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How To Honor Graduating Students While Keeping The Big Picture In Focus.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am new this school year to my church and its Youth Ministry. In the past years, Axiom (Student Ministry) has had “Grad Nights” to honor the Seniors, where all Seniors come dressed in caps and gowns, and some of the core leaders go through each student and affirm/challenge them in their future endeavors. Each Senior gets a going away present from the staff, like a Bible or inspiring book. I really like it, I think its great!

But as for this school year, I wanted to take a little bit of a different approach. Not a huge change, just a few small & subtle differences that I think can make this night a huge hit:

cap on books

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Please Pray for Veteran Youth Worker and Friend, Byron Porisch

Twelve years ago a veteran youth worker took a chance on a young inexperienced British guy and asked him to come and work and study youth ministry in Ann Arbor, MI. My life has forever changed because someone saw potential in me. Today, I would like to ask you to pray for the guy who gave me a start in youth ministry.

Byron Porisch

Recently, he has been diagnosed with Glioblastoma multiforme, which is a form of cancer represented by tumors in the brain. While Byron has great peace in all of this, I would ask you to pray for him and his family as they navigate through many new challenges.

Byron is the kind of guy who is Kingdom minded and there are so many youth workers in fulltime ministry today who came through under Byron’s leadership. He’s invested so much into 30+ years of ministry, let’s invest time to pray for him…

Here’s a video I posted on . You can like the page too, and stay up to date on how he is doing. Most of all, please pray for him and his family. Write a note on the wall and let them know where you are from. (They have a prayer map going… It’s pretty awesome).


Thanks for listening… Thanks for praying…

Phil

What Youth Ministry Needs More Of In 2013

In the Darren, John, Leneita, and myself, gave four opinions of what youth ministry needs LESS of in 2013. If you are like me, it’s easy to talk about what is broken in youth ministry. But what can we do MORE of? Today, we’ll give you four candid opinions of what we think could benefit youth ministry in 2013. Once again, these are opinions based on what we see in the youth ministry landscape. They are not meant to offend or upset, just challenge you to consider… Feel free to comment and add your opinion too!

Youth Ministry 2013 Continue Reading…

What Youth Ministry Needs Less Of In 2013

I hate the idea that what I am doing is creating a barrier for students hearing the Gospel and growing in their faith. As the four of us, (Darren, John, Leneita, and myself), have surveyed the youth ministry landscape, here are our personal opinions of what youth ministry needs less of in 2013. These are our personal opinions and are not meant to hurt or offend. Please know that we are simply sharing what we see as we look back and look forward this year. We hope to spark some good conversation and add some of your comments to this discussion…

Youth Ministry

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Volunteer Training: Position, Processes, and Practice

I like to use an American football analogy when it comes to guiding those we call “volunteers,” or “support staff,”  in youth ministry.  (If you knew me you would find this in itself hilarious.)  Still it works.  Imagine your team has shown up for their first game.  You have never practiced together; still you know that you can WIN!  So the team Captain says,  “Alright, the goal today is to make a touch down.   Get the ball from the other team and meet me in end zone as quickly as you can.”    You take your place on the field, wondering why only about one person on your team has followed.   Everyone else looks confused.   “What game is this again?”  one asks.  “We are wearing yellow and they are wearing red, does that matter?”  another chimes in.   “How fast should I run?   Do I knock people down if they get in the way?  I know I am supposed to have a position on the field do I just pick one?”  The questions keep coming.   Those of us who lead the vision are usually in the game because it is intuitive. For the rest of our “team”  his is not always true.    That is why position, processes,  and practice are vital to the growth of our youth ministry.

It isn’t that they don’t want to play,  they are excited to be there.   They want to win the game and simply need some coaching on how to make that happen.

1.   Position:  Not everyone wants to teach a Bible study.  There are those that are relational,  some are administrative,  others like to organize details or make meals.  Yes, yes and yes as far as who you need.   It is  easiest to assess the needs of your ministry and tell people where you will put them.   This is not the most beneficial for everyone involved.    We had a gentleman once who came into our ministry wanting to serve the youth.  Our greatest need at the time was a small group leader.  That is where we “stuck” him.  This lasted about 3 months until he came into my office one day and told me he was going to need to quit.   I could have let him walk out the door,  instead I sat with him and asked “Why” he was leaving.  Had I done something?  He went on to explain that teaching a small group Bible study was just “not for him.”  “I love what you are doing here, I would guess there isn’t anything else you might have?”   Continue Reading…

3 Healthy Ways to Start Your New Year in Ministry: Part 2

In my previous post I shared some insights from Hebrews 12 and the importance of realizing we are not alone in ministry. Often ministry can feel like we are isolated and it feels impossible to hang in for the long-term. Realizing the countless ministry heroes who have gone before us, as well as seeking out the veterans of today, goes a long way to help us stay encouraged when we have “those days.”

Today, I want to focus on a second healthy way to start out the new year in ministry:

Get Rid of Excess Baggage:  let us throw off everything that hinders… Hebrews 12:1

The Complex and Absurd of Ministry: One of the greatest challenges I see for youth workers is the natural tendency to allow our lives and ministry to be overly complex and absurdly busy. Many youth workers wear this badge with pride, and I have often been one of those people. However, as time goes by, I am seeing the foolishness in chasing after every opportunity and every latest trend.

The Hebrew Christians had begun to move away from their dependence on God’s grace through Jesus and had become increasingly focused on Jewish rituals, traditions, and backsliding to old habits. In many ways, I see a similar principle played out in ministry, and it is to the detriment of our personal walk with God, and ultimately the shepherding of students… We often depend too much on traditions, familiar ways, and our personal dependence on ourselves…

Here’s what I am considering this new year: 

Dependence on Programs, Systems, and Self! It’s easy to focus more on a program or system, than the power of God and His wisdom to guide us… It’s easy to get stuck in traditions and familiar ways of doing ministry instead of seeking God’s immediate best… It’s easy to depend on our own skills, work longer hours and become driven by certain results… In the long-term, they can squeeze out our dependence on God and His specific focus for our ministry… How much is my ministry defined by traditions, familiarity, and systems, rather than stepping back to seek God’s leading? 

Before you rush in to 2012 and fall back to the familiar, take some time to step back to survey what needs to be thrown out…

What are some of the things that are hindering you and your ministry?

Phil <><


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…

Family Focused Student Ministry – Part 3: Volunteers

In my previous post I talked about how a successful ministry goes hand in hand with a leaders who care well for their own family. Today I want to talk about the importance of caring well for volunteer leaders and supporting a healthy family focus for them too. Many of them work full-time, or have teenagers of their own and busy lives. Therefore, it’s imperative that I create an environment that is conducive to healthy family ministry for them too…

I could start by telling you what I do to promote a healthy family focus for my leaders, but I will let some of them start by telling you instead: Continue Reading…

New Ministry Position: One Year Later

One year ago I started a new ministry position as Pastor to High School Students. As I reflect back on my year, here are some memories, thoughts and insights…

THE FIRST WEEKEND WAS MEMORABLE: My first commitment was to attend the high school winter retreat. I thought it would be a great way to make good connections with students… so I thought! Unfortunately, on the Saturday morning, one of our new students collided with another student on the tubing hill. One ambulance ride later, and a stay in the ER, he was air-flighted with a bleed on his brain. Praise God he was fine after a few days in hospital… but a very scary moment for everyone… I will never forget my first retreat, (neither will he).

LISTEN FIRST, IMPLEMENT SECOND: I made the commitment that I would move slowly and take time to understand the people and programs first. I committed to not making any major changes in the first year, (only tweaking what we had). This is easier said than done, but was crucial for me. I gleaned so many important insights, learned good lessons, and most importantly built trust with leaders, students, and parents.

RELATIONSHIPS: No matter what I do in ministry, I cannot forget that relationships are at the core of everything I should be doing. This last year has been filled to the brim of meeting with students, leaders, and parents. In a new position, I think it is easy to get task focused, but we cannot get too busy to build relationships… The age old statement of, “people don’t care what you know until they know you care” is so true.

CLEAR VISION: Given many years of history before me, there were a lot of ideas and visions that were ingrained into the heart of this ministry. Some were good, some used to be good, and some… not so good. It has been imperative to constantly discuss a vision for healthy ministry and the steps needed to get there…

OWNERSHIP: It’s easy to start somewhere new and lead everything as the person who has been employed to be the ‘expert’. However, it’s important that people feel ownership of what we are doing. I often find too, that given the time and investment, others actually do a better job than me… It’s imperative to see this key truth: People become devoted to a ministry when they are given a clear vision and ownership to see the vision come to life…

GOOD FRIENDS: In the last year we have been surrounded by many people who have become good friends. Dinner and lunch invites still continue to come in for us, even after a year of being here… that is unusual… I think?

TRANSITION: I am just starting to read a book called by a friend in ministry . I will be doing a review soon… If you are interested in how to transition well, it could be a great read for you…?

Phil <><

The Best Kind of Vision?

Do you ever have those moments when you daydream and think about what could happen if your ministry were to have all the right ingredients to see incredible life change and transformation? Do ever wonder what that could look like? Do you ever wonder how that happens? If you are like me, I can spend hours thinking about and planning ways to create a dynamic ministry… It’s easy to spend a lot of time (and energy) trying figure out how to “make it work”…

However, the more time I spend in student ministry, I don’t think it is as complex as we might think… I think the answer is not just kept to certain people or churches… I think we all can look forward to seeing ministries with transformation and life change as a regular occurrence. So how does this happen (or start to happen)? Well, first, let’s confirm that it all centers around Jesus and that should a solid foundation for every ministry. But, the question is, how can you and I be used to effectively build Jesus centered ministries..? Well, here’s what I have been challenged by recently… wait for it… I think it starts with vision… But maybe not the same kind of vision that you and I often hear about in church circles. Hang in with me for a few minutes and let me explain…

You can’t be in Student Ministry for too long before you start hearing about and begin to talk about vision. So many churches and ministries have developed well crafted vision statements and we often hear phrases like, “what is the vision for this ministry”? If you are like me there have been times when we spend months working on carefully crafting vision statements to make sure the vision is clear… When things are going well we might expect to hear, “this place has a great vision”… When things are going badly we might expect to hear, “the vision has died” or “there is no vision here”. Do you know what I mean?Here’s what I see with ministries struggling with vision:

Unplanned Ministries: Ministries will often just jump into “what we have always done” rather than stopping to consider their natural uniqueness and the needs of their current students and community.

Side-tracked Ministries: Ministries get side-tracked with too many programs or events and the vision leaks. There are so many competing issues, programs and agendas that the vision becomes distorted…

Ministry Clones: Sometimes it’s hard to see our unique ministry gifting and how we can use that gifting.  Instead we become a clone of another successful ministry. We often jump into the latest ministry model or use others successful vision statements…

So, where am I going with all this? Well, whether your ministry is struggling to discover and enact a clear vision or whether your ministry is knocking the ball out of the park with vision clarity… I wonder if there is a more compelling vision to search for? You see, I think it is healthy to seek clarity and vision for our ministries and I will always seek this for where I am. However, what could happen if we sought out a different kind of vision with the same or greater passion and intentionality?

What if we were to help students PERSONALLY find God’s VISION for THEIR lives?

Unplanned Lives: You see, just like our ministries, so many of our students are just going through the motions and not even considering the incredible vision and plan God has for their lives. They appear to be just going through the motions and unaware that God could use them for amazing purposes…

Side-tracked Lives: And what about our busy students who have learned to take every opportunity that comes there way, yet there lives are defined by constant pressure and stress… Clarity cannot possibly be in view… Instead they live in constant detour mode as they take every path except God’s best for them…

Cloned Lives: So many students simply try to clone themselves and try to be like the the next “successful kid” in their class. As they try to clone themselves they are left wanting more… feeling somehow that what they achieve and discover is not enough.

The Challenge: What could our ministries look like if we were to use our time, talent and resources to work with our leaders and students to discover PERSONAL VISION? What would our students start to do when they discover and embrace their uniqueness? What would happen if we spent LESS time invested in corporate vision statements and spent more time helping students find clarity in God’s vision for them?

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that vision is imperative in our ministries and I believe that we cannot do ministry without having a clear picture of what could and should be. However, I believe that we are sometimes guilty of making this more about a vision statement and programs than we have made it about students and their individual lives… do you know what I mean? Yes, we are responsible to churches and ministry executives and we need to craft a compelling vision and plan… But, how much of our energy do we spend doing this for students in comparison? Are we so focused on the programs and structures that we miss God’s vision for these students individually?

Just asking…

Phil <><

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