I have been struggling for a while with our youth group on Sunday night. We are bringing in a whole new crowd of kid and they are a bit rough around the edges. I have enlisted some adult help* and switched to a more experiential model of teaching and that has helped some, but what probably made the most difference was has been the time I have spent outside of church with students.
I have been making an effort to meet with kids outside of church whenever I could. I had supper with one of my high school kids this week and found out that he had gone through a pretty rough time as a kid. I also found out that another younger kid was going through the same thing.
So tonight I connected those two people. It was amazing to see this guy who many people feel is trouble talk to another kid who constantly gives me grief and see them for at least a moment bounding.
It wasn’t earth shattering. The older guy didn’t know what to say and the younger kid was a little worried about the whole thing, but the concept was dare I say it holy. It was a chance for the older kid to practice being the church and the younger kid to feel that he is heard and loved.
It wasn’t much. There is still a whole lot to do, but for a moment there was a glimmer of hope.
I have been praying lately for God to give our church our neighborhood as our inheritance.
It is a prayer that is changing things, but it seems like all of the things that have changed have been in my heart.
You see in church work there are people who come to your ministry and they make life easier for their presence. They add their gifts to the gifts of the others at church in a way that seems natural. There are also people who come into your ministry who make life harder. They are still rough around the edges. Some of them have attitudes that rub people the wrong way. Others are just down right rude, mean, or otherwise problems. In short they act like what they are non-Christians.
In my life I hate to admit I have sought after the first group much more than the later. I have given lip service to wanting everyone to come, but I have actively courted the people who were easy.
This prayer I have been praying for our neighborhood has been changing my heart. I have begun to realize that I was not only tolerating the hard ones, but that I wanted them, really wanted them. To come, warts, attitudes, and all. Why? Because I believe two things 1) That God has a heart for those who everyone else seems to want to push away and 2) Because I believe those people know others who are also hurting and if we could reach just a few of them we could reach scores of people who are lost and hurting.
So over the past couple of weeks I have been trying to figure out how to have a ministry that is full of people who seem to be trying the best to disrupt everything that we normally do at church. It hasn’t been easy. I had to humble myself and admit to folks that I didn’t have all of the answers and bring in a bunch of people to help, but last week things were better than the week before.
So in conclusion this has been a month of changes for me and I like what is happening. I am going to write over the next few days over what that means and how our ministry is changing.
But before we go I want to say that as I have prayed and ask God to bring people to our church He keeps bringing in people who are not at all what I would have looked for, but who I can tell are searching for God even if they don’t know they are searching yet.
So I am on this constant crusade for Instagram to take over Snapchat. I’m not a fan of Snapchat for a myriad of reasons, so I am always trying to push Instagram to the forefront*.
When they added the very weird IGTV service I thought I would try it out and ran daily devotions for a while, but eventually I lost steam and moved on. Mainly because the tools I needed were hard and the devotions took too much time out of my day.
Fast forward to 2019 and I think I have found a solution to making daily devotions for my students, and I think you can do the same. Here is how it works.
You will need to start with some software and camera. I found for ease of use I would just use the front facing camera of my phone and would record in the portrait orientation that IGTV prefers. This lead me to an app called Videoleap. This let me record in portrait mode and export it to be used in IGTV
If you have an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription Premiere Rush works even better, but without that subscription already it isn’t worth the fee.
Pick a daily devotion plan that your students can read. This month we are reading a chapter of Proverbs a day, but your plan can be any type of plan. The ones found within YouVersion’s Bible app are great.
Each day make a 1-3 minute video on something found in that reading.
Upload that video to the platform of your choice.
If you want to skip the editing process and you can always just do it live on the “story” of your choice too, but I have found editing it gives me a chance to fix some light mistakes.
I have been doing this all month, and have found that it takes about 30 minutes to read, come up with a quick take, record, and edit the videos. So it isn’t that taxing on my time and ads a new way to help reinforce what students are reading.
I think the next thing I am going to do is ask students to record their own thoughts. We will see how that goes!
*In so many ways Instagram is what I wish Facebook would be. Pictures of people doing stuff. I don’t follow celebrities so my feed is just my friends showing pictures of their day. The simple fact that you can’t share articles or rant about politics makes it nice for me.
If you will check out yesterday’s post you will see that I am struggling to find the balance between creating community and creating a safe space. Tonight we had our normal crew of students, both members and students who came on the bus.
Getting them all there is always hard, but in the end tonight it turned out to not be a bad night. They listened and interacted with the lesson and no one was terribly disrespectful. Add that to the fact that I don’t think anyone stole anything and nothing was broken and I think it was a positive night.
I am still looking for what works best in this group. Tonight I taught a lesson with a strong visual component. That seemed to work to keep their attention. Normally I do discussion, but with this group that tends to just derail us and cause more issues. So I am doing what I hope are engaging lectures.
I am going to jump back into blogging for a bit to talk about some of the things that are happening in our youth group. Some quick facts:
Our “core” group is about 10 students
We are down to this number because of the changing demographics of our church (there are more families with young kids than with teenagers.
We have a few more kids who should be part of that core, but their parents aren’t very faithful either, so that causes some issues getting the kids to church.
We have our typical Wednesday night and Sunday night Bible study times. Wednesdays is when we have the band traditionally Sunday nights were for deeper Bible study.
This past semester (after school started until December) we started having a larger number of kids come as part of our bus ministry.
Some of these students integrated well, and are a vital part of what we do.
There are others who cause some problems, but who genuinely want to be there and we work hard to help those students succeed.
Then there are about 4 or 5 students who are rude, disruptive, and borderline abusive to the other students. They are a continual distraction and quite frankly many students are afraid of them.
So the question that I am trying to figure out is 1) where is the line before I asked these students not to come back and 2) how can you create authentic community when your students don’t even feel safe around each other.
I have this vision of a youth group that is a force for change in their community and their world. Instead we end up too often with the same little cliques and segregated lives that exist everywhere. I have tried to do a few things to help them to bump in to each other and work together, but right now none of them are super successful.
So I am on a journey with God to try and figure out how to help our group have a safe authentic community.