Why Student Pastors Need Other Student Pastors

I have been thinking about writing a post on this topic for a long time now because I believe it’s an important subject. Every time I think about this topic, Bill Withers classic song “Lean on Me” comes to mind. It’s true that as student pastors, we need other student parents to lean on at times. I’m amazed at how many student pastors sit in their office day in and day out and never interact or network with other students pastors.

But why? Why do students pastors need to really worry about having other student pastors around them? There are countless reasons, but here are a few that I believe are most important.

1. Encouragement. Student ministry can be tough. Working with middle and high school students that at times don’t seem to get it, or even care for that matter, can be exhausting and discouraging. This is one reason student pastors need each other, for mutual encouragement. I am part of a few student pastor groups on Facebook and it’s cool to see how someone will post something about what they are going through in ministry and they will get slammed with encouragement from other guys in the trenches of student ministry with them.

2. Fresh ideas. Let’s face it, we will eventually run out of ideas. There will be times when your creative juices are out and your all out of  ideas for a game, illustration, or an event. These are great times to talk to other student pastors and see what they are doing. Don’t steal their next event or sermon illustration, but get your creative juices flowing as you see what they are doing.

3. Friendship. Some of my best friends are student pastors. It’s great to get together with other student pastors and just build friendships. Leave the student ministry talk at the door and just hangout together. It’s in the context of friendship that a lot of these other things happen.

4. Accountability. This is not an easy one, but one reason student pastors need other student pastors is to keep them accountable for what they are doing in their ministry. It’s easy to get off track in student ministry and start to focus on things that don’t really matter. For example, you can focus on the next game instead of the next sermon series. You can spend countless hours on putting together a sweet PowerPoint, but not enough time on the content of the message. Have some student pastors around you that can keep you on track and keep your eyes on the important stuff in student ministry.

5. Accomplish more for the Kingdom. We can reach more students for Jesus if we work together. If we try to do it alone we may reach and teach numerous students, but we will never reach the level we could if we lock arms and do it together. Do some events together with your ministries. Do anything, but do it together! Don’t set your ministry aside as the “only ministry in town.” Reach students in your community while partnering with the other student pastors that are striving to do the same thing.

These are just a few of the many reasons student pastors need other student pastors. I would encourage you to seek out a network of student pastors in your area and connect with them consistently. A great place to start is the National Network of Youth Ministries. Also, here are three Facebook groups for student pastors that you may find helpful: Youth Pastors Only, YouthPastor.com, and YouthMin.org.

Tools for Understanding Teen Culture

One of the things I believe every student pastor should do is study the culture of their students. But this shouldn’t be the task of just student pastors, but the task of every adult that works with teens and most importantly parents of teens. I am writing this blog mostly for parents of teens, but I do believe it will be of great help to student pastors and youth workers as well. Just as we expect missionaries going into a foreign country to study and learn the culture of that country, we should expect parents, student pastors, and youth workers to study the foreign culture they are going into-teen culture. If we wish to be effective at parenting teenagers, pastoring teenagers, or working with teenagers to see Christ change their life, we must be students of their culture. We must understand what their culture is all about, what makes them do the things they do, and what current struggles they are facing day-to-day.

This is a task that seems daunting and often times overwhelming, but with the right resources it shouldn’t be. There has been a few resources that have greatly helped me understand teen culture and I believe they will help you as well. I want to share a few of them with you in this blog.

CPYU Youth Culture Update. This by far is one of the best resources when it comes to staying on top of teen culture. It’s a weekly email from Center of Parent/Youth Understanding that includes numerous things such as news articles on teen culture, list of top movies and songs, music and movie reviews, and much more. I would encourage you to sign up to receive this weekly email.

Homeward’s Culture Brief. This is another weekly email from Azusa Pacific University’s Homeward Center for Youth and Family. Much like the CPYU email, this is another weekly email that includes tons of material on teen culture. The reason I like Homeward’s Culture Brief is because it usually has some of the best articles on current teen trends and research. It also always has a list of top songs, movies, YouTube video’s, Google searches, websites, and TV shows. This is another great email I would encourage you sign up to receive.

The Youth Culture Report. This is a tool I am going to more and more when I want to see what’s going on in teen culture. The Youth Culture Report keeps up with news articles, trends, and media that deals with teens. You will find everything from the latest CNN news article on something that happened with a group of teens to articles on the latest trends in music teens are listening to. This tool has it all! Also, one good think about this tool is that it’s not only a website, but they have an iPhone and iPad app so you can use it on the go.

These are just a few of the many tools I use on a regular basis to stay current with teen culture.

Before I end this post, I want to share something very important on this topic. Last week I was having lunch with a few student pastors and one of them said something along these lines: “You can see the real picture of who a teen is by looking at their tweets.” This reminded me of something very important, the best way to be learn about teen culture is through social media. Pay attention to teens on Twitter, Facebook, and other social sites. By watching their presence and actions on social media, you can begin to understand their culture.

Remember, the end goal of studying teen culture is reaching teens with the Gospel and helping them live a Biblical-centered life. Don’t just study their culture so you can know about it, studying their culture so you can better minister to them.

Using Twitter in Student Ministry

There is another social media site out there that many of your students may be on along with Facebook. That social media site is Twitter. Facebook is still the more popular out of the two, but Twitter is not far behind. Most of my students, and parents, are on Facebook and I use it regularly for our ministry. Our student ministry has a Facebook page that we use regularly. Many of my students are also on Twitter which is why our student ministry also has a Twitter account. I want to share a few ways we use Twitter in our ministry as a way to encourage you to use it in your ministry as well:

Promotion. This is probably the biggest way we use Twitter in our student ministry. Because Twitter is so easy to use and get’s information straight to the students, we use it to promote all of our activities and events. I will Tweet out reminders before our mid-week gathering and also before upcoming events. Twitter, along with Facebook, is a great way to promote your student ministry and it’s events in a place students will most likely not miss it. Most students will not check e-mails or listen to a phone tree, but they will check their Facebook and Twitter. So use Twitter to spread the word and get information about your ministry in your students hands.

Relationships. Another big way we use Twitter in our student ministry is building relationships. A few of my leaders, including myself, have their own Twitter accounts. Having our own is a great way to see what is going on with our students and a way to connect with them relationally. As with all social media, we must be careful when doing this and use caution when we are connecting with students relationally through Twitter. Awhile back, I posted a blog called “Guidelines for Using Social Media” that is worth looking at when it comes to connecting with students through sites such as Twitter. Twitter is a great way to connect with your students in a relevant, relational way.

Quick Pictures and Videos. Have you ever been on a youth retreat and took a quick video or pictures of an unforgettable moment? With Twitter, you can instantly post that video or picture so others can see it. There are a host of apps out there that let’s you post pictures and videos to Twitter. A few of the more popular ones are Twitpic, yfrong, and instagram. Most student pastors love to take quick photos or videos on youth activities, so Twitter is a great way to post them quickly so others can see.

These are just a few ways you can use Twitter in your student ministry. I still think Facebook can be used more in your student ministry, but it would not hurt to also use Twitter. What are some other ways you have used Twitter in your student ministry?

My friend Josh Evans posted a blog about using Facebook in student ministry (click here to see it).

Parent Newsletter’s in Your Student Ministry

In one of youth ministry classes in college, we had to create a parent newsletter that could be used in our future ministry. At the time, I remember thinking sending out a parent newsletter is probably something I will not do, but now that I in ministry and have my own parents to think about, I have changed my mind. One of the things I did as soon as I got into this position was get all the parent’s contact info (e-mail, phone numbers, address) and communicate with them that they will receive a monthly electronic newsletter that will provide details on that months activities, resources to help them be parents, and a quick not from myself. So today I sent out our first parent e-mail newsletter for the month of April! I’ll be honest, it can become a burden and just another thing on your list to do, but I believe they are helpful and worth your time. Here are a few thoughts on creating a parent newsletter for your student ministry:

1. Decide how often the newsletter will go out. In my ministry, we are only sending a parent newsletter out once a month. In that newsletter, I try to cover all the details of that month so I don’t have to send out multiple e-mails throughout the month. One of my student pastor friends sends their newsletter out once a week. Everyone does it differently, but the point is to get it out and have a cycle it stays on. I would suggest sending one out at least once a month.

2. Find a good program. There are tons of programs out there you can use to make this task a little easier on yourself. The most popular right now is probably Mailchimp. I know of a lot of student pastors who are currently using it for their newsletters. Personally, I am using the iWorks program Pages on my Mac to design our newsletters. Once I design one, I export it as a PDF and send it out as an attachment in an e-mail to the parents. This isn’t the best and always fastest way to do it, but for me it works for now.

3. Do more than just give details. The main thing you want to do in your newsletter is give parents all the details they need, but don’t stop there! Throw in other creative things like movie reviews, music reviews, parenting resources, student interviews, and  other things that allow you to equip your parents. Parents will get tired of just looking at details, give them something to look forward to each time the newsletter is sent to them.

4. Don’t worry about getting the newsletter out to students. Most students don’t use e-mail so don’t worry about trying to get them to review the newsletter. I would suggest make it a “Parent Newsletter” that is designed just for parents. Use social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and texting to communicate details to your students. If you do have a Facebook or Twitter account for your student ministry, send out your newlsetter through that as well incase people miss it through their e-mails.

These are just a few thoughts on creating a parents newsletter for your student ministry. It is worth the time to put together a newsletter for your parents. It will become one of the best ways to communicate all the crazy details of student ministry to them.

3 Things to Think About When Changing Methods in Ministry

Earlier today I posted the following quote as a status on my Facebook page:

‎”The church can’t use yesterday’s methods in today’s world and expect to be in ministry tomorrow.” Elmer Towns

I read over this quote as I was doing my textbook reading for one of my seminary classes. It got my attention and I agreed with it so I posted it on Facebook. I didn’t think it would get anything feedback other than a few “likes” but it got some negatives comments with people who didn’t agree. I am perfectly ok with people disagreeing with this quote and I do not believe it is anything worth fighting over. But as a response to everyone who agreed or disagreed, I wanted to share, at least how I believe, we can change our methods, but not change our message. The message, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, will always be the same, but as we do ministry in an ever changing world our methods may have to change as well. Here are three ways to think about when changing to new methods in ministry:

1. Know what things are “closed hand” issues and what things are “open-handed” issues. What I mean by this is that there are some things such as core doctrines of our faith that we cannot compromise on or allow to be left up to interpretation. These are doctrines such as the Trinity, Scripture being God’s perfect Word, salvation only through Jesus Christ, the Virgin Birth, and things like that. These are doctrines and truths we must hold with a “closed hand” and fight for. These doctrines are the foundation to our faith! But there are some issues that are “open-handed” issues that are not necessarily foundational to our faith that we can allow compromise and disagreement on while still being believers in Christ. Examples of this would be Bible translations, style of worship music, and denominations. These are issues that don’t determine your faith in Christ, but our issues the Bible may not speak directly to so we use the wisdom and discernment given to us by God to make personal preference choices. “Open handed” issues are simply preferences and we cause damage to other Christians when we take something that is a preference and make it a doctrine or Biblical truth. My theology professor back at Piedmont International University said, “Don’t major on the minors and minor on the majors.” Make sure you know what things are major and what things are minor. This will help you decided how to change your methods, but not the message.

2. Pray and use wisdom. When it comes to methods, which are just preferences, we need to use the God-given wisdom and Holy Spirit to help us. When you want to try a new method, seek God for wisdom. Your new method idea may not be wrong or sinful, but God might give you wisdom and help you see it might not be best at the time. Even though methods are preferences and are different for everyone, that doesn’t mean you should leave God out of it. God wants us to use methods that are honoring to Him, so use wisdom and talk to Him about it!

3. Be so passionate about the message that you use whatever method God puts in front of you. Some people may not agree with me about this, but I believe we should be so passionate about the Gospel, the message, that we will use whatever method God gives us. I believe some people are so afraid and against new methods that they never reach anyone with the message! There are churches that dyeing and not reaching anyone because they are not willing to change their methods. That is what the Elmer Towns quote is all about, change our methods so we can reach more people with the message. I believe the Gospel, the message, is so important that I am willing to try to use whatever method is put in front of me as long as it doesn’t contradict God’s Word. I hope you feel the same way.

I love the Gospel and I believe it is the only thing that can change a person’s life and give them a hope. I believe this because the Gospel changed my life and has given me a hope! I hope we love the Gospel enough to use the new methods God gives us as we live in this changing world.