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GUEST POST: Help for Hurting Teenagers – By Leneita Fix

 

On the fringes of youth ministry lurks an evil monster.  It seems to rear it’s ugly head often.  No matter how we run, or hide it is chasing our students and their families.  Really, hunting them down.

The name of the hideous creature?

Despair.

We could also call him:  hurt, suffering, hopelessness or even depression.

In the last couple of weeks I have heard a youth pastor almost daily announce that they are connected to a suicide in their youth programming.   There have been parents, teens, brothers, sisters and even one attempt among them while the youth group was away on a retreat.

Others are talking to adolescents who mask their problems with alcohol.  Some kids are covering with drugs,  perfectionism,  anger,  or acting out in a multitude of ways. We are finding that filling space in these student’s  lives with “something to do,” is simply not enough.  They are searching for more.   Hope.  Truth.  Love.  Acceptance.

Instilling life into the heart of a youth takes,  time, energy and focus.   There are days when the lives of our students just seem so heavy.  I believe that we turn to what we know.   I mean when we lead a great evening or event there are ways to know that as a youth person we have “done a good job.”   In the midst of all the weight we are left feeling helpless.  What do we do?

1.  Build relationships:   I heard it said once that a “touch is worth a 1000 words.” In  a world of facebook and twitter we can easily hide and pretend to be anything we want to be.  HOWEVER,    all of us,  especially teens are hungering for deep,  authentic relationships.  You will only be able to have time really going deep with maybe 3-5 students.  Set up systems that create relationships among students and  the adults on your team.

2.   Include and Involve the Parents:  One of the first things we  as the youth worker want to do is to “save children from their bad home life.”   However,  getting to know a family and their situation just may save a life.  I recently, got to observe a youth pastor friend of mine at dinner with a family and their teen son.   The love and comfort he showed, created an open dialogue in sharing life, problems, help and solutions.  This goes beyond  offering “classes or meetings” for parents.  Genuinely get to know the families.

3.   Train and Equip:  Bring your team together to talk about all of the “sidebar” issues in the lives of your youth.    Let’s face it,  we can find a book on programming or how to run a Bible Study.   All the “hard stuff”  our teens are going through is intimidating.  Find videos to watch,  books to read together and  experts to bring in.   The more involved you are as a unit,   the more the paid “staff”  will not feel alone in handling the  “tough stuff.”

4.  Know when to ask for professional help:  We are called to walk life with students.  However, some problems simply are too big for us.  There may need to be a counselor or agency brought in to aid in the situation.  This does not mean they take over.  We still need to stick around,  yet,   there are spaces where the professionals know how to take the monsters down fully.

The beasts of  burden seem to be growing in our youth programs.  Let’s face it the sword of the truth is the only thing that can bring freedom once and for all.  Sometimes we need to look a youth in the face and simply let them know the truth:  “They are loved with an everlasting love.”   Not just once.  Over and over.   Together I think we can slay this dragon.

For more help knowing how to handle these situations check out the Life Hurts, God Heals deeper learning track  at the upcoming

Leneita Fix is the founder and lead consultant for whose heart is :  ”Passionate about developing and training youth-oriented programs that are looking to take a generation from surviving to thriving in Christ.  In 2012 she will reach the 20 year mark of experience in youth ministry, suburban, urban and rural.  Most of her time has been spent in the urban community,  living as a neighbor to those around her. 

 

 

 

GUEST POST: Partnering With Unchurched Parents – Leneita Fix

I still remember the day the Lord put it on my heart.   Totally my attitude had become to believe that the parents who were “churched” could be held to a higher expectation than the “unchurched.”  I mean most of these “heathen” adults were broken individuals who didn’t even have a relationship with Christ.  How could I expect them to show up to a parent meeting?  Much less how could I ask them to invest in the spiritual development of their children?  Did they even know what that meant?

Then one day the Lord showed me a passage in HIS WORD.  All right it was really two passages.  The same words spoken twice, through the mouth of the Lord.  Once it came from an Old Testament prophet and then again through Jesus.  Both described the effect of understanding Christ- “His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers.”   My judgments began to unravel.

In the Garden,  BEFORE the fall- man and woman were told to be fruitful and multiply.  The intention was two parents and children.  After the fall, the Lord knew this had been cracked and separated.  In our relationship with a living God, he longs for restoration.  Part of that process is the family unit.

Now in practicality we can’t DO anything to make this happen.  I can’t cause a wandering father to return home.  With 3 million grandparents in the US raising their grandchildren I can’t cause the parents to take responsibility.  With divorce and death and a variety of familial situations I can’t make any changes.

HOWEVER, I can start with an attitude of seeing the parents the way that Christ does,  no matter who they are.  It begins with respect and honor.    When Jesus looks at us he doesn’t focus on our sin or our wrong doings.  Instead he sees us the way his Creation was intended.   He sees us as redeemed.  His heart yearns for us to be whole and walk fully in his ways.  We begin with looking at parents the same way.

In her next post, Leneita shares practical in Getting Unchurched Parents to Show Up to Meetings and building authentic relationships that build bridges to restoration…

Leneita Fix is the founder and lead consultant for Blue Sky/Green Sky Consulting whose heart is :  ”Passionate about developing and training youth-oriented programs that are looking to take a generation from surviving to thriving in Christ.  In 2012 she will reach the 20 year mark of experience in youth ministry, suburban, urban and rural.  Most of her time has been spent in the urban community,  living as a neighbor to those around her. 

My New Favorite Youth Ministry App

OK, well it’s not specifically a youth ministry app, but it certainly is a brilliant app to communicate care for students and leaders… This is an app that a bunch of my YM friends have been using to great effect…

is a fabulous yet simple app that can use photos from your phone, (iPhone or Android), or Facebook. Simply upload a photo, add a message, add an address, and postagram will send it to the person of your choice. It even shows up in a cool looking folder thingy…

Here’s some ways you could use it:

1) Photograph Students on an Event: After the event, send it to them and let them know how much you enjoyed seeing them there!

2) Take a ‘Sad Face’ Pic of Yourself: Send it to a student who has been missing for a couple of weeks. Let them know you miss them.

3) Take Photos of Things That Remind You of Your Students / Leaders: For example, you might be a store and see a goofy looking photo or object. It could be fun to take a pic of it and send the pic with a note to a leader and let them know how you appreciate their goofiness. Or simply, “I saw this today and thought of you…”

4) Take A Group Shot and Send It To Everyone: This could get costly, but how awesome could it be to send a photo in the mail just a few days after the event or retreat?

You might be thinking: “I already do this on facebook and twitter, why would I want to do this as well”?

My Simple Answer: Students LOVE mail! Going the extra mile to send them a nice picture in the mail with a caption or comment will go a long way to communicate care and investment in their lives. Sometimes it is the extra mile type stuff that makes all the difference!

What apps are you using that make ministry more effective, efficient, and meaningful? I would love to know. In fact, if you would like to guest blog about an app you are using for ministry, I would love to hear from you. Contact me through my contact page… 

Phil <><

Youth Ministry Myths – Part 1: You Need An Incredible Facility

Today I begin a series of posts about youth ministry myths, their connotations, and the solutions to the myths. So, here we go…

Youth Ministry Myth Number One:  You need an incredible facility to minister effectively… 

In the time I have been in youth ministry, I find this myth to be one of the most distracting myths out there. Let’s be honest, we’ve all been to churches which have  brilliant youth facilities. If you are like me, you have often thought something like, “if only we had a great youth facility like this, we could do some incredible ministry”. However, as someone who has been a part of  a church plant with no facilities, I have discovered that healthy youth ministry is not dependent on an incredible youth room. Here’s a snapshot of some of the places I have done ministry:

  • The Basement of a Home: When I began at a church plant, we had 10 students, 3 leaders and a small basement. We grew to over 100 students in 3 years… Here’s some places we grew into…
  • Coffee Houses: I have seen some of the most relaxed and God inspired conversations happen in places where students feel comfortable. Coffee houses can be incredible places for God to move
  • Old Churches (I mean really old): I never thought that an old Salvation Army building could be transformed into youth room. (We had to set up and tear down twice a week with sound systems, lights and other equipment). It was incredible! Students were on a mission every week to make relationships the key focus. The sense of accomplishment was fantastic!
  • Parks: Some of the best outreach events have been at BBQ’s in the park. Simple, low cost, a loads to do!
  • Warehouse: My current church rents a warehouse for our student ministry. I’ll be honest, it’s a pretty sweet building and we have done a lot of work inside to make it student friendly. However, it is not attached to main campus of the church and can be challenging sometimes to direct students there. Nonetheless, we have seen some incredible growth and depth happen there.

With all this said, I want to make a bold statement: The less we focus on facilities, the greater our youth ministries can flourish!

Why? Here’s a few reasons:

1) We Can Focus More on Students: When we get focused on spaces, we forget to focus on the faces. The blessing of not having a dedicated space or not having an incredible youth room means we can actually invest more in students. In my last church, I had no full-time building to use until my last 6 months there. I found that I spent more time investing in students and less time managing a building or facility. As soon as we got into a building, it became the focus, not the students.

2) Students Can Focus More On Each Other: The same principle applies as above. In many youth rooms I have been in,  it’s easy to spend great amounts of money and time creating a space with video games, game rooms, ping pong tables, air hockey, etc etc. However, some of the best ministry happens when students don’t have these options and we are forced to engage each other. Programmatically, we are forced to create ice-breakers and connection games where students build community in some great ways. I know it can be awkward, but in the long-term, the pay-offs are huge.

3) It Can Involve Students More: Being in a church plant for nearly 4 years taught me a valuable lesson in ownership. You see, having no dedicated space meant that we had to set up and tear down every week. This included students in the process and meant that more of them were involved in key roles. If you don’t have a great facility, consider how students can be a part of the solution, and watch how they build community in the process.

4) It’s Not About Buildings… It’s About Students: I know, I know… We all know this right? But do we really? Take some time to take a gut check. Are we spending too much time wishing our facility was better? Are we looking at other churches thinking that their facility would solve our problems? Are we caught up in the myth of thinking that we need a great facility to do great ministry? Are our students losing our focus in favor of our facilities?

Phil <><

 

 

8 Reasons Why My Second Office is Starbucks

If you follow me on or , you will regularly see me checking-in at my local Starbucks or a similar coffee house. Recently a lot of youth ministry friends have suggested that I have a coffee addiction and need serious help. Often my reply is, “we are in youth ministry… we all need help”.

Before I go on, it’s important to point out that I do spend a good amount of time in my office at church, and I love working with a great team of people. It’s also imperative that I spend a good amount of time in the office to stay connected and communicate what is happening in my ministry while also hearing about others ministry areas. But, for now, let me share 8 good reasons for why I think it’s also important for me to spend time working at Starbucks too… Continue Reading…

A Quick Way to Honor Volunteers & Build Community with Students

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Last week we shot this video of students and leaders to play at our midweek program. The school year is coming to a close and this is the time of year when I encourage my volunteers to take time off and spend time with their families. It’s also a great time to look back and remind them why we do what we do.

This video helps the leaders to get a glimpse into the impact they are having as well as allow students to consider all that is done for them. Videos always help build community too!

It was shot on a FLIP HD, edited in 20 minutes on iMovie, and played last Wednesday. Simple, easy, and effective. Anyone can do this…

Back to Basics?

Has youth ministry become more complex than it needs to be?

Do we get swept away by the complexity of adolescent lives and feel the need to provide complex answers and solutions?

Have we become too focused on other ministries ideas and try to copy every idea for our own ministries?

Do we personally cram in way too much into our ministry schedule, our personal schedule, and our family schedule?

Have “blessings” become “curses” for us who are in ministry?

Are we in search for the newest or latest thing, but miss out on oldest yet, brightest truth?

Does it feel like we have “knock the ball out the park” every week to be successful?

Back to Basics? Does youth ministry really have to be so complex and stressful? Is it time to step back and take a fresh look at what we do and what matters most? Is it time to see that the best answers in youth ministry can be found in the most simple, yet powerful ideas and practices? For me, whenever ministry gets complex and overwhelming, I have to remind myself to come back to these foundational ministry values: 1) Students need Jesus, 2) they need my time, 3) they need my ears… Coming back to these basic principles is my compass in the storm of complexity…

1) Jesus Centered: Will we make a greater impact when we get back to basics by telling students who Jesus really is without having to make Him great. As Doug Fields said recently at SYMC, “We don’t have to make Jesus awesome, He already is”. Is it OK to strip away all the media and glitz and tell His story as it is? Do we somehow believe that His life and teachings are not enough on it’s own?

2) Take the Time: So many students have busy families and crave quality time. They need leaders and caring adults who can take the time to encourage them and build them up. Recently someone asked me, “what is the best way to minister to students?” My answer was simple: “Give them something the world cannot offer them… give them your time…”

3) Listen to Them: This might seem so simple that you might be tempted to think it’s pointless to read further. However, do we really listen to students? Are our conversations more about talking to them, than asking about them? If we want students to listen to our messages and insights, we must first listen to them and give them our ears first. This is so simple, but when we truly listen to students we get an insight to their heart, their hurts, and their dreams. From there, we can more effectively help them. How well are we truly listening?

There’s always more to do. There’s always someone to keep happy. There’s always a new idea or new program. When I get overwhelmed it’s important for me to come back to basics and concentrate on what matters most. When all is said and done, what one or two things should be your “back to basics compass” in the storms of complexity?

Phil <><

 

Transitioning in Youth Ministry: In Transit – Tim Ciccone

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A few weeks back, I posted a book review about In Transit – A Youth Workers Guide to Navigating a New Beginning, by Tim Ciccone. This week I came across a video interview of Tim explaining the book a little more. If you are considering making a transition, this book is a must read that will help you finish well and begin strong.

You can follow Tim on or check out his website: 

 

 

 

Simple But Effective Training for Volunteers – Part 3: Consistency

Today I want to wrap up with a quick but crucial training tip I give all my volunteers. In my previous post I talked about the importance of using questions effectively to help students gain truth and application in their lives. In addition, I expressed the importance of keeping training for volunteers simple: “Effective training is better when it is simple, memorable, and practical”.

Today’s tip is probably the easiest to remember yet perhaps the most crucial: Consistency is Key. Consistency is the knot that ties everything together. Continue Reading…

Simple But Effective Training For Volunteers – Part 2: Questions!

In my previous post, I expressed the importance of keeping training for volunteers simple: “Effective training is better when it is simple, memorable, and practical”.

Today I want to focus on how leaders can help students learn God’s truth better through using good questions. The simple but effective teaching principle is this: “Don’t just preach it, let good questions help you teach it”

Here’s the background I give my leaders:

They Just Don’t Get It! As leaders, we all want students to “get it” and to apply God’s truth to their lives. Sometimes the answer is so obvious to us, but no matter how hard we try to drum it into their heads, they just don’t seem to get it!  My answer is this, “We can’t make them get it, it’s our job to lead them and help them to get it”. That’s where good questions come in…

Why Questions? Above anything else in the adolescent brain is the desire for autonomy. We can’t expect that they will arrive at good conclusions by simply telling them. Yes, Millenials of today will give time to listen to adults, but they still need to feel like they are a part of the learning process. This is why it is important to ask good questions. By “good” questions, I refer to questions that are asked within a Biblical framework and not simply a students opinion.  Continue Reading…

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