Youth Specialties Blog

Leader Insights

By YS on August 27 2009 | 1 Comments

Being a leader isn't always easy.  Sometimes you feel like there's nobody you can talk to that really "gets it."   Often times it's extremely lonely.  People can think you're too busy to join in on something they're doing so they never ask.  Other times when they do it gets weird because you turn into the "answer man" - or even worse nobody talks about everyday life because they feel like they need to have some deep spiritual conversation because you're there.  Regardless, you feel on the outside of things. Leadership is busy.  Very true, however we can often feed this perception because we like "being busy."  There's something inside us that likes a ton of phone calls, a lot of emails and voice mails.  We feel wanted - or needed.  But then this eventually wears off and you dread the emails and phone calls.  You start to shut off your phone more, you may even put on an automatic email reply just so you don't have to reply immediately.  In other words, once you actually are really busy you wish you weren't so much. Leadership has some real dangers.  There are many, but I've been thinking about one danger that I wanted to address here.  As a leader our mind and mouth are used a lot.  We think and pray through things and then communicate the vision of where we feel like God is taking us.  The danger in this?  When our mouth's are used to such a capacity our ears can often shut down, or at least tune other voices out.  This is very dangerous for a leader (or anyone).  We think we always have something to say when in fact the truth is we should probably be listening more than speaking. May we be humble, having ears to hear what God is saying - directly to us personally and through the mouth's of others...

By YS on August 27 2009 | 1 Comments


Relationships Unfiltered interview

By YS on August 25 2009 | 0 Comments

Here's the first snippet of an interview YS author Andrew Root had about his new book, Relationship Unfiltered. You can catch the full interview at the Grace Communion International website.

By YS on August 25 2009 | 0 Comments


Singing and Praying Justice (in our Youth Groups?)

By Jeremy Del Rio on August 24 2009 | 1 Comments

IMG_1218.JPGUrbanFaith.com published an article today, co-written by Pastor Louis Carlo of Abounding Grace Ministries (New York) and me, that confronts an all-too familiar challenge for youth group worship leaders: what to sing, if anything at all?
… Too often our church music is directed inward as a distorted, selfish facsimile of worship. We long for God to meet personal needs and mediate justice on our own behalf, radically reducing our songs to individualized laundry lists of wants. … How can worship leaders help navigate oceans of justice within congregational gatherings? First, in the music and expressions of worship we embrace; and second, by facilitating worship as lifestyle, not just musical ritual. Marvin Gaye’s opus reminds us that music ennobles ideas, emotes passion, and defines eras. Because we feel it, music penetrates hearts and stimulates a response. Combine inspired notes with well-crafted lyrics and the results can be liberating. Or lethal. In Call and Response, a 2008 documentary about sex trafficking, Dr. Cornel West describes music’s power to accentuate and ultimately eradicate injustice: “Music is about helping folk … by getting them to dance. Getting them to move. Getting them to think. Getting them to reflect. Getting them to be themselves, to somehow break out of the conventional self that they are.” As musicians use that power to draw attention to injustices, people cannot help but get involved, West contends, because “justice is what love looks like in public.”
How do youth group worship music sets promote justice or social indifference by the signals they send each week? The article suggests ways to help worshipers capture a multidimensional view of God. What say you?

By Jeremy Del Rio on August 24 2009 | 1 Comments


Post (College) Graduation

By YS on August 21 2009 | 0 Comments

There is a movie out that I think hits some of the core issues college grads are faced with today: Search for work, search for love, and search for self. Those are the words the trailer of "Post Grad" uses to describe the journey. I'd say that's pretty much dead on. I plan on watching this movie - from a student perspective. I doubt it's a great movie (well, at least not my kind of movie), but I do think it hits some of the core issues the people we're working with will soon face. Mainly, crushed dreams. I recently wrote an article about some discipleship concerns I see in this called, "Bachelor Degree: Passport to Privilege?" You can find that here. Here's a brief highlight about it with some interviews (notice what Alexis Bledel says in her commentary). Below that is the official trailer. Again, I mention this movie because I think "Hollywood" is seeing the pressures of college-age life (in some ways better than the Church) - and even though it's in theatrical form, they have articulated many deeply felt pressures.

By YS on August 21 2009 | 0 Comments


The Evangelism-Discipleship Teeter Totter

By YS on August 21 2009 | 6 Comments

evangelism-discipleship I attend a church plant in the Mid-City area of San Diego. It's a neighborhood filled with hard-working immigrants from all over the world. That part probably isn't surprising. But this is: My family joined a church without a youth ministry! Up until this point, the priorities of the church haven't focused on youth ministry. Some mentorship sprang up organically and some short-term stuff was done which were both primarily organic and the result of pursuing other priorities. But there really wasn't anything you could point to and say, "This is how Harbor reaches adolescents." Yesterday, I sat down with a couple pastors from the church to talk about launching a youth ministry this Fall. As much as I'm a youth ministry nut, I agreed with them that up until this point-- youth ministry didn't need to be a priority. There are plenty of other excellent ministries doing a good job in our area among adolescents. This allowed them to focus on reaching other people who weren't being reached. But now, for a lot of obvious reasons, this is the right time. As we talked, we talked about designing something that complimented their vision for the church. Creating a ministry leadership  that is sustainable, a ministry that meets practical needs, a ministry that complimented the parachurch ministries instead of competed with them, and a few other things you'd expect from 3 guys dreaming about youth ministry over tacos, rice, beans. For me, a key part of this conversation was understanding what the church wanted to get out of having a youth group. Having done youth ministry for all of my adult life I know that every church leadership team has both stated expectations and unstated expectations. The stated ones are always big and obvious. But the unstated ones take some digging. The Teeter Totter Here's how I understand youth ministry in the church. Maybe this is jaded, but it's been my experience. As much as we'd like to be an equal, complimentary balance between evangelism and discipleship, it always plays out that one wins. Either evangelism or discipleship becomes the default home.  Typically, people of the church desire a ministry heavy on discipleship. Typically, the vision of the church calls for an evangelism focused ministry. And typically the youth worker lives in that tension of seeking a little bit of both. Dave Rahn and Terry Linhart capture this well in the opening of their new book, Evangelism Remixed:
Our goal is to champion leadership-as-influence for young people. Students who are effective in this largely informal kind of leadership will be marked by courageous and contagious faith, attributed that ensure a timeless connection to the mission of God in the world.
While I understand that the teeter totter eventually favors one side, it's my hope in walking with Harbor that we can create a balance. What are your thoughts? Ideas? How do you create balance between evangelism and discipleship?

By YS on August 21 2009 | 6 Comments


Re-entering home culture: Help for parents after a mission trip.

By Brooklyn Lindsey on August 20 2009 | 0 Comments

Mission trips are our sweet spot. Mission trips provide a place where  knowledge and method can meet praxis, where the head can meet the heart, and the body gets introduced to action. Nevertheless, every youth leader realizes that everyone eventually goes home. Going home is different for everyone and varies with every trip you take. I recommend the new deep justice journeys by Kara Powell and the Fuller Youth Institute. It's extremely helpful and comprehensive as we debrief and re-enter our former way of living together. But the point of this blog is about a letter from a parent that really impressed me. Kate Perkins, a former student of ours who currently works for InterVarsity, gave me permission to share her mom's letter. Sarah (Kate's mom) experienced first hand, what it was like to have a child come home from a mission trip "high" as many might refer to it. She wrote the letter as a gift to her daughter who works for InterVarsity. Check it out: I (Kate) asked my mother to share a little of her experience receiving me back from similar missions experiences in order to help prepare family and friends for some of the changes they might see in their students returning home. My daughter Kate Perkins has asked me to write to you from the parents' perspective about receiving your children home from their urban experience in Washington, D.C.  Obviously I don't know you or your child, but I will tell you some of our reactions to similar experiences Kate had when she did urban projects in Camden, NJ and in Bangkok several summers ago. Your child has had an incredibly intense 24-7 immersion experience in an alien environment the past seven weeks where they have lived beside the poor and tried to understand the injustices that contribute to their problems.  All of this has been framed by Bible study and prayer to understand God's heart for the "least of these." Your home and family may be like ours.  We have very deliberately and carefully saved for our children's college education and lived in school districts and neighborhoods where they would have opportunities and advantages we wanted them to have.  For us this has always been a vital part of our responsibility as a parent, a basic value-a trust.   And God has blessed us immeasurably with wealth, good health and incredibly good kids who make great grades and have never, ever got in trouble. When your student comes home, the contrast between what they have seen and experienced these past few weeks and how you live will probably be obvious and glaring.  They may huff around about consumerism and excess.  They may plow through the closets and drawers to give to Good Will. They may even give you some grief about some decisions you have made about how you live. Get ready. I'm not going to reassure you that they will get over this; they may never be the same.  God may have changed their hearts forever, and they may never look at possessions and wealth the same again.  Engage them in conversations about what they have done and seen.   Above all, your child needs your approval and involvement in how they are maturing in their faith.  Be proud of your child-enjoy the rest of the summer together. Blessings, Sarah Perkins Some tips to help your students: --listen to them!  Be someone who will listen to them tell the entire story of their summer --help them rest, sleep! --be patient to give them time and space to process, pray and journal There's nothing like a parent's perspective. What a great message and reminder. Thanks to Sarah for being willing to share her journey. Thanks to Kate for being proof that what we do---leading students to missional living and justice---is just that important.

By Brooklyn Lindsey on August 20 2009 | 0 Comments


The Challenge for Change

By Shawn Michael Shoup on August 20 2009 | 1 Comments

Our group of students just got back from a trip to Creel, MEXICO.  As one would expect after a momentous trip, these students are ready to take on the world.  They saw a different part of the world that most of them had never experienced, served those that were in need in big ways, and jumped out of their comfort zones with leaps and bounds. I want to harness this energy and keep the momentum going by challenging them with stories of others who are using their gifts creatively to change their world.  Here are four that I'm going to be highlighting in the next few weeks with my students... maybe you could, too. ================================================= thismustchangelogo This first one hits close to home (for our students) and yet has a potentially very far reaching arm.  Jason Salamun is a friend to our student ministry and a local church planter here in Rapid City, SD.  He's shared with our students before at our Wednesday night rally services, so most of our students would recognize the name or, at the least, his face. Jason is doing something simple, yet profound.  He's challenging himself to lose weight and, in the process, he's challenging his online community, friends, and family to donate a dollar per pound that he loses in the next three months to one of six great causes listed on his site.  I think it's an awesome idea; check it out at ThisMustChange.org. ================================================= laundrylovepeople The Laundry Love Project (LLP) grabbed me from the first time I watched the following video.  LLPs are regular opportunities to help people who are struggling financially by assisting them with doing their laundry. Relationships are built, and LLPs become small communities of common concern in which participants often find that they receive assistance and benefit with other areas of their lives.  LLPs are just one of several initiatives of the JustOne nonprofit organization. ================================================= freezeprojectlarge-300x113 The Freeze Project is another simple idea to challenge our communities with social injustice issues.  The idea is to have a group of people gather at an area and do a pre-determined group “freeze” in a very public, high traffic place — an action made popular by Improv Everywhere — and putting a twist on it to bring awareness to social injustice issues.  Nice! ================================================= logo_toms_large Here's another one that seems particularly relevant to my group of students right now.  We just got back from distributing shoes (and food, clothes, etc.) to the Tarahumaran Natives in the mountains of Copper Canyon.  The idea behind TOMS Shoes was founded on one premise: "With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. One for One." What a profound way of doing business. ================================================= Take these ideas and challenge your students with them.  Maybe do one of them as a group, making it your own.  Or just challenge students with these stories so that they can be encouraged to change the world with their own God-given ideas and gifts.  Imagine what change could be affected through the Gen Y generation!

By Shawn Michael Shoup on August 20 2009 | 1 Comments


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