3 Youth Ministry Traps I Have Fallen Into and Escaped

I remember as a child something I always wanted to be able to do was juggle.  I had trouble just catching a ball that was tossed to me. There was no way I would have the hand eye coordination to juggle. This did not stop me from trying. The issue I always had was that as I was focusing on one ball I would drop another. I could maybe keep two balls going at once but never all three.

I have found that youth ministry is a lot like juggling. You need to keep up with kids, plan trips, plan for weekly meeting, meet parent, keep the church leaders informed and happy, write lessons, recruit volunteers, keep volunteers happy and much more.

Over my three and a half years being a head youth worker I have had many times where I said “If I just get this right everything else will fall into place.” Early on my biggest focus was teaching. I spent a ridiculous amount of hours preparing lessons that I thought were really good. I was taught in college that a good lesson had 4 hours of prep for every 5 minutes of teaching. At first I really assumed that if I just got the lessons right everything else would fall into place. I ended up with an unorganized mess. Today I can look back and say that I fell into the lesson trap.

I then realized that I needed to get things organized. I scaled down the amount of time on the lesson to a more reasonable amount and sometimes less then reasonable. I then spent all my time getting things organized. I made sure that there was a handout for everything, poster, flyer, schedules, and signup sheets. During this phase I spent a large amount of time brain storming what creative, fun thing we could do during a youth meeting that will be memorable and fun. My focus was on the program.

At some point my focus changed again. I decided that I really just needed to connect with the kids. I started meeting one on one or in small groups with them as much as I could handle. I went to anything they invited me to.  I would Facebook stalk, text message and e-mail teens and had a spread sheet to make sure it looked random but that I would not be missing anyone.  I was focused on relationships and set many other tasks to the side. We again became disorganized and lessons continued to suffer.

I fell into three different traps consistently. I remember going from one to the next. I knew I needed to find balance I just could not. I am still struggling with this today but have found ways to help keep the balance.

Get help: I hand most of the programming details off to student leaders. I ask them to come up with and run the majority of what happens during out meetings. This freed me from some of the programming tasks I was juggling. It also forces relationships. I know that I will be checking in with anyone who is running part of the event.

Learn to say no: I say no to invitations all the time. If I know I need to focus on something else I will miss a sports event, or drum line show, or concert. It’s not because I don’t care but because I know that I need to focus on what is best for the group.

Review with others: I ask people all the time “how do you think that went”. I don’t do anything formal I just a questions. If there is something that took up a lot of my time but they don’t remember then it was a waist of my time.

Learn to Kill Things:  A few months ago everyone walked in to a youth room set up like a funeral and a wooden casket in the front. We killed the Wednesday night program as they knew it. Our church has killed many other programs. Everything needs to have a purpose and if it does not fulfill the purpose there are two options, 1 Change the purpose to match what it does accomplish or 2. Kill it.

I am still learning how to juggle. I drop balls all the time but then reach down and pick them back up as soon as I notice. The ball I have not spent enough time on is Leadership training. I hope to research and plan to better equip both our student leaders and our adults to help oversee different aspects of the youth ministry.

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We brainwash people at MCC

Today the Morgantown Community Church’s Facebook page received a question that i found interesting. I wanted to post the question and my answer to see what people thing.

Question:

Why do you brainwash people?

Answer:

How’s it going? I’m the youth pastor at MCC. I work with the teenagers and technology mostly. I wanted to message you back and ask for examples of people who we brain washed. I didn’t know we had been successful… If we figured out how to brainwash people it would be amazing. Here are some reasons why:
1. We would no longer have people leave the church.
2. People would give more generously and we wouldn’t have to watch the budget closely.
3. We would not have to beg people to serve in different ministries the church has.
4. No one would ever challenge us on thing we say the bible teaches
The list could go on….

I hope you realized that I was joking about wanting to brain wash people. It would make some things easier but that’s not what we are about.

We openly say “Here is what we believe”(It’s on the internet public for all to see http://morgantowncommunitychurch.org/#/statement-of-faith/4536678078 ). If people agree that is awesome if they disagree we are going to love them anyway but that is there right to believe what they want.

If people agree with our faith we encourage

them in partnering with us to live out what we believe. We encourage and equip them to live a life that honors God

I don’t think this is any different than any other major religion or activist group.

Anyone who cares about animals and donates or follows the SPCA will receive information from them about how to help save animals lives. They learn how to live out what they believe. The same is true of the Tea Party, Occupy camps, NRA, election campaign teams, and more. It’s always the same format “Here is what we believe and why, if you agree then do ______”
I think we could even say some atheists do this. Atheists often teach “religion is a crutch that will hold back humanity and civilization from evolving (Their believe) so we need to remove all religion from government and society to help further the human race (If you agree do this).”
So to answer your question I do not believe we brain wash people. We offer them a world view that gives them hope for the future, encouragement for now, council on how to get over the past, and advice in how to live the best life possible.

I want to end by letting you know that I enjoy philosophical conversational. If you would like to continue the conversation I am more than willing to have a dialog.
~DJ Grick

A Burnt Motorcycle and a string of blessings

Joy, contentment, faith, and trust. These words come to mind when we think of the mindset Christians are called to. Many times we struggle to see them in our lives.

Tonight i got tested on these things. I was riding my motorcycle home after filling the gas tank. Going up a hill it lost all power. I reached down to spin the petcock over to reserve. As i reached down i felt more heat than was normal. So i looked and flames where shooting out from under the seat. I quickly pulled over and laid the bike down along the side of the road. Near by was an old carpet. Thinking I would be slick i grabbed the carpet and tossed it over the motorcycle. Within 15 seconds the smoke stopped and i thought it was over. I lifted the carpet and the flames exploded out again. At this point it was clear I was no longer going to have a motorcycle.

I was at a crossroad. How am i going to respond? Will I let my frustration get the best of me or will i trust that even in this God had a plan?

I decided to try to look for the best. Almost right then one of my co-workers appear. His name is Harry. He had a fire extinguisher he grabbed from his home and tried to spray down the bike. Turns out I just happened to stop right across the street from his house. As we talked he said “They are going to want to tow the bike. If you want to save the money we can drag it into my drive with my tractor and once it cools down you can come back for it.”

I had another coworker offer to come pick it up and take it back to the shop and my boss is taking going scrap run tomorrow so that will get included in the trip.

So far we have one hard situation but 3 quick blessings from God. But they do not stop there. Stef and I had a busy night planned. When i called her to come get me she was cooking dinner. By the time we left Harry’s we realized there was no time to eat. We had to meet people at the church by 5:45. We where running just about on time when the first meeting called to push back their time (another blessing from God). As we walk into the building there was a meeting that dinner was served at. They had finished eating and offered Stef and I their leftovers (another blessing from God). As we where eating we met with someone and had a really good conversation. Then right as that wrapped up the next set of people walked in. They where way quicker then i expected. By 8:pm we had 3 different meetings, eat dinner, and came home.

BLESSINGS.

I could have gone thought the night upset about what happened but instead am amazed by how many details God worked out.

“How Little Can We Do This For?” A Low Budget Overflow Room

Two Monday morning ago in the church staff meeting we were talking about how to fit everyone into the church this upcoming Easter. God has been moving and the church has been growing. We are getting close to max capacity on a regular Sunday. I am guessing that on Easter we can expect about 40% attendance increase if not more. We have come to the conclusion that we needed to be ready with an overflow room. As I was thinking about how to get this done I realized that we could do it almost for free with things lying around the church. So I set out to test my theory.

After some testing I realized it could work and reported my findings last week in the staff meeting. To my surprise I was informed that we needed it operational for the upcoming Sunday (which at this point is today). I knew there were major limitations with this setup but listened anyway and got right to work.

 

Note: The next few lines will bore most people but may interest any dorks like me.

I set up an old video camera (we bought 3 years go for $125) on a cheap tripod that was donated. I used the RCA output on the video camera and ran just the video (yellow) into an old VCR. I went from our soundboard into the audio (red and white) plugs on the back of the VCR. With the VCR tuned to “aux” I could use the coax (RG6/Standard cable wire) out on the VCR to send our video feed to whatever room I chose.

We chose our fellowship hall but felt that even the church’s largest TV was too small for an overflow room. After some research we purchased a Vivitek
D512-3D Digital Projector
from B&H. I have to add a side note: B&H delivered the projector for free within 26 hours of ordering it.

To connect the projector to the video feed I had to convert back to RCA or find a way to get to VGA. I decided RCA was easier and went on a hunt for anther VCR. I tuned that VRC to channel 3 and had my signal. For audio we went RCA out and into an old set of computer speakers we had lying around (also donated).

We had everything other then the projector lying around the church so our total expense was $300 (the projector was on sale).

My tech savvy friends are now freaking out about how horrible quality this is…

 

Note: I think the boring stuff is over.

We now have a large video feed and okay audio into an overflow room but there are many issues and limitations we are going to have to figure out.

  1. We have no easy way to show lyrics to worship songs
  2. Unless we zoom the video camera into the sanctuary’s projector there are no good ways to send over the videos we show during the service.
  3. We need to figure out how to make people feel welcome and wanted sticking them back into a side room.
  4. We need to get ushers in that room.

As this Sunday approached we found a way to fit everyone into the sanctuary. We had record setting attendance by the grace of God and got to celebrate the baptism of 3 different people. But I turned everything on for the overflow room. It all worked fine and a few people decided to participate in the service using this room. Our kitchen crew seemed happy to be able to look into the next room and see what they were missing.

As I set things up like this I have a struggle in my head. I believe everything we do represents God. If our church is setting up cheep equipment we could be saying “God is cheap”. On the flip side I also think we need to be good stewards. If I went with better equipment I would blow the technology budget for the year.

The question “how little can we do this for?” is one I love and I hate. I love the challenge but I hate the sacrifice of quality that it often brings.

Daniel Fast One Day After—What was hard about it…and what I eat a lot of

So I found a few things hard about the Daniel fast.

  1. Grocery shopping! You would think that trying to go without additives and preservatives and sugar would be easier than it really is. Stef and I spent so much time looking up and down isles trying to find brands that did not load their food up with a bunch of garbage. It’s was amazing. We discovered a brand of tomato sauce that was just tomatoes and nothing else. Stef got all excited and then saw another item from the same brand that had garlic added. She put it in the cart thinking all was well. WRONG. Just adding garlic meant that 30 other random chemicals I will not even try to spell or say had to be added also. Continue reading

Daniel Fast Day 10—Refining Rules and Planning ahead

So today is the last day of me doing the Daniel Fast. I have to say last night was the hardest part of the fast yet. Stef wanted something filling so she made tacos for dinner for herself. I eat salad. After dinner she got into the fridge and pulled out dessert for herself. Now I am not a big dessert fan but one thing I love is chocolate chip cookie dough. Stef last Sunday baked chocolate chip cookie dough brownies for our small group bible study and there are leftovers.

Continue reading