Tuesday, September 27, 2011

5 Ways To Go From Good Youth Worker To Great Youth Worker

I realized a long time ago that I do not have all the answers to being a great youth worker.  There are so many other people that have traveled the path that are much better than I am.  I am thankful for meeting people like Shae Pepper who has some suggestions for youth workers on what could move them from being good - to being great at what they do.  Enjoy:

I have met some good youth workers in my time. However, I have only met a handful of great youth workers. One in particular popped into my mind when I was asked to write this post. He exemplified all of these areas and now runs an entire youth department of effective, evidence-based youth programs. I am grateful for the time I had to learn from him as he modeled youth work greatness each day.

1. Clear Core Values- Have a clear understanding of your core values. To be a great youth worker it takes more than just being passionate about young people. You need to know what you believe and why you are there.

2. Strategic Thinker- Have a solid vision for what you want to achieve with the young people you are working with. You need to identify the goals for your face-to-face work and in your own professional development.

3. Organized- Develop the ability to plan, book venues and trips and keep track of risk assessments, receipts and permission slips all at the same time. At the very least, you need to be self-aware enough to know that you need someone in your program that can do this for you.

4. Effective Leader- Be able to lead in a way that helps everyone (even your volunteers) on the team feel empowered, creates a sense of ownership for the program and allows for constructive professional development.

5. Teachable- One of the greatest skills is a humble, teachable attitude. Admitting when you've learned something new from your youth, volunteers or other team members empowers them and endears you to them.

Do you agree? What differentiates between a good youth worker and a great one?

 Shae Pepper has been a Professional Youth Worker for six years and a Volunteer Youth Worker for seven years. She has a Master’s in Youth Work and Community Development from DeMontfort University in Leicester, England. Shae has provided training for youth workers in England, the USA and Rwanda. She has worked with young people aged 8-21in England, Rwanda, the USA and Thailand. She recently started Youth Workin’ It, a consultancy service designed to equip and support youth workers and youth organizations around the world. This supports her personal and professional goals to provide better services and programs for young people worldwide.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Book Review: Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived The Church by Philip Yancey

The title of Philip Yancey’s book caught my eye. 

Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived The Church

There are lots of things that frustrate me about the intuition of church. 

The politics.

The religiosity.

The people.

What I was looking for were some answers to how to deal with these issues, what the book was about the people that shaped Yancey’s faith and theology.  This was greatly encouraging as I began to realize that God has used a small collection of people to help shape my theology and faith in the mist of my frustration. 

These are the relationships I wouldn’t have had – if it wasn’t for church.

Yancey’s list is interesting and to some controversial.  Some of the people he met and interacted with, some he only read about and some were not even “Christian”.  Some were well know political figures, some people were not well known at all. Who were they?  Here is his list:

Martin Luther King Jr.

G.K. Chesterton

Dr. Paul Brand

Dr. Robert Coles

Leo Tolstoy

Feodor Dostoevsky

Mahatma Gandhi

Dr. C. Everett Koop

John Donne

Annie Dillard

Frederick Buechner

Shusaku Endo

Henri Nowen

Each person on his list helped him to form his thoughts, philosophy and life actions in different areas of thoughts blended into a beautiful strength of ideas to help propel him toward a deeper relationship with Christ.  His soul survived church because he surround himself with people that modeled a Christ like behavior that he wanted to imitate.

The book is a challenging read and leaves you wondering who you would write about in a similar book about your own life shaping relationships. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Success in youth ministry…is waiting on God

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In July, I introduced you to Rachel Blom who runs the website:


She wrote this article that I think many youth ministry veterans can relate to, and need a reminder of: Waiting is hard.  I hope you enjoy this post:

We had just started out in youth ministry in a church and we didn’t know any of our students. So we spent a lot of time getting to know them. Sunday after Sunday we would eat together, hang out, have small group sessions or go to youth group together.

Besides having fun we were having some good discussions and we could share a lot of our experiences and beliefs. We tried to come up with creative means to teach, using songs, paintings, games, videos, independent study and group assignments. We did everything we could. We did a three session study on the basics of the Christian beliefs (called the “Fifteen steps of Christian Faith”),

But while it was clear these students were having a good time with us and loved hanging out together, we didn’t see much ‘result’ or ‘fruit’. Nothing seemed to change in their beliefs, in their behavior. I had worked hard and it somewhat frustrated me that I wasn’t as effective as I had hoped I would be.

Were we missing something?

Were we doing something wrong?

Were we having any impact?

I started praying more.

After a year and a half of investing in these students, we couldn’t really come up with something good to teach on, so we just sat down with them and asked them what their ‘spiritual new year’s resolution’ was.

I wasn’t expecting that five of them to say that they had made the decision for Christ and wanted to get baptized. I was completely stunned, and then overwhelmed with joy when two of them mentioned the Fifteen steps study in particular and said that that had convinced them they wanted get serious about their faith.

I learned something that day.

I learned that being successful in youth ministry is sometimes about waiting, and waiting and more waiting… on God to do the work.

All that time that we weren’t seeing results, God was at work in their hearts.  We just couldn’t see it.

I have to confess, I’m still not good at waiting.

I’m a doer, impatient as ever to see immediate results, but I’ve tried to remembered that lesson and be more content with trusting the timing of the Lord

Rachel Blom is a youth ministry veteran from The Netherlands, currently residing in Germany with her husband of sixteen years and their wonderful three years old son. She spends most of her time on her daily youth ministry blog www.youthleadersacademy.com, aimed at training youth leaders world wide to better serve in youth ministry. You can also find her on Twitter via @youthleadersac

Monday, September 12, 2011

Can you encourage teens when you feel like scolding them?

I had a young person sitting across the table from me.

They had just confessed a whopper of a tale to me.

I believed in them and they had failed.  The silence between us was deafening as they waited for my response.  In reality this was as much a test for me as it was for them.  I wanted to be truthful and loving at the same time.

To say, “it’s no big deal.” would be a lie. 

To say, “how could you?” wouldn’t help.

I waited, letting my own emotions subside.

I prayed, asking for God to take control of my mouth.

As I prayed, I was able to think more clearly. 

I knew that what had been done could not be undone.  There was no point in scolding them. 

I knew that this was weighing on their heart or they wouldn’t care what I thought.  There was no point in objecting.

I knew that if I were in their place, I would want my confession to be met with care.

I asked a few clarifying questions to buy time for my true answer.  I knew that this was an opportunity to mentor them through a learning opportunity and I didn’t want to blow it.

Then with one last prayer, I spoke.

What I said was for their ears.  I can’t share it here.  What I can say is this.  I have been honored time and time again for laying aside my emotion, speaking the truth with confidence and offering care in the midst of great turmoil.

Kids mess up.  They need someone that will care about them from prisons to mansions and someone that in the midst of that to tell them how it is.

As a youth worker, be a coach – not a judge.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

How Not To Run Your Youth Ministry.

My first cell phone was cutting edge. I carried a phone in my backpack before most people even had answering machines. It was an amazing innovation. Now it is a laughable piece of technological history. If you don’t know what I’m talking about do a google search of Motorola 8000X and you will be laughing with me. You would also laugh at some of old school methods of doing youth work. For example, there were those attaching a spark plug to a metal chair so you could shock an unknowing newcomer to the youth group. “Welcome to Church!”

Besides the obvious health issues and risk of legal liabilities that we see, we also see that such a method would not encourage an emotionally safe environment for those looking to start a relationship with God. At the time however, such an activity was seen to create a fun environment that appealed to young people as opposed to the lecture style of most churches. And… it worked. (But please, please, please, do not repeat it.)

Through my innovative methods of youth work over the past 15 years I can safely say I’ve learned more about how not to run a youth ministry than how to create an effective one. It reminds me of walking through the home of Thomas Edison and seeing the pile of failed attempts of creating a lightbulb and reading his famous words, “I have not failed 10,000 times, but have learned 10,000 ways in how not to make a lightbulb.” Yet as I look above my head at the light fixture I realize his pursuit of innovation has impacted the entire world.

As youth work professionals we too need to be innovators. But standing on the cutting edge will give you scars on your feet. You may face criticism, discouragement and humiliation, but if you haven’t failed, maybe you haven’t really tried. Maybe your next attempt will be the one the ends up changing the world. Why give up now.

I’ve gotta run, my brick is ringing.