Hello again everyone! For those that have not read my Who Am I? page, this is my first year in bi-vocational youth ministry. It truly is a learning experience, especially when you have had no experience in youth ministry prior to coming to a new church! Well, unless you count a few years of leading and teaching college ministry, but that’s quite a bit different. Here are some things I’ve learned in this first year…
1. Be fun!
I think this one was pretty difficult for me to grasp at first. I struggled a lot to make things fun for my students in college ministry and unfortunately, things just didn’t pan out with them in the long run. Oh, but in student ministry? I have been blessed to somehow make them laugh and engage in really fun games and events! Students absolutely love fun events, especially if it’s things like going bowling, going to an arcade, having a theme-night at your youth group (Mountain Dew Night is fun!), or just doing something special for them in your regular youth group meeting. Don’t be afraid to look funny doing something; trust me, I have and have found I enjoyed it as much as them!
2. Students will talk…..a lot.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. When we first began meeting in January of this past year, no one really knew each other! I was really afraid that they wouldn’t get along and that they would be quiet and withdrawn. However, and much to my surprise, they began to talk to each other…and me….and each other. ALL. THE. TIME. This is by no means a bad thing, but my goodness, it was pretty funny to see their communication go from zero to 23948320483028 in a matter of weeks.
3. Students will tell you things they would never tell their parents!
This one surprised me quite a bit, actually. I absolutely love the students God has entrusted to my care and am thankful for all of them, but am quite taken back when they confide things in me that they’re too afraid to tell their parents because of their reaction. This holds true for so many things that have been said in the sanctity of our group as well as to my wife and myself. Parents, know that if it were ever anything that posed an immediate danger to themselves or others, I would take immediate action! There is a line in the sand that is drawn when a student is hanging on by a thread and I would never allow a student to fall without first saving them.
4. Students actually want to have meaningful conversations.
This wasn’t a surprise to me, but it was, in the sense that it took a long time for some to open up to me that they had questions and things they wanted to talk to me about that were important, especially in relation to our culture and how we can respond to it as Christians. I had a student ask me last Sunday night, “How did you end up getting saved?” She’s fairly new to our group, but it’s questions like these that show me they genuinely have questions, concerns, and issues they want to face head on.
5. Having an identity is important.
When I first got hired at Crossview and started the student ministry from scratch (I’ll blog about this later on), I was asked about a name and I said, “Let’s just go under the name “Crossview Youth” for right now.” And it stuck for the past 11 months. However, I began to feel God leading me in a different direction and calling me to make a bigger committment to this ministry and to pour my heart into it even more, which was really exciting! So, what did I do? I began to research youth ministry, reading blogs, watching YouTube videos, reading books, etc. I began to realize that I did not want a run-of-the-mill student ministry; no, I want something better than that! My vision is this: To have students who genuinely love Jesus and want to be like Him and serve Him however He has called them to. I began thinking of names, something catchy, but something that actually described my vision for these students. One night, recently, a name came to me from either a show or something I was watching: paradigm. This was an interesting word, but what did it mean exactly? Well, it means “a typical example or pattern of something; a model.” Boom! Like a ton of bricks it hit me. This was exactly what I wanted these students to do/become: Follow the example/pattern Christ laid and be models to others of Him. This is the logo for our new student ministry and I am super excited for this to be our identity going forward!
6. Lock-ins are the best event you can.
Hands down, this was the BIGGEST turnout for an event we ever had (Around 26 students came) and it was a lot of fun. Somehow, my wife and I managed to stay awake the whole time AND even went to Chick-fil-A for breakfast afterwards. We did worship, a sermon (Don’t Waste Your Life), dinner, and a bunch of fun games the first part of the night before everyone split off and played video games, watched a movie, hung out and listened to music, etc. The students that very Sunday were already asking me to plan the next one! Thankfully, I have it on my calendar for this spring! They are thrilled, to say the least.