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Crucial Times for Youth Leaders

We don’t have to look around us to much to see that there is so much at stake in the lives of students. Whether it’s the student who is seeking God to find purpose and meaning in life, or a student who is struggling through hurt and pain, or a sold-out student who is wondering how to stay strong in their faith, we have a window of opportunity to minister to these young people. There are only so many hours and opportunities to make a difference as these students navigate challenging obstacles. Or to put it this way: Time is crucial and we must make the most of crucial times as we minister to students

Because it is likely we only have few hours a week and a few years with these students (as well as having many students to minister to), it is crucial that we use our time wisely and well. Here is what I consider to be the most effective use of my time:

1) The first fifteen minutes At our youth program, I consider the first and last fifteen minutes to be the  most important times. Often, it will be the first fifteen minutes that will communicate whether or not we really care as students arrive. It is usually the time when students are most nervous about walking into a room of students and leaders. Therefore, as leaders, even if we have not seen each other since the weekend, it is important that we do not get caught up in “leader conversations” as students arrive. Secondly, it’s important that we look out for nervous or introverted students as they arrive. You can’t take back a bad welcome…

2) The last fifteen minutes: The last fifteen minutes is often where I see students most open to God’s working in their lives. It is here where they will be most comfortable and will be processing what they have heard from the message / study. But, if you are like me, as the evening starts to wrap up, I am already thinking about evaluating what happened and begin conversations with leaders about how things went for them. However, it is important that we look to seek out students and check-in with how they are doing. It is here that we most likely to hear from their heart and be able to minister most effectively to them.

3) The next fifteen to sixty minutes: What I mean by this is the next contact time opportunity with students outside of programs and events. If you are full-time or a volunteer and have a number of students, it is often challenging to know how to reach them outside of your programs with limited time. However, I find that it is small (but impacting) times with students that make a huge difference.  Examples like:

  • Show up to the last part of a sports game if you have a busy week. (Make sure your student knows you were there).
  • Send a note in the mail. With all the modes of communication we have, I find this to be the one students love the most. Everyone loves to get mail!
  • Facebook, text, tweet! Letting students know you were praying for them, encouraging them, or just saying “hi” all go a long way to communicate care to them. Caution: Be careful of getting into deep conversations online and ensure that their parents are ok with you communicating with them this way.

I am sure you have better idea than these, and I know they are not rocket science, but I have found that so many leaders do not do these things regularly. The challenge is to realize that time is crucial and we must make the most of crucial times…

Fun

This video has been making the rounds on facebook. Here’s what it made me consider…

There’s often been a lot of debate between youth ministry guru’s wondering if we spend too much time entertaining students and not enough energy goes into teaching Biblical truth.

In this video, the experiment was to see how much more people would walk up the stairs (and ultimately exercise more), if they created a fun way to do it. Normally people would likely take the escalator and take the ‘lazy route’ instead. Isn’t that human nature for so many of us?

Well, I think that it is not that different when it comes to spiritual exercise. So many of us (and especially busy students), will often will try take the easy route in discipleship. As we know, there are no short cuts to discipleship… However, what happens when you and I take time to research great lessons and incorporate fun and creative ways to communicate Biblical truths? Do we see students take good steps in their faith?

If you are like me, I want students to be excited about Jesus and excited about growing in a deeper relationship. It’s important that I find ways to help students take the best steps in their faithwalk. Sometimes I need to pray and think harder about how to make those steps fun while also partnering with the Holy Spirit to see lives transformed…

To simply say that any fun element is shallow in youth ministry neglects the need to engage and excite students with the truth of the gospel. I believe that creativity and fun should be core values in every youth ministry to help students take ‘healthy steps’…

Final Thought:

If you are like me, it is easy to spend a lot of time on content or an idea. There have also been times when I have spent too much time on a fun element and my message / study has been lacking. It’s important that we strike a good balance between creating solid material that will be engaging with fun elements too.

Phil <><

Character…

Today on Twitter Rick Warren gave a quote that I think every youth worker should take to heart and consider…

Never waste energy trying to be well-known. Today’s hero is tomorrow’s zero. U work on character & leave reputation to Him…

Many people hold fast to the sad reality that many youth workers will leave ministry all together because of burn out. I believe that burn out itself can be avoided if we build a foundation in are own lives that is centered on the power of God and building healthy character. Let’s be real honest for a minute about the world youth ministry shall we?

It’s easy to play the hero isn’t it?

It’s easy to want to be the hero isn’t it?

  • We have students who look up to us who think that we somehow have a different connection with God altogether…
  • Some of us love ministry because students make great followers and it feels good to have people look up to us…
  • We have parents who are working as hard as they can to help their kids succeed, but see us as ‘answer’ sometimes… When we do well for them, we can elevate ourselves to hero status…
  • We go to youth ministry conferences and it’s easy to look at the guys and gals on stage and consider them as a hero in youth ministry…
  • Sometimes in the trenches we grind out a week and do our best for God, but yet secretly hope that we have been noticed by someone important… Am I right?

The Problem: When you and I constantly long for hero status in ministry, it is easy to make decisions that over time can easily lead to burn out… We say yes to be the hero and say no to staple foundations that will help us hang in for the long haul…We search for the hero status and lose sight of our walk with God. We strive for the recognition while we are unable to recognize when we are being unhealthy with our schedules… And the worst thing I think: We lead students to follow unhealthy habits that could be huge stumbling blocks for them now and later…

I have learned some of these tough lessons at times and I have seen some good friends burn out and fall because of the hero focus. I want to be honest enough to uncover the ‘hero shortcuts’ to ministry. However…

When We allow God’s Power to Build our Character:

1) We have Clearer Vision for a Health Ministry

2) We are not Swayed by the ‘Latest Thing’

3) We  give the Glory to God, not ourselves

4) We Lead Students to Follow Jesus, not the Hero

5) We Hang in the Long Haul…

This week, I encourage you to ask God to show you how you are motivated to make your decisions? Are Secure in who you are or are you being the hero? Are confident in the character God has given you? Do you need Him to lead your decisions better?

Bottom Line: Are you and I Heroes in ministry or do we have Christ-centered character?

Phil <><




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