The Tight Rope

You can almost feel the collective excitement in the air.  Summer is ending, school is beginning and our students are back.  This is an incredibly important time in student ministries all across the country.  It is a time to make first impressions and often times 2nd first impressions with out students.  It is a time of new beginnings, new programs and new relationships.  If you are like me you have planned some pretty exciting programs and ministry opportunities to being the year.  Just last night we had our big youth group kick off night for the fall and had a ton of kids show up, it felt great and was a lot of fun. The welcome back programs, the hospitality and the special food for nights like this are all great.  It is always around this time of year that I find myself walking a very thin tight rope in my student ministry.  It is a tight rope balanced between two notions of ministry, relevant ministry and suitcase packing ministry.

Both are good and neither are bad, but where one dominates the other cannot survive (I think that is also true of Voldemort and Harry Potter, but I digress)

Here is the problem: I am finding that so many student ministries around the country are imagining, developing and implementing really meaningful and relevant series and messages for their students and I believe that it is harming our students long term faith.   Not only is relevant ministry harming their long term faith I believe it is also destroying their ability to interpret the faith in relevant and meaningful ways in their own lives.

Let me explain. Continue Reading…

If you follow any sort of news about social media and its effects on the modern life you will know that there has been a pretty intense discussion/fight over the app Tinder.  Tinder, a social media, dating app is designed to allow users to view other users profile in a streamlined and efficient way.  It then allows the user to “swipe” left of right to either “accept” the profile or “reject” it.  Up until last week there was not a lot of talk about tinder besides it being a hot app on the dating and club scene.

Then the Vanity Fair article, “Tinder and the Dawn of the Dating Apocalypse” exploded onto the scene and hit a nerve, that apparently had been resting just below the surface of society.  It immediately went viral.  The article’s accusations said that Tinder was causing a dating apocalypse because it was creating, or feeding into, a rampant “hook up” culture going on in today’s young adult and college social scene. Since the article there has been a bit of a firestorm about this topic.  There is even a local author where I live who has written a mini book about “hook up” culture, and people are very concerned.

Here is the problem with the Vanity Fair article and this local book:

Both are focusing on, blaming and ultimately demonizing a symptom or outcome and not dealing with the real problem.

If you are worried because you are at the point where you believe your kids are going to have sex then you are too late to begin this conversation and truthfully if you are worrying about sex then you would have the wrong conversation to begin with.

I do not think that there is a sex problem in America. Continue Reading…

It is interesting how collective subconscious forms within organizations and people groups.  Without people ever really talking about a subject much detail they can often begin to collect around a given topic, adopt a common set of vocabulary and then ultimately become a substantive force to be reckoned with.  It is very interesting that while there is often a common vocabulary as to the problem there is rarely a commonly understood and agreed upon meaning. This seems to find exceptional root in organizations like the church.  I have observed this effect in many churches across the country.  In youth ministry this collective consciousness seems to, in recent years, center around two words:

Fun.

Deep.

I have seen youth ministers struggle and rack themselves hours upon hours to try to develop the right alchemy in their ministry to achieve that perfect balance of Deep and Fun.  While some do find temporary success it is often short lived and they find themselves answering to the same charges again that the youth ministry needs to be more “deep” or more “fun.”

Here is the problem:

These are illusive and almost mythical terms. Continue Reading…

The Fall is a great time to institute change in your student ministry.  It is a new beginning, people are excited and are looking for something fresh which gives you the capitol to improve the student ministry.  Here are 10 simple changes that can make a world of difference.

1. Advocate for Weekly Student Involvement in Worship-  Let’s get our kids out of the student ministry ghetto and into the practice of serving in the primary worship space with the rest of the church family.  It is long past time for there to be an equal representation in worship from children and youth.  We know that there is great theological and developmental value for our students as well.  So email your pastor or worship leader today and be your youth’s biggest advocate! Continue Reading…

 

I am a Southerner.  I have lived in 3 cities in my life; 18 years in a rural town in North Alabama, 5 in Atlanta and 12 in Birmingham, Alabama.  I grew up middle class, white in a small racially divided town.   I grew up in a culture where rebel flags were flown off the back of pick up trucks, they were worn on hats and raised on makeshift poles in people’s yards.  I was taught that these were symbols of heritage, reminders of who we were and who we are.

I grew up with parents that used the word “nigger” in regular conversation, when they were angry and when they talked about the people who lived in “pepper town”.

One of my earliest memories of my dad is him coming home from work covered in wisps of cotton, a machinist in the local cotton mill, wearing a white t-shirt and his black, fishnet work hat embossed with a rebel flag.  I remember being very young and carefully helping him place a bumper sticker on his lime green, late 70’s beat up pick-up truck.

The sticker was a rebel flag with the words “Keep It Flyin”

I remember being in 4th grade and calling another little boy, an African American 5th grader, “nigger” because that is what he was in my world.  A nigger.

This is my pedigree.   Continue Reading…

Hey All!

I am really excited to announce my new book Organic Student Ministry!

Do you find other youth ministry programs promise you can “plug and play,” only to fall short of expectation, forcing you to “adopt and drop”? An organic student ministry allows each student ministry to exist and live in its best possible way, its natural way! Organic will show you how to:

Develop practices instead of just programs

Minister to students where they are instead of spending your time pleading with them to “get with the program”

Focus on a way of doing ministry that grows naturally from the distinctively rich and fertile soil of your unique church

I am really excited about what this book is going to help youth ministers and volunteers do as well as how I believe it is going to  change the face of youth ministry in your church!

Click Here to Order Now!