Posts by ronpowell:
Have you seen this?
The room is in darkness except for the laser lights. The youth pastor step into the single spot light on the stage. He begins with a short stand up comedy routine then tells an emotional story about a struggling teen. Students are snapchatting the event. The speaker looks down at his phone and reads a Bible verse and introduces his tag line which he will repeat 6 more times before his final appeal.
The band comes back as he concludes with prayer. The students will respond with 2 more worship songs then make their way out of the room for snacks and a hangout time to return for the worship experience next week.
This is one version of what to expect from the typical youth night in the future. I’d like to propose an alternate future that will produce greater life change in the lives of students and their families.…
Planning a retreat soon?
I’m here at the Youth Ministry Institute annual retreat and I realized that many of you have a retreat coming up this fall. Even if you have your plans made here are 20 hacks you could still use to enhance your time away……
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This opportunity comes only once a year and if you miss it, you’ll never get it back!
In fact if you miss it, for some students it could be your last chance. You may be thinking that this sounds like a one time offer thing but I’m not trying to sell you anything. I just don’t want you to miss the opportunity to connect these vulnerable students with your ministry. Here’s what you need to know and what you can do about it.
One Last chance.
The haemorrhaging faith study showed clearly that about 30% of students never make the transition from the children’s ministry from your church to the youth ministry. You’re probably really tired of hearing how high school graduates leave the church never to return but if you don’t help public school kids get into your jr high, middle school, or high school ministries this year, they won’t be signing up next year or any other year.
Receive the Hand Off
Some forward thinking ministries were on top of this last year when students ended their time in the children’s programs. They graduated to the summer programming that you were running. If you haven’t been working with these students all summer now is the time is get them in your programs and connect them with your leaders.
This is an ancient concept that you can repurpose. In the next few weeks, maybe part of your kick off night or actually on a Sunday, you can receive the parents and the students into your student ministry. It doesn’t have to be long but it can be very powerful.
By demonstrating to the church that these students belong in student ministries everyone recognizes that this is the next step in discipleship for the students and and their families.
It seems like every student ministry takes a different approach to their first night back in the fall. Some do their wildest event of the year so that every student and their 3 closest friends will be there and decide they’re coming back for another year.
Others start with a parent and student registration type night where parents join in with the program for a while, fill out forms, and do a meet and greet with the ministry leaders.
However you run your first night it really matters that you get those students out, they connect with your leaders and you are ready to follow up with them that week. It’s in this vulnerable time that they may choose they are never “coming to youth” or that they are going to give it a try.. This might sound crazy but at one church I went to each home to invite them personally to a day on a house boat before the big event! Out of 24 grade 6 students 22 joined our joined our Jr. High group when they hit grade 7!
Follow the Student
What if you did something radical and a children’s worker or volunteer came up to the youth program with their students. They could come out for a few weeks or they could stay permanently. Some ministries are actually doing this. They are getting great results!
Immediate Follow Up
If you get a big influx of new students you’re going to have to scramble to solidify that families connection with your student ministry. This is one of those all-hands-on-deck situations where all leaders need to be connecting with parents and students.
Do I Matter?
Do I belong? Does anybody like me? However they phrase it, these students don’t automatically feel like they belong. In fact, they are programmed to think the exact opposite. That’s why your students and leaders need to go out of their way to make them feel welcome, accepted, and appreciated!
The tricky thing is that it can’t feel forced. It has to be genuine.
Worth the Effort
I don’t know how some people get it in their heads that it is up to the student and their families whether they choose to join or not. One guy told me, “They know where we are. They can come when they’re ready.” When I consider the way football players will bend over backward to execute a play with no thought to injury or strain I’m inspired to do whatever we can to stretch ourselves to make sure that no student is missed!
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If your group isn’t already playing this they’re missing out.
Dozens of students line up for their turn. Leaders want to get in on the act. Some stick around just to play after the students are gone. Nine Square isn’t new but if your students aren’t playing it they are missing out. The game practically runs itself and if you can get the pieces, its pretty easy to put together. You can have it up and running in no time.
Here are the rules and instructions!…
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Distraction is a major problem but not at Universal Studios Harry Potter World.
In fact, Universal Studios uses these 3 powerful secrets to grab your attention and hold it. What are these secrets and how can we harness them to impact students’ lives!? Here’s what I discovered this week……
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I was a bad fit for student ministry.
I had never intended to go into it. I was more interested in world relief or overseas missions as I went through college. My mind and soul were fed on the work of missionaries like Hudson Taylor, C.T. Studd and Mother Theresa. I saw no purpose in entertaining students or having fun. Even worse, I was a happy introvert, who would much rather work on an essay than be at a party. The demands of Student Ministry seemed polar opposites of who I was as a person and what I felt called to do with my life.
Then everything changed….…
On June 13, 2017 the Wall Street Journal ran an article titled, The Teenage Spiritual Crisis. For those of us who have invested our lives in youth ministry, any new insight is always valuable. What do they see that I don’t? What is at the heart of this 2017 Spiritual Crisis and what can we do about it?…
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Gen Z is upon us
and if we confuse these students with Millennials we’re going to miss out on connecting with them and touching their hearts.
As James White tells us in Meet Generation Z, “If the heart of the Christian mission is to evangelize and transform culture through the centrality of the church, then understanding that culture is paramount.”
So sure, they’ve been brought up by the biggest generation of adults claiming no religious affiliation and they are the first group considered post-Christian but what is the most surprising thing about this cohort of students?
The #1 Thing
We know also that they have grown up in a snap chat world of weekly terrorist attacks, gay marriage and legalization of marijuana but what’s at the heart of Gen Z that needs to be understood and approached differently than previous generations? “They aren’t merely secularized. They’re not thinking about religion and rejecting it; they’re not thinking about it at all.”
That’s Right. The God Question isn’t Relevant. So what is?
…The human condition. All research points out that in the absence of the God question, the human question is close to their hearts. How should we live on this planet (and Mars when we get there)?
In one way they aren’t waiting for God to solve world problems so they are looking at what can be done. Sadly, they will realize that they can do only so much without God. Also, they won’t have a solution for their own human failings.
Introduce them to the Jesus they Never Knew
With only the vaguest concept of God, GenZ can approach Jesus fresh. They can see him as someone who did something about human suffering and religious oppression. They don’t see him through the lens of boring church rituals or their parent’s God.
We need to let them know that, “When you see Jesus you’re looking at God. When you want to know what God is like, look at what Jesus did and said!”
Community Before Commitment, Service before Salvation
They are less concerned if God loves them than if you or I love them. Starved for genuine acceptance they want to be part of a small group of close friends that loves uncritically. Unsure, they will be looking for constant affirmation. Only after standing that test will they be interested in the content of our faith.
A possible scenario is that we invite them to be part of a team building a house in Mexico before they have faith in Christ. We may have to change some of the screening criteria for our trips and other social justice initiatives. Groups that are constantly trying to prove that we can be Christians and still have fun won’t have much to offer Z.
A Reason for Hope
At the end of a retreat a student asked me, “All weekend you’ve been telling us that Jesus died for our sin… How did he die?” His brother yelled at him, “It was a cross, stupid.” Every week I hear another story like this from youth workers and my students at Vanguard College. More than ever community kids have no idea about what we believe.
Why does this give me hope? Maybe I’m too much of an optimist but I believe that when students have been loved by a group and they’re ready to hear about Jesus, the power of the Gospel won’t be warped by years of negative religious experience. I’m excited to see what Z will do with an encounter with the real Jesus instead of second hand knowledge of a religious one.
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