Resources to Encourage the Next Generation

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January 2019

Ministering to Your Church’s Kids Who Are Now in College

in College Age/Going On For God/Young Adults by
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I live in a college town. A few weeks ago, I met a young girl who will be attending college here this fall, so I asked her if anyone from her home church recommended a good church to her while she completes her studies. To my amazement she replied that no one from her home church, including her parents or pastors, had said anything to her about finding a good church in the town where she is attending college. Of course, I suggested that she should try our church; but that conversation left me wondering.

Are pastors and youth pastors talking to their church’s graduating high school seniors about getting plugged in to a good church while they are away from home attending college?

Here are 5 practical suggestions for ministering to your church’s college students who are away from your church while they are in college.

  • Encourage your church’s college students to find a good church immediately when they arrive on campus!

 

If nothing else, take the time to talk to the college students from your church who are away from home about finding a good, Bible-preaching church in the town where they are attending school. You might also want to take the time to investigate the churches in the area where your students are living to make informed recommendations to them. This will not take a long time with the wealth of information available on the Internet. Make sure your young adults are plugged in to a good church nearby the college or university they are attending. Believe me; this is also important if your students are attending a Christian college or even a Bible college. Experts on this age group are saying that college-age habits are usually formed within the first 2 weeks they are away from home; so this suggestion is very, very important for their spiritual growth and development while they are away in college. 

  • Stay in touch with your church’s college students encouraging them in their walk with God.

 

Your church’s college-age young adults are leaving home sometime during the next couple of weeks to begin this year’s academic schedule. Make sure you know their mailing address, e-mail address, and cell phone number so that you can stay in touch with them while they are away in college. Put it on your personal schedule to send them an e-mail or a text message just to find out how they are doing in college and to let them know that people from their home church are praying regularly for them.  

  • Send them a “love gift” from home within 2 weeks of when they arrive on campus.

 

Make sure your church sends them a care package (home-made chocolate chip cookies are a must for college students!) in a couple of weeks. You might also want to send them a gift card for a free pizza. Why don’t you recruit a team of church people to handle this important project? There’s nothing like the encouragement from receiving a love gift from people back at home. 

  • Suggest ways they can stay connected with their home church while they are away at college.

 

College students often feel out-of-touch while they are away from their home church. Perhaps it would be a good idea to send each of them your church’s weekly church bulletin and prayer request list. Put this simple practice on a tickler file as a reminder to send them this information on a regular basis.

  • Recruit a team of people in your church to pray specifically for those students while they are in college.

 

I can’t tell you how important it is for today’s college students to know that caring people back home are praying regularly for them while they are away at school. Put together a complete list of all of the young adults from your church who are away in college (and in the military, for that matter) and add them to your church’s prayer list. Then make sure you remind your church people to pray for them regularly and faithfully. This simple act of prayer will be a real source of encouragement to your church’s students who are studying away from home.

Please don’t forget that these students are still your church’s young people. Your church has invested so much in their lives during their formative years as children and youth. Don’t drop the ball on them while they are away in college!

5 Ways Parents Approach Youth Ministry

in Parents/youth ministry by
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Let’s face it, a lot of youth workers sometimes view parents as almost one of the necessary evils of youth ministry. A friend of mine took a survey a few years ago in his network of approximately 400 youth workers. He asked them to name the biggest concerns they faced in local church youth ministry. The most listed answer was “parents of teenagers.”

Here are 5 basic ways that parents of teenagers approach youth ministry. It has been my experience that somewhere along the line all youth workers will face parents in each of the following categories:

  1. Protective – Undoubtedly, you’ve heard the phrase “Helicopter Parents” – those parents who “hover over their kids” and are overly-protective of them. A recent survey reported that freshmen in college sometimes send and receive 11 text messages a day from their parents – and those were college students! We noticed during our summer youth missions trips that many of the participating teens used their cell phones to call their parents almost every hour. It’s true; we are ministering to a generation of hovering parents. My advice is to use this as an advantage and take every opportunity you can to communicate clearly and carefully to the parents of the teens involved in your ministry.
  2. Afraid – Some parents are afraid, and they worry about the negative influences facing their kids. These parents look at their kids’ peers as potentially harmful and manipulative. They also tend to see even the church youth ministry as a problem. The roots to this particular approach are often deeper than just surface negativity. There are some parents who seem to be pessimistic and critical about almost everything. Probably the best thing you can do to help these parents is to keep communicating to them the positive virtues and characteristics of the church and youth ministry.
  3. Proud – Akin to the last approach is something I’ve seen growing over the past few years of my ministry. There are some parents who are so proud and arrogant that they feel as if they are the only ones who can have a positive influence in the lives of their kids. I’ve met some parents of teenagers who will not allow their kids to attend youth group or other youth ministry functions because they see those ministries as a problem. This group of parents looks at other Christian youth and even church youth workers as part of the problem, so they do everything they can to keep their kids with them in everything – including school and church activities. Again, I believe that communication is the key to ministering to this group of parents. Show them Biblical examples of the church in action and help them see the advantages of building other Godly people into the lives of their children.
  4. Idealistic – Some other parents are quite idealistic. They think that everything will turn out okay in the end, so why worry about anything. These parents are often somewhat permissive and lenient with their kids. Plus, this group will often prove to be materialistic in getting their kids anything they want. I suspect that in most cases, their motives are good. They want their kids to grow up to be positive and constructive citizens; it’s just that they try to smooth out all the feathers for their kids along the way. I have found that this group of parents may respond well if they see the positive aspects of youth ministry that includes actively serving the Lord and motivating students to enthusiastically share their faith.
  5. Engaged – Praise the Lord for active, engaged parents. These are the parents who stay involved in the lives of their kids as they mature through adolescence and they are the ones who value the church’s youth ministry and realize how important it is for the family and the church to work together to help kids grow in Christ and go on for Him as adults. This is the group of parents you should try to recruit to be a part of your team of youth workers. They will have a positive influence on their own kids and will often help minister to other teens as well. Praise God for engaged parents of teenagers!

The Keys to Longevity in Student Ministry

in Blog/youth ministry by
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Let me introduce you to 2 of my heroes:

The first was my Sunday School teacher when I was in 6th through 8th grade. I thought he was way too strict, too conservative, and way too quirky to work with students. I hate to admit it now, but I’d complain about him to my Dad. Come to find out, he was also my Dad’s Sunday School teacher when he was that age. This faithful leader served the junior higher youth group in my home church for over 30 years! He’s in Heaven now, but you’ll meet him there someday. He’ll be in the front row – after working with early adolescents for that long (with guys like me in his group), he deserves to be the front row!

The second was a youth worker that I’ve known for over 40 years. He served for almost 25 years as a youth pastor in two local churches and coached in public high schools for over 20 years. He still leads an international youth ministry organization and he travels to speak to hundreds of kids each year in camps, retreats, and other youth events. The bottom line is that he’s a youth worker, and I can’t picture him doing anything else.

I’ve told churches for years that people may get too old to play tackle football (I would probably fall on you and crush you), but you never get too old to minister to kids!

So, what are the keys to longevity in student ministry?

  • What has God called, gifted, and equipped you to do? It’s really quite simple, if God has blessed you with the ability to work with students – then do it, and keep doing it. Honestly, why would you stoop to do anything else?
  • Do you love students? If the Lord has put a burden on your heart for middle schoolers, high schoolers, or even young adults, then I believe that you’ll do anything you can to spend time with them and their families in an attempt to reach them for Christ and to help them to go on for Him. It’s not just a cliché, youth workers keep working with youth.
  • Are you willing to be a servant? Let’s face it, sometimes ministry is hard – and it takes faithfulness over the long haul. Kids need adults to be faithful – to be the kind of people they can depend upon. You may want to resign every Monday morning, but don’t do it! Teenagers need loving, caring, and faithful adults to be an ongoing part of their lives.
  • How can you make the greatest impact for eternity? Reproducing yourself in the lives of the next generation may be the most important characteristic of a true leader. As I write this post, I am reminded that there is one real advantage to getting old in youth ministry. You stay around enough to see the students that you invested your life in grow up and go on for God.

 

I’m praying that the entire front row of heaven (if there really is such a thing) is totally full of youth workers. To quote the old crooner, Steve Green, “May all who come behind us find us faithful!”

5 THINGS PARENTS WANT FROM THE YOUTH MINISTRY

in Parents by

Youth ministry is really a ministry to parents. As veteran youth worker Dewey Bertolini says, “Our ultimate effectiveness with teenagers may depend upon our concerted effort to gain an influence in the homes of our youth.” Sure, youth workers can have a real impact on the lives of impressionable youth, but our most effective long-term ministry may indeed be our entrance into the lives and hearts of parents.

We understand that God’s Word gives the ultimate responsibility for raising children to parents, and especially fathers (see Ephesians 6:4 for example.) That’s why a main focus of local church youth ministry should be upon equipping parents to be effective in how they raise their kids for the glory of God. However, most youth workers spend the majority of their time ministering to teenagers. The problem is that we sometimes fail to implement even the basic ingredients of an equipping ministry to the people most responsible for the spiritual maturity of our students: their parents.

The Lord has given my wife and me the opportunity to lead several seminars and workshops over the past few years for parents of teenagers and preteens. (This only means that “we’re old”; our kids are grown up and are now adults.) This experience has convinced us that many parents are looking for the following five things from the church: communication, training, fellowship, encouragement & support, and resources. We have talked to hundreds of parents of teenagers and preteens in churches of various sizes all across the country. These interviews give ample credence to our belief that every church should include these five priorities in its ministry to parents.

Communication

Parents want to know what’s going on in the youth ministry. What are you teaching their kids, and what are you doing with their kids? These are the imperative questions for any youth worker. Make sure that the parents know what you are doing. Well-known youth ministry author Doug Fields quotes one parent, “I would rather have over-communication than none at all. It shows leadership and it gives me confidence I know what is going on.”

I encourage all youth workers to regularly communicate in every way possible to parents. Don’t assume that the teens will get the information to their parents. This is your responsibility. Utilize your youth group website, e-mail, texting, newsletters, the church bulletin, announcements, phone calls, mailings, and all other means of communication at your disposal to get the necessary information to parents. I know several youth workers who schedule regular informational meetings with parents so that they do not have any excuse for not knowing what the youth ministry is doing.

Training

Parenting is a difficult task even for the best of parents. It seems ridiculous to me that churches don’t make training and equipping for parents more of a priority. This responsibility is one of the most important tasks we face, and yet we often go into parenting so unprepared. It has also been reported that church growth guru George Barna has stated that parenting classes might be the most effective means of community outreach in contemporary culture. It is no wonder, then, that so many parents of teenagers have told us that they wish their churches would provide specific means of training.

There is a very real tension here, though, because many church youth workers are younger than the parents of teenagers. I personally faced this apprehension as a young youth pastor, right out of college and trying to relate to the parent of teens and preteens in my church. I discovered that I could talk to them about the big picture of youth ministry without trying to state that I was some kind of expert on being a parent of teenagers. Frankly, I didn’t have a clue how to be a parent back then, but I did come in contact with several teenagers in church each week, and I also made weekly visits to multiple high schools in our area. I couldn’t tell them about how to raise their own kids, but I could share my own observations and conclusions about teenagers in general and the overall picture of youth culture.

I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t provide specific training in how to be a parent of teenagers, but I could make other “experts” available to them. So, I utilized our senior pastor (he and his wife had grown kids) and other adults with parenting credibility in our church to lead parenting classes and workshops for younger parents. We also brought in outside parenting specialists for training and provided other training tools for our parents of teens and pre-teens to utilize on their own.

Fellowship

The third thing that parents need from church is fellowship. I believe that parents of teenagers desperately need fellowship and interaction with other parents of teenagers to show them that they’re not in this all alone. They also need fellowship with people from other age groups as well, especially with parents who have already raised their own children. Wise youth workers will help parents make these kinds of connections through various church programs and ministries.

I want to share another idea with you. Why not try planning some activities each year for parents and teenagers to attend together? Mark DeVries, the author of Family-Based Youth Ministry, touts this idea is his book. He writes, “I began with this rule of thumb: if it works with teenagers, try it with youth and parents together.” Maybe he is on to something.

Encouragement and Support

Parents need regular sources of encouragement and support. Ideas abound. The key here is to do everything you can within the youth ministry to show parents of teenagers that you appreciate the work they are doing in raising their kids for the Lord.

Resources

Finally, youth workers should do all they can to provide parents with some helpful resources and materials for parenting. These resources are plentiful today – check the Internet and your local Christian bookstore. Perhaps you could create a library of sorts within your ministry for parents to check out books, websites, or other practical resources to help them with their kids. You’ll need to be discerning about what kind of materials you provide for them. You should read or watch everything first and only then make those resources available that you would personally endorse or recommend. You may also want to involve the senior pastor in that process. Ask him to list some resources that he finds helpful for parents of teens and preteens.

As you gather resources for parents, don’t forget the “people resources” that are a part of your church or community. What about doctors, police officers, child advocacy experts, lawyers, and counselors? Sometimes parents need these kinds of resources as well. Proverbs talks much about the “multitude of counselors.” It is my experience that a church can make some crucial contacts for parents when they are going through difficult times with their kids.

 

It is very important for all youth workers to remember that they are not the parents of teenagers. Ultimately, parents are responsible for the spiritual maturity and well-being of their own teenagers. I am afraid that some youth workers inadvertently take on too much pressure by almost trying to be a parent to the majority of students in the youth group. This isn’t the best solution. Wise youth workers will work to add the above listed ingredients into the fiber of their youth ministries. This strategy will encourage parents and will help to get them on your side. We must not forget that the most effective youth ministry is undoubtedly a ministry that includes parents as a major focus.

May God bless you as you seek to minister to parents of teenagers.

 

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