“Linked Generations” Podcast

linked_togetherLast week I was able to see Mel Walker and hear him do a seminar on inter-generational ministry. Teens are leaving the church after high school and the model of most church ministries isn’t helping that trend. We tend to isolate generations of the church and never bring them together. Mel Walker is a big component of inter-gernational ministry and connecting all generations within the church. Let me say that I do not believe Mel is a part of the fade to “do away with student ministry” like the film Divided suggest. But I believe Mel’s approach is a balanced view of how student ministry can be connected to the large local body of Christ.

I was able to hear from Mel at a Motus Gathering. Motus is a movement of youth pastors and youth workers from all over the greater Cleveland, OH area. We gathering once every few months and learn from each other as well as grow in community as we strive to reach teens in our area for Christ.

In addition to Mel speaking at our Motus event, he recorded a leadership podcast with Rick Eimers, youth pastor at Cuyahoga Valley Church. The podcast covers the topic of linked generations. Mel talks about how we can keep from isolating generations by linking them toegther. I believe this is an important topic that all of us in church ministry, especially student pastors, must wrestle with. Click the link below to listen to this podcast.

Listen to “Linked Generations” with Mel Walker

Preparing for a Student Ministry Conference

SWAMP-blog-movie-seatsI enjoy attending conferences for student pastors and youth workers. They are always a great place to meet new friends, be challenged spiritually, be refreshed, and get a ton of free stuff! One of my favorite conferences student ministry conferences is the Simply Youth Ministry Conference. Sadly I will not be attending this year. After four years of attending I’m taking a break because let’s face it, conferences take money to get to and be a part of. I hope next year I will be back and hit up other conferences in the near future.

Getting the most out of a conference begins before you even get there. You must prepare well. Since many of my student ministry friends are probably headed to SYMC this coming weekend, here are a few tips I want to share with you. These are a few things I have picked up on by going to SYMC for four years now. Here are a few thoughts on how to prepare for a student ministry conference.

Prepare yourself spiritually. Even though free resources, new friends, and workshops are important, you need to be ready to hear from your Savior and be ready to be challenged personally in your walk with Him. Take some time to pray and ask God to give you opens ears and an open heart to whatever He wants to do with you at the conference.

Bring your best note-writing device. Your going to hear a ton of information at the conference so have something with you to take good notes with. Whatever is your go to gadget for note taking bring it along. Make sure you take whatever device works best for you. If you still take the best notes with a note pad and pen then bring it! It may be an iPad for others. Whatever is it, bring it and be ready to take good notes. Whatever doesn’t get written down will probably be lost after the conference.

Have the right gear. Bring the right gear. Your going to probably doing a lot of walking and receiving some great resources so wear comfortable shoes and have a decent sized bag to pack full of youth ministry goodies. I usually do a book bag that I have throughout the day and then keep some extra suit case space for received resources. Also, make sure to bring things like chargers for your iPad or laptop and simple stuff like that.

Be ready to communicate to your pastor and volunteers what you have learned. This may not be strictly a “pre-conference” thing, but it needs to happen both before and during the conference. Before you get to the conference remember there is probably a pastor and volunteers that are ready to hear what you will learn at the conference. If anything, take good notes so you can pass the knowledge and ideas along to them.

These are just a few thoughts on preparing well for a conference. Conferences are awesome, but to get the most out of them you need to prepare well. Go, have a blast, and come back ready to point your students to Jesus!

This post was originally a guest post I wrote for Josh Griffin over at More Than Dodgeball. Check out that site for more helpful content and resources for your student ministry.

Guest Post: Does Theology Really Matter in Youth Ministry?

theology-matters“Is theology really that important for youth ministry?” I would say that such a question is comparable to asking an auto mechanic, “Is gasoline really that important for my car?” Sure, a youth ministry can appear to be thriving with fun games, professionally performed music, and a growing number of students in attendance, but if it’s based on anything apart from sound doctrine, is it really a thriving “ministry”? I would say that sound doctrine is the lifeblood for every youth ministry. Here’s why:

The Bible portrays doctrine as a serious matter. The Apostle Paul says in Galatians 1:8, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” To men in the Bible, preaching another gospel was essentially the most harmful thing anyone could do – the word “accursed” means “eternally condemned” (Bible Knowledge Commentary). A youth minister doesn’t get a free pass on this warning just because students are younger than adults; Paul’s warning covers all generations. Why are words so strong? Think about it, if the gospel is absent in our youth ministries, then we have nothing of eternal value to offer – “chubby bunny” lasts 5 minutes tops. In all seriousness though, Scripture identifies the gospel – the message of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection – as being “of first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3). And if we ignore the gospel (which, if you caught the connection, is foundational to “sound doctrine”), then we are running our youth ministries on something other than Christ and His Word. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want that to happen in any youth ministry.

The way you run your youth ministry is a reflection of your doctrine. Why do you teach from the Bible? Why do you minister to your surrounding communities? Why do you sing songs to God? Why do you work within the context of a local church? The way you answer these questions and every question related to “why you do what you do” will reveal your doctrinal convictions. Think about these implications for just a moment. If your view of the Bible (bibliology) is weak, then you won’t care to spend much time teaching it corporately, nor will you counsel youth according to biblical applications. If your view of sin (hamartiology) is shallow, then you distort the message of the gospel and forsake its value. There is no reason for Christ to die for people that are spiritually “okay,” who simply need a solid moral example – that’s called heresy (Christology & soteriology). If your view of the church (ecclesiology) is unbiblical, then you could care less in being committed to your brothers- and sisters-in-Christ. Plus, there will be a mentality of “anything goes” when it comes to ministry philosophies and programs – that’s dangerous. I could go on and on with countless examples, but it just goes to show that your theology will direct your ministry.

Sound doctrine affects our personal lives. You are allowed to raise your hands on this question: “How many of you have ‘asked Jesus into your heart’ at least ten times in your life?” I remember growing up with such a terrible fear of not genuinely meaning my prayer of repentance and conversion. Yes, this is a pattern found in most teenagers today as well. If you’ve read your Bible enough, you will know that “asking Jesus into your heart” is not what saves you, it’s Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on the cross for your sin, and Him being “raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25). All that a person needs to do is repent and believe in this good news. Man, I wish my theology wasn’t so messed up growing up; that would’ve saved me so much trouble. But sound theology affects more than your conversion to Christianity – it affects proper worship, evangelism, love for others, moral choices, work ethic, dating guidelines, responding to tragedies, fighting sin, etc. Every question that a teenager might have is related to theology in some way.

I am convinced that sound doctrine is the lifeblood to a healthy youth ministry. Are you?

This guest post was written by John Wiley. John is the Youth Pastor at Gospel Baptist Church in Archdale, North Carolina. He just finished his BA in Christian Ministries from Piedmont International University, and is beginning his MA in Biblical Studies from PIU this January. He is happily married to his beautiful wife Cindy, and enjoys drinking strong coffee with her on sunny Saturday afternoons while either reading or watching movies in Winston-Salem, NC.  

Youth Pastor Burnout

I want to share with you a infograph my friend Aaron Helman put together about burnout among youth pastors. Burnout is a real problem among youth pastors and it’s something we must intentionally fight before it happens. Many times we wait until after we are burnout to do something about it, but the best time to fight burnout is before it happens. Check out the infograph below and let the facts open your eyes to the real world of youth pastor burnout. You will probably find a few things below that identify yourself. After you look at the facts below, I’d encourage you to read this post I wrote awhile ago about how pastors can avoid burnout.

YP Burnout Infograph

How to Measure Success in Student Ministry

Student pastors want to be successful. We want to be successful as leaders and we want our student ministries to be successful as well. If that is the case, how do we measure that success? For many in the student ministry world, success is measured by attendance. How big your student ministry is determines if you are successful or not. Or maybe it is number of salvations. The numbers of students getting saved determines if you are successful or not. I could go on and on with many different factors that many of us use to determine our success in student ministry. These things are not bad and are certainly things that give you a look at how you’re doing, but they are not always the best ways to determine your success in my opinion. I think there are three ways to measure success in student ministry that often get overlooked.

1. Faithfulness. I believe if there is a single word that could measure your success it is faithfulness. Have you been faithful to the task God has placed before you. You may never see your student ministry grow numerically, you may only see a few students, and may never have students commit to full-time ministry. That’s ok! The results are God’s responsibility, not yours. God doesn’t require you to produce certain results, He requires you to be faithful. Do you want to be truly successful in student ministry? Be faithful!

2. How many of your students are living for Jesus outside of your youth group walls. I have seen many student ministries that seem “successful” when you’re at their large student gatherings or when they are on a ministry trip because they have large numbers and all the students seem to be loving Jesus. But when you see those same students outside of that student ministry, whether it’s in person or on a social media site, they are completely different from when they are with that student ministry. I believe this is a problem. Your not called to pour into students so they can be “Christians” at youth group, but that they live for Jesus daily in the context of a sinful world. Build your student ministry in such a way your equipping your students to live for Jesus outside of your student ministry.

3. How many of your students walk with Jesus after graduation. You probably have seen the statistics. Up to %80 of students walk away from church and Jesus after they graduate high school. Student ministries are doing great at getting students and keeping them while they are in school, but we lose them right after graduation. This is a huge epidemic in student ministry that we need to see changed. Thankfully some churches and student pastors are seeing it and getting serious about producing students who walk with Jesus both in school and after they graduate. I believe one of the best ways to measure success in student ministry is how many of your students walk with Jesus after they graduate high school.

These are just a few ways I measure success in my student ministry and I believe can be a great measuring tool for you. What about you? How do you measure your success as a student pastor? As Christ followers we must be careful not to think “it’s all about us” or that we must succeed at this thing we call student ministry, but I do believe we should strive for excellence. And I believe we should strive to be successful in a God honoring way. Ecclesiastes 9: 10 says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…”