Thursday, May 26, 2011

Defining Failure In Youth Work

In the business world if someone makes an investment into a particular venture they want to be able to track the success of that investment.  There are many terms and methods of tracking investments but the most common reference to measuring success is Return On Investment (ROI).  If you want to know more about the technical aspects of put together in a video that the average person can understand check out this page: Click Here

In youth work there is often talk about the work with teens being an “investment”.  However, in working with people as opposed to dollar signs can make defining an accurate ROI very difficult.  There are lots of articles out there about how to be a better youth worker, but there are few people that feel that they have actually achieved “success” in this field.  Sometimes the best way to define something is to define what it is not.  Rather than take my word for it, I interviewed some youth workers from around the world about how they would define failure in youth work.  Here are their answers.

failure could only be our failure to listen and be attentive + caring toward the needs of our youth @johnsois

the only thing I can think of is not being faithful to your calling. @pj_tweets

failures are not permanent they are momentary setbacks and learning experiences on the way to wholeness and freedom :) @johnsois

Kateslem: Unengaged ??? (It is a tough one...)

Chadeddy: #youthworkfail is entertaining kids to death.

Chadeddy: #youthworkfail is when the Church cares little more for the younger generations than to throw a youthworker at them

@campuslifedole when you care more about program than people

@churchmangary what's up man. I define Youth Ministry success by the Spiritual Growth of the Young People. If they are developing relationships with God that are strong and real. I believe that's success...

@ceoismorg Hey Danny, failure is graduating young people who do not continue in their faith when leave home and are no longer required to attend church

@rcyouthworker It's always hard to say you have failed with a particular young person because you might have planted a seed you don't know about. A failure to try, to plan, to anticipate though... well, that's different I guess.

@jsdaugherty When the production & ministry of stuff over shadows spending time with the students

@jsdaugherty ..well, If your in Student Ministry never get too busy with the Ministry that you forget about the student-#Relationships

@youthpastorvb yth work is planting the seed of Christ in yth only God can give the increase so if u planted then u haven't failed.

@joshbritt great question. I am thinking making the step to Christ and growth in Christ unclear is a failure. Does that make sense?

@jessietheradical I think it would be the current state of christian youth - seeing 9 out of 10 young Christians fall away by College

@coachshef I'm thinking...

@seanUSX Standing still, refusing to change, and not meeting young people on their own turf.

@scottymct when comfort wins. #youthworkfail

@youthmaster  causing students to live fake veneer Christian lives rather than pushing them towards a vibrant, Spirit filled contagious 1

@historymakerbc A Disciple:That doesnt have an authentic, healthy, growing relationship with Christ That isnt being led by the voice of the Spirit in both practical and supernatural ways

@nextgenbc Without generosity in terms of their time, energy, resources, etc

@ymbayp good question, hmmm... Would have to say spending all of your time in the office and not in the field for starters

@gamersguide2god Failure= Making ministry all about ME. "Look how great I am!" That's what Lucifer did- "I'm more important than God."

@youthguy07 When we fail through both relationships and programs to introduce youth to the radical love & grace of Jesus, we fail @ YM.

@shapingyouth good ponderable; indifference/apathy perhaps? Won't say inaction cuz sometimes there's a time lag/then chg kicks in--Wham!

@terryramonesmit Failure in youth work is throwing Scripture and Biblical anecdotes at students without facilitating relationships

@chriswtburke  i dont know that I could give it a deffination.. but I can tell you of some of my failures over the years.. hurting kids feelings, letting kids down

@larsRood success is #winning

@brookesaugust It may sound selfish, but I think failure in ministry is when *we as followers of Christ don't grow in him #youthworkfail

@ypcoop we must teach youth how to defend their faith. We teach them worship but not how to be good apolegetics...both are needed

@ypcoop failure is youth pastor's use YM to build their own platform forgettin the assignmnt to build youth to work their ministry

@ymprof failure in youth ministry is attracting large #'s of youth to be entertained with a Moralistic Therapeutic Deist gospel.

@churchmangary Failure to me would Numbers without transformation. Having a larger ministry of untransformed Youth. Youth who are committed to church and activities but not God.

@scottymct  Its called youthWORK cuz Its hard work! There's a temptation 2 sacrifice the work for our own comfort. Comfort is a killer!

@youthguy07 I think the failure comes when they want more and we don't help them grow. If they don't want more? Stay connected & pray.

@emilyhewson #youthworkfail when you spread yourself thinly w/ too many projects & schemes to manage at the same time & not enough help.
@ypastormark Failure in youth work is when you settle for what you have and not what God wants for your ministry. #youthworkfail

@len_evans Failure in youth ministry happens when you appease people & don't pursue God's purposes according to your culture & context

@youthmaster by being fake ourselves...when we don't live authentic lives, No matter what we say they will listen to our lives

@Kelsiemorales: Failure in youth work is when we fail to listen to what our kids r saying bcs we think they're being "dramatic"

@carmenyfc Speanding all your time tweeting instead of with teens, that's #youthworkfail

@emilyhewson #youthworkfail when you spread yourself thinly w/ too many projects & schemes to manage at the same time & not enough help.

@justayouthguy Because we work with the human element, I don't think failure has to do with results or lack thereof. I think of failure in terms of my personal integrity, walk with Christ, responsibilities as husband/dad

@teenbizcoach RE: ? about 'failure' in youth work - adults who create hiearchy and barriers....

@jsmall Failure in youthwork comes when we start valuing talent over character. Both individually and in our ministries.

I think that before you can move toward success, you need to know what you are attempting to move away from.  What would you say if you had to define failure in working with youth?  Add your comments and keep the conversation alive.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Success in Youth Work Means Not Letting Programs Get In The Way

Success in Youth Work Part 7

I have been a youth worker for a long time and through many different phases of life. At each new phase it becomes necessary to stop, catch my breath and reevaluate why and how.
The situation

I had started a successful youth intervention program, hired staff, recruited volunteers, expanded programs and met a ton of at risk kids. Things couldn’t be better – until…. Everything fell apart. Vehicles broke down. People quit. Opportunities that were once open were now shut. I had nothing left. I felt like a complete failure. I had nothing to offer kids. I had nowhere to invite them. Then one day as I sat with a group of kids over lunch as they chatted about how drunk they were over the weekend I piped up and shared a bit of my life story. I was normally content to merely listen but something about this day was different. I didn’t hold things back or translate them into a PG rating. I just talked. When I stopped speaking I looked around the group of kids and their mouths dropped open. The ring leader of this group piped up and said, “that was the most amazing story I’ve ever heard.”
Why was I doing it?

As I walked out of that fast food joint nothing had changed about my situation, but something had changed in my attitude. I knew my story was nothing special. If I wrote a book about my life no one but my mom would read it – (and she would be the one I would be the most unsure of reading it). I realized what made my story special was God’s mercy in the midst of it.
How I would do it?

I decided then and there that I would not orient myself on my programs ever again, but instead just work on building relationships in the context of the day to day lives of young people. I started spending hours every day just sitting in the local coffeeshops and restaurants where I knew I would run into young people. I never knew what was going to happen or who I was going to talk to. That was when things really began to move.

This experience really shaped my perspective on what success was. I came to the conclusion that I didn’t need the outward successes of projects and programs but success was really in just being available. My time was freed from having to plan and prep for the next event and I was able to invest massive amounts of time into the young people themselves.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Youth Culture Update: With this click, I thee wed

Facebook seems to be the center of many youth culture related articles as of late.  It was reported that 7.5 Million Facebook users are below the age of 12 even though the social media giant’s policy states that individuals much be over 13 to have an account.  There are daily news reports about kids that have faced online bullying or have been lured into danger simply through the use of this site.  However, the lighter side of how kids use their facebook is rarely reported.  I was surprised by the post on that was discussing how students are using their relationship updates on facebook to enter in “facebook marriages” with their friends.  This shows up when you look at someone’s profile and it say John Smith is married to “Maria Johnson” even though they are both only 14 and in real relationships with other people.  Some kids create entire families, listing different friends as children and or siblings.  It is all thought of as extremely hilarious.  Is there anything to this bit of joking around?  There is no doubt that teens in our culture are increasingly peer dependant.  I have watched several students graduating from highshool in deep grief as they feel they are leaving the only stable family that they have ever had.  Could it be that kids are actually creating the families of their dreams through the use of a rather insignificant facebook feature, or is it simply just all in good friend.  I would be interested in if you think this is something to address with young people or ignore it as harmless.  Please comment what you would do.

Help Wanted....just not from teens. The reality of a low job market

It is edging ever closer to my favorite season of the year, summer.  I live in the suburbs of Vancouver, BC where they reported this morning that we have gone 180 days with the temperature below 70 degrees.  So I am definitely looking forward to feeling the warmth of the sun again.  I also enjoy summer for the relaxed and free feeling I get that goes back to my days in school where everything was so ridged and structured toward having a life more on my terms.  As a youth worker there are certain rhythms throughout the year and summer brings a mixture of joy from the teens we interact with as well as uncertainty for the future.  This year is no exception and in many ways the stress level among teens is higher than I have seen it in a long time.  I was reading this week that the teen job market is the lowest it has been since World War Two.  (check out this article from The Mildord Daily News if you want to read more about this). 

There are lots of reasons behind this I suppose.  Economic conditions have eliminated some of the excess that people in retirement have forcing them to take on part time entry level jobs.  College students are released from classes earlier than most high school students and simply get to the jobs before the younger kids have a chance.  However one of the most alarming things that I have perceived is that the young people often link the trial of getting a job as a personal rejection of their character.  With each failed job attempt they are reliving their dad leaving, the teacher’s rebuke, or the grief of losing a close friend.  They are not able to compartmentalize their work life from the rest of their existence.  For those of us that were trained up with that sort of mentality we are often criticized as not living as holistically as we should.  Perhaps we have seen the pendulum make a full swing. There must be something we can learn from each other in this.  What do you think it is?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Guest Post:8 Steps To Successfully Fail in Youth Ministry

I have found great difficulty in writing about success and failure within the context of ministry. It's hard because the true measurement is an internal and eternal one, while we mere humans are limited to
measuring the external and the present. It's like trying to declare the winner of the Master's after the front nine of the first round. Given our finite ability to see the heart and the future, here are some thoughts I've put together and/or borrow over the years.

Successful Failures:

1.) The Bible is full of failures (murderers, adulterers, doubters, martyrs, and prophets who were ignored) whose lives God used and is still using to accomplish his purposes.

2.) Jesus was a disappointment. He didn't meet peoples expectations of the Messiah--he wasn't militant enough, he wasn't holy enough, he wasn't clean enough. So they conspired to have him killed and that was exactly the will of God the Father. Jesus entire life's purpose (i.e. success) was  fulfilled in apparent complete failure.

3.) Jesus calls us to join in his failure. He says, 'the first will be last, and the last will be first' or to paraphrase 'earthy success will be eternal failure, and earthly failure will be eternal success.'

4.) Jesus even goes so far as to invite us to share in his suffering, to pick up the cross and follow him. We get the privilege of sharing in his pain and in his shame (his earthly failure) so that, just like
him, we can set prisoners free and bring glory to the Father (his eternal success).

5.) Jesus wasn't trying to doing more with his life. He was solely focused on doing the one thing God asked him to do--without the cross his life is a failure. What's the one purpose God has for your life?
And why do you feel guilty about all the other things your not doing?

6.) God isn't in a rush to sort it all out. From the parable of wheat and the tares it's clear to me that God isn't in a rush to weed out the failures from the successes.

7.) Faithfulness Not Accomplishment: God's  litmus test on our life is faith. Was I faithful to what God showed me? Was I faithful to what he asked of me? Did I believe the things he asked me to? The kingdom's building is his job we're just ask to believe in his power to accomplish it and pray it down on earth as it is in heaven.

8.) Fruits of Success: while measuring success can be difficult we can see fruit from people's lives--fruits of the Spirit and the flesh. Jesus states that we can test people's lives by the fruit they produce.

Derian Julihn is a coworker and friend of the proyouthworker.  He has expereinced the high and lows of youth ministry and his thoughts should be valued anyone in a youth work role.  You can communicate with him directly via his twitter handle @julihn