Final Four – Best Blog Post of 2012

Hey friends! Just in case you don’t know yet, I have been nominated for Best Blog Post of 2012 along with 70 other awesome blog posts from over the year.

Thanks to all of you, I have made it to the FINAL FOUR! I’m super pumped have gotten this far.  There are SO many good blog posts out there. If I’m going to win this I need your help.  Take a moment to shoot a vote my way.  If you don’t think I deserve it then go ahead and vote for someone else – there are three other great posts in the final four.

Go vote (CLICK HERE)!

 

10 Ways to Fail as a Youth Worker (Part 1)

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We use the twitter hashtag #fail all the time.  Our students use it even more! Here are a few ways to ensure that thy include you in the #fail category:

1) Don’t talk to your students unless it’s at a youth program.  If you don’t follow up with your students throughout the week or on weeks where they have to miss youth, you’ll end up #failing.  Make sure to reach out to students throughout the week.

2) Don’t have a spiritual mentor.  If you don’t have someone who it wiser and more seasoned than yourself, you’re bound to #fail.  Always (yes I mean always) have someone who can lead you through your life in ministry.  You will always have something to learn – make sure you’re learning it!

3) Don’t plan ahead.  I had to learn this one the hard way.  It’s hard to compete with youth activities (sports, chess club, drama club, etc) – one reason it’s so hard is because they plan so far ahead!  As soon as their activities start they are, for the most part, mapped out for the rest of the year.  We’ll schedule a lock-in 2 weeks from now and wonder why someone wouldn’t skip their tennis match to make it to our lock-in…#fail.  Always try to be one step ahead of the game – the best way to do this is to make a year long calendar – and stick with it! It takes time, but it’s worth it in the end.

4) Don’t educate yourself.  If you don’t go to conferences, read books/blog posts, or connect with other youth workers then it’s going to be tough for you to be on top of your game in youth ministry.  One of the reasons I absolutely love the youth ministry field is the amount of cheap training there is and the support we receive from one another.  Take advantage of these resources or you will likely #fail.

5) Don’t stay connected with other youth workers in your area. This is a follow up to #4, but it’s so important.  Build a community of youth workers in your area.  This is such an easy way to keep you from #failing.  Meet once a month (or more!) and chat about your struggles and successes.  Offer encouragement to one another.  Pray for each other.  We’re all in this calling for the same purpose – to bring teens to Christ.  Let’s help each other out!

(Continued in Part 2)

Is College Part of the Calling?

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College and youth ministry.  Do we need to be college educated to be youth workers?

I just graduated a few months ago.  College, for me, was tough.  Of course it hard due to coursework and exams, but the thing that made it most difficult for me was my mindset. 

I honestly didn’t think that a college education would help me in ministry.  

If a college education in ministry consisted solely of ministry related classes then it would be easier for me to see it’s merit.  But I was taking astronomy, finite mathematics, and all kinds of classes that have nothing at all to do with what I was passionate about.  I have yet to use difficult equations or my vast knowledge of neutron stars in youth ministry. 

So…what do I think? Is college a prerequisite for youth ministry? 

No. 

God can call you to youth ministry without a college education.  Heck, God has done a lot more with a lot less. 

BUT (of course – there’s a but…)

You should get a college education if you are serious about youth ministry. Here’s why:

It provides life experience. When you’ve gone to college and have struggled with the things that every other college student struggles with, it makes it much easier for you to counsel your graduated Sr. High students through college. How can you know what they’re going through if you haven’t gone through it yourself? 

It’s good training. Despite the elective courses that may or may not help you in your ministry career, you do learn a lot. I’ve gotten to take some awesome courses that have increased my knowledge of the Bible greatly.  If you feel called to ministry, why would you not go all out and try to learn as much as you can? 

It helps you get a job in YM.  It is significantly harder to get a job in youth ministry without a college degree.  You may be able to snag a part-time job or be a volunteer youth leader but finding a full-time job without a degree is nearly impossible.  Do a quick scan of requirements for YM jobs on Youth Specialties – most require a 4 year degree.  There are a few that don’t mention having a degree in the requirements – I’ll give ya that – but those jobs are still bound to have applicants that do have degrees.  Let’s face it…the person with the degree almost always looks better (on paper) than the person without. 

It can translate into longevity.  If you can spend 4+ years studying late, cramming for exams, and taking a course on underwater basket weaving without giving up – chances are you can spend 4+ years dealing with troubled teens, staying up all night for lock-ins, and convincing parents that God can impact lives on a Ski Retreat.  Longevity is so crucial to youth ministry but is often neglected.  Most students have 3-5 youth workers while they’re in the Church – let college help you prepare to stay in YM for the long haul. 

Again – God can use you without a college education. You can still teach teenagers without one.  You can still change lives without one.  But when God calls us to do something, we should do it to the best of our ability.  That may mean going into debt and spending four more years in school – but it’s worth it.  

 

The Importance of Accountability in Youth Ministry

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I’m a sinner. 

I know this may come as a big surprise to you – I seem perfect (hott wife, rock hard abs [ha], uber video game skills, etc), but I’m not.  Often times in our Ministry careers we will forget how important it is to confess our sins to our trusted friends.  We forget to share our struggles sometimes.  Sometimes it’s because we genuinely forget to, but more often than not because we don’t want other people to see the sin in our lives.  

As ministry leaders it’s important to fight sin to the best of our ability.  After all – we are judged on a higher level than the average Joe (or Joan) [James 3:1].  Here are three tips to help make sure you are properly dealing with your sins:

1)  Get an accountability partner(s).  Having people to share your sins with gives you a friend who will keep you accountable for that sin.  Make sure this person is someone you trust – the peanut butter to your jelly.  If I know that my accountability partner is going to call me weekly to make sure I’m keeping my pride in check, then I will more consciously try to be humble. 

2) Confess them to God! Sure – God knows that you’ve sinned long before you bring it to Him.  But we’re called to confess to God on a regular basis and ask for forgiveness of our sins – when was the last time you’ve genuinely asked for repentance from God (1 John 1:9)?

3) Stop Sinning.  I know this one is almost impossible to do – but you need to try.  When you genuinely ask God for forgiveness of your sins and keep sinning anyway, it’s a slap in the face to God.  I know that we all sin and to completely stop is nearly impossible, but with the help of accountability partners and God – nothing is impossible.  

God is bigger than ANY sin you face. 

Best Youth Ministry Blog Post of 2012

I’m up for Best Youth Ministry Blog Post of 2012 – so excited and honored to be a part of some awesome blogs in the YM community! 

Take a few minutes to read through the posts that have been submitted – there are 70 posts overall and they’re all great.  Of course I want your vote, but any one of these blogs is worthy of a vote – check them out!

http://www.youthmin.org/2012/12/07/best-youth-ministry-blog-post-of-2012-round-1-top-70-posts/

5 Ways to Improve Your Event Marketing

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Like the post? It’s been nominated for ‘Best Youth Ministry Blog Post of 2012’ – vote for it here

In the Youth Min world we have a lot of events. Sunday night youth, Wednesday night Bible study, fundraisers, weekend trips, mission trips, and so on.  We’re busy people with a lot of events.  With so much going on it’s easy as a youth or a parent to completely miss an upcoming event if it’s not properly marketed.  Here are 5 helpful marketing tips in the YM world:

1) Be Deliberate. Make sure that you’re sending out your information to the right people at the right time.  Just because you’re planning your summer mission trip in August doesn’t mean that you should be advertising in August and just because there are two older adults going with you doesn’t mean you should be advertising to the older adult community.

2) Be Creative.  E-mail blasts are great, but there are other ways to market events too.  We’re doing a “Adult Night Out” this week where we watch kids 5th grade and below for a small fee.  We gave all the Sunday School kids (5th grade and under) stickers while they were in the class – they wore their stickers around Church and drew a lot of attention towards the event. Make T-Shrits, Wristbands, Sunglasses, Posters, Postcards, Videos, etc.  There are a ton of ways to market!

3) Think it Through. Don’t market the same way two times in a row.  If you made bracelets for your Fall Kickoff don’t make them for your Winter Retreat, too.  If you made a super colorful and catchy poster for your Lock-In make your D-Group poster simple and elegant. Make sure that when you’re marketing for an event it doesn’t get confused with a previous event.

4) Get Opinions.  Is this a good idea? Is it offensive? Is the message clear? It would be awesome to market our Super Bowl party by handing out free Youth Group football jerseys – but will outsiders get the message? Is the purpose on the jersey? Are the youth aware of why they’re wearing a jersey? It would be awesome to promote our dance party with a poster of Disco Jesus, but would that offend anyone in the congregation (ummm….yes). Always get a second opinion before starting a campaign.

5) Market Often.  It never hurts to give yourself too much publicity.  Send a few e-mails, write a few facebook posts, update your twitter a few times, send a few texts – make sure if someone doesn’t know about an event it’s clearly because they don’t pay attention to anything (then slap them around a bit).

I would love to hear your thoughts and any additional ways to improve the marketing campaigns of your youth events.

Stuff Youth Say

I had a lock-in a few weeks ago and did an impromptu all-nighter with some kids on Sunday night (they had Monday off from school).  Here are a few things that were said throughout the events:

“I just peed on the street!” -6th grade boy

“I would definitely run over a human to save a bunny” -10th grade girl

(When asking what they wanted their team name to be for a game) “We’ll be the Pebbletown Magickarp Lightbulbs” and then another boy quickly says, “Awh man, I wanted that name!” -8th grade boys

“Your mom’s too ugly to show in public” -7th grade boy to his 6th grade brother

“I don’t want to watch football…let’s watch Sex in the City!” -7th grade boy

I’m going to have to start keeping a notepad around to write down this stuff – these guys are awesome! 

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

If you got a chance to see my latest post, Fog of War (http://tomshriver.com/2012/11/02/fog-of-war/), then you know that I just had a lock-in and paintball event.  It was a great time and the kids loved it.  I even got preemptively invited to a few birthday parties that the youth are doing at the paintball field. 

We did, however, go over budget on food.  I mean…we spent a lot of money on food.  

We also had a kid who snuck out of the guy’s room at 3:00 am and video taped the girls sleeping. Yikes! Don’t worry – I had a long chat with that young fellow.

All of these details are important to remember but are often forgotten about by the time the next lock-in roles around.  Here is what I do after every youth event:

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. 

I take 15 minutes out of my day to go over the good things that happened at the event (relationships built, fun had, some kids heard about Jesus for the first time), the bad (money went over a bit but we had the funds to cover it), and the ugly (video taping of girls, sneaking out to steal church food, etc).  

Spending just a few minutes immediately following an event to write down what happened (good and bad) will make your next event so much better.  Now I know a few things:

-Increased security in guy’s room so they’re not sneaking out.  

-Plan better for food – get a few families to each bring 1 pizza and only have to purchase 3-5 from the Church budget

-They love paintball and want to do it again

-Etc

I strongly encourage you all to write everything down that happened and make sure to follow up with it next time around.  Sometimes this gives you insight into your event leadership in the first place – did I plan this event well? Was I a good steward of our church’s money? Should I have stayed up all night instead of falling asleep?  

Strong self evaluation leads to better leadership. I also encourage you to share your insights with adult leaders from the event to see if they have anything to add. This can be one of the best things you can do to strengthen your youth ministry. 

Fog of War

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Anticipation. Fear. Unexplained bowel movements. 

The fog of war is approaching…I can’t help but thinking to myself “what have I done?”  I have to remember that I’ve been trained for this.  I’ve undergone hour upon hours of intense exercises, both mentally and physically, to prepare me for tonight. But somehow the training doesn’t seem to matter….some how I still feel like tonight may very well be the night that I perish. 

Tonight is my first lock-in at my new church. 

I know that doesn’t sound too bad.  A lock-in – it’s tough, but you’re thinking, “Tom – how green are you? Lock-ins are things we all do.  They’re bad, but not that bad, man!”  

And you’re right.  I’ve done lock-ins many many times before.  They are tough – but I survive.  

No – the real horror is what I scheduled for Saturday morning after the lock-in. After a night of very little sleep and a lot of running around/being crazy – we’re going paintballing. 

I’ll miss you all. There will probably be a job opening at my church soon.  I really do think I’m going to die this weekend. 

(In all reality I’m super pumped but I know my body will hate me after this weekend! I mean….#YOLO, right? Oh wait…youth ministers don’t like YOLO…)