is magnificent and marvelous, and we should not forget that either.   Forgiveness should never be far away from our response.   No one is beyond God's grace, should God choose to call (perhaps through us) and they receive. 

I agree it means action, and the action includes food, help, "being there",  and conversation and witness and adoption. 

John,

I too appreciate your comments on this topic. I think it's great to have multiple approaches deal with a conversation. 

I will challenge you on a few things. I believe I'm challenging the church more for it's complacency than for it's theology. Instead of settin the bar for inclusivity and involvement, we find ourselves behind secular culture, who is setting the bar. I don't entirely disagree with your argument of inclusion, but I feel we've wanted our doctrines to speak for themselves instead of living them out. Where does this point us? To action. I believe in living out my faith, and that includes children of poverty, alcoholics, homosexuals, and drug users being part of my journey (something not currently part of our doctrine: especially homosexuality). So the challenge of inclusion means more than keys behind a screen. And that's a grey topic when lived out. 

Shane, I appreciate the attitude in your writing.   However, some of what you have said, troubles me (so you might consider your words a success in "fighting for the kingdom"...).   What troubles me  is not "skirting the edges of heresy...".   But what you said about "secular culture pointing  Church back to her own Gospel message: grace; forgiveness; inclusion; and most of all a love for God and each other" does trouble me.   The secular culture is not pointing towards grace and forgiveness, but rather towards tolerance and acceptance.  The secular culture does not point towards a love for God, but rather towards a love for self-actualization and materialism and gaia.  We also must be careful about how we assume a discussion about "inclusion".   Jesus was very inclusive, yes, but he also told many parables about separating wheat from weeds, bad fish from good fish, sheep from goats.  The statement to the rich man about selling all he had and then following Jesus... why did not Jesus just accept the rich man exactly the way he was?   Why did the prodigal son have to come back to his father?   Why did the woman accused of adultery have to stop sinning?   Why did Jesus select twelve disciples (all male)?   I think the term "inclusion" does not address Jesus message because it is an oversimplification of what Jesus taught.   Using it as a simple mantra or substitute doctrine misses Jesus mission, and avoids truth.  In today's context it is particularly inappropriate it would seem. 

I agree that there is a dark side to Facebook, and that today's world (not only our young people) need to use it with discernment and discretion, but I would argue the point that Facebook feeds aren't helpful for relationships. Facebook, when used well, can be a wonderful touchpoint, another way to communicate with the people we are trying to live in relationship with. Anyone working with youth should know how to use it, and use it well--not to monitor or spy on the youth, but to encourage them, share inspirational things with them, inform them of events, use it to invite them out to coffee, view their pictures they are sharing of their lives, share some of your life with them. Don't use it to be a "FB chaperone" though. I have heard from far too many young people who roll their eyes in disgust about the private messages they have received from a well-meaning youth pastor or uncle who saw their questionable language or photo and felt the need to preach about it. Youth want to be heard, and when they know you care without judging, they will tone it down. Use FB to show you care, not to judge.

 

posted in: The Hungry Facebook

There have been several times where I've called out students (usually in a private message) about the language they used on facebook.  When I call them out, I basically ask them if the language they just used fit in with religious status or prior posts.  I remind them that their non-Christian friends are constantly judging their relationship with Christ by their actions and words.  And yes, we all slip; however, as their youth leader (or former leader), it's my duty as a brother-in-Christ to hold them accountable just like I hope they hold me accountable.

A couple students actually publicly apologized on facebook, stating that being mad was no excuse for the foul language.  Two former students dropped me as a friend after I called them out.  Others apologized privately and told me what was gonig on which led to very good discussions.

posted in: The Hungry Facebook

Colin! Thanks for your intuitive response. I'm always amazed at certain perspectives we have in our faith communities (ie: the coaching experience). But it's also my belief that we're beginning to see a movement towards organic mission: mission localized and internalized by leaders and lay leaders alike. But, as always, ignorance towards issues is no reason to go on denying them. So thank you for your agreement and we'd love to hear more success stories of your and others work. Grace and peace.

You can just cut and paste those thoughts right into the network sites for other pastors!  I think most of us pastors of all kinds struggle with the same reality.  Our jobs as pastors fill as many hours as we let it right up to 24/7 if we let it.  And our circles of relationships are almost completely within the church community we serve.  How missional is that?  I know of one church situation with a coleague a while back where the church complained because their pastor was coaching hockey (on his off time of course).  "If he has spare time, it should be doing something with the church!"  Then on the other hand, I also know a pastor who has discussed with his Council the matter of being an active presence in the town community the church is in and of having Council hold him accountable to doing that so he can lead by example as well as in word what they hoped would be the reality for the church members.  Thanks for raising the question.

Colin.

Jack, I actually agree with you.  I was not comparing youth to older leaders so much as emphasizing that authority without wisdom will lead to problems.   And yes, I agree that older leaders are also often "people pleasers" rather than "Christ followers".  I am thinking that older leaders were once young, and if they did not learn wisdom earlier, they often do not gain it later.   I think most of our problems with leadership is that we often assume that they can obtain wisdom after they obtain authority.   Sometimes that happens.   But it is better if they learn Godly wisdom first.  

posted in: Youth Youth Leaders

This is great topic  Ray.  The photo with the post shows a welcome sign at the entrance to a dining hall. It reads something like: “Youth Leaders: meet your mentor”. Mentoring builds youth leadership better than almost anything else. It encourages leadership development and maturity. Having been a youth leader, I can clearly and with much fondness remember each one of the adults that took time to coach and mentor me.  God’s desire for good leadership in me may have been crushed without their wise and loving presence.  What a great vision of Christian community-based leadership: wisdom of the mature working with the ideals and energy of the youth.

I am not sure that I agree with John’s implication that youth (more than older leaders) will try to please people more than please God.  My own observation over many years in leadership is that older leaders get this one wrong more than youth do.

posted in: Youth Youth Leaders

Ray, youth can certainly be leaders, with or without our help.   The question is, how will they be good leaders rather than bad leaders?    While giving them authority is necessary, giving them wisdom is even more important.   Helping them to understand how to make decisions that are pleasing to God, rather than decisions and plans that are just pleasing to people, is a good place to start.   Without that focus, it won't matter whether they are leaders or not.   Without that focus, they will simply lead others down the path to perdition, instead of to the glory of God. 

posted in: Youth Youth Leaders

As I once heard someone say "People tell me that they've been a Christian for twenty years, when they've really been a Christian for only one year, and they've just been repeating themselves for the last 19."

Another important consideration is this, that being older does not automatically make you more spiritually mature.   And you can also probably think of examples where spiritual enthusiasm does not necessarily equate to spiritual maturity.   Sometimes I am thinking that spiritual enthusiasm might be better than spiritual maturity.  Even though it sometimes leads to mistakes and errors, spiritual enthusiasm does not have the error of complacency, which is often attached to "spiritual maturity".   So I would say that the spiritually enthusiastic youth ought not to let themselves be held back too much by the so-called spiritual maturity of the "olders".  Listen yes, consider yes, but live out your obedient joy in Christ in all its fulness where ever and whenever you have the opportunity! 

Melissa, thank you for this post. Two quick observations are in order.  First, the criteria in scripture for church office is not age; it is spiritual maturity. Second, at age 13 Mormon "Teenagers" are inducted into the Aaronic Priesthood and at that point take on all the responsibilities of an adult member. In Soul Searching it is interesting that Mormon youth have a better understanding of their faith and tend to stick much better than Protestant youth. In light of the above observations perhaps it is time for us to recognize that teenagers are young adults who ought to be mentored into adulthood, and the role of adults and particularily elders, is to spiritually mentor young adults. 

We seem to be getting confused by several different issues here and mixing them all together.  

Profession of faith is a bit misnamed since it is seen as a committment to membership, not to faith.  After all, we wouldn't say that those who have not made profession of faith at age 6 or ten or sixteen are necessarily therefore without faith.  Perhaps the faith of a child is often stronger in fact.  So it is really a committment to membership, to particular confessions, to living a life of gratitude and joy and obedience to Christ, and recognizing this in a public way.  This could be done at perhaps age 12 or 16, but too many wait far too long; we might ask ourselves why they wait so long. 

Voting in a congregation ought to be at an age set by the congregation.  Perhaps at 18, or 16, or 20, whatever the congregation decides with council in its wisdom, but not automatically tied to a profession of faith, although it should be a pre-requisite.   In some cases, additional advisory votes by nonprofessing members could also be considered (but non-binding).   

Just because you can vote, doesn't mean you automatically should be able to sit on council.   Again, council and church should set a minimum age, recognizing that while wisdom can be present in the youth, it is not for nothing that elders are called elders and not youngers or middlers.   While exceptions should be possible, it would be good to look at possibly an age of about 30 for council.   I remember being on council a few years before that, and while it was good to serve, it would not have done any harm either to wait a few years. 

There are other places to lead and serve besides council.  Not only that, but no Christ-like elders would deliberately rule out conversations with non-council members, and would normally appreciate their input.  Council meetings are supposed to be open to anyone who wishes to attend, unless it is in executive session.   And non-council members can request an opportunity to speak or present an issue. 

Finally, I find it hard to believe that any council does not look forward to the future leadership of those who are presently young.  But as Ecclesiastes says, there is a time for everything, and everything in its time. 

Being a youth pastor, I really appreciate this article for a few reasons. First, I think it gives a strong voice to something that's been swept under the rug for some time. I wasn't aware of this before working with them, but youth are full of brilliant ideas, energy, and charisma – something a lot of our congregations envy. What better way to harness those gifts than involving them in the core conversations. Secondly, the "maturity" of students is almost always undercredited. They may say or do things that are left field, but maybe that's also the reason they stay away from church leadership (because they're looked down upon so agressively). The church should be the place we not only encourage growth, but where we display grace. And what better way to show those qualities than at a leadership level?

I understand that there are legal boundaries to this, but most congregations won't consider anyone for leadership until at least mid twenties, nearly ten years after they can be "legally bound".

Don't think kids care about this? Simply ask them yourselves. I did and I was surprised at how disappointed they were for not being embraced as future leaders. 

Don't want to throw a wrench into the works, however, serving on council also means sitting on a board of an incorporated NGO. State/Provincial legislation in this area usually requires one to be of legal voting age. 

Consequently, the denomination needs to separate the matter of "profession of faith" from "membership in a society", i.e. church as a legal entity.

a person is called by THE LORD to be part of HIS CHURCH.  after public profession of FAITH, he or she has not only the  RIGHT BUT ALSO THE DUTY to fully participate,in all aspects of KINGDOM  work/

Some interesting words from Job 32:

“I am young in years,
and you are old;
that is why I was fearful,
not daring to tell you what I know.
7 I thought, ‘Age should speak;
advanced years should teach wisdom.’
8 But it is the spirit[b] in a person,
the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding.
9 It is not only the old[c] who are wise,
not only the aged who understand what is right."

Recently, I have been watching some presentations by John Piper, and sermons by Mark Driscoll.   They are addressing and evangelizing the youth.   They are somewhat entertaining, but mostly engaging.   When you have numerous twenty year olds coming back week after week to listen to an hour long sermon, this might give you a clue as to the difference between entertainment and engagement.   Or how an "entertaining" speaker can "engage" the audience.   There is probably no formula to this, but young people will be engaged  when they are directly challenged in a real way about their faith and lifestyle.   And this means that some of them might walk out, because the message is indeed life changing, which they will not all want to do. 

How young is too young for council? Shoot, before we ask that question maybe we ought to deal with the question of how young is too young to be allowed to vote at congregational meetings. My congregation answered that by banning those under 16 from voting, even though they've made profession of faith. My motions to elimnate that were quickly shot down during both my terms on council. I mentioned that, given the policy, and in the interest of honesty, maybe we oughtn't read that part of the profession of faith form that says "I now welcome you to all the privileges of full communion. I welcome you to full participation in the life of the church. I welcome you to its responsibilities, its joys, and its sufferings."

For me, a few ideas come to mind here.  First and foremost, maybe it's not about pushing the age limit lower and lower, but rather about first addressing the issue of the council strongholds being willing to pass on the baton to a younger generation of leaders, and to walk alongside them (as a council member ex-officio, or similar).  My guess is, without having this discussion first, and making this a council-wide priority, plugging in a 21 year old into the council room will have negative effects.

Second, I get frustrated when I hear about "youth representatives" on committees.  This creates a two-tier system, which essentially minimizes the voice of the youth.  Each person who sits at the table comes by nature as a representative of certain groups or demographics, but we name only the "youth rep" for our own agenda.  How come we don't have the "working moms rep" or "over 80 rep" or "knitter's rep" at the table?  

Last, never underestimate the potential having a young adult at the table can bring to the meeting.  What would it mean to have someone constantly ask, "So, tell me, why exactly are we doing it this way?" might slow the meeting down, but it would quickly bring intentionality back to the purpose of your church.  Not to mention the fact that there are some youth that simply have the gift of leadership, perhaps moreso than some of our existing members.  What better place to develop that than within the church?  We have a whole pile of children, youth, and young adults that love Jesus, love the church, and deeply desire to belong and invest in a local congregation.  They want to pour back into the community that helped shape their faith.  We absoutely must give them the opportunity!

I don't think a teenager has the maturity needed to be an elder or deacon. Having said that, I think it would be a good idea  to include them in the council somehow so they can become aware of what it means to lead the church. What I would like to see is more young people, teenagers and post high, given the responsibility of heading ministries in the church - youth groups, Gems, Cadets, Sunday School, etc. This will give them a chance to mature in their roles as leaders. It will also make them feel like they can make an important contribution to the church.  If the older generation has been in charge of youth ministries, it's time to turn over the job of leadership. This also gives the older members a chance to look at new ways God might be leading them. If we give our young people a chance to lead in ministry, to experience the joys and frustrations, that will help them to develop their leadership skills. Then they will be ready to lead as elders and deacons. Maybe they will even think of pursuing the call of ministry, after gaining some experience.

This is really great ! Thanks, Derek! I've shared this with others. 

There is another aspect to the youth program that could help to bring in the entire congregation.   The most successful youth program is one that enlists the help and support of every single adult in the church.   By that I mean that the congregation needs to pray for the youth, teach the youth, encourage the youth in coming to Christ, and encourage the youth in faithful living for Christ.   No youth pastor or any other pastor can do that all by himself.   Every parent and grandparent needs to be taught how to do that, to help with that at home, on vacation, at school activities, in evening discussions, shared meals, and at every opportunity.  The preaching of the lead pastor should also be mentioning that from time to time.  The youth are the closest and most neighborly mission field, in which everyone can be a missionary.  

posted in: From The Shadows

Thought I'd give you an update on our monthly service projects.  Our first project for our high school students fell through as it was a bad weekend for illness and students being out of town.  Instead, my family and one other student and her family went out for dinner - which was a great way to get a better insight into the life of this student.

Our middle school group hosted a Trunk or Treat event on halloween night.  They were joined by some of the high school students and all of them did a good job setting up, making the neighborhood guests feel welcome, guiding them through the church (moved it inside because of the weather), and helped clean up.  Not sure if students were that impacted by this event but it was a fun, non-threatening way to get them started on the idea.

Last Sunday evening, I bought some Little Caesar's $5 gift cards, made up a note stating why were doing this and identifying our church, and took the high school students to a strip mall to hand them out to whomever was leaving one of the stores.  All the students were required to go up to person and say something like "Hi, I'm Ken from Southern Heights and I just want to give you this Little Caersar's gift card.  Merry Christmas."  Even the super shy student managed to do this and enjoyed it!  Afterward, we went to Steak N Shake and discussed the night.  They were surprised that about 1/3 of the people turned them down.  We also had a great discussion about how just about everyone who took the card couldn't believe they were getting something with no strings attached or that we refused any type of donation.  They're now looking forward to our next service projects.

Last night, I bought about 180 candy canes at the dollar store, attached a note that said "Merry Christmas from Southern Heights", and brought our middle school group to the same strip mall.  We divided into teams of 2 or 3 and went to various stores where the students greeted people with a simple "Hi, I'm Ken from Southern Heights. Merry Christmas!" as they handed them a candy cane.  We had talked in advance that some people might not take one, and that helped the students as about 1/4 of the people turned them down.  Once they got into the groove, they were so excited to see the smiles on people's faces and hear their surprised "Thank You".  Some people immediately reached into their pocket for a donation, but the kids were quick to let them know that this was their gift to them and they expected nothing in return.  One clerk from the bookstore we were standing at apparently had made a quick errand to another store and was heading back into the store when one of our young men approached her and said his piece and gave her the candy cane.  The look of pure joy on her face was priceless - and then she gave him a big hug while she thanked him.  I was interested in what his reaction would be to that and when he came back to the group his reaction was "She smells nice!"  Just as we were finishing handing out our candy canes, this clerk came back out with a cup of hot chocolate for this student and told him she was so touched because that was the first time in her life a non-family member had wished her a "Merry Christmas" just because - wanting nothing in return.  Other groups had stories of people who were so touched they also gave them hugs (all hugs were appropriate and leaders were right there for protection).  When we got back to church and shared our stories, I could tell the kids really got the concept of giving of themselves without expecting nothing in return.  We talked about how this student gave 5 seconds of his time and a gift that cost less than a dime, and how that impacted this person's life.  This group is now pumped to do more service projects.

I was amazed at how God used these simple ideas in such a great way.  He is so amazing in what He can do!

Our next project will be joint projects as our youth groups join our community in a community food drive.  We will drag boxes on carts around an "assembly line" where others will pack the boxes.  After we make a few rounds on the assembly line, we will then take several names and bring the food to families.  Seeing a community work together impacts the students, as well as the gratitude of the recipients. 

I'll keep you posted on how our events go.

Thanks so much for the support! One of the many challenges of ministry is breaking traditional models or understanding of church, and what you've said above tells me you understand how to approach the issue. Thanks again! 

No, they don't need a spouse who plays the piano.   They need to train their children to play the piano.   Even a child who only plays the melody, is still a greater gift than "buying" a pianist, because that child will grow and develop and improve.  And when that imported pianist leaves, then what?   Back to square one.   While the child who learns will be there longer.  Even in a small church with less than 100 people, it is possible to have six children learning to play, and others can play different instruments.   Music is a gift from God;  a gift to be used, not just to be listened to. 

Not that there's anything wrong with having a "spouse" who plays the piano, but concentrate on the children first. 

Hi Simon,

I've assembled several commissioning liturgies for a non-ordained youth pastor/youth director. If interested, send me an e-mail (pastor@bethelsc.org) and I'll attach them as Word documents.

In Christ,

John Lee

Hi Simon

I have a liturgy we used to ordain our youth pastor when he became a ministry associate (now commissioned pastor).  I think that's what you're looking for.  I don't want to add it here if it's not what you're looking for, but if it is, let me know at dbslof@telus.net and I'll send it to you as an attachment.

Bert Slofstra

Hi Simon, a few years ago I wrote a commissioning litany for leaders and teachers for congregations to use as faith nurture programs kick off in the fall. It's not exactly what you are looking for, but it may offer a helpful pattern that you can adapt. You'll find it posted here on the Reformed Worship website. 

A pet peeve of mine is when worshiip leaders include songs with reference to raising hands, and then they don't!  Better then to not use a song with those lyrics, lest this detail show us to be less than sincere.

posted in: Are You A Player?

Shane, 

Thanks for the question.  By commissioning I have in mind a moment in a  service when through a liturgy (i.e. prayer, responsive reading, charge to the youth director, charge to the congregation) the congregation will commission the person we just hired to fill the youth director position here at our church.  

Simon

Are you speaking in terms of "Commissioning" through classis? Or in terms of simply calling a youth director? If you're seeking ordination ("Commissioned Pastor) through the classis, you simply have to set something up through classis clerk. The process (as far as I understand it) varies from exactly how the process goes. But when I did my Article 23 (Commissioned Pastor), I had a mentor who guided me through the process in conglomeration with our congregations pastor (worked on my strengths and weaknesses together).

 

Does that help?

Great article, Ray! I would also question what we're doing outside of our "everyday youth jobs"? This is a challenge I've been forcing myself to do recently because it's so easy to get sucked into doing "youth work". Doing something volunteer without payment (the "service" work we always preach about) is different than leading a Bible study or an event or a praise team or a service project we're being paid to be present for. True volunteer time without your youth by your side I think is also a valuable tool for teaching, leading, and instructing students. The best teachers I learned from were mentors who told life stories, not metaphorical scenarios. 

Love the article!

posted in: Are You A Player?

My passion and focus at church is in worship and how we use art and liturgy in an instructive way. For me, in the worship setting, it's about treating people like adults and focusing less on the "show" and more on the content. Are we telling the gospel story in the art and liturgy we use during the service? Can I as an artist take liberty with a text or scripture to make a broader point that helps people connect with the sermon comming next? Can we provide context for the message? Like I said about memorizing "Bible facts", it isn't just about rushing though a few happy songs so we can get to the sermon. It's looking at the service through a comprehensive lens and helping people connect the dots through word and song and silence. Worship extends far, far beyond a set list of hymns and praise choruses!

Jonathan! You've hit the nail on the head and I'm happy you understand what I'm trying to communicate. I perceive from your comment that you're somehow involved in leadership which makes me curious: What sort of tangible ways you're carrying out the initiatives (living scripture in a palpable way) you've referenced above?

I think in your second paragraph you point out that it's more complex than simply calling millennials (I assume that's who you're refering to) a "60-second" generation. Our attention may seem to last 60 seconds at a time, but we can spend hours dedicated to those 60 second chunks. Also, as anyone who has tried for a perfect 3 stars on all levels of Angry Birds can tell you, those simple puzzles aren't always so easy.

Speaking as a millennial and "technically-still-young" person, I think the obstacles we face in ministry sometimes have more to do with our frustration that old models aren't working anymore rather than anything. I think where in the past youth ministry has been more about the rote memorization of Biblical knowledge, maybe it needs to take a cue from these little puzzle games and be about helping young people make conclusions themselves about their faith. In stead of saying "Jesus wants us to do X, and here are three versus that prove it", it needs to be more like "what do these three versus tell us about how we are called to live as Christians in a complex and messy world outside the Church?"  Now if you'll excuse me, there's a squirrel and some shiny objects outside my window that need my attention. =)

Pete! That's an amazing story! And I totally agree that we are changed by every humble action we do for Christ!

Ken, I'd love to hear more about your mini mission trips! Being that this is a new venture for me personally, I'd love to hear from you more about a) what it is you are doing and b) how you think it's helping your youth. You can post it here (helpful to all of us), or if you prefer email: youth@avcrc.org.

Wholeheartedly agree with the "hands on" gospel.  The leaders of our tudent ministry watched a webinar by Greg Steir from Dare2Share which emphasized getting out there.  How to keep the "mission trip high" for Christ has always been an issue that we've dealt with.  So, we've decided that both our middle and high school student ministries will take one meeting a month to go out and be Christ's hands, feet, ears, etc. to the world - mini mission trips.  It's been proven that students draw closer to Christ through prayer and studying His word when on mission trips, so we're praying that these mini-trips will help draw them to a better and stronger relationship with Christ.  The students can't wait until the service meetings when they get to leave the building and be Christ's church in action.

Ken VanderLugt

Shane,

I'll never forget the first service project I led to inner-city Chicago in 1985.  As the students went behind three locked doors and had to sleep on tables to stay away from the cockroaches, they started asking serious questions like   "how come I have a clean bed and a safe home and these people don't?"   As we painted and cleaned that weekend, I talked alot about grace, sin, and the mercy of God.    We all came back changed and humbled.  Doesn't that happen everytime we serve from the heart?

-Pete Byma

 

Thanks for the excitement, passion and desire to continue and bridge the gap that many times as leaders we fail at; Reaching in both directions we will bridge that transitional gap easier....God bless you as you continue to experience what He has laid on your heart to proclaim without shame!!!!!

Every so often, I think it's a good idea to take a look at how you are doing your youth ministry.  We did that this year with the premise that our vision is good; however, are we doing ministry in way that is in line with our vision?  Then we approached it with the mindset that not only is this a new year, but how would we do this ministry if it was a brand new ministry.  After a good discussion and tossing out quite a few ideas (some wild) we ended up making some significant changes while keeping parts that were effective and will help the students feel continuity from last year. 

It was scary, as a leader, to ask my team these questions, but I'm glad I did as it not only gets us closer to our vision but also gives ownership to the rest of the volunteer team. 

posted in: Why Ask Why?

Jason: Great Questions....it is not usually so Black & White because there are so many factors that effect those changes; to stay ahead of the culture trends, over the last 30 yrs, I believe in the 7 year rule; that is it averages out to 7-10 yrs a new generation evolves with different, likes, goals, visions, technology etc. etc. etc. So making a goal of every 7 years keeps you ahead of the average trend. HOWEVER, if you are honestly "tweeking" your program/curriculum, when you get to that seventh year, not only will you very close to the next generation changes, but it won't look like the changes are that drastic. Also, you are not tweeking the moral foundations/fiber that your beliefs are built on, only the presentation that makes it understandable and easier to chew.The bigger question is "How do we keep youth Ministry worker/pastors to stay at any one given location for more than 3 years. That statistic is a true one, and if yth workers are not staying, they can't even come close to successful ministry in these terms. I'd even be thrilled if that statistic doubled. Also training them to create programs that can be passed along to the next one in line. So the answer to some of that is better training for both employed and volunteer yth minitry workers...

posted in: Why Ask Why?

Albert,

Thanks for sharing your wisdom on this - very practical information!

My question is this - while "tweaking" programs is important, what happens when it comes time to complete overhaul?  How does a leadership team know when it is time to go "back to the drawing board"?  How do we discern the difference between "tweaking" and "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic"?  In other words, sometimes our congregational cultures can be prohbitive in terms of the "model/strucutre" of our youth programs - how do we know when it is time to challenge the perceived knowledge of "the way things have always been done" without throwing the baby out with the bath water?

posted in: Why Ask Why?

JAson: Great way to begin a new Blog.....that is how I began! When I started at my present job (thankfully in the Summer months) my first task was to construct a Mission Statement, a Vision Statement, a Curriculum Overview and then everything and ideas that support it. By doing this I have a birdseye view of where I am going -  a road map, per se, of where I'm going with my approach throughout the year. Do I have detours - Sure, Do I have Road blocks - Absolutely, Do I need to plot a different course - Many times, but it allows me to (1) see my feet in front of me, (2) look down the road and not fall off the path (a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path) and (3) Evaluate it more clearly when I've arrived. At the end of each School year we sit down with our yth and evaluate what went well and what didn't. We correspond this with a Parent Survey to see what their parents see valuable/invaluable about the program. If you do this for 3-4 years then down the road you will have a program that you can use over and over again and just tweeking it a little each you use it to stay up with the times. Also, it creates a program for someone new who may step into the youth ministry position down the road. Always make sure that you are picking issues that are relevant to the times and to the kids; that's one of the biggest benefits of a year-end POw-Wow. MAking sure you're on Target!

posted in: Why Ask Why?

Thanks for the welcome and encouragement, Albert.

I'm definitely "in" for the CYWC and I hope many other Canadian CRC youth workers are able to attend as well - it will prove to be a rewarding and helpful event and the discussion with other CRC youth workers sounds excellent!

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