Orange 2016

 

Orange 2016

 

The hope for all our ministries is that we will communicate the Gospel in a way that transforms people. That they will discover who Jesus is and that will change how they engage the world around them. What we do on Sunday morning though can quickly be forgotten. We have all seen people getting angry simply leaving the parking lot after service. Can we honestly say that the regular programming is having any impact if there is no change throughout the week? What if we engaged people on Sunday with Monday in mind. This is why I am pumped for Orange Conference 2016.

The theme for 2016 is “Monday is coming.” As leaders what if we communicated truth, evaluated our programs and shaped our interactions with students around this truth. The reality is the lives of our students, and their parents, can quickly crush the truths taught on Sunday. We have seen the struggle to get students to know the Bible, seen the fight with other activities in a student’s life and we’ve helped them navigate some of the junk that happens in their lives.

What if we began to shift how we do things. What if we are able to get connected with students throughout the week? Our ministry changes when we are not only connected but can bridge the gap between what we teach on a Sunday and the lives of our students throughout the week. What we communicate doesn’t change, but how we communicate it does to leverage the time that we have to make the most impact in the life of a student.

Here are some things I do to bridge the gap between Sunday and the rest of the week:

Weekly Home Groups:

Our student ministry revolves around our home groups. We meet weekly in the homes of our students. This helps us to get connected with students throughout the week. The coolest thing is that we as leaders are meeting students where they are; in their homes, on their turf, where they are comfortable in order to build lasting relationships and point them towards Jesus.

Contacting Kids:

One of my daily goals is to encourage a student. I go through my list of contacts and just shoot a simple text message. See how their day is going and strike up a conversation. Let them know you care about them. I reach out to take students out during the week and process life with them. I share my life with them and I encourage my leaders to do the same. When this happens students see a faith that is engaged not only in church on a Sunday but in the daily grind of Monday.

Equipping Parents:

Every week I send out a parents email. I utilize Orange resources and ideas to help equip parents. If we want to influence the lives of kids, we need to equip the key influences in their lives, their parents. From ways to navigate conversations about dating to links to resources, such as music, magazines or devotionals, equipping parents is a major way to impact students throughout the week.

Our ability to point students to Jesus greatly increases when we can stay connected with them throughout the week. I am excited for Orange Conference 2016 to hear about new ways to get connected with students. If you’re interested in attending this years conference head to http://theorangeconference.com/ to get more details and register!

 

 

 

 

Multi-site students

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Over the past decade the impact of multi-site churches has continued to expand. Churches have various models and organizational charts to make these multi-site churches work. Student ministry can be a difficult ministry to multiple across campuses. There are different models and roles within a student ministry at different churches that describe themselves as multi-site. Whatever the model, or how the ministry is organized, student ministry across campuses have a few required elements in order to be successful. They must carry with them a united vision, their DNA should be the same, their should regularly held meetings to start informed and help one another out, responsibilities should be divided together and there should be a mentality of one church in multiple locations.

There must unity, throughout the campuses, in the vision of the student ministry. Like a tree that may have different branches yet shares the same roots.  The values that drive the ministry, the model that is being used and yearly goals should be all tied together across campuses. When the positions, whether paid or voluntary, at multiple campuses are not united, conflict always will arise. There will be confusion on what to do and how to do it. Meeting regularly helps to create this unity. You build relationships with other people on staff but also can work together to build the ministry. You get to trouble shoot with one another about issues that are arising.

A big thing is to make sure to delegate responsibilities. Have the student representatives of each campus do something each week. Whether it is building curriculum, planning outreach events or summer trips. Divide up the tasks by grade level or by personal strengths. It isn’t fair for one person to do all the work and the others just to sit back and reap rewards from another persons planning and hard work. This can be tricky with people who are volunteers or part-time student positions. It may take some conversations that clarify expectations and responsbilities too. However, when all people are able to to see their work at hand, there is more ownership over the ministry and therefore more success.

The student ministry must think “one church, multiple locations.” This may be the easiest to say and the hardest to implement. One church in multiple locations includes the idea of a united vision and the delegation of work. It is no less, and yet much more than that. Pray together for one anothers campuses and the success stories there. Be open handed with leaders and students that may be easier and a better fit at another campus. Create events that are inclusive to everyone and find a way to make all students feel as one community, not separate ones. Let one another speak at events, lead games or worship. Work together to build up a generation of students.

Multi-site churches can be tricky to navigate in student ministry. No matter the model you are using it is helpful to be united, share responsibilities and think as a team. Those things allow for success across the board.

Manage the Chaos

discipline

 

I love our home groups. We meet weekly with students and leaders in homes in our area. We laugh, have a good time, talk about life and point students towards Jesus. There is a certain craziness that comes from home groups. We have all experienced that talkative group and could all probably name those few students that just don’t seem to settle themselves. It can be frustrating, disheartening, disrespectful and we can even just dread it. I hope the last one isn’t the case. Here are a few of my ideas that seem to work for me when leading a group.

  1. Go over guidelines before group, reminders during group – I set up a few simple guidelines to help manage these group times. Safety, we want this to be a safe place for all kids to come and for them to share their thoughts without others using it against them. The other, respect, helps students not to chat with one another, listen to the speakers and share one a time. Every group, my leaders or myself, go over these guidelines. This gives kids consistency every week and something to point them back to during group when issues arise.
  1. Seating arrangements – Ask some students to move seats if need before group starts. I really haven’t used this too much but if I look through a room and see the issue before it starts, l will ask someone to just move their seat. I would do this quietly and in a non-confrontational way.
  1. Non-verbal queues – or as I like to call it “the look.” I just make eye contact with a kid that is go nuts and just make a handle gesture to have them settle down.
  1. Silence – with a whole group, this is great. Use the awkward silence to your advantage. Kids usually become self aware of what is happening and it is a great way to refocus everyone.
  1. Redirect – this is when someone may be going on a tangent or being to lose the group. Just say something like “what does this have to do with (topic).” When redirecting the conversation to get back on task questions work great. “Hey, you said this, but how does it apply to what we are talking about” etc.
  1. One-on-one reminders before group/text message/after group – This goes back to need for relationships with students. If I am in a group and it is getting out of hand, I will text that student, or one near them to help give them a reminder. If there is a pattern of talkative students I will pull them aside just us before group and just go over the expectation of group, why we are there and really express that I’m excited for group and hope they get a lot from it. If it is someone we have been talking about this issue with, text or talk to them after to see how they think it went and praise them if they did a really good job. Even if they did a terrible job I use the 2-1 rule. 2 positive things to 1 negative thing. “Hey you did a great job coming to group tonight and I am glad you said that one comment, however remember next time to…..”

A lot of this stuff has come from my teaching background and experience with groups. The main idea is to keep your management consistent, over time and with all the students, and be relational. When you have a relational ministry, this is your biggest strength in helping run your group time effectively.

 

 

Journaling for 2016

Journal

 

One of my resolutions this year is, of course, to grow closer to God. I have loved journaling; I have been doing it for years now. Lately though I’ve become forgetful and it has taken a back seat. I realized that I just needed to tweak the routine for me. There are a lot of different techniques, styles and advice. Ironically, I am giving you one more. The idea though is to create something for you making you more successful, joyful and closer to God.

Above is picture of what I have begun to do. It has a few different sections that work for me. Lately, my attitudes have been frustrated, lost and often feeling stuck. I have added a few things in there to help shift those thoughts and bring about something more positive. I can lay awake at night thinking of all the things that should’ve been done, or worried about how something turned out. To help this I added a section to make my mind rest at night. My journal has become two parts, the bible reading and summarization in the morning. Then, I work on everything else before I head to bed in the evening.

Morning

Date:

This should be a no brainer but I put the date on this so that I can be accountable to my journaling. It helps me to keep organized and I can look back to see growth and what God has been doing for me lately.

Verse:

I need to be in the Word of God daily. I would find myself reading verses but only for work and not for maturation. My routine is to read a short section in my Bible (currently in Philippians). I will read it twice then pick one verse that has stood out to me. That is the verse that I will write down in my journal and reflect on throughout my day.

Summarization:

When I write this verse down I will attempt to summarize and put it in my own words. This helps make this verse personal to me. It will help me to memorize the verse better and get the theme behind the passage.

Evening

Free Space:

I love free space. It is space to doodle and to think. I can do whatever I want there. I use this to think about people that have helped me that day or a situation that I could’ve handled better. It helps me just be creative. Sometimes, I just doodle monsters. It makes me happy.

Reasons I’m grateful:

I have had an attitude of frustration at times in my faith. I read a book called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. It struck a cord with me and I began to write down one reason a day I was grateful. I lost that habit and realized it helped my attitude greatly. I have created a space for me to write down 5 reasons that I am grateful to God that day. They can be anything. They can be something you saw, an interaction with a friend, something beautiful. Anything that you are grateful to God for that day can be written here.

God’s love:

From doing a step study with Celebrate Recovery I have realized one of my major heart issues is that, at times, I believe God doesn’t love me. I know that He does, but in certain moments that is the default of my heart. Everyday I want to be on the lookout for ways that God loves me. It aligns my heart to know the God is at the center of everything and that He loves me.

The cool thing is that in the past few days I have been doing this my mood has be a lot better than before. It has taken some adjustment but I do look forward to it each day.  This is just an idea. Do something that works for you, but just do something. Grow closer to God this year. Be more productive with goals and get in your Bible daily. Happy New Year and lets make 2016 the best year yet.

Holiday Cheer

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Christmas is upon us. Just a few more days and we will be knee deep in wrapping paper and covered in bows. Laying on the couch overstuffed with cookies and others carbohydrates. Then like that, Christmas is gone. Everyone goes back home, back to college; we tear down the tree, the lights and the nativity set you got fifteen years ago. There are things though that we need to continue to think of throughout the year, not just on Christmas. We need to think about being kinder, more generous, and reflect more on Jesus.

This time of year is always awesome because it just seems people are kinder. They smile more and are just genuinely more cheerful. Expect maybe Black Friday shopping, but we won’t get into that now. We need to extend that kindness throughout the year. We quickly forget the “spirit of the holidays” as soon as New Years is over. What can you do to be a kinder person this year? Maybe it is just saying you will compliment people more often, or swear less at bad drivers. Treating people well should be a priority throughout the year, not just on Christmas.

People give, a lot, this season. Maybe they save up all year just to give, or they have a “Christmas Carol” moment and wish to turn from their Scrooge-like ways. Either way, we are more generous during the Christmas season. What does it look like to be more open-handed throughout the year. Giving more of our time to others more regularly. Volunteer somewhere on a regular basis and become a staple of that organization that you’re passionate about. Give more of our talents away, using what you’re talented in to help a cause, to help a friend, and to further what God is doing in your church. There is always a need and you can fill that. We can be more generous with our money throughout the year. Instead of giving 10%, what if you gave 12%? You can become a better tipper at restaurants or buy that extra box of girl scout cookies and give them away. This upcoming year, lets learn from this Christmas and be more generous with our time, talents and things.

It is natural for us to think more about Jesus on His birthday. Yet, we get busy and distracted as Jesus slowly takes a back seat to life. Let 2016 be different. Take one month to be committed to one spiritual discipline, evaluate and keep it going the rest of the year. Carve out time to pray, read more, sing or play worship. Commit to that journal that you’ve written in twice and swear you’ll get back to but keep pushing it off. Keep Jesus the priority throughout the year. Allow Jesus to be the motivation for why you’re more generous and why you are kinder to others. Make it a priority to grow closer to Jesus in the new year.

We can bring the spirit of Christmas with us the rest of the year. Being kinder, being more generous, and loving Jesus in a deeper way is possible all year round. Lets extend the holiday cheer throughout the New Year.

God/Science

 

stars hands

 

 

Recently, I opened up one of our home groups to high school students to just ask questions. To help make it a safe place I passed out paper and pencils and had them think and write at least one question each. We spent the rest of group answering them together. I simply facilitated the conversation, listened to students thoughts, let them wrestle together in the messiness and then would chime in some final thoughts. At the end of the night I thought this was such a great night. They wrote amazing questions and I really saw, in a more intimate way, what exactly my students are wrestling with. I hope to write a few blogs on some of their questions and hope then can help you in your own conversations with your students.

Question:

Can you believe in both science and God? Do you have to pick one?

The short answer: Yes!

Science and God can exist together. God created this idea of science. I love that as we discover more in the fields of science, from medicine to geology to astronomy we can see the creativity, the power and the evidence of God. I have had many friends in the sciences. Many Christian and some not Christian. What is amazing about them all is the wonder that they see through science. From stars and galaxies, discovery of new species and the study of the Earth the creativity of God is constantly being rediscovered. Scientists still struggle with coming up with an answer to a lot of questions we have in faith. I believe it takes more faith to believe in some scientific theories than to believe that God was the one behind it all. These questions are where science, God, and faith unite.

Many people say that science and God are opposed to one another. I believe that science produces evidence of God, is created by God for us to see Him, and helps develop faith in the things not seen. Churches should not limit talking about science. They should use the sciences to demonstrate the power of God. When churches stay silent about the sciences it speaks volumes of our ignorance and misunderstanding on how to see God through them.

When talking with students about science ask them questions about how they are able to see God in it. Talk to them about nature, about the expanse and creativity of God. Share with them the experience of not having all the answers but being able to trust in God. Use a common interest in science with students to build a positive relationship with them. Let us be leaders that can use science to demonstrate the power of God.

 

A Christmas Connection

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The Christmas season is officially upon us. I love seeing all the Christmas decorations and the cookies that are everywhere. People saying ‘Merry Christmas’ and everyone just seems more joyful. This is also a rough time for student ministry. Families are out of town, students have Christmas plays to attend, they have other commitments and it is common to not see a few students for this entire month. Yet, we can still discover new ways to connect with our students over this hectic time of the year. It is a great time to be creative and think outside the box to grow your students in their faith and develop relationally in your ministry.

USE SOCIAL MEDIA

Press into your social media plan to stay connected with students. Show them a few pictures of what you’re doing this season. Post some devotionals along with some questions to help them process something in the craziness of the month. I’ve had many students say that these are the only time they are able to read some Scripture and connect with God. Do a few social media games to get students to post about their favorite cookies or Christmas traditions with their families. Create a video devotional for your students. Especially during the week leading up to Christmas and the week after. Something short that they can watch on Christmas morning or stretch their thought process past just the receiving of gifts. Shoot them a text message asking how their day is or ask them what they’ve been up to for Christmas. When you can’t be present with students, connecting with social media is clutch.

CONTACT

The Christmas season gives us a unique opportunity to have contact with students. Invite them into some of your Christmas traditions or start some new one withs students. Bake Christmas cookies, go Christmas Caroling, or just shopping for presents together. Recruit a couple students to help you decorate your house. Have a White Elephant Christmas party or Secret Santa amongst your students. Chances are you will watch ‘A Christmas Story’ or ‘Elf’ fifteen times over the next few weeks so have a few students over to watch with you. Go attend a students play, recital or concert and bring some other students with you. Think about what you would normally do and invite a student into that.

SERVE

Serving with students is a great time to connect with them. Your church is probably doing extra events this upcoming month. Challenge your students to show up with you and volunteer along side you. Find an outreach opportunity in your community. Better yet, join your students in an outreach opportunity that they are passionate about.

In the busyness of this upcoming month we can still connect with students. We may have to think outside the box but students matter. They matter enough to go the extra mile this Christmas to connect with them.

Finding the Next Leader

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In a meeting recently I had a prayer request that God would bring us more student leaders. It was met with the comment that in our church “we all need more volunteers.” All the more to be praying for it, I thought to myself. This is one of the areas I have had to most difficulty in being a student pastor. Word on the street is I’m not alone. Love to hear some of your thoughts on how you are building a culture that recruits leaders well and equips them to engage the students. Whatever your strategy, I’ve learned so far that in recruiting leaders it needs to personal, intentional and you need to be stubborn in the ask.

Being personal means meeting people. Go around and introduce yourself to people in church, smile and shake hands. Know their names and learn their stories. Invite potential leaders out to lunch or coffee to learn more about them and share the vision of your student ministry. Ask your current volunteers to be the same way, personable. It is a lot easier to invite people to serve when it is a place that they themselves can connect with and have fun.

There needs to be intentionality in “the ask” and have a strategy behind the process. Develop some key criteria and a vision for what a leader would look like and what they would do within the ministry. Write your vision for them and the strategy behind it. Have some key phrases that you and your volunteers use to talk about your ministry and create unison. Help make this process as easy as possible on them and on you. Look for key areas of people that can contribute to your vision and ministry. Ask some young adults, parents or college students and talk to them about how volunteering within your student ministry is a great place for them to influence the lives of students.

I think the most important thing I have learned in recruiting volunteers is learning to be stubborn. Be stubborn about the people you are asking to become leaders. Don’t let anyone just help, there may be things that you see that will not make it a great fit. Be stubborn in opening the door and be confident in saying no if there is something that says this person is not a great fit. Be stubborn in giving these people a vision about making the lives of students important to them. Don’t be afraid to challenge them to more, it may call them to stretch in their faith as well. Don’t settle for someone that is not a right fit just because you are in a crunch. Being stubborn about who you help lead and the vision for your ministry is crucial in recruiting the right leaders.

Recruiting leaders is inviting them to help influences the lives of students and change the future. This is not a position for everyone. While asking for help be sure you are personable in sharing the vision of your ministry, intentional in how that is down and be stubborn in who you ask.

 

Tragedy

tragedy

This tragedies of this past weekend had me reflecting on how much pain there is in the world. Sadness and brokenness is an everyday occurrence. My students feel the weight of that. Many have questions, sometimes I don’t have answers, they wrestle with their faith in these times more than usual. As someone working with students we need to mourn with our students, demonstrate our faith in the midst of suffering and help students think bigger than themselves.

I always hated when something terrible happened someone would say something like, “God works in mysterious ways,” or “His ways are higher than our ways.” Those words, in the midst of tragedy, hold no comfort to me. We must mourn and lament in those moments. Cry out to God in our frustrations at the hurt and injustice we see in the world. We can echo the cry of Habakkuk:

God, how long do I have to cry out for help
before you listen?
How many times do I have to yell, “Help! Murder! Police!”
before you come to the rescue?
Why do you force me to look at evil,
stare trouble in the face day after day?
Anarchy and violence break out,
quarrels and fights all over the place.
Law and order fall to pieces.
Justice is a joke.
The wicked have the righteous hamstrung
and stand justice on its head

In the moments of tragedy we can show what it looks like to mourn and grieve to our students. We can listen to their concerns and thoughts. We can sit for a moment and listen to them rail against God and the supposed injustice. We can cry with them. Pray with them. We can sit with them and weep together.

Like the prophet Habakkuk, we can show students what faith in God looks like in these moments. Habakkuk reflects on the things about to befall Israel and what God has been teaching him and says this in chapter 3:

Though the cherry trees don’t blossom
and the strawberries don’t ripen,
Though the apples are worm-eaten
and the wheat fields stunted,
Though the sheep pens are sheepless
and the cattle barns empty,
I’m singing joyful praise to God.
I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God.
Counting on God’s Rule to prevail,
I take heart and gain strength.
I run like a deer.
I feel like I’m king of the mountain!

For Habakkuk it doesn’t look good and it doesn’t look like it will get better anytime soon. Yet, like Habakkuk, we must pursue God. We push close to God with our students during these times. The norm is to run from God, to blame God, and to question Him. God mourns with us. He is saddened at the brokenness of this world. We can show our students the resiliency of faith in the moments of hardship. Read Hebrews 11 with them. Sing and worship with them. Remind them of how God has shown up for them in the past and how He is moving in their lives. We may not have the answers for students, but we can point them to Jesus.

Encouraging students to participate in giving aid is a great way to connect their faith with action. Help fundraise, donate money, or help a family who has lost a loved one. Often students are willing to help, they just need a way too. Give them a way to help during the current difficulties. Follow up throughout the year to find ways for them to help in other areas of need.

Giving students an opportunity to help, show them faith in the midst of the pain and mourning with students is how we can respond in moments of tragedy. This world is hurting, God mourns with us.

Expectations

In an old friends pregnancy announcement they praised how excited they were for having a baby boy and couldn’t wait for him to be a star athlete. I could imagine the expectation of a room full of trophies and daily sports games. It started me thinking (which has proven to be dangerous) whether this was a smart move, or just one made in excitement. I have seen many parents and their students differ in their expectations of what niche they would fit into. What if a child didn’t want to play sports, would a parent force them into it? Would a parent rob a child of joy because the child would rather read or be creative than do something the parent once did? I am not a parent, but I have seen a lot of this tension play out throughout my life experiences. Here are some thoughts on the expectations we put on kids.

Discovery

Allowing a child room to figure it out, and being a person who can help guide that is important. I hope kids can try a bunch of activities and learn from those experiences. Kids get to discover for themselves what they enjoy and like. They begin to learn new skills and develop their personalities. Allowing them to try things gives them a chance to see it for themselves. We should, however, also create a sense of commitment in them to stick with something that they do enjoy. This should come naturally if they enjoy it. Get their curiosity going, help to see and try new things.

Safety

As adults we should create a safe environment for kids to be themselves. When we coerce or force a kid into do something they don’t like it frustrations rise on both fronts. There can be an unhealthy expectation on kids to do a certain thing which when they don’t like it leads to frustration and disappointment from the adults. From the kids it creates a tension that can destroy trust and connections with adults. This safety helps kids to try and fail and try and succeed until they discover something that makes them come alive.

Passion

Be a champion for kids in whatever fills them with joy. If it is being creative, or band, reading or sports be a kids cheerleader in whatever they are doing. Create an environment that encourages them and creates a passion behind what they are doing. Let their passions become your passions. You will connect so much better when you share this with them. Encourage them to be the best they can be in this area. If it is drawing, ask them to see some work and help them to learn more. If it is sports, cheer them on, teach them new skills, and ask them questions about it.

In giving kids a safe environment where they can discover their passions they will flourish. We begin to see kids for who they are, not who we believe they should be. In families, and in our ministries, we should strive to help kids discover the unique individual God has created them to be. Even if it doesn’t fit our molds.