When I was a rookie youth pastor, I had two, count ’em, TWO youth ministry books. One was Far-Out Ideas For Youth Groups and the other was Way-Out Ideas For Youth Groups.
Those two little paperbacks from Youth Specialties were all I had to go on that first year — except the dorky Sunday School curriculum that the church gave me each quarter which I promptly (and discreetly) threw away.
I might have done every idea in those two books. They were my main guides for creating a youth ministry. Sad, I know.
The REALLY sad part is that I kept those books hidden. I wanted the kids to think that I was making up all those great ideas. I wanted them to think I was the greatest, the most talented, the craziest and the most awesome youth leader in the world. I did not want them to know that I had no clue about what I was doing. I didn’t want to let on that I had never been trained to be a youth pastor. So I kept those books hidden from the kids and continued to use those books as I tried to impress those teenagers to follow Christ and influence their friends to become Christians too.
What a dork I was!
That was a LONG time ago. I’m still a dork, but I’ve learned a thing or two about ministry with teenagers. I’ve learned that a youth leader can’t just take material and indiscriminately put it into play in their youth ministry. There is no “just add water” youth ministry material. All of the phenomenal resources that are available to a youth leader today require preparation, skill, work, and planning to utilize fully and see results in the lives of kids.
You need a clear strategy for your ministry with teenagers if you’re going to see real life change in your young friends and their families. There is just so much that you can do in youth ministry that you MUST have a way to choose what (and what NOT!) to do.
This issue of Youth Leaders Only has some help for you. You’ll find excellent insights from long-time youth ministry guru’s Duffy Robbins, Denny Miller, and Keith Cote. Their articles are actually excerpts from their books — so order their books and get the whole load of info!
I really hope you’re not as dumb as I was, and keep this material squirreled away somewhere out of sight in your office. I hope you will use every bit of this material and share it with the other youth leaders you know. It’s too good a resource to waste—even if it does require more effort to use than “just add water”!
PS. (We are working on getting Denny Miller’s seminal youth ministry book, Changing Lives, into digital format. It’s currently out-of-print. We will let you know when it’s available and how you can get your own copy!)
Guest Post by: Ken McCoy
When John wrote the book of Revelation, it became a source of tremendous encouragement to Christians. Much of Christianity was experiencing increasing persecution, false prophets were creeping into the church body, and the believers were growing tired and discouraged.
John penned that series of letters and visions from God so that Christians would understand that God was still in control and that He was truly providing for His people as He had always promised.
Throughout history, God had made promises to His people that He would provide for them a future glory and the blessing of being a part of His great plan, His great kingdom, and His great blessings.
Today, we are in need of the contents of this letter just as much as the first Christians were. However, the different attitudes of the two recipients are striking. Most readers in the early church were given this writing as a letter of HOPE in the midst of hopelessness and severe persecution. Today’s readers seem to be merely CURIOUS as to what’s in it and what it means.
Maybe it’s the comfortable lifestyle we enjoy, or that our casual relationship with God is not really a true relationship at all. Instead of Revelation giving us HOPE and CONFIDENCE in our Lord’s return, we merely want to UNDERSTAND the meaning behind all the symbols and the timelines.
Eschatology, a branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or of humankind, must help us draw closer to God and not merely question His plans and time frames. The image is one of a person shrinking behind a protector who is holding a weapon against an enemy. When we are faced with danger and are defenseless against our Enemy, the best place to be is behind the great Protector who holds a weapon to fight with. God offers hope and protection against Satan’s ultimate plans to steal, kill, and destroy— but we too often turn on Him, questioning His strategies and choice of weapons against Satan.
Eschatology should send us running to God with a fuller confidence in Him and His “rescue” of His people. It should help us diminish the immediate struggles of today by allowing us to see the hope we have as our reward in the future.
As your group prepares to watch this movie, keep in mind that there will be many unanswered questions about events and timelines. But as you lead your students through the studies, help them keep in mind the fact that God knows what He’s doing and He can be trusted. This should give us great comfort and encouragement to “press on” with the Gospel and endure persecution and opposition with a renewed hope for the future.
I’m the guy who can help you make your iPhone or Macintosh work for you. Because I don’t have a secretary or executive assistant, I’ve had to learn how to get the most from my personal digital assistants. As a result, I seem to be the person that people call when they need help with their Apple gear or software.
Yeah, I’m that guy. (I might be a geek, but I’m positively not a nerd!) So I, along with bazillions of others, was glued to my computer screen during this week’s Apple keynote address. I was dying to find out if they would announce the rumored “iWatch” device.
They did. And while I want one NOW, what they presented made sense for me as a youth leader. Here’s why:
It’s Designed To Be What It Is
The Apple Watch isn’t a tiny version of an iPhone. It’s a watch, designed to be very personal and helpful at a glance. People don’t stare at their watch—they glance at it. The same should be true of the various programs we run in our youth ministries; they should be designed to be what they are. Outreaches shouldn’t be worship experiences, which shouldn’t be discussion groups, which shouldn’t be… you get the idea. Check out the Create a Youth Ministry Environment article by Denny Miller in the current YLO97 for a deep dive into this subject.
It Works With The Whole Apple System
The information that the Apple Watch displays isn’t supposed to replace what you can get from your iPhone or computer, but to supplement it. An iPhone with an Apple Watch is more effective than either alone. Add a Mac into the system and everything works together seamlessly. So often I observe youth ministries that seem to be working at odds with themselves—or even with their church. We need to work toward a “system” that allows each program to function to its best and support the rest.
It’s Not Everything The Media Was Hoping For
Reading the stories leading up to the announcement, you’d think that Apple had a magic ability to create a wrist device that did everything imaginable. I’m sure that Apple tried and threw out ten times—maybe a hundred times—as many ideas as anyone else tried with their so-called smartwatches. Very few organizations know how to say “No” like they do. In our youth ministries, we too have to say “No” to many ideas, no matter how good, valuable, godly, or exciting they might be. We can’t do everything. We can’t please everyone. We have to decide what we want to accomplish, and then do only what we can (and should) do to accomplish that goal.
Yeah, I want an Apple Watch. Until I get one, I’ll have to keep focused on doing the best work I can to create the best ministry possible. You too?
Cindy Engøy is all that. And more. And now, she’s laughing with Jesus and enjoying Paradise. And I’m weeping. Not for her, but for us — for our loss and because of my own sorrow.
The cancer in her that was discovered just a few months ago finally prevailed over her body, but it couldn’t overcome her spirit. Cindy’s love for others, her willingness to serve, her talent and creativity continue on.
I just wish she didn’t have to go.
My sorrow reminds me of something very important about this Youth Leaders Only thing that I’ve been a part of for so many years: this isn’t a job, or a program, or a product — this is a “family” of likeminded people who care for each other, who celebrates in our creativity together, and who are elbows-deep in youth ministry together.
interlínc isn’t the only “family” that Cindy leaves behind. She has been heavily involved in multi-cultural ministry from her home base in Long Beach, California. She helped to plant Light & Life Church, and then served with the Seventh Street Church. She and her husband formed YesWeServe, a mission organization that works with kids in Ghana, India, and Mexico. (She wrote an article called “My Ghana Girls” less than a year ago in YLO94.) And, Cindy was an accomplished musician who sang jazz vocals and praise music with various bands in southern California. Her musical sensibilities shone through the many music-based Bible studies she wrote for Youth Leaders Only over the years.
I’m going to miss her.
I can hardly wait to play guitar in a band that has her on vocals.
Godspeed, Cindy. I’ll see you again.
-Ken McCoy, interlinc’s Editor
P.S. As I finished writing this article, I looked at the “daily verse” thing that sits on my table. Today’s verse reads:
He heals the heartbroken, and bandages their wounds.
He counts the stars, and assigns each a name.
Our Lord is great, with limitless strength; we’ll never comprehend what He knows and does.
(Psalm 147:3-5, The Message paraphrase)
I needed that!
Did you catch Seth Green on the Today Show Tuesday morning talking about “The Identical”?
Check out this fun music/promo video for “The Identical” from Zaxby’s