Youth Group from a Student’s Perspective

I recently had the chance to sit down with Alex Burks, one of my former youth group students.  He is now graduated from High School but sticks around to help at his local Church with the youth program.  I asked him some questions about his experiences in youth growing up an he had a ton of good stuff to say!

What was you favorite part of the youth group? My favorite part of youth was probably worship. It was real, even if some people didn’t sing or clap or do anything for that matter, at least it was real. We were who we were with God, and I miss that sometimes.

How many youth workers did you have between 6th-12th grade? I had 4 or 5 youth pastors.
Do you like getting new youth workers often, or do you wish they would stick around? One thing I learned was that the longer somebody stays, the more it sucks when they leave. I wish we could have had a consistent YP, but change has proven to be good in the past. With a new leader comes new ideas that the group can build on.

What are some qualities that you admire in your youth workers? I like how enthusiastic the heart of a youth leader is. It takes a brave man or woman to lock oneself in a church with a bunch of hormonal, irritable, trouble making, or otherwise unruly children. The spontaneity of a youth leader is also a lot of fun.

What are some qualities that you don’t like in your youth worker? I don’t like how youth leaders can sometimes cause their youth to develop bad habits. One of my former youth leaders thought it was perfectly acceptable to listen to negative secular music and watch any kind of television show or movie, “as long as you don’t let it affect your relationship with God.’ Pfft, well that’s impossible.

Anything Else? That’s basically all I can say, I’m still not sure if its what I want to do for the rest of my life, but I do respect youth ministers more than people of any other occupation. The job is not easy, but it is rewarding.

What do your students have to say about their youth workers? If you don’t know, I encourage you to find out! I’ll be interviewing more students over the next few months and sharing the honest feedback I receive.  I would love to hear some of yours, too!

  Alex Burks is a graduate of North Harrison High School in Ramsey, IN.  Alex has enlisted to be a member of the United States Air Force and is looking forward to beginning his career as an airman.

The Importance of Volunteers

Tomorrow a guest post I wrote for MORF magazine will be published about recruiting volunteers.  It’s perfect timing because yesterday I was able to see the fruit of my volunteers abundantly.

We had a 3.5 to 1 youth to volunteer ratio yesterday.  In my early years in youth ministry I would have thought this was excessive, but I would have been so wrong.

Having a 3-5 to 1 youth to volunteer ratio frees you up to do SO much with your students. You can have your volunteers each do one or two of the little things that take you away from the youth.  I was able to have two volunteers pair up and each lead discussion groups which enabled me to float around a bit to different groups and hear a little bit of what each group was saying.

I had volunteers organize the clean-up, the snacks, and the supervision of some of the more “rowdy” youth.

Guys – I’m telling you – the more volunteers the better! Our youth LOVE to have adults there, too.  It makes them feel more like they’re a part of the Church as a whole – not just the youth group.

Make sure you say thank you to your volunteers – they’re awesome.  If you don’t have a lot, then go recruit!

I know this is more of a rant than a legit post, but I am so thankful for my volunteers and I wanted to share that with all of you.

It always comes back to love.

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All you need is love. Love is all you need. Love makes the world go around. There is no remedy to love but to love more. Love is a ton of bacon.

Love.

It’s an an important part of life.  Believer or non-believer – love is vital.  Without love people don’t feel valued.  It’s amazing how such an action can define a person’s life above all else.

As you work in your ministry this Sunday remember to love above all else. Nothing else matters to your students as much as being loved.  You can have the coolest youth room or the best speaking skills. You can an iPad giveaway or Doug Fields as a guest speaker.  If you’re truly awesome you could have a slip-n-slide in your pastor’s office using butter instead of water – but none of this matters if your students don’t feel loved.

Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.1 Peter 4:8

Fun is great – I’m not disputing that.  Programming can be great. Prizes can be great.  Students may genuinely want to be at youth group because of these things but if they aren’t being cared for and nurtured and loved by their youth ministry team then ultimately it’s all for naught.

The only way to experience a true and authentic relationship with Christ is to feel His love – His never-ending, ever powerful, awesome love. The best way for your students to experience the love of Christ is through his/her Christian leaders.

Show your students love – it’s the best way to show them Christ.

Disorganized Religion

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I have heard a lot of Christians bashing organized religion lately and I have to say that I agreed with them for awhile.

Organized religion has become fake.  A church has moved from being a body of believers to a body of program seekers, do-gooders, and outright phonies.  I was waving the “Boo church, Yay Jesus!” banner proudly!

But then I got to thinking (I will do this on occasion).

Why are all of these influential Christian leaders bashing church? Why are we talking about how organized religion is losing authenticity instead of trying to change the church?  I will be the first to agree that the state of the church is not where it should be. I also want to be the first one to try and change that. I want to step up and do what I can to make the church turn into the Church, a united body of believers all together for one purpose.

Here are some things you can do to take your first steps towards changing the church:

1) Talk with your church staff.  Get everyone on the same page.  Work together to get the entire staff moving towards the common goal of uniting all of the church’s members in Christ.

2) Make sure that you are authentic.  We all sin and none of us are perfect, but as a leader in the church and your youth ministry you should always make sure that you’re trying your best to exemplify Christ to the best of your ability.  If the leaders of the church are not doing it, why should the followers?

3) Invest in the people.  Church leadership is a calling to take care of God’s people (1 Peter 5:2-4). If you’re in a leadership position then you should act like it and build other leaders – this is the only way for an authentic church to grow.

The most important thing to remember is that the road will not be easy.  It will be downright hard – but the fruits at the end of the road will be astonishing.

Be Weak.


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It’s not often I’ve read an article that has changed my view on something pretty radically.  This article is by a guy names Greg Johnson on something called “Quiet Time Guilt”.  I’ll throw the link to the article down at the bottom of the page – read it!  Everything I’m writing is just a thought derived from his genius. 

Prayer.  Bible Study. Quiet Time.

The three things above are all great things.  We encourage our youth, friends, and ourselves to do them each and every day.  These three things lead to a closer relationship with God…right?

I’ve grown up thinking that if I do what I’m supposed to do I will become closer to God.  The best way to reach Him is to pray to Him and read his Word.  This is true – but to be honest, we’ve ruined it.  We make God out to be a chore.  The more devotional consistency we have, the more we will grow towards Him.  If we have our quiet times each and every day/night/whenever, we will grow in Christ.  This idea is radically wrong.

Why is this wrong?  We’re forgetting the most important element of our faith – grace.

When grace leaves the equation, what do we have left?  Do we view our prayers, Bible studies, and quiet times as an act of grace or a work?  Think about this hard and be honest with yourself.  The majority of the time, which is it?  For me it’s a work.  And that’s not just wrong, but it’s a sin.

“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (Jn 5:39-40). These are words from the very mouth of Jesus Christ.  Did you catch what He said?  Diligent study of the Scriptures as a work and not as an act of grace can be a sin.  Do we go to Jesus when we read the Scriptures, or do we go to moral support and “feel-goody-ness” (and yes, that is a word…).

God doesn’t like it when we do our quiet times for ourselves.  He doesn’t like it when we do things to build ourselves up instead of Him.  God doesn’t want us to be devotionally consistent if it means giving Him up.  What I’m saying here is that if you are devotionally consistent because you think that’s what makes a good Christian – you’re wrong.  

God wants us to come to Him because we feel weak – not strong.  We need God.  Unless we go to Him because our hearts need him, what will it accomplish?  I like the analogy of a drug user for this one.  Many who are addicts want to quit, but they don’t.  Heck, they need to quit to sustain their lives, but they don’t.  The only way that a drug addict can give up the desires of their flesh is to need to in their heart.   Sins are our drug.  The only way that we will stop using is to need God more than we need sin.  We need to recognize in our hearts that we’re weak, that we’re sinners, and that we need help.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk 18:9-14).

The tax collector who goes to God in a state of weakness is the one who is right here – not the one who is “strong”.

I’m going to end it with one of my favorite points – quiet time is optional.

That’s right – I said it.  We don’t need a quiet time every day.  In fact, we’re commanded to pray continually!  Not just for 30 minutes once a day.  If you have a quiet time and it’s working for you and your relationship with God, that’s awesome.  Just keep the two things separate.  Your quiet time and your devotional consistency is not your relationship with God.  Your relationship with God is your relationship with God.

If you’re asked, “How is your relationship with God?”, your answer should not be “Good!  I had an awesome quiet time this morning” or “Not too good…haven’t had my quiet time for a while…”  Your answer should be real.  “I’ve felt so close to God this week.  I realized that I don’t have to pray and read my Bible.  I realized that I get to pray and read my Bible!   How cool is that!”

I hope you guys are picking up what I’m throwing down.  I could keep this going forever.  I love the thought of this. I love talking about this.  Keep the discussion going, and don’t forget to read Greg’s article (below).  It’s well-written, honest, and convicting.

http://gregscouch.homestead.com/files/quiet_time_guilt.htm

Grow Some Balls.

[brought over from my old blogger site…just to have something here until I get this sucker up and running!]

I’ve been playing around with this idea for pretty much the entire summer [June 2011].  The idea that our faith in Christ should be more than our faith in what culture says.  Here is where it all came from:

I was at Ichthus in June with a group of Churches.  As always, Ichthus is a great time.  I love going there. I love the atmosphere, the people, the music – all of it.  Every year it seems as though we get sent back to our vehicles in the middle of a concert because there is a severe weather alert of some kind.  This year was no exception, but my eyes were opened in a way they never had been before.

Our group met at the evening worship session.  The speaker was giving an inspiring message which challenged us to run to the cross.  I waited to see if my youth would lead me there.  They did.  They stood up before being prompted by any adults or people around them and said, “We’re going Tom.  Are you coming?”  Man was that awesome!  I loved seeing them being transformed by God.  We to the cross closest to us with hundreds of people crowded around our cross and another in the distance.   We were praying, weeping, rejoicing – how amazing.

Then – in the middle of all of this – in the middle of the prayer – the director of Ichthus came up and said something like this “Wow, God is awesome.  He is doing great things.  Unfortunately there is a severe weather warning and I need to send you all back to your cars for your own safety.”  I was a bit bummed, but student safety is important, right?

So we sat in the cars for about an hour, the weather cleared, and we went back to concerts.  I didn’t think anything of it – but I’m lucky I chose to go to the right concert.

The band was Sleeping Giant.  An awesome, mosh-worthy metal band.  Thom Green is the lead vocalist for the band.  Before he started playing his awesome metalthatcanmeltface-ness music (yes, it’s a word…look it up) he spoke some of the most inspiring and true I have ever heard.  He said something like this:

“What kind of believers are we if we trust the weatherman more than Jesus Christ?”

He went on for awhile talking about this concept and literally told all of the Christians in the crowd that they needed to grow some balls and worship Jesus – rain or shine.

Wow. How amazing is this?  I was so challenged by his words.  Our faith has become so weak.  In Luke 8:22-25 Jesus says “Where is your faith?” in regards to a storm while the disciples were on a boat.  The boat was “filling with water and they were in real danger”.  Yet Jesus still called them out on their faith.

Why should it be different today?


Think about it.  Yes – student safety is important.  But what would Jesus have done at that cross if He was leading them?  Would He have gone back to the car, or stayed and continued to worship?  Would he have submitted to the authority of the weatherman, or to the authority of His father?  Why should we do anything different than Jesus would have done in this situation?


I am still inspired by Thom’s words that night.  They still inspire and convict me.  After the fact we learned that the storm literally went around the festival.  It just split in two and went around us.  But that was just a coincidence, right?  It surely was not God working.  *wink*

 

For those interested, here is a link to Sleeping Giant’s page.  They’re awesome.  http://www.myspace.com/sleepingxgiant