Youth Specialties Blog

Blogging from Los Angeles

By YS on June 23 2009 | 2 Comments

Print Thursday starts DCLA in Los Angeles. Most of our staff is already on site at the LA Convention Center while the rest of us will head up in the next 24 hours. We will be tweeting, YouTube-ing, Facebook-ing, Flickr-ing, and of course blogging from DCLA. If you or your ministry is going to be posting for LA this weekend let us know by leaving a comment.

By YS on June 23 2009 | 2 Comments


Fundraising That Doesn’t Feel Like Fundraising

By Shawn Michael Shoup on June 22 2009 | 3 Comments

I remember one of my professors at Bible college telling us that "fundraising is the necessary evil" that we would all eventually have to endure in student ministry. After all, it's no fun constantly asking the same people over and over again for money -- even if it is for a "good cause".  You start to feel like a used car salesman... and what's up with the people who walk the other way when they see you coming?!  (grin) Well, if you are one of the many youth workers that has to do fundraising to supplement your budget or raise money for student trips, this post is for you. Somehow my wife and I stumbled across some really great ideas for a couple of annual fundraising events that are actually fun and raise substantial amounts of coinage for our students. Yup, people actually look forward to attending these events! Here's one that we just finished up last week; probably nothing ground-breaking, but worth sharing, I think... We call it the ELEVATION TALENT SHOW -- Elevate is the name of our student ministry. elevation-talent-show-09
Lots of people enjoy variety shows, especially if you add some humorous elements to the program! We start the whole event process by auditioning fifteen to twenty acts for the show.  You generally wouldn't want more than that for a two hour program. Everything from comedy, to music, to sketch, to poetry, creative art -- you name it -- the more variety the better.  Make sure you have enough time in advance for people to prepare their acts before the auditions open up.  We usually start talking about auditions a couple months out. Piece the program together and tell everyone to come out for the big night and vote for their favorite acts with cash or check. It works great because it pulls in lots of family and friends that wouldn't normally step foot inside of a church, but they are willing to come and support their buddy, grandchild, cousin, etc. We make the show more interesting by selling concessions (popcorn, candy bars, soda) and splitting up the acts with "commercials" (funny videos or a humorous video-story / sketch theme that runs through the night).  We also dim the house lights and keep just the stage lights on to give the sanctuary more of a movie-house feel. As a bonus, this event gives a platform to a lot of very talented people in the church that we wouldn't have necessarily discovered otherwise. Such a fun night! If you are wondering about the voting process, we usually just set up a table with voting receptacles (can be cups, Chinese take-out boxes, piggy banks, etc.) that correspond with each act listed in the event's program. We have an intermission and a time at the end of the night where people can get up and have the chance to "vote" for their favorite acts. After everyone is done voting, we show a few more fun video clips or provide some other entertainment while the money is being tallied and then announce the top three winners of the evening (the ones with the highest amount of cash). The top three go home with prizes and the profits go into our student ministry budget.  Win-win-win! Here's some video highlights from this year's event...
I'll share our other annual fundraising event closer to it's corresponding holiday: Valentine's Day. Do any of you guys have great fundraiser events or ideas?  We'd love to hear from you!

By Shawn Michael Shoup on June 22 2009 | 3 Comments


Change is hard… for everyone

By Sara Eden Williams on June 22 2009 | 3 Comments

My group of high school girls has been together for a while.  We haven't had any 8th graders move up into the group in the past two years. This year we have 2 young ladies who will be joining us next month from the middle school group. In an effort to make them feel welcome, the girls and I sat down last night and wrote them letters telling them how much we are looking forward to having them in the group. I'm going to put them all together in an envelope (for each girl) and send them in the mail. I'm hoping it will ease their minds about transitioning into the group. But here's the interesting thing: As I listened to the girls compose their letters and talk to each other about what to write, the same theme kept coming up. Things like "I hope we don't freak you out" and "You'll think we're crazy at first" ... turns out the high school girls are insecure about the upcoming changes as well. For some reason I didn't see that coming. It's inspired me to write letters to THEM telling them how excited I am to watch them become role models and mentors for the younger girls and how blessed the younger ones are to have such impressive young women to look up to. I'm always on the look out for new ideas!  What are things that you do to ease the stress of transition for students?

By Sara Eden Williams on June 22 2009 | 3 Comments


Evangelism is a Value

By YS on June 19 2009 | 3 Comments

evangelism-remixed-launch Our new book just released today, June 19. It's the same day that Apple's upgrade to the iPhone is released.  There will certainly be lines outside the store for one of these releases.  But here's what I know about evangelism.  iPhone will NOT be able to develop "an app for that." How we see evangelism has everything to do with how we help students understand it and embrace it as part of their journey with Jesus.  Some have seen evangelism as a bundle of conversational skills.  This skill set can be taught, demonstrated, practiced and coached.  To the degree that this is true we should expect that those trained well in this "how to" approach will likely be effective in reaching their friends for Christ.  I don't think the evidence is there to support the notion that skill-improvement training is the answer for the masses of Christians to engage in evangelism. I think evangelism is a value, better caught than taught.  When students really care about sharing Jesus with others they find a way to do so.  Skill coaching helps those who are already motivated to do better at what they WANT to do.  It doesn't convince the unpersuaded that actually talking to people about Jesus is important. The tough news for youth workers is that values almost always get passed on naturally. There's not much hope that our students will become actively engaged in evangelism if their adult leaders aren't modeling its importance. You know, the new iPhones have video capabilities; a little footage of us in action could work to help show the way.  Maybe I spoke too soon about that app thing… evangelism_remixedAbout our guest blogger: Dave Rahn is the co-author of Evangelism Remixed. Dave Rahn is the vice president and chief ministry officer for Youth for Christ/USA and continues to direct the MA in youth ministry leadership (http://www.youthministryleadership.com) for Huntington University. A youth ministry researcher, author, and leadership strategist, Dave now guides a team whose focus is to coach, train, resource, and serve Youth for Christ men and women from all over the country who lead nearly 2,100 community-based relational outreach ministries among teenagers. He and his wife, Susie, are empty nesting and cheering on the youth ministry careers of both recently graduated children, Jason and Alison.

By YS on June 19 2009 | 3 Comments


6 Tips for Infusing Video Content Into Your Ministry

By YS on June 19 2009 | 1 Comments

video-in-ministry With the availability of TV’s, video projectors, computers and more, it's becoming easier and easier to use media in youth ministry - whether it's in a living room with three teens or in a gym with hundreds! Being a video nerd, I love infusing my talks, lessons and small group meetings with video content when appropriate! Here are my personal rules for video lessons and clips:
  1. Always, always, always preview the video! This protects you from showing something that could get you in hot water. Don't just assume that it's appropriate because it came from a church resource company - there have been a few of those that could have landed me in the hot seat with parents! Just the other day I was previewing one and found myself wondering how in the world they thought that could be appropriate for church!
  2. Is it strong enough to keep teens' attention? My attitude is, if I can watch it three times and still find it interesting then a room full of teens might stay engaged with it! It also gives me a ton of familiarity with the content to both prepare and lead the discussion afterwards!
  3. How long is it? I prefer video curriculum and illustrations to be under 15 minutes - in fact, my ideal length is about ten minutes. Kids seem to start getting fidgety if it's much longer, and the bulk of the learning is going to happen in the discussion time - so make sure you have time left for it! A long video can nuke any potential for follow up.
  4. Discussion is critical! If the video doesn't come with a discussion guide, than put one together ahead of time. Don't plan on winging it, or coming up with stuff while you're watching it with the kids – they’ll be able to tell you didn’t prepare and the discussion will suffer for it. If you’re going to spend time and money on a video resource, put the work in to make it worth it.
  5. Don't overuse! I don't think I've ever used video curriculum or series back to back - I wouldn't want to come to church and watch TV week after week, so I don't expect my teens to either. Consequently, if we do a five week video curriculum in our small groups, I typically plan on doing at least the next five weeks without videos.
  6. Have an Emergency Kit. I always like to have a few DVD's hiding in my office for that week that I am just bombarded with problems, emergencies, or whatever. I'm familiar with them, know the content and am ready to roll with them at the drop of a hat. Right now my emergency kit includes the two most recent Nooma, 36 Parables: Blue and the Skit Guys' You Teach volume 4.
In addition to the great video curriculum put out by Youth Specialties, there are also some great for finding video clip ideas; my favorites are the Videos that Teach book series by Doug Fields and Eddie James, The Blockbuster Movie Illustrations book series by Bryan Belknap, and websites like WorshipHousemedia.com, Bluefishtv.com, YouthMinistry.com, and Wingclips.com. About our guest blogger: Matthew McNutt is the Youth Pastor at Brandywine Valley Baptist Church and a former contestant on NBC's Biggest Loser where he lost 176 lbs. You can learn more about Matthew at his website.

By YS on June 19 2009 | 1 Comments


Technology and Youth Ministry

By YS on June 18 2009 | 3 Comments

text-message-concert I'm an unashamed tech junkie, which is proving to be a major asset in youth ministry. While pastors roll their eyes and insist that programs are most important... research is continues to show just how powerful the small screen is to our target demographic. Some top-line stats may surprise you about the average 12-24 year old (or not, if you are one):
  • They personally own 8 devices (including MP3 player, PC, TV, DVD player, mobile phone, stereo, games console, and digital camera)
  • They frequently conduct over 5 activities whilst watching TV
  • 25% of them agree that “I’d rather stay at home than go on a holiday with no internet or phone access”
  • A quarter of young people interviewed text or IM (instant message) friends they are physically with at the time
  • They have on average 123 friends on their social network spaces
  • And the first thing the majority of them do when they get home is turn on their PC
Yet despite living such a ‘connected’ life, kids these days still find technology a means to an end - primarily meeting up with their friends, watching television and listening to music. Above all, youth’s obsession with technology is around communication. The average person surveyed was doing 5 simultaneous actions whilst they watched television these days; and the majority of those actions involved communicating at some level. One young teenage girl admitted “I talk to my friend and MSN (instant message) her at the same time.” In fact, a full 34% of those asked said that they texted friends they were with at the time. These activities seem to be making up for not spending as much physical time with their friends as they’d like - which seems to be most of the time. On the weekends, when typical young adults have the most free time, they are still spending more time hanging out with their mates and watching television than any other activity - the difference is that this generation tends to be engaging with their connected devices a lot more whilst doing those cherished activities. source Thoughts?

By YS on June 18 2009 | 3 Comments


Beyond the Noise: Worship and Justice

By Jeremy Del Rio on June 16 2009 | 1 Comments

[Ed. note: As our youth ministries prepare for summer retreats, missions trips, camps, festivals, and other times of concentrated worship, consider ...] city kids upstate Those Old Testament prophets sure know how to jab us where we’re comfortable. Every time I read this passage, for example, I can’t help but wonder whether Jesus would sing a different tune if he physically showed up to a stylized evangelical worship experience—a tune that sounds more like what his Spirit inspired Amos to write than what echoes inside our churches on Sundays:
“I can’t stand your religious meetings. I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions. I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals. I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making. I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music. When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want? I want justice—oceans of it. I want fairness—rivers of it. That’s what I want. That’s all I want” (Amos 5:21-24, The Message)
That passage messes with lots of evangelical tradition, far more than there’s space in this column to explore. But what of the “noisy ego-music” Amos references - that of the “I’m blessed, be blessed” variety - that consumes much of our church time? Is it possible that we have become so focused on what we can get from God for ourselves that we have forgotten that the point of His blessing is to love Him well and others sacrificially? After a recent reading of Amos 5, worship pastor Louis Carlo of Abounding Grace Ministries, asked, “Is it possible for our worship leaders to move beyond figuring out what song will we sing and move instead to where we ask, ‘What song will we live’?” He continued, “We are God’s workmanship; His poema, a masterpiece; the song of the redeemed made flesh.” Pastor Louis’ reflection reminded me of a popular worship song:
“When the music fades and all is stripped away / and I simply come / longing just to bring something that’s of worth / … I’ll bring you more than a song. / For a song in itself is not what you have required / … Though I’m weak and poor, all I have is yours.”
The power of the worship song is to compel a lifestyle of worship as sacrifice. But when the music fades, will “Christian” music permit authentic worship? In one of the most courageous acts of song-led worship I’ve ever experienced, Pastor Lou forced me to confront this very question. Five years ago after a youth retreat talent show, late on a Saturday night at a farmhouse in upstate New York, Pastor Lou stopped singing the scheduled songs; silenced the instruments; and instructed a room full of 50 inner city teens to quietly listen for the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. Then he stood up from behind the keyboard, walked off the stage to the back of the room, and knelt face down to pray. A genuine hush filled the room. The kind you expect at a graduate school library, not a high school youth meeting. For five or ten minutes, perhaps longer, not a single teenager stirred. Then someone sniffled. Then another. Muffled cries began to echo. The floodgates opened, and one by one guys and girls alike began to sob. Heart wrenching wails filled the room. I was the youth pastor in charge but felt, frankly, way out of my league. Tearjerkers are far beyond my comfort zone. With few exceptions, no one’s ever accused me of emotionalism. But following Louis’ lead, I knew worship demanded courage and maybe even my discomfort. During a lull in the sobbing fifteen minutes or so later, I invited the youth to disclose what God had told them. (If prayer is meant to be a conversation with God, perhaps we should talk less and listen more.) One girl jumped to her feet and nearly rushed the stage. With her body visibly shaking and tears still streaming down her cheeks, she shared about how she’d been sexually abused by a relative as a little girl. A second girl embraced her, and told a similar story. Then a twenty-something youth leader embraced them both, and said that her abuser had been her stepfather. Then a guy came up, nearly buckled over in agony. He confessed that as a pre-teen he had done to another little girl what their abusers had done to them. He clutched me, and we embraced for what seemed like half an eternity. Well into the early morning hours, vulnerable teens were still confessing sins, exposing wounds, and comforting friends that needed healing. To this day, I’ve never experienced anything quite like that night. The trigger was a courageous youth worshipper who dared defy conventions and shift our affection from ourselves to God and those around us. When we stopped singing about being blessed, and instead focused on Almighty God and the neighbors he invited us to love, He actually spoke. This child of poverty brought shalom to that place, and with it favor that exchanged beauty for ashes, sight for blindness, and freedom from oppression (Isaiah 61:1-7). For He whom our lives worship, loves justice (Isaiah 61:8). - Jeremy Del Rio, Esq. consults churches and non-profits on youth culture, community development, and social justice. Visit his blog at www.JeremyDelRio.com.

By Jeremy Del Rio on June 16 2009 | 1 Comments


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