Today is the last day of school. There is a part of me that is very excited and relieved, and there is a part of me that is very reflective. This seems to happen almost every year. I wonder if this mixture of emotions happens to other people?

First, the part of me that is excited – I made it through another year, in another new building, with another new principal, with two new grades. Plus, I still have my sanity. I have found a niche teaching elementary music and I love the addition of the older kids. I feel like I connect with the older kids better but I love them all.

Second, the reflective part of me – Part of it is just my personality. I am a bit melancholy. In the past, however, I have always finished the year wondering if that one would be my last. Because of my work with church ministry and my work with teaching I can never decide what I am going to do when I grow up. I have always committed to God that I would be available to do whatever He wanted me to do, whether that was teaching or working with a church full-time.

Thirdly, for the first time in over a dozen years I do not have a summer job – yet. In the past I have worked with band camps or at the church. This summer I am totally free of any of that responsibility. I’m not even taking summer classes. It is a very weird feeling. There’s a part of me that wants to do something else and there’s a part of me that is saying just enjoy the time at home with your family. A refreshing summer might be exactly what I, and my family, need.

When all is said and done the job will sort itself out on its own. What I know for sure is that I have one more day to finish up school.

“Heigh ho, heigh ho, It’s off to work I go, Heigh ho, heigh ho, heigh ho…”

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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.

“Seasonal Youth Ministry” – that is the title of a book I keep saying I’m going to write one of these days.  The idea behind the book is that every youth worker and youth ministry goes through various seasons.  It could be the beauty of spring as a youth worker begins their ministry.  That, of course, would be followed by the long hot days of summer as everything is in high gear, full of activity and growth.  Blowing through the next season would be the the beautiful colors of fall as seniors graduate, situations change, and routines establish themselves.  Finally you would have the cold winter months where everything is in hibernation, resting, ready to burst forth into a new season.

What makes this idea intriguing to me is that every season has multiple ways it could be played out in the life of each youth worker, each youth ministry, and each person who is impacted spiritually.  On top of that, everyone has their favorite season (and their least-favorite!) and stories to tell about them.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about this much more here recently since I am now entering a new season of my ministry.   About a month ago I resigned as the youth director in our church.  It is no lie to say it has been difficult but I am as sure of the decision now as I was when I made it.  I have been serving at this church for ten years.  Sometimes I was the youth director, sometimes I was the worship director, and sometimes I was both!  It was a decision that was supported by our church and our relationship remains very strong.  We have already hired a new youth director.  He has served with our youth ministry for many years and it is a joy to help him transition into this new role.

This is a new season for me.  With a new child on the way, it is a season I should be enjoying.  Yet, there is this nagging feeling…

What do you do with those nagging feelings?  What do they mean?  Will they go away?

These are questions that we experience in every season.  And in these questions, during these seasons, it is important to remember that God is sovereign and faithful.  Each season will yield its fruit in the appropriate time.

What seasons have you gone through?  Were they good or bad?  How did God show Himself faithful?  Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

This is my first follow-up to “Thinking about the development of youth.” As I was writing this I realized that I had neglected three major rites of passages, one for each age group.

Junior High – moving to high school, of course
Underclassmen – getting their driver’s license
Upperclassmen – graduation from high school

How could I forget any of these!

So my mind is spinning now and I’m wondering if anyone has rites of passage you use within your youth ministry? If so, how do they work?

Thanks for sharing!

In Part I we looked at the development of junior high and what their needs might be. In Part II we looked at underclassmen (freshmen and sophomore). In Part III we will take a look at upperclassmen and their final two years of high school.

As upperclassmen, most of the youth are preparing for college or the work force. If they aren’t – well, that’s a different story. This is the stage where they should be moving from making their faith their own to being a solid influence on others. It is not just enough to hold their own at this point. They need to have a person or a group of people that they are helping to grow spiritually.

By this point they should have a solid grasp on how to handle practical issues from a biblical perspective. They should also have a clear understanding of the nature of God and their identity in Christ. In addition, they should have a regular practice of spiritual disciplines. The issues we want to prepare them for here include apologetics, worldview issues, missions, and doctrine. If they haven’t already, these are issues that they will soon encounter at the collegiate level or in the work force.

As they are finishing up the junior and senior years, this is also a great time to reinforce all of life as worship to God. They are thinking about what they want to do for a living and what it looks like to take that next step towards adulthood. It needs to be reinforced that God is to be honored in everything we do.

And finally, this is a time to celebrate! God has done amazing things in their lives. Stand by them, encourage them, and continue to give them godly advice as they mature.

So here you have it, the development of youth from junior high through high school. Are there any glaring omissions that you can see? Anything you disagree with or would do differently?

Please feel free to leave comments!

In Part I I gave some thoughts on junior high and some possible points of concern. Now I’d like to look at underclassmen or freshmen and sophomores.

Underclassmen – This is the age where they seem to be taking more responsibility for their own faith and growth. I’ve always pushed it at an earlier age (JH) and would like to see it happen then but this is the time where everything seems to connect. Following that pattern, we start equipping and encouraging them to regularly practice spiritual disciplines such as prayer, service, Bible reading, Bible study, scripture memory, and evangelism, to name a few.

We also continue to emphasize God’s character and how it shapes our identity as followers of Christ. Looking closely at the life of Christ, we can see how Jesus lived and begin to follow that same pattern.

Here we can also start to emphasize the “put on’s” and the “put off’s” of Scripture and what it means to really live in community. As part of that we can look at the bigger story and how they are a part of it. This could take the form of an Old Testament & New Testament survey of the Bible.

This is just a draft that I’m working through so I’d love to hear your feedback on it! Next I’ll address upperclassmen.

I really like writing, I promise. Life just sort of starts rolling and continues to pick up momentum.

Here are a couple of personal updates:

1. I really enjoy my job as an elementary music teacher. I never would’ve suspected that. I’m still torn, though, as to how I should use my time best (music teacher or youth pastor). Right now I’m doing both. I don’t know how long that can last.

2. I still have the headaches. We’re still trying to figure out what the root cause is. I have made some headway (no pun intended) but the headaches are still consistent (24/7). I can guarantee you that my life has been forever changed by the things we’ve learned.

There are so many thoughts running around in my head right now. I’m reading books and web sites on youth ministry, on music education, and on health. The more I learn the more questions I have. I’ll save the health and music stuff for another time but here are a few youth ministry and church questions I’ve been pondering…

These are from my journal a few days ago:

1. A youth pastor can’t make mature disciples.

2. Neither can a parent.

3. A person must cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives before any growth in discipleship can be made.

4. This does not diminish the role of the youth pastor or the parents (foremost) to commit to the responsibilities God has given them.

5. Does a youth ministry need consistency to achieve its purpose? If it does, how do we function in a society where everything competes for the attention of our youth?

6. How do you develop relationships and discipleship without consistency?

7. Schools demand consistency with attendance, grades, practices, rehearsals, etc. What does/can the church do?

I’m wrestling a lot with these questions. I’d love to hear your feedback.