I recently read Shawn Harrison’s book Ministering to Gay Teenagers. I have been writing and thinking a lot about the subject of homosexuality and teenagers recently because I’m seeing this issue pop up in my ministry and other student ministries more and more. I believe this is a subject student pastors, youth workers, and parents need to learn more about and be ready to minister to teenagers around them that may come out as being gay. Shawn’s book is a great tool for anyone who my find themselves ministering to a teenager that may be gay.
Shawn admits that “this short book isn’t about providing a theological position on homosexuality…Ministering to Gay Teenagers is designed to equip youth workers in ministering to gay teenagers, their families, and the gay community at large” (page 3-4). Many books, articles, and blog posts have been written about the theological position of homosexuality, but not enough has been written about how the church, particularly youth workers, should reach out and minister to homosexuals. As Shawn says in his book, “The church is long overdue in stepping out of its comfort zone and embracing a group of people who need to experience the love of Jesus like never before” (page 3).
Instead of giving a summary of the book, I want to point out a few things I really liked about this book in hopes that if your a student pastor, youth workers, or parent you will be motivated to grab a copy of this book for yourself.
Honesty. The first thing that stood out to me as I started reading this book was Shawn’s honesty and openness. He writes with the perspective of someone who struggled with same-sex attraction as a teenager and shares a lot of his story. I appreciate his openness and honesty in sharing the details about his struggle. Because of Shawn’s personal experience with same-sex attraction, he brings things to light about this subject that most don’t.
Gospel centered not behavioral change. Many people just go after behavior when ministering to gay teenagers. They think that all they need to do is get the teen to stop liking the same sex and being a homosexual. However, the goal shouldn’t be change of behavior. The goal should be go after the teens hearts and introducing them to the love of Jesus that eventually does change behavior. Shawn says, “Remember, God is after heart modification, not just behavior modification, and that ought to be your focus too” (page 26). This book doesn’t go after just changing the behavior of gay teens, it goes after change their hearts with the Gospel, which in the end is what every teenager needs, gay or straight.
Balance between youth workers and parents. Another thing I liked about this book was it’s balance between equipping student pastor and youth workers, as well as parents. Parents are the first ones responsible for their teenagers spiritual growth. It’s not the responsibility of the youth worker, it’s the parents. Youth workers come alongside to support and partner with the parents. I believe this is the conviction Shawn holds as well so he writes much to parents in this book. He includes too chapters that are written straight to parents: helping parents love their gay child and parents FAQ’s.
I would highly recommend this book to student pastors, youth workers, and parents. Dealing with gay teenagers is something we will continue to have to do more and more. Ministering to Gay Teenagers is a book that will help both youth workers and parents minister to gay teenagers effectively. Also, check out Shawn’s blog for more resources and articles about homosexuality and teenagers.
Last Sunday at Christ Community Chapel (Stow Campus) we celebrated baptism. I always enjoy baptism Sunday and hearing the stories of people who have started been transformed by the Gospel. One of the most exciting parts about baptism Sunday this past week was watching one of my students, Jacob Butcher, get baptized! Jacob is going into his senior year and I am so pumped to see how the Lord is working in his life.
Before we baptized each person, we showed a video of them telling their stories. Jacob has an incredible story of how God drew Him close and changed his life. I want to share that video here on my blog so others can see hear Jacob’s story.
In my last post I shared some things I look for in a good youth ministry curriculum. As I mentioned in that post, there is so much youth ministry curriculum that at times it can be overwhelming for the youth pastor or youth worker who is trying to find the right curriculum for their ministry. I want to make it somewhat easier by pointing you towards a few places that provide what I believe is some of the best youth ministry curriculum on the market right now.
Simply Youth Ministry. Simply Youth is by far the most popular place to get youth ministry curriculum. The thing I love about there curriculum is that they have something for everyone. Whether you’re look for small group curriculum, large group curriculum, Bible studies, devotionals, leadership training, they have it all!
Youth Ministry 360. YM 360 has been my favorite place to get youth ministry curriculum over the past few years. I love the stuff that they have created in the past and excited about the stuff they are currently producing. They always create curriculum that is centered on Scripture and practical application. They also create great graphics, videos, and parent resources that go along with many of their studies. Definitely check out their website and see what resources they have that you can use in your ministry.
Word of Life Local Church Ministries. Word of Life has been around for decades and have been creating church resources for all ages. Over the past few years they have really been raising the bar and creating some incredible curriculum for students. They offer a year long curriculum package that you can use in your ministry year around and also shorter curriculum that you can use for a few weeks within your year. Click here to check out what they have to offer on their online store.
There are the three places I tend to go first when I’m looking for good pre-made curriculum. There are countless other websites and places you van get curriculum, but check out what these three sites have to offer. Where do you go when looking for curriculum for your student ministry?
Even though our student ministry writes and prepares the majority of our curriculum in house, I’m still a big fan of using pre-made curriculum from time to time. There are some great ministries out there creating great youth ministry curriculum that sometimes works better than if I sit down myself and make my own. However, when a youth pastor starts to research youth ministry curriculum they will easily be overwhelmed with how much there actually is out there. With so many different choices and avenues a youth pastor can go with youth ministry curriculum, how do they know which curriculum is the best? How do they go about finding the right curriculum for them. Let me suggest a few things to look for when your trying to find a good youth ministry curriculum for your ministry.
1. Scripture Content. Obviously the first think you need to look for is Scriptural content. Whether its an expository curriculum that goes through a book of the Bible or a topical curriculum that covers a topical idea, it needs to be based on Scripture. Not only based on Scripture, but Scripture should be the main point and majority of each lesson. I’m not against illustrations and application, but Scripture comes first and is the most important. Don’t settle for a curriculum that doesn’t have a large amount of Scripture. Youth pastors must teach students the Bible and good curriculum will make that possible.
2. Practical Application. Even though a curriculum should be Scriptural, it should also have practical application. A good youth ministry curriculum will balance both Scripture and application. One without the other is not effective. Look for curriculum that has application that flows out of Scripture. Once Scripture is explained and taught, application should follow to help students apply what they have learned from God’s Word.
3. Graphics. Not only will a good youth ministry curriculum have Scriptural content and application, it will also have graphic resources. Not all curriculum will have graphics with them, but the majority of good ones will have them included with the curriculum. Finding curriculum that has good graphics will save you time because you will not have to make them yourself. Most good curriculum now come with backgrounds, posters, countdowns, videos, and much more.
4. Ability to Edit. Even when you find a good curriculum make sure it has the ability to changed and edited based on your ministry. Good curriculum will always come in a format that makes it possible for the youth pastor to edit and use how he sees fit for his ministry and students. Many times you will need to add Scripture, change illustrations, or change the format of the lesson. Having a curriculum that makes this possible is a good thing to look for.
These are the things I look for in good youth ministry curriculum. What are some things you look for when your searching for a youth ministry curriculum?
Student ministry tends to look different in the summer than it does during the school year. It varies from ministry to ministry, but most student ministries change things up for the summer. Our ministry, both for middle and high school students, looks totally different during the summer than it does during the school year. Our weekly mid-week gatherings stop, our small groups stop meeting, and we only do a few large group events. However, we still do effective ministry. We still build relationships and introduce students to Jesus. During the summer we don’t stop our ministry, we just do it differently. Here are a few things we do during the summer to change things up.
Mission trips are the big thing. The main thing we do during summer is mission trips. My campus, Stow, is only doing one this year. Next year we are planning on doing two, one for high school and one for middle school. Other campuses, such as our Hudson campus, is doing around eight mission trips. Mission trips are a great way to get students out of their normal surrounding and into a new context for a short time to serve others and share with them the Gospel. Do whatever you can to plan some type of mission trip, whether that’s overs seas or in your own community, during the summer.
Building relationships become the focus. The reason I love doing student ministry in the summer is because it makes building relationships with your students super easy. Let’s face it, students are bored during the summer. They just want to get out of the house, hangout with friends, and have a good time. Capitalize on that by meeting up with them a few days each week for lunch, doing a cookout, going to the park, or planning an activity where they can all get together and just hangout. Don’t worry about making it fancy and “programmed,” just hangout with them and build stronger relationships. Also, doing this during the summer is a great way to save money for your ministry. Building relationships with your students is also a great way to save money for your ministry during the summer!
Preparing for the new school year. Another thing we do during the summer months is plan and prepare for the upcoming school year. For example, we are having worship band auditions next month and then starting band practice in August. Not having weekly meetings and a ton of events allows our worship band to practice and get ready for the next school year. Also, the summer gives me time to read and study for upcoming teaching series during the next school year. We have our teaching planned out enough that by the summer I know what topics and books of the Bible (or certain passages) to study and read up on.
Volunteers get the summer off. Another thing we do different during the summer is we don’t rely to heavily on adult volunteers. They have already given us the school year and they deserve a break. I intentionally try and say “thank you” to our volunteers at the end of the school year then tell them they have the summer off. If they want to help and be a part of some of the stuff we do during the summer they can, but they are not expected to. Make sure to go out of your way to let your volunteers know they have been appreciated, but you also expect them to take a step back and enjoy their summer with their friends and family. Then when the next school year starts they will be more likely to come back to volunteer again and be recharged to start serving.
These are just a few ways our student ministry changes during the summer. How does your ministry look different during the summer than it does during the school year?