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Top 5 Posts of 2011 for Youthwork Talk

As we wrap up the year and head into the New Year, I thought I’d share the top 5 most popular posts, (excluding a couple of contests that saw mammoth numbers of hits). So here you go:

1) Making Volunteer Meetings Worthwhile (click here)

2) Love Wins? Teaching Students How to Deal with Conflict (click here)

3) A Long-term View of Youth Ministry (click here)

4) Do I Need College Education in Youth Ministry (click here)

5) Protecting Volunteer Youth Leaders (click here)

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you all!

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this blog in the past year!

In the New Year we will have some great new posts and we will be launching some new contributors to Youthwork Talk.

In the meantime, have a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year!

Phil <><

What Students Do When You Give Them Too Much Time?

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Is this what students in your ministry do when they have too much time?

Just thought I would share this funny video that has been making the rounds…

Why Does God Allow Earthquakes?

This weekend many of our students might be thinking (or asking) the question, “Why does God allow natural disasters like the one that hit Japan and much of the Pacific?

A few weeks ago I did some searching for some good articles that go some way to answer that question. Here are a few sites I found useful that might be helpful to you as you tackle this question with your students:

Why Does God Allow Natural Disasters?

Do Natural Disasters Disprove God’s Existence?

Why Would A Good God Allow Earthquakes (mp3) – This is a short and to the point podcast from reasons.org responding to the recent earthquake in New Zealand. It gives some good basic scientific background too.

These are just a few that I found a couple of weeks ago. If you have any good links, I would love for you to comment! In the meantime, I hope this helps youth workers as they tackle this tough question…

How to be Taken Seriously as a Leader

Being a youth worker is not always the glamorous ministry position. There are times when some of us have experienced the feeling of not being taken seriously by pastors, parents, and church members. When I first set out in student ministry I desired to be taken seriously and accepted as a viable member of a church staff. I longed to be seen as leader who, (even though I was young), had wisdom and could be trusted by the adults, (or shall we say, the more ‘senior’ people in my life). The fact is, when we are young (or in a new position) in leadership, often it can feel like hard work to gain acceptance as a legitimate leader in ministry.

So what are we to do with this reality?

1) Realize that this is path of the course. You’re not alone. All of us at some point have to earn our stripes. One day the time will come when they say you have the leadership, but the kids think you are old… Enjoy this season if you are still in it…

2) Leadership is about trust… Trust takes time: No matter where I have been, or how old I am, I realise that people need to know and trust me before they can be led by me. I have been at my current church for just over a year now. In my first year I committed to not making any major changes (unless emergencies), until a year had passed. This went a long way with youth leaders, students and parents. Whether you are seasoned youth worker or not, people will follow when they trust you… it takes time…

3) Avoid using “when I” statements: I have been guilty of justifying my decisions by talking about my track record from the past. When I was younger I would often refer to accomplishments I had made in my short experience as a way to gain acceptance of an idea. Now that I look back, I realise that it only came across as insecure and showed my lack of experience. Note: I think it is perfectly fine to talk about ideas that have worked in the past, but when it is gain greater leadership acceptance and  fill the hole of inexperience, the truth will likely be seen by others…

4) It really does take time: I can’t say it enough… If we want people to follow, realize that greater leadership and experience must run it’s course. Relax, take it easy, enjoy your ministry and enjoy growing…

5) Have such integrity that people will believe what you say… From the words of Wiersbe, ensure that people see your ingretity. I have found that even while people will point out leadership flaws in my ministry, they are still willing to go on a journey with me when they know they can trust my integrity…

Guest Post

Check out my guest post over at Josh Griffin’s blog:

Go Local = Great Impact

This week myself and a brilliant group of students and leaders have been discovering the benefits of “Going Local”, (as opposed to “Going Loco”).

I am sure we are not the first to have done something like this, but I would love to see more people taking a serious look at this type of service project. I even wonder in this economy, if this is something that more student ministries should take a look at as genuine alternative to out of State mission trips? Here’s some info of what we did and some of the benefits of the project:

  • Go Local was a 3 day service project in and around our county, (and our nearest inner city – Detroit). We focused on families in need in our area and poor inner city neighborhoods. We painted, renovated, weeded, mulched, and boarded up derelict houses, (to prevent them from becoming crack houses in Detroit).
  • Go Local helped students to serve locally and realize that you don’t have to drive long distances to other areas of the country in order to serve God and others… (There are great benefits to taking students on a missions trip, but it’s just as important to serve locally and meet the needs of our communities)
  • Go Local defeated the inaccurate idea that in order to serve you have to leave your State…
  • Go Local opened the eyes of students and allowed them to see there are so many needs on their doorstep…
  • Go Local allowed students to express their faith in a practical way and impact the lives of many in the process…
  • Go Local helped students and our church to establish relationships with families and organizations in our area that could be continued over the coming months and years…
  • Go Local was $40 per student (which covered transport, food, and construction materials… O.K, so we did go over budget, but we helped some awesome families… next time students would pay a little more…)
  • Go Local was easier to staff  than a traditional missions trip. Leaders and parents could come in for 3 days, as opposed to a week long missions trip…
  • Go Local seemed to have produced much of the same fruit I would pray for on a traditional missions trip. However, there are still many good reasons I would go out of State for missions experience too.
  • Go Local, because we were based from our home church allowed us flexibility to change plans and meet new needs as they came up. That week, we took on 3 new projects, sometimes with less than an hours notice…
  • Go Local allowed our community to see we care and truly have a heart for the people close to our church in the surrounding areas…

Surprising Legacy

Names of Legacy:

Consider all these important and influential people: John Powell, Patrick Horgan, Tim Lee, Kate Dean, Rupert DeSalis, Chris White, Chris Knowles, Larry & Shirley Morris, Paul Williams, Julian and Kathy Hardy, Sam Cowell. Do you know these names? Probably not… (Unless you know me well)…

You see, these people have all played a part in my life leaving a legacy and ultimately have been instrumental in shaping many ideas, thoughts, and foundations of who I am today. Of course, there are writers and speakers who shaped my thinking, but these people I named are the ones who not only shared their faith and the gospel with me, but they shared their lives as well.

Currently I am the Simply Youth Ministry Conference in Chicago with 2500 other youth workers from all around the country and the world. The theme for this conference is “Surprising Legacy” and the idea (and the reality) of how our lives in student ministry are leaving a surprising legacy with the people we minister to on a weekly basis.

If you are like me, it’s often difficult to see what impact I am having on young people. I certainly don’t consider myself as someone who is having a profound impact on students’ lives. If your experience is like mine, students are not always forthcoming in their praise for what I do or what I teach. Teenagers do appreciate what we do, but we don’t always hear it or see it do we? To some degree, this is what makes our legacy surprising… Whether or not we know it now or in many years to come, we are all leaving a legacy with students…

In the last few years I have been contacting youth leaders and adults who were in my life when I was a younger and thanking them for what they did for me when I was younger. As I have tracked them down and talked with them it has helped me to see what it was these leaders did to make such an impact in my life. It’s been so helpful to consider what they did and consider what I do today to make a lasting difference too.

In ministry it is often very easy to get caught up in programs, events and the latest thing and forget what truly matters as we minister to students. As I consider the surprising legacy I am leaving, it is so helpful that I look back and remind myself what influential leaders did in my life to help find faith, grow in faith and be equipped for my faith journey. It is when I look back like this that I am to see what my ministry today needs to be like to make sure I am leaving a lasting and healthy legacy with students.

What could our ministries look like if we could live out what has been modeled to us by other influential Godly adults in our lives growing up? What did they do that so changed the course of our lives? What did they do to help us grow deeper? What did they do to encourage in times of struggle? What did you and I see in them when we were looking for direction?

What legacy are we leaving as we look back to the legacy that has been left with us? What do YOU remember about the Godly adults in your life growing up? How could you model that today in your ministry?

Priorities in a New Position

As some of my friends know (and noticeably by the lack of my blogging recently), I have been transitioning into a new ministry position at a church family here in Michigan as Pastor to High School and College Students. Making the change was challenging and required a lot of prayer, but I am very thankful for God’s clear leading. However, it is always painful leaving students and families who I have been deeply invested in. I am glad I haven’t made too many moves in ministry. Longevity is always better if it possible in ministry.

I have been in my new position for nearly a month now and I am “finding my feet” one step at a time… As I look at what is ahead and what I have been doing, I find it very helpful to keep the most important priorities in focus as I begin this new ministry position:

1) Building Relationships will take time and it’s important to take time to build them… Not rocket science, but it is something that can easily get overlooked on a daily basis. Coming into an established student ministry means there are lots of tasks that need to get done and attended to. It’s also easy to get caught up in being overly concerned with what I call “speaking performance” and investing too mush time in trying to “knock the ball out the park” with my first few messages. Of course, people are looking and hoping I am going to do a great job, but ultimately, it is solid God centered relationships which will make the biggest difference over time. Students will get more out of my messages if they know I genuinely care about them… This will only happen if I spend time investing in them from day one. I think students are perceptive enough to know if I am there to “look good” speaking or if my heart is for them…

2) Listening First Changes Later: It is easy to come in to a new ministry and see quickly what needs to change and bring ideas from previous experience. However, I have found that it is more important to ask questions about what has been before me. In doing so I get to hear the “what and why” behind existing programs and strategies. Not only does it help me understand the culture better, it helps to see if certain ideas and programs have a deep investment from the students and leaders. It is a mistake to to devalue or knock down something that has a deep investment. Listening comes first, changes later…

3) Meeting Parents is Key: Although our job title usually centers our attention on students, it is imperative we understand the importance and impact of ministering the whole family. Given that we usually have a few hours with each student and parents have a whole lot more, we must see the importance of meeting with and investing in parent relationships. In addition, there are many parents who are understandably nervous about t me. “Who is this guy? What will he be teaching? Is he going to invest in my student or be flaky? Does he communicate with parents or will I be in the dark again? Is he British or Australian?”  (I get that one a lot since I am from the UK with a lot of Americanisms in my accent). Parents have good reasons to be nervous, so it’s important to give them a good opportunity to put their fears to rest…

4) Start today what can be continued tomorrow: I am a big believer in this practice. Even though I would like to come in and make a “wow” impact, I have to ask myself if I am able to sustain the pace / events/ programs I come in with. I think it is important to try to make a positive impact, but if I burn myself out trying to keep pace in weeks to come, ultimately the students pay for it. Instead, I believe it is better to stay focused on a few but foundational objectives coming in, but ensure I can build from there…

Well, those are my initial thoughts for now. Right now myself and my family are in the midst of painting and staging our house to sell. It has been a very busy season changing ministries and getting ready to move house, but God always gives just enough.

Pause on Blogging

PauseSome of my youth ministry friends have been asking why there has been a lack of blog posts in the last two months. If you visit the site often you might have the same question too. Well, here is the simple answer: Time…or more to the point: Time and parenting…

As some of you know we have a 3 year old (Emma) and a 5 month old (Addie). Unfortunately, as many parents experience, we have had a baby who has had colic and is still waking every few hours, (we never had this with our first… I think the Lord knew what we could handle with our first kid)… In recent months we have tried to sleep and make family and ministry work as best as possible and try to keep our schedules simple and free from ‘extra stuff’ (Blogging is extra stuff for me).

In many ways, student ministry is a huge blessing when it comes being creative with scheduling. I am thankful that I can ‘buy’ time in my schedule and ‘pay back’ time later in the day or week. I am thankful to be able to do this and know that I am still able to give ministry a good account. Most of all, I am thankful that I can still make family and ministry a priority in this sleep deprived season… blogging gets a back seat :-)

One of the things I have been encouraged by (and would like to encourage you with) is this: Sometimes, I hear youth pastors complaining about their schedules and wishing they would be different. But the question I will often ask is, “what job can you do where you get have this kind of flexibility to adjust your schedule when life throws a curve ball at you”? Sure there are a few occupations that allow this, but would you enjoy it? As long as you and I are giving God and our churches / organizations a good account with our time, it is a real blessing to be able to “flex” the schedule when we need to…

I hope to blog some in the next few weeks with a few ideas and thoughts I have… Hope you are having a great week and getting a chance to pause too…

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