Monday, October 31, 2016

Top 10: Scary Halloween Costumes for Youth Pastors?

10. An Old 15 Passenger Church Van (Packed for a Long Trip) 

9.  An Angry or Offended Youth Group Parent 

8.  A Middle School Boy Drinking a Monster (run away) 

7.  THE Youth Group Mean Girl (she scares me to DEATH!!) 

6.  The Walking Dead... (I mean "Senior Ladies Easter Liturgical Dance Team") 

5.  A Dress Shirt and a Tie (youth ministry equivalent of garlic & a vampire) 

4. The Ordination Counsel Member! (you know the one, 3 piece  polyester suit, thick glasses, a degree from seminary that he never used and ONE final question) 

3. Your Bible College/Seminary Loan (it is is coming FOR YOU!) 

2.  An Empty Coffee Cup (one of my greatest fears) 

1. "The Carpet" (the one you are always getting called in on)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Game #164: Pumpkin Face (upfront challenge)


- 2 Rolls of Orange Crepe Paper
- 2-4 Sheets of Black Dot Labels

Set Up:

- 2 Chairs Up Front 


Simple Explanation: One player will quickly wrap another other player's face completely in orange crepe paper and then using black stickers decorate them as fall "jack o lantern"! 

Game Play:
- Have 2 teams of 2 come to the front
- Explain the simple explanation and rules
- Have 1 player on each team have a seat in 1 of the chairs.
- Give the standing play 1-2 sheets of black dot labels
- On "Go!" standing player as quickly as possible wraps the seated player's head and then decorates their head.

- Allow 1-2 minutes for the game.
- Have a leader or the audience vote on best "pumpkin head"
*  HINT/RULE: leave the mouth area of the seated player open so they can breath!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

News U Can Use: "Understanding Middle Schoolers: 4 Tips"

Understanding those on the verge of or in the trenches of middle school can be like finishing a complex puzzle only to realize there is a single missing piece — just when you think you have them all figured out, they pivot and leave you just as confused as you started. They sometimes feel like a walking contradiction: they want your love, but would prefer you did not show it in public; what makes them laugh one day, brings them to tears the next; going to school used to be the best part of their day, now they dread it. Whatever the contradiction is in your household, it is important to remember that the journey that these soon to be adults are traveling is a difficult yet AWESOME one. They are in a constant state of learning and discovery and as parents and guardians, we GET to be along for the ride!

Combine students’ physical and emotional changes with new school environments and increasing independence, and unique challenges for parents and children develop. Adolescence is a time of development, discovery and transition for kids. It is a key time for us to better understand how we increase motivation, build persistence, support the transition into a more independent experience, and prepare for future success.

As a middle school educator, my mantra was patience and understanding. I had sticky notes around my classroom reminding me that it was my job to support AND also to push these young adults to challenge themselves in new ways—even when they made me want to pull out my hair. This is a time when they need support and guidance, but they also need the freedom to have experiences on their own terms. When it comes to education, middle school is an extremely important time.

When we find ways to personalize the learning experience for students we support their transition into more independence and help activate learning. Here is what I learned about middle schoolers... CONTINUE READING 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Top 10: Christ-Centered Youth Ministry or Student-Center Youth Ministry

Like many homes where adults choose to make the children the center of the attention and decision making, there are also many youth ministries and churches that are doing the same thing.  

Like homes that are consumed with making sure children are not bored or unhappy, we as youth ministries may also be unknowingly doing the same thing by focusing strongly on making sure the students are happy, comfortable and entertained.

While we as youth pastors and leaders bemoan parents that are "helicopter parents" or focusing their attention on keep their children busy in sports and every activity imaginable, we may be following suit doing many of the same things.  Much like marriages and parent relationship that are being weakened by putting an unhealthy focus on children instead of each other,  our youth ministries as part of the body and bride of Christ may also be weakening our relationship by becoming more kid-centered and less Christ-centered?

Here are 10 quick thoughts about the difference between Christ-Centered Ministry and Student-Centered Ministry...

10. Faith Focused vs. Fun Focused?

9.  Educate Us vs. Entertain Us? 

8. Opportunities for Students to Serve vs. Opportunities for Students to be Served? 

7.  Christ Honoring vs. Honoring Students? 

6.  God's Presence vs. Who is Coming?

5.  Spirit-Led Decisions vs. Student-Led Decisions? 

4.  Compassion-driven vs. Complaint-driven? 

3.  Adults Desperately Seeking to Love Christ More vs. Adults Desperately Seeking to be Loved by Students More 

2.  Seeking Holiness vs. Seeking Hipness! 

1.  Studying Uncomfortable Truths of God's Word vs. Discussing Non-Threatening Comfortable Topics? 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

"Un-blurring The Line" (Relationships with Students)

The evening news, newspapers, and internet seems like a running weekly ticker update on the latest teacher, coach and yes,"youth pastors" crossing the line into inappropriate relationships with a student.

Whatever you are called in your ministry context: pastor, director, leader, worker... we need to be careful when it comes to our relationships with students.

We, of course, want to have "relational" ministry.  Books and seminars have been teaching us relational ministry for years, and we should be doing ministry that builds Godly, appropriate connections and relationships in our ministry.   It is after all one of the most powerful things we can do in the lives of our students, is to introduce them to a relationship with God and others.

The lines however become blurred quickly when relational ministry becomes relationship ministry, that becomes just relationships. Even if it is not moving into inappropriate, abusive situations, we must work hard to un-blur the lines...

Friendly Not Friends.
While working on my masters in education a few years ago, one of our professors said something that has stuck with me, even more so in a church setting- "You can be friendly with students without being friends..". The fact is simple, while we want to have a good relationship with students and build a community of faith, we as adults are not their friends, even though they sometimes see us that way.   Your students have friends--their age, they don't need a 20+ year old being their best friend. Often we drift into how some parents are trying to parent, as their child's friend not their parent.  Do not fall into the same trap, because it will quickly become a slippery relationship slope for you as well.

Invested Not Intimate. 
As we invest our time, efforts and ourselves into serving students we naturally connect with them, and they with us.  Students coming from homes and relationships, where they are not being invested in, we naturally become people they connect with.   Even students that come from good homes, are drawn to people who take the time to listen, care, and pray with them.   Especially as we have deep discussions on spiritual things, closely connected to the emotion, the line can seem blurry as we feel closer to students and they to us.   What looks like investment and humbly serving students can easily drift into false feelings of intimacy.   Be care to invest in students minds, hearts, and lives while keeping a clear line drawn back from the entrance into intimate connection.

Caring Godly Love Not Human Attraction 
We use an unfortunate phrase in youth ministry settings  "loving on students".  If you take half a second to think about how that sounds to someone outside a church-setting, you will see how creepy that really sounds.   We do want to show students love.  We do want show them an example of God-center "love" (agape).   As brothers and sisters in Christ, in the settling of church we want to teach them about how live in the loving family of God (philia).   The problem comes is when we cross the line of loving our students into "loving our students" (eros)

Why is the news packed with stories of inappropriate relationships between a formerly caring adult and a students?  Part of the issue, is that while we are working to build a "relational" ministry, many time we are also trying to build an "attractional" ministry.  We are trying to attract students to our events, activities, teaching and in the mean time also attracting them to us.  Our personality, style, and that we truly care about them.   We must be very clear and set our stance firm, our ministry needs to be about caring and loving students in away that will attract them to Christ-- not to us, otherwise not only will we blur the line, we will quickly erase it!  Ministry built on attracting students to a person and not Christ are just waiting for disaster!

Professional Not Personal
Paid... unpaid...underpaid...Whatever you are, we are a professional.  Even if this is not your profession, as a person in authority and leadership we are seen as the person in charge.   The ministry we are working in needs to have clear expectations, rules, and policies in place for you and your helpers.   While we own the ministry and take it personally when things go wrong or people complain.  When it comes to how we are to act with students, it needs to be more professional and far less personal!  Our professional relationship with a student must never cross the line into a personal relationship.   This may seem cold or business-like but there is a way to minister to students that does not enter into our personal spaces, emotions, and relationships.

My prayer for you is that God would guard your heart, mind, and life as you work to guard the heart mind, and lives of students.  We have all seen and heard of way too many people falling because they blurred, lost and then crossed the line with a student or someone else in their ministry. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Game #95: "Civil War Dodgeball"

Yet another twist on the old youth ministry classic dodgeball.  Just in case you are sick and tired of the same old week in and week out of playing dodgeball. "

A favorite around our 5th-8th grade ministries. 

• Dodgeballs
• Cones or a way to define a center line

Quick explanation: A game of dodgeball where players may not be eliminated immediately but rather lose the use of the area of their body that is hit.

Before the Game:
• Define the playing area and the center line
• Set out dodgeballs at the center line

• Divide up in 2 equal teams
• Give the “Quick explanation”, rules and an example.
• Say something like this as an example, “If you get hit in the arm, you lose that arm for the remainder of the game…if you get hit in the leg you lose that leg and have to hop on the remaining leg for the remainder of the game…”
• On “Go!” everyone starts playing.
• You may yell “Healed!” throughout the game restoring everyone back to full health.

• Use your usual “house rules” for dodgeball.
• If a player gets hit from the shoulder to their hand, they lose the use of that arm and it must be held behind their back.
• If a player gets hit from the shoulder to their hand in the other arm they lose the use of both arms and can now only “dodge”. They may NOT kick the ball
• If a player gets hit in leg from the hip to their feet, they lose the use of that leg and must hop on one leg
• If a player gets hit in the other leg from the hip to their feet, they lose the use of both legs and must play on their knees.
• If a player gets hit in the head, chest or back, they are dead and out of the game.


The winning team is the one with the last remaining player still “standing”

Monday, October 17, 2016

Top 10: MORE Kinds of Ministry Leader?

10. The Author- the name that everyone knows not based on his church or ministry, but based on his latest book.  If you want to see him, it would be easier to look on the back of the book cover than trying set up an appointment or see him upfront.

9. The Traveler- missions trips, speaking engagement, conferences, retreats, and vacations is where he will be.  Long gone are the days of being upfront leading or speaking locally when there is a big world to see and he hasn't seen all of it yet...

8.The CEO- business as usually is just business.  Runs the church based on the latest Fortune 500 company leadership model.  What is the bottom line for money, attendance, and productivity...

7. The Guru- think the Daili Lama for Christians.  The calm soothing voice of wisdom and spiritual understanding, while not really leading anything--lets just see where the spirit leads us this week....

6. The Lost Boy- like Peter Pan in Neverland, the boy that never grew up is now leading a his own motley crew of misfits.  Shorts, flip-flops and a laid back attitude. Where did he put those sermon notes, oh well I guess there are somewhere in my office...

5.  The Buttoned Up- Suit, White Shirt, Tie, Wingtips and at the church picnic!? .  Proper grammar, proper manners, and prop him up against the wall he is stiffer than the starch in his boxers....

4. The Lover- like Olaf from Frozen, he like warm hugs.  He just wants to "love on you"!...All the time.  Everything will be okay if we just show everyone love. ...

3.  The Joel- "the lovers" kissing cousin, with a heaping helping of blessing! "Bless you and bless you and you!! God just want you to be loved and blessed with health and wealth and...great hair, a beautiful wife, a better you....

2. The Scholar- has more degrees than the thermometer and is working on a new one.  Spends more time in this office studying for this weeks lecture (cough-"sermon")  than actually with people finding out what they really need to hear.  He can speak fluent ancient Greek and Hebrew but doesn't know how to talk one on one with you in modern English!?

1.  The Pastor- in the trenches day in and day out with his people.  Studying when he can, but spending as much time as he can in the needs of those around him whether they attend the church or not.  His family and he are there when you need them.  He loves you, wants the best for you, but is not afraid to open the Bible and speak the hard truths using the "two edge sword" to do the hard work of real ministry.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Youth Group "Appropriate" Halloween/Fall Movie Night Movies

I posted this list last year around the same time and have had requests for it again. I figured I would re-post it again as well.

Also check my other two Youth Group Night Movie Night Lists:
- "20 Funny Youth Group Movie Night Movies"
- "20 More Series Youth Group Movie Night Movies"

Obviously this is still a bit of delicate topic with "Halloween" parties vs. "Fall/Harvest" parties  so please do not be offended. Here once again are a few that MIGHT work for your youth group movie night. You know your church and families, so please choose wisely and with good discretion.

15. Monsters, Inc
14. Little Monsters
13. Wallace and Grommit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit
12. Addams' Family & Family Values
11. Arachnophobia
10. Coraline
9. Frankenweenie
8. Hocus Pocus
7. Casper
6. Ernest Scared Stupid
5. Monster vs. Aliens
4. The Nightmare Before Christmas
3. It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown
2. Monster House
1. Hotel Transylvania (1 & 2)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Lesson Help: "Giant Eyeball Beachball" (I Cor. 12:17)

Doing a Lesson about the "Body of Christ" from I Cor. 12:12-23?
(.... 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many parts, but one body. ...) 

Consider grabbing one of these as part of your lesson as a great illustration/object lesson.

Here some other verses on the "eye" that you might also use with this:

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

News U Can Use: "Why Risky Behavior Increases During Tween/Teen Years"

"Adolescents among humans and non-human animals alike are more inclined to engage in heightened risk-taking behavior, exploration and novelty seeking. Although these attributes provide adaptive value in enabling individuals to gain importance in the world, including independence from parents, if taken too far, this tendency could lead to potentially dangerous behavior, including drug use, harmful drinking, addiction, unsafe sex, and risky driving, which may result in unintended injuries, violence and/or even premature death. A new Dartmouth study just published in Current Biology demonstrates for the first time, the causal relationship between behavioral control and a specific imbalance in brain function that exists during adolescence. (A pdf of the study is available upon request).

Adolescent-specific behavior may be driven by an imbalance in activity between the prefrontal cortex (PFC), an area of the brain involved in cognitive control and inhibition, which does not fully develop until the late teens/early 20s, and the nucleus accumbens (NAC), which plays a central role in reward-seeking and addiction. Past research has found that adolescents that engage in risk-taking behavior have trouble inhibiting such behavior as compared to either adults or pre-adolescents. Researchers have postulated that the low activity in PFC with concurrent high activity in NAC, an imbalance which appears to exist only during adolescence, is essentially at odds with each other.... 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Top 10: Kinds of Ministry Leaders?

10. The Grandpa- been doing ministry a long time and now it is almost time to retire. Doesn't want to rock the boat, just wants to rock in his chair...

9. The Buddy- is everybody's friend and pal.  Lets everyone do whatever they want, because its alright they are my buddy...

8. The Wimp-the complete pushover. Not willing to stand up for anything or to anybody...somebody might get mad and leave??

7. The Good Old Boy- a combination between the grandpa and the buddy.  Has his "club" of boys that are sometimes called "the leaders".  Has his set of traditions, friends, and things "we have always done that way..."

6. The Traditionalist- always good for grandstanding speech about the past, history, and protecting the foundations,fundamentals, and faith of our fathers.

5.  The Fighter- knuckles up, all the time.  In his past life (before Jesus) would take care of business down at the bar (or out back) now he is taking care of business at the church.

4.  The Newbie- so cute, so fresh, so new.  8-10 years of education and not a lick of experience.   First church out and grandma Jones is having him over for dinner to tell him what's up and how things ARE to be....

3. The Hipster- coffee, facial hair, and just spent way too much on those jeans. Keeping the church relevant and real without all the self-righteousness....such a bummer man!

2. The Dictator- if your church had a pope, he would be it. Whatever he says, thinks, breaths, or burps it is inerrant God truth. It not his way or the highway...It is his way or his highway, no detours here. He will choice the office paint colors, toilet paper brand, and oh here is your list of HIS rules, for HIS church?

1. The Shepherd- the lover and humble servant.  Willing to do anything for anybody, any time of the day or night.  Leads, Feeds, and Intercedes for his people....

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Why We Choose to Lead As My Family

I choose to lead with my wife and family, when I lead my ministry, especially in the area of family and parent ministry.

I know in some ways we are weird.  While my wife is not a paid employee of our church, she is very involved in what I do and how I lead.   Throughout the years my two children, even while they were still too young to be members of my youth ministry were around and active in being a part of my ministry.

I was recently part of a church for the past 2 years, before moving on, to a new church where this was not the norm and even more so, was considered completely unacceptable.  It was such a strong stance with the Sr. Pastor and leadership, that they would come and check to make sure that my children were not around during my "work hours" of youth nights, activities, and events.  I was even encouraged to discourage my wife from being involved as well.   It was a weird place for us, needless to say.

This week, at our new church, we had a staff and spouse gathering to talk about the future of our church including new campus, land purchases, and ministry vision.  The Sr. Pastor here, as he talked referred to his wife and family often talking about ministry.   As the night went on, he intentionally spoke to each pastor AND his wife from the front, affirming them in their work and calling together in ministry.

It might be how I was raised, growing up in a pastor’s home.  We believed that we were called as a family to my dad’s ministry as a pastor.  I grew up being an active part of what my dad did and I have seen the benefits of having my own children involved in what I do. Some might debate this or disagree, but I think particularly when it comes to having a strong ministry to families and parents it is a good thing.  The movement in churches and in youth ministry is to more family-oriented ministry and parent-ministry inclusiveness....Orange, Sticky Faith, D6 and so on!   It seems rather odd to me if we are going to lead and buy in to these philosophies, I wouldn't include my family?

I know not everyone who reads this is married or a parent and I am not say you cannot minister to families or parents if you are single. I am simply sharing why we personally choose to lead as a family.  However should God lead you in the future to get married, I would suggest you have an honest talk about how much and whether your spouse and/or family will be involved in what you do.

Here is why we choose to lead as a family…
1.    Lead by Example. 
Both good and bad, you have the opportunity to share, live and lead as a family on mission together.  Your successes and your failures allow you to lead well and earn the right to be heard.
2.    Married to the Job. 
Ministry can easily become a threat or a way to cheat your family.  The needs and time demands of ministry can easily lead to feelings of “us vs. them”, when it comes to your family.  If you are serving together as a family, the mindset changes.  Also instead of you being away from the family, they are going with you as you all serve together.
3.    Battle of the Sexes. 
Involving your spouse in your ministry creates in your ministry a better gender balance and a more well rounded ministry.  God created us different and for a reason.  Ministries and churches too often have a tendency to appeal more to one gender than another based on it leader.  Allowing your spouse’s voice to part the of  conversation also give permission for the opposite gender to feel included in what you are doing.
4.    Training Up Your Children.  No matter what your own personal children choose to do with their lives, you should want them to see it as ministry.  Having them involved in what you do in full-time vocational ministry now, opens their eyes and hearts to serving later.  Your children serving with you in your ministry to families and parents becomes a teaching and discipleship opportunity for them as well as for others.

This may not be a “one-size-fits-all” idea, based on your family and spouse, but I would strongly encourage you to consider it.  Even if it is only in certain ways and certain times, include your family and spouse in what you do.   You might just be surprised how it will change your own home, the homes you ministry to, and even your church as a whole.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Game #94: "Bring Me On a Silver Platter..." (Big Group/Crowdbreaker)

The group is divided up into 2-4 teams and into the 2-4 4 corners.   There needs to be an adult leader in every corner with every team, with a a game leader in the middle of the room.

The game leader in the middle will announce a person(s) that needs to be brought to them on a “silver platter” (rolling scooter, gym-class style), based on what they announce (see list of suggestions below).  The first team to get their person, onto the platter (scooter) pushed out to the leader in the center, and touch the leader wins a point for their team. Depending on the size of your group and teams you can make the rule that a player can only be brought the to center once/twice, during the game, so the same player can not be going out over and over. 

-       A person with blond hair
-       A person who hates Chipotle
-       A person who knows someone famous
-       A person with no siblings
-       A person that ate at Mc Donalds in the last week
-       A person that has braces
-       A person with the letter “B” in their first name
-       A person who has lived in our more than 3 years
-       A person that plays the a musical instrument
-       2 boys of the same height
-       A person with bad breath
-       2 girls from the same school
-       A person that doesn’t have their own cellphone
-       A person who has been to Hawaii
-       A person with a funny middle name
-       A person with green eyes
-       2 people with a “T” in their last name
-       A person who has never been on a rollercoaster

-       3 people who brush their teeth every NIGHT before bed

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

News U Can Use: "Helping Teen Athletes Cope with Stress"

"If your adolescent athlete has a difficult soccer game, do you tell them not to worry about it? Or do you suggest they speak to their coach for tips on how to improve? How do you know if your words of wisdom are helping or harming?

Over the years these questions have plagued many parents, but now researchers from U of T's Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education are finding ways for parents to help their children cope with sport-related stress. Their findings were recently published in the International Journal of Sport Psychology.

"We've found that the things parents say and do have an impact on the way athletes deal with stress in sport," says assistant professor Katherine Tamminen, lead author of the study. "When parents talk directly to their child about active coping in sport, the athlete is more likely to use those strategies to deal with stress."

When athletes use active coping, including practicing their sport skills or asking a coach or teammate for help, they're more likely to enjoy their sport and improve their performance. These skills can also translate into future success – adolescence is a key time when athletes are developing coping patterns and these techniques can reduce anxiety when facing stress in school and at work.

Being able to effectively manage stress depends on choosing the right strategy for the right situation – sometimes it's best to put in extra effort to deal with a problem, but in other cases it can help to take a step back from a problem. "It's important for parents to help athletes find ways to develop their own solutions to solve their problems rather than telling them what to do or that a problem isn't important...."  

Monday, October 3, 2016

Top 10: Youth Ministry Job vs. Youth Ministry Calling

10. Job Descriptions vs. Meeting Kids' Spiritual Needs

9. Performance Objectives vs. Prayer

8. Missions Statement vs. Missional Living

7. Evaluation Forms vs. Changed Hearts

6. Personality Tests vs. Spiritual Gifts Assessment

5. Attendance Numbers vs. Number of Kids Accepting Christ

4. Office Hours vs. School Lunches, Games, and Hours Hanging out

3. Working for an Organization vs. Serving the Body of Christ

2.  Feeling Pressure vs. Feeling Passion 

1. Success & Results vs. Failures & Spiritual Mystery