Illustration: Oreos of Change

I used this illustration at 3 summer camps this year. Each time the reaction was the same. The point is to encourage students to embrace the change in their lives, rather than hiding it, when they get home.

Feel free to use it if it’s helpful for your students.

Hate Calls

Several years ago my life group started a tradition of calling students who missed group during the beginning of group.

A hate call:
– Is a way to let students know they matter and are missed
– Is an encouragement masked as yelling into the phone at them or on their voicemail
– Always ends with an encouraging word

My students look forward to these when they’re gone. We don’t always do them. They’re disappointed if they’re gone and don’t get one.

A couple of times we have left “Hate Videos” on the Facebook walls of absent students. We almost always do them as a phone call, but it’s the same thing as you see in the video.

Here’s what happens when a girl’s group did a hate call:

This week one of my students made this funny video we could use for hate calls. Not sure how we’ll make use of it, but it’s pretty funny for sure:

Birthday Bash With My Life Group

I’m not great at celebrating each of the birthdays in my life group. Each year, to help make up for that, I throw a birthday party for my boys. This year, I planned a little mayhem on the side.



As volunteer youth workers, it’s important for us to have memory makers that will stay with the kids after they graduate. When they think back to high school days, I want them to connect the good times with life group and when they were challenged to grow closer to God. I’m very intentional about mixing in fun with teaching them how to live out God’s design for their lives.

Youth Retreat Illustration: Finish What You Start When You Get Home (The Beard)

Here’s an illustration I used during small group time at our Winter retreat this weekend.

Setup:
1. I grew my facial hair out into a nasty out-of-control mess for a couple of months leading up to the retreat for this to work.
2. I opened this illustration by warning my cabin guys that this would be a goofy illustration, but to go along with me as I gave it.

The illustration kept my promise of being goofy, but they will remember it, and hopefully the principle behind it. Since these guys are also in the Bible study I teach each week, I’ll be able to refer back to their commitment at camp and ask how “shaving off the beard” is going.

Memorable can equal impactful.

Good luck with this if you choose to use it. Please tell me how it goes.

The illustration:

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1. I asked why I have a beard on my face. After they gave a couple of answers (one of which was “because I’m awesome” – I gave that guy more respect after that).

2. I told them I have a nasty beard on my face because I let myself go for a while and it just kinda grew there.

3. I said all of us figuratively have a nasty full grown beard on our faces – stuff in life that we have done, allowed to happen, or has happened to us, that we haven’t dealt with… and it’s gotten worse over time.

4. Then I held an open pair of scissors to the whiskers on my chin and cut off a chunk of my beard.

5. I said we come to camp and cut off a small portion of our beard and think we’ve done some serious business with God. The truth is there’s still a lot of beard to deal with when we return home. Many of us will let the part we cut off at camp grow back as we continue on our way through life as it’s always been. Before long, we’ll forget we even began to deal with the nastiness in our lives at camp.

6. I asked what nastiness they need to deal with, let them share, we prayed for each other, and closed the cabin time.

7. After we dismissed, I finished cutting off the beard, shaved, and enjoyed having a smooth face again and getting strange comments from people like, “Did you do something to your face tonight at camp?”

I’m Just A Volunteer, Don’t Get On My Case

Yesterday I met somebody who is a new believer and has started serving at our church. He told me a story that, at first, angered me, then challenged me about my role as a volunteer.

He plays in one of the bands at a satellite campus for one of our ministries during the week (purposefully vague here). He stepped off the stage during a rehearsal to listen to the sound coming through the speakers. As soon as he did this, a booming voice came through the speakers from the sound board, “Remember we’re just volunteers back here at the sound board. Don’t get on our case about the sound.”

The musician hadn’t even said anything. He just stepped off the stage to listen. The band leader advised this new believer to go apologize to the guy at the sound board. Apparently, two years earlier, when the band leader stepped off the stage to listen, he didn’t apologize and the sound guy turned it into a much bigger ordeal than it needed to be.

Because of the caustic nature of the sound guy, he’s not getting better at running sound and the quality of the music the attendees hear is suffering for it, even though the band is great. It’s crazy to think about how a person would be so defensive and unwilling to even be open to suggestions. Even more absurd is the idea that he would be able to get away with that for two years or more. We’re going to have horrible sound in our ministry because nobody can upset the sound guy. That kind of thing dumbfounds me.

I woke up this morning thinking about this story and how it relates to my own volunteer work as a youth leader. Here are some questions I’m pondering. I thought I’d share them with you because all youth workers would do well to think through them:

– Am I approachable and willing to be instructed?
– Am I secure enough to be not be destroyed if somebody offers a suggestion about what I do?
– Have I become a better leader over time or am I happy with the way I’ve always been as a leader?
– What have I done to improve?
– Do I talk about youth ministry with other youth leaders and parents? Do I share what I’ve learned and learn from them in return?

I want to be an asset to my youth ministry team, not the guy people have to treat gently lest I blow up at them for making a suggestion.

I don’t know the volunteer running that sound board, but he will be getting some training soon because I am connected with people who handle sound and lighting for the church. As a good leader, I wouldn’t let that go unaddressed now that I know out about it. It’s very important that our kingdoms fall and we’re open to suggestions which make our church more effective. By sharing this with the ones who need to know, our sound will be better for that ministry and a volunteer will become a more approachable, well-trained servant… like I want to be.

Are you willing to address issues or will you avoid them until they resolve themselves while the ministry suffers for it? They won’t likely resolve themselves. We need to discretely, strategically, and with a right heart, deal with issues in our church… and work hard not to be the guy (or gal) people are afraid to approach when we need help.

Cinnamon Roll Waffles

Here’s a fun dessert I did with my Life Group students last week. It’s super easy and they can each do their own pretty quickly.

1. Buy as many canisters of cinnamon rolls as you will need
2. Have them put the cinnamon rolls uncooked into a waffle maker. You’ll want to spray cooking spray before putting them in even if you have a non-stick waffle maker
3. When the ready light appears, they’re ready
4. Have them put them in a bowl and top with icing, ice cream and whipped cream. Other great toppings include nuts, chocolate chips and cherries. If they’re making their own, they can decide what they want.
5. Take pictures and post them on Facebook or Instagram. It’ll be a great commercial for your ministry.

Cinnamon Roll Waffles

You’re Not In Trouble, But…

I’ve used this a couple of times with pretty good results. “You’re not in trouble, but…” is the perfect medium I’ve found between the lands of Knuckleheadville and You’reawesomeistan. When student isn’t really being “bad”, you just need him to take a break from driving everybody crazy, we too often resort to discipline when what we really want is a break.

Next time Chris, or Suzy or some other kid in my youth ministry is on my last nerve, but not really being “bad”, I’ll say, “You’re not in trouble, but I need you to…”
– Quit shooting Nathan with the water gun
– Stay off the roof
– Put the chainsaw away
– Quit driving the church van when the pastor’s looking… you’re only 12

In addition to this, something I learned from working with Doug Fields over the years is to partner with another leader to take turns managing the extra grace required kid every youth ministry has.

The “Real” Reason I Do Youth Ministry

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The real reason I do youth ministry is for the stuff I inherit when my boys forget to take their stuff home. :-)

Attitude Check Without The Attitude

First off: Never say the word ATTITUDE to students if you want to them to hear anything you would say following the word attitude. That word is more like a weapon than a tool.

A student is coming to help me with a project today. He texted me a few minutes ago to say his mom was on his case about getting his chores done, but he’d be here soon.

What he needs is an attitude adjustment at home. I can’t tell him that without triggering a negative internal reaction on his part. So, instead, I wrote that I was proud of him for helping around the house and that it would do wonders for his home life if he does it with the right heart.

Basically, I told him to check his attitude in a way that would have him actually check his attitude instead of check out of our conversation.

Bonus thought: The more strategic we are with our words in youth ministry, the less counseling we’ll have to do because students will feel the effect of the encouragement to go the right direction.

Family Counseling: Start From a Good Place and Control the Meeting

Here are a few tips I’ve learned by counseling students with their parents:

– Don’t be available at a moment’s notice. If you can delay the appointment for at least a few hours after the explosive argument, they’ll have a chance to cool down and the session will be more productive

– Start the appointment with prayer. Prayer brings God into the conversation and reminds the counselees that they are Christians. That’s a little tongue in cheek. But, really, sometimes this will help the gloves not come off so much during your meeting.

– Begin with stories of what they like or appreciate about each other or a fond memory. Everybody has to share something. This accomplishes 3 things: 1. It softens everybody in the room, 2. It shows you are going to lead the meeting, 3. It sets a positive mood.

– Stay on point until you reach an agreement. Tackle one issue at a time. THIS IS ESSENTIAL!!! The tendency will be for the conversation to go down secondary paths not related to the current topic. You are in control of the meeting. When somebody (parent or child) takes the conversation down an unrelated bunny trail, it’s important that you pause and redirect the person back on track until a common understanding is reached. You’re not looking for buy in or agreement, you’re looking to help them understand each other. Good questions during this time are often, “How would you have handled that if you were the parent?” and “How would that have made you feel if you were the child?”

– Keep the conversation moving. The tendency will be for families to harp on a subject much longer than they need to. They’re pouring out their pain and it feels good. You’re leading the conversation so it’s your job to come to an understanding and move on to the next topic. Once understanding is met, announce, “Now that we have an understanding there, we’re going to put that on the shelf for now and not revisit it again in this session. What’s the next issue?”

– Summarize and suggest action steps. Repeat every issue discussed in the meeting as well as the understanding everybody came to on each topic. Give some ideas that could help them communicate better or be more considerate of each other.

– Close in prayer.