Going Silent for a While…

In the next two weeks my family and I will be making the move to Saginaw, Michigan to become the Student Ministries Pastor at Hopevale Church.  Because of all the busyness of moving… I have chosen to go silent for a couple of weeks.  After the first of next month I’ll be back blogging away 🙂

See you in June!!!


Training Student Ministry Volunteers

Volunteers.  They are the backbone of every student ministry.  In my experience, my volunteers were just as important… and probably more important to our ministry than I was.  They were the ones on the front lines and in the trenches DOING a lot of the work of ministry with students.  Over the years, I learned a very valuable lesson:  my job as “student pastor” should be viewed as a “player/coach” role.  I needed to pour time, energy, and resources into my volunteers.  It’s a leadership thing.  It’s also a stewardship thing. [Luke 19:11-27]  So here are a few ways that student pastors can invest into and train their volunteers:

1. Provide All-Volunteer Training Days

One or two times a year we would provide a multiple-hour training day for our volunteers.  This was great for several reasons: a) great team building time, b) you could dispense a large amount of information in a limited amount of time to the majority of your team, c) you could use these as a catalyst for team momentum.

2. One-On-One Mentoring Opportunities

These usually took place over lunch for me.  This is a great opportunity to “shepherd” your volunteers/leaders.  You can find out how they are doing individually, what they are concerned about, what is going well, and what specific issues you can help them address.

3. Web Resources

I don’t know about you, but I come across some GREAT content for student ministry via the internet.  It helps me become a better student pastor.  Now think about how great your team could be if they got that content too?  Share with your team what you are discovering through the internet about student ministry.  The positive to this is that it doesn’t consume as much time as a meeting would… and they are still getting valuable information.

4. Model Leadership to your Volunteers

Your volunteers need to see you LIVING what you are teaching.  Remember the old saying: “More is Caught than Taught.”

5. Find “Teachable Moments”

There are always times when things happen and we can pause with our leaders “in the moment” to help them lead better.  These are great times to ask questions that help both you and your leaders learn from experience.

6. Make Resources Available

We read books, magazine articles, scripture that speak to us about youth ministry.  Why not build a library of resources that your volunteers can have access to?  A well resourced team is a better equipped team.

** the bottom line is to do whatever it takes to help your volunteers be the absolute BEST volunteers they can be.  It is a part of our job description as a pastor: “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.  Their responsibility is to EQUIP God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.”  Ephesians 4:11-12

Developing a “Parent Friendly” Student Ministry [part 2]

A few weeks ago I did a post about a few things that we, as student pastors, can do to make our student ministries more “parent friendly.”  To read that post, click here.

Today I want to do Part 2 of that post and add a few more things that we can do to get parents more “in tune” with what is going on in our ministries.  Remember, parent buy-in is HUGE in student ministry.

5. Don’t Over-Schedule

One way to get parents pretty upset at you is to jam-pack your student ministry calendar with tons of events and programs and meetings.  Students’ lives are busy.  Parents are busy.  When we over-schedule… we are making our students and parents fight over what they perceive to be more important.  What I have found to be helpful is to schedule a few events on the calendar for students to “come to” and then have my team invest into the schedule that the student already has [games, plays, concerts, etc…].  Some of the best student ministry is found within the already existing schedule of the student and family.

6. Offer Training Opportunities for Parents of Teenagers

As I type this I am thinking, “Wait a minute, I am not a parent of teenagers… how can I train parents in an area that I have yet to step into?”  That has been a valid argument over the past few years for me.   [and I should preface all of this by saying… I don’t have a great track record when it comes to this.  This is one of those things that I have decided will be a major focus of my next 10 years in student ministry because it has not been in the last 10].  So here is what I want to do with this: Just because I am not a parent of teenagers doesn’t mean I don’t have the resources or knowledge to bring someone in who can speak to this in a valid way.  I have concluded that I can speak to certain things about teenagers because I work with them all the time… and where I can’t speak, I can find someone who can and offer them as a training opportunity. Parents need and want information on how to parent their teenagers.  Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could assist the family like this?

7. Suggest Reading Materials, Websites, etc…

We may not have the resources to bring in a “professional” to train parents… but we can cut and copy an article from a magazine that we thought was important.  We can point parents to great websites about their teenagers.  We can help educate them on what their teenagers are watching on TV, Listening to on their iPods, viewing on the internet, and texting to each other.  In my experience, this goes a LONG WAY to bridge the parent/student pastor gap.

**I’m sure that there are a lot more ways to develop “parent friendly” student ministries… what are some that have worked for you?

My Bible Study Methods [part 2]

Yesterday I wrote a post about some ways that you can help the people/students you lead “CATCH” how to read and study the Bible for themselves.  For that post, go here.

Today I want to write about what we can teach to help others start to read the Bible for themselves.  I have been leading teenagers for almost a decade now, and I have seen over those years one major thing: students WANT to read the Bible, but they just don’t know how… and that frustrates them, so they don’t make time to read it.  I have to be honest… when I was in High School, I faced the same dilemma.  Other things in life became more important because they were easier to understand.  It wasn’t until someone intentionally started equipping me with how to read and study the Bible that it became a discipline in my life.  These are the methods that they taught me:

1. Create Space –

create both time in your schedule and a regular meeting place where you will spend time with God.  This needs to be as distraction free as possible.  Even Jesus did this: Mark 1:35

2. Prepare your Heart; Clear Your Mind –

Prepare yourself to hear from God as you read.  Get rid of the things that are distracting you from spending time with God.

3. Decide Your Destination –

Don’t play Bible roulette… you know… flip the pages and point and read.  That’s a dangerous way to read the Bible.  Be a little more systematic about it.  Pick a book of the Bible, or use a concordance and pick a topic.  Make sure that it is on purpose though.

4. Observation –

Read the passage with your eyes and mind wide open.  Ask “who, what, where, when, why, how?”  These are all GREAT observation questions.  Write these observations down in a journal.  This will give you a clearer picture of what is going on.

5. Put Some Thought Into It –

This is the skill of “Interpretation.”  This is where you ask “What does this really mean?”  and “What does this mean for me?”  Write all of these down in your journal.

6. Do Something Because of It –

Now that you have observed the passage, and you have interpreted what it means, you now need to ask, “Do I need to do anything because of what I have just read?”  Write this down in your journal.

7. Find an Ally to Push You – 

We all need good friends who will influence us and push us to do the right things in our life.  Reading our Bibles is an important discipline to have a friend push us in.  Find someone to keep you accountable with it.

There are probably many different ways to approach this, but these are the skills that I use when I study my Bible.

My Bible Study Methods [part 1]

So the other day I wrote a post about students/people not reading or studying their Bible and how it is becoming this HUGE trend in America.  I blame this on 2 things: 1) the church has done a poor job in equipping people to do this & 2) our culture has negated anything that you can’t instantly do/get.  Mix those 2 things together and why would we ever assume that someone would sit down and read their Bible?  We can’t fix the latter… but we can go after the former.  The church/I [as a student pastor] need to equip the people/students I lead to learn this discipline.  I think this is going to need the CAUGHT + TAUGHT approach.  You’ve heard the old saying “More is caught than taught,” right?  Well, in this case, we need to do an equal job teaching and modeling this in front of those we lead.  Let’s talk about the “Caught” method today:

CAUGHT:  question… How do we model this without inviting people into our own private worlds?” answer… We learn to teach while we teach.  Confused? Let me explain.  We teach GOOD BIBLE STUDY METHODS by the way we teach the Bible to people.  We open up the scriptures in front of them.  We do proper Exegetical study and help them see how we arrived at the conclusions we did.  We Challenge people to read along with us IN THEIR OWN BIBLES.  We give them “homework” to read in their Bibles that pertain to what we just taught them. In a sense, we are studying the Bible right along with them in our church services… but we are leading the study.  We cannot expect the people we lead to open their Bibles at home and value reading it if we won’t do it in our own church services.   

**If you read my first post on this subject, you will see that I am NO EXPERT on this at all.  The things I am writing here are, at this moment, highly theoretical to me, but I have seen them work and play out in other’s ministries.

tomorrow I will talk about the “TAUGHT” part of teaching people to study their Bibles. 

What We’ve Been Missing in Student Ministry

I was reflecting back over my years in youth ministry this morning and asking myself two questions: 1) What have I done well over the past 10 years? & 2) What have I not done well over the past 10 years?  I’m not going to take time to try and spell out what I did well over my student ministry career… but I wanted to point out something that I feel like I did poor in and I feel like student ministries all over America are probably not doing well in.  We excel in programming.  We can teach topically with the best of them.  We can plan events for students to bring their friends to.  But the one area that most of us are missing is this: teaching students to READ & UNDERSTAND the Bible for themselves.  I’ll go first and admit it… I have done poorly in this area.  Not because I haven’t talked about it from the stage.  Not because we haven’t put it as one of our planned values.  Not because our small groups haven’t stressed the importance of it.  I have done poorly with this area in student ministry because I have not intentionally spent time and resource to develop it.

I started asking myself, “When did I start to understand this?  When did I begin this habit in my life?”  Truthfully, it didn’t completely take root until I was in college.  Why?  Because that was when it was intentionally poured into my life.

So I am taking this one personal!  In the next ten years I want to go after this one hardcore in my students’ lives.  This one habit, in my humble opinion, is going to make or break the next generation of Christ followers.  The studies are out… and the reports are looking dismal.  People are NOT reading the scriptures for themselves, and I believe that this is the case because THEY DON’T KNOW HOW!  And most of the “how to read your Bible” books are more intimidating to read than the Bible itself.  I don’t know what it will take or what this journey will end up looking like… but one thing is for sure, I’M COMMITTED TO IT!!!