- Students should have a good knowledge of the Bible- I want my students to have an understanding of most of the Bible. They should know the Gospel, they should know theology, they should know how the Bible should relate to themselves.
- Students should know how to have a personal relationship with Jesus- Hopefully, they have seen this modeled in my life as their leader, but also in their home as well as their small group leader. I want every student to graduate knowing how to have a daily relationship with Jesus.
- Students should know how to share their faith- Students should know the Gospel by the time that they graduate, and it is up to us to train and equip them to know how to share the Gospel.
- Students should know how to worship- I want every student to know how to worship, and I want them to understand that worship is a personal thing that we can experience every single day.
I was helping a friend of mine move into their house the other day, and we had to take the legs off of their couch, because they would not fit through the door. Someone pulled out their phone to use their flashlight, but the joke was “do you have an app for taking the legs off of the couch.” (You had to have been there, I guess).
Apps are a part of our culture. When apps first started getting popular, they were only on a few phones. Now, most phones, tablets, or computers have apps that you can use. There are literally many apps for about everything that you need. The problem is that there are apps out there that are for what we do not need as well. I think that parents must be cautious now more than ever before about the rise in apps and technology. I want to share 5 apps that parents need to be aware about for the safety and protection of their kid.
- Snapchat- Initially, there is absolutely nothing wrong with snapchat, but I do not like the underlining reason that it was created. Snapchat is an app where you can share photos or videos to anyone in your contact list. It sounds innocent right? So why should we be concerned or knowledgeable about the app? The issue that I have is you can set the time for how long the opposing party can view the message. Why did the creators of Snapchat have to add this feature? So in essence, a student could send a profane or a perverted picture to another student, and it will go nonexistent after 10 seconds. Parents nor anyone else can locate the picture. It sounds sketchy to me personally. If you want to share a picture, send it through a text or instagram it. Instagram is the most popular app for students as of right now. I like it, but be careful as well, because many people are instagramming pictures of nudity, etc. Students can instantly seen porn through a somewhat of an innocent site such as instagram. It sounds like Snapchat is an app created for students who want to hide stuff from their parents.
- Vine- Vine is somewhat of a newer app. It came out toward the end of January 2013 so you might have not heard much about this. Vine is an easy way to share a quick streaming video to somewhat else. it is basically “instagram” for videos. It is dangerous though in that it has gotten many horrible reviews for pornographic material.
- Bang with Friends- This app allows you to log in using facebook. Now, if you look at your teen’s phone, you may not find this app. That is because it has recently been moved to a facebook app. You would have to search through their facebook to see if they have this app. It allows you to choose friends in your facebook list who you would sleep with (bang). It is anonymous until that other person randomly chooses you. If both parties choose each other, each party is notified and encouraged to get together to have sex.
- Twitter- Twitter is the Facebook of today. I have Twitter, and I would prefer it over facebook as well. Students have quickly migrated over from facebook to twitter over the last 2 years. Why? It is simple. Most parents, pastors, and teachers have gotten facebook. It is not cool to hang out online where those three groups of people are as well so teens must go somewhere else. They have migrated to twitter. I have often said that if you want to know what a teenager is really thinking, look at their twitter account. I have noticed a rise recently of students creating twitter accounts with different names so that no one can find them. I also have seen students’ following perverted groups of people to instantly see porn and other inappropriate material. By the way, check their twitter often, and if they have to block pastors, teachers, and even parents, there might be an underlining reason as to why.
- Youtube- This is not a new app, and it is often used. I use it regularly. I love youtube. Even though youtube has been HUGE over the last several years, I would venture to say that it is bigger than ever right now. It was in the top 3 of the top downloaded apps in 2012 according to one survey. Youtube can be very innocent and fun. The problem is the trend of students using youtube for music videos. The top music videos viewed by teens is sickening. They mainly consist of sex, drugs, and money. I have been trying to keep up, and it is quite disturbing to see the top music that our students are listening too. Parents, you can view the recently watched videos that your students are viewing, and I highly encourage this for their protection.
Here is the reality, every app can be used for evil. That is the sad truth. Parents, you must check these out regularly, and caution your student to protect themselves in a world trying to destroy their purity, reputation, and most of their testimony for Jesus.
Question- What other apps should parents know about?
Have you ever felt disrespected in student ministry? Oh you haven’t? Well, then you are a liar. Disrespect is something that goes with the territory of being in student ministry. By the way, if you think I think all skateboarders are disrespectful because of the photo, you are correct. Just kidding, I cannot stay on a skateboard to save my life so I actually respect them. n a perfect world, disrespect wouldn’t happen, but remember, we live in a fallen world so disrespect is a heart issue that our students have. When it happens though, how do we handle this? This is something that I am working on. I have failed miserably at this in my time in student ministry, and am sharing some thoughts that I am currently working on to improve handling disrespect in our student ministry.
- Communicate boundaries clearly and regularly- Students need to know the boundaries so that if they cross the boundary, they cannot come back with the phrase, “I am sorry, I did not know.” Communicate the boundary often and clear.
- Be consistent- This is a struggle for youth leaders, but we must be consistent with every student regardless. Students pick up quickly if you treat others differently than you did them when they did a similar thing. Make sure that you find your boundaries and be consistent with the way that you handle it.
- Keep your cool- There have been times where I have gotten ticked off at students. Make sure that you always keep your cool, and remember that this is a heart issue, and you have to show them Jesus in the way that you respond.
- Handle things privately if possible- Be careful about how you handle public rebuke. If a student is texting your lesson, speak with him afterward instead of calling them down during your lesson.
- Believe the best in every student- This is difficult to do, but something that I am currently working on in my own heart. I want to believe every student wants to know God more, and wants to live their lives for them even though their actions show differently. If you do this, you will respond with compassion and love.
Have you ever felt so encouraged by a large amount of students signing up for events, but then when the event finally arrives, only half of them show up? You go from super encouraged to super discouraged in the matter of minutes! Why does this happen? Well, first of all, it seems that the commitment level has changed drastically not just for youth ministry events, but for life in general. It is difficult to get families to commit to things, but when you are planning a youth event, you need commitment Here are a few ways to get your students to follow through with commitment to your youth group events:
- Non refundable deposits for events- This will help you financially! Sometimes we get stuck when kids say, “yes I will go to the event, and will pay you soon,” so you sign them up, and then they back out without paying you. Then, do you go to them begging for the money, or how do you handle it? Non refundable deposits usually get the “committed” students to sign up.
- No back outs after a certain date- Have a limit to where a student cannot back out after a certain date with any refund unless it is an emergency (death in the family, etc.) I get students wanting to back out the day of the event, because they found something better to do. Students need to be taught commitment.
- Parent Involvement- Have you ever had students sign up for something without their parents knowing? The more you get the parents “in the know” the better off you are of the student staying committed to the event. Let parents know which students have signed up.
- Teach on Commitment- Parents need to hear about commitment in parent meetings, but students need to hear about commitment in youth group as well so that they can understand commitment can be a sign of our faith as well. We must follow through with what we say.
- Complete Payments need to be due a week before the event- I am pretty flexible so I tell some students to just pay on the day of the event, but this has backfired in so many cases, it is not even funny. If you make students pay a week prior to the event (mostly works for larger events), it will help with the commitment level.
“One of the most important aspects to a balanced and thriving student ministry is having an intentional scope and sequence to your curriculum. We must be intentional with what we teach and to use the limited amount of time we have with our students well. And while many of you are thoughtful about your teaching and are biblically deep, contextually astute, and clever as all get out, there might be one significant area that gets left out.
I am sure that you would agree that our culture is getting more and more coarse. Students are increasingly self-absorbed and rude. Maybe the truth is that you don’t even realize it anymore or have simply died to it. Maybe you think that you will lose street cred if you push back against their entitlement mentality. Or maybe you are satisfied that you can at last get them to say grace when you are all together for a meal.
As students become more and more isolated, they have fewer and fewer places in their lives where they actually have to consider others. Their music choices, their movie choices, their food choices are all individualized. Whatever they want whenever they want it is their instinct and highest value. If at any time a student is done paying attention in a group, they simply need to plug-in their ear buds, check facebook, and check out.
Why manners are important:
Forever manners have been the social contract used to teach people how to interact in society. Manners are the habits that remind us that the world doesn’t revolve around us. Please and thank you are the words we use to realize that when we take things or use things they were first someone else’s to begin with. Ladies first, holding the door for others, or allowing those older than you to sleep on the couch when on a youth group road trip are ways to graciously put others needs above our own and to remember that our needs and desires are not the utmost of importance. Eye contact and follow up questions affirm and validate others and remind us that our view is not the one and only.
Everyone else has seem to let manners slide and our culture validates and lifts up the core value of “getting yours.” But this should not be the case. Manners are of utmost importance and actually part of our spiritual formation. Paul says in his letter to the Philippians, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interest of others.”
We love the concept of loving others. We focus on loving the poor for a weekend urban mission trip, or loving others by, well actually, we don’t have any other examples. One main way that we actually put into practice loving others and considering others above ourselves is by implementing old school manners. And if we don’t teach them, no one will.
Here are some of the manners that we are trying instilling in our students:”
I am just like you.I am average in just about every way. I am an average person of average height, slightly above average weight, and average looks. I work at an average church. I have an average sized youth group with average students. Basically, I am an average youth worker. And, thankfully God has chosen to use the common and average things of this world to glorify his son and expand his kingdom.
I love sharing ministry with my fellow youth workers. I only have so many ideas, so much patience, and so many answers. But when we get together for area network lunches, with denominational clusters, or on-line, something amazing happens, the combination of my commonness and your commonness somehow allows the body of Christ to flourish.
I am only a small, common part of the body of Christ. I want to settle into that truth and quit being anxious about not doing ministry right or being striving to be better than someone else, and instead spend that time and energy focused on loving the snot out of my students into the kingdom of god.
I have been speaking regularly to students for 8 years. I have definitely come a long way. I remember starting out feeling that I had to be this deep theologian, and for some reason I taught so deep, nothing was happening in the students’ lives. Then, I went into a vague sort of phrase where I was talking about how the people in the Bible responded to life, but never made it directly practical to how a student should respond in life. I have learned so much in my short tenure of speaking to students. Now, I do not claim to have it all together by any means, but here are a few things that I have learned in these 8 years.
- Keep their attention- It is important to think through your illustrations before getting up to speak. Have solid, fun, and pointed illustrations to keep their attention. It is important also to remember to get their attention from the very beginning as well using an illustration, a story, or just be energetic.
- Teach one main thought- Now, some may read this, and think that this means dumbing it down for students. This is not what I believe at all. Think of it as zeroing a thought in, not dumbing it down. It is taking a concept, and driving it home. If you come to youth group bringing 5-7 concepts, make that a teaching series, and discuss 1 concept each week.
- Have a sense of humor- This is something that I have had to learn. I have a sense of humor, but felt that the pulpit was not the place for it when I first started. Now, I have learned that it is okay when appropriate. By the way, your main objective better not to make them laugh. That is the wrong focus, but it is okay to have a sense of humor to keep their attention while you try to preach the Gospel.
- Teach transparently- Use personal illustrations of how you struggle. Admitting a struggle is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of maturity. Students can see right through hypocrisy so be authentic.
- Use technology- I try to always use the PowerPoint and screen when teaching to students if it is available It helps the ones taking notes on paper or on their phone. You have to be up to date with technology, and students appreciate this.
- Teach in love- Be direct, Biblical, but loving in your message. Students appreciate this, but remember there is a balance between responsibility on our part in the Christian life, and teaching in love. You can go too far on both sides of the spectrum.
Hope this helps you in teaching to students.
As society changes, many things change. Culture changes, the church and its methods change, styles change, fads change, and one thing that does change is the way the majority of the parent’s parent their teenager. Parents seem to go through cycles just like culture, and they change and adapt to the culture. I want to give you a few “old-fashioned” parenting tips today that I think it would not hurt if we went back too. I was parented in a very conservative old-fashioned way, and many other families held to some of these principles, and I want to give you a few of the old-fashioned tips that parents may need to resort back too:
- Making church a priority- In my house, church was not an option. Seriously, I could have a head ache, but if I did not have a fever, I would be at church. It frustrated me to no end then, but today, I am so grateful, because I never have a problem or a thought of skipping church. Today though, that is not the case. I feel students skip church for homework, sports, fun activities or amusements, or with a slight little head ache that they claim to have when they are fine doing other things with the same head ache. I wonder if believers made church a higher priority if our communities and nation might be a bit different.
- The School Staff is the authority in the school- When I was growing up, if I got into trouble with a teacher (which happened regularly), my parents never took my side. Once again, this way of parenting frustrated me at the time, but today, it has taught me an incredible amount of respect and loyalty to my authority. I am amazed at the number of parents who fight to prove the teacher is wrong when their student clearly did wrong. In a way, we are unintentionally teaching our kids to get their way, and buck the authority that has been instituted above us. Parents, do not be afraid to admit and teach your kids that they have been wrong. It may hurt them at the time, but we need to grow a generation up who can admit their faults and failures.
- The Pastor’s words of wisdom means something to our families- I am not saying that everything that the pastor says, you must agree with. Now, if it is coming straight from the Bible, you are commanded to believe it. I am talking about the wisdom and principles that the pastor may point out in a counseling session. For instance, my pastor encouraged my parents not to have a television or computer in my room. It is not found in the Bible, but it was a principle that he had learned from experience, and my parents listed to it.
- Youth functions are non-negotiable if affordable- One thing that my parents did with me was take me to every youth function that our church did. Some of them, I did not enjoy, and some of them quite frankly were boring, but my parents wanted me to go anyway. Now, obviously, if they were expensive events, and we could not afford them, sometimes on occasion, I would not be able to attend. For the most part though, I was at everything, and it taught me an incredible commitment to the local church and its community. Today, we give our kids so many options that if we get time to be a part of the church doing an event, we will make it, but we must get the 10 other things on our list finished first. Be committed to the church, and teach your kids commitment to the local church and its functions.
- Full time Christian Service is a possibility- Now, I am not in any way saying that every kid should be full-time in the ministry. I am saying that it should always be a possibility for any kid though. After all, we are called to be a follower of Jesus regardless of our occupation. Parents, do not discourage your kid because they may want to go serve God out of the state, or even out of the country. My parents always have said, “they would rather me in the center of God’s will out of the country than out of God’s will next door to them.”
There are a lot of things about the “old-fashioned” way of parenting that I do not agree with, but I personally do not think that it would be a bad idea to get back to these 5 ways of parenting.
I sat around a table this morning with some youth pastor friends of mine, and the discussion came up (as it usually does) of social media, and its effect on our students. One guy gave an illustration of a girl who posted a provocative picture on instagram. Another pastor discussed how disappointed he is that he has students who cuss regularly on their social media pages.
If you are in student ministry, you have probably had similar conversations come up. I want to give you a brief history of social media (from myspace to twitter) in students’ lives, and how parents have responded to the new social media sites that have come onto the scene:
This was HUGE when it was out. Students felt this incredible love for creating a myspace account and designing it the way that they wanted it to be. They could follow big bands and see what celebrities were doing. How have the parents responded? Parents were against myspace. Many parents had a perception of myspace as the sexual predators site, or the stalker site, because of what they have seen on the news. In my experience, most parents downed myspace and even set up extra parameters for their students who were on myspace. Preachers preached against myspace. It was awful. Personally, I never really saw many parents at all get on myspace. They just downed it, but allowed their students to have it anyway.
When facebook came out, students were already on myspace, and thought that facebook was stupid. I remember begging students to transition over to facebook, because it seemed safer, but the students were against it. They could not imagine deleting their myspace and moving over. Now, everyone has facebook! I mean the majority of students have facebook and use it regularly.
How have the parents responded? The parents response has changed a bit. When facebook first came available to students, parents felt that it would slowly become like myspace in a sense of the danger and vulgarity that its reputation got it. Parents became upset with the pictures and friends that students were having on facebook. So, the parents solution was to get on facebook to keep a tab of how their students were doing. Now, most parents that I face are on facebook, and one of the reasons is to hold accountable their students.
Twitter was launched in July of 2006 by Jack Dorsey. I personally felt twitter was stupid when it started. I have noticed students now transitioning over from facebook to twitter, and posting/retweeting different stuff than on facebook. Why? Parents and teachers are on facebook now, but not on twitter. So, to a student, they can now post anything that they want on twitter, because no one can see it, right? Chad Watson, a youth pastor friend of mine in our area, said, “You get the most honest picture of a teen by looking at what they tweet.”
How have the parents responded? They are a bit slow so far in my experience with parents and twitter. As far as I am aware, less than 5% of my students’ parents are on twitter. 60% of my students’ parents are on facebook though.
So, what is all of this saying? Basically, I am saying this: Students are joining something new, and parents are always several steps behind. I hate to say that, but it is true and evident. Parent, this should challenge you to be educated about youth culture, and stay up to par with what our students are into. If you want to know where your student is at in their journey with Christ, check their twitter account. It will not take long, because from our experience twitter is revealing who a student is more than any other social media site out there. Parents, get with it, and follow your students on twitter!
Camp has been a HUGE tradition for our student ministry. Camp has traditionally been one of the biggest highlights of our year. It is a week of fun, intense worship, and life change in our students. That was then, and this is now. Many people who I have talked too have said that camp is not working for them anymore. Many groups have said that it is not working for student ministry anymore. While there may be some truth to some of their reasons, let me give you a few reasons why camp still works for us!
- Camp pulls students away from every day life- My students are consumed with video games and technology, and while at camp, they get away from this to interact with others face to face, and to allow God to speak into their lives. They leave many distractions behind so that the Spirit can speak to them more freely.
- Camp allows students to build new relationships- This was always one of the coolest things for me growing up. I loved going to camp to meet new students (mainly the girls). You build new relationships at camp.
- Camp has a deeper mission than fun- Camp is one of the most fun places to be, but their mission is much deeper. They are missional in their attempts to draw students closer to the Gospel.
- Camp brings students out of their comfort zone- This coincides with #1, but still it is very important. Not only do they lose technology, but they are immediately pulled out of their comfort zone.
- The Lord uses camp to reach students- We saw 2 of our students last week at camp accept Jesus into their lives! Now, you can argue all you want that camp is not working, and it may not work for your group that much right now, but just think of the life change that is happening, and that may happen in your group through the camping ministry. It is something to consider.
[Question]: Where do you take your students to camp?
Recently, we took our students to Jamaica on a short-term mission trip. We were there for one week working with a missionary that our church supports. We were involved in several public schools in Jamaica, we had a work day at a local church in Jamaica, and we ministered in the church on Sundays. We also did some street visitation as well. It was a life changing week for sure! Our students came back changed, and wanting to impact our community with the Gospel. Now, the question that I want to answer for you is why mission trips are important? Why are mission trips important for you to get your students involved in?
- Mission trips help students get a heart for the Gospel- This was the purpose of our mission trip! The Gospel! This is why we went to Jamaica. Our students were able to see life change in people’s lives that helped them gain a heart for the Gospel and the power that it brings.
- Mission trips help students get a heart for their city- This was the coolest thing for me to see in our students. I have seen our students come back with a desire and burden for the people in our city. They are ready to take the Gospel to the “least of these” in our community. They all came back with a desire to be more missional and intentional with the Gospel right here in our community.
- Mission trips help break down cultural and comfortable barriers- When you go on a mission trip, you are immediately taken out of your comfort zone. You face so many cultural differences that it pulls you out of your comfort zone. This is a good thing. When you are in your city, you are comfortable. It is what you are used too, and it is difficult to step out of that comfort zone. Mission trips help take you out of it. For example, when we got home, some of our team went downtown right where we live and shared the Gospel with some street homeless guys. This was uncomfortable, but because of what God did in our hearts on our trip, we were okay to step out of our comfort zone, because we ultimately were under the protection of God.
- Mission trips are an encouragement to missionaries- This is HUGE! Go to a mission trip to be a blessing to the missionaries there. Connect with them, and get to know them. Living on a mission field can be lonely, and groups need to go more often to be a blessing and an encouragement to the missionaries in their area.
- Mission trips get students thinking about missions- This never hurts. You never know a mission trip could be what God uses to call one of your team members to be a missionary somewhere.
[Question]: Do you take your students on short-term mission trips?