Keep It Simple

Churches often ask me, “We want to reach young(er) people.” In fact, there are very few churches that I have come across that do not have this goal in mind. My first response is, please do not think that reaching younger people means they will be in attendance on Sunday morning. We have to start first with redefining “reach.” If you want to “reach” generation z (teens) or millennials (young adults), you need to start with building relationships with them. They won’t just come to church. If they want to listen to a sermon, they can do it via a podcast. But more times then not, they have never gone to a worship service, so they won’t just show up. And if they do, please do NOT immediately bombard them with places where you need volunteers. Get to know their name, find out what they are passionate about, take them out to lunch. Develop a friendship first. Then find out what they are seeking in a church. You may find that the one thing your church can offer is friendship. Start there. Then see where the spirit leads. It’s just that simple.

What the what?!

How often do you give teens or young adults the opportunity to ask the really hard questions? I mean the really hard questions about faith/the Bible. We are about to embark on a study this school year that will help you, especially those youth leaders, like myself, who have not been to seminary, dive into a Bible study that will allow the Bible stories teens learn as children to collide with the knowledge they gain in middle and high school.

We MUST give them a safe place to explore and ask questions now before they leave us. So often we see young people leaving high school and leaving their faith. I believe there are several reasons for this fleeing, but one excuse is that they never make faith their own. The church does not give them the opportunity to grapple with their faith and really question it. Teens so often are afraid they are going to hurt our feelings if they question us, so they just go along to make the adults around them happy, giving us all the canned answers to our questions.

Throughout the school year, I will be teaching a high school Sunday school class along the way, they will be my “field study group” as we develop questions. There will be podcasts for you to listen to and/or to share with your group and this blog will give you questions to ask. It doesn’t matter if you are a youth leader, Sunday school teacher, small group leader, or young adult, we hope that this study will help you navigate through the Bible in a new and exciting way, and in the end, we pray that it will help you draw nearer to God and strengthen your faith. If you chose, these studies can all be done one after another, or pick and choose the ones that fit into other studies you are doing.

Here is how I recommend you begin week one with your group:

Start with expectations during the study of the group. What are the expectations of the students/teens of one another and of the leader? What are your expectations as the leader?

How would you describe the Bible to a non-believing friend?

Establish it wasn’t meant to be a science or history book.

Look at 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Ask the following questions:

  • When Paul wrote this, what did he mean by “ALL” scripture? (OT, the gospels were not considered scripture yet.
  • What does it mean to be “inspired” by God? Has God ever inspired you? Has the Bible?
  • The Greek word “theopneustos” is being used here and translates to “inspired by God.” See if students can guess the meaning of this compound word: “theo” (God) and “pneu” (to breathe out).
    • Interesting that scholars think Paul made this word up because it is not found anywhere prior to Paul using it here. What are some words that have been made up in our language in the last 5 years? Why are new words made up?
  • When else have we read in the Bible about God breathing? (Gen 2)
    • We are going to get to this story next week, but why is God’s breath talked about in Genesis? (God breathing life into man.)
    • How is God breathing life into man similar to God breathing into the authors of scripture?
    • What about His breath actually breathing into scripture?
    • Is scripture alive? (You want them to get to a place where they see that it is alive and relevant in our lives today.)

What Biblical stories did you learn as a child that now you think, “What the what”?  -start a list-

Ask if anyone can (or maybe see if they can work in groups) write out a Biblical timeline (this only works if you students have grown up in the church).

There are plenty of resources available, but I have found Making Sense of the Bible by Adam Hamilton helpful and the basis for this lesson.

Let’s start this journey together with our young people. You don’t have to have all the answers or agree with everything we discuss in the podcast/blog. The important point is to just open up the discuss and allow teens the opportunity to ask questions and make their faith their own.

A Way Forward While Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

Navigating through the messy waters of where we are as a United Methodist Church is not easy for any of us. However, it is especially difficult for youth leaders. Young people today ask tough questions, mainly because they can investigate anything with their cell phones and Google. So when we try to answer off the cuff or if we are not open and honest about the knowledge we lack, they will tune us out. This generation is searching for truth and are bothered when there is inconsistency in what we preach and how we act or what they feel in their hearts. So, no matter the trial that you face in your church, your community, your area or in our great country…keeping Jesus the focus of our teaching should be at our core. This podcast is about youth leaders wrestling with this very issue, what is our main thing? What are we focused on? Where are we spending our time? All questions we need to ask ourselves as we begin to move forward.

***Picture from http://www.freepik.com

A Parent’s Perspective

Youth Pastors say the most difficult part of the job is managing ministry with the lives of busy families.  But we want nothing more than to support parents during the teen years.  On today’s podcast we talk with a mom of 4 young adults that grew up in church and youth group.  She shares why church was important to her family.  What are you doing to connect to parents and/or to help parents connect with one another?

Daring to Empower Teens with Compassionate Leadership Skills

The biggest impact we can have on young people in our communities is through teaching those in our fold leadership development skills.  If we spend our time teaching our young Christian friends how to influence others, our efforts to spread the Gospel will multiply.  As our country slowly lowers the expectations of our leaders, it is up to us to teach teens the importance of character and compassion in leadership.  Let’s be honest, no matter where you fall politically, or if we look at the business sector, or the sports and entertainment world, our young people have plenty examples of inadequate leaders.  I have found it easy to teach lessons on leadership through studying Jesus in the Gospels, but there is also plenty of curriculum available.  Tim Elmore is one of my favorite authors on the subject of Growing Leaders. Check out his website. He has done some interesting research and has great curriculum available.  You can also find some of his stuff in our conference Media Center.  I also like the resources from Group.  Don’t shy away from using the adult curriculum for teens.  I have also used Doug Field’s book, “Help, I’m a Student Leader” and The Leadership Lab from Discipleship Ministries.  All good stuff. Just find what works best for your personality as a leader and the personalities of your group.  As we work to walk beside teens and young adults through their faith journey, teaching them leadership skills, in particular SERVANT leadership skills is a MUST.  What has worked in your area to teach these important lessons?

Packing Day

 

 

Kavanaugh Hearing Sparks Critical Teaching Points for Teens

Decency~Respect~Dignity: Talking Points around the Supreme Juridical Confirmation Hearing

Introduction: This confirmation hearing has been just one more thing that separates our country.  In an effort to show our young people that even if we disagree on issues, we can find common ground somewhere and walk away from discussions agreeing to disagree, still respecting and speaking to one another.  This particular discussion is not political. No matter which side of the aisle you find yourself, the testimonies hit on topics that were relevant in 1982 and are still relevant for our teens today.  I implore you as parents, educators and spiritual leaders not to shy away from such topics as sex, under age alcohol consumption, and poor decisions.  Research shows that the teen brain is not fully developed and therefore, teens lack cognitive skills such as problem solving, memory, emotional expression, judgement and sexual behaviors.  It is our job as adults to help them work through cause and effect situations PRIOR to them having to make decisions.  So, it is important, no matter the subject, to present facts (this also means both sides of an argument) and allow teens to work through their own thought process to claim their own opinions, conclusions and convictions.  The more you force your beliefs on them, the more push back you will get.

Also keep in mind, no matter how well you know a teen, they may be hiding something, so precede with caution, assuming that there is someone in your youth group, or your teen’s friend group that has been a part of an unwanted advance or have made a mistake and is feeling shame.

Resources: Here is some information on sexual assault and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center is also a good resource for information or to report an incident.  Please share this information with your students. Stats shared in Podcast can be found here.

Audience: We recommend this discussion for high school students.  If you are a parent, you may wish to discuss the topics with your mature middle school children.  For our youth leaders, be sure parents are aware that you are discussing sensitive subject matter ahead of time.

Biblical Context: John 4:1-26“The Woman at the Well.”  Click here  or here for background information and commentary on these verses.

Matthew 7:12  “The Golden Rule”

Title: Decency, Respect and Dignity

Begin with the following questions:

Are you paying attention to what is going one right now in current events?  How do you get your information? Do you talk to parents at home about current events?

We are going to talk about three specific words today: DECENCY  RESPECT DIGNITY

Who would like to look up the definitions of these words?

Let’s think of some examples, it could be someone famous, or a situation with a friend or family where actions show decency, respect or dignity.  (This could be as simple as helping someone pick up books they’ve dropped in the hall.)

Where or what are the areas of your life, where you perceived that decency, respect, and dignity is lacking?

What are areas in the larger culture where you notice a lack of decency, respect and dignity?

Let’s take a look at John 4.  Have students read aloud, and if there are different versions of the Bible, have students read the verses more than once. Help them understand the context and culture of the time.

Why is she an outcast? (Her multiple marriages) Do you think the community treats her ex-husbands the same way? Why or why not?

So, why would Jesus interact with her?

Have you ever been made fun of for interacting with an “outcast”?  Do you put yourself in the shoes of that person?

Is there a situation where we should excuse lack of decency or respect?

What behaviors do you excuse?

What are ways that you respect yourself? Respect your friends?

What is the Golden Rule?

How can you show “love” to your neighbor?  What if they have wronged you?  What if they don’t agree with you?  (Be sure that you help them understand that our love for one another comes from God’s love for us, we love because He loves us.)

What is a scenario at school where you have seen OR could be the example of The Golden Rule?

In the story of The Woman at the Well, how did Jesus’ actions support The Golden Rule?  

How does Decency, Respect and Dignity play into The Golden Rule?

Is there a difference in the way boys interact with one another?  What about girls? (When the other gender is not around.)

The incident that is under investigation with the Confirmation Hearing for Judge Kavanaugh happened in the early 1980’s when he was 17 and Dr. Ford was 15.  For her, the assault she is claiming has affected her all of her life.  In his case, the claim could ruin his career.  What situations do you see teens in, or what decisions that teens make, could affect them the rest of their lives? Be sure they see one big difference in teens today compared to 1980’s being social media, and the fact that posts do not go away.

Lying is another big topic in this situation.  Some people say she is lying others think he isn’t telling the truth.  Have you ever been accused of not telling the truth?  What did that feel like?  How does decency, respect and dignity play into truthfulness?

Do you have a trusted adult, someone you could turn to if you get into a situation where you need help?

Do you have “safe words” with this person if you have to call them in the middle of a situation? (i.e. I have a headache, can you pick me up?)

End with some like: No matter how this Confirmation Hearing ends, it has brought up some important topics for us.  It is important for all of us to treat one another and ourselves with the decency, respect and dignity that we, as children of God, deserve.  And when/if someone defies you, tell someone.  Never forget, that actions speak louder than words, and our actions, for good or ill, can have lifelong impact.

 

Reaching Teens Who Are Crammed For Time

It doesn’t matter the size church , those who serve in youth ministry all share the same problem: teens are too busy for church!  It is so hard to figure out what day of the week is best for the students in your youth group because they have practice EVERY day of the week.  Sunday morning isn’t even sacred any more!  What is a youth leader to do?!  Unfortunately, there isn’t a cookie cutter answer for every church.  But one thing ALL of us CAN NOT do, make our kids feel guilty!  The answer may be that ministry needs to become more fluid.  Meet them where they are, change things up depending on the season, and use technology some times for furthering the kingdom.  This podcast features two local youth leaders who talk about what it is like to also be parents of busy kids.  The struggle is real! How do you deal with the busy lives of teens?