Youth Specialties Blog

Valentines Sale

By YS on February 06 2009 | 1 Comments

We've Been Hit By Cupid's Arrow-- And it Kind of Hurt

We were walking down the street when out of nowhere some little dude in a diaper shoots us with an arrow - right in our backsides! That got us thinking. It's that time of year and teaching stuff about relationships can be, well, a pain in your backside.

So, from now until Feb. 12th take 30% OFF the retail price of the following relationship titles:

Guys

Girls

Wisdom On... Friends, Dating, & Relationships

Good Sex 2.0

What's Up with Boys?

When Young Men are Tempted

Teenage Girls

Oh, and if you see that little dude... Tuck and Roll

Please note: The coupon code will take off an additional 15%. All of these titles are already marked 15% off in the YS Store.

By YS on February 06 2009 | 1 Comments


Ryan Marcum

By YS on February 06 2009 | 1 Comments

Name: Ryan Marcum
Current Residence: Atlanta Area, Georgia
On the web: www.ryanmarcum.com
Grew up in: Shepherdsville, Kentucky
Where did you go to college? I attended Eastern Kentucky University for a few semesters, but realized there was nothing there for me as far as a career path. During my time at EKU, I met my beautiful wife, Robyn. We dated for three years, and have now been married for six years. We have a crazy awesome daughter named Emma, who is three years old.  In 2003, I began my studies at Boyce College of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. I graduated with a B.S. in Youth ministry (no joke). Did you go to youth group as a teenager? My family attended a church in Shepherdsville, KY called Cedar Grove Baptist Church. My parents and twin brother still attend and are very active in the church. My brother, Brian, and I were a part of the youth group throughout our middle and high school days. One of the things that has stuck with me is that God wants us to reach others with the Gospel message… no matter what the cost. I remember my Youth Pastor taking me with him on visitation nights and learning from his sharing Scripture with families that were hurting.It seemed like we were always taking week-long mission trips. I remember a trip to the mountains of Tennessee, where we led backyard Bible clubs and other missions activities. I remember youth group being a place to bring friends. The building we met in was the “old” church, but we made it our own. How long have you been in youth ministry? I have been in Youth Ministry, in some capacity, for ten years. It has flown by!  It has been challenging; it has been crazy at times, but I cannot see myself doing anything else. How did you first get involved in youth ministry? After High school, I served in the United States Army. As I served about the first two years, of a three year term, I was not involved in any type of church or activity. A friend stopped by one day and asked if I would like to attend a local church. I said, “Sure, why not?” Long story short, I was asked to help volunteer in the youth department, and that began the journey.  The Journey has led me to Salem Baptist Church, where I am serving as the High School and College Pastor. Who do you look up to in ministry? There are so many guys in Youth ministry that have paved the way for me and current youth workers… Duffy Robbins, Doug Fields, Tic more than Marko- just kidding.  I learned a lot while volunteering at First Baptist church in Richmond, KY.  The youth pastor at the time was Jeff Prosser. He is the associate pastor. Under his leadership, I was able to learn about speaking to teenagers. He poured a lot of his time into his leaders, taking us to trainings like “The CORE”. He is an awesome leader and friend. What is the last book you read? The last book I have read all the way through was Chasing Daylight by Erwin McManus. I just got my copy of Youth Ministry 3.0; it is next on the list! What has you excited about working with your group right now? I have been at Salem Baptist Church for about eight months now, and we have begun implementing CORE groups (small groups). We have created daily devotional journals for each student, and the response has been overwhelming! Students actually like reading God’s Word! Seeing students update their Facebook status with things like, doing my devotion or reading today’s verse really makes me think that we’re on the right track.  Right now, during our Wednesday night service, we are going through the HABITS series by Doug Fields. Students and leaders alike have been challenged to form Godly habits that take us deeper in our relationship with God. What are some challenges you face right now? In talking to our students about developing habits that help us become who God formed us to be, I have realized that administration is not a habit that I have practiced in my youth. My wife has the gift of administration, but I do not. At the last church I served, I had a team of about four leaders and it worked. Arriving at Salem Baptist Church, I inherited about 20-25 leaders, where communicating and organizing on a consistent basis is more difficult for me. So, the challenge I face currently would be balancing the weight of being a minister and administrator. God is still working with me. What's one thing you think you do well that other people could learn from? Keep it simple. Life can be complicated, but God, through grace, has freed us from the “keeping up with the Jones” mentality. In ministry, we can easily get bogged down with everything else but our own relationship with God. The “to do list” can wait until after spending time with God. Jesus told the scribe what life was all about, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Simply put: Love God, Love People. What's a word or phrase your youth group would use to describe you? Spontaneous

By YS on February 06 2009 | 1 Comments


Brand New Research From the NSYR

By YS on February 05 2009 | 0 Comments

You are probably familiar with the monumental finds of of the National Study of Youth & Religion. In 2005, data from their study resulted in a great resource call Soul Searching. (New version coming out in April 2009) Christian Smith and his researchers are continuing to provide solid academic research for youth workers in the field. Here's a phrase I pulled from their announcement which I found very interesting:

The comparison of NSYR survey responses from the same adolescents in 2002 and 2005 reveals relatively small but consistent decreases in conventional religious beliefs and practices. Although the majority of adolescents in this study remained stable in their religious beliefs, practices, and spirituality, a significant minority did experience slight shifts away from standard religious beliefs and decreases in religious practice. Overall, the dynamics in religiosity and spirituality among this nationally representative sample of adolescents reflect subtle changes--rather than large or dramatic shifts. link

So, not a lot of changes overall. That doesn't mean the full report didn't reveal anything interesting. Check out the paper, Religion and Spirituality on the Path Through Adolescence. Very interesting findings.

By YS on February 05 2009 | 0 Comments


Jay Phillippi

By YS on February 04 2009 | 2 Comments

Name: Jay Phillippi
Current Residence: Mayville, New York
On the web: www.youthmissioner.blogspot.com
Grew up in: My dad was active duty Navy when I was born so I lived in Rhode Island and Illinois when I was tiny.  Most of my life was spent in western PA, especially just north of Pittsburgh.  But we moved a fair bit before I was in the 4th grade.
Where did you go to college? Edinboro State College (now Edinboro University of Pennsylvania)  just south of Erie PA. Did you go to youth group as a teenager? Very little.  The church where I grew up did very little youth ministry and they did it pretty poorly.  I never had any idea of why we were doing what we were doing.  Worship was a very "sit quietly and don't draw attention to yourself" kind of place.  By 15 or so I was pretty much done with church.  My experiences at church camp in the summer were completely different.  Here I was welcomed including my dumb and smart-aleck questions.  That experience stays with me to today. How long have you been in youth ministry? I started as a parish volunteer leader almost 20 years ago (OMG!) and I've been paid as the Diocesan Youth Missioner for just short of 9 years (August 1) How did you first get involved in youth ministry? OK this part will be a little long!  Given my background I had no interest in youth ministry at all.  In fact I pretty much stopped going to church for the better part of 15 years.  Christmas and Easter at best.  I went to college, got a degree in Theater, went out into the world and started a career in radio (Morning DJ for 17 years, also talk show host, news director, copy writer, sports play by play etc).  It's through the radio that I met the rector (senior pastor) at the Episcopal church here in Jamestown.  I got to know him and slowly worked my way back to church.  (That's a whole different story).  After I'd been there for a year or so word went out that they needed some adults to step up and work with the youth group and the curate (assisting priest).  And a little voice said "That's you".  And I said "Get serious"  And the little voice said "You know how your church dropped the ball.  Are you really willing to stand by and let it happen to this group of kids?".  The answer to that was NO.  So I told the leaders that I had no positive youth group experience but that I felt this was what I needed to be doing.  (The word "called" didn't enter my vocabulary till later).  It didn't take long for me to fall in love with youth ministry.  Within a couple years I was at the top of the leadership team.  In 2000 my radio station decided that they no longer needed my services (yes, another long story) and I was unemployed.  There was a new rector at church and I sat down with him to talk about what was going to happen next.  (Me, the non-church-goer, getting pastoral counseling.  Who woulda thunk it?)  He helped me focus on what really mattered to me and then remembered that the Diocese had a new position open for a staff level youth minister.  The deadline was literally the next day but we got an extension.  I got in my resumes, did an interview with the youth leadership (meaning the youth themselves), then a second with the diocesan staff.  Next thing I knew I was in professional ministry. Sorry you asked, right? [Adam: No, not at all! Love that story.] Who do you look up to in ministry? Wow. Mike Yaconelli, who I met and shook hands with once.  His writings inspire me and comfort me.  I'm the same kind of messy spiritual person that he was.  I admire and remember the folks from church camp, many of whose names I barely remember (which is sad).  They had a powerful effect on my life and I credit them often.  Finally an old friend of my family Father Ralph Darling.  He showed me a different way of being a man of faith.  His picture sits in my living room and a coat of arms done for him by a friend was given to me by his children.  It sits in my office in a place of honor. What is the last book you read? The Archbishop in Andalusia by Fr. Andrew Greeley (Love Bishop Blackie) and Getting Fired For the Glory of God by Mike Yaconelli What has you excited about working with your group right now? Being with the young people, watching them grow and walking with them in that process.  My "youth group" isn't a parish based group (had to give that up shortly after I took the staff job.  Just couldn't do both to my satisfaction).  So I work with kids from a 7 county area.  I see some of them once a month, and lots of them only at camp. What are some challenges you face right now? Budget and commitment.  I am currently at 80% of full time and have been for at least 3 years.  No sign of that changing (except maybe for the worse).  Our budgets have been cut to the bone.  We're holding at the same level for the last 3-4 years which means we're down even further just through inflation.  Our churches like to talk about the importance of youth and youth ministry (and some of them live that out very well it needs to be said) but too many still see it as something someone else does, doesn't want the kids interrupting and doesn't want to change.  My demographic is largely middle class suburban families, followed by middle and lower economic small town families.  Youth ministry stuff still tends to be fit in after everything else. What's one thing you think you do well that other people could learn from? Hmmmm, I'm usually better at telling you what I do poorly.  I think it's just being honest.  I don't BS the kids.  When I took this job I made a promise never to lie to them.  Which means they know when I'm upset with them, when I'm happy with them, and they know what I will and won't tolerate.  I've still got that Navy discipline in my character but I also have the more free-spiritedness of my theater background.  I don't pretend to have all the answers and I tell them when I screw up.  Our kids really seem to appreciate an adult who is honest. What's a word or phrase your youth group would use to describe you? Random was real popular a couple years back.  Because I used to be a DJ I have a massive amount of trivia in my brain.  Consequently they NEVER know what I'm going to say next or what connection I might make in my thoughts.

By YS on February 04 2009 | 2 Comments


Melissa Slocum

By YS on February 03 2009 | 3 Comments

Name: Melissa Slocum
Current Residence: Annapolis, Maryland
On the web: Facebook
Grew up in: Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin
Where did you go to college? University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point and majored in Organizational Communication, minored in Religious Studies. Did you go to youth group as a teenager? I was very lucky during my adolescence because I had one pastor for many years and he believed so much in youth that he personally organized youth programs, confirmation and mission trips. Every summer I went to a different and incredible part of the country where I not only worked hard and deepened friendships, but I experienced God in powerful ways. He also involved us in worship and made us feel like full participating members in the church instead of just ‘the youth.’ Youth group was never as much about fun and games as it was about serving others and being part of the larger community of the church. How long have you been in youth ministry? 16 years as a paid staff person and before that I volunteered at my local church in college where I did music ministry and Sunday school with Jr. High Youth…so 18 years in all now. How did you first get involved in youth ministry? Long story short… I was all set up to be a student pastor and go to seminary when God intervened via a new Bishop who decided not to allow student pastorates. So I ended up working for a church looking to create a youth ministry position and a youth ministry. Once God put me on that path there was no turning back. Who do you look up to in ministry? Jesus is my first and best example, but I still re-read and I’m inspired by Mike Yaconelli. What is the last book you read? I finally received and am just finishing my copy of The Great Emergence by Phyllis Tickle who I heard at the NYWC (yes that’s also a shameless plug for YS). [Adam: Cool, we'll take it!] What has you excited about working with your group right now? I have a terrific group of young students who are rebuilding their ministry right now. They are learning about and practicing student leadership, growing spiritually, and sharing life together. I get to see students actively growing in their faith and in their leadership right now…it is truly a blessing! What are some challenges you face right now? At one time or another most of us in Youth Ministry have faced being ‘new’ in a church. Transition is hard no matter what, and I’m still challenged by parents and youth who like things ‘the way they were before’ (no matter how bad things were before). Now, at 18 months in, things are starting to settle out and some are seeing what youth ministry can be. But others really just want free babysitting and resent the fact that some of the student leaders are challenging other students and families to do and be more. What's one thing you think you do well that other people could learn from? I’ve never believed that I could be best friends with my students, or that I could be ‘in’ their culture, or even well-liked by them. My ego has never really been in the ministry. Instead I’ve tried to always mentor student and adult leaders so that they could shine as the ‘real’ ministers. Instead of being a best friend, I try to be a trusted, caring adult that any student would feel comfortable calling at 2am for any reason. Interestingly enough, God has placed me in churches where I’ve always followed someone who had the opposite approach and had many students as their close friends and played favorites. The result was a pretty damaged group with a warped sense of community and leadership. If I could teach others one thing by my example it would be, don’t worry about what the students think of you; worry about what they think of Jesus. What's a word or phrase your youth group would use to describe you? Caring and easy to talk to.

By YS on February 03 2009 | 3 Comments


A Tough Day for Youth Specialties

By YS on February 02 2009 | 2 Comments

As is true for so many of you in churches, YS has not been immune from the economic challenges currently facing most ministries and companies. As such, we have been forced to take a close look at the structure of the organization to determine a more agile approach that allows YS to honor our mission to serve the needs of youth workers. We have spent a great deal of time exploring a number of options and ultimately creating a new organizational structure that will help us adapt and prepare for the future. The new structure also better positions YS to expand our platforms for both publishing and events through live, print and digital formats.

The title of this post does not convey the heavy heart that we all feel in the office today. It's gut wrenching for co-workers and friends to go through hard times. Today we face the reality of a major re-organization which includes the departure of many of the YS staff. Rather than repeat the details, please head over to Marko's blog for the full story. Click here to read Marko's announcement of major changes at Youth Specialties.

By YS on February 02 2009 | 2 Comments


Rural Church Crisis

By YS on February 02 2009 | 10 Comments

Last Fall, I had the joy of facilitating a discussion with small town and rural youth workers at each of our National Youth Worker Conventions. In each session, I was amazed at the mix of joy, frustration, and hope these youth workers shared about their ministries. Having spent 6 years of full-time ministry working with middle and high school students in small towns I know how hard it can be to keep students interested, involved, and growing. Just like a large or inner-city church brings unique challenges, the small and/or rural church brings its own set of stresses. Perhaps this is why I was so challenged by an article in last week's Time Magazine. The article documents a crisis in small and especially rural communities as pastors gravitate to urban and suburban settings. As a result, many of these pastorless churches are forced to close their doors, leaving communities without clergy.

Trace Haythorn, president of the nonprofit Fund for Theological Education (FTE), says fewer than half the rural churches in the U.S. have a full-time seminary-trained pastor; in parts of the Midwest, the figure drops to 1 in 5. "It's a religious crisis, for sure," says Daniel Wolpert, pastor of First Presbyterian in Crookston, Minn., and a partner with the FTE, which supports young ministers and religious teachers. "And to the extent that these churches are anchoring institutions, it's a crisis of community." The sign for one lovely wood-framed church in nearby Buxton, N.D., says it all: GRUE LUTHERAN CHURCH. FOUNDED SINCE 1879. PASTOR--and then a blank where a name should be. link Of course, towns losing churches also means that other support ministries such as youth and childrens ministry also go away. As these communities cannot support the salary of a paid church staff, I am left to wonder what other solutions may be available? In other words, is this crisis purely the result of our societies abandonment of farm life for city and suburban life? Or is there also an underlying unwillingness to adapt and innovate new ways for churches to continue? Likewise, as I think of many churches who have huge pastoral staffs I can't help but wonder if there are really fewer clergy in America or if clergy are merely gravitating to more multi-staff churches? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this issue. Check out this video Time Magazine produced about the topic.

By YS on February 02 2009 | 10 Comments


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