Multempire - Thoughts on Youth Ministry

Clearing YM Noise Away

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Want to Help the Developing World? Informative Article on What to Avoid or be Wary Of

Youth Ministers, we have a lot coming at us, and we give a lot of messages about doing good in the world. ¬†A lot of your church members also want to do good and are likely adding dollars and labor to all sorts of missionary projects whether for the church or through a commercial company who has promised to do “good” somewhere.

This article above, shared by my good friend Matt @Wiatt (Twitter), and from the MatadorNetwork.  My commentary below.

What most people don’t think about is that every drop in a puddle makes a ripple, and not all ripples are good. ¬†I remember a missions trainer telling a story of a Methodist minister who was working in an area and teaching people how to make their own clothing. ¬†A small economy was likely possible and people were learning skills. ¬†One day, a missionary group from out of town brought boat loads of t shirts and brought them to the center of town. The donors were immediately swamped by people of the area scrambling for the free clothing. ¬†The Methodist missionary just looked on as all the work they had done would be set back. ¬†

The implication being, “If we can get something for free, why make it ourselves.” ¬†Also, it makes a dependent system where people simply wait for more supplies rather than seek to make or grow it up themselves. ¬†Systems of poverty are strengthened. ¬†And the team that brought the t shirts goes home and tells their church how needy the people were.

I try to reverse every situation, and I thought to myself.  What would we do, as Americans, if someone came from Brazil and had suitcases full of brand new sneakers and stopped in Times Square in New York City?  Certainly, there would be tons of people who would clamor for the shoes.  The Brazilian missionaries would feel like they did some good.  But what does that ripple do?

Shoe sellers in New York would first of all have a few less sales.  Not much, but its something.  

Those able to give, who live in New York City, would then have an excuse not to give. ¬†”Oh, well, the Brazilians are do such good work. ¬†We are thankful.” ¬†If the perception is that others are helping, we are less likely to help our own. ¬†I think that Americans try to take pride in helping our own people - and it should stay that way. ¬†But outside help makes us more dependent.

The people that got shoes, when that pair wears out, may look for the missionaries next time they need shoes rather than finding a self sufficient way to earn the shoes.  This is bad for everyone.  

Now think about how we help others. ¬†Is our missionary effort having an imperialistic and dependent bent - or are we finding ways to help others help themselves. ¬†Care and compassion are moot if we don’t treat the other as a capable being, or surrounded by capable people who have responsibility. ¬†Every missions opportunity should not just be about feeling bad for people around the globe, rather - it should be about connecting with other people of faith, supporting them, and asking, How can we help you help your neighbor. ¬†

Brain shift!

Filed under Missions rethinking help others love life youth ministry matador network toms shoes economics of help economy article resource

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Harvard Business Review Talks about Talking More - YM Guys and Gals Should Listen Up

Harvard Business Review Post: “Keep Listening, But Start Talking

Every once and a while when smart people start talking, I listen, regardless of what their background or source is.  I find that leadership is similar despite the field and basic principles always apply because everyone is dealing with leading people and leading oneself.

Whitney Johnson, a blogger at the HBR, wrote the above article on Starting to Talk more. The primary focus was for women leaders, but many young men who are coming into the world of professionals surrounded by older and sometimes wiser people often have the same issue.

The problem starts with our tendency to listen more than talk and engage what is going on at meetings, in one on one’s, etc. ¬†Often it is easier to listen to show that you care, and as youth ministers, that is a primary part of the job. ¬†But the hard and necessary part of being a leader of youth, of other leaders, and even of the vision of the youth ministry (or of the church) is the talking part. ¬†

To talk right and confidently and often shows that others that you are willing and able to handle situations. ¬†To listen actively and process and then give feedback is essential. Not only that, but in your career, you need to speak up or no one knows that you are there and you’re potential growth as a professional is at stake.¬†

I highly recommend you hit the link (Above) to the blog and look at the research and thoughts.  I found it highly valuable.

Whitney Johnson


Whitney Johnson is a founding partner of¬†Rose Park Advisors, Clayton M. Christensen’s investment firm and is the author of the forthcoming¬†Dare-Dream-Do: Remarkable Things Happen When You Dare to Dream¬†(Bibliomotion, May 2012).¬†
Follow Whitney on Twitter @johnsonwhitney.

Filed under Harvard Business Review Whitney Johnson Women Professionalism Youth Ministry Growth Article Resource

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Texting and Chatting's Effects on the Social Development of Teens - Excellent Article to Read (Click Title to Jump)

From @PracticalStumin who we thank for this article on the effects of texting and chat.

Have you ever wanted to see a well laid out reason to put some of your youth on Texting diets?  This article by Brandon at Practical Youth Ministry really hits the nail on the head pertaining to the different parts of us that process and mature in social interaction:

THE GUT FEELING: One part of the brain rapidly processes information on a subconscious level giving us a feeling about people and situations. This part of the brain can read others, knowing when a question or comment made someone else uncomfortable and then redirect our conversation accordingly.

THE THOUGHTFUL PART: Another part of the brain processes those feelings along with verbal expressions, but more slowly and on a conscious level. In this part of the brain we may try to understand why we get a creepy feeling around one person and not another.

THE IMPLICATIONS: The study participants were limited to text on a screen, effectively blindfolding a portion of the brain that perceives the feelings of others. When our conversations are not guided by what we perceive in another we miss opportunities for empathy, compassion and love. Cyber-bullying and sexting are two examples of the social abuses to come, if technology is allowed to stunt the social development of the next generation. If ingredients for a healthy social education are stripped from this learning process, we may see a marked decline in the value of life since careers, marriages, friends, and all other relationships depend on social intelligence.

‚ÄúWhen our conversations are not guided by what we perceive in another we miss opportunities for empathy, compassion and love.‚ÄĚ

The implications are enlightening and can be further read about here.

Filed under texting diet electronic chatting youth ministry resource blog article Teens Preteens social development

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Don't have a big budget - It's Okay - MacGuyver Youth Ministry!! (Click to Jump)

Having a huge budget isn’t the only way to have authentic moments of surprise and authenticity with youth.¬† Most youth ministers can’t truck in Beach Sand, ride in on motorcycles, or spend thousands on limos.¬† Let’s be real.¬† Most of us have to be duck tape, safety pin, and metal pipe Macguyver’s making something big out of very little.¬† Basically - Miracle Workers.

This article by Danny Ferguson is great because it points to some simple ways that youth ministers can make a difference with very little money or resources.  All you need is a Deck of Cards, A Sketch Pad, and a Ball.  Seriously, youth ministry can be simple and sweet. 

Check out the full article here.

Filed under Macguyver youth ministry simplicity resource article Danny Ferguson Wisdom

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Implications of Underage Facebook Users for Youth Ministry - 20,000 FB users kicked a day for having lied about age (click for Huffington Post Article)

This story is simple.  20,000 Facebook users are kicked off every day for being under age and have lied about how old they are.  In many middle school ministries, Facebook has become a tool for spreading the word about activities - and can be extremely effective as youth take ownership.  But what if your kids are 11 and 12 years old? 

In order to use Facebook you have to be 13 years old.  But Preteens love Facebook since it allows them a step up from texting each other.  They can post content, comment on it, and even argue or post rants about each other.  Sometimes it can be real mean.  Sometimes it can be amazingly insightful.  But with this age group - they have all had to tell a little white lie about their age.

How does the Youth Minister handle this?¬† We can just not encourage it, but accept that the kids are already there.¬† The problem is that if you know the families well you will eventually have to tell the parents you have seen their kid on facebook.¬† If the parent doesn’t know this is complicated.¬† If the parent knows - do you tell them about the age limit?¬† They may not be aware.¬† Kids learn to lie in small ways, like when a parent lies about not being home to not have to talk to a bill collector or someone they are avoiding.¬† As role models, we need to uphold a right lifestyle, and little white lies often have very little consequence but the youth need to process what they are doing.¬†

Perhaps this doesn’t have the monetary ramifications of music file downloading on Napster back in the day -¬† but I remember being a teen and downloading music.¬† We knew it was wrong but it was easy to do and our parents didn’t really understand what was happening.¬† Regardless, it was still illegal and eventually we had to talk about it among ourselves and figure out how we felt about it.¬† Adults around us didn’t directly intervene but did tell us that it was wrong.¬† Now we all tend towards Itunes because we had the conversation.

Perhaps you need to find a suave way to bring this up with one or two of your youth. You might be surprised at how receptive they are to your message if you’re not judgmental and just looking after their interests and safety.¬† But if they don’t immediately heed your words - look out for them, and see if there is a way to bring the parents into the conversation.¬† There’s a lot of messed up stuff online and the young need boundaries and people to supervise so they don’t get into trouble.¬† They don’t do boundaries very well on their own.¬† Good luck!

Filed under Facebook preteens huffington post article 20000 kicked off minors lies youth ministry ethics dilemma

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Youth Worker Journal talks about the Importance of Building a Team - and How?! (Click Title to Jump)

Youth Ministry is a tough field.¬† You are a bridge between those who don’t know if they understand their own (long past) youth, and those who are attempting to navigate it - AND - among parents often terrified of their children growing into something more complicated than a child who responds to punishments and rewards.

All in all - you need a team if your ministry is going to have a true impact.¬† If you are anything like Jesus (I don’t know - maybe you come close at times), you probably have a certain number of people you can really minister to at a particular time.¬† If Jesus did 12, I like to think that I can handle about 6 deep and close relationships.¬† Then there is the outer ring - the 70 that were sent out as disciples.¬† These people aren’t as close, but are ministered to by your ministers.¬† That’s your youth group.¬† You can only minister to a certain number of folks without burning out.¬† So how does your youth ministry grow if you are finite - easy - TEAM.

This article by Youth Worker really does a great job reminding us that we can be training a Team, rather than Volunteers.¬† What is the difference? Volunteers are delegated specific tasks - Team Members take ownership and do ministry with you.¬† You probably have people volunteering with you who are all along a spectrum of compatencies and talents making them fall somewhere between the two.¬† Having a team is a liquid process that keeps moving.¬† If you take care of your team, train, and work with them like Jesus did with the 12, you’re going to have the greatest possible impact for the Kingdom.¬† Not guaranteed success - but it is a model.

Recently our team had a rough night with our Middle School group and hadn’t recognized how bad it was until one of our youth volunteers texted me letting me know that this may be it for volunteering.¬† She cared so much about the youth, and the youth were so out of control that night that she needed to process a bit.¬† We ended up having lunch the next day, cried a bit together, thought about what was going on, and planned on having a youth team dinner together to process even further.

We decided that our team needed to be on the same page more.  I held myself accountable and am now getting youth group schedules out at the beginning of the week so the team knows what is going to happen.  We also decided to push more on the relational end (always needing reminder of this) to make sure that we had a connection if we had to discipline youth.  But ultimately, we just needed some time of fellowship to recognize that we are more than volunteers.  We are people of God who deeply care about the youth.  While we may not have all the answers on how to minister to them, we can come together as a team, pray, and take care of each other. That way we can persevere in the task God has given us. 

Two years ago, we had a team of three.¬† Myself, my wife, and a green volunteer.¬† We had no idea how to reach the kids and we weren’t sure they wanted us to.¬† Now we have a team of Seven - and we are working on growing together while running more efficiently while with the kids.¬†

How has your team grown?  Does it need to grow some more? In what ways?

Filed under resource article team building growth youth ministry youth worker journal awesome

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Working With Homeless Youth Opens Minister's Eyes (Click Title for Youth Worker Article)

This article is a story about a minister who got brought out by a friend named John to help with kids who were in tough spots.  The story turns to a young girl named Brenda whose boyfriend had stolen her money to get high and she had no place to stay.  She was in a tough spot and was probably going to have to steal to get the money she needed.

The writer, when meeting Brenda, tried to use a God-ism.¬† “God wants this for you…” etc.¬† It is a hopeful message but Brenda had probably heard that before.¬† What she needed was some real people who she could sort the issue out with.

There are different types of poverty beyond monetary or even nutritional needs.  Relational poverty is real and this article highlighted this well.

This part of the story is powerful:

My first lesson in crisis counseling was and continues to be that when people are in crisis and struggling with complex problems, the last thing they want or need is a quick answer.

Imagine the frustration a person in crisis would feel if a counselor said, “Oh, that problem you’ve been struggling with is so easy. What you have not been able to answer in a month I can answer in 35 seconds. Boy, are you stupid.”

[Then] John listened to Brenda, then asked her questions that highlighted her strengths and her resources. He asked Brenda if she had been in this spot before and what she had done then.John taught me a lot. Brenda taught me more.

If I am going to be with people and be of any help, I need to get to know them first. I need to know where they’ve come from, their problems and their strengths. I also must allow them to know me.

Click here for the full article.

Filed under Youth Worker Journal Article review resource youth ministry poverty street life relationships relational poverty relationships

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Teen Sexuality/Warning - Main Cause of Oral Cancer is Oral Sex, Which Many Teens See As Casual and Without Consequences (Click TItle for CBSNews Article)

Teens attitude towards Oral Sex has been very casual.¬† Often seen as a less consequential form of sexual activity, is actually the major cause of spreading HPV and other STD’s.¬† And the bad news is that youth ministers often don’t talk about Oral Sex when they are teaching on Sexuality.

Here are some stats we can have to pass on:

Scientists say that 64 percent of cancers of the oral cavity, head, and neck in the U.S. are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), which is commonly spread via oral sex, NPR reported. The more oral sex you have - and the more oral sex partners you have - the greater the risk of developing these potentially deadly cancers.

"An individual who has six or more lifetime partners - on whom they’ve performed oral sex - has an eightfold increase in risk compared to someone who has never performed oral sex, Ohio University’s Dr. Maura Gillison, said at a recent scientific meeting, according to NPR.

The article continues to talk about vaccinations and ways to prevent spread, but helping our teens understand sexual discipline in a time when sex is seen as a fun recreational activity - as ministers we can have a big impact on cancer rates and the success of our youth and their long term health. 

Click here for full article.

Filed under Teen Sexuality sex oral sex resources article CBS News report youth ministry

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Wow - The Role of Single Men and UnCivilization in Pre-Adulthood (click for WSJ Article)

The Wall Street Journal did a pretty astounding look at the uncivilized lives of single men (and a bit on women) who are stuck in the pre-adulthood phase with no real sense of what manhood really means. 

This portrayal of the irresponsible, pot smoking, rude and mostly obnoxious male that is pretty much unneeded by society is very depressing but the WSJ shows that statistically this group is growing.

Remember the creative but unable to accomplish anything (or get assignments done) in High School kid.¬† Everyone would laugh around this person, but not the kind of guy a girl would want to marry for the long haul?¬† That’s this guy and their lifestyle is being marketed (see all Seth Rogen’s films) on a large scale.¬†

Like teens, single males spend a lot on entertaining themselves so there is a lot of money to be made.  In experience ministering with Middle and High School boys, they watch these movies and memorize them making the Single Rude Guy narrative part of their identity.  The male role models in our community often reinforce the move away from responsibility and marriage.

The end of the article is quite fatalistic.¬† These guys are not needed.¬† They live on the excesses of society and don’t succeed at the same rate as their more driven female peers.¬† It strikes hard as part of a generation who watched their fathers divorce their mothers and don’t want to live with the “roles” of the past.¬†

Culture, however, tends to be like a pendulum moving broadly back and forth.  Sometimes the excesses of one generation are responded to by conservatism in the next.  If this is a growing trend, however, we as ministers need to look to the young and see that they have good role models - much better than the ones on the screens making them laugh at pot and fart jokes.

(click on the title for full article by Wall Street Journal above)

Filed under young males Wall Street Journal Article Resource Pre-Adulthood Human Development life living single college ministry