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Healthy Youth Leaders: Know the times

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One of the things I do is “watch people” in different contexts that what I normally live in. It has been interesting today to watch the interactions of college students to the 60+ year old cashier here at a taco bell in a college town in Ohio (about as different from my “normal” context as you can get).

I watch people and how they interact, to help me keep a pulse on culture. How they talk, dress, act, speak, can quickly escape us if we immerse yourself in the Christian “bubble”.

At a town hall meeting last night, a psychologist shared the following quote from Josh McDowell….

He continued, “Fifteen to 20 years ago, the questions that you used to hear at universities about faith, Jesus and the Bible, about skepticisms, questioning what you believe in; questions that you used to hear in the last two years of college are now being asked by 10- and 11-year-olds. It’s coming all right down through Facebook.”

During his message, he also told pastors they cannot pastor the same way they have been for the last 20 years while telling parents they cannot raise their children the same way they were raised because the Internet has changed “everything.”

“Twenty years ago, the phrase was, ‘if you don’t reach a young person by 18, you probably won’t reach them. Now, atheists and agnostics have the same access to your kids as you do, it’s just one click away. The internet has leveled the playing field and now if you don’t reach a child by their 12th birthday, you won’t reach them.”…

I have thought and said much of this over the last several years. This was the first time I have heard it voiced in quite that way.

We have to watch, listen, and adapt our methods to reach this generation, while never losing the unmistakable message of the Gospel.

We are better together.

In the comments below, share one way that you stay current with the culture we serve in….

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When The Levee Breaks

One of the things I encounter working with rural communitites is bringing awareness to the queston of “what are we going to do to reach and engage the next generation?”. The more I talk with community leaders, the more I hear a response that goes something along the lines of “well, we haven’t really thought about it…”. As someone who at least tries to plan with a big picture result in mind, I had no frame for this response. I understand not having a 5-point plan with milestones, but no plan?

Then it hit me. I was listening to some music while doing some paperwork, and the song “When the Levee Breaks” by Led Zepplin came on. I had heard this song many times before, but a couple of the lies decribed the state of our rural communities today so well.  “If it keeps on rainin’ the levee’s gonna break. When the levee breaks, I’ll have no place to stay”. This is the state of our communities. There has not been a coordinated effort to reach the students together for many years. There has been an increase in the number of things that disctract, harm, isolate, and even end lives early for our young people. At some point, the social pressures will may be greater than a community can handle. Then what? What does that community look like? What happens with the students after High School? What then becomes the role of young pople in our rural towns?

I have seen glimpses of this in some midwestern communities over the years. The response comes in another part of the song I mentioned above… “If you’re goin’ down south, they got no work to do, if you don’t know about Chicago…” In many of our small towns, many of our best and brghtest have left for colleges far away, training for jobs that do not exist in our communitites. Few of them return. The ones that do may not be able to find jobs in a shrinking small town job market. The few that do return and find jobs may not be able to balance life with the ever-growing sizes of student debt loads. Some researchers have referred to this as the “rural brain drain”.

Now is the time to come up with solutions that will reach your young people. Solutions that build a solid foundation for the next generation. I will tell you that in a small town, not one church, one business, one organization, or individual holds the key to this. The key lies in working together to improve your community for your children and grandchildren. Because “sitting on the levee and moaning” is not going to bring solutions.

Healthy Youth Leaders: PRAY

HealthyI asked the following question in a room of 60 people recently. “How many of you are consistently praying for one of the other youth leaders or pastors in your community?” ONE hand. One hand went up. We have to pray for one another. It is beyond important. I have heard too many stories lately of pastors failing, community tragedies, and churches withering away without so much as reaching out a weak hand for help.

Pastors, church members, youth leaders – we are in this together and only as strong as our weakest link. Satan WILL target that link in many different ways to accomplish what he desires – a stop to the growth of God’s kingdom work.

Pray for one another. Not in a mealymouthed Wednesday night prayer list kind of way, but in a real, authentic understanding of who you are in Christ.

We are better together.

Healthy Youth Leaders : Learn

HealthyIn the last post in this series, we looked at what it means to be a healthy youth leader.

The first element of youth leader health is a willingness to learn. I am not necessarily talking about college or seminary. There are some great programs and resources out there that include conferences, mentoring programs, and just networking with other youth leaders as well.

Here is where I’m coming from…
Would you go to a doctor that has been out of med school 25 years and has done ZERO continued education? What about a mechanic? Or a PC technician?

A willingness to learn new things about ministry and the families we serve is vital to a healthy state of ministry to students.

In the comments below, share how you continue learning as a youth leader. Or share the resources you use.

Next up: Healthy Youth Leaders Make Disciples that Make Disciples

Christ Church Stellarton

@perrynoble and 10 Convictions on the Church…

Today, Perry Noble posted a list on 10 convictions about the church. Some of them I agree with, some I need to think/pray about before I respond openly. However, there are two things to learn from this list:

1) What are your convictions that you operate under?
Are they fluid, changing with popular opinion?

2) How do they shape how you do ministry? How do you know where you are, if you have no clue where you have been?

Know where you are at. Know your “non-negotiables” and let’s reach people for Christ!Christ Church Stellarton

Healthy

Healthy Youth Leaders Do This: ______….

Since accepting my new position, I have accepted several speaking Healthyand training opportunities that give me a chance to pour into Youth Leaders. Honestly, this is one of my favorite things to do in ministry.

I am doing a training in Illinois for Southern Baptist Youth Leaders at the end of this month called “Healthy Youth Leaders Do This:_____”. I have  decided to start this discussion online early to a wider audience, because this is such a vital issue!

Youth Leader health is so important. I am not just talking about exercise and eating your veggies. If you want to discuss that, my friend Mark at SweatCor does an excellent job with that. I want to take a step in a little different direction and talk Spiritual, Emotional, and Family health as a Youth Leader.

Its way to easy to just look at another youth worker that is doing “the right things” without looking at the basis for why they are doing what they are doing to reach students for the kingdom. We have to be willing to ask the tough questions if we are going to do student ministry from a healthy place. I desire for you to be there, because healthy Youth Workers reach more students for the Kingdom.

I’m going to ask you a question that may hurt a little, especially if you have been in ministry for a long time… Do you know what it is to be a healthy youth worker?

We can operate for years using great programs borrowed from others, slick curriculums printed by some great people, and games that get the students riled up. But have you ever served from a healthy place? 

As a 14-year veteran of student ministry, that question stings me a little. I can quickly look back to times in minstry that I have been chewed up, knocked around, and deeply hurt by things going on in the church or my personal life that affected how I served families. But to look at the inverse of this hurt to healthy times makes me a little angry. Angry that I have been serving of a place as a “wounded soidier” almost as much as showing any sign of real, vital health.

 

Don’t get me wrong, “healthy” in student ministry is not a destination, as much as a level of maintenance. Just like an athelete has to continually train to maintain a level of performance on the field, we have to make sure we are doing what is healthy first for ourselves, then for the families that we serve.

So to continue this discussion, lets be clear that everything we’re going to discuss is something that will require constant attention in our lives and ministries. The work is going to be tough, but the payoff is going to be worth it in our lives, our families, and our ministries.

What benchmarks for Youth Leader Health are you aiming for? Share in the comments area below…

Lets do this. We are better together.

Next up: Healthy Youth Leaders: Learn

 

 

fundraising

A Unique Fundraising Idea

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I have a fundraising idea that’s a bit out of the box.

I’ll warn you that it is not conventional.  It’s not exactly easy either.  But, if done right, it could net your youth group a good amount of money and cost you almost nothing to do it.

Willing to consider something different?  Then read further.

This past year, I published my first novel, Sheep Among Wolves.  It’s a self-published novel that started life first as an e-book, then expanded to an actual paperback book offering.  I’ll spare you all the details of why we chose self-publishing, but one of the big reasons was control over our work and a better profit margin.  You see, we get 70 percent of the sales of our e-book.

I’ll tell you, I did a lot of groundwork myself.  I spent a lot of time researching self-publishing, formatting, editing, and marketing.  The more work I did myself was less work I had to pay someone else to do.  The more I paid out, the less I made.  I found that producing an e-book took only minimal computer skills and was not actually that difficult.

Ok, I hear you, enough of the commercial for your book.  What’s the actual fundraising idea?

Well, that is the idea.  Self-publish a book.  Not just any book, but a cookbook.

This occurred to me the other day after a church fellowship.  So many of our church folks are great cooks.  I know I always look forward to church potlucks because they always have the best food.  I even had a church produce a bound cookbook one year of recipes from within the church.  It was an in-house deal.

But what if it wasn’t?

You see, with an e-book, your only expenses are services you pay others to do.  There is no overhead for books.  You don’t have to order a set amount.  If you can do all or most of the work, there is almost no expense to publishing an e-book.  No expense means more profit.

So what if you procured recipes from the youth group?  If that’s not large enough, target the entire church.  You can have congregation members submit their best potluck or family recipe.  As a fun fellowship, have everyone bring their dish so you can photograph it (for the book, of course) and then eat it afterwards (for the fun, of course.)

Once all the recipes are compiled and photos taken, format it into a cookbook.  Formatting is not as hard as it seems.  For a computer savvy teen or adult, it can be done in a few hours.  It mainly consists of learning some HTML code and placing all your images in the right places.  Find a good editor to edit your work.  When it’s done, you simply publish it on-line and start selling on Amazon, Nook, etc.  Most companies (such as Amazon) give you 70 percent on books $2.99 or higher in price.

Then turn your students and church loose on selling and buying the book.

A little quick math:  Charge $3.99 for the book.  That’s a profit of about $3.00 per book.  Now have each student try to sell 10 books.  That’s $30.  Now multiply that by your number of students.  Say you have 20 students.  You just made $600 and it cost you nothing but time and effort.

There are even better ways to increase profit.  You can sell it on your church website or Facebook page.  That’s 100 percent profit.  You could format it via CreateSpace and sell it as a paperback.  You’d have to charge more, but it’s more accessible to people in your church.  Again, it costs you nothing to do that.

So, there you go.  A different and out of the box fundraiser idea.  I’m not in youth ministry anymore, so I can’t try it.  But I’m curious on how it would go.

If your interested or want to know more or simply want to share results, e-mail me or post below.

 

ChristmasYall

An Early Christmas Gift for SBC Pastors…

Christmas is coming, you are decorating the trees that are in your churches, hanging lights, and putting up the nativity set. We all know that there may be a lot of new faces (or ones we only see a couple times a year) at church on Christmas Sunday.

Many churches go the extra mile with choir productions, childrens programs, dramas, and other special touches for that Sunday. In Southern Baptist Churches, there is one step that many of our churches have forgotten.

On the SBC.Net homepage, there has been a lot of work over the last couple years, mainly toward making it easier to find a local Southern Baptist Church in your area. They have cross referenced addresses they receive from annual reporting with Google Maps data. They have done quite well. However, any map is only as good as the data it uses.

Here is my early Christmas gift to you, SBC pastor. Stop what you giftare doing, go to the Church Search Page (after reading the rest of this post, of course) and make sure it is updated with the latest information on your church. Phone number, address, email addresses, service times, directions, and staff members names can all be part of this page.  Many of the individual church pages will also display the last time you have updated this information. In looking at some of the churches in my part of the country, the last update was 7-9 years ago! This kind of thing would never be allowed in the maintenance of your church building (oh, we’re out of toilet paper,… but we just bought some 8 years ago…). We need to have the mindset of treating the church’s online presence with dignity as well, even if your church search page is the only online presence your church has.

This may be the only way someone can find your church. For example, Church Search is the first result when you Google “southern baptist church near me“. Make it easier, not harder for people to find you. I am not talking rocket science, nuclear chemistry, or reaching 18-35 year olds. Just simple common sense. It’s asking the question, “if this is all someone sees of our church when they move to the community, is it what we want them to see?”

So, my challenge to you is while you are preparing your church building for Christmas, that you prepare your online presence as well.

 

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The Kaskaskia Dragon and Youth Ministry…

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One of the interesting things about my new position with NNYM is that I get to see some really wild things that are off the beaten path. One of these gems is the Kaskaskia Dragon. It is located off US 40 in Vandalia, Illinois.

According to Roadside America, this creation was originally built for parades, but found a permanent home near Highway 40. It is plumbed with propane, for a dollar, breathes fire and is apparently quite the sight after dark.
It is a “people who know, go” attraction.

This speaks much for youth ministry. I am not talking gimmicks. I am posing the question “What does your ministry excel at?”… The Kaskaskia Dragon does not try to be the St Louis Arch (even though there is a replica across town).

Find the thing your ministry does well, and build on it. Then, you have flexibility to partner with other ministries that do well where you need help. This is the picture of a body working together that Paul paints in the New Testament. We would do well to revisit that today.

Don’t try to be a ministry you are not.

We are better Together.

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Is It Too Late?

The church is dclosed-300x223ying. Literally.

I don’t have a plethora of stats to back this up, at least not on the rural level.  I just use my own two eyes.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or a statistician) to see that rural churches are aging and younger people just aren’t stepping up to lead.

As I look around at small rural churches, I see a lot of older leaders.  Men and women who have been serving for years who are still serving in those positions.  Where are the young leaders?  Sitting in the pews, if they’re coming at all.

Now, before this becomes a bashing session on older members, I don’t think they are completely the problem.  Yes, in some churches, we have older leaders who just don’t want to relinquish power.  I saw, first hand, what can happen when older power brokers refuse to give up power.  It can be ugly, stifling and limit leadership growth in the church.

Yet, I’m now seeing a new trend that bothers me just as much—a reluctance by young people to take leadership positions.  I recently read an article that suggests millennials would rather plant a new church than to fix the current one.  As the article states, “They would rather have babies than raise the dead.”

And so, the church is dying.  I’m not being completely figurative.  I’m being literal.

You see, here are the hard facts.  The baby boomers, those folks who have led the church for years and who are likely in leadership positions now, are dying.  As they begin to retire and face the golden years, churches are going to feel the pain.  In the next 20-30 years, many of them will be passing away.  If you look around and see 2/3 to ¾ of your leadership as 60 or older, then realize that 2/3 to ¾ of your leadership won’t exist in the next 20 years.

That’s scary, and here’s why.

They’re still leading because younger folks, the busters and the millennials, don’t want to lead.

I don’t know if this comes from the “serve me” mentality or the “let the pastor do it” idea, but they have no desire to lead.  But make no mistake, if they don’t lead, the local church will die.

In fact, I saw it happen.  A church had faithful deacons who all died off.  When the last one died, despite having a decent congregation, the church closed the doors.  Why? No one wanted to take over as a deacon.  No one wanted to lead.  Without leadership, the church had no choice but to close.

Something must be done.  What?  I don’t know.

I’m burdened with this problem.  How do you get young people engaged in serving the church?  This transcends youth ministry.  It transcends the pastorate.  It’s a growing problem and one, that if not corrected, will see churches, many of them rural churches, closing their doors.  Not for failure to bring people in, but for failure to find people to lead.

#RuralMinistry and More.

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