Tag Archive | Teenagers

How to Work with Teenage Youth Officers

By: William R. Goetz

The key to working effectively with youth officers lies in a clear understanding by the youth leader of his responsibility to these leaders.

He must realize that his purpose is to help his youth officers in their development as individuals and as leaders.

Dr. FIenry Brandt in Youth and the Church quotes Robert J. Havighurst on what he calls “developmental tasks” in the growing up process. “A developmental task is a task that arises at or about a certain period
in the life of the individual, successful achievement of which leads to success with later tasks, while failure leads to unhappiness to the individual, disapproval of society, and difficulty with later tasks.

Two of the ten tasks which Havighurst says teens should achieve are of special interest to youth sponsors in their work with teen officers.

These are: moving toward new relationships with parents and other adults and developing a wholesome attitude toward work.

In the matter of new teen relationships with adults a sponsor needs to help the officers accept new demands upon them to–

-make good use of talents
-help others to do their best
-accept the judgment of leaders and other experienced persons
-face problems with a patient spirit.

Helping youth in the development of wholesome work attitudes involves helping them learn these traits:

1. willingness to accept and discharge responsibility
2. respect for authority
3. ability to get along with people
4. desire to improve oneself.

How may a sponsor accomplish these goals?

The most important way is for him to demonstrate these qualities in his own life. By what he is he teaches and guides far more effectively than by anything he may say. And, if his example indicates otherwise,
his words will be of little value. Example is a prerequisite to earning and holding the respect and friendship of teens. Without this a sponsor will accomplish comparatively little.

But effective work with officers must go beyond just being a good example, as important as that is. A sponsor must see that opportunities to assume responsibility are given. He should observe officers carefully as they carry out these responsibilities. By commending them personally for good work, tactfully pointing out lapses, and suggesting areas where improvement could be made, the wise sponsor can have a tremendous influence upon his teens. (Obviously this type of help presupposes that the sponsor and teens are friends, and that the adult uses tact and wisdom in giving his help.)

Some sponsors have found that a job description periodically reviewed for each of the youth officers is a helpful tool in the task of working with young leaders.

Each year, after the election of officers, schedule a youth officers’ retreat.

1. Invite all officers, planning-group leaders, and committee chairmen to a campsite. Go on Friday afternoon and return on Saturday afternoon.

2. Include classes, recreation, and inspirational sessions. Have classes on subjects such as responsibilities in being a leader, how to lead a planning-group meeting, how to improve one’s personal devotions, how to lead singing, etc. Allow plenty of time when plans for the coming year can be discussed.

3. Ask young people to give short devotionals.

4. Make opportunity for sponsors and leaders to get to know each other.

5. Include a time of dedication and consecration of the leaders. This may be accomplished through a testimony service, a communion service, or both.

(The original publisher of the above material is unknown.)

Christian Information Network

Posted in AIS File Library, YMGE - Youth Ministry0 Comments

Disciplining Teenagers

Disciplining Teenagers
By Greg Bixby

Jack and Jim were the best of friends. So when Jim lost both his legs in a railroad accident, Jack did everything he could to help. At first, Jim was certain his career with the railroad was finished. Then the company gave him another job…as a signalman. His outpost was to be a lonely little stop, more than two hundred miles from anywhere. It was going to be lonely out there. Jack went along to be whatever help he could be on the new job.

In the beginning, Jack stuck around mostly for company. He swept out the little wooden shack, pumped water from the well, tended the garden, and made himself useful in all the ways legless Jim could not. There was a little trolley, a single seater that led from the shack to the signal tower. Jack pushed Jim on that trolley several times a day and stood there while Jim operated the big levers in sequence. Eventually, Jack got so familiar with Jim’s schedule that he began to walk out and operate the signal system himself.

Pretty soon, Jack began to take care of all the duties for the railroad, as well as the chores around the shack. There was a lot to be done, and a lot to remember. If a “point” needed to be adjusted down the line, Jack would listen for a passing engineer, flag him down, and give him a special key to make the adjustment. Daily responsibilities at the signal tower included working the levers that set the signals, as well as the tower controls that opened and closed the siding switches. There was a lot going on at the little outpost, and soon Jack was doing all the work. He never complained, it was the least he could do for his friend, Jim.

For more than nine years Jack kept house, pumped the water from the well, tended the garden, and trudged out to the signal tower each day to operate the heavy equipment. Then one day, Jack died. In all those years, Jack had never made one mistake. He never threw a switch incorrectly, never sided a car in error. There had not even been one narrow miss on the Port Elizabeth main line, all because of Jack. What makes this true story even more amazing is the fact that Jack was not a teenager at all. He was a baboon! If a baboon could be so trained, surely there is hope for discipling today’s teenagers.

What Is a Discipline?

The simplest meaning of the word disciple is a “learner” or “follower”.

Becoming a disciple incorporates both of these concepts. There has to be a communication of knowledge to begin the discipling process. Teaching our teens the basic information to live the Christian life is vital. Jesus said that we were His disciples if we would continue in His Word (John 8:31). How can a person continue in the Word of God if they have never been taught? The second aspect of learning the teachings of Jesus is to be able to relate those teachings to all of life.

There also has to be a communication of life to complete the discipling process. Being a follower alludes to the fact that someone is leading.

The second concept is the formation of character and value in young lives. Paul said that we should be imitators of him (1 Cor. 4:16 NIV). Showing our teens how to live the Christian life is also vital. This part of discipling is done by building quality relationships with young people and modeling the principles of Christian development.

We are not just teaching teens to know what we know, but to become what we are! Let’s focus in on how we might build quality relationships.

Essential of Quality Relationships

Be available and approachable. Do your best to be open and relaxed with your teens. Don’t let the abundance of planning and programming duties keep you from spending time with the kids. The best way to become more approachable is to be more relaxed around them. That comes with more and more personal experience.

Believe in them. Many of today’s youth are victimized by insecurity. They have a desperate need for someone to see beyond their surface problems and view something greater, their potential. Refuse to see the bad in them whenever possible. Your goal is to help them realize their hidden potentials.

Build self-esteem. Our society has placed too much emphasis on looks, wealth, and conformity, if you don’t have these, you are not important. Young people who are challenged to follow Christ struggle with the task of being in the world and not of it. Develop an attitude that edifies teens since they may not be getting it from their peers.

Be vulnerable. Young people are looking for real people with real problems who have found strength and guidance through their relationship with Christ. These are the role models that our kids need to see. They need to see the negative side of your life (problems and trials) and how you deal with it as much as they do the positive side. Observing your response to life’s difficulties can build stability in the young people you lead.

Love them unconditionally. Much of the love that teens are acquainted with has strings attached. They get love if they do a good job, get good grades, attend youth functions, or dress right. We need to offer them acceptance and love that is unconditional. They need to be accepted the way they are and where they are. If you can develop this, you will transform your personal presence into a place of refuge for them.

Meet them on their territory. The best learning takes place in real life situations. Before your teens believe many of the teachings you share with them, they will need to see you put them to work in your own daily living. It is easy to talk about Christian living while sitting in the church. Get yourself out into the real world and demonstrate to them the power of the truths you are sharing.

Learn to listen. The world is in short supply of good listeners. Good listening is selfless, patient, loving, supportive, kind and objective.

The level of worth you place on a young person is determined by the importance you place on his expressions and opinions. Begin listening to your youth, really listening! Encourage their expressions of faith, as well as their doubts. Allow them to be honest with you, this is the best way to take a look into their lives and assess their needs.

Be winsome. Genuine laughter, fun, excitement, enthusiasm, and plain joy with life are infectious. Learn to relax and enjoy life with your teens. It will be a soothing ointment for aching hearts and sullen spirits. This characteristic of winsomeness is a willingness to involve yourself in the joys and hurts of others. Don’t mistake it for an inborn charisma and be cheated out. Remember, a smile can break down many barriers.

Don’t give up. This type of quality relationship will not take place overnight. It will definitely take some time for us as youth leaders to change. It will take more time to implement it with the teens. Hang in there! You can do it! It just takes time!

The One and a Half Plan

This is a very easy way to begin your discipleship program. The One and A Half Plan will get you started down the road to building relationships. This is not very demanding, yet it will produce great results if you work it consistently. I highly recommend that you start with a simplified approach like this one:

a. 1 hour/week with one youth in discipleship (coke or meal)

b. 3 phone calls/week to kids in your group (15 min.)

c. 3 letters or notes/week to kids in your group (15 min.)

Seven contacts/week – 3 calls, 3 letters, 1 personal contact and you will have touched 365 kids and had 52 discipleship opportunities.

Some Practical Ideas

Since building relationships is so important to the effectiveness of the discipling process, here are a few ideas to get you started.

1. Learn their names.

2. Send out brief and encouraging correspondence.

3. Go out with them after your weekly meeting for a snack.

4. Have them come to your place.

5. Play a sport with them. (basketball, tennis, racquetball)

6. Follow through on those birthday invitations.

7. Go to some of their school activities. (debates, concerts, etc.)

8. Have lunch with your young people and their friends at school.

9. Pick them up and take them for a snack after school.

10. Attend music recitals.

11. Serve them in various ways.

12. Get to know the life of the schools in the area.

13. Take them along on errands. (driving time facilitates talk)

14. Help them with their homework.

15. Have a girls’ slumber party or a guys’ overnighter.

Modeling the Principles of Leadership

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ motto is: “If you’re going to talk the talk, then you have to walk the walk.” As youth leaders, that needs to be our motto, too. Wait a minute! This is supposed to tell me how to disciple others. Sounds like this is a course in overhauling the youth leader. Remember…discipleship starts with you.

We cannot forget that we have a responsibility to show youth how the Christian life works on a daily basis. If we are going to be a model of what youth are to follow in discipleship, then we must allow the Holy Spirit total control of our lives.

Let’s look at some character traits that ought to be specifically modeled for disciples. Galatians 5:22-23 gives us a good starting point.

Love – Romans 5:8 describes what love is really like. True love accepts people just as they are (While we were yet sinners). Then it offers itself to meet the needs of others (Christ died for us). This type of love must come from the depth of a person’s character. It is necessary for discipling teens.

Joy – Joy becomes the expression of celebration which empowers us to be Christian. Joy makes us strong, produces energy and cannot be self-created. The only source of joy is obedience. Those who have a daily personal relationship with Jesus will be able to exhibit this quality of life.

Peace – Peace is not merely the absence of conflict. It is the calm assurance that God is in control no matter what comes our way as Christians. This quality of life is shown when we face life realistically instead of trying to escape.

Patience – The best description of patience is a “godly putting up with.” This is not an easy trait to have. Teens have the ability to help you develop this trait. They can sure give you a lot to put up with!

Kindness – The idea of this trait is a goodness which is kind. The yoke of Christ does not chafe us. It fits just right. It is easy! We have the opportunity to be yoked with another to help make their way easier, just as Christ is yoked with us.

Goodness – Goodness is a balance word. While kindness is gentle and sweet, goodness is a strong word that demands accountability. As demonstrators of the character of Christ, we must have balance in our lives – kindness as well as strong goodness.

Faithfulness – In this context faithfulness denotes the quality of trustworthiness or fidelity. The word refers to reliability, How often we as discipliners desire that our students be reliable when we, ourselves, are not always reliable. This is a convicting word.

Gentleness – This word suggests gentle strength. The gentle person is the person who knows his or her strength, but submits that strength to Christ in a ministry of love and caring for others. The person who is gentle is also teachable. We are not only to be teachers in our discipling but continual learners also,

Self-control – This describes the inner strength by which a man takes hold of himself. It is this quality that keeps him from being swept along by wrong desires or impulses. Without this characteristic all of our teaching will be of little value. Allowing God to be in charge of our lives is what is meant by this quality.

Practical Application – We cannot have these qualities in our life without a vital, vibrant, living relationship with Jesus Christ. It is not an option to have an ongoing relationship with our Lord. It is an absolute necessity!

Possessing all these traits is important, but how they “flesh themselves out” is equally important. Being a model for youth requires that they have the chance to observe in us some consistency in the way we live out our own lives.

Paul summed it up for us in Philippians 4:9 when he said, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (NIV)

Here are some areas that we can model our faith to our kids, our disciples:

1. Personal prayer life: keeping open lines of communication with God.

2. Faithful worship: attending church and giving praise to Jesus.

3. Fellowship: with other adults to keep ourselves from burn out.

4. Bible study: feeding ourselves and not just “getting a message”.

5. Sharing our faith: with strangers because we genuinely care.

6. Family life: treat spouse with respect, be the best parent we can.

7. Quality of life: making His kingdom a priority over money and time.

8. Temperament: keep ours seasoned with positiveness & Christlikeness.

Don’t Be Overwhelmed

Caution must be exercised! We are not mass producing junior clones of ourselves. The whole weight of our kids’ success does not fall on our shoulders alone. We are simply exercising an influence that encourages young people to discover and fulfill the unique destiny God has appointed for them. The Holy Spirit is working through us and in them to cultivate the spiritual fruit He desires. Discipleship is a lifetime journey!

Section Two – Communicating the Knowledge

This section deals with the educational process of learning the teachings of Jesus. We need to keep in mind that there are several approaches that we can use. Don’t spend all your time simply dispensing information to the minds of fifteen year olds in hope of discipling them. Simply knowing the right thing to do does not ensure that it will be done. Use various ways to instill His teachings. Be creative in the educational process.

a. Content transmittal

b. Problem solving

c. Trial and error

d. Team work

e. Special projects

f. Case studies

While we do have a set of doctrinal truths to be transmitted to every new generation, this was never intended to be the primary method of discipling.

Basic Christian Disciplines

A. Bible Study & Scripture Memorization: Getting into the Word is one of the most important disciplines for being a follower of Christ. Jesus used it to resist temptation by turning to the scripture that He had committed to memory. Youth need the teaching, reproof, correction and the training that can be gathered from the scriptures.

B. Prayer: Surely the disciples noticed the high priority that Jesus placed on prayer. He went into the mountain to pray, He went out in a boat to escape the crowd to pray, He regularly went to the garden to talk to His Father. Youth need to learn not only the “ask anything” of prayer but also the “abide in me and I in you”. Consistent prayer will help us in our horizontal relationships with others as well as in our vertical relationship with our heavenly Father.

C. Sharing Faith: Jesus was daily meeting the needs of people and genuinely caring about them. This gave him many opportunities to share the good news of the kingdom of God. Youth need to develop that same care and compassion for people. As they do, doors for sharing their faith will open.

D. Fellowship: This may sound strange to be included with the basic Christian disciplines. We need to stress to our youth the importance of the church. The church is one of the best places to find Christian fellowship. I’m not talking about pizza, cokes or hot dogs. Lifting others up and the ministry of encouragement should be a priority during our gathering together at the house of God. Our church is an important place to fellowship with God, His Word, and His Body of believers.

Main Objectives for Discipleship

1. Develop good quality materials to instruct the youth.

2. Put youth into a relationship with a trained and growing leader. This helps youth by giving them a living example to follow.

3. Use discipleship material and leaders as means of helping youth become grounded in their personal Christian disciplines.

Two Keys for Discipleship

* The Material Itself Is Not the Top Priority *

If our material becomes the key focus, then our kids pick up the idea that they are going through a prescribed number of lessons. If the material becomes the priority, then your discipleship runs the risk of becoming just another program. It is supposed to be a lifelong journey!

* Help Your Youth Become Grounded In the Basic Disciplines *

Combine the materials with growing leaders to help establish youth in the necessary Christian habits. You can not keep them in discipleship groups forever. They may lose their materials or just cast them aside eventually. As they grow up you may lose contact with them. But if you can help them become disciplined in a few key areas, they will have the tools and the means to remain lifelong disciples.

More Areas of Growth

Here are some other areas that you could use in teaching a continuing discipleship training program.

* Acquire an appetite to go deeper in their relationship to Christ.

* Integrate Scriptural views and precepts into their lives.

* Rely on Jesus in all circumstances as a close and personal friend.

* Sense the complete reality of forgiveness.

* Clarify misunderstandings about doctrinal and moral issues.

* Be “real” with their Christian brothers and sisters.

* To work out conflicts with family members.

* To reach out to their non-Christian friends.

* To affirm their own worth, dignity, and beauty in Christ.

Targeting Your Discipleship Programs

Who should we disciple? One philosophy is that we should only work with a chosen few. Train the ones that are willing to show up to the in-depth study group. The most serious problem with that philosophy is its narrow scope. While it is true that everyone will not become a productive disciple, are you willing to accept responsibility for deciding who will?

Youth are at various levels of commitment:

a. Committed to the group, but not to salvation

b. Saved, but on the fringe of involvement

c. Involved in all activities but discipleship group

d. “Totally committed teen” (which are few and far between)

The overall goal is to have discipleship training for youth at every level of commitment. This definitely is a long-rang goal! Here are some steps to reach that goal:

1. Develop some materials for training your teens.

2. Start with a small proto-type group and a short-term timetable. (six – eight weeks)

3. Begin basic training for those who are at a high level commitment.

4. Use some of those from the high level group as leaders for expanding your program to other levels of commitment.

Summary of an Effective Ministry

* It is never accomplished by just one person. Train a team to help!

* It never happens fast. Concentrate on depth. It just takes time!

* It won’t all happen at the church. It takes real life settings!

* It won’t be effective without prayer. Bathe your ministry in prayer!

* It must be people oriented, not program oriented. Focus on the need!

The Ideal Discipleship Program

There is no such animal in existence!! Whenever we think we have it all put together, God will allow someone or something to help us discover we don’t. Do not be afraid to go to the bookstore and pick up some materials on discipleship. Use what you can, trash what you can’t. Just remember….The ideal discipleship program does not exist!

Final Thought… Don’t Make Excuses!

It is easy to excuse getting serious about your youth discipleship program. But one rarely hears a good one. You may say, ” If only I had staff, more money, better buildings, more youth, more mature youth, more education or training, or more committed parents”. None of these are really good reasons for not being serious about youth discipleship. All you need to do is…
Get on your knees and get started!

PS. With God’s help you can overcome any obstacle!

Excerpted from “1988 Youth workers’ Seminar Notebook”. By Greg Bixby.

Posted in AIS File Library, YMGE - Youth Ministry0 Comments

Teenagers’ Top Needs

Teenagers’ Top Needs
Rick Lawrence

In our March/April issue we covered one half of the results from our massive survey targeted at Christian teenagers’ top priorities and needs. Now we explore how more than 20,000 Christian kids attending one of our summer work camps (groupworkcamps.com) answered when we asked them, simply, to rank a list of 20 possible “dying needs.” Their answers are predictable and surprising and challenging—and worth a close look by you and your leadership team.

In addition, I’ve gathered insights and reactions about the survey results from veteran youth pastors around the country—they all serve on our Inside Track Team for the Simply Youth Ministry Conference (youthministry.com/conference) —about 250 people from every denomination and geographic area of the U.S. Just as I did with the “top priorities” half of this survey, I’ve highlighted comments that are particularly insightful, along with responses that are representative of what many others said about the survey results.

If you have something to add to the conversation, send your thoughts to me at rlawrence@group.com. And if you know youth ministry friends who don’t subscribe to GROUP who would benefit from the results of this survey, send them a link to check out this article (and get a great deal on subscribing).

Teenagers’ Top Needs

We asked Christian teenagers to scan a list of 20 “needs” in their life, then rank them from one to seven according to how strongly they’d like that need to be met. The lower the number, the higher the desire for the need to be met. We wanted them to differentiate between “dying” needs and “nice to have but not that important” needs. Here’s how the numbers added up….

Top Needs (Description) Teenagers (Average)

1. I need help building a positive relationship with God 2.66

2. I need help building a positive relationship with my parents 3.47

3. I need help managing or dealing with the stresses in my life 3.65

4. I need someone to help me answer some of my big doubts
about the Christian faith 3.79

5. I need help understanding the Christian faith better 3.82

6. I need help in knowing how to share my faith with friends and others 3.88

7. I need help with my academics 3.92

8. I need help figuring out my future choices (college, job, career, marriage, etc) 4.00

9. I need help dealing with depression 4.01

10. I need help with my overwhelming commitments 4.06

11. I need help dealing with the pain I feel in life 4.09

12. I need help developing more and better friendships 4.15

13. I need help ending my dependence on drugs or alcohol or tobacco 4.20

14. I need help with making better moral choices in my life 4.22

15. I need help in receiving forgiveness for things I’ve done 4.40

16. I need help with living a healthier lifestyle—eating better and exercising 4.44

17. I need help with time management and discipline in my life 4.51

18. I need help resolving conflicts 4.83

19. I need help sorting out sexual issues (sexual activity, gender issues, homosexuality, etc.) 4.91

20. I need help with girlfriend/boyfriend issues 5.18

In general, the way kids ranked these needs primes the pump for cynicism among youth workers who see a big disconnect between the “God stuff” teenagers elevated to the top of the list and the topical stuff that settled out on the bottom. Typical is this assessment of the survey by Andrea Vincent of Michigan, who’s a volunteer youth worker by night and an assistant research professor by day:

“I’m not sure I believe the results. I think teenagers are simply comfortable thinking that others could help them with their faith issues. They want help with things they can talk about without embarrassment. Ironically, the items lower on this list are the ones where many adults fall down. At worst, they don’t want to be told what to do by hypocrites. At best, they already know what to do about these things (conflicts, sexual issues, time management).”

Whenever a survey result conflicts with our perception of reality, it creates a dissonance we have to resolve. One of the easiest ways to do that is to discount or explain away the results as flawed, skewed, or unrepresentative. And I’m sure these results are tainted by all of that—but it would be a mistake to keep what 20,000 Christian kids are trying to say at a cynical distance.

How would it challenge your assumptions, and your priorities, if you assumed these results are a perfect mirror of what kids know they really need?

Getting Tight With God

“I am thoroughly encouraged that these teenagers recognizes that they need more help in understanding their relationship with God. I will also probably use these stats to help the parents in my ministry understand why I choose the Bible Study formats I choose. I’m currently trying to get a student Bible Study going based on the major issues of theology—most of the parents I’ve approached about assisting me are concerned that the issues would be ‘too boring’ for teenagers. Instead, they think I should discuss issues like dating, financial literacy, and dealing with peer pressure.” —Brooke Oehme, Iowa

“Kid’s today need help discerning their faith…period. Though most youth ministries touch on the top four in this survey, they’re more likely to focus on the bottom-feeder topics such as peer pressure, drug and alcohol, boy/girl relationships, conflict resolution, yada, yada, yada. Should we talk about these topics? Sure. But they shouldn’t be the backbone of our ministry.” —Melissa Rau, Pennsylvania

Soldering the Parent Connection

“This survey demonstrates the importance teenagers place on the relationship they have with their parents….

1. Maybe our youth ministries need to recognize the importance of parents, and start equipping teenagers with a faith that is lived out in the home first.

2. Maybe we need to have a greater focus on helping teenagers apply their faith in their families before their schools.

3. Maybe we need to reevaluate our programs with the understanding that parents are the most important thing in adolescents’ lives, after God—not us.

4. Maybe students aren’t participating in our programs because they really are spending time with their parents.”

—Tony Clyde, Arkansas

“As much as teenagers say they’re embarrassed by their parents or that they don’t want them around, my experience has taught me that the opposite is true. Teenagers need space, without a doubt, but they still want and need their parents to be an integral part of their life—especially when it comes to matters of faith. How powerful would it be to have parents talking with their teenagers about their own faith journey—the struggles and questions they have, and the way they deal with them? And youth workers are in the unique position to facilitate those very conversations!” —Heather Cox, Virginia

Navigating the Sea of Stress

“Number three is a huge one with teenagers. As I meet with students to counsel them, I sense an overwhelming burden to be successful and to be busy doing 100 different things every day. I think we’ve corrupted our children by modeling a busy-beaver lifestyle that is not healthy or godly—whatever happened to being still?” —Jana Snyder, Pennsylvania

“What’s the real source of teenagers’ stress? Relational tension? Parent issues? Schoolwork? Sports? Work? Many of our teenagers have WAY too much on their plate. This is a huge concern for me. They want more of God, they want good relationships with their parents, but they need help with their stress levels if they’re going to grow in either of those areas. If we can help them balance their lives it opens the door for a healthier relationships with God and their parents. When we’re stressed we don’t function at our best. But this over-busy lifestyle is modeled for them at home.” —Mike Hammer, Pennsylvania

Understanding the Basics Better

“This survey underlines something I have seen more and more of in my part-time job as professor of world religions at our local community college. Each year I have students in my class share their own ‘history of belief’ (what religious influences have been evident in their life). And each year I basically hear the same responses: ‘My parents took me to (blank) church, but after I was baptized/took first communion I didn’t see any point in going. I didn’t agree with their beliefs, so I no longer belong to any church.’ “Many of my students also adhere to the popular ‘I’m spiritual but not religious’ or ‘I believe in Good, not God’ mantras. From these survey results it’s obvious that, rather then helping our teenagers grow in faith, we’re encouraging religious Illiteracy. Even teenagers who’ve grown up in the church struggle to understand what ‘salvation’ means and have basically no understanding of what a ‘covenant’ is. They can recite John 3:16, but have no idea why an incarnated God who dies for humanity is important. For them, religion seems to be nothing more than dying traditionalism wrapped in confusion infused with a good dose of uselessness. “If we’re merely teaching a Christianity that offers a system for making you a good person, they have endless examples of non-Christians who meet that same criteria but get to sleep in on Sundays. They want more, but most of us seem ill-equipped to show them where they can find what they’re looking for.” —Brooke Oehme, Iowa

Helping Where It Hurts

“I’m unsurprised, but very sad, that ‘dealing with depression’ lands so high on the list, just above ‘dealing with pain.’ We know kids are hurting, but are we making any headway helping them to feel like we’re meeting their needs? It seems like most of us spend more time on the bottom issues—sex, morality, healthy living, friends, forgiveness—than on the critical issues of building a positive relationship with parents and dealing with depression and pain. How can we bring the pendulum into better balance?” —Beth Scriven, Michigan

What About Sex and Dating?

“I was very shocked to see sexual issues so far down on the list. I have led small groups of high school boys for over seven years now—this is an issue that that they wish to discuss more than the others.” —Nate Mills,

“Is ‘I need help with girlfriend/boyfriend issues’ last because they don’t want to be challenged in this area, or because students do not see this category as the root of many of the problems they face—depression, commitment, moral choices, drug use, and so on? Acceptance is so much of a bigger issue than we give time or credit to. I believe the movie To Save A Life gives us a real picture of our students’ struggle with acceptance, portraying it as the basis of many other problems. “Are our youth group and church relationships so superficial that they do not feel accepted? Are teens sexually promiscuous because this is the only way they truly feel accepted and loved? Have we not authentically shared the truth that there is no greater love than a man lay down his life for his brother? Are we not showing them the love of Christ?” —Shan Smith, Indiana

“I thought it quite strange that the youth wouldn’t rank their boyfriend/girlfriend relationships more highly. Perhaps this points to a trend of increasing secrecy when it comes to these issues and concerns.” —Aaron M. Schellhas, Illinois

“I’m completely shocked that sexual issues and girlfriend/boyfriend stuff came in dead last. WOW…. It’s either a major shift in teenage culture or these Christian kids are trying to give the “right answers” or they feel they have their dating lives all figured out and they don’t need any help. But based on the drama I see in their lives and the pain and the heartache they bring on themselves, it seems odd to me.” —Drew Cope, Pennsylvania

Why Some Youth Workers Stay Longer

By Tom Wanberg

I’ve been a longtime volunteer leader in my church’s junior high ministry. One of the great blessings of my involvement has been, simply, the longevity of our paid youth staffers. Over the years I’ve observed several reasons for our heath in this area.

1. Increased longevity is directly proportional to the longevity and happiness of the volunteer leaders. With healthy volunteer leaders, the paid staffer feels less isolated, panics less, and can maintain a normal family life.

2. When volunteers feel supported by the paid leaders they stay happy. When volunteer leaders feel loved, cared for, and supported, they stay—and they recruit more volunteers! To understand this critical point, watch how our marvelous paid staffers conduct a meeting with volunteers. They don’t focus too much on their prepared agenda, or even on the specifics of the kids. Invariably they want to know how the individual volunteer leaders are doing handling the normal curveballs that life throws at them. They not only listen to us, they cry and laugh with us. They are our pastors.

3. The bunker mentality. When you go to war (any typical retreat), all the leaders are physically, mentally, and spiritually attacked as they battle for the kids. At first blush this doesn’t seem like a great recruiting pitch for potential volunteers. But when you’re in a bunker with other leaders you can’t help but get closer to them. The closer the volunteers get to each other, the more they want to go on the next retreat. And when our paid staffers lead a retreat they’re not only keeping up with the kids, they’re bonding with the volunteer leaders. This is very healthy.

4. Raising up the next generation of volunteers. Our last junior high retreat was overflowing with high school volunteers. It was amazing to watch how the “old-timers” modeled to the newbie leaders the “tricks of the trade.” These high school kids had so much fun in middle school, and they remember how much fun their leaders were having, that they want to get in on all that retreat action. They know that God shows up in big ways on retreats.

5. A pastor’s pastor. While all of us volunteer leaders recognize that our Director of Pastoral Ministry, Bob Krulish, is awesome, we also realize his position is a bit unusual. His job is to pastor the pastoral staff. He has an uncanny ability to see burnout stalking our paid staffers, and actively works to counter the physical, mental, and spiritual exhaustion that comes with ministry.

Tom is vice president of a real estate investing firm in Colorado, and a longtime volunteer leader in his church’s junior high ministry.

The article “Teenagers’ Top Needs” written by Rick Lawrence was excerpted from www.simplyyouth.com web site, July 2010.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”

Posted in AIS File Library, YMGE - Youth Ministry0 Comments

3 Costly Teenage Risky Behaviors

3 Costly Teenage Risky Behaviors
Jonathan McKee

Are today’s teenagers engaging in more risky behaviors than before?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) actually produces a bi-annual report that looks for these answers, analyzing teenage risky behaviors like sexual activity, smoking, drinking, fighting, driving without seatbelts, etc. Last week their brand new report with 2011 numbers was released.

Want to know the bottom line?

Good luck. It really depends whose headlines you read. The CDC press release about the report is actually titled, U.S. High School Students Improve Motor Vehicle-related Health Behaviors. And sure enough, more kids are wearing seatbelts, less are drinking and driving, or riding with a driver who has been drinking. But are those the main risky behaviors teenagers are engaging in?

What risky behaviors concern you? Last night my daughter Alyssa began asking me random questions off a questionnaire on her Pinterest page, questions like: What are your 3 biggest fears? or What makes you happy? What started as just Alyssa and I, ended up being my entire family laying around the couch answering Alyssa’s questions. Ashley, my 14-year-old caught my attention with one of her answers to, “What makes you happy?” One of Ashley’s answers was, “When I’m doing something crazy!”

I was a little nervous until she started expanding on her answer, talking about more extreme sport type activities. I guess everyone has different definitions of “risky” or “crazy.”

3 Risky Behaviors:

When I read the report, I immediately was curious about three risky behaviors that I see affecting teenagers for the long-haul: marijuana use, drinking, and sexual activity. I’m not minimizing risky behaviors like bringing a weapon to school or even using hallucinogenic drugs. It’s just that in my 20 years of youth ministry, I’ve seen more pain, heartache and natural consequences from these three risky behaviors on mainstream teenagers than any others.

Here’s what this newest CDC report had to say about these three areas:

Sexual Activity:
Contrary to what the headlines have been saying the last six months, teenage sexual activity is up a notch.

Some of you might remember me bringing some headlines to your attention last October. In October the CDC released another report titled the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) report, revealing that only about 42% of American teenagers have had sex. Headlines immediately appeared claiming Young People Are Having Less Sex!

Is this true?

Unfortunately…not in the last decade.

Many of you probably remember a Youth Culture Window article I wrote titled, “Are Teenagers Really Having Less Sex?” In that article I cited other reports, including CDC’s past Youth Risk Behavior Reports, showing you a nice little chart revealing a decline from 1988 to 2001, then a “leveling off” since then. I told my co-workers. “Let’s wait until the new Youth Risk Behavior Report comes out from the CDC and we’ll see if teenage sexual activity is down.”

Well, the report came out last week, and the numbers aren’t down. The sexual activity headlines should basically be, “Almost Half of High School Students Having Sex.” Here’s a glimpse at these new numbers (the new 2012 report reveals 2011 numbers) compared to the last report two years ago (with 2009 numbers)

Download the entire report to see the breakdown of all grades, races and geographic locations for several different categories of sexual behaviors.

NOTE: The “confidence interval” that the CDC puts on this report is 95%. So these changes of 1% or so really aren’t statistically significant.\

So basically, risky sexual behaviors haven’t really gone up or down. But hopefully the little bump up in numbers will at least silence the headlines that are claiming, “Teens are having less sex!” How come we don’t see a headline stating, 63% of teenagers will have sex by the time they walk across the stage to collect their high school diploma?

Marijuana Use:
Up a little more than a notch.

In short, the total amount of H.S. students who ever used marijuana in 2009 was 36.8%. The 2011 number is 39.9%.  But that’s just the young people who have ever tried it even once. How about current users- a number that reveals who has had marijuana even 30 days before the survey, usually indicating regular use. In 2009 this number was 20.8% for all H.S. students. In 2011 current users were 23.1%.

Yes, according to this report, sadly, almost 1/4th of H.S. students are using marijuana regularly. Other reputable reports showed even higher numbers than this. Last month the Partnership at Drugfree.org released a report revealing that 27% of H.S. students are “past-month” users of marijuana.

So somewhere between 23 and 27 percent of high school students are regular users. This isn’t good news. (Will we see that press release?)

Down a notch.

Drinking numbers are always interesting. CDC tracks “ever drank alcohol,” “current alcohol user,” and “binge drinking.” I don’t even pay attention to the “ever drank alcohol” numbers. After all, many parents will let their kid try a sip of wine at a wedding. Does that mean that kid is engaging in risky behaviors? Not even close. It just means that they’re Presbyterian!

In 2009 a total of 41.8% of high school students were “current users” (had a drink in the 30 days before the survey). Interestingly enough, that was 42.9% of females compared to 40.8% of males. In 2011 the number of current users dropped to 38.7% of high school students, with the genders flip-flopping— 37.9% of females and 39.5% of males.

In 2009, 24.2% of high school students currently engaged in binge drinking (5 or more drinks within a couple of hours within at least 30 days before the survey). Males were higher than females. In 2011 the number of high school students’ binge drinking shrank to 21.9% (males still higher than females).

The drop in overall current users of alcohol is statistically insignificant, but the drop in female current users is noteworthy (5%). The drop in binge drinking is also notable (over 2%).

I’m glad to see these numbers down a notch, although it’s hard for me celebrate when 4 out of every 10 high school students is a current drinker, and 1 in 5 is a binge drinker.
Drinking is one of those risky behaviors that have dire consequences. One Rutgers study following 437 young women from high school graduation through their freshman year of college, found two scary truths:
1. Out of the young women who never drank heavily in high school (if at all), nearly half admitted to binge drinking at least once by the end of their first college semester.
2. Of all the women whose biggest binge had included four to six drinks (5 drinks in one sitting is the definition for binge drinking), one quarter said they’d been sexually victimized in the fall semester (anything from unwanted contact to rape). Those women who ever consumed 10 or more drinks, 59% were sexually victimized by the end of their first semester.

I wonder if these girls think Katy Perry’s song, Last Friday Night is funny?

Drinking, Marijuana use and sexual activity are three behaviors that large percentages of our kids are engaging in… and they are facing the consequences.

What about you?
Are you talking with young people enough about decision making in these areas?

How can you engage young people in conversations, not lectures, about these areas?

About Jonathan McKee, president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of numerous books including the brand new Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent, Ministry By Teenagers, Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation, and the award winning book Do They Run When They See You Coming? He speaks and trains at camps, conferences, and events across North America, and provides free resources for youth workers internationally on his website,

From www.jonathanmckeewrites.com web site. Posted on June 11, 2012.

The above article, “3 Costly Teenage Risky Behaviors,” is written by Jonathan McKee. It was retrieved from www.jonathanmckeewrites.com, having been posted on June 11, 2012.

The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study and research purposes.

Posted in AIS File Library, YMGE - Youth Ministry0 Comments

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