Archive - March, 2012

What Works Best in YOUR Ministry?

I love reading blogs… I love reading youth ministry books… I love listening to incredible youth ministry speakers… I love networking with other youth workers… Bottom line, I love these things because I love to learn how to do ministry more effectively, and discovering new ways of doing ministry! But here is the problem we all face these days:

With a greater access conferences, books, and resources, (and so much information to digest), it can be easy to stop thinking and praying through what works best within our own ministry contexts.

Before we begin to implement the newest idea or the ministry philosophy that  has worked somewhere else, it’s imperative that we take important steps to ensure that new ideas and philosophies will actually work in our ministry contexts. In my last three positions, I have found that no ‘one size fits all’ approach works. In fact, I have had three different approaches for the last three churches…

Here’s what does work however:

1) Seek God’s guidance for your specific ministry. (Do we really spend days and weeks seeking God when it comes to implementing ideas and programs)?

2) Spend your first year listening and understanding the people, the community, and the church. (Just because we are the paid person with the expertise does not mean that God does not want to speak through the people).  Continue Reading…

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Continuing Youth Ministry Throughout The Summer?

Yesterday, we posted an excerpt from We looked at the philosophy of choosing to shut down youth ministry for the Summer. Today we’ll take a look the ‘other side’ of the philosophy of what it looks like to continue youth ministry throughout the summer…


Continuing Youth Ministry Throughout The Summer. By Mike Hammer.

Summer.  It’s possibly the youth ministry season with the least stability.  Reality check:  the summer season will affect how ministry is achieved, regardless of setting.  School is out.  Families are traveling.  Summer jobs are landed.  A lot of voices and experiences are vying for the attention of teenagers.  For that reason, it’s important to consider having ministry continue throughout the summer.

When students are going every different direction, two of their primary needs are relationships and stability.  They need people that will continue to show them the love of Christ on a regular basis.  The simple truth is that, because of the nature of summer, students will absolutely miss some weeks of youth group programming.  But staying connected with them and helping them to know someone is still available for them, still going, and still loving them is important.  It gives them a foundation, a reminder that even though school is seasonal, the importance of faith is not.  Summer provides students more freedom, which means there’s probably an increased need for accountability as well.  If teens aren’t connecting because the student ministry is hibernating, they’re missing out on the vital support they need from others.

The start of the school year is a natural ‘do-over’ for most teenagers.  They’ll use the beginning of a school year to help determine who they are going to be for that year.  Whether it’s the attitude or personality they display, the style of clothes they wear, or the activities they choose– it’s an opportunity for teens to “reintroduce” themselves to their peers.  Staying connected to the youth ministry and people who care about them may help them keep a healthier perspective of themselves and who God made them to be.  The positive interaction and influence they have throughout the summer can be foundational in friendships, connections, and decisions they make when school begins.

I have a student who is difficult to ‘pin down’ during the school year.  He plays nearly every sport known to man.  He’s getting ready for college.  He takes advanced classes and is involved in several campus groups.  He’s able to completely unplug from that life in the summer and engage with our ministry and Jesus in a way he never does during the school year.

All ministries usually see a decline in attendance during the summer.  That can be deflating for any youth worker.  But the teens who do come – they are coming for a reason.  They want the interaction.  They need the relationships.  They want to grow.  Summer can be the perfect time to take the students who ARE involved a little deeper – in faith, in connection, and in friendship.

What you should consider is: will I have the leadership necessary to continue through the summer?

If we continue through the summer, are there any changes we need to make?

What do we hope to accomplish?

Is this the best move for our ministry?


Summer Shutdown For Youth Ministry?

As some of you know, myself and a group of in the trenches youth workers created a book called . This book is designed to help you engage ‘both sides’ of a youth ministry philosophy and help you own which ‘side’ you need to land on. Today and tomorrow, I will be posting excerpts from the book.  We’ll be engaging the discussion of whether or not to shutdown or keep going for our summer youth ministry programs.

Let me know what ‘side’ you land on?


I’ll never forget the first time our lead pastor said to us “Let’s consider shutting down programming for one month of the summer, just to give people a break.”  Seriously, no other words had I longed to hear more, except maybe ‘Darren, you’ve just won Publisher’s Clearing House!’

We live in a sub-tropical climate – and while most people are dying to get some beach time, those of us who live here are trying to find a way to stay indoors, hunker down, and wait for the Hades object lesson to pass.  I had been lobbying for a summer shut down for years.

Here’s the logic.  We expect a lot of our volunteer team.  And they deliver on every count.  They are faithful to be at our regularly scheduled programming – they show up at football games and choir concerts – they invite students into their homes on a regular basis…all for ministry’s sake.  Taking a break during the summer months gives them some much deserved and needed respite.  They’re able to attend their own Bible studies, go on vacation without missing much, and enjoy meals beyond pizza and burgers.  And in my experience, giving my workers the summer off virtually insures their return in the fall and all but eliminates burnout. Continue Reading…

Youth Ministry Freebie: Easter Lesson

Our friends over at ym360 are giving away an awesome free Easter Bible study lesson. This is a great lesson! It helps students look back through Scripture, tracing a thread of God’s love from Creation to Jesus’ death and resurrection. It will allow your students to really grasp the importance of the Easter narrative by putting it in the context of the big picture of God’s story. The download comes with a Leader’s Guide, PowerPoint, and a Student Guide. Check it out here (you’ll love it):

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Youth Ministry Communication: Are You A Dropped Call?

Are You Static, Five Bars, or a Dropped Call?

Doesn’t matter who the carrier is, a dropped call or a call full of static and robot voices is annoying.  The message is muddied, if it’s received at all – and it’s frustrating to have to start over not knowing where the call was dropped or when the conversation went south.

Sometimes (unwittingly, I’m sure), youth pastors become static on the line of communication between parents and teenagers.  Tragically, they can even become the dropped call.  A running theme in our podcast for parents of teenagers centers on keeping the lines of communication open between them and their student.  Youth workers can be a crystal clear call – or one of those calls where you want to slam your phone into the nearest wood chipper.  Who are you?

DROPPED CALL:  You stealthily place yourself between students and their parents.  You see yourself as the answer to students’ problems.  You see all the deficiencies parents are bringing to the table and you are there to be the stand-in dad or spot-on mom.  You never encourage kids to open up to their folks because you know mom and dad will screw it up, given half a chance.  You position yourself AND your youth ministry to be a safe haven away from parents – a place where kids can talk openly to someone in place of their parents – you position yourself to ‘drop the call’. Continue Reading…

Youth Ministry Realities: “I Hate You!”

If it hasn’t happened yet,  it will.  A day will come when you get your first “I hate you speech.”

It can come in the form of  an eye roll or that horrible sound when they stick their tongue to the back of their teeth. They might write it in a journal. They might tell you that they will never come back or disdain being in your “stupid” group.  It comes because you wouldn’t break the rules for them.  It comes because you are making them move past complacency.  However, it happens for whatever reason you know it when it arrives.

You feel small, bite your lip, and might even hold back the tears. Sometimes you may want to scream.  Other times you throw your hands in the air and quit (on the inside you quit for the millionth time…. that day.)  You want to scream back. You want to get in their face. Anger and hurt and disappointment, that it has to be this way, all bubble up inside.

I would argue, when they really hate you then you are finally doing something right. For you care enough for them to want to push back on their lives.  Others just let them “get by,” while you are pushing them to more. We are cruelest to the people that we feel safest with. We know we can rage out and in our hearts they will keep coming back. Continue Reading…

The 7 Best Practices For Teaching Teenagers The Bible: BOOK REVIEW

If you haven’t picked up a copy of , you really should! By Andy Blanks of YM360, this book is probably the most effective book I have read when it comes to breaking down steps in teaching the bible.

The chapters are broken into the 7 practices and each include compelling reasons for the practice itself, along with super practical applications that anyone could put into to action immediately. Beginning with foundational practices, Blanks takes us on a journey from start to finish in the essentials of highly effective Bible teaching.

For me, the best practice (and the most challenging one for me personally), was the practice to Embrace Unpredictability. This practice challenged me to consider how ‘unpredictable’ my teaching style is. Or as Blanks says it: Continue Reading…

Youth Ministry Leadership: What’s Your Leadership Style?

FREE LeaderTreks Youth Worker Leadership Style Assessment

What’s your leadership style? Do you value tasks more than relationships, or do you care more about people than getting the job done? The answer could say a lot about how you lead and how others perceive your leadership. We all naturally value one over the other; it’s not wrong, it’s just how we are wired. However, it’s important to know which way you lean so you can make adjustments to become a more balanced leader.

Youth workers who understand their leadership style are in tune with how their leadership impacts parents, students, adult volunteers and other church leaders. When you know your leadership style you can craft your interactions with key people in more intentional ways and you’re more able to achieve key goals.
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