Friday, November 20, 2009

Wife's Side: Dealing with Rebellious Students

As youth workers, we have all encountered the students who come to church because it’s something for them to do on Sundays and/or Wednesdays. Their apathy has become ignored and accepted and their actions annoy us but don’t surprise us. But the ones who really break your heart are the rebellious students. When I say “rebellious” here I am referring to the students who are actively involved in every part of your youth group, they show great potential, they come to you and ask you to keep them accountable, and when you keep them accountable like they asked they tell you to “butt out!” So what do you do with these rebellious students? Do you cut them off? Do you pretend like nothing happened and continue as if they never asked you to hold them to a higher standard? Where’s the balance between love and indulgence? Let me tell you that I don’t have all the answers. But I can share a couple of principles I try to keep in mind when dealing with these rebellious youth.

Number One: Don’t Hold a Grudge
Colossians 3:13 “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Trust is a big issue for me and I find it especially hard to let go of the hurt I feel when I have been told to “butt out” by a student who came to me and asked for my help, especially if it’s a student that I have personally invested a lot of time and energy in mentoring. But with out forgiveness, the relationship will shrivel and die. Yes, what they said and did hurt my feelings but I can’t continue in un-forgiveness because then I am the one with the sin problem.

Number Two: Show Discipline Mixed with Love
Revelation 3:19 “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.”

I thought about using the word “consequences” here instead of discipline but I decided on discipline because that’s what God does, He disciplines His children so that they will repent and turn from the wrong path. So let me encourage you in this…Don’t discipline out of anger or to get even or to cut them out of your life. Discipline them because you love them and want them to make the right choices in the future. When you mix discipline with love the punishment always fits the crime, so to speak. If youth aren’t living the life they should be then they shouldn’t be in leadership. If they aren’t showing up for practices they shouldn’t be in the band or on the drama team. If you have the wrong attitude and are showing disrespect, you shouldn’t be rewarded for these actions. Reward the actions that you want to encourage and give reasonable consequences for the actions which need to be curbed and/or eliminated.

Number Three: Be Willing to Move On
Philippians 3:12-14 “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Don’t dwell on the past and expect students to rebel every time. Self-fulfilling prophecies often come true because we act according to what we expect to occur so it happens because we assumed it would. From day to day and year to year, your students will grow and change just as you do. Sometimes the changes are quick and sometimes they aren’t positive but rest assured that change will happen. So why expect them to be the person that they were before? Yes, remember where you have come from. Learn from it, but don’t set up camp in the past. Get to the point where you are willing to allow these students opportunities to regain trust through making good decisions and being faithful in their commitments. Be willing to let them show you that their attitude has changed. Never forget where you have come from and the things that you have experienced because these are the things that impact and shape who you are, but always move forward.

These principles are not the perfect solution but hopefully they help you as they have helped me.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Numbers Game

Just got back from youth night at our Fall Revival. Here are my thoughts.

You would think after almost 15 years in student ministry the number of students that show up for an event wouldnt get to me. But tonight it sure did. We have had this youth night for the revival planned for the longest time. Real simple. FREE PIZZA and a more youth friendly service. The student drama team had a drama that was awesome and the students were excited to get kids there. 72 was thier goal.

So all afternoon I kept messages via text, facebook etc that their friends were backing out and some of the regulars weren't even coming. So by the time I left for church I was convinced no one was going to come. I spent the good first 45 minutes of the time there sulking and stressing about students showing up.

Dont get me wrong. My heart was in the right place. I wanted so many students to come. To see lives changed. To see God's power move. But I let it get to me. You think after this much time I realize that God is going to bring exactly who He wants to bring there. The numbers are up to Him, not me.

I won't get into the numbers, but we had more show up then we usually have on a wednesday night. We had 9 new students and alot of parents of our regulars who arent believers came. SO that was awesome. Then the Lord slapped me silly when we had 2 salvations and 1 rededication. Man was I humbled. It reminded me of a important lesson I needed to learn again.

Luke 15:10 (New International Version)
"In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

Praise the Lord for tonight.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Wife’s Side: Working with Broken Families

Just about every youth group on the planet will have at least one blended family or family of divorce. This group is becoming larger and larger every year as divorce and remarriage become more common and accepted. I personally didn’t realize just how hard it can be to work with these families until we moved to our current church. I would estimate that 90% of our youth come from these types of families! It’s shocking!

In these families there are whole new dynamics, new problems, and new pitfalls to avoid. Often the roles of parents are confused and students are given too much freedom too soon. Or the other side of that coin is that they may have no freedom and receive no attention that they so desperately crave. So what do I do about it? I’m just the youth minister’s wife. What’s my role in all of this?

Here are 5 Guidelines I use when Working with Blended & Broken Families.
1. Do your best to figure out the family structure. Who belongs to whom? Who are half-siblings? Step siblings, etc.? Who do the students live with?
2. Don’t take sides between the parents (if at all possible), but act in the students’ best interest.
3. Always listen but don’t take for granted that you are hearing the absolute truth. Everyone has their own take on the situation.
4. Show lots of care and attention but proceed with caution as their family situations are often volatile.
5. Love on them and be Jesus to them no matter how they might treat you. You may be the only witness in their lives.

Colossians 3:12 &13 “Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Am I only the youth minister?

I have come to find that most churches break their staff into sections. Or ministries if you may. There is the pastor, associate pastor, Music, children’s and youth. Maybe there is also senior adults, education, missions etc. Everyone has their respected area of focus. The question, I wonder, is when does the areas overlap. And how much say do each staff member get in the overall vision and direction of the church?

First I want to say, that whatever the vision the pastor has for the church, my ministry (students) should fall in line and compliment that vision. You cannot take the student ministry in total opposite of your pastors. The thought here is, does the pastor and the pastor only decide what is best for the church and the vision? I am blessed that I have a pastor that takes a more team approach and likes input from all staff members. But there are some that only go with what the Lord tells them, and think that each minister should just stay in their "area" or ministry.

I think that if you dichotomize yourself and only stay in your bubble then you are missing out on extra blessings. My ministry has always tried (and failed) to help all the ministries of the church where it can. In the children's ministry, our church would not survive VBS if not for the youth that are working. In the music ministry the students help play in the band. When all the ministries come together and work as a team. The whole church does great things. Its not just the youth. the pastoral stuff. the music. Its all parts working as one.

Friday, September 25, 2009

College Students are in Charge! YIKES?

This past Wednesday night I got a call that my grandmother was ill and my grandpa thought we should make a trip to go see her. She is better now, thank goodness. But here is what I learned from this.

We have a philosophy here in our ministry that we let the college students stick around the ministry after they graduate high school. We called them College Help and there are certain standards that they are asked to uphold to be there. High standards that push them to be mature. We spend a lot time training our students when they get the junior/senior years of High School about how to be leaders and how the ministry is ran. Some of them are going into ministry, some are not.

So by time they graduated out HS, they are involved in most aspects of the ministry. This can range from leading worship, giving testimony, being in charge of projects, and some old fashion gopher work. But we train them, we invest in them and we push them. Why do we do this?

The obvious reason is that it keeps them accountable. Keeps them focused and continues their growth in the Christian walk. But with what happened with us on Wednesday, another amazing aspect shines. They know how to run things. Our college students, while we were gone: Did it all. The worship, the games, the set up, the speaking, the prizes, ALL OF IT. They were equipped and ready to go. It pays to spend the effort and time training them for this. Has it been tough? YES. Do they fail? YES. But when they succeed? AMAZING.

I am very proud of them. They did great job. It took off a lot of stress. There are a lot of student ministries out there that remove students as soon as they graduate. If it is done right. Done with organization and hard expectations. Then having them stick around is a WIN-WIN-WIN situation. For you, them and the ministry.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Cardinals Game = Ministry???

Is student ministry strictly for inside the church walls? Having grown up in a split family and not living with either parent. I came to realize that LOVE is often spelled TIME.

Last night I got the chance to take one of our 7th grade students to a Cardinals game. It was the first game he had been to in 3 years and the last time he sat way up high in the nosebleeds. Our seats last night were two rows behind the bullpen. He loved the improvement. Throughout the game I had the joy of watching him just have a blast. He never stopped smiling, he was doing all the cheers (CHARGE!), booing the Brewers, cheering the Redbirds. It was an honor to just see the excitement. It got me thinking.

You know, we only see these students maybe 7 hours a week if we are lucky and they come to everything they can come to. 7 hours! If you think that you can effectively reach and disciple a student in 7 hours a week you need to rethink your ministry. Jesus modeled the fact that He spent a tons of time with his disciples. Living with them, traveling with them and of course teaching them. You have to spend time with students outside of church. You need to take the extra step and be in their lives.

This student’s joy was contagious. It made me digress back to being in 7th grade. Then I only I got to go to one game a summer. In some ways it was more special than being able to go more now. The next thing I knew I was doing all the cheers (everybody clap your hands!), I was booing the brewers and when Holliday hit the 3 run homer the lead, we both went crazy!

I go on about how this student’s home life not the best. How, at 12 yrs old, he is stressed out all the time. But the point of this to realize that I spent a good 6 hours with him yesterday. A lot of talk was about baseball, sure. But there was also plenty talk about home, church events coming up, and just plain encouragement. When Franklin struck out the final batter and fireworks went off. The joy that he was showing, the happiness, the stress free feeling. THAT is ministry. I loved every second of it.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

How to Give Students Advice.

In view of my last post it got me thinking. Students may not always listen to advice. Many may push that advice in one ear and send it out the other. Still, what is the best way to give students advice? They always need help, they always ask for help. What is the best way to do it? Trust me, I am not an expert at all but I offer some pointers:

1. Don’t do it all the time. Trust me. When a student feels that all your relationship is about them sitting there and you telling them how to live. They tune out very quick. You need to build trust with a student first. Spend time with them. Why would someone want to take your advice if you have shown no interest in their lives? Pick your times. Even if that student is asking for advice, it may not be the right time to do it then. Pray and get back to them later.

2. Avoid answering quickly. Let them get everything out before you speak. Even asked them what they want for you. Ask them if they want advice at that moment. Sometimes they realize or you realize that what really is going on, is that they just needed to get some stuff off their chests. If it is a real serious issue. NEVER be afraid to tell them that you want to take some time to pray and see what the Lord says about this issue. Never give into the pressure that you have to answer right then and there.

3. Use personal experiences. Students relate more to you if you are being real with them. Don’t be afraid to open up and share your own mistakes and failures. They need to see that you can relate too. If the topic they are needing advice, and you cant relate to, then guide them to an adult who may have had that struggle. For example, I have never had trouble with alcohol. So I help them find advice from a strong believer who can help them.

4. If you are over head. Admit It. You are not perfect. You don’t know everything. Especially everything about the Bible. If you don’t know the answer, never be ashamed to say that you need to research the topic some more and get back to them. Never give wrong advice because you are embarrassed by lack of knowledge.

5. Don’t get defensive back. Students, especially emotional ones, have a tendency to get very defensive, angry when you push them to a higher standard. If you have the same tendency (like I do!) when they start to attack, don’t attack back. It becomes an endless cycle that helps no one. Be patient with them. Stay Calm. Stop and pray if it gets out of control. But keep the focus off the anger.

I hope this helps. They don’t always listen. But we need to keep trying to push our students to higher standards. We must not give up. We must stay focused on the end results of their walk. (thanks Gene!)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Students Can't Handle the Truth.

I would be a rich man. I would have so much money in the bank. If only I have gotten a quarter for every time that I had a student tell that they want to grow in their walk with Christ and wants help, only to push away that advice and help. Only to respond with anger, lies, selfishness and ultimately sin.

Teenagers are famous for only thinking about what is in the here and now. Famous for thinking on what they “feel” at that moment. Rarely can a student get pass the tunnel vision and see a bigger picture in their lives. No matter how much they think they want the help they need to make it as a follower of Jesus. Ultimately very, very, very few of them can handle it. When you actually tell a student the Truth that they need to hear. When you actually tell them the hard things they need to do. You are met with a range of responses. One response that isn’t there? Thankfulness.

Proverbs 12:15.
The way of a fool seems right to him,
but a wise man listens to advice.

Are teenagers fools? Well according to the above verse. ANYONE who does not listen to advice, is a fool. I have come to the point in my life to where I am very thankful of the people in my life (past and present) who have had the love, yes LOVE, to tell me things I needed to hear. Even when they knew I wouldn’t be happy to hear it. Look what it says. The way of fool seems right to him. When you wear blinders on your eyes and refuse to see past what you want. Life is not good. Teens can be very good at convincing themselves of what God’s will is because they feel so strong about it. Emotions can be very deceiving. The clearest that I have heard God speak to me are the times that I was extremely not emotional.

BUT a wise man listens to advice. I truly believe that students today really do want advice, they do want help. But they want the advice that will agree with what they already want. Teens are also very good at surrounding themselves and seeking advice from people that will not push them, not disagree with them. A person that truly cares for you tells you the hard truths. A friend isn’t someone who tells you “Well, if you feel good about it, then do it” Someone who has your best interest at heart tells you “Well, you really don’t need to do that.“ Students can’t handle the Truth. They say they want it. But they, well most of them, can’t handle it.

Bottom line: A fool does their own thing. Wise people listen to advice.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Is Facebook worth it?

I track a lot my students interaction on the social networks. Facebook, Twitter, Myspace. I think it’s important that I keep up with the their lives. It also comes in handy for announcements, follow ups and what not. One thing that I don’t like is the heartache I feel when I come across something that I know I shouldn’t. So I get leery of being on facebook, I dread getting on there sometimes.

For example. The other day I was just browsing thru facebook and saw a status update from one of my students. In this status was a swear word. Simple. They should not be using that language. I don’t care if you are typing it and not “actually” saying the words. It’s still the same. But there it was there. The problem that I am having is that I get so fearful of looking at facebook because seeing that stuff just breaks my heart. Brings me down. I feel like I can’t call them out on every little detail because I don’t want to get to the point where they think all I do is spy on them and they can’t freely live their lives.

It is not even about such things as language, or entertainment choices. So many of them use it as a vent of frustration. Its hard enough keeping students in your group focused and away from the drama. When someone vents or talks about someone publicly on FB, its makes that task even harder. The emotional status updates that shoot out on there are heartbreaking. Most of the time, they regret it.

It just brings me down to see students just either make wrong choices or go back to their old lives. I love facebook and have reconnected with a lot of old friends thru it. I have been able to get our neighbor and her daughter to visit our church. It can be used for ministry. But it also is a window into my students lives that I sometime do not want to look into. They need to get to the point where they aren’t trying hide things because Jimmy can see it. The need to realize:

1. It breaks the heart of Jesus.
2. He is there and sees it all the time.

It is vitally important that ministers stay current and up to date with the way students spend their time and interact. Most of my parents have no clue what facebook is, how to use it and WHAT THEIR CHILD IS DOING ON THERE. Social networking right now is a great way to stay in touch, reconnect, and even minister. But there a side that I wish I can avoid. But ministry (especially students) isn’t all rainbows, sunshine and sausages.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Filling the Pulpit.

Last Friday my pastor, Pastor John aka PJ had surgery. He will be laid up for the next two weeks and therefore I got the honor (and I do mean Honor) of filling the pulpit for the next two weeks. I always get nervous when doing so. Why? I think it boils down to two things. 1. I speak to teens all the time and I think that I have become so used to gearing all my mindset, lingo, jokes, examples whatever it is to what teens like and what teens need to hear. So I get nervous when I do speak when you have to take into accounts Adults and their lives too.

The second thing I get nervous is more personal. I’m a big dude. So, to be honest, I can’t stand for long periods of time. I get real self conscious about it. I feel like my sermons are short, or that I get too distracted by thinking about the pain from standing. When I am speaking to the youth I sit. I have actually been told by many of my students that they like it that I do, it’s more informal but when it comes to Sunday morning, it’s not the norm

Now my pastor, from here on known as PJ, tells me all the time to sit and preach like I do on Wednesday night, not to worry about it. But I still do. For Sunday I decided to stand. I survived.

A few weeks ago our pastor did a Sunday morning service where he had the people nail their sins to the cross. He collected them and pick the ones that were the most mentioned. One of those was ANGER. So he asked me to speak on that. I prayed about it and I came from the point of view of what do you with your anger, how do you approach it?

1 Peter 3:9 (New International Version)
9Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

That is the main passage that I came from. We cannot escape life without getting angry. But that is not liberty to get revenge, shun or punish those who anger us.

Sunday night I spoke on a topic that is close to my heart which was The purpose of Mentoring. Specifically the example of Paul and Timothy. I thought it went good. We had the students all go sit by the adults of our church and then we gave the congregation questions to ask and answer with each other. So they got to know them, I even had two my older college students come up and sit with me. They actually sat with me the entire service (I did speak sitting down) and as I went thru the verses, I would talk about times I have had shared with each them in a Mentoring moment. Got alot of good feedback.

Filling in for the pastor when he cannot preach is vital to my ministry. Our church does not have a Associate Pastor, so I feel that has the other minister on staff, it’s my duty to do so. I think it is also important to help the people of the church that don’t know what we really do as the Student Ministers. This gives them the chance to see that the ministry is more than Pizza and Games. I think its an honor and I take it very seriously. Communication is very key to getting the people in your church outside the ministry to know what you do and ultimately support it. But I really hope I’m never called to be a pastor, it’s not easy at all.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The First BLOG!

Well. For years people in my life have been telling me to write a book about Student/Youth Ministry. Now 13 years into it, I still feel that I am in no way the right person to tell people how to do student ministry. Yet, people keep on telling to write about it. So, thanks to my duties as a great husband, my wife and just saw the new movie Julie and Julia. My wife (a very wise woman) encouraged that if I did not want to write a book maybe I should start small and write a Blog. So here we are.

I will strive be open, honest, vulnerable and helpful in this blog. Will anything come of it? No idea. Will I start this and then ultimately lose interest? I don't know. All I do know is that I have been on a roller coaster ride in my years in Student Ministry. I have had some incredible highs and some incredible lows. I have seen students do things that blew my mind, both good and bad.

My heart has been extremely blessed and my heart has been extremely broken.

My hope would be that the people out there that might read this will be blessed. I think I have some good ideas for Student Ministry. Especially for those out there trying to start up a ministry. Even though I have my degree from Southwest Baptist University and am a Ordained minister, I dont know everthing. My hope would be that people would see the love that I have for students and for my Lord in this blog. Some of my standards in life will offend my fellow ministers and maybe some of my students but that is ok. I strive to a life that is Holy and Set Apart. I fail all the time.

None of this blog is to be taken as the right answer or a quick fix. It is only my outlet to see I really "know" anything about Student and Youth Ministry. If I come across conceited or close minded that is not my goal. This blog is about Surviving Student Ministry. Which, after 13 years, I am still trying to do. I am currently the Youth Minister at Villebrooke Baptist Church in Hazelwood, MO.

A special thanks needs to be said to all those who have encouraged me over the years to write about Student Ministry. So thanks to Darren, Bob, Kenny, BJ, COMER, Dan, Jingle, Troy, Chad, Jackley, Grubby and My lovely bride and best friend.

I have made it this far. Here goes...something?.....