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?.....