Tag Archives: ylo87

The Long View


From YLO87 | By Doug Ranck, Free Methodist Church, Santa Barbara CA

Editor’s Note: This month, as we all get in the back-to-school groove, we’re featuring articles from previous Youth Leaders Only Resource Books — articles that hit on some of the fundamentals of student ministry. We picked these articles because we know that “Back to School” is also an important time for your youth ministry as you incorporate new volunteers, new students, new systems, and new ideas. From all of us at interlinc … Welcome Back to “Normal”!

People in ministry know about the circle. The circle is where you often sit with other ministry teammates. In the circle, you go around and share. On this day we were sharing, or more correctly, presenting our ministries. The assignment of the moment, “Tell us about your youth ministry.”

What youth pastor/leader, to some degree, has not dreaded this time? In these conversations we hear about the amazing things God is doing at other churches while we fidget, knowing the reality of our ministry, and wonder if we are the right person for the job after all.

Whenever we sit in the “circle”, we tend to compare. But when we compare, we lose. We either become proud, or we wallow in martyrdom. The root of this problem is usually found in our need to be successful. We want others to know we are capable and have something great to offer. If we cannot present a positive front, our biggest temptation is to then produce a successful “spin.”

What is your definition of “success” in youth ministry?

Is success having a full youth room on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings? Is it having the biggest group at your winter camp? Is it having growing and active small groups with students who carry a Bible/notebook and are eager to learn? What do you talk about when people ask you to describe your youth ministry? What would cause you to feel like your youth ministry is effective?

Our descriptions, lists, and profiles mostly focus on the “here and now.” For too many years, I defined my success only in terms of temporary fruit. I believed if youth said they wanted to follow Christ and were actively living their faith that we had succeeded and could now move to the next “project.” I also believed the inverse of those kids who rebelled and made a stand against participating in the youth ministry and following Christ. This thinking, I now understand, was shortsighted. We limit ourselves with “small picture” thinking while God is only interested in the “big picture.”

After twenty-nine years of youth ministry there are many times I feel that I know less than when I started, but one thing I do know: there is a “long view” to youth ministry. Keeping my eyes on a teenager beyond high school into adulthood gives me a greater glimpse of God’s perspective.

Here are three tentative conclusions (with accompanying comments) I have made which helps me navigate a healthy evaluation of success and failure in my own ministry:

This is not my ministry.

My role is to be a faithful servant/shepherd and to offer opportunities for youth to begin a relationship with Christ, grow in their faith, and serve Him.

I cannot make anybody do these things or be a Christian. God completes the work as people choose to follow Him.

There are many different scenarios in the faith journey of youth.

  • Youth may be great Christians throughout their time in the youth ministry but reject it in the college years.
  • Youth may be growing Christians through middle school and reject it in high school.
  • Youth may not follow Christ at all through their teen years, but come to Him later in life.
  • Youth may do one of the first two scenarios and come back to the Lord in college or later in life.

No program or even a fully invested relationship can guarantee the path of a teenager in his or her relationship with the Lord. What works for one may not work for another. We are all different, and we have the freedom to choose to follow the Lord. We must accept these different journeys as a part of the youth ministry profile and remember this is God’s ministry.

Long view = Hope view

Opening my eyes wide to the possibilities of God’s work in a person’s life, at any time, offers me a whole new frame of reference to assess the “successes and failures” of ministry. I have learned after all these years (twenty-five of them in the same ministry) to never give up hope.

Some will measure their success by how many former students are now in full-time ministry, missions, etc. To hear them speak of those youth we would naturally guess they were active, growing Christians in their teen years; carefully groomed and nourished through the loving investment of youth leaders. However, over half of our youth who now serve God full-time in ministry or missions were not even Christians through most of their adolescent years!

The next time you sit in the “circle” and wait for your turn, in the moments that you are tempted to second guess your “success” – may God remind you that His work is not yet done. May He affirm in you the passion to continue your walk with youth beyond high school graduation into the rest of their lives.

Want to pass this article along to your adult leaders or volunteers? Download the PDF here.

Every edition of Youth Leaders Only includes great articles like this one. Learn more about YLO Membership.

Character studies for “Vice Verses”

Paul Turner is a youth pastor in Alabama, a longtime Youth Leaders Only member, and a good friend of interlinc’s. Paul wrote a set of powerful discussion starters for all 12 songs on the latest Switchfoot album Vice Verses. Each discussion starts with a song and then transitions into a character study based on men and women in the Bible.

I asked Paul to share a quick overview of his studies (since he does it so much better than I just did). And you can click here to download the first 3 of his Discussion Starters from YLO87 for “Afterlife,” “The Original” and “The War Inside.”

PLUS watch the video and download the complete Bible study for “Dark Horses”

The Black Keys “Lonely Boy”

The new YLO87 includes a re:tuned discussion starter for the song “Lonely Boy” from The Black Keys. The song is a great way to start a discussion about how Jesus is waiting for us. re:tuned writer Benjamin Squires asks this question:

Could it be Jesus singing the blues about you? Jesus left His place in the throne room of Heaven to save us. “Well, I’m so above you/And it’s plain to see/But I came to love you anyway.”

Download the re:tuned discussion starter for “Lonely Boy”

Editor’s note: The re:tuned section in every Music Resource Book features  discussion points for some of today’s most popular mainstream songs. These brief studies are designed to give you a starting point for a “What do you think this song is about?” discussion about a song you hear hanging out with students at Starbucks. Or you might try dissecting the week’s featured “Glee” song in a small group setting. Many youth leaders tell us that the re:tuned section is one of the hidden gems of their YLO membership.

Man Up: Yep, I’m talkin’ to you

I don’t usually use this space for blatant product promotion. And that’s not my intent here. So if it looks that way, I’m sorry. But this is something I’m passionate about. Over the last 20 years, through a series of events and people that are too long to list, God has taken the heart of this small-town girl and broken it over and over again for children and teens struggling to grow up in urban America.

That’s why I’m excited that the new Youth Leaders Only box (YLO87) includes “Man Up,” a movie and soundtrack from Reach Records that features Christian rappers Lecrae, Trip Lee, Sho Baraka, Tedashii, and others performing under the name of 116. It’s a powerful tool that was created to impact the lives of urban youth — specifically young men — growing up in a grim reality that offers very few Godly role models.

Here’s how ReachLife describes the project on their website:

There’s an ongoing war within urban culture. Confusion over what manhood is has plagued our cities, families and lives. The concept of a biblical man has been lost in our generation … Man Up is a new campaign, calling men in the hip-hop culture to true biblical manhood through repentance and faith in Christ.

Don’t think your guys won’t get it
I don’t know where you live or what the students in your ministry look like. I do know that the majority of our Youth Leaders Only members are in suburban churches in “middle America”. So it might be easy for you to dismiss “Man Up” as something you can’t really use.

Think again.

While the target audience for this project is obviously urban youth, you and I both know that hip-hop culture isn’t just in the ‘hood. Five of the Top 10 singles on iTunes this week are by or feature hip-hop artists. Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. were front and center in the Super Bowl halftime show — one of the most mainstream events in America.

“Man Up” deals with the universal topics of authority, responsibility, envy, courage, sexual temptation, and repentance. These are issues that are relevant to the young men in your group no matter where they live. They may not come from the streets, but culture is holding up the ethos of the street through music and media every day.

Make an impact (twice)
If you’re a YLO member, when you get your new box, please spend some time with the movie and consider the impact it can have on the young men you know. Find a way to use it with your students.

Then I want to encourage you to think of a friend or co-hort you know who is working with urban youth, and share “Man Up” with them. (If they want, they can even get their own copy in a single box of YLO87 … or maybe you have a way to gift them their own box). I promise you they’ll see the value of the resource and quickly figure out a way to use it. This project speaks truth to a generation of young men no matter where they’re from or what color their skin is. Together let’s issue the call to a generation in need of God’s love and leadership: Man Up.

Click here to download our “How To Plan a Man Up Event” guide from the YLO87 Resource Book.