Listening Youth Leader

The Listening Youth Leader

“I won’t care about how much you know until I know how much you care.”

Have you ever heard that phrase before? It is a key phrase that I heard over and over again, emphasizing the importance of listening while leading youth ministry.

Listening Youth Leader

As I have shared in previous blog posts, I grew up in youth ministry around giants who did not know (or care) that they were giants. This is the kind of wisdom they would remind us of.

Humble Leadership

In those early days I don’t have a single memory of someone driving home the point that we needed more kids to show up. I don’t recall anyone hyper-critiquing my Young Life talks to ensure they were 100% theologically accurate or delivered with perfect diction. I don’t remember having a smoke machine or the best music. I certainly don’t remember having a multi-million dollar worship space.

There is nothing more nutritious to the soul than being listened to well.

What do I remember?

I’ll never forget the day our Young Life area director, Reid Estes, invited me as a confused college kid to drive out to the local high school with him and visit with some kids during lunches. As we pulled into the parking lot of the high school, Reid confessed he was pretty nervous and really didn’t feel like going into lunches that day.

His vulnerability left a mark on me. His prayer was no different: “Father, we are nervously here to visit with some folks who You know and love. May they be attracted to You in us, nothing more.”

I was struck by this moment. Here was a man—a leader—authentically confessing his fear and weakness.

Listening Leadership

It would be Reid’s tears the following summer that struck me again. Just like the trip to the high school, Reid invited me to join him as a co-leader in his cabin of high school guys at Windy Gap.

Midweek sometime, Reid invited me to play disc golf with him to check in. Over several holes, he gently floated a handful of questions that I casually answered as we meandered from hole to hole.

I remember glancing over at Reid at one point and noticed that he was tearing up. So I inquired and he simply said, “Hayne, I am so, so sorry.”  

My story and my pain were as common as the rain to me but Reid appeared to be listening beneath the surface. He risked allowing my pain to affect him.

Good Leadership

What do I remember? In other words, what made Reid a good leader?

  • He was really tuned in as a listener.
  • He walked with me. He stayed nearby and allowed our conversation to be the centerpiece, not the game. We walked slowly.
  • He was genuinely curious and his questions were laced with compassion.
  • He reflected my own pain back to me and gave me permission to begin acknowledging my neediness.
  • He did not offer advice or remedies…just his quiet and gentle presence.
  • He hugged me with tears in his eyes.
  • He gave me permission to cry over my own story…and the stories of others.

There is nothing more nutritious to the soul than being listened to well.

Rushed Leadership

It angers and saddens me to remember how ferociously I chased the idols of event-making and crowd-gathering. In the fury and frenzy of crafting the latest greatest pop-up events, I literally raced right past kids in whose eyes I saw a hunger to be heard and known. I write this with tears in my eyes even now…I really wish I had possessed the awareness to do more listening.

There is this idea that the most influence will be made on a platform, standing in front of a large crowd with a mic in your hand… I’ll be super honest. I can’t remember what any youth leader ever said from the platform under any spotlight. Not a single sentence.

What would those kids (now adults) remember about what we offered them?

  • Funny skits?
  • Large crowds?
  • Amazing trips?
  • Obnoxious program budgets?
  • Random event promos and flyers?
  • Packed parking lots?
  • Stuffed youth rooms?
  • Millions of pieces of pizza?

None of these are bad or evil. And I know I did some listening in there along the way. Maybe even some good listening. I grieve not having done more of it. I mean…I feel like I should write letters of apology to former students for being so unavailable.

How To Be a Listener

There is a great book that every human should push to the top of their reading lists. It could even be called “Being Human 101.” The actual title is The Lost Art of Listening, and it’s written by Michael Nichols.

Let this wisdom land on you…

“When we attempt to listen we can impart to the speaker our unawareness of hearing them, by the shift of our the eyes, our glance away, letting our eyes glaze over, looking around, or interrupting them to speak to someone else. All of these signals leave the speaker knowing they have not been heard.

Not  being heard limits our responsiveness in all areas of our living. We long to be understood by someone listening to and hearing us, with understanding and compassion. We become stronger when we are recognized.  The simplest things can trigger a sense of rejection, even an unreturned phone call.”

Do you want to know something? Listening is good for students. It’s good for you too. Listening cultivates empathy in the listener. It provides a context for noticing. It catalyzes discovery. It promotes vulnerability. It helps eradicate shame.

Ed Dobson frames it for us simply and beautifully.

“It is one broken person talking to another broken person. And there is power in that.”

How To Lead as a Listener

Allow me to offer three simple suggestions:

1) Begin with one

There is no earthly way to listen effectively to more than one student at a time. Let that be a word of freedom. You don’t have to be superhuman. Live within your means and be with kids one at a time…even in a crowd. Especially in a crowd.

Recently in a leader meeting with youth leaders, one middle-aged woman whose large heart for students could not be restrained spoke up…

“How do I offer this kind of empathic listening to the girls in our small group when there are as many as 40 girls showing up this year?”

I think you’ll see the answer slowly lift off the page. Begin. With. One.

2) Be yourself

When opportunities present themselves, avoid the temptation to be anyone other than who you really, really are. Teenagers can quickly sniff out a fraud. And they are quick to flock to someone who is willing to honest, open and vulnerable.

There is this idea that the most influence will be made on a platform, standing in front of a large crowd with a mic in your hand. I chased it for years. Like a dog chasing his own tail.

I’ll be super honest. I can’t remember what any youth leader ever said from the platform under any spotlight. Not a single sentence.

But I can tell you intimate details of moments when one of my youth leaders sat with me and simply listened. I can even remember what we talked about. I can remember their questions. I can remember the expression on their face. I can remember how it made me feel. Human. Normal. Loved.

3) Be there fully

When a student begins to speak with you…relax. Make eye contact. Be careful not to divert your eyes to more interesting things happening in the background. Lean into the conversation. Linger. Rest easy. Be grounded in that space.

So when your next event is over…

…and the crowd clears out…

…and the fluorescent lights get turned on…

…and all of the mess is cleaned up…

…and all the leaky trash bags get hauled down to the dumpster…

…and the doors are all locked up behind you…

…and you head out to your car under the glimmer of street lights…

…and on the drive home you start to evaluate the evening’s agenda…

…can you confess that you have done more listening than being listened to? 


About the Author: Hayne Steen

Hayne Steen - Kindred Youth MinistryHayne Steen is the Director of Counseling and Care at The SoulCare Project as well as a Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice with Elbow Tree Christian Counseling. Hayne grew up on surfing on the northeast Florida coast where met his wife Ruth Ann while attending Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL where they were both students and Young Life leaders together. Since then they both have been serving in full time ministry with Young Life and the local church all over the state of Florida, in Atlanta and most recently serving on the ministry staff of Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church and the Chattanooga Youth Network. Hayne and his wife continue to live on Signal Mountain with their three children where they enjoy living, playing and worshipping in an amazing community of family and friends.

YM Out of Mission Community

Youth Ministry Out of Mission Community

Kindred’s own Justin Forbes gave this presentation, titled Youth Ministry out of Mission Community, at the annual Youth Ministry Academy conference in Orlando, Florida. This event was presented in conjunction by the Youth Ministry Institute and the Center for Youth Ministry Training, and was sponsored by Kindred Youth Ministry.

Below the video you can find the transcription, if you prefer to read Justin’s content, as well as images from the presentation.

Justin Forbes:

I know it’s me and then lunch, so let’s get after it…

I believe the real work of youth ministry is to build mission communities around our middle schools and our high schools.

A mission community is a group of people who follow Jesus, love each other well, genuinely care for one another, and then they look around and invite kids to participate in that experience.

This community is defined by their love of God and of one another, but they just can’t help themselves. There is this relentless impulse to go out and invite kids to come in and taste and see this experience. You know this. This is probably your story. You can’t help yourselves you want kids to experience the beauty and the fullness that you know.Youth Ministry out of Mission Community - Kindred Youth Ministry

This mission community is dedicated to practicing with one another the gospel, which they hope to proclaim to kids. They practice it themselves and hope to put in on display for kids.

The community defined by mission becomes in and of itself the medium by which they get to show people the very thing we talk about. Here’s what I mean by that.

Let me talk to you about love – and then let me come over here and show you love. Let me teach you forgiveness – and then I’ll show you what it looks like when the rubber hits the road. It’s hard. But it’s beautiful. Come. Check it out.

Our stories that we tell become embodied, enfleshed, lived out by this community instead of just spoken.

A few years back, I had an experience in youth ministry in a community just like this. I sat about 3 rows back in a mostly empty sanctuary. Everyone else had cleared out, and just in front of me, and a couple seats over, was Cameron’s mother. And just in front of her was Cameron’s empty casket. Cameron was lying there wearing this ridiculous Chicago Bears t-shirt that he would – I mean this guy wore it to school at least once a week and he was buried in his Chicago bears t-shirt. I’ll never forget that.

And he’s lying there and I’m sitting with his mom, eventually sitting next to her, just thinking what in the world just happened? How did we end up here? How is it that I’m sitting in this empty sanctuary with Cameron’s mom and Cameron’s lying in this box?

Just outside in the fellowship hall and scattered across the parking lot were hundreds and hundreds of high school kids and youth ministers the young life volunteers I was there with. We were all shocked by what had happened. Saddened and devastated. Questioning the goodness of God in the midst of such suffering. Our little community of people doing youth ministry together was hurting…badly…and but were there together.

We had known Cameron for almost four years and he had just graduated a few weeks earlier. This was in early June. He had just graduated from high school and Cameron was a wild kid, loved by everyone, especially our group of folks.

He was the first kid to show up, the loudest, most obnoxious, definitely the most inappropriate kid. He was easily one of my favorites. I know we aren’t supposed to have favorites, but I loved this kid. I had a picture of him on my desk for almost all 4 years of high school and had prayed for him often.  There was something about this kid that wanted nothing to do with the gospel, but just kept showing up that drew me to him.

Just a few weeks shy of Cameron’s graduation he walked up to me in the courtyard of Pedro Menendez High School in St. Augustine and he had this big announcement. He was really excited. He was like, “Justin!” And I’m like, “Yes?” “I’m going to camp!” I’m like, “Ok!”

I think he wanted me to like break out into applause you know, but truth be told, I was really excited because I knew He was about to graduate and we were going to have this amazing experience together. And you know those conversations that take place at camp and I was really excited about getting that uninterrupted time with Cameron.

And so we were super excited and he was thrilled. You know, he said, “I want one more experience as a kid before I have to adult.”  And I was like, “Alright. Let’s do that together.”

But just a few days, just days, before we left for camp, he broke his wrist and decided going to camp with a cast on wouldn’t be any fun. We missed having Cameron at camp, of course camp was great. And as we ended the week and loaded up on the bus and started to come down the mountain, we passed out the cell phones.  And that’s when the buzzing began. Just this relentless buzzing, Text message after text message… voicemails started to land. And then tears and kind of this whimpering started to come from the back of the bus. And this kind of shock hit everyone on the bus together. We had just learned together that Cameron the night before had gone to a party and mixed just too many drugs with just too many drinks and died in the arms of a friend while overdosing.

It hit while we were on the bus together. Cameron’s cousin, Dylan, who I am still friends with, was on the bus. Many of Cameron’s friends were on the bus. And so together, we were learning, oh my gosh, this guy who was right in the middle of our community, died just a few hours ago.

The leaders came up to the front of the bus and began to talk and pray. How are we going to handle this? We are locked in the bus for the next 10 hours, what are we going to do? So we just said lets spread out and just be with kids. We prayed and everyone spread out and it was just a long bus ride home.

When we got back, we invited kids to come to my house and tell stories about Cameron. I invited them to come over and be sad, be happy, to tell stories and laugh, be angry if you need to be angry. Just come and be together.

I said come over around 6 and I told the leader why don’t you come over around 4 and we will get ready. Well, our leaders showed up at 4, spent some time praying together, and we were just kind of say, “Ok, how are we going to handle this?” Probably 20 or 30 kids at least will show up. By 5, not 6, by 5 almost 100 kids were there. And we were overwhelmed, oh my gosh, kids really wanted to wrestle with this. By 6 o’clock there were almost 200 kids there and by 7 the police were there because for over 300 kids had shown up and they were all across the backyard and front yard, every room of my house, up and down the street. They were sad, they were tell stories and laughing, they were crying, they were angry they had questions, it was a beautiful sight. Painful but beautiful, Cameron’s aunt and uncle came, they were there for us in awhile, his sister came, and I cannot believe she showed up. She was so brave.

Justin Forbes - Kindred Youth Ministry

It was truly a sacred time, At the end of the night, around 11 o’clock or so, after the last kid left, I sat on the floor on my living room with about seven other leaders. We were just exhausted, were whooped, and we just looked at each other and wept and cried. It was just an intense night. I’ll never forget seeing there, looking into the eyes of this amazing people who were giving their lives away, to kids who were suffering. I truly love this men and women, we are doing life together, we have played together, worship together, been to the high school together, gone to way more football games and practices together, all of those things we’ve been doing those things.

We’ve been doing life and ministry together, our love for one another was on display, but our love for one another was not just bound up and being just together, it was born out of our shared commitment and calling to the ministry of high school. We were called to one another, yes we were, but called to one another in such a way, that naturally led us to go. And for us to go, meant showing up in High School. You know these type of people, they can walk along side lonely kids, popular kids, wild kids, church kids, whatever kind of kid and they see someone who simply needs to be told how much loved by God.

I’m that kind of person, you are that kind of person, we can’t stand the idea that the kid wouldn’t know that God’s love for them is far greater that their contempt for themselves. I want them to know that God is here, that God is present, that God loves them and Jesus has this really annoying invitation to follow that just don’t go away. This are the kind of people we were been given to be loved and loved by, us we go to the ministry together, this is the community.

This is the kind of community to be called the part of one another, this is what mission community looks like, our little team of people doing youth ministry shared the suffering of all of those kids that night, we shared the suffering of  Cameron’s family that night and at the funeral and for weeks to come. We spoke of God’s presence of love put then we put that story on display through our actions.

This is the work of mission communities. We have to figure out what it means to give our very selves away. And we need each other to figure this out. This is where we wrestle with what it mean for our community to be faithful.

So what kind of stories do mission communities tell? The story that I have shared about Cameron will forever be etched on my mind and heart because of Cameron and the stinking Chicago bears t-shirt and the buzzing on the phone and the 100 of kids spread across the street in our lawn and in our house.

But it will also be in my mind and heart because I experience a rich love and fellowship in my mission community that I really haven’t known before; the depth of suffering took us to a new place. The depth of ministry and love took us to a new place, and redefined how I understood ministry to happen to take place, it spokes to a gospel in a way that no message ever could.

So what kind of stories do your mission communities tell? Here what cracks me up, we know full well that the worst way, (little ironic) for us to teach and for people to learn is to sit back passively and just receive things thrown at them right? To be talked at? Irony… It’s not even like a thing, an educational theory anymore, we know this, we’ve grown, we’ve learned. And yet, the majority of our proclamation we think happens in our messages, in our talks and in our sermons.

So let me ask you this by show of hands… I do want you to show your hands. By show of hands, how many of you have been to church in the last 3 or 4 weeks? Oh good. Ok good. Alright… How many of you can recall the main points of a sermon from 2 weeks ago? A couple of hands… Ok, good… How many of you can recall the scripture passages and the main points of a talk given yesterday here? A couple more… Ok fine, maybe you’re an exception to the rule.

Here’s my point, I was a church going kid, actually just across the street, Presbyterian, Orlando, I grew up here. I was a church going kid as much as possible and I couldn’t tell you one thing, it’s been a few years. But I couldn’t tell you one thing that my youth ministers have said in a talk. But, I remember the other stories that they told. I remember the other stories they told that they told with their lives.

These stories weren’t talks given upfront but these stories were lived out in front of a watching little punk middle school kid named Justin. I was paying attention, I was listening and I was testing the boundaries. These stories were told by Neil and Rich and Kirsten and Matt and Beamer and Grant and a beautiful cloud of witnesses, a whole bunch of folks that walked with us. That walked with me.

Here’s what those stories spoke to me. Here’s what I heard. Justin, you matter. We notice when you’re here. We notice when you’re not here. We care about you. We think you’re gifted. We think you’ve something to offer. You are loved by God and as you follow Jesus, we want to do that with you. Wow!

I look back now and I’m so grateful for this cloud of witnesses to have surrounded me and carried me through such a crazy time of middle school and high school and to tell me those stories.

I’m sitting in a different seat now as a Father. Just last night, the reason I was not here last night, I was at a middle school information meeting. Oh my gosh! Like I saw a friend there and she goes you’ve talked a big game in youth ministry and now you’re in it and I’m like, “Oh no!”

My son is in fifth grade, this guy… A good looking little dude and there’s nothing I want more than for there to be a mission community of people that love each other, that love Jesus and invite him to come along with them. Nothing I want more than that. I would give just about anything for that to be true in his life.

When it comes to the stories we tell in the youth community, the mic is never off. Your proclamation doesn’t end after a short prayer at the end of a talk, in fact, it may have just begun. The stories you tell are not just the talks you give but in fact the stories we tell are found in our lives as we share them with one another and as we share them with kids.

1 Thessalonians 2:8 “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our very lives as well.”

Because we have such a great affection for you, because we care so dearly for you, yes, we share with you the gospel of God, but we share our very lives. We give you ourself. We share the gospel of God, yes — but we give you ourselves.Kindred Youth Ministry - Justin Forbes - 1 Thessolonians 2:8

This is the work of mission communities. We have to figure out what it means to give our very selves away. And we need each other to figure this out. This is where we wrestle with where it mean for our community to be faithful.

Our love for kids will lead us. It will drive us to this conversation. Our dear affection for them, the way we can’t stop thinking about them, the way that you walk through a hallway of a school and you have different eyes to see. You know what I mean by that? You have different eyes. You see things that other people don’t see.

That sort of affection and love will drive us but we have to do the work of figuring out what does it look like to put the rubber on the road here. What does it look like to be present in the lives of these kids we we’ve been called to love and serve? This is the mission side of mission community. Collectively giving ourselves away…

So, back to the empty sanctuary, I’m sitting with Cameron’s mother, and wondering, what in the world is going on? What is happening in this moment? How did I end up here? And I’m praying, asking where God is in the midst of such suffering? But looking back now, I see this beautiful story being told in the mist of this dark experience. There was a great lose and a great sadness, yes. But at the same time a community of people holding faith for those who couldn’t have shown up, they show up when they were present in the mist of doubt and anger and hurt feelings and sadness and they simply offered love. They simply offered their very selves.

Christ was present with  Cameron’s family and with his friends that day and one small but significant piece of evidence to that hope, was the youth ministers and volunteers that it were in the parking lot sitting with kids in their suffering. That small community of believers were faithful to show up, faithful to hope, faithful to be present and that faithfulness was born out of there love, for one another but for God, but also born out of their shared sense of call, their shared sense of mission, their sent-ness. And to be sent that day meant to be showing in a parking lot and being with an angry devastated kid for however long. You know those moments.

The mission community held each other that day. They enabled each other to be faithful and they did that hard work of showing up. What a beautiful story. What a beautiful witness, a story that points to the faithful and present love of God.

Justin Forbes - Kindred Youth Ministry

So for you, and for me, this is our work. We need to be with people who build mission communities. As you consider the middle schools you’ve been given and high school kids that you love so dearly, I beg you to consider teams of people you have called to cultivate in that ministry.

Give yourself to the fellowship of that community, invest the time and energy and doing life together, play, celebrate, rest, do the stuff of life, and then let your proclamation of the good news, flow out of the love that you have for one another. Let the proclamation of good news flow out of the love that the internal community has because together you understand your sentness. Do the hard work of discerning how it is you must give yourselves away, and Do that work in the community.

May we youth ministers build beautiful mission communities, mission communities that are deeply committed to Jesus Christ, deeply committed with each other and deeply committed to our clear sense of call to the kids that we are giving to love. Amen.


About the Author: Justin Forbes

Justin Forbes - Kindred Youth MinistryJustin serves as the director of the Youth Ministry program at Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL and has been involved in youth ministry since 1998. He’s also a co-founder of Kindred Youth Ministry. His passion is teaching and mentoring youth ministers. Click here to read more about Justin.

Burn the Boats: Embracing Ministry Transition

This summer we made a significant move from a place I’d lived longer than any time in my life. It was not an easy decision to leave both people and careers that had been firmly established.

As we listened for God’s voice in our decision we sensed being led to this new place where we live and serve now. A gut wrenching surrender was required of us – one that I could not and have not fully absorbed yet. I would vulnerably confess that I am still in a season of grieving the move, and I am also celebrating this new place we’ve been planted.

Burn the Boats

This new place, while so thankfully familiar, is also brand new to us as we learn how to negotiate our life here with teenagers and rebooting ourselves in familiar forms of ministry. I am a Christian Counselor launching a new counseling practice in this new city. My wife is the Young Life Area Director still wrapping her arms around this amazing ministry. Even though she has 20 years of experience on the Young Life staff, this is a really big job.

Validating Grief

A friend of mine recently validated my grief. He described that he did not know many other people who were as deeply integrated into the life of our former city as I was. While I could argue whether or not that is accurate, he put his finger on something that resonates deeply. I am/was integrated into our community in some lovely ways that I will miss deeply.

I’ll spare you the details of all the many dimensions of integration but trust me when I say that I was fortunate to have been engaged so deeply with a diverse community of activists, entrepreneurs, artists, creatives, counselors, spiritual directors, pastors and priests. My wife grew up in that city and her parents were also deeply integrated in many forms of service, both professionally and civically.

Just last week I was back officiating a wedding when a couple in the same outdoors store struck up a conversation. They instantly knew my father in law from some business they had done together.

So we sailed away from the familiarity of our shoreline there, away from our “known world”. We pointed our vessel perpendicular to the coastline for the oldest city in the United States.

Our arrival was marked by celebrations with new and familiar friends. I took a much-needed sabbatical. Ruth Ann cannonballed into her work here while our kids spent the summer navigating the penetrating heat playing in both sand and surf.

We worked so hard to get here. What a gift to have this time over the summer to rest our way into the fall. And then the kids went back to school and my days are not as full. I’m more aware of the white space in my calendar than ever.

Then it hits me. We’re not on vacation. This is our new home.

No Turning Back

“Burn the boats” is a phrase I’ve overheard for years when referencing how to make a successful transition. The reference is to the French navy who, when arriving to the shoreline of a battle, would burn the boats to illustrate to their fleets that retreat was not an option.

This morning, in worship, we sang “No Turning Back”. And without warning, this past week, as the new signage went up in front of my counseling practice, a friend texted me, “no turning back, no turning back.”

Tears come forward as a refreshing reminder of what was and is a special place to have been given these last 13 years. And they honor what is happening as we attempt to open ourselves up to what God might do here in this new place, in each of us, in our family, in our respective ministries of evangelism, discipleship, spiritual formation and counseling.

Establishing a New Foundation

There are a handful of things that are helping us get grounded as we transition in this new place and we highly recommend them to you as well;

1. Cultivate a local community around you

For some this is dialing in your involvement in a local church while for others this may look like inviting an intentional group to get together, kids and all, for scheduled community time (pray, eat, laugh, play, sabbath, sing, commune).

2. Grieve well

Just like I allowed the tears to come forward, we can catch ourselves feeling the pain of what we’ve left or lost. Honor the pain and seek out someone to help you process the pain. For me, it has been immeasurably helpful to sit with a seasoned therapist who I’ve known for a couple decades. We’ve never met for this reason until recently but her willingness to sit with me as an attentive listener is helping. Tears are your friend as they will tell on you when you won’t tell on yourself.

3. Take self-care seriously

I shared this last week with a friend as I shared that I’ve experienced some evidence of depression in the transition. “I would say that self care is both to get outside yourself while remaining attentive to the inside of yourself.”

A great book by Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak masters the tension of these. Parker describes a clinical depression that he experienced and that may be helpful.

He describes going on outward bound at 40 in the middle of the depression. They went repelling in Maine and as he started his descent he got stuck … like froze on the cliff and could not move another inch. The guide yelled to him “you ok Parker?” He describes that a childlike voice spoke back “I don’t want to talk about it.” After a pause, the guide said something that helped unlock his brain…”Remember, if you can’t get out of it, get into it.”

That was the password apparently for hyper leaping his brain and making the remainder of the scary descent. He did not write about his depression for a decade just because it had been so painful and deep. “If you can’t get out of it, get into it!”

There is no bypassing hard, so don’t avoid it…embrace it!

Embrace the Pain of New

So, whatever transition you find yourself in (new job, new city, new baby, new marriage, new ministry…), I would encourage you to embrace the pain of new. One of my friend’s mentors and spiritual directors invites people to answer the question, “In all of your gaining, what’s been lost?”

Maybe honoring what’s been gained demands us to honor what’s been lost. Many people will discourage you to see only the gains but I would invite you to allow yourself to honor both.

So, in all of your gaining, what’s been lost? Or in all of your loss, what’s been gained?


About the Author: Hayne Steen

Hayne Steen - Kindred Youth MinistryHayne Steen is the Director of Counseling and Care at The SoulCare Project as well as a Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice with Elbow Tree Christian Counseling. Hayne grew up on surfing on the northeast Florida coast where met his wife Ruth Ann while attending Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL where they were both students and Young Life leaders together. Since then they both have been serving in full time ministry with Young Life and the local church all over the state of Florida, in Atlanta and most recently serving on the ministry staff of Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church and the Chattanooga Youth Network. Hayne and his wife continue to live on Signal Mountain with their three children where they enjoy living, playing and worshipping in an amazing community of family and friends.

Mentor

One Thing Every Youth Worker Desperately Needs

The Value of a Mentor

You’d think as youth leaders, we would know firsthand the necessity of a mentor—someone slightly further along the path of life that we can emulate and learn from. After  all, the entire occupation of youth ministry is built upon the value of mentoring! But far too often, we spend all our time and energy being the mentor and role model for young people. And instead of investing in our own spiritual walk, we stagnate. You need a mentor!

Mentor

This mentor can be a spiritual director, a counselor, a pastor, a church member, a business person in your town, or a parent of a student you know. Or contact our friends at PRYME, and get connected with a veteran youth worker in your town. It all depends on what you need. Let’s be clear, though—you need this person in your life! If you aren’t growing personally, your life and ministry will, without question, eventually reflect this.  As youth leaders, we are constantly pouring ourselves out. We desperately need to find people that are going to invest in us if we are going to continue to give ourselves away in ministry!

My mentor’s wisdom, counsel, advice, and affirmation help to dispel the false narratives that are trapped deep in the recesses of my mind, and replace those with narratives that allow me to become more of my true self.

Finding Your Mentor

So how do you find a mentor? About ten years ago I was challenged to make a list of the top five people I would ask to mentor me if I could ask anyone. I wrote down the list, mustered up some courage, and typed in the phone number I’d received from a friend for the person at the very top of my list. I’d only briefly met him once before and didn’t think he’d even remember me. A few minutes later, I had a new mentor. Come to find out, people with a lot of wisdom are often looking for ways to share it, and younger people to invest into… A few days later, I showed up at my new mentor’s house and found out that many years before, he’d been mentored by an older, wiser man who was a little further down the road than he was, and it had been one of the most meaningful relationships of his life.

To this day, my mentor speaks life into me. He affirms the gifts and talents he sees in me, and encourages me every time we meet. We talk about the spiritual disciplines and just by asking about my spiritual life, he holds me accountable. If I have a major life decision to make, I want his input, and I trust his voice in my life. His wisdom, counsel, advice, and affirmation help to dispel the false narratives that are trapped deep in the recesses of my mind, and replace those with narratives that allow me to become more of my true self. Because of my friendship with my mentor, I have so much more to offer to those that I lead.  He is a close confidante, he has walked with me through some very trying and difficult times, and celebrated many joyous occasions as well. When we meet, we mostly talk about Jesus, life, and what we’re learning. Sound familiar? Kind of like what you and I do with students all the time!

Who’s Your Mentor?

So, my friends, why not sit down now a make a list of five people that you know of that you could ask to mentor you? I’d be willing to bet that you will be pleasantly surprised after making a couple phone calls just as I was!

My friends and I here at KYM put together an entire e-book of ideas, tips, and tricks like this called “11 Hacks for Youth Ministry.” I hope you’ll download it today at kindredyouthministry.com, and continue to invest in yourself, so you can continue to invest in others. We hope it’s helpful for you and your ministry!

We also want to invite you to join a Kindred Coaching Cohort! Find a sense of community.  Learn practical skills like time management, team building, leader recruitment and training, and how to delegate. Have your entire year planned including all the curriculum and resources you need to make it happen provided by leading scholars and practitioners!

You are not alone! Set yourself up to thrive in the work of youth ministry and in life!  


About the Author: Zach Gurick

Zach Gurick

Zach started in youth ministry in 2001 and has developed ministries for middle school, high school, and college aged students in cities throughout the state of Florida. He’s also the co-founder of Kindred Youth Ministry. He loves to study theology, leadership development, and is especially interested in spiritual formation. Click here to read more about Zach.

 

9 Ways to cultivate community

9 Ways to Cultivate Community

Is it possible to have a team that cares deeply for one another, shares life together, encourages and supports each other, and loves each other so well that ministry naturally flows out from within?

That’s a tall order, but one that we should all strive to make a reality amongst the teams we work with.

9 Ways to cultivate community

What if our big goal was that kids, other leaders, church members and the community around us would all say about our teams, “Look at the way they love each other, I want to be a part of that!” Loving our team well, and putting into practice with one another what we’re asking students to do may be the best witness we have to offer!

So, how can we work to cultivate missional community on our team? Here are nine very practical things you can start doing now that will move you and your team in that direction.

1. Share life stories.

Over the course of a month, semester, or year, depending on the size of your team, start off every meeting by giving team members a chance to share their story. Take 15 minutes to do this—ten minutes of sharing followed by five minutes of questions. It’s helpful to set a timer at the nine minute mark so people know to wrap it up soon. Be the first to go to set the standard of how you want people to share.

This will allow everyone on your team to have deeper insight and understanding into one another’s lives. It allows for grace and understanding about choices, actions, and motivations that team members bring to the table.

2. Get away together for an overnight.

Just do this. Spending time doing an overnight retreat can dramatically strengthen a team. The best parts are the unscheduled, late-night conversations. Plan some time to celebrate what God has done or is doing in your ministry. Play a game or two, or make up a new team tradition like a corn-hole tournament or whiffle ball game.

A team that can play together will grow deeper as a missional community. Plan some time for strategizing and planning the year together as well, of course…

Loving our team well, and putting into practice with one another what we’re asking students to do may be the best witness we have to offer!

3. Have them over for a meal.

There’s real power in breaking bread together. Great conversations happen around a table. Practice hospitality when you do this and show your team what it means to invite people into your life. Break out the good dishes, prepare some good food, and go all out to make it a great time together.

4. Start every meeting with five minutes of silent, centering prayer.

This is a great way to practice praying together. For starters it allows you and your teammates to be more present in the meeting by letting go of all the distractions and things you’ve had on your minds leading up to the meeting. It also reminds you all that you’re God’s beloved, chosen and called according to His purposes, and teaches you to listen for His one voice to speak to all of you collectively. I’ve found that even in silence God draws us together as one in Him, sometimes moreso than when we’re speaking.

5. Encourage one another on a regular basis in your team meetings.

Every couple meetings, take five minutes towards the beginning of the meeting and ask team members to share ways they’ve seen God at work in and through one another. Doing this will help to cultivate a culture of encouragement and gratitude on your team. Team members will be empowered and uplifted as this becomes a regular practice. Encourage team members to do this outside of meetings as well.

6. Read The Following Article Together

Read Henri Nouwen’s article, “Moving from Solitude to Community to Ministry,” together and discuss it as a team.

This short article outlines a template for how ministry should naturally flow, starting with our internal, loving union with Jesus. Through our solitude with Jesus we should be naturally driven to long for and move towards community and fellowship with others. Out of community and fellowship, ministry should naturally flow. Read this together and teach your team to live in this way!

7. Start and end every meeting by circling up and holding hands or grabbing a shoulder in prayer.

Our physical posture points to and represents what we want to simulate or create internally or emotionally. If we are physically joined together this will help us think of ourselves as one unit, one body, working together. I’ve done this with groups of as few as three or four, and with groups of as many as 150—it’s always a powerful picture of what we are really after. It’s so simple, just make it a point and give it a try!

8. Lead in transparency and vulnerability.

Have time in your team meetings to share what’s happening in your lives and lead that off by being honest, transparent, and vulnerable about real struggles and joys that you are experiencing. Invite your teammates into the realities of your life and ask them to do the same. We are after authentic relationships and authentic ministry. You have to lead this with your team to make it okay for others to do the same. Create a space that welcomes vulnerability and honesty.

9. Have a giant late-night nacho party after an event!

Cover a table with nacho chips and pile on the cheese and toppings, then invite your team to share stories, laugh, and play games as you try to take down the whole table of nachos. Be creative and create fun memories of warmth, hospitality, and authentic friendship.

Summary

These are nine practical things you can start doing today! Go try at least one of these ideas and see how God brings your team together so ministry can naturally flow out of community. Add a comment to the section below about your experience with one of these nine tips! Also, we’d love to start a dialogue below about other ways you’ve cultivated community. Let these nine tips be just a starting point for a conversation and add your own ideas to the comments section below. Let’s see how many ideas we can come up with collectively to spur on missional community for the Kingdom!


About the Author: Zach Gurick

Zach Gurick

Zach started in youth ministry in 2001 and has developed ministries for middle school, high school, and college aged students in cities throughout the state of Florida. He’s also the co-founder of Kindred Youth Ministry. He loves to study theology, leadership development, and is especially interested in spiritual formation. Click here to read more about Zach.

Prepare for Fall

4 Ways to Prepare Your Youth Ministry for Fall

It’s August, which means we’re wrapping up summer and staring Fall straight in the face. Summer mission trips have wrapped up so now parents are asking you when the ski retreat is going to be and when weekly youth group is starting up. Hopefully you worked ahead and have all of this done already, but if you don’t, you might be panicking a bit!

For a youth minister, the fall is an exciting time when you get to see youth more regularly, and you can get back to the part of the work you love most – ministering! 

So all the extra stuff, like calendar coordinating, strategic planning, and event planning can seem more like obstacles than part of the job you love so much. So as you try to get through the next few weeks here are some things to think about that may help you in the future.

Plan your calendar far in advance

I have most of my calendar for the following academic year done by the preceding April. Honestly, I’d love to have it done sooner. Before you even head into summer, it’s so helpful for you to know which big events are on your calendar and when so you can get some of the big stuff done before you head on summer mission trips. Christmas party, winter retreat, Confirmation classes, etc. Get it all on there ASAP.

Of course this doesn’t help you now because it’s August – but you can at least get your spring calendar together by the time school is starting back up. Your summer schedule – well that should be locked down before the first of the year. This helps clergy, parents, kids, but mostly – yourself.

For a youth minister, the fall is an exciting time when you get to see youth more regularly, and you can get back to the part of the work you love most – ministering!

Send out a mailer

I know, mailers seem very old school – but let’s not dismiss something just because it is old school. Your church database, whatever that looks like, is a wealth of outreach opportunities. Everyone in the church should get something in the mail from you about what you have in store for the youth ministry. Make it pretty so it doesn’t just get tossed away, and make it meaningful. Answer these questions:

  • What is the youth ministry about (ideally this can be copied and pasted from you mission statement)?
  • Who is the youth ministry for? What does the youth ministry do?
  • What does it have to do with the church community as a whole?
  • How can people get in touch with you if they have more questions?

The letter makes it feel more personal. People enjoy getting mail when it’s not a bill or solicitation. Bonus points if it actually gets addressed to a youth by their name. If you are part of a large church, this letter doesn’t have to get sent to everyone – just those involving youth families.

I have a 6000-member church, and when you narrow it down to youth families alone, I’m still sending out over 400 letters. But if it’s a smaller church, I’d recommend sending it to everyone. It will help everyone feel like they are connected to the youth ministry.

Plan a kick-off event

If you’ve worked ahead, then by August you know what the year has in store for your church’s youth and a great way to communicate that is at a kick-off event. Ideally, this kick-off event invites youth and their parents to be in the same space and hear all about what the youth ministry of your church has to offer.

  • What are the weekly programs?
  • What special events do you have?
  • What opportunities do the youth of the church have for church leadership?
  • What opportunities do they have to serve the community?
  • If you have a budget, have food and drinks.

Do your best to make this event interactive. Have an icebreaker for everyone to do together before they sit down to hear about the coming year. Most important – be professional. The kids know you’re fun. You want the parents to know their kids are in good hands when they’re with you. A Power Point or other use of technology communicating your main points and events will go a long way to at least make it seem like you know what you’re doing.

Most important – be professional. The kids know you’re fun. You want the parents to know their kids are in good hands when they’re with you.

Pray

It seems obvious, right? But well, it’s not always. This is a crazy time for our youth. For our youth entering 6th grade or 9th grade, special meaning is added because these are milestone years in their development. Those milestones add to the already often anxiety-ridden time that is returning to school. They might not have it in them to take a moment to pray for themselves, but what a comfort to know you can.

When you see that kid on Sunday who you know almost didn’t complete their 8th grade year, won’t it be great to be telling the truth when you say, “Hey man, I know how hard you worked to get to 9th grade, and it seems a bit scary. I want you to know I prayed for you this week that you’ll have joy and peace.”

Put a note out on social media letting kids know that you’re taking prayer requests as we’re heading into school. Have them text you, then pray for their request, and then let them know what you prayed. Or find out when each of your kids goes back to school, and pray for them on that day. Few things feel better than knowing someone prayed for you in a moment of need.

Be blessed as you head into this new academic year. Make sure someone is praying for you as you walk beside these kids during their school year. And don’t forget to send us your best tips for preparing for fall!


About the Author: Rachael McNeal

rachael mcneal

Rachael McNeal currently lives in St. Augustine, while working as the Director of Youth Ministries at Christ Episcopal Church in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL. She also has experience in Higher Education and Interfaith Activism. Rachael graduated from Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL where she studied Religion and Youth Ministry. She attended Princeton Theological Seminary where she received her Master of Divinity. She was featured on Interfaith Youth Core’s podcast Common Knowledge and has written for OnFaith, Interfaith Youth Core, Faith Line Protestants, Sojourners, and Huffington Post Religion.
Identifying Teens Prior to Crisis - Emily Edwards

VIDEO: All Signs Point To?
Identifying Teens Prior to Crisis

Identifying Teens Prior to Crisis - Emily Edwards

In this video, Emily Edwards presents All Signs Point To? – Identifying Teens Prior to Crisis. Emily currently serves as the Director of Youth and Education Ministries at Coronado Community UMC and has worked in student ministry for nine years. Emily also works with individuals (ages 6 and older), couples, and families as a therapist (Registered Clinical Social Work Intern #ISW9255) at New Smyrna Beach Counseling Center.

This presentation took place at the Flagler Forum on Youth Ministry at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida.

Excerpts:

At Risk

“At risk youth is someone who is less likely to transition successfully into adulthood.”

“‘Successfully’ is often defined as able to avoid crime, achieve academic success, and become financially independent.”

“So what teens are at risk for crisis? …Really all teens have the potential to be at risk for crisis.”

Teen Statistics in 2 Hours

Recognize

How do we recognize these at risk teenagers before they hit crisis?

  • Make passive suicidal statements (“The world would be better off without me.”)
  • Begin to isolate self from family & friends
  • Display sudden change (appearance, mood, attendance, interests, etc.)
  • Usually ask for help from a friend
  • Engage in high-risk behavior

“So what teens are at risk for crisis? …Really all teens have the potential to be at risk for crisis.”

“Your friend may be mad at your for telling… but your friend is going to be alive to be mad at you.”

“Our unique benefit of being youth workers is that we have no punishing rights… but we can sit there and have very open and honest communication (with them).”

High Risk Behaviors

  • Truancy
  • Substance use/abuse
  • Unprotected sex or sex with multiple or unknown partners
  • Restricting eating/binging and purging
  • Self harm
  • Fighting
  • Running away

“Our unique benefit of being youth workers is that we have no punishing rights… but we can sit there and have very open and honest communication (with them).”

Our Role

Our Role as Youth Minister is NOT:

  • Savior
  • Parent
  • Professional Counselor

Our Role as Youth Minister IS:

  • Building relationships
    • Recognizing red flags of teens approaching crisis
  • Training and equipping volunteers
    • Involve other safe adults in the ministry as mentors/sponsors/prayer partners
  • Utilizing teens’ strength and spiritual gifts
    • Student leadership
  • Talking openly about hard issues
    • Feelings of isolation come when difficult topics are not discussed
  • Having open door with non-judgement
    • Listen and validate

Our Role as the Church

  • Consistently point teens and their families to a transforming relationship with Jesus
    • Mark 12:30-31 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.
  • Provide meaningful connections to God
  • Provide safe sanctuary for all teens
  • Support Parents/Guardians
  • Provide resources or connections to resources
    • Develop a local resources list to assist with prevention of crisis

Video: Youth Ministry & Mental Health

Youth Ministry & Mental Health

In this video, Anne Reid Broos, Director of Ministry Children and Young Families  at Memorial Presbyterian Church in St. Augustine, FL, and Sarah Kamienski, licensed mental health counselor and faculty at Flagler College, present about Youth Ministry and Mental Health.

This presentation took place at the Flagler Forum on Youth Ministry at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida.

Excerpts:

“Mental Illness is a mainstream issue. National Institute of Mental Health has a statistic that out of all 13-18 year olds, 1 out of 5 of them has a mental health issue.

“I think it’s easier for us to pray about a cancer diagnosis or a divorce that’s going on in one of our kids’ families rather than praying about someone’s bipolar disorder by name or a panic disorder or anxiety disorder…”

“If we look at scripture, I think that Jesus show’s us that his healing ministry was encompassing of our physical health, our spiritual health, and our mental health.”

Being faithful to the call here is to be curious and humble….Recognizing that I have nothing to offer on my own apart from my relationship with Jesus Christ. If the goal of counseling to create a safe space for someone to be where they are, to feel what they are feeling, I have to enter into that safe space knowing that I bring nothing on my own to offer this person. If I’m in touch with my poorness in spirit, then I am able to curiously draw out the other person’s heart.”

If the goal of counseling to create a safe space for someone to be where they are, to feel what they are feeling, I have to enter into that safe space knowing that I bring nothing on my own to offer this person.

“As the objective third party… our task is to assess for imminent danger and to be that objective third party, when (family) is freaking out that you would not be the reactive freaker outer, but… the one who can assess – is this imminent danger.”

What is not our job? It is not our job to fix. It is not our job to give advice… What is our job? Is to create a safe space.”

“If Jesus is the Great Counselor and I would emulate Him, then my call is to be with people and to walk alongside them, to sojourn with them, not to fix or heal, or to make feel better, but create the safe space.”

“Statistically, people who deal with a lifelong mental illness, 50% of them experience the onset of that illness before the age of 14.”

If Jesus is the Great Counselor and I would emulate Him, then my call is to be with people and to walk alongside them, to sojourn with them, not to fix or heal, or to make feel better, but create the safe space.

If Only Game in YM

The “If Only…” Game in Youth Ministry

Recently I caught up with my friend, a youth pastor, who told me about one of the volunteers at his church. In a moment of frustration, the volunteer confided to my friend, “If only we had a Dave at our church!” Dave worked for another church, and has a reputation of taking charge of his youth group and he’s not even in charge.

If only we had a Dave, if only we had a bigger budget, if only the kids would do what we told them, if only we got the popular kid so the rest would follow; if only.

If you have ever said to yourself or thought “If only…”, then you have a problem on your hands. There is nothing wrong with having goals or a vision for a ministry, but our goals do not need to be to dependent on “if”, and our vision does not need to be so narrow as “only.”

Once we meet our goals, we get the kid, we get the speaker, the volunteer, the money, or whatever the “if only” is our job isn’t done and we’re right back to “if only”. Once again we are wishing for the next big thing.

This is not a sustainable way to live, and it is also indicative of an unhealthy mindset and approach to ministry.

Quick Fix

“If only” is actually a desire for a “quick fix”. According to leadership writer Edwin Friedman, a quick fix mentality is a “low threshold for pain that constantly seeks symptom relief rather than fundamental change.”[1]

A quick fix is a fast solution to a current problem. A quick fix mentality is indicative of an anxious group, organization, or society that cannot handle being uncomfortable for very long. A quick fix mentality will focus on exterior issues (read: painting the youth room walls, having just the right curriculum, filling all the spots for summer camp) as the most important issue at hand, rather than (as in our line of work) how the Spirit is leading us in ministry.

If you have ever said to yourself or thought “If only…”, then you have a problem on your hands.

An anxious, quick fix mentality shows up in several ways:

Emphasis on trying harder[2]

We all know that there is stuff we could be doing. We are well aware of how we are not doing enough, not being creative enough, or not being outgoing or excited enough about sharing the Good News. Maybe this is communicated through messages that boil down to “be better!” Or perhaps it is revealed through more prayer meetings or more training. So many sermons, blogs, and conferences can simply be an exaggerated way of exhorting us to try harder. Grace abounds!

Focus on the answer rather than the question.[3]

With wisdom Friedman writes, “The way one frames a question, or the problem, already predetermines the range of answers one can conceive in response.”[4] So if the question is “Why don’t we have X amount of kids here tonight?”, the ministry will be negatively focused on numbers, and the point will just be about filling kid quotas. Numbers are important, but you do not do youth ministry for the numbers.

If the question instead is posed as “How can we extend hospitality to more kids?” then it becomes about a sense of welcome and community, and that opens up all sorts of possibilities. Or maybe it could instead be “Where are the kids going instead of youth group or church, and how can we join them?” Asking the right question is just as important as the answer.

Either/Or Thinking.[5]

This is the type of thinking that lacks nuance. It has to be all or nothing. Either kids need to speak, pray, or believe a certain way or we have failed. A more nuanced view would suggest that God is still at work with kids whatever they are going through, and no matter how much Bible they know, how many songs they sing during the worship hour, or whatever cringe-worthy things they are posting on social media. Either the kids are good Christians or they’re not. Actually, we know things are more complex than either/or thinking. We know all of us are both loved by God and are people who sin, and we know that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:1).

Whether it’s due to the anxiety that’s caused by an ever changing and increasingly complex world, or questions about our salvation before God, anxiety is a tough place to live. Friedman makes the claim that an anxious society has “lowered people’s pain threshold” where “comfort is valued over the rewards of facing challenge, symptoms come in as fads, and cures go in and out of style like clothing fashions.”[6]

Perhaps you’ve thought, “If only we could get the kids’ faith to stick!” Get Fuller Seminary on the line! Of course, the tactics of getting parents to engage with their kids’ faith is extremely important, but the quick fix is to simply get the curriculum. The larger, deeper, more emotional issue will be why parents don’t talk to their kids about faith, or how to talk about faith at the dinner table. A curriculum or class alone won’t fix that.

Quick fixes are sought after because they are meant to alleviate discomfort or anxiety. The bad news is that leadership requires us to go deeper into the more emotional and anxious parts of our ministry and our people, and remain steady during painful or tumultuous times. But the good news is that our God isn’t anxious!

The cross of Jesus is not a quick fix. It is where salvation takes place, where our sins are ransomed, the curtain separating us from God is torn asunder, and the powers of Sin and Death are disarmed and defanged. We need Jesus to undergo death in order to defeat it by rising again, so that we may rise again as well. Again, the cross is not a quick fix.

The faithful response is not to seek a quick fix, but to do the long work and suffering for others, and when it is for others, it is for the Lord.

N.T Wright, reflecting on Romans 3:21-26 encourages us not to reduce Jesus’ death “down to the small scale of ‘we sinned; God punished Jesus; we’re all right again’”.[7] Instead, when Jesus disarmed the powers and atoned for sin, his death on the cross “was the moment where the great gate of human history… burst open so that the Creator’s project of reconciliation between heaven and earth could at last be set in powerful motion.”[8]

Sometimes we can treat our salvation like a problem. Forgiveness of sins is not a one-time thing, and the cross is not a quick fix to the world’s problems. It is most assuredly the answer to sin, death, and evil, but it is not a quick fix. 2 Corinthians 5:19 says that “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.”

God has reconciled the world in Christ, but God has entrusted the message of Christ’s reconciliation to us in our ministries. God’s reconciliation is reaching out through time and across the world to all peoples. We are included in this mission as we answer the call to youth ministry.

And as the solution to a quick fix mentality is to bear through the conflicts, underlying issues, and anxieties of the people you’re leading and working with, the ministry of the cross also calls for us to suffer through the problems of the world in order to testify to God’s victory in Jesus over all evil and suffering.

N.T. Wright declares, “the victory of the cross will be implemented through the cross.”[9] God’s reconciliation is not an inevitable utopia, nor is it some naturally occurring process. God’s reconciliation happens when the followers of Jesus act like Jesus through suffering love.

This is not an exhortation that you need to suffer in order to achieve salvation. Salvation comes from Christ alone. But the life of faith will often call us to freely suffer alongside, with, and for others. Think how many times kids have broken your heart, or made your life miserable, or have undergone some unimaginable tragedy you feel powerless to help. The faithful response is not to seek a quick fix, but to do the long work and suffering for others, and when it is for others, it is for the Lord.

The truth of long and suffering love is not another version of “try harder.” The point is not to suffer more. There is already plenty of suffering in life. The point is ministry is long and hard work, and no quick fix will solve that. The reconciliation and ministry of Jesus are long and hard walks.

Liturgy

Few things demonstrate this, or give us tools to help us, as the repetitive task of the liturgy.

Sabbath

Our faith cares about rest. Walter Brueggemann points out that Sabbath reminds us how we are on “the receiving end of the gifts of God.” Once a week we stop and remember what God has done for us, and we pray for God to lead us. In our anxious world, we need to pause and make time to spend time with our maker.

Confession

No matter what your understanding of the act, all confession boils down to admitting God is God and we are not. There are things that are out of your control, and the good we receive is a gift from God, not something we achieve or work for.

Praise

We praise a God who died and rose for us! God has decided to be on our side and in our corner. We were made to worship this God, not just once, but for all of our lives. We worship to remember that our purpose is not about achievement in ministry, but serving the God we love.

In your ministry, you do not need a quick fix, but are sustained and loved by the God who is with you, no matter how unsure or uncertain you feel.

Baptism and Communion

The people of God are the persons gathered together before God by God. In both baptism and communion, we remember how a great cloud of witnesses surrounds us and we aren’t doing this alone! There are people who want to help you. Perhaps they’re outside of your particular church or ministry, like, you know, KYM!

The Sermon

The word of God is constantly being preached week in and week out. You are not in need of God’s grace only on Sunday or this week, or even this particular hour of a weekend. You are in need of God’s grace on a regular basis. No matter how anxious you may feel, the Word of God is there for your hearing and nourishment every week, to nourish your spirit in good times and bad.

The Benediction

At the end of the service you are blessed, and reminded that God goes with you wherever you go. The Spirit led you in, and the Spirit leads you out. In your ministry, you do not need a quick fix, but are sustained and loved by the God who is with you, no matter how unsure or uncertain you feel.


[1] Edwin H. Friedman, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, Seabird Books, 2007, 54.
[2] Friedman, 34
[3] Friedman, 37
[4] Friedman, 37
[5] Friedman, 39
[6] Friedman 53
[7] N.T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’ Crucifixion, HarperOne, 2016, 349.
[8] Wright, 349-350
[9] Wright, 366


About the Author: Adam Ogg

Adam Ogg

Adam Ogg is a California native and candidate for ministry in the PC(USA), with a background in youth ministry. He cares a lot about how theology informs our faith and ministry. He also cares about coffee, podcasts, and when the next book will arrive in the mail. He is currently interning at a church in sunny Sarasota, Florida.

Ministering out of Community - Les Comee

Video: Ministering Out of Community

Youth Ministry veteran, Les Comee, teaches about how we practice Youth Ministry out of a place of community. This interview took place after Les’ presentation at the Flagler Forum on Youth Ministry at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida.

Excerpts:


Community

“Jesus begins with calling a group of people – instead of being alone.”

“‘Encourage – stand beside’ God’s people will know they’re saved when there are people standing beside them… Salvation equals community standing with each other.”

“Kids AND leaders want to belong.”

“We’re going to get together, and we’re going to eat, we’re going to enjoy food, we’re going to enjoy each other, and then we are going to share our lives… if you’re going to have a community or a real team – somebody has to hear the call of God and articulate this is what God wants us to do.”

Ministering out of Community - Les Comee

“We learn about community or team from our first community – our family.”

Les’ Childhood Family Rules 😉

  • If you have a problem in your life, there’s only one answer – you just work harder.
  • You never ask anyone else for help, you did it on your own
  • All boys in the family have to eat their peas.
  • If anybody needed a place to stay, our house was always open.

Community begins with the call. Jesus says to the disciples – come follow me. Pretty simple. My wife said let’s eat together and lets share our lives… Community begins with the call. Community continues with people standing beside each other. The community decides how they are going to do that. Not just the leader, but the community decides this is what that is going to look like…”

Community begins with the call. Jesus says to the disciples – come follow me.

Slowing Down

“We got this group of people and I still remember our first meeting when someone really listened to me. I thought – wow! What else I found out was as I listened that there were a lot of volunteers that were just about as tired as I was. And we needed to listen to each other and we needed to figure out how are we going to do this so that everybody isn’t burned out, tired, exhausted all the time. You know what amazing thing they came up with? We’re going to start playing with the kids. We’ll take them to the beach. We’ll jog with them. We’ll do all the stuff we like to do, but we’ll do it with the kids!”

What else I found out was as I listened that there were a lot of volunteers that were just about as tired as I was.

“Our problem as leaders (and I’m quoting Mike Yaconelli) our problem wasn’t sin, our problem was speed. We were going all the time. And we weren’t slowing up. And we weren’t listening. We weren’t paying attention to God. We were performing.”

“The Hebrew word for breath is the same word for Spirit – Ruah. So when you take a deep breath, you are breathing in God’s Spirit, God’s life. You’re having a mini sabbath, you’re renewing yourself. I know that’s true and I don’t do it enough.”

“Your team needs to learn how together to slow up, listen to the Lord, depend on God, play, relax.”

Conflict

“If you are going to be in a real community, you are going to have conflicts. You are going to have different expectations, different hopes, different dreams, people are not going to come through for you… so you are going to have to learn how to deal with conflict.”

“If you’re going to help you team grow, or help your kids grow, speaking the truth in love makes a huge amount of difference.”

If you are going to be in a real community, you are going to have conflicts. You are going to have different expectations, different hopes, different dreams, people are not going to come through for you… so you are going to have to learn how to deal with conflict.

“Then, you walk with them, and walk with them, and walk with them, while they deal with what you said. And you ask them how they are doing with what you said. It’s not a one time ‘speak the truth in love’.”

“‘Speak the truth in love’ then you walk and walk and care and talk and listen. That’s how kids grow. That’s how your leaders grow. You shoot straight with them.”

“Transformation is a part of a process and you are a part of a process.”