Top 10 ways to get the most out of #OC16

Top 10 ways to get the most out of #OC16

Can you believe it? ORANGE 2016 is finally here!! That most amazing gift a church can ever give to their youth worker, a youth ministry conference!! Your bags are packed, your room is booked, and it is time to go and get some freebies. For one weekend we get to take off our mantle of responsibility and leadership, and become participants, students, and receivers. Whether it is Youth SpecialtiesOrange, Simply Youth Ministry, or I Still Do, a youth ministry conference is the one time a year that us youth workers get to actually go to camp, and not just put it on. 

And like camp, there are some things that we need to do to prepare ourselves so that we can have an amazing time and get the most out of our time away. Every year before we take students to camp or on mission trips we give them a little pep talk, so here is yours :) These are the top 10 ways to get the most out of your conference experience.

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Getting Pumped for #OC16

Getting Pumped for #OC16

Monday morning is here and it is time to start wrapping up my loose ends here at Marin Covenant Church and get my last few touches with my family.  I only have today and part of tomorrow here in Northern California to get done all that must get done in my normal life.  I must do this well, because at the exact same time, I am also starting to aim my thoughts and heart towards Atlanta.  

I have to admit, it is a strange thing to be dreaming of Atlanta, but for me, this next week in Atlanta is my version of Winter Camp!

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The beautiful butterflies we serve as youth workers

The beautiful butterflies we serve as youth workers

Our students are beautiful flowers!

One of my most favorite things is getting the opportunity to spend time with our students in smaller settings that are more conversational.  Every time I leave my conversation with these young people, I am struck with how totally different their world view is from mine.  

As an older person, as an older Christian person, as an older Christian person who has some Calvinistic and GenX baggage, I see myself through a broken, sinful, and degenerate lens.  And it is only through the grace of Jesus that He has died for my sins, rose in power to redeem, heal and empower me, so that in Him, I may actually become a masterpiece made for good works.  

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Would a "Parent / Teacher" conference work in student ministry?

Would a "Parent / Teacher" conference work in student ministry?

I care so much about my children's development: As a parent I spend so much time worrying about my own kids and their development.  When my son plays soccer or little league, I am always judging him and his ability compared to his peers.  If everyone is hitting without a T and my son can't, then we go home and spend the week practicing hitting.  I love my kid and I want him to succeed.

My son is in first grade right now and is learning how to read.  In the same as baseball, I am trying to get an understanding of how my son is developing academically.  Is he on grade level, is he falling behind.  If he is, then I want to work with him so that he will succeed.

In both these instances, I long for feedback, for help, for training.  When the coach says, "Dad, you might want to play catch a little more with your son." Then I do.  When the teacher ask, "How many minutes are you reading a night?" I get the hint that we need to step it up.  While in the sports world it is a little less formal, in the academic world there is an actual process for this kind of feedback, it is the parent / teacher conference.

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Are you emotionally ready for the spring drop off?

Are you emotionally ready for the spring drop off?

It is that time of year.  The most dreaded time of year, Spring!  While the weather is great, and baseball season is upon us, the lives of our students are beginning to disengage from the programmatic rhythms of youth group.  They call it senioritis, but I am still confused how a sophomore has senioritis.  The truth  is that our low stamina students are checking out of this school year.  With all of the ways that students were dialed in to their many activities early in the school year, now only one or two hold their interest.  In the case of my students that includes a spring sport and a love interest.

The truth is that there are actually ton of reasons that students begin to disengage during spring semester; some good, some dumb, but no matter why, the what is real and how we cope with it matters.  

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A spiritual formation plan for every student

A spiritual formation plan for every student

I think we are in agreement that the world of behavior management is the Church is coming to an end.  For too long the Church has sent out a rubric of behaviors that would be indicators for the rest of the Church and would qualify people for full inclusion and even leadership.  This rubric included our language, music, politics, modesty, abstaining from alcohol, sexuality, and sexual activity.  

But as our students are becoming more and more amoral (or maybe they have always been, but are now free to express that in public) a behavior rubric doesn't seem to be a good fit for the faith development of our students.  

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"I'm too busy" is a lame excuse for your students and for you.

"I'm too busy" is a lame excuse for your students and for you.

I am sure most of you can identify with putting together an amazing student ministry event and a significant number of students couldn't make it because they were too busy with other things. Maybe you are experiencing your numbers dwindling at youth group because of the busy epidemic. Sports, plays, school, dance, vacations, college applications, general stress. All of these contribute to the knee jerk response, or excuse for why students don't show up for things. It is so easy to get down on students for their crazy schedules and their skewed priorities. But the truth is we are just as much to blame for self-important and busy lifestyles as well. Many of us would say that community, accountability, and prayer are vital the spiritual health of students. But the same is true for us youth workers. And whenever we have opportunities for youth workers to connect with one another for community, friendship, encouragement, accountability and prayer, I am overwhelmed by the total lack of interest.

Just like our students we throw out the busy line whenever that monthly gathering rolls around. We are busy, our jobs are demanding, but the truth is we are not too busy. You know this is true because in your life you always make plenty of space for the things that are important to you. If you value something, you make it happen. It is the crux of human nature.

People Do What They Want To Do:

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Post Easter Devo: We are promised the presence of Christ

Post Easter Devo:  We are promised the presence of Christ

ENCOUNTER:  Read John 14:15-27

This last week we celebrated Easter!  It was such an incredible Sunday for us all to be together.  But, what I think made it incredible was that we allowed space for both the natural and the supernatural.  

Death, the unknown, grief, worry, anxiety, are all part of our normal and natural lives.  All of us experience these things, and when we do we find offense because somewhere deep in our bones we know that this isn't how things are supposed to be.  In the depth of our soul we know that we were made for LIFE!

What is so wild is that Jesus never promises wealth or comfort.  Rather, he promises his presence.  Sometimes I think I would rather have wealth and comfort, but all we have to is read the magazines at the Safeway checkout to know that those aren't the answer. 

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Developing a Solid Ministry Plan : Part 3 Having a Youth Group that Rocks!

Developing a Solid Ministry Plan : Part 3 Having a Youth Group that Rocks!

Your Youth Group Says It All:

For as solid as your ministry model and philosophy are, and for all the amazing events you have put on your calendar to wow kids and impress parents, what actually happens at youth group matters most.  What happens during the hour and a half of youth group says everything about you and your ministry plan.  It communicates to your staff, your parents, and your students what your ministry is all about.  The liturgy of the evening, the way it is led, who's up front or if there even is an up front, where people sit if they sit at all, what you sing, and what you teach, no matter how you teach it--all communicate your ministry plan.  If that's the case, then pause for a minute and think about what your youth group time says about your ministry model or philosophy.

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Good Friday : I Thirst

Good Friday : I Thirst
Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”

I often forget that Jesus was fully human.  He experienced life, the joys, the sorrow, the pleasures and pain that all humanity experiences.  And it is on the cross where Jesus reminds us again that his work on the cross was not just for the transactional need for atonement, but for the full relational redemption that can be

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Developing a Solid Ministry Plan: Part 2 Creating and Implementing Purposeful Events

Developing a Solid Ministry Plan: Part 2 Creating and Implementing Purposeful Events

Your Youth Group Says It All:

For as solid as your ministry model and philosophy are, and for all the amazing events you have put on your calendar to wow kids and impress parents, what actually happens at youth group matters most.  What happens during the hour and a half of youth group says everything about you and your ministry plan.  It communicates to your staff, your parents, and your students what your ministry is all about.  The liturgy of the evening, the way it is led, who's up front or if there even is an up front, where people sit if they sit at all, what you sing, and what you teach, no matter how you teach it--all communicate your ministry plan.  If that's the case, then pause for a minute and think about what your youth group time says about your ministry model or philosophy.

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Developing a Solid Ministry Plan : Part 1 You must have a Solid Ministry Model

Developing a Solid Ministry Plan :  Part 1 You must have a Solid Ministry Model

What Is Your Ministry Model? 

I remember meeting with one of my interns at the end of her first week on the job. After attending the fall kick-off to our youth ministry year, she commented that our youth ministry was obviously a big, fun / Young Life model of student ministry. I was intrigued by the quick classification of my ministry by someone who had just shown up on the scene.

One of the things a B.A. in Youth Ministry provides for future interns and youth workers is a solid philosophy. And not just a solid philosophy, but a solid model of ministry. The problem is that, while developing a philosophy and model in a classroom, there is little space to consider other vital factors when determining which models to employ. One thing that actually being a youth worker does is find the sweet spot where the philosophy and your unique context meet, allowing you to accomplish solid ministry.

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A simple approach to Bible Study

A simple approach to Bible Study

 ENCOUNTER: Read Matthew 24:3

What are you curious about?

There are so many things that capture my thoughts, so many rabbit trails that I find myself on.  I got a new running watch and couldn't figure out how to program it, so I googled it, which got me thinking about my new training schedule, which sent me to look for a race to run, which got me to a clothing site, to swim suites, to the ocean, to surfing, to wipeouts, to epic fails!  And like that 45 minutes were wasted and my original issue didn't even get resolved.  

Bible Study is the spiritual practice that helps keep our thoughts and curiosities within the rails. We all head off on in different directions and there are many shinny objects that catch our eye.  I think God might have actually made us this way.  In this passage in Matthew, the disciples who were with Jesus were not simply satisfied to be in the dark, the wanted to know more, they asked questions.   

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Youth Ministry Discipleship: The finish line has changed

Youth Ministry Discipleship:  The finish line has changed

For as long as I have done youth ministry and for everything I have read, it seems like all of us in student ministry are all aiming for an 18 year old finish line to our discipleship training.  We bust our humps for kids in their middle school and high school years with the hopes that we will launch fully formed disciples of Jesus into the big bad world where they will be ready to join ministries, attend churches, say no to all the temptations their culture throws at them, and then feel like failures when none of that happens.  

Maybe what we are aiming for is short sided and outdated?

Everyone agrees that adolescence is lengthening.  Except, nobody is living like this is true.

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Are you "The Real O'Neals?"

Are you "The Real O'Neals?"

There is a new show, The Real O'Neals, and I am not really sure what to make of it.  Our culture is transforming at such a fast rate, us Christians are quickly being left behind.  This new show from ABC seems to be another, in your face, Christians are idiots, lets cram secular culture down your throats, sort of show.  

And, on the surface, this show is just that.  In fact, it is on the verge of being really insightful, rich, and a true commentary on image, authenticity, and even the church.  But rather than being the sort of show that will actually have a voice in the cultural conversation, it goes for cheep gimmicks and caricature.

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Yoda: the true calling of youth ministry

Yoda: the true calling of youth ministry

Disclaimer: This post might be too far down the Star Wars Geek Road.  Sorry.  

This is my 20th year of vocational student ministry.  And for as much as I love student ministry, one of the highlights of my career has been to spend season of my ministry pouring into younger youth workers.  This has been incredible  and heartbreaking at the same time.  Over and over, I have noticed this strange rhythm take place, the rhythm of YODA 

I'm not talking about the Episode II Yoda where he kicks butt in an epic light saber fight.  That would be awesome.  I am talking about the broken down, heavy hearted, wise teacher who is not sure if he can open up his heart to dream again, only to have his hopes dashed again.  (How is that for inspiring)

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Who is your neighbor?

Who is your neighbor?

ENCOUNTER:  Read Leviticus 19:33-34

I love the golden rule, the second of the greatest commandments.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  But the way I read that, I assume that it means that people want to be left alone.  I usually don't want people invading my space, so I will return the favor.  

However, that is the weakest reading and understanding of that rule.  This commandment comes straight out of the Torah, and clarified in Leviticus 19.  The assumption is that there will be people different from you and me living in and around us.  Foreigners, who are "other" who don't speak the language, who don't know our customs, how are on the fringes of society, should not be mistreated.

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Middle Schoolers don't know that Middle School Sucks!

Middle Schoolers don't know that Middle School Sucks!

Last weekend I had the privilege to join our middle schoolers on our annual Winter Camp trip.  It was excellent on every level.  My epiphany has nothing to do with the speaker missing. (Even though he did, just a bit)  The combination but between the speaker and one of my volunteers following his instructions, I watched something unfold that has caused me to take a pretty large pause.  I realized that more often than not, we adults speak over kids and put our experiences and memories on them.

THERE IS NO NEED TO PILE ON!

On Saturday morning we were lead in a time of recognizing our sin, and invited to share about some of the deepest darkest parts of being a middle schooler.  It was a great talk, and I was moved to draw closer to Jesus.  Our students, not so much.  Along with me, one of my adults also was moved and wanted to help our kids be a part of the moment as well.  

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Who helps carry your burdens?

Who helps carry your burdens?

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

The Joys of TransparencyWe had the most amazing time at summer camp this year! For the first time ever we were able to be truly deep and authentic with one another. On Thursday night, "Cry Night", the speaker talked about bearing with one another, carrying each other's burdens. And after his moving talk, he sent us back to our cabins to share burdens with one another. Normally I just facilitate this sort of conversation, but I was really feeling the Holy Spirit move and decided to go first to set the tone.

I knew I was really connecting with the students because for the first time in a long time they were really listening to me. The more they leaned in, the more I shared, and the more I shared, the more I realized I had to share.

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A youth group for both, the rebellious and religious

A youth group for both, the rebellious and religious

How Did He Do It?  

I recently read through the story of the Prodigal son in Luke 15.  And this time what stuck out to me was not the son's rebellion, not the other son's hard heart, not even the father's lavish grace.  This time when I read through this story I was struck by what was not said, what was not described, but what must have been true in the relationship between the father and his boys.

Of course it is a lavish grace that the father extends, but what is amazing is that the manner in which the father lived in front of his sons made it possible for both of them to return to intimate relationship.  Somehow the father communicated his love and grace because the prodigal son knew in the depth of his being that his father would take him back.  I know that the scriptures place him in a humble position, willing to take a position as a slave, but still the son knew that he could go back, even after completely shaming his family and specifically, his father. So at the depth of despair, in his hour of need, he remembered that his childhood home was an option to get him out of this mess.

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