I am so excited to tell you about my new 365 day student ministry devotional called Extraordinary Time.

365 Ordinary Moments with an Anything But Ordinary God

“I love the heart of this devotional. Stephen provides students with a great tools they can use that won’t make them feel guilty for missing a day or two. Insightful, honest, transparent and real. He nails it with so many relevant topics powerful scripture and action items that line up well with students learning how to engage the world with their faith. It’s also huge which parents will appreciate because they get a lot for their money”.

-Lars Rood, author of Freshman-Senior High School Devotionals (Group publishing) and the just released 7th grade and future Middle School series

“Behind the scenes, a new generation of youth workers has been quietly learning, thinking, growing. They’re not just trying to “keep kids in the church.” They’re trying to form followers of Christ who will be leaders in the church of tomorrow. Stephen Ingram is one of the architects of this new approach to youth ministry, and I’m grateful for his example and voice.”

Brian McLaren, author/speaker (brianmclaren.net)

(Extra)Ordinary isn’t like other year-long devotional journals. Because of its unique design, teens have control over where they jump in each day based on how the feel or what they are going through

(Extra)Ordinary features the following sections:

Ordinary Times: Over 100 image-driven devotions perfect for everyday life.

Crazy Times: 10-days each, issue specific devotions for when life gets crazy.

Holiday Times: Special devotions for Lent, Advent/Christmas, even their Birthday!

(Extra)Ordinary is ideal for:

• Helping teens grow deeper in their faith

• Challenging believers of all levels with daily content

• Gifts for Students

Click Here for a Free Sample

Click Here to order (Extra)ordinary

Read AverageYouthMinistry’s Review HERE

As mentioned on this Blog before, I love Anthony Bourdain. Beyond all of the great writing, incredible food and interesting people his show provides one element that separates it from the rest of the massive food television market: Location.  From Russia, to Peru to the DMZ of the Korean Penensulia, No Reservations took the viewer into some of the most exotic and specialized locales in television.  Viewers are afforded  a certain naiveté that Anthony just happens upon these exotic locations, tribal customs and interesting people who just happen to be making some incredible food.  Oh, the ignorant bliss of television….

The truth of the matter is that shows like “No Reservations” would jump through loads of hoops, have significant advance presence and a team locals who worked diligently to make sure everything was so detailed and perfectly plotted that it appeared completely natural.  One of the most important jobs, especially in the more remote locales was the job of the “fixer”.  The fixer is a local who is well connected and could get Anthony into places and situations that he, otherwise, could not get into or in many cases would not even know existed.  The fixer would go ahead of Anthony “fixing” each situation, setting it up for the most optimal camera ready interactions and experiences.  This is great for television shows, it gives a glimpse into what more intimate and often times closed door situations would look like if you were not an outsider.

Being a “fixer”is great if you are working for a television show, it is terribly detrimental if you are parent.

Continue Reading…

What is the One Thing?

It is about to happen.

Here in the coming weeks there will a mass return from the camps, beaches, lake houses and vacations.

Summer is almost over and your program is in its final stages of gearing up for the Fall bump.

There are a million things probably swirling around in your head today; Do the teachers have their curriculum?, Is the worship ready to go?   I need to do that final run through of the small groups to make sure they are all equally distributed.  Don’t forget to order the pizza for the big kick off party.

The list goes on and on….

There are so many things on your radar screed that it looks like enemies are attacking from all sides!

All of these things are important, really important, but what is the one thing?

What is that one thing you are going to focus on above and beyond the daily “to-do” lists that make up everyday ministry?

What is your overarching goal for the ministry to achieve this year that will be an underpinning or overtone to the student ministry of your churches ministry to students for the next 12 months?

Don’t know?

Take some time over the coming weeks and think about it.  Ask yourself the question, “What big thing does the ministry need to move into its next God called incarnation”?  “What does this ministry need to focus on in everything it does, at least at some level, over the course of this next year”?

Over the past few years some of these grand overarching topics in my ministry have been; Hospitality, Sacred Community, Service and Relationships.  I only pick one a year and focus on it.

I try to hold these topics, just one a year, at the top of my list, always asking, “Is this happening today”? or “How can I infuse this event with this focus”?  I do not do this alone or in secret.  I make this vision known to staff, students, volunteers and though talks and studies.  I try to find practical ways to include it in conversations and empower those around me to practice it in everyday situations.

Each of our ministries have deficits or things that we need to work on.  It is not a weakness to recognize these, it is a strength and will strengthen your community.  So, what is the one thing?  What is that one thing that you are going to undergird your ministry, events, retreats and studies with this year?  Is it Community? Prayer? Accountability? Hospitality? Fun?

What is it?

What is your one thing?

It seems to happen every year.

The last frost has melted from the ground.  The first blooms are poking their heads through the surface of the warming ground and the air fills with the songs of birds.

Then they come…. the squirrels.

Most of the time they are easy, normal parts of the everydayness of my back yard but for some reason, in the early spring, the just get a little… well…. too Squirrelly.

They start digging in flower pots, messing up gardens, jumping on bird feeders and seemingly, for no reason, frantically searching around for something to dig around it.

We see them in the church as well.

Not the cute furry kind but the ones who walk with two legs, upright and seem to want to dig up areas that seem to be doing just fine.  You know what I am talking about, right? Continue Reading…

The last two weeks have been pretty crazy.  The Open Letter to Parents post blew up and had over 25,000 unique hits in just a few days.  The number of emails, calls, texts and personal conversations about the post have been absolutely incredible. Beyond the sheer number of people who have responded, retweeted and posted I find myself more impressed, and truthfully scared, at the number of people who this has struck such a deep chord with.  Now as WE move forward together in reclaiming our youth and our families lives, I offer some red flags that might pop up in your youth and family’s schedules.  These red flags are some that we struggle with and some that I hear from youth and parents that they struggle with on a regular basis.  Maybe they are less red flags and more check points for moving towards a more balanced life.

I also post this intentionally on the first day of Lent.  Lent is a time of self reflection and a time where many in faith communities strive for something different in their lives.  I encourage you to pick up these check points in your family during this Holy season. Continue Reading…

(I have not written on the blog in a while mainly because I have been working on an exciting new book that I will tell you more about in the coming weeks.  While there has been blog silence I have had some time to observe youth ministry around the country as well as in my own context and have decided to write an open letter about what I have observed.  This letter is not from all youth ministers and it is not to all parents, but I think it speaks to most)

 

Dear Parents,

We love your kids.

We love them enough to send you this letter.

Your youth are in a bad place.  We have never seen a generation of teenagers who are more stressed, full of anxiety, depressed, suicidal, over committed, over medicated, over worked and over extra-curriculared, and it is killing them, sometimes literally.  We know you want the best for them, the best grades, the best college, the best teams, performances, standardized scores, friend groups etc.  We all want the best for them.  But they are not the best at everything and they will never be the best at everything.  I was not, you were not and they will not stand atop the podium in every area they compete.  As I watch the Olympics I have thought a lot about what it takes to get to the Olympics, let alone what it takes to get to the top of that podium. It takes incredible amounts of raw talent, dedication, work, and single-mindedness about that discipline.  Unfortunately we see many parents pushing these standards and unrealistic expectations of every area of their kids lives.  They cannot do it all, they cannot handle the stress and are being crushed under the weight of the expectation. Now, please hear me, it is not just your expectation, it is the expectation of their coaches, teachers, administrators, colleges and the expectations of each other.  Expectations are good, they cause us to rise above where we, alone, would usually strive.  But they must be realistic expectations based on each student. Continue Reading…