2 words x 2:
1) WORLD SERIES!
2) BRIAN WILSON!
2 words x 2:
1) WORLD SERIES!
2) BRIAN WILSON!
**I want to preface this post by saying that all of what I’m about to say in this goes almost directly against what I was taught when I was training to be a youth pastor.
I think the old line of thinking went something like this: ”Put everything on the bottom shelf for your students so that your ministry will grow bigger and then… once you have them there… then progress them deeper. Because the deeper your ministry is in the beginning, the smaller it will be.” Okay, it was never specifically stated that way, but you and I both know that it was sort of implied. Today we call that “Bait & Switch.”
In the last 3-4 years though, I have noticed a trend: The older students got, the more they checked out of youth ministry. Now, this isn’t a new trend at all, but it is one that is widely reported. It is not uncommon to see a big freshman class and a minuscule senior class. I was (and to be honest still am) a little bewildered by this statistic. I suspect that some of this has to do with the fact that we offer our seniors pretty much the same messages and same programming and same challenges and same games and same everything as we offer our freshman. But if you think back to your senior year in High School (for some of us that was a LONG time ago ) you’ll probably remember that when you were under-challenged… YOU CHECKED OUT TOO! (It’s called “senioritis” for a reason)
But what if we aggressively went after this trend? What if we got really intentional about our ministries and got deeper as students got older? What if a students senior year was the best year in your youth ministry? What if you offered opportunities that only applied to Seniors and not the rest of your ministry? I feel like the more we challenge students as they get older, the more they will rise to the level you set, the longer they will stay in your ministry, and the more they will grow… and I think we all know that when you have a great group of seniors, you’ll likely have a great group overall.
What if Going Deeper Means Growing Stronger?
One of the major things that we do as youth pastors is cast vision to our students. [we also cast vision to our volunteers and staff, but that is a different post] So, how do you cast vision to your students? What I’m about to lay out for you is A way to do it, not THE way… the best thing to do is to KNOW your own group and EVALUATE what method is best for you.
Here is how I do it:
#1) take an entire night and devote it to the vision.
1 or 2 times a year I will break from series mode and teach on our purposes and values and what we are all about. Whenever we GO BACK to our mission, we are vision casting for our students. These one shots work for quick vision pushes and mobilizing and moving students to action quickly.
#2) talk about the vision ALL THE TIME.
almost every series… like clockwork… you can count on hearing part of the mission or values. For example, one of my core values is connection through authentic community. I’ll usually work into my messages (at least once a series) the importance of friendships and relationships and community. Then I will usually vision cast our small group ministry and the necessity for students to jump in to it. This is actually where we see the most results. In fact, it took almost 3 years, but after a while our students started speaking the language that we were speaking about our mission. It’s because we beat that drum all the time. Bill Hybels (senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church and the Leader of the Willow Creek Association) says, “Vision leaks,” meaning that as quickly as you poured the vision into the people, it will inevitably leak out over time and they will forget what you said. That is why #2 is so important for vision casting. One of the ways that you know your students GET the vision is when they start to talk about it like you talk about it. When they start speaking the “VISION LANGUAGE” they get it. Look for it on their facebook and twitter statuses and listen for it in their conversations. This happens when you OVER-COMMUNICATE the vision.
#3) use small group leaders to reinforce vision.
You cannot be the only voice casting the vision. You need others reinforcing that vision over and over and over again. Empower your volunteers to be vision casters. Make sure that they know and understand the vision, and then release them to reinforce it.
so how do you cast vision in your youth ministry?
Over the years in youth ministry, I have literally fielded many questions about how I put together my teaching calendar for my youth ministry. I wish I could tell you that a) from day one I’ve always known how to do this & b) I came up with how to do it on my own. But the truthful answer to both of those is NO. This process used to be like playing blindfolded darts for me. Then, about 6 years ago, I watched a video from a conference with Reggie Joiner (founder of the ReThink group in Atlanta, the Orange conference, and former Family Ministries Director at Northpoint) and he said something that stuck with me: “All Scripture is equally INSPIRED, but not all Scripture is equally IMPORTANT.” That blew my mind. I started asking myself “If this is true… then what is the most IMPORTANT scripture that my students need to know?” That led me to some significant conversations with some other youth pastors I knew. During those conversations, a friend pointed me to a book called “The Seven Checkpoints for Youth Leaders” by Andy Stanley and Stuart Hall.
This book answers the question: “What’s most IMPORTANT for students to know?” They say that the 7 most important things your teenagers should understand before they graduate are: Authentic Faith, Healthy Friendships, Moral Boundaries, Ultimate Authority, Wise Choices, Others First, and Spiritual Disciplines. I must say, I agree with them. So, about 6 years ago I came up with a teaching strategy that has proven effective for my ministry. I wrote all of these checkpoints down on a whiteboard… and then brainstormed, individually, every thinkable sub-topic within each main topic. So now I have a mile long list of topics to teach on. Now came the more difficult part: when to teach them. This largely depends on your own group and culture. I characteristically talk about Friendships at the beginning of the year, Moral Boundaries around Valentines Day (for obvious reasons) and Wisdom near Spring Break/End of the year. There are also months where I totally abandon the checkpoints and do a book of the Bible study or a Character Study. I now have a comprehensive 4 year teaching plan that is a general blueprint of concepts for what I will teach students in the 4 years that they move through High School. I’m not saying that you have to be THAT planned out or detailed, but the most important point about all of this is: BE INTENTIONAL WITH WHAT YOU TEACH.
So a few days ago I wrote this post about what the skeleton of my messages look like and what the guide points are. I talked about the fact that there was a lot of work that went in to the prep before it ever got to the point of writing and delivery. So I thought, “Why don’t I just write a post about what happens before?” So, I’ll show you the chart… and I’ll show a little video of how it all works. The video was from a while ago on another blog I was doing, so I reference a post that is not on this blog. I’ll repost that one later this week.
and here is the video explaining it (it’s like 9 min long… but it explains the chart with practical/actual illustrations):
I talk a lot about “The Seven Checkpoints” in this video. If you don’t know what that is, this is what I am talking about. This book revolutionized the way I teach to teenagers. If you haven’t read it, you should get one and read it. It is WELL worth it!
Thought this quote was VERY TIMELY:
“Much of our difficulty as seeking Christians stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly. We insist upon trying to modify Him and to bring Him nearer to our own image.” – A.W. Tozer
So I’m about ready to head to a speaking engagement that is about 30 min. away and I noticed last night that my gas tank was about 1/4 tank full. I know that on my way home, the gas light inevitably will go on. TIME TO REFILL.
That got me thinking about something else: “How do I know when I’m running close to empty in my spiritual life?” I mean, there are no blinking lights that come on that tell us, “HEY! TIME TO REFILL!” We could be driving on empty for a long time and not even know it until we hit burnout.
A few months ago I started to explore this in my own life. I started noticing some things that were a little out-of-sorts, so I started reading and doing some self-evaluation. Conclusion: I was close to running on empty. I started noticing some warning signs that, had I ignored, would have led to burnout or, worse, a crash and burn situation. So I wrote down a list of some signs that showed me I was close to running on empty in my life. I am writing these out today to say “These were signs in my life… but they might be able to help someone else see signs in their life.” So here are my 11 warning signs that empty is right around the corner:
2. Apathy/Passionless/Loss of excitement or drive
4. Appeal to Approval
6. Busyness = Godliness
7. “Band-aid” fixes to “Hemorrhage-type” problems
8. No time for God or His word
9. Prayers becoming short or non-existent
10. Giving in to temptation becomes easier
11. I look to others to initiate me instead of making the first move
I’m sure that there are more signs… but these should be “WARNING LIGHTS” in our lives to look out for.