Discombobulated

I wish I would have known what to look for.

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The phone’s ringing woke me from a deep sleep. Jeannie answered it and mumbled, “Yes, he’s here,” and handed the phone to me. A quick glance at the clock told me that this call would be bad news. I was right.

One of the kids in our youth ministry had used a shotgun to end his life.

What happened in the next few hours and over the course of the next several weeks seems as though it all happened in a dream. I went to the home, not knowing what I could do to help. My youth ministry partner came too – together we consoled, prayed, and cried with the parents. Once the body had been taken away, we did the gruesome task of cleaning the bedroom.

The whole experience discombobulated me. I was in over my head, and I knew it.

I wasn’t the only one affected. The whole ministry felt out of whack. Kids, parents, board members, school personnel, and pastors had to come to grips with what had happened, what could have been done to prevent it, and what we would do to make sure it didn’t happen again.

Since you work with teenagers, you’ll encounter hurt kids and you will experience tragedy. I’m not sure you and I can be adequately prepared to handle any crises or situation – after all, we’re youth leaders, not social workers or counselors. We need resources we can turn to during those difficult times to keep from being too discombobulated. This edition of Youth Leaders Only could be a start.

We’ve found some of the very best resources for youth leaders dealing with hurt kids and crisis situations and will include excerpts from them on our Blog in the coming weeks. We  have included a “Where To Turn” resource in this PDF that will prove invaluable to you.

All that in addition to the great music-based resources that you’ve come to expect in YLO – Bible studies, worship song chord charts, Heart Of The Artist articles, reTuned discussion guides, Comparison Chart, and more.

Youth ministry can be a tough task. Hopefully these tools will help make what you do more effective!

Godspeed,
Ken's sig

Technology: Leaving Space for Silence

Ancient Worship in the Modern Youth Room

Rev. Paula Daniel-Steinbacher / Presbyterian Church of the Eternal Hills / Tabernash, Colorado / paulapalooza@gmail.com

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(This is the next in our series of Feature Articles from Youth Leaders Only 102 – which has the theme of TECHNOLOGY: Doing Ministry in the 21st Century.)

I’ve been in youth ministry for more than 25 years, and over the years I’ve seen every size/shape/variety of youth room. Most of the time these rooms have been the unused space of the church – mildewed basement rooms filled with couches of every shape, color, upholstery, and (unfortunately) condition. Sometimes the youth rooms were specially-designed with coffee bars in the corner, neon signs on the walls, and gaming systems projected onto several walls.

Currently, the church where I serve has been gifted with a large monetary donation to build the massive, unfinished space in our basement into a youth center. I cannot adequately describe the excitement it has brought to our youth and volunteers. In making plans for this space, we have listed all of the essential “needs” for this new space: a kitchen; large, open-space for games; bathrooms with showers so we can host other groups; big-screens; a stage; great sound system; classrooms/small group meeting spaces; foosball table, air-hockey table, blow-up hot tub (actually, I nixed the blow-up hot tub, but it made the initial list).

In all of our preparations for this amazing space, I have been pretty insistent on leaving room for unplugged, low-key, simple worship space. Here’s why: in our wait for the architects to draw up a tech-savvy space, we’ve been meeting in a corner of our Fellowship Hall for our chapel time, and we have not previously experienced worship so deep and meaningful as we have in our little quiet corner.

We used to meet in our sanctuary, complete with great sound system, projection screens, stage area for the youth band – everything I thought kids wanted when they came for Youth Group chapel time. But when we worshiped in the sanctuary (it’s a very large, open space), the youth sat in little “clumps” (dare I say cliques?) spread across the huge area. The loners were on their cell phones and not participating, and the “clumps” spent more time whispering and talking together than they did listening to the message or worshiping through song.

In our quiet corner, we park our cellphones in the cellphone garage, and we only have as many chairs as there are youth and adults. We sing, mostly unaccompanied, but occasionally…

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Technology: The Evil Social Media

 – Or, Is Social Media Really Evil?

Doug Ranck / Free Methodist Church / Santa Barabara, Californa / dranck@fmcsb.org

041416_Evil-Social-Media(This is the next in our series of Feature Articles from Youth Leaders Only 102 – which has the theme of TECHNOLOGY: Doing Ministry in the 21st Century.)

“Nobody talks face to face anymore. It’s easier just to comment on Facebook.”

“I don’t do social media. It takes too much time and it is relationally worthless.”

“Give me the good ol’ phone any day. And, by the way, I have a flip phone.”

Full disclosure: I am a 57-year-old youth pastor who started in ministry before there were answering machines. I actually hand wrote letters to kids or their parents. I called their house and hoped somebody would eventually answer. I had a hitching post outside my office — okay, not really.

Now some of my peers are those who sip coffee and complain about the destructive forces of social media and smart phones. They choose to see all that is wrong in the Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Tumblr, etc. world. If one wants to find the downside of these mediums, it can readily be found and one would expect my generation to be looking for it.

Interestingly enough I am connecting with younger youth leaders who also subscribe to the same philosophy. They call out the evils of the social media world and are proud of their “permanent fast” from it.

Much of what is wrong with the social media neighborhood I get. There are some broken pieces and I acknowledge them. Youth and adults get obsessed with their smartphones buzzing with notifications about media updates. Trying to lock eyes with an entire group for an engaging discussion is almost always impacted by someone checking a device.

However, I declare my love for social media and all the advantages it gives me in pastoring – yes I said, “pastoring” – youth and their families. Taking one step further, it seems those who completely opt out of these formats are actually isolating themselves and cutting off additional connections they could be having.

Here are a few advantages I have identified and a “game plan” toward developing your social media ministry.

FOUR Advantages

  • Entering the social media world strategically gives me…
  • We gain a few more access points of…
  • Youth and parents can easily….
  • Youth and parents can know more about…

YOUR Game Plan

  • Choose a few strategic media…
  • Affirm birthdays, accomplishments…
  • Don’t be…
  • Post above…
  • Balance media and…

To read all of Doug’s great ideas, log in to your YLO membership page, and then come back here and use this link.

Technology: Technological Attention Deficit Disorder

If The Holy Spirit Had A Cell Phone…

Elise Chapman / Saint Ann Catholic Church / South Chesterfield, Virginia / echapman@stanncc.com

041416_Tech-ADD(This is the next in our series of Feature Articles from Youth Leaders Only 102 – which has the theme of TECHNOLOGY: Doing Ministry in the 21st Century.)

We often blame our technological challenges on our being old, “I can’t figure it out”, or as an excuse “to build relationship with my techno savvy teenagers.” Unfortunately, at some point those excuses are no longer effective and we begin to look for alternatives to technology avoidance. What is the draw of these devices? What makes us able to recognize our young people simply by looking at the tops of their heads? What do we need to do? As Youth Workers, we must take the time to look at things a bit differently! First, technology is here to stay. It’s not going away. It will continue to challenge our lives in new, distracting, and it we let it, increasingly positive ways. Second, we MUST learn to live with technology, appreciate and embrace its potential value, and with positive intention, include it in our ways of being in ministry with our young people.

For the past 18 years I have facilitated an annual retreat for High School students. For most of those years it was clearly stated on the dreaded permission slip, “electronic devices are not allowed. Please take this opportunity to unplug and spend the time with God.” For most of those years, this rule was ignored and WalkMans (yes, I go back that far), iPoda, and cellphones showed up at these retreat weekends under the cover of night! Three years ago, I made the intentional, and prayerful choice to ALLOW electronic devices on retreat. Acknowledging the use of and need for their phones, I challenged my youth to a compromise. Participants could use their phones at appropriate times and keep them; or, they could choose to use them at inappropriate times and they would become mine. (Insert evil laugh here.) This resulted in a drastic decrease in phone confiscation. Why? Because acknowledging the importance of electronics—specifically phones—to our teens, and allowing them a choice, puts us on a more mutual playing…

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Technology: We Live In The Future

Seven points of tension concerning technology in ministry

Jackson Fong / First Baptist Church / Downey, California / JacksonF@fbcdowney.org

041416_Jetsons(This is the next in our series of Feature Articles from Youth Leaders Only 102 – which has the theme of TECHNOLOGY: Doing Ministry in the 21st Century.)

When I first started youth ministry, I crammed a ton of things into a backpack. As I was also taking graduate classes, so I ended up carrying another bag as well. I’d have to pack papers, resources, giveaways, my laptop, various reference material for whatever I was prepping for, a camcorder, maps, address books, camera, first aid kit, flashlight, tool kit, my Bible, water, and random junk food. Trying to bounce from class, to the office, to wherever the kids were was quite the juggling act. Keeping track of all of that information was a chore. I had to prioritize, plan, and communicate well. Some days were tougher than others. I remember getting lost on my way to a newly-formed leadership team meeting where I ended up being late due to making a wrong turn on to a wrong freeway. (I ended up on a military base next to the Mexico border!)

Fast-forward to today. With the advent of compact technology, everything is available at the touch of a button. I can have countless resources connected to my phone. I can send a group email or text to hundreds in a minute. I can do more and accomplish more in a couple of minutes now than I could get done in hours before. That’s a good thing, right? Don’t get me wrong, I love technology. If someone were to get me in on all of the coolest gadgets and the newest tech, I think I’d be all over that. But is efficient always effective? Here are seven points of tension we can struggle with concerning technology in ministry.

1 Time management

Not too long ago, the process of putting together a flier, invite, or calendar would take days. Putting together an audio-visual presentation would take weeks. Now, all of that can be done in hours if not minutes. With all that time saved, how early are we planning ahead? How much time or effort do we take in planning and preparing? Sure, we can just pop the address into the GPS, but I have found that blindly following the device is not always the best way to go. I was once traveling with a high school group on a trip in Northern California and we traveled in circles because the GPS couldn’t tell which freeway we were on! If I had used the map instead, (or made the time to check the route ahead of time, I would have known that a parallel street would have saved me time and the embarrassment of getting lost.

Self-Check: How often am I waiting till the last moment? How far in advance am I planning and working?

2 Social Development

Proper use of grammar, personal eye contact, tone, and the ability to read body language were all things that used to be really important in youth ministry. With an abundance of text abbreviations, and the norm of texting, many of our students (and youth leaders) operate more behind screens than we used to, and pay less attention to proper grammar. I’ve been amazed at students who could read a text and then text a response (with their phone in their pockets), hit send, and hold a conversation in class without having to look at their phones. We can rely more on spell-check or auto-complete. Then, I remember the times where there were breaks in communication because of a misinterpretation of a text or an email and that would cause some additional drama in youth group. Sometimes, even with adults! I find that students (and leaders) don’t interact as well together. Responses can be extremely brief, people have more difficulty speaking to and with each other. We’d rather post all our thoughts online and not take the time to consider the impact it would have. Sometimes people don’t even care about how it might be perceived. In the past, we had a little more time to consider the impact of our words before we would mail a letter. Now we can just hit SEND and it’s out there.

Self-Check: When was the last time I walked my students through improving their social development? When was the last time I did something that would have been considered “rude”?

3 Connectivity with Parents

I remember stopping by homes of students, sometimes having meals with their families. I remember mass letter-folding-and-mailing days. I remember having to take hours, if not days, to contact every family and follow up about how they were doing, or how their students were doing. Now, I can send everything out on in a mass email. I can post letters or fliers on the church website, kick it out on Twitter, set the events on Facebook, or post to Instagram. In the flood of information that is out there, I can have things posted everywhere and parents will still miss out on the info.

Self-Check: When was the last time I had a face-to-face with a parent just because?

Read the whole article and get tons of Christian music, worship music, and mainstream music resources all year long for just $8 per month. Join Youth Leaders Only – youth ministry’s original low-cost music and media service!

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Technology: The Mobile Youth Pastor

We must become more mobile and agile

Randy Brown / Powerhouse Youth Ministry / Atlanta, Georgia / randysbrown@gmail.com

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(This is the next in our series of Feature Articles from Youth Leaders Only 102 – which has the theme of TECHNOLOGY: Doing Ministry in the 21st Century.)

April 2016 marks my 26th year of student ministry. The passion for ministering and caring for students over the years has remained the same, but the style of ministry has changed drastically. When I first started on this ministry journey, my goal was to create programs and processes that would attract student to the church where they would hopefully have an encounter with God and with students their own age that could encourage and challenge them to follow Christ. As our world has become more mobile and seemingly more disconnected, youth leaders must become more mobile and agile in our approach to reaching this generation for Christ.

Multitask

We operate in a world that is growing more and more complex. We no longer have the luxury to sit back and wait for students to come to us. We must engage them where they are. Social Media is an area where we can engage students on a continuous basis. Our ministries can interact with students on Facebook, Twitter, Periscope, smartphone apps, and websites. In order to do this, we must constantly be updating the info that we share. I use an app called Buffer which allows me to schedule posts through out the day that will post automatically. I schedule a week’s worth of posts on Monday that will post to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I also use an app called Publish that will do the same thing for…

To read the rest of what Randy wrote, log in to your YLO membership page, and then come back here and use this link.

Missional

Student ministry for years has been built around an “Attractional” model of ministry, which implies that we have the best and biggest show in town to draw kids from across our city. The more kids we had coming the more successful we would feel. We felt that we had really accomplished something great if our events and programs were well received and well attended. I have realized that anyone with minimal talent and ability can draw a crowd. What we need is to see our role as that of a missionary. We have been called not only to reach a generation but also a new culture. We must be willing to…

To read the rest of what Randy wrote, log in to your YLO membership page, and then come back here and use this link.

Technology: Avoiding Social Media Pitfalls in Youth Ministry

Five Practical Thoughts For Social Media

Bruce Blair / Cardiac Media / Cleveland, Tennessee / bblair93@mac.com

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(This is the next in our series of Feature Articles from Youth Leaders Only 102 – which has the theme of TECHNOLOGY: Doing Ministry in the 21st Century.)

The earliest form of social media was only in its beginning stages ten years ago – now, almost everyone you know has adopted it. We are in the midst of a technological revolution. Social media is in its Model T era if you equate it to the automobile industry. If we do not continue to intentionally engage this medium, the church will be the only one riding around on ten wooden spokes, while the Mustang of technology has been invented.

One misconception is that you have to compete with Social Media. Our view of social media as youth leaders shouldn’t be negative. Yes, inevitably, there will be bad influences on social media, it happens, but if you choose to stay away from it for this reason you lose the opportunity to reach your students.

Anyone who works with students knows how difficult keeping their attention is. With so many things vying for them, no wonder they have trouble staying focused. . So, think outside the box—instead of exhausting yourself (and your budget) competing for your students’ attention, be the distraction. Students might seem to be ignoring you, but, whether you realize it or not, students ARE listening. Yes, church happens on Sundays and Wednesdays; however, ministry continues throughout the week. The way students communicate today involves more than simply speaking, listening face-to-face, or sitting in a church service. You might label this generation as media-driven, but in reality it isn’t media to them –it’s just part of life.

With that in mind, here are five practical thoughts for social media.

  1. If you are not on social media, you’re not speaking this generation’s language. Social media is not the only important aspect of youth ministry, but it should be a priority. Students who see you on social media believe you can relate to them. Jesus was/is all about building relationships. If you are having trouble connecting with students or getting them to come to church, try social media. Retweet their posts, like their pictures, and let them know you are present and listening. Often, they will gradually open up, grow to trust you, value your words, and engage face-to-face. Also, your students are more likely to filter what they post if they know you are watching. This is a great way to provide accountability.
  2. Don’t do it alone! Managing one social media platform effectively, not to mention multiple platforms, is difficult. Don’t be the only administrator on your accounts. Student leaders and other adult youth leaders can be your best co-laborers in the social media ministry, but be selective about whom you give account access. Appoint someone trustworthy and mature to help run your accounts.
  3. Protect your brand. Everything you post on social media represents the Lord, your church, and you. Use wisdom and discretion when…

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Prince

High School Students’ Reactions/Thoughts

Anna Scally / Cornerstone Media, Inc. / Healdsburg, California / ascally@aol.com

Anna Scally has lead youth ministry seminars on mainstream music for over thirty years in Catholic parishes all over the country. She is a longtime friend and co-laborer with us at interlínc. We often say that “she has forgotten more about mainstream music than most of us have ever known.” We asked her to give her thoughts on Prince’s impact on high school kids over the years. She even took time to speak with some students yesterday and include their thoughts. Check out more from Anna’s ministry at Cornerstone Media.

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“You saw it in his eyes.” This came from Owen Husney, the agent who signed Prince for his first album contract. When he was brought the demo he asked Chris Moon what the name of the band was. He said, “This is one person, an 18-year-old who is playing every instrument.” Husney knew at that moment he had never met anyone with this kind of brilliance. During an interview this morning he was obviously deeply saddened and in shock. He shared that there are so many songs never released, also commenting about the work that Prince left for all of us is ready to be discovered.

Born on June 7, 1958 to musical parents, as early as age seven he was a self-taught pianist, then guitar, followed by drums. He lived, ate, and breathed music.

Like many teens, he had his own sources of inspiration. (This would be a great question to ask the young people you work with.) Certainly, Stevie Wonder was one of his key inspirations because he had a great connection to the spirit. Prince thought that his own music was from the heart; he had a gift and it needed to be guided.

What is so wonderful to me personally is that he is/was a towering figure in global culture, and his music has been the soundtrack for untold numbers of people. I personally believe this is why so many people of different ages identify with his songs. Not only being a seven-time Grammy winner, an Oscar winner, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member, and claims to have sold over 100 million records, he wanted to have his music have an impact on society. Last year he performed an original song at the Rally for Peace in Baltimore – “Baltimore” for Freddy Gray, the young man killed by police.

This morning I had the honor of talking with several teens around the country (the ones I could connect with – after all, it is a school day). I asked them how or if he affected their life, and if they happened to have a favorite song. Great responses! Some were very expected. Tasha from Northern California chose “Let’s Go Crazy.” “I’m a senior in high school this year and this is what I feel like.” Another teen, Josh from Atlanta, did not really want to go into details, but he said it would have to be “Controversy.” If one song could sum up his life right now, this would be it. My favorite and most touching response might be from 15-year-old Josh from Denver. He spoke in a low voice and said, “Okay, this may sound weird, but it would be ‘When Doves Cry.’ I never even thought about doves crying – but I bet there are lots of them in the heavens right now!” Wow, that hit the heart!

Many spoke of the fact he seemed fearless, brave, driven, crossed many barriers, and not afraid of what others thought of him.

I’m sure many people today have different thoughts and feelings about the loss of his life. A I listened today and did a little searching around, I discovered many common threads that could connect with our ministry. He said that along with himself, teens need more God in their lives. He spent much time talking with band members about his relationship with God and opportunities to make a difference.

The final image that Lisa Cox, a CNN reporter, had after being at the final concert/performance in Atlanta last week was of him and the piano on stage, giving his all, talking to the audience and standing strong.

I pray to live this way through my life as well – maybe minus the piano, if you know me.

Technology: Evolution of the Youth Room

Does the experience shape the room, or does the room shape the experience?

041416_Youth-RoomsMandy Kyes / RPM Youth / Galt, California / Mandykyes@Hotmail.Com

(This is the next in our series of Feature Articles from Youth Leaders Only 102 – which has the theme of TECHNOLOGY: Doing Ministry in the 21st Century.)

It was an open room with a boom box, a podium, and metal folding chairs that would always sting a little if you wore shorts. There wasn’t a projector, or pool table, but somehow we were always able to have a great time. What was this magical space that seemed to have very little but everything at the same time? It was my youth room growing up. That was years ago when MTV actually played music videos. But times have changed, and so have our youth rooms. What makes a youth room “click” with students? Does the room shape the experience, or does the experience shape the room? Perhaps it’s both.

One of the biggest lessons I like to share with youth is that we don’t have to “get better” before we meet Jesus. The thing about Jesus is that we don’t have to meet Him “half way.” Rather, He meets us where we are, faults and all. Taking that concept to heart, it seems as if many of our youth rooms are made to do the same. Today’s youth are driven by technology. To meet students where they are, we oftentimes tweak little things over the years that add up over time. We fill youth rooms with video games systems, loud music, televisions — and in one youth room I’ve visited, a “charging station” where youth can charge their phones while still checking their Instagram and Snapchat. (I’m sure there’s a hashtag for that!)

Youth rooms have shifted to become more of a place of…

 

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Technology: Okay, you have an iPad. Now what?

How I use my iPad to be more effective in youth ministry

Tom Hammel / SoCal Network Assemblies of God / Irvine, California / thammel@socalnetwork.org

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If you are anything like me, you love technology! But, figuring out how to make it work beyond watching Netflix and playing Candy Crush can sometimes be a bit perplexing. So, my mission is to figure out how to make technology serve me! Here are just a few of the ways I use my iPad to help streamline and hopefully be more effective in youth ministry

Keep Your Student Database Up To The Minute

I have found an amazing tool called MinHub Youth App. There are so many cool features that are useful, but a few of my favorites are:

  • Cost – There are no ongoing subscription fees, (which is important for the youth ministry budget!)
  • Fun – While a bit of time is needed for the initial set up, I love the “selfie” check-in process for students. The moment something is fun for kids to do they will be more consistent in doing it.
  • Messaging – You can send something out to your whole database, or just to your leaders, or however you want to group your people.

I know that there are other tools out there, but this is a simple and economical one that sync’s to Dropbox so you can have multiple devices running the same database.

Write And Deliver Your Talk From Your iPad, Complete With Slideshow

This is a huge part of what we do as youth pastors, and there are lots of options for displaying your presentations with Keynote, PowerPoint, or ProPresenter.

Using JUST your iPad and the built-in Pages app, you can build an efficient and simple collection of sermon notes. Start with the page formatting. I like to set the margins to 0.12” on both sides and 0.49” for the top and bottom – which fills the entire page with the notes. Then, use a large font size (I use 23) and build your sermon with color coding for Scriptures, quotes, comments, announcements, and what your audience will see on the screens. Then export that document as a PDF into iBooks so that when your are presenting, you have a simple page-by-page view. Finally, iBooks keeps an archive on my bookshelf in case I need to, um… be ready in season and out!

And Finally, Social Media

Even in a world full of communication and connection, announcements still can’t seem to make it home! Social Media, with all of its trappings, can be…

Read the complete article here.

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