Anticipation Over Production

sat-feb-18-2017-19-48-59-gmt-0500Earlier in February we took our junior high students to the CIY BELIEVE event near Cincinnati. It is an annual trip we take because the programming is excellent, our students love it and it’s a great 30 hours to spend with our junior high students.

One of the main elements at BELIEVE is the singing. There is always a top-notch worship band that does a great job engaging the students and inviting them to sing. At one point during the weekend, nearly all the people in the arena (approx. 3,500) were lifting their hands as we sang Great Are You Lord. It was a cool moment and felt very genuine.

It turned out, without really planning it, a week later we sang the same song in our church service. I referenced our experience at BELIEVE and even showed the picture at the top of this post after we sang the exact same words, Great are You Lord.

A couple of people made a similar comment that went something like this: isn’t it hard to sing here (meaning church) after you have been there (meaning BELIEVE)?

That’s a question that usually surfaces after coming back from a great event. How do you generate that same energy and engagement back at home once you’ve experienced it a camp, conference or convention?

As I mulled that thought over in mind, two words came to mind.

The first is Production. BELIEVE is a production. I don’t mean that in a negative way at all. In fact, it is one reason we continue to attend and BELIEVE continues to grow. It is an excellent program.

But, it is a production. A team works for a number of months to put together a quality event that they duplicate in venues all over the country. They gather the best speakers, the best worship bands, great light rigs and sound systems, cool graphics and videos, along with quality entertainers (artists, comedians) that all work together to engage the hearts and minds of junior high students. While it is genuine and has the purpose of pointing teens to be followers of Jesus, it is a production. And it is done very well.

One reason I love taking students to BELIEVE is that they can do what I cannot do.

There is another word that came to mind as I considered the weekend. That word is Anticipation.

One reason I think students engage so strongly in BELIEVE is that they are excited to be there. For students who have attended in the past, they can’t wait to go back. 6th graders are excited to experience for the first time. When they become 8th graders, they are sad they cannot go to BELIEVE anymore.

There is a strong sense of Anticipation. Students want to be there. They pay to be there (well…their parents pay for them to be there). Youth leaders promote the weekend and there is a strong sense of anticipation.

So, imagine if we had that same anticipation when we arrived on a Sunday morning?

Take away the light show (we don’t have that). Remove the awesome worship band (honestly, we just aren’t as good as what we see on stage). Don’t count on the cool graphics and videos that serve as a backdrop to the sessions.

Do we still have the anticipation of raising our voices (or even our hands) to sing Great are You Lord?

Now, our worship teams are good. And they work hard to lead our church family in singing and worship each week. And we have some pretty talented people. But the more I think about it, Anticipation can be as powerful as Production.

As those who lead, we want to do the best we can to engage people to respond to God (Production).

For those who are coming each week, perhaps we should consider our level of excitement and engagement as we participate on a Sunday (Anticipation).

Anticipation over Production. Something to think about as we look to next Sunday.

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IMPACT 16-17 Calendar

IMPACT 2016-2017School is back in session and we are gearing up for a great school year in IMPACT Student Ministry. The image above is a snap shot of the special events and activities planned for the next 9 months.  The school year is full with academic, athletic and other extra-curricular activities.  We hope that by getting this information out early, it will help families and students balance the busy schedules.

Here is some more specific information for upcoming events.

Small Groups promo 16-17

Small Groups start September 11!  Small Groups have become one of the most important things we do in the school year. We have some great adults who meet regularly with students to talk about life, read the Bible together, ask questions and pray together.  We think that the relationships that are developed in small groups are so helpful and important that we encourage all of our students to be a part of a group.  There is still time to get signed up for a group.  Register online to be a part of Small Groups!

As part of our Small Group kick-off on September 11, we will have an IMPACT Tailgate Party @ 9:30 am.  Our Junior High and High School classes will meet in the front parking lot of the church for breakfast, games and a fun start to the school year. People get geared up for the big game by tailgating.  We are getting geared up for a great year of small groups…so let’s tailgate.

color wars imageTo welcome student back to the regular schedule of the school year, we are having a IMPACT Kick-Off Event on Saturday, September 17, 5:00 – 8:00 pm.  We will have food, play 9 Square in the Air (our students love this game) and we will end with our very first Color War.  Students need to wear a white shirt for this event. This is also a great time for our students to bring a friend.  We ask students to sign up by Sept. 14.  Sign up for the Kick-off Online!

Stitch_exportEvery fall we participate in the retreats hosted at our church camp, Butler Springs Christian Camp.

The Junior High Retreat is scheduled for Oct. 21-23. If our students went to summer camp, it’s a chance to reconnect with students they met. It’s also a great chance for our group to experience a weekend together. Total cost is $60 and registration is due Sunday, Oct. 2.

The High School Retreat is scheduled for Nov, 4-6. This retreat,due to attendance, is held over two different weekends.  We will attend weekend #1 and, in order to reserve enough spots and get the best price, a $25 deposit is due Sept. 18 (after this date, the price goes up $10).  Total cost for the retreat (if registered by the early bird deadline is $60.

Both weekends provide a great environment for students to connect with their own youth group as well as meet other students.  There are times of singing, teaching, discussion, sports tourneys and other great elements.

 

We want to do our best to communicate well with families.  There are a few different avenues we use to communicate.  Please choose the one(s) that are best for you:

FACEBOOK:: “Like” our IMPACT Student Ministry Page or Wilmington Church of Christ page

INSTAGRAM:: Follow our IMPACT Student Ministry Account

TEXT – text IMPACT909 to 95577 to receive occasional text updates

EMAIL Click here to subscribe to receive occasional email blasts

Website – Visit our WCC Webpage

We are looking forward to a great school year!

Two Helpful Youth Ministry Blog Posts

reblogThe internet is full of blogs about a number of different topics. You can read a blog about just about any subject imaginable. Look, you are reading a blog post right now about blog posts!

One of the benefits of youth ministry in 2015 is that there are a lot of free resources, articles and training tools online. Some of them come in the way of blog posts. I had two links come into my email today that pointed to two helpful articles. One is for youth ministers/volunteers in general and the second is for those who work specifically with junior high/middle school students.

Whether you are a paid youth worker or an unpaid volunteer, we all benefit from hearing from other voices and gleaning information from those who serve students and families.

The first is titled “What I Wish I Knew” written by Josh Griffin. He reflects on what he has learned in the past 20 years of serving in youth ministry. While all the thoughts he shares are good, I thought the point he made about youth ministry being about students and adults was on point. You can read the article below or by clicking the link above.

The second post was called “Top 10: 5th-8th Grade Years Transitions” and was written by Dan Istvanik. I think this is the first time I’ve visited his blog, but I thought what he shared about students transitioning into junior high/middle school was helpful. Sometimes we forget what it is like to be a student who has to navigate the junior high years. His article was kind of a quick bullet point list of the transitions students face. Check it out below or by hitting the link.

Thanks to all who share your wisdom on blogs, websites and social media!

WHAT I WISH I KNEW – JOSH GRIFFIN

I’ve been in youth ministry for 20 years. That’s still a crazy thing for me to write – I still feel sometimes like I’m just getting started and know very little. But the truth is, I’ve been living this out for a couple of decades. I still love it and still love being in the trenches of youth ministry (and serving youth workers through DOWNLOAD YOUTH MINISTRY) if I could go back and talk to my 21-year old self a few things about youth ministry, here’s what I would say to that eager, exciting just-graduating college young man:

IT ISN’T ALL GOING TO BE FUN AND GAMES.
Youth ministry over the next 20 years of your life is going to be SO fun. You’re going to laugh and play so much. You’re going to smile a ton, and just love doing what God has called you to do. You’re going to make memories all over the world and impact teenagers at a crucial point in their life. BUT, it is also going to be really difficult. It is going to test you. You’re going to see things that discourage you. You will be frustrated. You’re going to be pushed to the edge of your patience and the edge of your faith. It is going to be SO fun, but it is real work and you’ll battle real spiritual warfare, too.

YOU ARE GOING TO BE IMPACTED.
You think this thing is all about students – but YOU are going to grow a ton. As you lean into the Scriptures for guidance as you teach, counsel and help others, you will grow so deep in your faith. Of course, the temptation is to do this in your own strength, but that doesn’t end well. Your life will be changed because of youth ministry when you walk with Jesus.

IT IS ABOUT STUDENTS AND ADULTS.
When you think about youth ministry, you think about youth. But it is so much more than that. Yes, it is about teenagers making decisions for Jesus. You do get to help serve them in this crucial life stage. But it is also about parents and adult leaders. It is about the team you get to create and do life with. It is about the moms and dads you get to equip and encourage. And you’ll grow from single youth worker to married parent in the process of this whole thing and realize more than ever when you’re in the thick of it just how important youth ministry is to your family, too.

IT IS THE MOST REWARDING CALLING EVER.
Through the ups and downs, through everything, there’s no better calling on the planet. There’s nothing more rewarding to give your life to. Stay the course, stay close to Jesus and after a while you’ll realize just how incredible it is. You’ll think about your teenagers … now adults and watch them flourish (and some flounder still trying to find) their faith as followers of Jesus. You’ll look at your own children and smile as you reflect on them growing up loving the church.

What would you go back and tell yourself when you started youth ministry?

TOP 10: 5th-8th GRADE YEARS TRANSITIONS – DAN ISTVANIK

10. One Classroom to Multiple Classrooms.
Going from the elementary school, one maybe two main classroom setting to the middle school/Jr. high setting of a homeroom and changing classrooms for every subject.

9. Stable to Emotional.
With changes all around them and internal, hormonal changes. Middle year students may go from being stable, consistent emotionally to having ranging emotions from highs to lows often inside a short period of time without much real cause or warning.

8. Dependent on Parents to Independent of Parents.
Middle year students with the various changes in schedule and personality will also move from childhood dependence to a maturing need for more freedom.

7. Arranged Friendships to Chosen Friendships
Friendships go from parent arranged “play dates” to students choosing their own peer groups based on mutual preferences and interests.

6. Innocent to Knowledgable.
With social education, media access, and parent’s having “the talk” the middle year are marked by a stage from a more innocent view of the world to a more knowledgable, realistic view of life.

5. Fearful to Risk Taking
Along with the move from innocence to knowledge and the transition from dependence to independence to knowledge the middle year are time of being fearful to taking risks socially, emotionally, and even physically.

4. Sexually Unaware to Sexually Aware
More specific in the innocence to knowledge transition, these are the years of becoming aware of sexuality, others and their own. Often leading to some questioning and identity awareness.

3. Concrete to Abstract Thinking
A black and white, right and wrong simplicity of thinking moves to a processing of grey areas and synthesis of understanding and thought.

2. Child Body to Teen Body
Growth spurts, puberty, and sexual discovery are the physical transitions in the middle years that move a child into being a teen/young adult.

1. Family Faith to Personal Faith
Where the role of middle years ministry and importance of a church providing a solid middle year specific ministry becomes so paramount. Belief moves from what parents believe and teach to what a student personally discover, question and claim as their own. The reason we do what, we do as 5th-8th pastors/director/leaders/volunteers!!!

Junior High Retreat 2014

messy spiritualitybanner - Copy

Last weekend we took our junior high students to the annual Middle School Retreat held at our church camp Butler Springs. We had a good weekend playing some pretty messy games, hanging out, singing together, listening to some good messages and just having a good time.

The leaders of the weekend did a good job unpacking the theme Messy Spirituality.  We started the weekend by admitting that we are all a mess – we all have our shortcomings, we all fail, we all mess up. The good news is this:  Jesus knows that and He gets in the mess with us and helps us clean up and move forward.

There were two phrases that they used during the weekend that I thought were helpful for our students.  The first was this:  “Say ‘Yes’ until you can’t.”  The idea behind that phrase was to encourage the students (and adults) to simply try.  Whatever task or challenge that was presented, we should say “yes” until we couldn’t anymore.  Rather than decline an invitation because we didn’t know if we could handle it or accomplish it, we should simply say “yes” and give it a try.

The second phrase made sense to Star Wars fans.  It was this:  Yoda was wrong.  In the movie The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda has a conversation with Luke Skywalker.  Luke is faced with a challenge and tells Yoda, “I’ll give it a try.”  Yoda says, “No. Try not. Do…or do not. There is no try.”  The invitation in following Jesus is to try, to trust in His power to help us when we need it and to depend on His grace when we mess up.  The invitation to follow Jesus is to be faithful, not to be perfect.

It was a good retreat and gave our leaders and students a chance to spend time together outside of our regular student ministry programs.  I’m grateful for our leaders and the time they invest in our students.

Here’s a short video with some pics from the weekend.  Special thanks to Dale for putting it together.

Middle School Ministry Made Simple

MSMMSWhen I started reading Middle School Ministry Made Simple by Kurt Johnston, I loved what he wrote about in the first chapter. He encouraged adults working with junior high/middle school students to remember their junior high years. That was a fun little trip in the way back machine.

I finished reading the book last week and thought it was an excellent overview of junior high/middle school ministry. In fact, I bought several copies for my junior high leaders at a great price (shhhh…don’t tell them – they haven’t been given the books yet).

A couple of things stood out to me from the book. The first was in the chapter on Planning Your Programs. He talked about the different types of students you have in your ministry. While I had heard these (and similar descriptions) before, it was a good reminder to me of the different students that make up a group. He identified these groups: Care Less, Curious, Caught, Committed and Contagious. I found it is easy to focus on just a couple of the groups and not consider all of the types of students when you program and plan.

In a different chapter Kurt wrote specifically to the leader of the junior high ministry and he defined several different roles the leader should take. Several stood out to me including Sell the Vision, Equip the Troops, Take the Heat, Pass the Praise and Beat the Drum. He elaborates on each role (you’ll need to get the book to see what he says), but it served as a good way to evaluate yourself if you serve as the point leader.

If you are involved in junior high/middle school ministry, this is a good resource for you and for your team.

Remember Junior High?

MSDSAAN EC012A couple of things today got me to thinking about my junior high years. Today is my birthday, but I also started reading Kurt Johnston’s book Middle School Ministry Made Simple. I picked it up for $3.99 – it’s still that price so you should grab one!

In the opening chapter, Johnston encourages the readers to think back to their junior high years. He says it is helpful as we work with junior high students to remember we were a junior high student at one time, too! It was interesting to kind of think back to my years at Memorial Park Middle School and remember what those days were like.

Johnston pointed to a website – www.infoplease.com – that provides the top news and entertainment stories of any given year. I looked up some of the highlights of my 8th grade year in middle school (1981-1982). Here are a few:

President – Ronald Reagan
Super Bowl – San Francisco d. Cincinnati
World Series – St. Louis Cardinals d. Milwaukee Brewers
NBA Championship – LA Lakers d. Philadelphia 76ers
NCAA Basketball Championship – North Carolina d. Georgetown
John Belushi died of a drug overdose
Michael Jackson released Thriller
Popular moves were E.T. and Tootsie
MTV began airing music videos

Kind of wild to see what was popular then and what has changed. So, what do you remember from your junior high years?

BELIEVE 2013

the presenceLast weekend we took 19 of our Junior High students and 5 brave adults to the Christ In Youth BELIEVE Conference held at Northern Kentucky University. I say “brave adults” because we joined with 6,00 other people . . . and the vast majority were sixth, seventh and eighth graders. There was a lot of junior high energy in the room.

We’ve attended this event for the last several years. The program is always top-notch and this year’s followed suit. The theme for the weekend was “The Presence.” The focus was on the Holy Spirit. When I first heard that theme, I wondered how they were going to take a sometimes confusing topic for adults and present it in a way that young teens would understand. They did an excellent job.

Weaving together the music sets, clear teaching and well-done video stories, three clear messages about The Presence came through the weekend:

The Presence gives life where there was no life.
The Presence creates community where there was no community.
The Presence gives courage where there was no courage.

Through the events of the weekend, we were challenged to accept the life the Spirit gives, engage in community and rely of the courage The Presence gives to live for God.

The program was great and we had a lot of fun through the weekend.  We enjoyed participating in BELIEVE, eating sardines in the hallway of the hotel, cruising around Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky in a church van and bus and killing some time at the mall.

Here are a few pics from the weekend:

Music & energy

stage 2

Sardines!

sardines

Sweet stage and lights!

stage shot