Archive for the ‘Youth Ministry Ideas’ Tag

Just One Starfish Mentoring Begins   Leave a comment

Thank you so much for your faithful prayers about our new ministry endeavor, Just One Starfish.  This is such an exciting time!

A quick update: God has been opening doors left and right for this new ministry!  We have our first team of 12 mentors (representing 3 different churches and 4 high schools) trained and ready to begin mentoring at our first elementary school, Blanton Elementary.  (Thank you to Alley Cats of Arlington for donating a meeting space for our training!)

It was really special to tour the school with the mentors last week and to see the positive reaction faculty and staff had to the mentors. God is doing big things at this elementary school and it’s humbling to be part of His work.

Prayer Request: Will you take the time to pray specifically for these 10th-12th grade young adults and their 4th-5th grade elementary school mentees?  The student pairs will meet for the first time starting next week.  Here are their names:
Mentor and Mentee:
Lara K. and Emily M.
Will R. and Adrian R.
Morgan K. and Joana S.
Katie K. and Blessing N.
George T. and Edwin A.
Alex S. and Jose Jr.
Emily W. and Coraima V.
Bailey B. and Angela M.
Steven H. and Samuel V.
Kaitlyn J. and Angela O.
Hannah J. and Oralia M.
Landry P. and her unnamed 4th grade girl that God is selecting for us right now 🙂

Next steps/prayer requests:
  • Now that we’ve got our first team of 12 youth in place, we will begin talking to more youth ministries and schools about expanding the program.
  • High School Students Can Apply Now for Our Second Team of Mentors: Just One Starfish Mentor Application
  • I meet with the CEO of an incredible Student Ministry organization next Thursday about aligning our organization with theirs – please pray that God’s will be done in that conversation.
  • On October 26-28 we will be putting together our new website with the generous, talented help at Dallas GiveCamp.  Please pray a special blessing on those volunteers.

I have full confidence that it is because of your prayerful support that we’ve been able to accomplish all that we’ve done so far.  Knowing that you had been praying about our match-ups and letting the Holy Spirit do His work, we let the young adults select the mentee who’s name most spoke to them (a beautiful selection process.)  I can hardly wait to see what God has in store next!

Thank you so much for your faithfulness.  Can you help spread the word by sharing this post with your friends/Facebook contacts?

Blanton_team_pic_1

4 Critical Signs of Youth Ministry Burnout   3 comments

Is it burnout or just a funk?

In direct sales, you know right away if you’re succeeding or not – you either have the sale or don’t.  In sports, you know if you scored or not, you can measure your stats to gauge success or failure.  You can measure or see the results of your work in physical labor jobs, even jobs like accounting have an output you can see.

Youth ministry is one of those professions that has a lot of “gray areas.”  You’ve spent the last several months and years pouring your heart into your ministry.  You’ve stayed up all night at lock-ins, retreats.  You’ve worked long hours to be there for your youth ministry.  You’ve done the work.  Have you been successful?

It depends, did someone just schedule a 4 hour meeting on “improving your numbers”?
Did a parent just stop you to say thanks for how much you have impacted their child?
Did a youth just direct every profane word they know at you, because you caught them smoking a joint?
Did more than one youth in your group decide to go to school for seminary?
Did your own child just complain about “you like the youth kids better”?

On any given day, what you do may not directly tie to how you allow yourself to feel at the end of the day. You are in control of what you do but, you are not in control of the results that you may feel on a daily basis.

Here’s the good news: God calls us to youth ministry to be faithful, not impatient for worldly success.  You’ve been faithful.  But maybe you’re working too hard at trying to be seen as successful.  Or maybe you’re just working too hard.

You’ve heard that if you don’t take care of yourself in youth ministry, no one else will. You can get youth ministry burnout.  This time of year, it’s common for youth workers to be tired, discouraged or “in a funk.”  How can you tell the difference between a temporary downturn and serious youth ministry burnout?

If it’s a temporary downturn, give yourself a break.  Return to the basics like prayer, sabbath, rest, personal time, exercise and eating right.  Find friends to talk you through things.  Have fun outside of youth work.  Seek pastoral support – and you might need to look outside of your church for this help.

If you think you might be in burnout mode, seek help.  How to tell the difference?

According to crisis intervention research*, there are 4 main areas that burnout affect: behavior, physical, interpersonal, and attitudinal. The following are the things that can be effected in each category:

Behavior:
– abuse of alcohol/illicit drugs
– difficulty coping with minor problems
– loss of enjoyment
– dread of work
– increased irritability/impatience
– losing things
– suicidal or homicidal ideation/attempts
– reduced work efficiency
– PTSD-like symptoms (post traumatic stress disorder)

Physical:
– chronic fatigue
– insomnia
– muscle tension
– panic attacks
– weakened immune system
– flare-ups in preexisting medical conditions
– weight gain or loss
– changes in appetite

Interpersonal:
– withdrawal from family and friends
– difficulty separating professional and personal life
– decreased interest in physical or emotional intimacy
– loss of trust
– loneliness
– allowing clients (pastors/parents/youth?) to abuse your professional boundaries
– ending of long-lasting relationships
– difficulty coping with minor interpersonal problems

Attitudinal:
– boredom
– guilt
– depression
– pessimism
– helplessness
– survivor guilt
– grandiosity
– sense of meaninglessness
– self-criticism

The world needs good youth workers.  Your role as a youth pastor has the opportunity to transform lives. But the world needs you to be healthy.  Your youth and your family need you to be healthy.  If too many items on the lists above sound familiar, it may be time to take a break, reevaluate and seek help.

Be blessed,
Erin

Questions:
For the veterans, have you gone through times of burnout? What got you through it?  What advice would you give to youth workers who might be experiencing burnout symptoms?

Is there anything you’d add to the list of burnout symptoms?

What do you do to stay healthy in youth ministry?

About Erin Jackson

Erin Jackson is National Director – Community & Care for the Center of Youth Ministry Excellence and the YouthWorker Movement. She is a veteran & certified youthworker as well, and loving her current role as a volunteer Senior High Bible Study teacher. She lives in Arlington, Texas with her husband Dennis, three kids and a dog. She can be found blogging at http://umyouthworker.com/
Follow @ErinJackso

Originally published for The YouthWorker Movement, 5/8/2012.

*(Source: Cooper, J. (2010). Essential crisis intervention skills. In L. Jackson-Cherry and B. Erford (Eds.), Crisis intervention and prevention (pp. 55-71). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, p. 70.)

Want to Understand the Teenage Brain?   Leave a comment

Gracing the cover of this month’s National Geographic magazine is “The New Science of the Teenage Brain,” a headline the result of years of research on teenage brain development.  It attempts to answer the age-old question about teenage risky behavior, “What on Earth was he doing?”
As a person who works with and loves teenagers, what do you need to know from this article that will help you in your ministry?  

Based on new research by the National Institute of Health, this article proposes some new takes on the teenage brain.  Instead of saying teenagers do what they do because their brain is simply immature, it proposes that the teenage brain is actually  wonderfully adaptive for making the transition between childhood and living on your own.  The idea is based on evolutionary theory (called the adaptive-adolescent story) and suggests that even risky teen behavior is a natural part of development.

What I found most interesting is a new explanation on teenage risk-taking:

Teens take more risks not because they don’t understand the dangers but because they weigh risk versus reward differently: In situations where risk can get them something they want, they value the reward more heavily than adults do.

While conventional wisdom might say that when a teen does something risky, they are not thinking of potential consequences, the study suggests that teens simply view risk/reward differently than mature adults.  In fact, studies showed that teens might even pay higher attention to potential risks.  However, teens tend to place a higher value on potential or even perceived rewards to behavior than adults.  In short, a mature adult may avoid a behavior (let’s say jumping off a cliff into the ocean) because of potential harm (let’s go with broken bones or death).  A teen will also be aware of the potential harm, but puts more value on perceived rewards like peer recognition…as in, how cool will I look when I survive.  Another idea is that youth thrill-seeking experiences can lead to positive traits – the love of adventure and new experiences helps teens to widen circles of friends and grow as a person.

The research, much like the adolescents themselves, is still in progress and well worth reading & sharing with your youth and adults.  A few thoughts from this youthworker on how we can apply this research: I think it can only help to cast the teenage brain in a positive light.  In youth ministry, we could feed into the natural tendency toward risk-taking and adventure by offering opportunities to try new things. We can also offer more ways to reward teens for their choices through recognition.

What do you think?  Are there ways we can use this research to work better in youth ministry?

 

Not Enough Volunteers – 5 Pitfalls of Volunteer Recruiting and Care   Leave a comment

Want to spot a healthy youth ministry in 10 seconds or less?  Show up at a meeting and count the number of parent or adult volunteers.  If there is less than one adult for every 4-6 youth, youth could be falling through the cracks.

Volunteers are crucial to a healthy youth ministry.  If you are essentially running a one person or staff-only led program, you might just be on the way to running yourself into the ground.  And if you’ve found yourself thinking you just don’t have enough volunteers to help, maybe it’s something you are doing wrong.  Here are some common “Not Enough” pitfalls when it comes to working with volunteers:

1.  Not enough volunteers.

Sure, you probably can teach a message to your youth by yourself.  You can run the whole show…and if we’re honest, it’s probably simpler to plan if you are the one leading everything.  But is that biblically sound and healthy?  Is it sustainable in the long run?  By putting all the responsibility on yourself, are you leaving others out of the opportunity to minister to others?  Consider this: when multitudes came before Jesus, he didn’t try to individually minister to all of them, he trained disciples to do that.  He was closer to some people than others, and as much as you love your youth, you will be closer to some more than others, too.  Instead of leading everything yourself, enlist the help of volunteers to lead different parts of your youth ministry according to their gifts.

If an average adult can reach 4-6 youth, you should have a 1:5 ratio of adults to youth to make sure you’ve got enough volunteers to cover the group.   While that covers the ideal number of adults, you also need a variety of volunteers.  I know that as a female in ministry, I can only teach young men so much about what it means to be a man of God – so you also need a healthy mix of male and female adult volunteers.  (For more cool facts, you can check out this article on youth ministry numbers.)

You may already have a handful of faithful volunteers who you know will say yes whenever you need help.  That’s awesome – It’s great to have consistent volunteers, but you can enrich your ministry just by adding new voices to the mix.  You never know with whom teens will relate, so a mix of old and young and a variety of personalities is a good thing, too.

2. Not enough GOOD recruiting.

So you want to get enough volunteers, but no one is raising their hands.  It could be a problem with recruiting technique.  Maybe you are frustrated because you sent an email asking for volunteers or you made an announcement in church, yet nobody signed up?  Mass calls for volunteers like this, just like any kind of mass marketing, often leads to low response rate or worse, the wrong people volunteer.

To recruit well, spend time in prayer first.  Ask God to bring to light the ministry gifts you need to find and the right person.  Ask trusted church members and parents for suggestions.  Ask the youth to pray about it.  When you’ve come up with a potential list of volunteers, ask each person personally (or have the youth ask) to pray about volunteering.

And the key to great recruiting: The more you ask specific people to do specific tasks, tasks that align with their interests and gifts, the better results you will have.  It takes a special personality to volunteer with youth all the time, but I bet there are adults in your congregation who’d be happy to volunteer for special projects.

3. Not enough caring for volunteers.

Once you’ve got an awesome team of youth ministry volunteers recruited, what’s next?  Care about them.  Even the most faithful of volunteers needs to know that you care about them if you want them to care about your program.  Want a volunteer team that goes the extra mile?  Care about them.  Know what is going on in their lives, pray with them, keep updated.  Volunteers are going to really care and support what you do once they know how much you care about them.

In fact, if you want to multiply your youth ministry, realize that you are probably in volunteer ministry first.  You can only really reach a handful or so youth yourself, but if you can really invest in volunteers and get them to minister to youth, more youth will be positively impacted.

Keep a log of your contacts with volunteers – How often are you face-to-face with your volunteers, are you checking on them? Praying for them?  Have you had your student leaders say thank you to your volunteers?  A best demonstrated practice: a youth minister meets with his team at the local coffee shop right after youth group – they debrief the evening, plan for the next week & share concerns and prayers for each other.  Bonus: they minister to the employees at the coffee shop while they are there.

4. Not enough training.

Whether you lead the class, it’s a continuing ed class across town or the National Youth Workers Convention, volunteers love to be trained.  (Bonus, the time spent traveling to training is a great time to catch up on what’s going on in the lives of your volunteers.)  If you are the one leading the training for your volunteers, this is a great chance to share your vision for the youth ministry with your team.

A best demonstrated training practice is weekly training as part of a weekly planning meeting.  For example, it could be that one hour before the youth group time, all volunteers get together to go over the meeting plans, as well as learn something about better youth ministry together.

5. Not enough pruning.

It’s painful, but from time to time, you may have to ask a volunteer to step down.  Sometimes, we have volunteers that need to be asked to take a break from youth ministry because of personal issues or personality conflicts.  There are a multitude of reasons – maybe they don’t have the gifts for the role, or youth ministry has become their outlet for airing personal problems.  Whatever the problem, if you have a volunteer that does not support you and your leadership, they can be like poison for your ministry.  Do not keep unhealthy volunteers around just because no one else is lined up to volunteer.

When you decide it is time for a volunteer to step down or  switch roles, do pray about the conversation.  Bring in a pastor and keep things as loving and kind as possible.

Recruiting and taking care of volunteers may be the most important part of your ministry.  When I reflect on my own youth group as a teen, it was a volunteer 40-something year old hairdresser who touched my life and encouraged me to be in ministry (not the youth director.)  You never know who God will use in ministry.

 

What volunteer ministry successes/struggles have you had?  Would love to hear your comments and ideas.

 

Follow @ErinJackso

7 Quick and Easy Icebreakers for your Back Pocket   3 comments

We’ve all been there.  You look around the youth room and realize not everybody knows everybody, or you’re trying to start a discussion and the awkwardness is in the air.  Here are 7 quick and easy icebreakers to get your crowd at ease.  You might just want to print these out and put them in your back pocket, just in case.

 

Body Parts – Every student gets a partner.  One of the pair goes to the middle to form an inner circle, the other of the pair makes a larger circle around the inner circle.  Outer circle begins to walk clockwise, inner circle walks counter-clockwise.  Then the leader calls out two body parts like nose to elbow.  The inner circle partner finds the outer circle partner & they have to match up the body parts.  Last duo to match up their parts is eliminated.  Circle back up and keep going.

 

I Never – everyone sits in a circle of chairs except one person in the middle.  Person in the middle states their name and something they have never done.  Anyone who has done whatever was said, gets up in switches chairs.  Example “I’m Erin and I’ve never been to a Disney theme park.”  Everyone who has been to a Disney park gets up and switches spots, person in the middle tries to get a seat.  Last person in the middle is “it” for the next round.

 

Name Backwards IntroductionDo a simple introduction and then ask the youth to say their name backwards, which always makes for a good nickname through a retreat.  Funny part is that there is usually someone who’s name is the same backwards. ie. Anna

 

Three Questions – Each person in the group answers three questions.  The questions are 1. What is your name? 2. What grade are you in & where do you go to school? And question #3 is wide open for creativity – if you could be any zoo animal (or car or color or food, etc.), what would you be and why? 

 

Two Truths and a Lie – each participant writes down three statements in any order about themselves on a card, two are true and one is a lie.  The trick is to make the lie believable.  Gather all the cards, someone shuffles them.   Read the cards aloud one at a time – group tries to guess who wrote the card & then which statement was false.  Optional: you can keep score on who has the most correct guesses.

 

What if….? – Everyone gets two pieces of paper.  On the first piece everyone writes a random question starting wi th “What if…”  For example: “What if dogs could talk?” or “What if you could turn anything into chocolate?”  On the second piece of paper, st udents write an answer to the questions, such as “We would have to hear about squirrels a lot more.” Or “Brussel sprouts would taste better than ever.”  After ever yone is done writing, put questions in one pile and answers in another.  Shuffle th e papers and then randomly pick one question and one answer.  Read aloud and laugh. 

 

Would You Rather – Gather your group together and the leader calls out a “Would your rather…” statement.  Participants can answer by moving from one side of the room or the other, sitting or standing,  writing their answers, sharing their answers – whatever works best for your group.  Examples of “Would your rather questions” are:  Would your rather…go to the beach or the mountains?  Be able to stop time or to fly?  Be the most popular person or the smartest person?  Go without your phone for a month or not see your best friend for a month?

 

Erin Jackson is a veteran & certified youthworker as well as part of the Youthworker Movement team. If you are in youth ministry, you should really learn more about the Youthworker Movement at http://www.ywmovement.org.  Erin lives in Arlington, Texas, with her husband Dennis and three kids. She can be found blogging at http://umyouthworker.com/ 

(Special thanks to youthworkers Sue Douglas Daniels, Erin Sloan Jackson, Kyle Hunter Madison, Gavin Richardson and Daniel J. Segale for their contributions to this article on www.facebook.com/youthworkermovement…if you have other icebreaker gems to share, please let us know.)

 

Frayer for Youth Ministry   Leave a comment

My oldest son just completed the 4th grade.  In his science class, they were required to complete “frayers” in their science journal.  It had been a while since I was in 4th grade, so I admit I didn’t know exactly what a frayer was when it was first assigned.  Basically, you divide your paper into four quadrants and label them – Definition, Properties, Examples, Non-examples.  So, in the case of “rocks,” for example, you have the definition in one quadrant, you can list its properties like “non-living” and “natural” in the second quadrant.  Examples could be sandstone or marble, non-examples could be minerals like quartz or diamond.  You get the idea.

As I’ve entered this phase of discernment – recently laid off from a youth ministry position, now trying to discern where God is leading me next – the idea of a frayer for my own personal role in youth ministry makes sense. 

So, if I labeled my own frayer “My Personal Ministry Passions,” here’s what you might see in the quadrants:

Definition – the areas of ministry where my personal passion and heart’s desire/sense of God’s call on my life most closely align with the work at hand

Properties –
  • these areas of ministry bring me joy
  • I’m excited about them
  • I get pumped when I see it happening
  • brings sense of fulfillment
  • I sense God getting glory through faithfully doing work I was called to do
  • Best uses my strengths/gifts/skills

Examples (things that bring me the most joy) 
  • loving on students and getting them to understand God’s grace and plan for them
  • teaching students to be leaders in ministry
  • mentoring students to find their own spiritual gifts and to discern God’s call on their lives
  • teaching students to be compassionate
  • inspiring others to do something about injustice
  • having a heart for youthworkers who are in desperate need for self-care, mentors and pastoral care to keep from burning out in an often misunderstood profession
  • helping others through mission work (Mission trip, 30 Hour Famine)
  • teaching junior high Bible study
  • inspiring youth to read their own Bible
  • creating spiritual retreats and other moments to bring students closer to Christ
  • trying new adventures
Non-examples (things that do NOT bring me the most joy)
  • Sitting in staff meetings
  • Church politics
  • Paperwork
  • Missing out on personal Sabbath, Bible study, worship, pastoral care
  • Sitting at my computer/desk
  • Counting heads instead of monitoring spiritual growth
  • Leading a group in song (those who’ve heard me sing will attest)
  • Too much time away from family
  • Most technical support things like running the sound board

 

This frayer concept might be helpful in bringing clarity to other decision making processes – I could see this helping youth to figure out what God might be calling them to do with their lives.  After all, adolescence is a time of figuring out who we are and how we fit in God’s Kingdom – what about a frayer to define who you are/who you desire to be?  

 

Each of us have been given unique gifts from God to be used in this lifetime – why settle for something that’s just okay when something truly awesome could be an option?

 

Please leave a comment if you have any thoughts to share/other ideas where this could be used.

 

Love in Christ,

Erin