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?

Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World

YM in a Post Christian WorldI (finally) finished reading Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World. It was one of those books that stirred my thinking, but I kept experiencing interruptions in my reading.

I referred to this book in previous posts that have talked about the issues the church faces when it comes to our post-christian culture. In this video, you can hear the author, Brock Morgan, talk briefly about the basis for the book.

In the opening chapters, Brock Morgan shares both his experiences and statistics that point to the fact we are living in a post-Christian world. He referenced a Barna study in the first chapter that speaks to the change that has been occurring in our culture: “The younger the generation, the increasingly post-Christian it is compared with its predecessors. Nealy half of Mosaics (48%) qualify as post-Christian compared with two-fifths of Busters (40%). One-third Boomers (35%) and one-quarter (28%) are post-Christian. These patterns are consistent with other studies that show the increasing percentage of “Nones” [i.e., adults who claim no religious affiliation among younger generations.”

Basically our culture is moving away from the church being the authoritative voice in our culture. With each generation, a larger percentage claim to have no religious affiliation. One speaker I heard describes it this way: the church used to be the majority and speak with authority. Now, we are in the minority and don’t have the same authority.

Morgan offers a unique perspective in his book as he shares about his experiences ministering in New England. When he first arrived at the church he serves, he was described as very “Jesus-y,” which he later learned wasn’t a compliment. Some of his stories would shock those of us who live and serve in the Bible Belt.

While pointing out that we live in a post-Christian culture, Morgan also talks about how to effectively minister to students in this context. He offers some defining characteristics of students who are post-Christian and shares some practical things he has done to connect with students and help them connect with God.

While ministering in New England is a lot different that being in the mid-West, there were several observations Morgan made with which I could relate. This book offers some good ideas on how to serve in our ever-changing culture.

I love what Morgan wrote about our approach in chapter 6: “Our goal should not be helping 15-year-olds become godly. Our goal should be that one day when these 15-year-olds are 30-year-olds, their faith will influence who they marry, what careers they choose, what habits they form, and how they raise their children.”

Whatever generation we serve, our goal should be to help foster a relationship with Jesus that impacts all facets of our lives. Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World offers some insights to those who are serving students today.

Brock Morgan – Post Christian Youth Ministry

In a post back in January I mentioned that I’m reading a book called “Youth Ministry in Post-Christian World.” Unfortunately, I’m still not finished with it (been doing some other reading), but I have it bookmarked and ready to pick up on my Kindle.

Yesterday, the Youth Cartel shared a 15 minute or so video of the author of the book, Brock Morgan, talking about the basis for his book. (I guess this talk was the springboard into the book).

I thought what he had to share was worthwhile and pushes those who serve in youth ministry today to take a look at our approach to current culture.

Three Major Faith and Culture Trends for 2014 – Barna Group

pollsThis month I started reading a book titled Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World. I’m still reading through it and processing some of the data and conclusions the author shares (I’m sure something will appear in this space on a later date regarding the book).

So, as I’m thinking through this idea of living in a post-Christian world, I see this research from Barna. I thought it was interesting, especially for leaders in the church. One paragraph especially caught my attention:

The rising resistance to faith institutions is evidenced in the newer language used to discuss spirituality today. When it comes to matters of the soul, disclaimers are emerging as the new faith identifiers. Today, there are those who self-describe as “spiritual, but not religious”—individuals who like to associate with what they perceive as the positive elements of spirituality but not the negative associations of organized religion. Or consider the rise of the “Nones”—the much-discussed adults who are religiously unaffiliated and who don’t want to use any conventional label for their religious faith. And in many places, the prefix “post-” is being attached to matters of faith. Post-Christian. Post-denominational. Post-evangelical. Post-religious.

You can read the Barna article below, but it added to the churning in my brain about what it means to lead youth ministry (or any kind of ministry) in our post-Christian culture.

Thoughts?

Three Major Faith and Culture Trends for 2014 – Barna Group.

Facebook Dying? Maybe not.

facebook logoOne of the challenges that many youth workers face is staying connected and sharing information with parents and students. While there are a number of ways to do that, which one is best? For example, texting is used by a lot of people…but not everyone texts. Many utilize email, but not everyone who has it even checks it.

I know in talking with students that many of them have abandoned Facebook and use Twitter a lot. That lead to conversations that perhaps Facebook is on its way out. Then, I saw this article at Youth Ministry Media that points to the fact that Facebook is still a heavy hitter in the world of social media.

They shared this infographic which shows the power of Facebook. Here are the observations they made. I found it pretty interesting.

1. 1.26 billion people used it in the third quarter last year. This is crazy. That means that 1 in every 7 people on the planet used facebook.

2. There are over 800 million mobile users.

3. 83% of 18-29 year olds use facebook.

What are your thoughts?

Facebook Infographic

What Some Students Need

root beer8I saw this article from Kurt Johnston on the More Than Dodgeball website. It was a good article and a great reminder to all those who work with students that each student has different needs.

I forwarded the email to one of my volunteers who is our go-to guy at camp when it comes to homesickness. Some youth workers have the ability to be able to hone in on what a particular student needs, much like the counselor in this article.

Good article. Check it out and pass it on.

At Summer camp last month, one of our counselors faced a classic dilemma but at an increased level of intensity. One of the 7th grade boys in his cabin was homesick. But this young man wasn’t the “normal” kind of homesick. He was the “kicking, screaming, face-melting, I’m gonna break things if I don’t get to go home” kind of homesick. Faced with that scenario, what would you have done? I know what I would have done, and it wouldn’t have been as wise and warm as the response of his counselor (my response would have included some sort of mocking and shame…but that’s for another article).

First, the counselor decided to call the young man’s parents to get their input. We have a fairly strict “No calls home” policy, so HE made the phone call instead of allowing the boy to. He enlisted the dad’s advice which was, “Tell Junior that we love him and miss him and that he is absolutely not coming home.” Way to go, Dad! The counselor then delivered this “bad news” to his young friend and followed it up with what I believe was the best youth ministry question of the summer, “Since you can’t go home, is there anything I can do for you to help you make it through the night?”

The answer is one of the reasons I love junior high ministry so much.

“Well, I think a warm shower and a root beer would work,” the student replied.

So while Junior took a warm shower, his counselor made a late-night trek to the vending machine and bought the most strategic root beer in the history of youth ministry. Problem solved. The evening routine for the rest of the week? A warm shower followed by a root beer night-cap.

This little story reminds me of numerous junior high ministry principles, especially this one:

Junior high ministry is made up of all sorts of junior highers, and that requires us to be willing to minister in all sorts of ways.

A mistake junior high youth workers often make is viewing every young teen through the same developmental lens. While it’s true that, for the most part, the junior highers in your ministry are going through the same developmental changes, they are going through them in vastly different ways.

Some students need you to talk to them about sex and dating.

Some students need you to nudge them toward their next spiritual step.

Some students need you to help them see themselves as normal.

Some students need you to coach them on their friendship choices.

Some students… well, some students just need a warm shower and a root beer.

– See more at: http://www.morethandodgeball.com/junior-high/junior-high-ministry-101-warm-showers-and-root-beer/#sthash.pAnF0fgW.dpuf

For All the “Old” Youth Pastors

dym_logo_featured-450x253One of the blogs I subscribe to is on the Download Youth Ministry website. They not only offer low-priced, downloadable youth ministry resources, they also provide articles for those who work with students.

Today’s blog had a good article for those who are getting “old” in youth ministry. For a long time I think the ideal youth worker has been pictured as young, “cool” and in touch with students because he/she is close to their age. I thought today’s post, The 40 Year Old Youth Pastor, had some good insights for those who have been in a youth ministry, well…for a few years. Read on….

Looking back, I thought they were the golden years of youth ministry for me….I was close in age with the students and was often confused for being a teenager by parents. I thought this is it…it will never get better. I related to their world and I didn’t have to try hard to be cool…I was cool (notice the past tense.) Now as I prepare to celebrate my 40th birthday…I can’t help but feel that I am a better youth worker than I have ever been.

At least, mostly better. When we got back from summer camp this year, it took me a week or more to recover when before all I needed was one day to sleep in and “veg-out.” (Of course, I didn’t have kids myself so “sleeping in” was really sleeping all day.)

Or when I use to talk with students about their favorite movies or music…I would find that we liked very similar things. I could relate to their world. Now when we talk about movies or music a student is quick to say “Oh yeah, my mom likes them too.” Nice.

Besides it taking longer to recover from camp and being compared to their mom…I feel like I am in my sweet spot. I love being with students and with our leaders. I feel like I am just getting started. Instead of trying to be cool, I can focus all my energy on caring. I also find that rejection hurts less now the older I get…Don’t get me wrong…it still hurts but I have learned to not take rejection so personally. It’s not so bad being older.

This got me thinking about the trends of youth ministry and how long youth pastors stay at a church. Or the new trend of youth workers planting churches. Neither of those things is bad but I want to encourage my youth worker friends…that longevity is a gift and your best years may be ahead of you.

With that in mind:

If you are young, don’t give up….stick it out…you will find it only gets easier and more rewarding the longer you stay.

If you are in the middle, we’ve made it…keep going strong…it’s just getting good.

If you are “older” than the average, thank you! Thank you for not seeing youth ministry as a stepping stone and for believing in teenagers. I look up to you. You are my heroes. And if you start to doubt yourself…know that teenagers need your love more now than ever due to the breakdown of the family unit. Don’t believe the lie that you are too old for youth ministry.

Truthfully, I look forward to the day that a student says “oh yeah, my grandma likes them too.”

What about you? Where do you find yourself? Any “older” youth workers have some wisdom for the young-uns?

Instagram Will Kill Your Youth Ministry (a repost)

instagramI was just finishing up my previous post about social media when I saw a link to this article. It was originally posted on YouthMinistry.com and speaks to another danger of social media.

I thought the author had some excellent reminders to leaders involved in youth ministry. We need to have relationships with our students, but we need to guard them to make sure they are appropriate. This provided some good food for thought.

You can read the original post here.

Social media has swept across this great nation like wildfire. Facebook is on its way out. If you still use MySpace you’re most likely a stalker—or very lonely. Twitter is still rocking along quite steadily and has yet to be completely infiltrated by preteens and stay-at-home moms. Vine represents the latest trend in video social media. And Instagram has firmly captured the market on pics. All of these sites host the massive “no, no” that I would like to delve into for a brief moment, but perhaps Instagram and Twitter host the largest majority of the crimes.

I am, of course, talking about the local male youth pastor taking a “selfie” with one of his female students. Some of you might not think that this is a big deal, but it carries major implications. And quite frankly, it seriously ticks me off. Every time I see this pop up on my timeline I want to throw my iPhone and kick a puppy. Seriously bro, how could you be so dumb? Here are some of the reasons why this is inappropriate.

1. A description of the crime
I’m not talking about posting a group pic of several students or even a group pic of several of your female students and you along side them. I’m talking about the pic that only includes the youth minister and a female student. This crime is only intensified when the two are extremely close. To make matters worse, I often see the youth minister and the female student hugged up on each other. The youth minister further brings criticism against himself if this offense is repeated on a weekly basis. Seriously bro, stop now.

2. It’s straight-up creepy
Every time we see that pic pop up on our timeline we all think, “That dude is a creep.”

3. Rumors spread quickly
If a crazed teenager grows angry at you, it is not uncommon for them to make up horrific stories about you. You can read real-life stories of this on the Internet. Don’t give anyone ammo to use against you.

4. Ministers of the gospel must be above reproach.
First Timothy 3:2 tells us that “an overseer must be above reproach…”

Ephesians 5:3 states, “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.”

Posting picks of just you and a female student certainly leaves room for speculation. As a minister and a Christian, we must work to remove any room for criticism in the realm of sexual immorality. Don’t ride alone with a female student. Don’t counsel alone with a female student. And don’t post selfies with female students.

Daniel is the Student Pastor at Clearview Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL. You can join the conversation at danielbeckworth.com.

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