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As I continue relationships with those who have graduated from college and reflect upon their experiences, very few point to the big events or great sermons. Most seem to reflect on the conversations they had with me or someone else, the late nights in my home just talking, making rounds at a hospital with me or someone else. The more I examine Christ's ministry the more convinced I become that our ministry needs to focus more on content than program. I can't count the number of times I have developed a theological point from a movie clip, drama presentation, or game rather than use those things as vehicles. I can't even begin to count the times I've spent more time setting up the object lesson than spending time in the Word that changes lives upon which the object lesson was built.

Jesus wasn't flashy. He was about relationships. He never spent the majority of his time planning his words, preparing his next outreach event, not even speaking to the masses. The bulk of his time was spent engaging lives one or a few at a time. In fact, the only times I notice him withdrawing from everyone for alone time, was not to write a lesson or plan a mission trip. It was for the sake of his own relationship. I'm not sure that these thoughts are worth much of anything except to say that is what I've been considering the past couple of weeks. Thanks for all your thoughts. They challenge and encourage me.


Thank you guys!

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I have to echo what CL wrote the other day, the stuff ya'll are writing here has been encouraging. Keep it up. I apologize for being out of the conversation for a while. I have been up to my ears in graduate school homework, my wife is preparing to have surgery Wednesday, and I have been out of town for two weeks, and this weekend alone, I worked some 25 hours around the clock. I have been a little consumed with other things. But keep it up.

Welcome Brian, to our forum. I am looking forward to getting to know you through your writings. Hope this little community of youth ministers can be a place of encouragement as it has been for me.


What Do They Really Need?

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I posted the following quote on my blog on October 27 and received some good comments. I would love to get your feedback on what students really need, and how we go about offering it. I sometimes find it a tough balance between what they need and what they want. Sometimes we have to offer them what they want, so that we can offer them what they really need.

All too often I am afraid we error on the side of only offering them what they want.

Thoughts??

"The risk facing contemporary teenagers bear solemn testimony to the church's ineffectiveness at addressing adolescence. Youth look to the church to show them something - Someone - capable of turning their lives inside out and the world upside down. Most of the time we have offered them pizza."

-Kenda Creasy Dean, in the Godbearing Life: The Art of Soul Tending for Youth Ministry


Welcome...

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Hey Everyone!

First, I wanted to say how much I have been encouraged by all of the awesome discussion the last few days and even weeks. You guys are really encouraging and helping me alot, more than you''ll know.
Second, but just as important, I want to welcome Brian Eberly to YMF. Brian is the Pastor to Students at Tigard First Baptist in Tigard, OR and has been in Youth Ministry for 20 years. I am really excited that he is going to be rippin' it up with us! Good to have you Brian, welcome!


The 18 Month Myth

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Myth Busters ... So how do we get away from this myth in Youth Ministry?




Here’s an article from Group Magazine. It’s at the bottom of the page after 100 Youth Ministry Gems and 10 Things I Wish I’d Known. (Good Stuff). You can click here to read the rest http://www.groupmag.com/articles/details.asp?ID=3795

THE 18 MONTH MYTH

By Rick Lawrence

"Studies indicate that the average youth director lasts only 18 months." So says George Gallup, the granddaddy of Christian pollsters. I’ve heard the same factoid quoted by esteemed youth ministry speakers, authors, academics, and average-Josephine youth leaders hundreds of times. So it’s gotta be true, right?

Here’s the trouble: I’ve attempted to trace this now-infamous truism back to a specific source, and I can’t find one anywhere. Gallup doesn’t cite a particular study. Neither does Barna. It’s a ghost vampire not even Buffy can kill. The 18-Month Myth is now part of youth ministry lore. It’s been used over and over to describe youth ministers as easily scared gypsies who bolt at the first sign of trouble.

Well, I’m here to tell you it’s all a bunch of bunk.

For years I’ve challenged people who reel off this 18-month statistic to cite their sources. I’ve disputed its authenticity for two reasons: (1) The average group reader has five years of paid youth ministry experience and has stayed at the same church—both as a volunteer and paid staffer—for more than six years. (2) At conventions, workshops, and in casual conversations with youth ministers all over the country, I hardly ever meet one who bags it after a year-and-a-half.

So we here at group decided to find out the truth, once and for all. We asked our research staff to complete a scientific survey of North American churches using a representative sampling of denominations. Here’s what we discovered:

*The average paid youth minister has just over four years experience (4.2 years, to be exact).

*The average paid youth minister has been at the same church for almost four years (3.9 years, to be exact).

So you’re not the lone stable person in a sea of here-today, gone-tomorrow gadabouts. And, if you’re a group subscriber, it’s a good bet you’re even more committed to your profession and your church than those nefarious nonsubscribers out there.
Now I feel all squishy inside—the good kind of squishy. I hope you do, too.

Rick Lawrence is editor of group.


Just Wondering

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Not to change the subject, but did any of you find this cover of YouthWorker to be a little odd? Does the illustration represent your experience with fringe kids?


What does a Healthy Youth Ministry look like?

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In the past couple of posts we've looked at mismeasurement, illiteracy, success, and so forth of youth ministry.

So what does a Healthy Youth Ministry look like?

What should youthworkers be doing?


Biblical Illiteracy

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I've adopted the following statement regarding the Bible:

"We believe in the Bible. We're awed by it, inspired by it, and believe it is Truth. We're also terrified of it. We don't understand all of it, but we believe it. All of it. That's the important part, because if you only believe some of it, if you try to edit out the parts you don't like, then you don't believe it. Of course, believing it all doesn't mean we perfectly live it all. It doesn't even mean we have it all figured out. Mostly we're scared of it, scared in a good way, because whenever we read it and try to live by it, God shows up and that's pretty terrifying … and also pretty amazing, and pretty …uh … assuring."

The one thing that concerns me about Bible literacy is that we'll give Pat Answers
Have it all figured out. I don't want students to be Bible literate. I want them to be Jesus literate. You see, there is a difference. The Bible points to well ...Jesus. And we're to worship Jesus, not the Bible. The one thing that concerns me is we get so focused on learning rather than doing. Bible literacy isn't about facts, figures, and teaching stories. It's about God's story being a part of our story. Having students making their faith journey - well Their's.


Sometimes that means that not teaching Jesus but BEING Jesus. You see some of the greatest moments in our ministries are when well JESUS shows up. We find people being Jesus' hands and feet and our students catching that. What I find is its not the parts of the Bible that I don't understand that scares me, but that ones I do that scare me. Like "Love one another, bear one another's burdens etc"

Sometimes I think we take the mystery, awe, fear of God, and try to put it all into some logical answers and have all the Bible and it figured out. As for me I'm teaching my students the journey along with their families. What I'd like to see more is more Jesus teaching along with the Bible in the homes rather than just a "Church" program. But that's another rant.


The Mis-Measure of Youth Ministry

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A few weeks ago we held a youth event called Revolution. It was a great weekend which you can read about on the website if you would like. What I really wanted to let you all know about is our speaker for the weekend Jeremy Shipp. If any of you are looking for someone to speak at a retreat, youth rally, or camp I highly recommend him. His message captivated the teens and adults at Revolution and his use of media and illustrations were fantastic. If you are interested in getting his contact information please send me an e-mail and I will pass it on to you. You will not be disappointed, and it's my understanding that his speaking schedule is fairly clear right now, so if you need someone you stand a good chance of snagging him.

Discipleship Youth Program Vs. An Ecclesiastical Youth Program

These two articles "Post Relational Youth Ministry" and "Hurried" have really set my mind thinking about the tension between taking a discipleship approach to ministry or an ecclesiastical approach.

To be sure both things are absolutely important for us as youth ministers to concern ourselves with. This discussion isn't about throwing the baby out with bath water so to speak. But, I do want to have the discussion in hopes of thinking through some of the real dilemmas about how we focus our efforts in structuring our youth programs and how we measure the programs effectiveness.

The last post on the blog asked the question about how "deep" our youth groups are. Having a discussion focused on the spiritual health of a group as opposed to just the numbers as a way to measure effectiveness is right on the money. Putting a "Yaconellian" statement out there, I am not convinced that our call as professional ministers is to make teens into disciples of Jesus Christ. And where YM get into trouble is by being measured by that kind of criteria.

The truth is we all know that we have little to moderate influence on the actions and beliefs that teens have when they enter our groups. Parents and friends have a much greater impact in shaping the overall trajectory of a teens spiritual belief systems. Where we do have a powerful influence is in shaping the experiences of our teenagers within the context of the church.

That is a powerful position to be in especially if you really think about how huge the impact the Church can be over the life of a person. That's a scary influence to have, and one that deserves a greater focus from us than what we traditionally have given it. When I talk about a teens experience with the Church I am not referring to a sound system, PowerPoint, or any other kind of "edgy" presentations that dominate "successful" teen programs. I am referring to really integrating a teen into the broad life of the church both in serving and being served. If anything the kind of "Whiz Bang" catchy YM programs that we cynically talk against (but secretly envy...or atleast I do) are driven by a discipleship model rather than an ecclesiatical model of ministry.

In responding to my comment on the McFranchising post "Anonymous" said that we are directly commissioned in the Bible to go and make disciples. We would all recognize that this came from Jesus during his ascension into heaven. I absolutely agree that part of our expectation as Christians is to help bring people into relationship with Christ that is transformative. How to do that is a whole different discussion. Jesus addressed that to his Disciples (not just the Apostles). These were more than likely numerous men, women, and children not just the twelve. Fast forward to Acts and we see that the power of the God's Spirit happened well beyond an individual experience and encompassed something much bigger...the Church. The rest of Acts chronicles the early church leaders efforts in building up the community of the church with believers and integrating them into the life of the church. As "professional ministers" the Apostles were given the responsibility to incorporate people into the Church as a way for people to become transformed. You could make the argument that Paul's main focus was helping people coexist within Church and that personal discipleship was secondary (but also very important). That makes me think that our profession brings with it a greater responsibility towards building people up in the church Possibly even superseding the standard discipleship responsibilty that every Christian has.

So I throw all this out there in hopes of having a tangential discussion related to the original "McFranchising of Youth Ministry" posted by GMAN. Some of the things I said I am not too sure about....I am still thinking my way through this.

Thoughts...


McFranchising of Youth Ministry

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Too often I see the McFranchising of Youth Ministry. So how many do you run, how big is your youth group? (Almost sounds like a Jr. High locker room). What ticks me off is we compare, we go after numbers as the only indication of health and equate that mega equals better. God gives the increase. Numbers in and of themselves is not the ONLY indicator. I think a BIG injustice is done to youth ministry trying to be the NEXT Big thing or even to BE LIKE DOUG FIELDS. God blesses both big and small churches. BE yourself. Be who God created you to be. Learn from others. Make disciples. Be faithful. But stay away from McFranchising and Business Incorporating your youth ministry. It's unhealthy, and really gets annoying after awhile. Maybe the better question is not how big is your group, but how DEEP is your group? Any disciples?


Dare to Dance with a Cat

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Yesterday I did it. I danced with my cat. His name is Pepe. It was a fast song ...by some group named the Supertones. Anyways, I picked him up and we danced. Not really good and not really too fast. But do know know what happens when you dance with a cat?
Yesterday, I found out quick. It wasn't the pain, nor the clawing that got me. It was the shock. Here I had a peaceful loving pet; and suddenly ...without warning I was toast or rather a scratching post. Will I do it again? Probably not for some time. But some of us would dare to.



Now I got thinking that is how it is with us in our lives. Something looks good, but actually is bad for us. We dance with it; thinking it. (Let's call it by its name ....now Sin). would not harm us. But soon there is the shock, the pain, and the wanting to do it again. So easy to dance with sin than it is with God isn't it? Sometimes in the midst of my own sinfulness I forget.

Dancing with a cat, how silly is that? It's as silly as dancing with sin, but a lot of people are doing that too.


War Wounds?

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So what is your story? Ever been hurt? I been thinking of this lately. With the whole Sin, grace, Manipulation and the whole reality of youth ministry. The reality is that there are horror stories out there. You will be wounded. Don't give up. I'm not perfect. I'm messy. I've messed up, in fact, as a result of alot of my failures and shortcomingings; it helped mold and make me into a better youthworker.

So what is your story. Mine: A messy Canadian who ended from a broken home to Bible College to a few short ministries, to some good ones, and continues along the journey. Husband. Father. Role model. And still amazed by God's Grace. What about you?


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