youth


How’s that for a title? No, I am not off my rocker. That is really what I wanted it to say. A few weeks ago I had the privilege of going with our youth group to Spring Hill. This was at least our 11th year and maybe our 12th. Let me put in a quick plug for a great camp! If you want a fabulous camp experience check out Spring Hill!

The way things worked out I was going to be teaching the first few nights before our youth leader got there. The text I chose was Ephesians 5:15-21. It was a four-part series on how to be the church. It was entitled “There Is A Better Way.” I spoke on wisdom (v15-18), encouragement (v19),  thankfulness (v20), and unity (v21).

I started off the first night with the lesson on thankfulness because I thought I only had two nights to teach. The song, “Me and My Teddy Bear”, was actually used as part of my introduction. The kids loved the song and it was something they sang all week long. I just hope they remember the main point more than they remember the song!

Below is the introduction that I gave…

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What kind of routines do you have with your family? Mealtime, bedtime, vacation, chores? Are there any that you’ve had from a very young age? One of the routines I can remember most vividly from growing up is my bedtime routine. Every night as we were getting ready for bed we’d crawl up the stairs while mom would sing to us. I can still remember the song. It was called “Me and My Teddy Bear” by Rosemary Clooney.

After we got up the stairs mom would tuck us in and we’d pray “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake I pray the Lord my soul to take.” After that I can remember going through a simple routine of praying for all of our family. “God bless mommy, God bless daddy, God bless grandma, God bless grandpa, God bless granny, God bless pappaw, etc…”

Little did I know how much this routine would influence me. Now that I’m older, I realize the first prayer is not really accurate biblically. But I’ve also realized that it did teach me how to pray. Not only did it teach me how to pray but it also taught me how to be thankful as I recognized the important things in my life, such as family.

*****

From there I jumped into the passage and talked about thankfulness. In v20 of Ephesians 5 Paul challenges the church to be thankful always and for everything. That’s a big step for many of us!

The Jews developed a tradition of blessing God in and for everything. It was called a brakha or berakhah. The first word means thanksgiving and berakhah means prayer of thanksgiving. According to Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg, the traditional line for each blessing, in use for the past seventeen hundred years, is this: “Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe,” or, in Hebrew, “Barukh atah, Adonai Elohenu, Melek ha-olam…” (p92).

What if we lived life being thankful to God for everything and in all circumstances? How would that change our approach to life?

How would that change the church?

There really is a better way!

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Singing a song like this only gets better when you get to share it with someone who can sing so well. This is a beautiful song by Natalie Grant. What a joy to be able to sing with this young lady. What a joy to have been her youth pastor for so many years.

As you can see, I taught her everything she knows. The rest is pure God-given talent and training.

For His Great Name and not for our glory!

“Bad pastors beat their people up with their failures. Bad pastors are always disappointed. Good pastors know grace is true and Jesus is Lord, so they are ready to challenge every self-despairing soul with the wonderful truth that in Christ we are approved by God. Good pastors tell people they do have what it takes when they have Jesus’ righteousness.”

(from 10 Simple Things Good Pastors Say)

I read these lines above and they cut me to the core. This is terrific wisdom I wish I had known in my early years working with youth (and even later at times!). I have not always responded with grace. I have been easily disappointed and unfortunately I have let those I lead know. How refreshing it is to know we are covered by grace.

How refreshing it is to know that my own sinful life is covered by grace!

Father, forgive me for my shortcomings as a leader. Thank you for the grace you offer. Help me to lovingly extend that to others as both a shepherd of your people and as a shepherd of my own family.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV).

“Believe in the Lord Jesus; and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31, ESV).

About a month ago I was asked by another youth leader how to prepare students to lead “worship.”  This youth leader was very concerned about the lack of consideration and depth in the song selection.  This is a great question that plagues many youth groups.

In response to that question, here are a few initial thoughts to help song leaders think through their song selections. This does not guarantee quality musicianship. Actually, it doesn’t guarantee anything! However, it should encourage thoughtful reflection.

Let me know what you think and if things should be tweaked.

  1. What are your songs?
  2. Why did you choose these songs?
  3. Summarize each song in a sentence.
  4. How are these songs fit together (key, tempo, flow, topic, other)?
  5. What would be a key verse to support this song?

To be sure, the last one will be a bit more of a challenge. Maybe it shouldn’t be in this list of questions.  I’m concerned because this question, #5, could also lend itself to some prooftexting and improper use of Scripture.  It will, however, encourage some thinking!

Overall, I think the best way to equip someone is to have them mentored by another worship leader so that the process can be caught as they spend time together preparing things.  It is definitely a trial and error experience.  They will need someone to talk them through what’s going on, to answer questions, to encourage them when things go well (and when they don’t).  Most importantly, it will be helpful to have another mature believer (hopefully) with common interests to share life with.

What do you do to prepare your student leaders?

A few years back our church hosted a high school “Girls Retreat.”  As part of the evening the girls were split into small groups to answer questions on various topics like service, prayer, outreach, the Bible, etc…

I thought I’d re-post these questions here since they might be really good for any small group discussion, not just girls.  I hope you find them helpful!

BIBLE READING

  • What is God teaching you from reading His Word right now?
  • What is your favorite book of the Bible? Why?
  • What is your favorite verse? Why?
  • How often do you read the Bible?
  • What is the most challenging thing for you about maintaining a consistent time of Bible study?

PRAYER

  • Do you have a consistent time each day you set aside for prayer? If so, when?
  • What do you find most frustrating about your prayer life right now?
  • How do you respond when it feels like your prayers aren’t being answered?
  • Give an example of a time when God answered one of your prayers in an unexpected way.
  • How do you feel about praying aloud in front of other people?
  • What kinds of things do you pray about?

SERVICE

  • Share one idea you have for a service project our youth group could do.
  • Tell about a service project you’ve been involved in that really impacted others.
  • What keeps you from serving others more?
  • What skills/abilities has God given you that you can use to serve Him?
  • What do you find most rewarding about serving others?
  • How do you feel if no one acknowledges or seems to appreciate your service?

OUTREACH/EVANGELISM

  • When is the last time you shared your faith with someone?
  • What is the hardest thing for you about sharing your faith?
  • Do you have friends that are non-believers? If not, where would be a good place to begin making non-Christian friends?
  • Tell about how someone sharing their faith with you led you to accept Christ.
  • Do you regularly pray for non-Christian friends?  What kinds of results have you seen?

RELATIONSHIPS

  • Tell about a relationship you have/had that significantly impacted your spiritual growth.
  • Do your closest friends help draw you closer to Christ or pull you from Him?
  • What characteristics are most important to you in a good friend?
  • How could you be a better friend?
  • Do you find it easier to relate to guys or girls? Why?
  • How could we make relationships stronger in our youth group?

AUTHENTICITY

  • Do you act the same way around various groups of people, or do you tend to change depending on who you’re around?
  • What is the most difficult part about just being yourself?
  • How can you tell when someone is being authentic?
  • What do you dislike about inauthentic people?
  • Name one thing you could change about yourself in order to be more authentic.

THE GOAL: To get as many points as possible while completing as many tasks as possible.  They must be on video for all to see!  If you get into trouble DO NOT CALL ME!!!

Safety Disclaimer:

  • Always identify yourself as being affiliated with our youth group (insert church name here).
  • Have an adult with you at all times.
  • If participants are unwilling to participate thank them for their time (politely) and move on to another unsuspecting victim (I mean person).
  • Don’t do this after dark.
  • Set a time limit.
  • Don’t let the Senior Pastor find out!!!!!!!!!!!

THE TASKS (IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER):

Family Photo (100 pts. each): You are to go into as many different churches as you can.  Get your group on video with at least one person from the church.  If you choose, you can get a video of your group just in front of the church (50 pts.).

Burning to get inside (500 pts.): Get a tour of a local fire station.  For 100 extra points you can get a tour of a fire truck.  For an additional 100 extra points (per person) you can put on a fireman’s suit.

History in the making (200 pts.): Go to a local park or church playground and re-enact an historical event.  You may earn an extra 100 points for creativity.

The next best thing (500 pts.): Go to a local restaurant and do an interview with an employee about why their condiments are better than another restaurant’s.  You may earn an extra 200 pts. by going to the other restaurant and have them do a rebuttal interview.

Sing, sing, sing (500 pts.): Go to a local bookstore and request permission to serenade their patrons with a Christmas carol.  You may also go to Starbuck’s Coffee Shop.  Each one will be worth 500 pts.

Tour of duty (300 pts.): Choose a person from your group and have them give a tour of their house.  To get the points, the tour must include their bedroom with all of you on their bed!

It’s time for what?!?! (200 pts.): Find a clock (in public view) and circle around it reciting the children’s nursery rhyme “Hickory, Dickory, Dock.”

Stranger things than this (1000 pts.): Request permission to go into a complete stranger’s house and get a video of all of you in the kitchen drinking a cup full of water (and washing the cups when you’re done!).  Speaking of washing up, you will receive an extra 500 pts. if you can get a video of all of you in their bathtub.  You will get an additional 500 pts. if the owner gets in the tub with you!

Bigger than, better than (one winner, 1000 pts.): Each group will be given a penny.  Your goal is to trade this penny for something bigger than and better than the penny.  You will then trade that object for something bigger than and better than that object.  When asked why you’re doing this you can share that the love of Christ is bigger than and better than anything you will trade for all day long!  The winner is the group that comes back with the biggest object.

What kind of expectations should we have for volunteers working in youth ministry?  Is it just enough to have volunteers?  Should we have high expectations of them?  Should we just be glad someone showed up?  These are questions that have come up several times over the years as I have been working with youth ministry.  A few years back I decided to write job descriptions for those working in our youth ministry.

Here are a couple of reasons why I think it is important to articulate job descriptions:

  • I believe we are held responsible for the commitment we give to raising up our youth.  I do not believe it is appropriate to just randomly show up and call it youth ministry.  Yes it probably can happen like that, but I do not think that should be the norm.
  • YOUTH LEADERS – Look at Ephesians 4:11-13.  I believe part of our calling is to equip others to do the work of ministry.  Part of that equipping is preparing them to be successful.

So, here’s what all of our youth workers received.  If you are a…

Sunday School Teacher (~5 hours weekly)

  • Background check
  • Doctrinal survey
  • Belonging class/membership
  • Youth staff meetings (each 5th Sunday)
  • Quarterly commitment
  • Commit your study and the youth to God in prayer.
  • One male and one female (preferably not married) should be in the classroom with the youth.
  • Sunday morning (1 ½ hours) – Be there at least 15 minutes early to have all things prepared and greet the youth.
  • Lesson preparation (1-2 hours) – More or less depending on your style.  Use provided curriculum unless otherwise approved.
  • Outside contact (1 hour) – Approximately 3-5 contacts weekly.  Get to know the youth and their families.  The contacts can be done by email, face to face, events, phone call, etc…

3D Small group leader (~5 hours weekly)

  • Background check
  • Doctrinal survey
  • Belonging class/membership
  • Youth staff meetings (each 5th Sunday)
  • Semester commitment (Fall, Spring, Summer)
  • Commit your study and the youth to God in prayer.
  • Sunday evening (2 ½ hours) – Be on time and prepared to engage with the youth in all activities.  Plan on staying until the youth are picked up (as long as we have at least 2 adults in the building).
  • Lesson preparation (1 hour) – Have lesson prepared using provided curriculum (if given in advance).
  • Outside contact (1 hour) – Approximately 3-5 contacts weekly.  Get to know the youth and their families.  The contacts can be done by email, face to face, events, phone call, etc…

D-Group Leader (3+ hours)

  • Background check
  • Doctrinal survey
  • Belonging class/membership
  • Youth staff meetings (each 5th Sunday)
  • Commitment – Year-round
  • Commit your study and the youth to God in prayer.
  • Invest in a group of 3-5 same gender youth as they grow towards maturity in Christ emotionally, spiritually, and socially.  Offer appropriate help to families as need arises.  This is a group you should get to know very well.  You will take on a mentor/discipler role in their lives.
  • Meet weekly (1 hour) for accountability, Scripture memory, Bible study, and relationship building.
  • Lesson prep (1 hour) – This will vary depending on what is being covered.
  • Outside contact (1 hour) – Touch base with each person in your group regularly.  Get to know them and their families.  The contacts can be done by email, face to face, events, phone call, etc…

Drivers

  • Background check
  • Driving history
  • At least 25 years old
  • Responsible for safety of youth while they are in your care.
  • Responsibility extends to following all GEC rules and expectations, speed limits, appropriate music/video selections.
  • You will have at least 2 students or another adult in your vehicle with you.
  • Gas is typically covered (keep track of receipts).
  • You are responsible for the rest of your expenses unless stated otherwise.

There are obviously other ways people can serve in a youth ministry but these are key in our church.  What do you think?  Are they appropriate or not?  How would you respond if you were given a copy of these?  Is there anything I’m missing?  Feel free to leave feedback in the comments.  I’d appreciate it and so would others, I’m sure.

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