One Thing Every Healthy Youth Ministry Needsfor: Youth Leaders

I’ve been thinking a lot about Jesus’ prayer for His disciples in John 17, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one…As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (vss. 15, 18 NIV). Jesus had many disciples while on the earth, but this prayer was specifically for His closest disciples; the eleven who remained faithful to Him until the end. These were arguably the most important disciples in the history of the Church. Even if we knew nothing else of Jesus’ time with His followers, we could still make two conclusions about His discipleship model from this prayer. First, that He “sent” His followers on a mission. Time with Jesus included mission and ultimately prepared and equipped the disciples for mission. Second, Jesus was not afraid to put His disciples at risk, for risk is inherent in mission. And so Jesus prayed, “God, protect them…for I am sending them.”

In the church and in the family our most important disciples are our children and youth. If we are leading like Jesus led and discipling like Jesus discipled, then we must also pray, “God protect them…for we are sending them.” And then we must send them. That’s why every healthy youth ministry includes mission and builds towards mission in its discipleship methods. For the majority of today’s students the field of mission is the public school, so our discipleship must include preparing and equipping students for this mission. Home, Cyber, and Christian-school students rarely make contact with this vast mission field. As a result, the church and the family must take extra care to find regular opportunities for these students to engage in mission, or their discipleship may become extraordinarily unbalanced and/or become too self-focused. Regardless of how it’s accomplished, every healthy Biblical model of discipleship in youth ministry includes and leads to mission.

The risk of excluding mission from discipleship in youth ministry is far greater than the inherent risk of engaging mission. When we exclude mission, we teach our students a version of Christianity that has little basis in the Cross. Mission leads to selflessness; no mission leads to self-centeredness. Mission leads to dependence on the Holy Spirit; no mission leads to dependence on self. Mission leads to the Cross; no mission leads to simple morality. This is unhealthy youth ministry. Discipleship that doesn’t include mission usually ends in what theologians and sociologists have termed Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). A comprehensive study[1] in 2005 by researchers at the University of North Carolina concluded that most religious teenagers in America actually adhere to MTD rather than authentic, Cross-centered and Spirit driven Christianity.

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is rampant in youth ministry. The end goal of MTD is to be happy and to feel good about yourself, which is accomplished through being moral in your own life and being nice to others. God exists, but isn’t really involved unless you need something fixed, and He lets good people go to heaven when they die. In MTD, there is little demand for holiness, sacrifice, or mission as defined by Luke 19:10, “The Son of Man came to seek and save that which is lost.” If we’re not careful, we’ll end up with a generation of students who know how to be good, but don’t know how to carry the cross.

The solution is simple—stop putting students in the spotlight, and start putting the spotlight on Jesus. Give them a cross to carry, a sacrifice to strive toward, and a mission (Luke 19:10) to be a part of. That’s healthy youth ministry! And what about the inherent risk? Jesus gave us a risk manager—the promised Holy Spirit. So let us pray with confidence, “God, protect them…for we are sending them.”

[1] Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).

I’ve been thinking a lot about Jesus’ prayer for His disciples in John 17, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one…As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (vss. 15, 18 NIV). Jesus had many disciples while...

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Bridging the Gap Between Churches and Schoolsfor: Youth Leaders

There is no greater place in your community to impact more people for God than your local schools. For every child that attends a school, there is a family. For every teacher, staff and administrator there is a family. Many area businesses provide goods and services for the schools. There are very few people in your community that are not connected in some way to a school campus. When a church ministers to a school, it ministers to an entire community.

Now, I know what you are thinking. “God’s not allowed in schools, so our church can’t minister there.” To say God isn’t allowed anywhere is an indictment on your view of God and on your faith in Him . God is God. He can go anywhere and do anything He wants. In fact, the Bible says God is omnipresent, so that means He is already at school. The Bible also says wherever two or more are gathered in His name, there He is also. If we are at the schools in His name, then He will be there with us.

So, the question isn’t “Is God allowed in schools?”. It’s, “Are we going to take God to schools?”

Here are 5 steps and 3 principles you and your church can use to begin ministering to a school and take God to the campus:

5 STEPS

  1. Begin praying for the campus. Ask students and staff for prayer requests. Pray for each student and staff member by name (Use a yearbook). Do prayer walks on your campus. Build a Prayer Zone around your school.
  2. Begin serving and meeting the needs of teachers, administrators and students that are members of your church. Ask them what they need for their classrooms or areas of responsibility and provide. Word will spread quickly that you are ready and willing to serve and others will request assistance. This will help build trust to open the door for step #3.
  3. Set up a meeting with the administration to ask them what needs they have as a school. Meet with the Guidance Counselors to learn about needs the students have. Begin by meeting one need. Once you have met one need, begin meeting others. NOTE: You will not be able to meet every need but you may be able recruit other churches and other businesses who can meet needs your church is unable to.
  4. Start asking “What do you wish for?” Teachers and administrators have a long list of needs…the things they must have in order to educate students. What really get’s interesting and creative is when you ask them what they wish they could do for their students. Most teachers and administrators have a “wish list” of things they have always wanted to do for their students but do not have the time, money or energy. Meeting a needs is a blessing, but meeting a wish is something much more powerful!
  5. Get involved! Join the Parent/Teacher Organization, the Band/Athletic Boosters, chaperone school dances, proctor standardized tests, mentor and assist students serving in campus ministries at the school…get involved wherever you see an opportunity.

3 PRINCIPLES

  1. Do not expect or ask for anything in return. One of the first things you will encounter is that the school will suspect you of having ulterior motives and wonder if they can trust you and your church. Most of the time these concerns are legitimate because they have been burned and mislead in the past by people claiming to have the school’s best interests at heart when in reality they had other plans. The school, although desperate for help, will not share their major needs and wishes with you until they know they can trust you. For example, when you provide notebooks for students, don’t slip in a gospel tract or flyer for your youth ministry. When they ask you to volunteer at the school, don’t show up with your Christian t-shirts on.
  2. Trust that God will use your servant’s heart to open doors for deeper ministry. If you approach every opportunity to serve as an opportunity to “preach”, your ministry at the school will not last long. While school officials are concerned about any ulterior motives you may have, they also understand that there is a greater purpose involved in your service. When serving students or adults at the school, simply meet their need…don’t force any spiritual discussion or direction. Trust that God will use your service to work in the hearts of those you are serving and that He will provide opportunities outside of your service to minister to them spiritually. (BTW, Jesus was a master at meeting physical needs first, them addressing spiritual needs.) So when you are chaperoning a dance, be polite and respectful of the students. If you catch two of them making out, politely ask them to stop and don’t give them a lecture on “True Love Waits”. Then, when you run into the students in the hallway of school the next week, or in Wal-mart the next day, they may approach you and ask you why you are always at their school or why you didn’t lower the boom on them like they expected. That’s when God opens the door for ministry to the soul.
  3. Earn the trust of the school and keep it. Be overly protective of any favor that you gain with the school administration. All it takes is for one person to cross a line or cause someone to complain, and the administration may limit or cut off your ability to serve. This would include blatant “proselytizing”, disruption of class time, or causing a burden to be placed on someone at the school. For example, if you serve the football team bottled water for practice and the school custodian has to put in extra work to pick up all the empty water bottles scattered across the practice field, that person may complain to the administration. Remember that your goal is to relieve stress on the school, not to create it….to be a blessing, not a burden.

The opportunity to minister to schools is wide open! We must simply do so in a way that honors and respects the school and it’s rules, while at the same time honors God with our servants hearts.

The schools need our help and want our help. So, what are you waiting for?

Getting Practical

Here is a list of things our church has done to serve the high school that sits across the street from our church. Please leave a comment and share any ministry ideas you have for schools.

  • The band & ROTC use our gym for band camp and drill team practice.
  • Provide the guidance staff male & female toiletry kits.
  • Serve at the prom each year as bathroom attendants and parking lot attendants and have provided hair and make-up artists to fix “wardrobe malfunctions”.
  • Provided breakfast for students and parents at orientation.
  • Provide water, cookies and chips to staff during teacher work days.
  • Provide coffee to assist the PTA serving breakfast to teachers and staff.
  • Serve in crisis response coordinating teens at the hospital and helping with communication between students, the hospital, parents and the schools. Coordinate with the guidance staff to connect local youth pastors to be available for counseling students after the death of a student.
  • Provide umbrellas for teachers on bus duty.
  • The school’s preschool program used our nursery for 2 years when their school had mold problems.
  • Youth group participates in prayer events for the campus throughout the year.
  • Provide volunteers for Field Days and proctors for standardized tests.
  • Administration has used the sanctuary for teacher training when school was undergoing renovations.

There is no greater place in your community to impact more people for God than your local schools. For every child that attends a school, there is a family. For every teacher, staff and administrator there is a family. Many area businesses provide goods and services for the schools. There are very few people in your community that...

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Breaking the Threshold: 3 Simple Ways to be Present on Campusfor: Youth Leaders

My wife and I were watching a TV series on near-death experiences one night, and we heard the story of a hiker who got lost in the woods. He wasn’t that deep in the wilderness, he was only about three miles from the nearest road. The problem? He was hiking in circles. Unwilling to break away from his current track, he hiked the same circle over and over again. Soon, the sun began to set, and with no phone, no shelter, and no survival training, this young man died of hypothermia. He was alone in the woods, just a short distance from civilization.

In youth ministry today, this same story is being lived out in the lives of youth pastors and their students. We believe that if we just keep pressing forward, we’re going to eventually get the results that we’re looking for, but that’s not promised to us if we’re not being intentional about the direction in which we take our ministries.

One crucial way of being intentional is being present on the high school campus. I once heard Preston Centuolo say, “Students are in two places; their schools and social media. If we’re avoiding those venues – we’re not doing youth ministry.”

Ryan Sharp from www.everyschool.com writes “Don’t retreat back to the safety of the church and convince yourself that campus ministry isn’t for every youth pastor. It simply isn’t true.” I would echo his words with the call for youth pastors to make themselves personally present! Youth pastors belong on the high school campus.

Schools are communities within themselves. Once you’re in – you’re golden. But as an outsider, it can be uncomfortable at first. Here are 3 simple ways to be present on your campus:

1) Sponsor a Campus Ministry – Some schools already have strong clubs going. If that’s the case, see if your students are part of the club and have them invite you out to be a sponsor. If your students aren’t present, connect with the club and ask if you can be of assistance. Find out who’s currently sponsoring the club and invite them out for coffee (even if it’s a teacher – teacher’s like coffee too!)

One of the biggest excuses I hear from leaders is that their students aren’t interested in doing campus ministry so they can’t get on the campus. This just isn’t true. A friend of mine in ministry just ran into similar circumstances. His students weren’t attending the club because it wasn’t “hip”. So he took the initiative himself and started serving in the club without his students. Within a few weeks, his students started attending the club as well (this is called leadership). By the way, you’re “hipper” than you think!

2) Seek Opportunities to Serve – The needs on a high school campus are innumerable! Use your imagination. Young Life, a parachurch ministry,  compiled a list of 33 different ways their leaders are serving their schools in Indiana. Some may not apply to your context, but I bet at least five of them do.

3) Attend School Events– There is no substitute for longevity and relationship, but you can accelerate the process of earning trust with your school by being present on a consistent basis at events open to the community (sporting events, art shows, musicals and concerts, etc.). I try to find events where I can support multiple students.

If you see them, be sure to say hello to the principal, the assistant principal, or anyone in leadership. Politely and appropriately make your presence known. They’re probably not going to remember you at first because they meet thousands of people. That’s okay.  Once you approach them several times, they’ll put two and two together, that you’re someone important from the community and that you care.

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Being intentional takes time and effort, but honestly, is there any other path to take except the path that leads us to our destination, and to results?

The story of that hiker still grips my heart. It’s doubly important that we take the right path, because you’re not the only hiker on this trail. You’re students are following you. Lead the way, leader!

My wife and I were watching a TV series on near-death experiences one night, and we heard the story of a hiker who got lost in the woods. He wasn’t that deep in the wilderness, he was only about three miles from the nearest road. The problem? He was hiking in circles. Unwilling to break away from...

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Before You React…6 Tips to Reach the Schoolfor: Youth Leaders

Last week we began a series on being intentional in youth ministry. The underlying principle is that you’ve got to be intentional if you want to get specific outcomes in discipleship. This is also known as being “proactive” in your approach to youth ministry. The opposite of being proactive is being reactive. A lot youth leaders conduct their youth ministries in a reactive manner. They see issues, problems, or drama amongst their students and then address those issues in a sermon or activity as a reaction to what they see. For example, if the students in your youth ministry are very selfish, you may be tempted to preach on the evils of selfishness. But if you really want to correct selfish behavior, you should talk about sacrifice and teach students what it means to give, because giving is the cure for selfishness. This is being proactive (instead of reactive) in youth ministry. It’s another form of intentionality wherein you schedule and gear your youth ministry culture towards producing discipleship outcomes, as opposed to simply reacting to sin issues. As you produce meaningful discipleship outcomes, you’ll find that those major sin issues become non-factors. So before you react, pro-act.

Imagine if Jesus had been a reactive leader. Peter could not walk on water until the whole betrayal thing had been worked out of his system. The Sons of Thunder would have been put on some type of medication to calm them down before they could be challenged with deep principles of discipleship. Thomas couldn’t participate in Jesus’ ministry until his doubt had been addressed. Instead of reacting to the sins and issues Jesus knew his disciples would engage in, He proactively challenged them follow Him and engage in missional activity along the way. He does the same thing with us today.

So…how can you be proactively intentional in order to produce the outcome of missional living in the lives of your students? Start with what you’re doing in your youth group. What you’re preaching, planning, and spending money on should all point to reaching the school if that’s the outcome you desire. Here are six practical things I recommend you do if you want to reach the school and create a culture of missional living:

  1. Schedule your preaching calendar, small group sessions, discussion times, etc. to include a 4-8 week series on living missionally on the Campus. Preach about the reaching the school, discuss the reaching the school, gear your small group curriculums towards reaching the school. Talk about it, talk about it, talk about it…and then talk about it some more!
  2. Schedule and plan to participate in 3-4 events that geared towards reaching the school with the Gospel in August and September. Here’s some suggestions:
    • Advance. This back-to-school retreat takes place Labor Day weekend of each year and focuses on the individual values of missional living. Stay tuned to this blog for more info.
    • Unleashed: Campus Ministry Training Conference. These regional 1/2 day events focus on student group efforts to reach the school (Bible Club planning, outreach events, etc.).
    • Pre-Pole Rally. Get together with some other youth pastors in your area and plan a rally the weekend before See You At The Pole.
    • See You At the Pole. Promote it, help your students plan for it, go to it, follow up with testimonies in your youth service after it.
  3. Schedule at least half a day each week to be on the school campus. What you do with your time speaks volumes about what you value. If campus missions is important to you, and having students who live missionally is important to you, make time to be in their mission field!
  4. Use some of your youth ministry budget for Campus Ministry. Consider giving a grant to each local Bible Club for use in missional activity. Don’t have a budget? Have a fundraiser and create a budget from the profits.
  5. Challenge your students to a special personal initiative they can do in their school. The 1-Month Challenge, 30 Second Kneel Down, and wearing visual displays such as buttons are all good examples of this.
  6. Recruit and equip some leaders to be involved in reaching the school. Our adult leaders are some of our best resources, so give them a meaningful task by asking them to be a Bible Club coach.

Last week we began a series on being intentional in youth ministry. The underlying principle is that you’ve got to be intentional if you want to get specific outcomes in discipleship. This is also known as being “proactive” in your approach to youth ministry. The opposite of being proactive is being reactive. A lot youth leaders conduct...

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Are you Macro or Micro? Being Intentional in Discipleshipfor: Youth Leaders

A few weeks ago the Exponential leadership cohort had a Skype session with the National Youth Alive Director, Steve Pulis. I asked Steve to talk with us about “Becoming the Kind of Leader who can Impact the Campus.” One of the first things he said was something like this, “If you want to be the kind of leader who impacts the campus, you have to be intentional with what you do. Students reaching students on the campus doesn’t happen by accident.” I couldn’t agree more. It’s easy to believe that if we are making disciples of Christ, they will naturally want to share their faith with those around them. However, it will not happen unless we are intentional in teaching our students to share their faith, and in modeling it for them.

Almost every youth worker has some measure of intentionality in their ministry. We intend to help teenagers and to mold them into disciples of Christ. We get the big picture; that’s why we got into youth ministry. Let’s call this being “macro-intentional.” However, if you want to produce specific discipleship outcomes in students (such as Bible reading, prayer, giving, serving, missional living, etc.), you’ve got to be far more intentional than simply working broadly at the big picture. For example, if you want the students in your ministry to be passionate about missions, then you need to talk about missions, invite missionaries to share their stories, take missions trips, and do missions-based events. Let’s call this being “micro-intentional.” Being micro-intentional means that you drill down on a particular area of discipleship or Christlike expression to produce specific outcomes. If all you’re doing is holding all-nighters, dodgeball tournaments, and preaching random messages each week, it’s unlikely your students will gravitate towards any specific discipleship outcomes. They probably like you and you probably have a lot of fun together, but you may unintentionally be missing the point of youth ministry.

So what does being micro-intentional look like for campus ministry? How do we intentionally move students towards missional living in their schools? This is a question we will be exploring in detail over the next few weeks. Essentially, being intentional towards the campus means your youth ministry’s calendar, financial resources, and discussions all point to missional living in school. It means that your time usage, as a leader, exemplifies that the campus is an important mission field. The apostle Paul gives a good view of what it means to be intentional in discipleship in Philippians 4:9 where he writes, “Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized.” Paul’s intentionality is revealed in that he showed his followers what he wanted them to learn, he talked about what he wanted them to learn, and he modeled the things he wanted his followers to do. The results are clearly visible through the witness of history, resulting in the size and scope of the church today. It’s hard to argue with that kind of success!

If your youth ministry were to be examined, what specific areas would we find you exercising micro-intention? What are some ways you could be more intentional for campus ministry? Next week I’ll be writing about being intentional with your ministry calendar, budget, and resources.

A few weeks ago the Exponential leadership cohort had a Skype session with the National Youth Alive Director, Steve Pulis. I asked Steve to talk with us about “Becoming the Kind of Leader who can Impact the Campus.” One of the first things he said was something like this, “If you want to be the kind of...

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Raising Up Students Who Want To Do Campus Ministryfor: Youth Leaders

Getting students excited about doing ministry on their campus can be tough. But once it becomes the “new normal” in your youth ministry, there’s nothing your students won’t be able to accomplish. We’ve been serving on the campus now for nearly five years and we’ve discovered three big ways to raise up students who want to do campus ministry:

(1)   Campus Missions Curriculum – The campus is a big deal to us and our students know it! We take on ten different message series’ every year. The most important series we do will run through August and September.  We prepare students for the upcoming school year by doing two things: (1) We empower them to join/launch a campus ministry, and (2) we equip them with resources and training to impact their peers.  By the time school starts our students are chomping at the bit!

Big Idea: We challenge students to have a “five-friend focus” (www.yausa.com). A Five Friend Focus is a list of five friends they know who demonstrate a need for Christ.

(2)   Campus Missions Core – Like most youth ministries, we have several teams our students can join. Those who join our student leadership team share opportunities and responsibilities that other students do not have access to. There is a base requirement though – you must be actively involved in campus ministry. We believe that worship and fellowship take place in our youth facility, but leadership takes place on the campus.

Big Idea: Around the start of the school year our student leaders are challenged to invite at least two of their peers to their school’s campus club. These challenges are a requirement and our student leaders support each other and hold each other accountable to fulfill their goals.

(3)   Campus Missions Crew Chances are a student visiting our youth ministry has already attended one of our Campus Clubs. So when a student like James surrenders his life to Christ in our youth service, he already knows exactly where to go to start making an impact on his campus. Because their salvation journey started with a connection to a Campus Club, it’s natural that they want to do Campus Ministry and see the importance of it.

Big Idea: We purchase two six foot banners for each club and we post matching graphics on framed posters in our youth room.  We strategically do this to “sync” our youth ministry with our clubs.

Campus Ministry is part of our DNA now. But if the high school hasn’t been a strategic mission field for your youth ministry, do not be discouraged. Every great journey starts with a single step.  You’ll never regret making the campus a priority in your ministry.

Getting students excited about doing ministry on their campus can be tough. But once it becomes the “new normal” in your youth ministry, there’s nothing your students won’t be able to accomplish. We’ve been serving on the campus now for nearly five years and we’ve discovered three big ways to raise up students who want to do...

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The Solution:for: Youth Leaders

Five Ways of Addressing the Challenges of Campus Ministry

A few weeks ago my friend, Rob Gillen, wrote a great entry entitled “The Problem: Five Reasons Youth Pastors Don’t Do Campus Ministry.” He identified some of the core fears and hindrances that keep youth pastors from engaging the Campus as a mission field and as a relevant component of student spiritual development. Interestingly, none of the identifiable problems were material. They are all philosophical, ethereal, missiological problems. Here’s some suggestions, along those lines, to tackle these problems:

(1) Problem: Campus Ministry is intimidating. Solution: Step outside your comfort zone. Was it intimidating for Moses to confront Pharaoh? Was it intimidating for Jonah to preach to Nineveh? Did Peter find it easy to step outside the boat? Anything worth doing will carry a level of intimidation. Your real fears are rejection by campus officials and failure to succeed in an uncomfortable environment. Recognize three things: You can do this even though it’s uncomfortable (Phil. 4:13), there is a power inside you to overcome these obstacles (Acts 1:8), facing intimidation is a blessing from God and a path to growth (James 1:2-3).

(2) Problem: Campus Ministry requires time, effort & commitment. Solution: Make time for what’s important to you. I’m assuming you’re in youth ministry because you care about teenagers and want to make disciples of Christ. This is important to you. However, no one can become a disciple of Christ without adopting His missional ethos; to seek and save that which is lost (Matt. 18:11, Luke 19:10). If you’re not adopting this ethos personally, and you’re not building this into your students, you’re not making time for what’s important to you. Your youth ministry may be a safe and fun “club” that students belong to, but you can’t make disciples without mission.

(3) Problem: Campus Ministry requires growth on the part of the leader. Solution: Find a mentor and do some reading. Everything that grows changes. It’s one of the fundamental rules of life. The inverse is also true, everything that refuses to grow doesn’t change. To help you through this growth, find a coach-mentor (Phil. 3:17), and read some books on leadership and the missional church. Contact me by emailing Lee@reachtheschool.com for suggestions.

(4) Problem: Campus Ministry yields very few accolades. Solution: Figure out what a win looks like and highlight it. The current mission of the church is a little off kilter from missio Dei (the mission of God). You may need to start defining what a win looks like in campus ministry and identify scriptural principles to go with it. For example: student’s sharing their faith, campus ministries being planted, new visitors as a result of campus ministry, etc.. Once you define what a win is, start highlighting the win and the scriptural principle to your leader and church. Soon the accolades will be rolling in.

(5) Problem: Campus Ministry beckons a youth leader to acknowledge the real “war” taking place. Solution: Put yourself into secular teenage contexts. If you think your youth ministry is changing the larger context of students in your community, try spending some time in their world: athletic events, the local mall on a Friday night, and, best of all, High School Dances. This will give you a broader look at how wide ranging your impact is and spark a passion in you to change things.

Five Ways of Addressing the Challenges of Campus Ministry A few weeks ago my friend, Rob Gillen, wrote a great entry entitled “The Problem: Five Reasons Youth Pastors Don’t Do Campus Ministry.” He identified some of the core fears and hindrances that keep youth pastors from engaging the Campus as a mission field and as a relevant...

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The Problem:for: Youth Leaders

Five Reasons Youth Pastors Don’t Do Campus Ministry

Most youth pastors do not engage in campus ministry of any kind. This is a mistake. Although a spiritual battle takes place in our youth services once a week, the war is taking place on the campus. There are five simple reasons why youth pastors don’t do campus ministry:

(1) Campus Ministry is intimidating. Within a church, a youth pastor naturally belongs. They have a title and they have a purpose that’s understood by most. In a high school however, there isn’t the natural acceptance of a youth pastor joining the campus community. You’re not a teacher or a student and you’re entering a brand new culture. It can be very uncomfortable at first.

(2) Campus Ministry requires time, effort & commitment. As Mark Batterson once put it, “In ministry today, we do not lack creativity. Let’s call it what it is. We’re lazy.” This may sound harsh at first, but if we’re honest with ourselves – we tend to choose the path of least resistance, even when it’s sometimes not the most effective choice. Just like any ministry, campus ministry takes work and investment.

(3) Campus Ministry requires growth on the part of the leader. Communicating with teachers and administrators, ministering to students with no religious background, and coaching students in a radically different environment may require significant personal growth from the youth pastor.

(4) Campus Ministry yields very few accolades. Ministry is typically an affirming atmosphere for pastors at least in some shape or form -ever heard of “Pastor’s Appreciation Day?” You will receive very little affirmation for committing yourself to the high school. Some leadership contexts may not view the campus as the strategic mission field that it is.

(5) Campus Ministry beckons a youth leader to acknowledge the real “war” taking place. Ignorance is bliss. The youth room is a safe place for a youth pastor. The school is a lot more dangerous. Whether in class or participating in sports and extracurricular clubs, our students spend the great majority of their time on the campus.

Five Reasons Youth Pastors Don’t Do Campus Ministry Most youth pastors do not engage in campus ministry of any kind. This is a mistake. Although a spiritual battle takes place in our youth services once a week, the war is taking place on the campus. There are five simple reasons why youth pastors don’t do campus ministry: (1) Campus...

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Keeping it in Frontfor: Youth Leaders

At our our back-to-school retreat in September (Advance), we took time to honor a few of the most committed campus missionaries in the PennDel District. These students not only committed to be campus missionaries during the past school year, but they also consistently reported on their activities through our online campus missionary reporting system. It’s very easy to inspire students to commit to be campus missionaries. However, it’s an entire different matter to see them follow that commitment through on a consistent basis throughout the school year. Furthermore, it can be a challenge to get them to consistently report on their activities through the online system. There were two churches that consistently had several students reporting, one of them was Assembly of God of North East. Kris Lewis is the youth pastor there, and I asked him how he was able to procure such consistent results from his students. He thought about it for a few weeks and then sent me this reply:

“I know there have been a couple times when you have asked me what I have done to “prompt” or encourage my students to be CM’s and fill out their reports.  And really the funny thing is I really haven’t done much.  We come to Advance every year, and that really has been the driving force behind it.  From Advance and the focus on CM’s, our students started a prayer meeting at their school (we represent only one school for the most part), took ownership of SYATP and really lead the other church youth groups it seems in our area.  Again I really don’t know where it comes from… LOL.

From the Ministers Enrichment this year when Dick Foth was talking about keeping it Simple, and then also in our break out session if I had to put my finger on it. I guess I can say the big reason is that we TALK and fuel our students to do all the work at their school.  Kind of fueling their fire from Advance by talking about and giving opportunities for them to invite a peer.  LOL, really just teaching and releasing for ministry.”

Kris has identified one of the key principles to success in youth ministry. I call it the “Keeping it in Front of Them” principle. Someone else much smarter than me has probably already identify this and given it a more proper name. Regarding his success, Kris writes, “the big reason is that we TALK and fuel our students to do all the work at their school.” He consistently fuels their fire. He keeps it in front of them. If you want students to retain and stay committed to the things you’ve taught them, you’ve got to keep it in front of them. Not just once, not just twice. You got to keep it in front of them on a consistent basis throughout the year. What are you doing to keep Campus Missions, or any of your core youth ministry values, in front of your students?

At our our back-to-school retreat in September (Advance), we took time to honor a few of the most committed campus missionaries in the PennDel District. These students not only committed to be campus missionaries during the past school year, but they also consistently reported on their activities through our online campus missionary reporting system. It’s very easy...

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Are You Blind, or Do You See?for: Youth Leaders

Last week I had the honor of recruiting Campus Missionaries at a great youth group in Central Pennsylvania. When I am challenging students to become CM’s, I like to explain the fivefold commitment of pray, live, tell, serve, and give. That can be quite a task when you only have 30-45 minutes to explain, inspire, and have a response time. I usually try to incorporate the five commitments into the inspirational portion of my message so it naturally intertwines. While speaking about the “give” element of a Campus Missionary, I referenced Proverbs 29:7, “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern”(NIV).

I recognize that words justice, injustice and the phrase social justice have become large buzz words over the past decade. That is not a bad thing. The prophets of the Old Testament were huge advocates of social justice. Isaiah was especially sickened by the ornate nature of Israel’s religious class when compared to the poor in Hebrew society. In a sound rejection of Israel’s showy fasting habits, he wrote, “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6 NIV).

There is great injustice happening in our own neighborhoods that we frequently do not recognize. Perhaps the focus on global justice has taken our eyes off of being locally focused on mission, as well. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in good social justice. Providing clean water, medical care, and education to impoverished people groups are things the church should be leading in. We definitely recognize the injustice of children born into areas of the world where they will not have access to the basic needs of humanity. But do we recognize the injustice that is happening in our own neighborhood? I am speaking of Spiritual Injustice. Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18–19 ESV). He was talking about the great Spiritual Injustice that existed then and still exists today.

Are you blind to this injustice? If you were to look at the composition of your youth ministry, what would that look like? Do the students in your youth ministry primarily come from Christian homes? My guess is that, for most youth ministries, the answer is yes. That is because most of our students grew up with the privilege of a Christian witness in the home. However, there are thousands of students in each of our neighborhoods who have not had the same privilege. This is Spiritual Injustice. This is what Jesus came to correct. When the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus, the Father spoke, “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles” (Matthew 12:18 ESV). We only add to the injustice if we are unwilling to be missional in our context.

So what can we as youth leaders do? We are called, as pastors, to eqiup the Saints for the work of the ministry. Addressing Spiritual Injustice begins with teaching our students to be missional in their schools. Begin by casting vision in your ministry for missional living. Consider Recruiting Campus Missionaries as a starting point. Begin to pray for a burden for your schools. Do something! Injustice will never be corrected while we only talk about the problem. You are the primary line of discipleship to the students in your youth ministry. Therefore, the impetus is on you to missionally shape them.

Last week I had the honor of recruiting Campus Missionaries at a great youth group in Central Pennsylvania. When I am challenging students to become CM’s, I like to explain the fivefold commitment of pray, live, tell, serve, and give. That can be quite a task when you only have 30-45 minutes to explain, inspire, and have...

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What if we…for: Youth Leaders

EDITORS NOTE: Zac McDonald is the Youth Pastor at State College Assembly of God. Last year, his students met at school every Tuesday and Thursday for prayer. Zac wrote this post the day before SYATP 2011. He offers some challenging thoughts on SYATP and it’s implications beyond the pole. -Lee

 

Yes, I will be at the pole to support our students tomorrow.  I live in a community where I am unable to participate but will stand on the sidelines, joining them in prayer.  Each September I wrestle with See You At The Pole, and I’ve had many conversations with friends in youth ministry that struggle as well.
Here are some of my questions and struggles….

What if we as leaders were to teach a generation that prayer is more than an event? It is a lifestyle.  Prayer is not what we do but rather how we should live.  Do we spend as much time hyping the lifestyle as we do the event?  One is much easier than the other because it is short-term.

What if we were to teach a generation that motive is key in Matthew 6:5 & 6?  Matthew 6:5 & 6 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

What if we were to teach a generation that praying at the pole is not a public declaration of our faith?  That public declaration should be water baptism.

What if we were to teach a generation boldness, to lay hands on the sick, to ask the Lord to daily perform signs and wonders in the hallways, to pray for friends one on one as they get off of the bus, in the classroom and as they eat lunch together?

What is this generation of lost students thinking?  One day a year they get off of the bus, and a group of students are standing in a circle around the flagpole.  Why the flagpole?  Why a closed circle?  Why one day a year?

What if we were to teach a generation that there is more to prayer than 20 minutes of worship, announcements, small group discussions, wrapped up by 15 minutes of prayer around the pole?

What if we were to remind a generation of 2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

As we gather around the pole tomorrow across this nation, I will be praying… “Lord, teach us how to pray”.

EDITORS NOTE: Zac McDonald is the Youth Pastor at State College Assembly of God. Last year, his students met at school every Tuesday and Thursday for prayer. Zac wrote this post the day before SYATP 2011. He offers some challenging thoughts on SYATP and it’s implications beyond the pole. -Lee   Yes, I will be at the...

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Bringing It Homefor: Youth Leaders

Most of us have had the experience of a weekend youth retreat. In addition to coming back tired and worn out, we come back excited about the work God did in our lives and in the lives of our students. We are exhilarated by the enthusiasm for Christ our students are exhibiting. We are convinced that change has occurred, and that this change will reverberate through our youth ministry. And that’s really where we want to be. We don’t just want to bring our students home, we want to bring the change home.

On Labor Day weekend, many of us were together for an awesome weekend retreat called ADVANCE. This back-to-school retreat saw many students making commitments to become Campus Missionaries and recording a goal for this school year. I was very pleased with the outcome of the retreat, and most youth leaders I’ve spoken with were equally enthused. Now we have to bring it home.

Let’s talk about bringing it home. First, a few realities:

  • You can bring students home. You can even bring changed students home. But you can’t bring the retreat home. The band, video, lighting, and general retreat-environment will stay behind.
  • Students will expect to maintain the spiritual-emotional high they experienced at the altar. Can we blame them? But in reality, we weren’t designed to maintain such a euphoric state. Our body, mind, emotions, and spirit are affected by the ebb and flow of our environment.
  • Not everyone in our youth ministries experienced the retreat. Some groups just had a few of their students in attendance, others had a majority. Regardless, there will be some who missed out on what the others experienced.

Now, let’s work on bringing it home:

  1. Explain the difference between emotional impulse and spiritual commitment. If students calculate what happened at the altar as an emotional high, the results will only last as long as their emotional state. Recognize that emotion is a part of the decision making process, but that a spiritual commitment is not dependent on an emotional state. We may no longer “feel it,” but our commitment is still important. A good example of an emotional roller coaster in scripture is Elijah, whose manic-depressive journey 1 Kings 18-19 speaks to us all about the fragility of human emotion and the steadfastness of God.
  2. Take ownership of the results. Move forward from the retreat by allowing students to testify to what God did in their lives, set up a support system to help them achieve their goals and dreams, and provide accountability and encouragement as time goes on. If students perceive you are not interested in what God did in their lives, they will quickly lose interest as well. You are their shepherd, and the value you place on God’s work in them validates it from their perspective.
  3. Replicate the process in rest of your group. It’s unlikely that all your group was a part of ADVANCE, or any retreat you’re doing. So encourage them to make the same commitments the rest of the group made. Include them in what God did, and make use of the students who did go to the retreat in the process. Get your whole group on the same page. In the case of ADVANCE it would look like this: (a) highlight students who made a commitment to be a Campus Missionary, (b) explain what it means to Pray, Live, Tell, Serve, and Give, and (c) offer the remaining students an opportunity to commit to be a CM.

Need help recruiting Campus Missionaries? Read this post on Getting Started in Campus Missions, then check out our related posts.

Most of us have had the experience of a weekend youth retreat. In addition to coming back tired and worn out, we come back excited about the work God did in our lives and in the lives of our students. We are exhilarated by the enthusiasm for Christ our students are exhibiting. We are convinced that change...

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The Value of Timefor: Youth Leaders

Time is a valued commodity that, like many things, becomes more valuable when we have less of it. As a boy with plenty of it on my hands, time seemed to pass so slowly. As an adult with little time to spare, time moves much too quickly. Whether you have a little or a lot, time always moves forward. It never goes in reverse. Time is also the great equalizer—we all receive the same amount every week—168 hours.

In 2009, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released a study on the average hours per weekday high school students spend on various activities. The average working student spends 8.4 hours sleeping, 5.7 hours on educational activities, and almost 3 hours on socializing, relaxing, and leisure. They spend an average of 1.5 hours working and .6 hours on sports, exercise, and recreation. Also showing up on the study was “religious, spiritual, and volunteer” time, which accounted for just .4 hours each day. In other words, students are spending almost 30 hours each week in school, and less than 3 hours each week in church. Sound like any students you know? What is evident from the study is this: the school system dominates the waking hours of the average students’ life. In the life of a student, time is always relative to school.

The apostle Paul talks about the value of time in his epistles. In Ephesians 5:15-16, he says, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” He also says in Colossians, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time” (4:5).

In relation to the campus, time speaks two things to us:

  1. Because the school system retains a monopoly on students’ time, we must engage the campus directly in our students lives. We would be naive, and perhaps a little arrogant, if we believed we could ignore the school system and it’s impact on our students’ walk with God. The time students spend with us is only 10% of the time they spend in school.
  2. Students must view time spent in school as relevant to their walk with God. Because their time is dominated by school, school must be relevant to God. If not, God will only become a compartmentalized part of their life and have nothing to do with their conduct at school or the use of their time in school.

I often hear the same statement from graduating seniors—“I wish I had done more to reach my school for Jesus Christ.” They have come to the sad realization that time is moving forward, not backward. Now that the threshold of graduation has been crossed, they cannot go back. Will your students look back after graduation with regret in relation to how they used their time? Or will they look back with satisfaction, knowing they followed Paul’s admonition to the fullest?

Time is a valued commodity that, like many things, becomes more valuable when we have less of it. As a boy with plenty of it on my hands, time seemed to pass so slowly. As an adult with little time to spare, time moves much too quickly. Whether you have a little or a lot, time always...

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