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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
Blog

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 2 comments
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It is my belief that the church finds itself at a very interesting and pivotal moment in history. Moral questions have taken the most fascinating turn because secular culture is pointing the Church back to her own Gospel message: grace; forgiveness; inclusion; and most of all a love for God and each other. 

March 17, 2013 0 4 comments
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One of our pastoral roles is to help bring our students into greater maturity both in their schools/homes, and in their lives. And with Facebook developing unwarranted drama among our students, we must stop and ask, “Are we guiding students through the land mines of Facebook feed?” 

March 6, 2013 0 2 comments
Blog

The water has returned to the sea, but the path of destruction still remains for those who were part of the tragic Sandy Hook shootings. And in the wake of that tragedy is a deep desire for answers to why killer Adam Lanza took his rage out on so many children and their teachers at an elementary Connecticut school.

February 20, 2013 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

When I was a youth director I was always looking for new fundraising ideas, so I thought I'd pass this along. Equal Exchange now has a fundraising program that involves selling candy bars at $2 a pop for a 50% profit. Sell candy, do justice--sounds sweet to me! See details here.  

February 18, 2013 0 0 comments
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Let’s face it: students are hard to break through, and it can be a major challenge getting them to open up. So here are a few tips to help get us thinking and, hopefully, talking. 

February 7, 2013 0 0 comments
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My wife, daughter and I have just returned from Atlanta where we, along with 60,000 young adults, attended the 2013 Passion Conference. We have been volunteering at Passion since 2005 and it is so exciting to see so many young men and women  passionately worshipping God with a desire to serve Him on their campus and in their churches. Experiencing all of this at Passion, I long for my youth back home to also have this kind of passion for Christ

January 28, 2013 0 0 comments
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We all feared them when the broke the scene, but now cannot live without their convenience or instant gratification. Sometimes they’re slim and sexy, other times their robust and powerful. But most importantly, they’ve become integrated into our daily routine: smartphones, tablets, computers.... Devices.

January 21, 2013 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

On Thursday, January 24 at 7pm, Brookside CRC (Grand Rapids, MI) will be hosting an evening of conversation with youth ministry expert Chap Clark.  This is a great opportunity for youth workers and parents in West Michigan to hear one of the premier minds in youth ministry talk about how to help...

January 14, 2013 0 0 comments
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I remember it so clearly, that moment of enlightenment. I was sitting in a local cafe with someone from our congregation and was sharing my sense of wandering with him. I was confiding in him and trying to identify the direction in which I should go with something I was struggling through. Then he suddenly stopped me and said, “You just need to get out there and do something.” 

January 8, 2013 0 2 comments
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In practice, I and other youth leaders that I work with, often do all the leading ourselves. It is less complicated, isn’t as messy, and takes less time. In the rush of our week, with work, family and other obligations, who has time to involve the youth in actually leading youth group on a Wednesday night. It is just easier to do it yourself.

December 28, 2012 0 3 comments
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In a time when our society is devastated by the actions of a single broken human being, it’s good for all areas of a system to bind together and aim for reconciliation and consonance for the families of the victims of Newtown, Connecticut.

December 18, 2012 0 0 comments
Blog

One of the things I fear this generation is leaving behind (and my generation alike) is the idea of traditions. If I'm starkly honest about myself, I'm personally not the biggest fan of traditions. But, I think I'm more frightened by the word than by the practice in an of itself.

December 11, 2012 0 1 comments
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We talk about losing youth in our congregations.  We talk about having less and less people wanting to be part of council.  I wonder - why don't we start talking about youth on council. How young is too young?

December 10, 2012 0 11 comments
Discussion Topic

For those of you who are looking for quality Reformed materials for your youth ministry library, now is a good time to stock up on many of the great titles that Faith Alive Christian Resources offers. Whether you’re looking for resources on teaching the Heidelberg Catechism or preparing your...

December 6, 2012 0 1 comments
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I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes. I couldn't believe the island I had found myself on, and the lack of awareness for where I was spiritually. The well was dry, and the rains had come. Yet, someone had forgotten to remove the roof which was redirecting all the water. I had failed to communicate.

December 1, 2012 0 1 comments

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BLOG AWAY! Although, as my sister - and especially my wife the Brit/Lit English Professor - always say....cite your work, so you're not plagerising...HeeHee

Thanks for your input.  I certainly agree that fund raising often works best when various options are tried and each church then identifies what works best for their group and congregation. I am hopeful, though that this Faith Alive fund raiser will have a number of positive results.  It will be great if it helps raise funds for the youth group.  I believe that there are far too few Reformed resources or resources with a Reformed perspective being used in our congregations, and if this program can get some high quality Reformed resources into our churches, that will be a win.  I also have a heart for Faith Alive and want to offer assistance to this incredibly important ministry partner.  So, all that to say that I figure this fund raiser might work for some groups, and the additoinal benefits look pretty good too.

 

I think that your comments would make for a great future blog for this network.  I hope you don't mind if I use some of your ideas/suggestions for a post later this spring! Thanks again for your thoughtful post.

 

Here is a great short article on why youth stay connected to churches: spoiler alert - it has nothing to do with how well they were entertained...  

http://www.churchleaders.com/youth/youth-leaders-articles/153948-why-youth-stay-in-the-church-when-they-grow-up.html

 

Mark,

Thanks for sharing your wisdom on this.

I appreciate the way you’ve described “fun with a purpose”, especially as it pertains to relationship building.  I totally agree that this should be a primary focus of our fun events.  What I had in mind when talking about fun events is in youth groups where the fun is the main emphasis and purpose of the youth group, as if youth group exists solely as a form of Christian entertainment – keep our kids entertained and then they will like church.  I’ve seen it happen too many times where youth leaders/pastors are criticized by parents, youth, and other leaders when fun is not the focus - "give our youth what they want to keep them happy".

I agree with you that creating a safe space to have deep discussions is very important and that, unfortunately, this is not going to appeal to every student.  However, I suppose this is also true to the church as a whole – I’m sure you’d agree that it is not the task of church leadership to cater to all wants and interests represented in the church.  After all, the church is not a country club, right?  The question is, how do we move ahead with the task of discipleship with the realization that not everyone is interesting in following Christ?  I'm not suggesting that we leave those who are uninterested behind, but I think our priority needs to be focused on those who are hungry for growth.

I also echo your attitude related to “your” students going to other youth groups.  They aren’t our sheep – they belong to Christ, so as long as they are getting fed, we should be saying “thank-you and Amen”.  How can we create a partnering attitude between churches when it comes to “sharing” youth?  Too often, churches are in the business of competing with each other and resort to some very interesting tactics in trying to reach out to youth.  This attitude also extends within churches too – I’ve seen youth pastors pressured to create similar, if not identical, programs to other churches in an attempt to “win back” their youth from other youth groups.  This seems to be a poor use of resources and it is certainly not fuelled by a kingdom vision.

I love your perspective on the size of your youth group – Amen!

How do we strike a positive balance between “large group”, “small group”, “missional”, “outreach”, “spiritual formation”, and “fun” events?  I have a hunch that the only way to do this is to be more intentional in our congregations about shifting from being “multi-generational” to “inter-generational” churches.

I agree that numbers do matter, especially in terms of the way you’ve framed the discussion.  What I had in mind in this article is the presumption (by parents, church leadership, youth, and youth leaders) that a youth group is “failing” if there is not 100% attendance by all church youth and/or if there is a specific son/daughter, niece/nephew, granddaughter/grandson who is not attending.  I think there is tremendous pressure put on youth leaders from a number of different fronts on this issue.  I understand the motivation behind the concern, but I think the responsibility is often misplaced.

Thanks again for sharing, Mark.

Nice work Jason!

Here are a few things that I've learned over the years:

SOME STUDENTS JUST WANT TO COME OUT FOR THE FUN STUFF - and I encourage them to come to the fun stuff! I can recall a discussion with one parent who lamented that their kid "only wants to come out to the fun stuff." I say, GREAT!  Some students crave positive relationships with adults and peers who desire to be present in their lives, and the "fun stuff" is a great place for that to happen.  We take our "fun stuff" very seriously, with events that focus on inclusion, encouragement, laughter.  And while there might be little "God talk", the gospel is being preached through positive and powerful relationships.  There are some that just aren't in the space to hold hands and sway to the latest worship song, and throw themselves into a small group to have their ideas about God and faith dissected and potentially rejected. That's ok. We have an opportuntiy to develop relational trust in our fun stuff.

SOME STUDENTS ONLY WANT THE DISCUSSION STUFF - and I encourage them to come to the discussion stuff! Messy games night? No thanks. Lively debate about justice, church, living your faith? Count me in!  Some students thrive in intellectual idea sharing, debate, exploring ways to deepen faith and engage their world, and a discussion night is a great place for that to happen!  Fortunately, there is no chance I will ever be able to out-entertain the entertainment industry, and there are some youth that understand that we're not about entertaining, but about loving God and engaging His creation, and we love to explore ways to do that.

SOME STUDENTS JUST WON'T COME OUT. And I really want them to, so that I can pad my numbers.  But no matter how many backflips I do, they're just not coming.  For me this is always a great reminder that I am not their savior.  And they also probably don't like me. But even if they choose not to be involved in the community that I oversee, I want to make sure that they are connected to a community that will help them grow in their faith. Some of "my" students go to other youth groups. Some students who don't come are active in their school's Christian group. Some students take their faith and shine it in the locker room of the hockey team that they're a part of that runs at the same time as my youth group.  And to each of them I say, great!

OUR YOUTH GROUP IS BIGGER THAN OUR CHURCH KIDS: Lately I've been trying to convince our students and community to answer the question "How big is your youth group?" with the answer "5000."  There are approximately 5000 high schoolers in our community, and we want to start working on ways to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to be welcomed into our youth group. And while we don't want to get caught in the numbers game, I want to make sure that each person that comes in knows that they matter.  And that they know that all other 4975 students matter too, even if they don't know we even exist. But, yes, I do get strange looks when I say that we have about 0.5% "active" youth.

IT'S A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE: We've all had that event where only a small handful of students came out, for one reason or another.  That doesn't make it a flop ("We ONLY had 4 youth come out, so we tossed our big event out and ended up playing euchre, what a drag!). That makes it a special moment to connect with those few, and solidify those relationships, ask more personal questions, and dig deep into the few that came out.  I love those moments, and secretly wish our big events were flops more often. Maybe it's the introvert in me. 

 

Numbers DO matter.  Jesus' parable didn't end with the shepherd waiting for 2 of the 99 sheep to procreate to get that 100th back.  But we need to get past the idea that faith growth only happens in youth group. We need to stop seeing the youth program and youth workers as the saviors of our children.  And we - the entire church community - need to be faithful first to our calling to deepen our own relationships with Jesus first and foremost before we worry about the faith of our kids.  Discipleship works best when those doing the discipling are deeply rooted in their own faith.

This is undoubtedly the most insightful writing I have read on Youth Ministry in some time.  I especially enjoyed the questions it posed.  IE: ""what kind of disciples are we making " .  I pray that we are willing to look at these questions and answer them honestly.   It is such a promising piece of writing on the topic . 

Great article!!!   I am copying this and giving a copy to every youth worker, and every parent of youth in our church.  Well written!!

Although this is easy and safe, I'm not sure it's the way to go.....it's not the kind of activity that  fuels relationships and builds excitement within the youth. Books can be bought anywhere these days and for pennies. I would encourage being more creative. This certainly does work better for larger churches, but the smaller churches are maybe wasting their energies on a project that may not produce anticipated end results. One key to fundraising... Experiemnt with lots of things that are simple and easy and you will soon realize and identify what works best in your church and your circumstances. From experience, book-selling is not one of them. It's like door-2-door Girl Scout Cookie seliing. Outdated and no one gets excited about it, which takes away from the vision for the Mission Trip. Try new things and be creative.....just my humble opinion....

 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’  

We often think this only refers to the poor and sick and downtrodden.   But if in our minds, our children are somehow less important than older people, then this verse also applies to the children.   If we neglect the children, then we are neglecting Christ, in essence.   And if we care for the children, then we have done it for Christ. 

But is it just the gathering church as a group that is responsible?   How does this apply to the parents?   Often parents do pander to children, and thus spoil them rotten, and teach them that materialism and education and sports and feelings and music and texting are more important than obedience to Christ.    Where are the examples of a present day Eric Liddell who refused to run on Sunday because Christ was more important to him than a national or Olympic medal or the approval of his earthly government?   How often do we find elders and Christian men spending more time watching the Super Bowl or Stanley Cup than they do leading their sons in spiritual walk with Christ?  How often do we find christian men neglecting devotions and prayer in order to spend more time making more money at their career?   Do we think that our youth do not notice this? 

In our example, and in our priorities, we often neglect the impact on our youth, and we will reap the results.   And when we do not neglect the children and their relationship to Christ, then we can also reap the rewards. 

Great Clip, Eric....maybe It can be useful for a youth devotional I have....thanks 4 sharing!!!

Granted - the youth are not less important.  They are human beings in need of the Gospel, and we should welcome and incorporate all God's children for the promise is to you and your children, to all who are afar off, to as many as the Lord our God shall call.

I only know what you wrote - "the most important or even critical members in most of our congregations".  I'm glad that is not what you meant.

Or is it? "You can make honoring  age and tradition the focal point in your church, and I suspect you'll be doing so in a shrinking congregation with fewer and fewer youth..."  In other words, we should surrender to the youth culture, the American fascination with novelty and inexperience or we will be that most dreaded of all things [portentous music here] - irrelevant.

Mind you, I've nothing against reaching out to young people, both in and out of the church (though you said "members...of our congregations", not simply "youth").  I've nothing against accommodating, at least to some extent, the different tastes in music or style.  Far from it.  Nor would I say I'd make age and tradition the focal points of the church, though I think we could do far more to honor it than we do.  I am no hide-bound traditionalist.

But what are we reaching out to youth with?  It is an ancient truth, a gospel now over 2,000 years old, and the experience of the Church over those centuries as it has faced persecution, hardship, sacrifice, prosperity, temptation, and all the other vicissitudes of life.  And one of the key lessons the Church has learned is that humility is appropriate, even necessary.

Telling teenagers they're the most critical, most important members (and you said "members", not objects of our ministry) is not going to teach humility.  It is also a mindset that begins to think that the gospel must be alterred for this present age.  You might not, yourself, have gotten to that point yet but the Church as a whole has long since trod down that path in its adulation of youth culture - and the further we go down that path, the more irrelevant and pointless we will be.

If you want a better notion of what I'm getting at, see this Craig Ferguson clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKUZ42T9diU

Although, I understand what Eric is trying to get at and many times it is true, I don't think this is what anyone (at least I hope not) is trying to say. There is a lot of wisdom in what Eric is saying, but that probably is an entirely different subject. I already see Paul and John have responded - appropriately - so I don't need to beat a dead bush... :>)

PS The importance is that this age group seems to be in our age the most needful of the Gospel message or it may fall on deaf ears, more apt to tune the message out due to many other "distractions/temptations".... the most crucial age group that we have a responsibility to be sure that they hear it over and over again.

I love this idea John.  The question you raise at the end of your post should drive our process far more than the secular school year.

(And thanks for the well-written, graceful response on the previous post regarding the importance of youth ministry.)

posted in: Late Winter Blues

I sometimes wonder if our biggest fallacy is constraining our "programs" on the basis of the secular school year?   Why don't we rather consider taking a few weeks break in winter, and continuing our programs in the summer, perhaps with changes in location and context?   Does the dictates of state mandates for public school education become the determing factor for the spiritual growth of our children?   Maybe the summer time is our prime time for evangelistic opportunities and spiritual growth of our youth? 

posted in: Late Winter Blues

I rather agree with Paul Boice on this, although I understand Eric's concern.  Paying attention to the youth does not mean pandering to them;  it means treating them as a gift and responsibility from God.   God is not a special God of the youth, just like He is not a special god to the poor.   God is special to everyone.   But God gives the elders, olders, and more mature a responsibility to ensure that they are providing the education and instruction and welcome and respect for the youth and youngers who are God's treasure, loved by God.  We must allow these children of whatever age, to come to Christ and sit on his lap, and receive His love.  This should be part of the wisdom of the elders and the tradition we create.  If we do not do that, then we do not deserve the respect for either the elders, nor for the traditions.  

It is not that the youth are more important than the elders.  But they are not less important either, to Christ.  

Wow, you completely misread my blog.  The critical point is that the individuals who are most open to the Gospel and the population that most urgently needs to hear it are between the ages of 4-18.  That includes children within and OUTSIDE the church.  It has absolutely nothing to do with telling 15 year-olds that they are more important than their parents or grandparents.  That's absurd. You can make honoring  age and tradition the focal point in your church, and I suspect you'll be doing so in a shrinking congregation with fewer and fewer youth and very little significance to those outside your walls.

While it's fair to ask why youth are leaving the church, and it's certainly appropriate to minister to them in focused ways, I cannot agree that they are "the most important or even critical members in most of our congregations".  They aren't.  Nor should we continue to encourage the overweening narcissism to which our young people are so frequently tempted.

When we spend so much energy telling 15 year olds they're so much more important than the parents and grandparents who pay the bills, sacrifice for the Church and for them, and pray so diligently for them, we also encourage contempt for age and the hard-won wisdom of years lived, and thus consign them to learn through their own pain what they could have learned through the pain of their elders.

We are told not to exasperate our children or provoke them, but to bring them up in the discipline of the Lord.  We are not told to idolize them or grant to them a status they have not yet earned.  The Church, American society in general, and our youth would be better off if we honored age and tradition a bit more and youth and novelty a bit less.

I think the urgency of this issue is certainly lost in most churches - definitely not in my church - but the result is the obvious and staggering statistic that 72% of youth leave the church after university/college. The problem with most churches is 1) they don't realize the urgency & importance and 2) when they do realize it, they're asking it in the form of the quesetion that I hear repeated excessively, "Why are they leaving?" and "What can we do about it?" It's almost too late at that point. As you know, I'm a huge proponent for Christian Education and the biggest statistic there that touches on this topic is the amount of knowledge acquired in the 1st  7 years of a child's life, will take to the age of 40 to learn, if it isn't taught to the child in those 1st seven years.  Churches should chew on that statistic for a while and once they do, they'll realize it's a "no brainer" how urgent it really is to teach those important foundations. Those are the things the youth fall back on in times of trouble, pain or brokeness....once you're out of the boat and scared you always go back to where it is safe and comfortable.....those early foundations....

While God can use people of all ages to serve in his kingdom, and in his church, it would not be appropriate or beneficial to have teenagers or very new christians to lead and rule if older (elder) christians are available to do so.   It is quite possible for many teenagers to do deaconal work without being ordained as ruling deacons, since every church member ought to engage to some extent in deaconal activites, such as caring for the less fortunate.  But the idea that the youngers should be elders runs counter and contrary to the notion that learning and experience and wisdom in the Christian life are gained through time.  It runs contrary to the whole idea of the title of 'elders" as well.   Sometimes, if older people are younger christians, then they too would not be good candidates for eldership, even while they would still have lots of opportunity for service.   On the other hand, I agree that qualifications for eldership should be based primarily on spiritual maturity, not on chronological age. 

Thank you Jonathan! We loved all the ideas on your Facebook page!  :)

We've done a Maundy Thursday Seder Dinner/Meal. The food gets the kids interested, and before they know it, they are swept into the readings....it's certainly memorable even if you only do it once....

Marc: Although I'm not entirely sure what you are getting at - maybe that it's best to have a regional/Classical YM in place B4 we hire a denominational coordinator - but YM is quite a different ball of wax than pastoral ministry. The pastors 99% of the time have beyond excellent educational practicum. The average Youth Leader/Durector if they have a degree have VERY little experience. They need leadership; they need resources; they need ideas to jumpstart programs; they need stories of success to get motivated, at times. Although, it's more cost effective to do it by region/Classis in the short-term, in the Long-term vision, if the the programs are universal and flexible (each youth group is unique) I think the best way to get everyone on board is through a denominational coordinator. Starting small, simple and things that have a proven record.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=3117301375129

 

(that's our pastor's vehicle)

While I appreciate the desire and need to enhance our own "in-house" networking, communication and support for our youth leaders, I am not yet convinced of a few things.  First is throwing out all of YU and all that they bring to our youth ministry table. It is truly unfortunate that YU has had to let go of both the personnel and opportunity to offer leadership development opportuntities, but YU can, and still does, offer a lot to Canadian youth leaders.  

Second, while I love the idea of developing a "Canadian Youth Worker Director" position, I'm pretty sure that there are many many steps between the average youth worker and a potential Canadian YM director that are just plain missing.  Within the denomination, there are many steps of communication between Synod through to the local pastor.  But I would assume that few pastors have direct access to the Directors of the denomination.  There is a solid method of communication and support through Synod, regional classes, to the pastor and church council.  I would daresay that the levels between the volunteer youth leader, or even the paid youth pastor, up to a Denominational or Canadian Youth Ministry Director are almost nonexistant.  While many of our classes do have a classis youth ministry team of sorts, there is no uniformity from one Classis to another as to the vision of Classis youth ministry or how this body functions.  Many classes do not have a regional youth ministry coordinator or consultant, something that was strongly encouraged by Synod (of late '70's or early '80's) that each classis consider.  Without these structures and positions in place, it would seem unreasonable that a Canadian Youth Ministry Director would be dealing with every local youth pastor or youth leader in all of the denomination or Canada.  

There is no doubt - we are slowly getting closer.  The Ontario Youth Ministry Team, while only about 5 years old or so, is barely cutting its' teeth, but is makings its' way to developing strategies for assisting in what is so sorely needed for the local youth leader - support, communication, vision. 

Before we start talking denominational, perhaps our efforts are best served for now focusing on regional support, developing our classis youth ministry and regional (provincial, perhaps, like the OYMT) levels of support and communication.  

@annmpea  We also posted your question on the CRCNA Facebook page.  Check it out over the weekend for some other ideas.

 

Jonahtan 

Jeff:

You mentioned earlier a possible Youth Ministry Summer Summit, to help in tackling this problem

Please keep me informed and updated as to what they will focus will be and if it is going to happen.

If I can fit it into my schedule, I would like to possibly be a part of that if it could benefit all of Canada's Youth Ministry Scope.

Thanks!

Thanks, Ron, for that clarification. I stand corrected. Dynamic Youth Ministries oversees Cadets, GEMS and Youth Unlimited.

It is listed in the CRC Yearbook as a "denominationally related or affiliated ministry", much like Friendship Ministries, Diaconal Ministries Canada, Partners Worldwide and Partners Worldwide Canada.

It is both interesting and tragic that fully one-third of our total CRC membership -- children, young people and young adults -- have no denominational board or office that provides leadership, resources or oversight of their spiritual development beyond the formal church school program.

The March issue of The Banner points out cultural differences, and otherwise, between American and Canadian churches. Because the 'tough economic times' have hit YU, this may be an appropriate time for the denomination -- and the Canadian side of the denomination in particular -- to re-examine and perhaps re-invent the nature of youth ministry. 

I think some of your comments are incorrect. YU does not oversee Gems and Cadets, rather they are all part of DYM (Dynamic Youth Ministries). Also, YU is really only a Junior and Senior High directed ministry with elements of conversations tied to other areas of ministry through tools like Compass 21. I believe that this may be important to the conversation. We certainly do not want to mislead anyone.

I was going to say after reading the 1st sentence that whether we admit it or not, ALL leaders started as followers, to some degree. I believe followers are extremely important and I think it is preached from the pulpit if you are preaching discipleship. Isn't that essentially what discipleship is? However, where I would disagree strongly is that all Christians should - no, are commanded - to strive to become leaders (Kuperian model - because we are reaching for the stars in everything we do), but are totally content with whatever stage God has prepared for us. Then even if we are only followers, we are still prepared as leaders, even if that will not be our particular calling in life. Man, not only does that set the bar so much higher, but we are engaging in leadership building our entire lives. What a sight that would be for a community, eh?

posted in: Followership

Brother Struik! Thanks for the suggestion! I'll explore that option!

posted in: Books to Study

I like your post here a lot!  I thnk it should be preached from our pulpits!!  It's very Biblical! 

posted in: Followership

Tim,

 

King's Cross by Tim Keller is one that we used for a Bible Study recently with group of students and it was well received.  It is a relatively easy read, but quite challenging.  It walks through the book of Mark and challenges us to really see who Jesus is and apply it to our lives.  Also, many things by Eugene Peterson would be wonderful as well.  Glad to hear that you have some students craving for more!

Justin

posted in: Books to Study

I would be opposed to the notion of an apprenticeship program for young elders and deacons ... where they kinda serve and kinda don't; where they have some authority; where they need to be reminded of the importance of confidentiality because, you know, you just can't trust em.

I am, however, delighted at the prospect of being able to fully install young elders and young deacons because they reflect the gifts for office. All of our newly elected elders and deacons -- especially those who haven't served before -- are paired up with a more experienced mentor. One might call it an apprenticeship program or a mentoring one, but it is being carried out among officebearers who are peers -- regardless of age.

As to the confidentiality question, I know of seasoned veteran elders and deacons who struggle with that. While wisdom tends to come with age, it is not exclusive to age. Some of our best elders and deacons are young, godly men and women who regularly serve as spiritual examples to those who are much older.

In short, 'members in good standing' shouldn't discriminate because of age or gender. To introduce an apprenticeship program for young people or young adults sends a strong message that, while they may have leadership potential, they can't quite be trusted to make the right decisions or to keep their mouths shut.

I love this idea!!

posted in: March Madness

Mark,

I really appreciate your comments - you've spelled out very well the issues we are wrestling with.  I realize that what we are trying to do is in many ways a first.

I agree that we don't want to fall into the trap of either age segregation or tokenism.  In my opinion, "youth councils" and  "youth advisors" are not the way to go - indeed, they are symptomatic of many of the issues related to youth and young adutls that our denomination is currently facing.

I think a few clarifying remarks on my part will help move the conversation forward.

The young women being considered for this position are professing members who definitely display gifts in the areas in which we are considering them.  They are spiritually mature and of strong character.  Our council is comprised of deacons, administrative elders, and pastoral elders.  They are being considered for the role of deacon and admin elder, respectively.

It would be great if we could includ them as full members - it would be bold.  However, the process we use in selecting council members is a) approval of names by council b) congregational approval of names via ballot c) casting of lots.  While the girls have certainly passed the first step, as this is a new thing we are trying, they probably woulnd't get past step 2.  Another complication is that they will be in grade 12 this fall and they will be heading to university in fall 2013.  This means serving for 3 years is out of the question.

This is also something we are hoping to do only if/when suitable youth candidates are available.  In other words, we don't want to create a standing position that needs to be filled year after year by a youth.  This is not about getting warm bodies to fill an empty position.

I understand the confidentiality issue.  However, I think that they understand it too - I think every teenager understands what it means to be entrusted with sensitive information - isn't that an important part of any friendship?  I also think back on my experience as a co-op student in the Ontario Provincial Police when I was 17.  I had to sign a confidentiality agreeement and I took it very seriously, much to the chagirn of my friends who were always itching for a good "cop story".  I was exposed to a number of situations that many 17 year olds wouldn't face on a regular basis, but this did open my eyes to the realities of our world.  I suppose the difference in a church setting is that the girls would know the members who are being discussed.  But, again, I think that if they are given the responsibilities of a regular council member and receive appropriate mentoring and training that they will be up to the task.  In those situations where it may be deemed appropriate for them to be excused from a discussion, that would be the most prudent thing to do, but I wonder, how often would this really happen, keeping in mind that they are not serving in roles of direct pastoral care (i.e. as pastoral elders).

Did I just say "great move" and then "not a great move"?  Apparently I am not a man of words.

This is a great move Jason!  While we haven't done this here, there are a few things that I think are worth considering.  Not trying to crush, just ensuring all the angles are covered.

I'm not sure about having "junior members" or "members in training" is a good move.  One reason why I hesitate is confidentiality.  Council can at times deal with sensitive issues, and I would hate to have our apprentices be asked to step out while the "really important" stuff gets talked about.   I'm all for giving opportunity, but I think that this may send a mixed message about the competence of the individual.  And I'll bet that your apprentice can handle the sensitive info in a mature fashion, if given the opportunity.

I am also not convinced about having "youth advisors" on any committee, for the simple reason that, in my experience, they are addressed only when youth input is needed, or when they are looking to gain insight on a situation from a youth.  I think some of our youth are able to sit at the table and offer insight based on their own ideas, not just because they are a young person or have a youth perspective.

Stay with me though.

I wonder if you recognize a competent young individual, whether they should be considered and voted on as a full member.  I know, that's pretty bold.  Just as our primary qualification for someone to be on the worship team is that they are musical and have a passion to lead others in worship through music, I would hope that our primary qualification for someone to be on council (or any other committee or team) is that they are gifted (or show potential) in leadership abilities.  I cannot stand when we segregate adult and youth praise teams. Similarly it bothers me when competent young people are dismissed from leadership simply based on age.

I know, that brings in a whole other set of issues.  Can they serve for 2 or 3 years? Are they really that competent?  And what exactly are the "minimum requirements" for someone to serve on council?

Dianne, 

There are many things that we need to be careful of when using social media as part of our interactions with youth but I personally see it as an excellent way to stay connected with them. Now, I am still a little new at the current church I am at but at the one i used to attend, we didn't have any 'written on stone' policy but here's what we did. 

We used Facebook to stay connected with the youth. The church is in the city so almost all the youth are on facebook so we created a group that was specifically for the youth and leaders only. Parents were not allowed to join the group as we felt it was the youth's page. As leaders, we had the freedom to sensor everything and created groups, events, etc. and all the youth were connected with what was happening within the ministry. 

Some people are very nervous about posting pictures online. I can understand this and we only posted pictures online within our group. And if anyone didn't want their picture online, we took off any that they were on. 

I also know other Leaders that have a blog and keep everyone posted with what's happening via their blog. I like the idea and wish I could 'blog' better myself. I do it once in a while but not as often as I wish.

The other thing I enforced which some of the youth didn't like at the beginning was a 'no cell phone, no mp3 players' at youth group. I find that they get distracted and lost with having them around and the social part of youth group goes down the drain. They didn't like it at first but slowly got used to it. They could have it on them but NOT use it unless they had to call home. 

Well, I hope this helps a little bit, I'd also would love to hear what anyone else has done. 

Dan Ponsen

I like this concept a great deal but to still keep the one on one with the pastor is important too. But this approach really makes it a more community-minded process....

I'd like to pursue for our church this if there is a resource for questions to discuss while in mentoring sessions.

I think that would go a long way to coaching the mentors and making them feel comfortable  with it.

I can't even belive this... Come on GR... come on Burlington... Get your head in the game.

Youth Pastors are crying out for accoutability and connectivity to our demomination.

I'm sorry YU is in this place where this is the decision they had to make.

It's time to make the CRC - YU connection a working partnership rather than simply a "Communication Agreement".

Or as Kieth suggests for CRC Canada to step out on its own and offer a Canadian CRC Support System...

kb

It is unfortunate that this had to happen.  I (personally, and our youth ministry) have strongly benefittied from YU consultant, and have helped turn our ministry into a more healthy and sustainable one.

Keith (and Jason), I share your frustration.  What is most unfortunate is that those of us who are in "frontline" youth ministry, both paid and volunteer, directly feel the effects when youth ministry support staff are removed from the picture.  There isi no doubt in my mind that our youth leaders need training and support, and it is frustrating to  continue moving forward when the rug keeps getting pulled from under us.

Keith, you raise some excellent questions. What are we doing as a denomination to assist those "in the trenches?"

Officially, I would argue, not much.  YU (under Dynamic Youth Ministries) is not officially affiliated with the CRC.  And while the CRC almost exclusively use their resources, we are not financially responsible to ensure those resources continue to be in place for us.

I agree that we need to pick up the ball, somehow.  Our youth leaders desparately need the support. But I'm not sure that reinventing the wheel, either at a denominational level, or Canadian level, would be beneficial.  There are other elements that YU has brought to the Canadian table, namely, SERVE projects, that simply cannot be tossed out and replaced with a CRC-funded equivalent.  SERVE has taken on a life of its own within CRC youth circles.  And I for one would be disappointed if YU loses this corner of their ministry and drops out of the CRC youth ministry support staff map through the loss of this position.

That being said, we ought to be working at many levels to ensure that those doing ministry at a local level get the information, encouragement, and advocacy that is needed for them to do the best possible work they can.  I know in our classis, we are making progress to redevelop this, and it is always at the forefront of the Ontario Youth Ministry Team.   

Hopefully this will help us ask some important questions as a denoomination, and especially north of the border.  Are we providing the best support for our children's program volunteers and staff?  Do we get them on board and leave them in their corner (as Jason suggests) without full integration into the life of the church?  How can we best ensure that they are given the best resources and support that we can offer to continue in their calling to children's ministry?  Is outsourcing a good option?

Keith,

As YUs newest "Leadership Consultant" for the GTA, the news of the layoffs was a huge blow, not only to those who were layed-off, but also to every youth worker with connections to YU.  This was obviously not an easy decision for the leadership at YU and it is very unfortunate that this has to happen.

Yes, part of the problem could be chalked up to a marketing problem (when I tell my non-CRC colleagues about my role at Youth Unlimited, they are confused to hear that there is another YU).  And economics certainly does play a part in this.

But I think the larger issue has to do with denominational support of highschool youth ministry on all levels (congregational, classis, denomination).  

Certainly at a congregational level, support for youth ministry is obvious in many CRCs (to be clear, support for youth minsitry has nothing to do with having a paid youth worker on staff.  I'm blessed to work with many churches whose youth ministries are tirelessly run by the blood, sweat, and tears of volunteers.  All I can say to them is "wow and thank-you!".  But in my experience, too often youth ministries are run as spaces to let youth "do their own thing" without interfering with the rest of the church (the idea of the youth service is a case in point - give the youth a Sunday night once and a while to make all the nosie they want but don't let them do this on a Sunday morning and definitely don't invite them to become equal and activie pariticipants in planning and leading worship alongside the adults lest they upset the applecart).

Even at the Classis level, many CRCs have taken steps to become more intentional about focusing on youth ministry - this can range from acknowledging that such a thing as youth ministry exists to having a classis invite its youth leaders and pastors to give a presentation on the state of youth ministry in their area (Classis Toronto invited its youth leaders and pastors to present at their May 2012 meeting).

At the denominational level, advances such as young adult delegates to Synod and the creation of YALT are great steps in the direction of acknowleding and including youth/young adults in the life of the CRC.

But is this enough to sustain youth ministry and does it underline youth ministry as a prioriy for our denomination, the awesome work of YU notwithstanding?

This is why the question you raise about creating a "made-in-Canada youth minsitry support system" is very provocative indeed as is your suggestion to find ways for the denomination to financially support youth ministry.  What would this look like?  Who knows, but I think the time is right to start having these discussions.

For a good resource, read "the orphaned generation" by Scott Wilcher. (Subtitle, "The Father's heart for connecting youth and young adults to your church)

Paul:

Alot of it has to do with geographics, demigraphics, building solid relationships and staying connected with what their passions are.....and they change every 5 years. Geogrphics you can't choose; young adults going away to college these days are going to be practical and find the best job in the best location (that means just about anywhere these days). Demigraphics you can't choose either; if the economy is bad, young people are not going to stay or come back to work. A lot of time thi is tied in with the responsibliity of raising a family in the present or the near future. Relationships play a small part. If you've built a grea repore they may come back to continue and nurture that friendship; but that could be negative also, if that's not the best choice for their future. Those who are staying around, coming back for positive reasons....you've got to develop their passions; whatever, they may be. One HUGE statistics, nowadays, is that today's generation is super service oriented. They are looking desperately to be useful in service projects. If the CRC (or any church) fails to realize this and doesn't incorporate it in some way, while they are still in high school, they will not nurture that desire and the youth will leave in droves to attend a church that is service-minded. I always have to be creative, because they are kids and need to be doing something different, but even Youth Unlimited could do a better job of coming up with resources of service projects that are fun and challenges their competency. (See Winter Equip and see what we did with our Fall Scavenger Hunt in PEI)....these are the kids of things we have to be prepared to do at least once a month!!!

Thanks.  I have a church planter friend who has brought fasting into his congregation and they have been blessed in so many ways.  I've never led a fasting exercise, but I've participated in some and always find a very defined focus on/with God as I experience the fasting.

I know many believers and congregations that start each year with a fast.   It is amazing the difference this "discipline"  can make in "listening" to God and being sensitive to His leading throughout the year.   I would encourage anyone who might be sensing the LORD putting this on their heart or who desire a deeper relationship with Him to look into it further.  I will simply say after the LORD put fasting on my heart a few years ago, it has now become a lifestyle.

http://www.jentezenfranklin.org/fasting/ 

 

Great post.  Very applicable to any ministry....stop and listen to God!  Psalm 46:10

Great response Jason.  I like it!

Thanks Rebecca.  I think you are right on point!

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