Doing Student Ministry in a Shared Space

chairstackNot all student ministries have their own space to meet. If you’re a student pastor that serves in a ministry that has their own space this post is not for you. Instead, this is a post for those of us who meet in a shared space. In my current position, our student ministries, both middle school and high school, meet in a shared space. Our facility has a room called the “Big Room” (we didn’t get too creative obviously) that is specificity designed for our Sunday worship services. However, it is also designed to be easily used for other events and things including our mid-week student ministry gatherings.

Not only in my current ministry, but in many of the ministries I have served in previously were ministries that met in shared spaces. Because of this I have learned a thing or two about doing student ministry in a shared space. It’s not just about making the space appropriate for your students, it’s also about respecting other ministries and doing what you can with what you have been given. Here are three important things to remember when doing student ministry in a shared space.

1. Make your stuff portable. I have met a lot of student pastors that don’t purchase or use certain things in their ministries because they meet in a shared space. Don’t let meeting in a shared space keep you from getting stuff that makes your student ministry effective and attractive. All you need to do is make sure your stuff is portable. For example, we have a ping-pong table, flat screen TV with a Wii, check in station, and more that is all portable. When we are not using the space, all our stuff it is all in a storage area. I have also been involved in ministries that have had portables stages, sound equipment, and other media/tech stuff. Meeting in a shared space doesn’t mean you can’t have certain things (big or small) that help make your ministry attractive and effective, it just means you need to think “portable.”

2. Make sure to do a good job cleaning up. One of the best things you can do as a student pastor who uses a shared space is to make sure you clean up after your ministry uses that space. Don’t be the student guy who leaves a mess hoping the facilities guy will clean it up. Don’t hold back when your using the space. Use it to the best of your abilities and make a rocking space for your students. However, put in the same amount of energy cleaning up as you do making the space “your own.” Coach up your leaders (and student leaders) in this area. Have them help you clean up after your program is over. Whatever you do, excel in this area. Your pastor will appreciate it, the facilities guy will appreciate it, and God will appreciate it as strive to be a good steward of the space He has allowed you to do ministry.

3. Compromise with other ministries. For me this is the hardest part about doing student ministry in a shared space. It’s tough at times to not be able to do certain things because it might interfere or mess with the space too much, which will affect other ministries. But remember other ministries are having to do the same for you. For example, our student ministry meets in the same space we have our Sunday worship services. There is a ton of expensive things in that room. From multiple projectors, audio equipment, and stage lights, there are a lot of things in that room that can be broken and will cost our church a ton of money to fix or replace. Because of that, there are certain games I’d love to do with our students (especially the middle school students) that I can’t do. At first I didn’t like that, but after talking to other leaders in other ministries that use that space and oversee much of that equipment that is in that room, I have come to be ok with compromise. I’ve also learned the things you usually have to compromise on with a shared space are not the most important things. It’s usually things like games and how the area is set up. All good stuff that is important to effective student ministry, but they are not deal breakers. Effective student ministry can still be done. The important things like community and Biblical teaching can be done no matter what the space is like and no matter what you can or cannot do. Learn to compromise with the other ministries that may use that space.

These are just some simple things I have learned with doing student ministry in a shared space. I am planning to do a follow-up post with pictures of our shared space and how tweak it to make it fit our student ministry. Look for that post soon.

Choosing the Right Youth Ministry Curriculum

iStock_000012210065SmallEven though our student ministry writes and prepares the majority of our curriculum in house, I’m still a big fan of using pre-made curriculum from time to time. There are some great ministries out there creating great youth ministry curriculum that sometimes works better than if I sit down myself and make my own. However, when a youth pastor starts to research youth ministry curriculum they will easily be overwhelmed with how much there actually is out there. With so many different choices and avenues a youth pastor can go with youth ministry curriculum, how do they know which curriculum is the best? How do they go about finding the right curriculum for them. Let me suggest a few things to look for when your trying to find a good youth ministry curriculum for your ministry.

1. Scripture Content. Obviously the first think you need to look for is Scriptural content. Whether its an expository curriculum that goes through a book of the Bible or a topical curriculum that covers a topical idea, it needs to be based on Scripture. Not only based on Scripture, but Scripture should be the main point and majority of each lesson. I’m not against illustrations and application, but Scripture comes first and is the most important. Don’t settle for a curriculum that doesn’t have a large amount of Scripture. Youth pastors must teach students the Bible and good curriculum will make that possible.

2. Practical Application. Even though a curriculum should be Scriptural, it should also have practical application. A good youth ministry curriculum will balance both Scripture and application. One without the other is not effective. Look for curriculum that has application that flows out of Scripture. Once Scripture is explained and taught, application should follow to help students apply what they have learned from God’s Word.

3. Graphics. Not only will a good youth ministry curriculum have Scriptural content and application, it will also have graphic resources. Not all curriculum will have graphics with them, but the majority of good ones will have them included with the curriculum. Finding curriculum that has good graphics will save you time because you will not have to make them yourself. Most good curriculum now come with backgrounds, posters, countdowns, videos, and much more.

4. Ability to Edit. Even when you find a good curriculum make sure it has the ability to changed and edited based on your ministry. Good curriculum will always come in a format that makes it possible for the youth pastor to edit and use how he sees fit for his ministry and students. Many times you will need to add Scripture, change illustrations, or change the format of the lesson. Having a curriculum that makes this possible is a good thing to look for.

These are the things I look for in good youth ministry curriculum. What are some things you look for when your searching for a youth ministry curriculum?

Making the Most of Your Students Birthdays

LS006996Making good connections with the students in your ministry is vital. One thing every student in your ministry will have is a birthday. Birthdays are one of the most overlooked connection points with our students. Usually they get drowned out in the busyness of our ministry, but I believe they are a great way to connect and show students for a day that you appreciate them and enjoy having them in your ministry.

Honestly, I’m not the best person to be writing about this. This is an area I am trying to improve and get better at. I want to use birthdays to connect with students and show them I love them. So here are a few things I’m going to start doing in the future that may help you as you try and capitalize on your student’s birthdays.

Use Facebook! Let’s face it, most of your students are on Facebook and your friends with them. Facebook keeps track of your friend’s birthdays and notifies you when it’s their birthday. Keep an eye on this as a way to remember which student’s birthdays are coming up.

Don’t underestimate a card. Don’t overlook birthday cards because you think your students find them lame. A simple birthday card with a hand written note from you will go a long way with students. Buy a box of goofy (keep it appropriate of course!) birthdays cards and send them to students when it’s their birthday. We actually have cards made with our ministry logo. That helps students identify with our ministry and makes them feel like they are super important, because they are!

Stick a volunteer on it. Delegate this area to a volunteer. Have them keep track of birthdays and write cards to students from your ministry when it’s your birthday. I’d suggest having the volunteer keep track of the birthdays, but have you as the student pastor or head leader write the personal note inside. That will mean more to students.

Take them lunch. You may not want to do this for every student in your ministry, but at least the core ones.  Either take them their favorite fast food lunch to school or on the weekend take them to a fast food restaurant yourself. This will also give you some great one on one time with them.

Make a big deal in your service. This may not work for larger student ministries, but for smaller ones it works great. Bring the student up during your mid-week or weekend student gathering and make a big deal about their birthday. Embarrass them a bit (all in good fun) and make them feel like they have the spotlight for a minute.

I hope these simple ideas help you capitalize on your student’s birthdays. Again, I’m no expert in this area and trying to do better myself. Feel free to share your ideas and how you have done this in your ministry by leaving a comment below.

This post was originally a guest post I wrote for my friend Justin Knowles. Justin is Pastor of High School Ministry Small Groups at Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, CA. He has a great blog loaded with tons of good student ministry content so check it out!

Free Easter Resources for Your Students

Easter_2013_Blog_HubMy friends over at Youth Ministry 360 have just launched another round of free resources, just in time for Easter! They’re giving away three different Easter Bible study lessons, plus a set of 10-day Easter devotions for your students. It’s solid stuff that will help your teenagers prepare their hearts and minds for Easter. Easter is such a powerful time for Christ-followers. These tools will help you lead students to both reflect on and celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection.

I’ve used many of the resources from YM 360 and would highly recommend you check their stuff out, especially the Easter resources since their giving it all away for FREE! All you have to do is click the link below and download the resources that you feel works best for your ministry. Enjoy!

Click here to check out the FREE Easter resources from YM 360!

What to Look For in Your First Student Ministry Position

hourglassIt’s easy to rush into full-time, or part-time, student ministry when you’re young, fresh out of college, and are passionate about working with students. But if your not careful, you can rush into a position that may not be the best for you. There are a few things you need to look for when you’re searching for that first student ministry position. Like many young adults fresh out of college with a ministry degree in hand and a heart burning for students, I jumped on the first ministry position that was offered to me. I didn’t take enough time praying about it. I didn’t look into the church enough to see if my ministry philosophy matched theirs. I didn’t stop to see if my heart was passionate about the things that they were passionate about.

During my first year of student ministry, I found myself in a church that was extremely different from me. Everything from my personality to ministry philosophy didn’t line up with the church. By God’s grace, He allowed me to have a smooth exit from that church, and even though it wasn’t the church for me, I am grateful for the people who embraced a young guy and allowed me the opportunity to gain experience.
 I learned a lot and enjoyed my time there as their student pastor. But at the end of the day it wasn’t the right place for me. God has now placed me in a church that is a perfect match for me and I’m thankful for it.

I don’t want other young student pastors to just jump on the first position offered to them. I want them to be patient and to find a church that is in God’s will, as well as a place where God can use them to grow a healthy student ministry. Here’s what you should be looking for in that first student ministry position.

Find a church that you would attend even if you were not on staff. This is a huge one! Don’t just look for a church to work in, look for a church that you and your family or future family would enjoy. You want to be at a church you’re excited about, not because you work there, but because you go there.

Find a church your doctrine and ministry philosophy line up with. Don’t just glance over their doctrinal statement on the website. Spend time asking questions about the church’s stance on important doctrinal issues and make sure you agree. You may not agree with everything 100%, but make sure that those are the issues you can flex with. Also, make sure their ministry philosophy matches yours. Don’t expect that you’ll be able to change their philosophy or just do it your way. Their philosophy will always win, so make sure it lines up with yours.

Find a church that God gives you peace about. Don’t take a position unless you have peace from God. That means you will need to pray a lot and seek wise counsel from Godly people in your life. Wait until God gives you the green light. If there is some doubt and lack of peace, it may not mean a no, but at least spend more time praying and looking into the church.

These are just a few thoughts about what you should look for in a first student ministry position. Believe me, if you’re patient and you allow God to lead; you will end up in a church that you love and a place where you can do effective ministry.

Searching for that first position is tough, but be patient and wait for the right church where you feel like God is leading you. It may take longer than you wish, but you will be glad you waited when you’re in that position that is just right for you.

This post is a version of a guest post I wrote a few weeks ago for Aaron Helman over at Smarter Youth Ministry. Check out that site for more great content and resources for student ministry.