Archives For Youth

clickI was thinking the other day of some of the stupid not so smart things I did in my youth. Sometimes I have fond memories of my youthful antics and the crazy times I had with my family and friends. There are some memories however that I would like to forget. That’s normal. In life there are times we wish we could have a do over, or a reset button.  Ah that glorious reset button on my original Nintendo. You know when you got mad at the game because you messed up so you just hit that button.  It unfortunately doesn’t work that way in real life. We all make mistakes in life, (Spoiler Alert!) and unfortunately it isn’t something that we outgrow.  Hopefully as we age and our brains develop we befriend wisdom and make better choices. As adults we can all look back and say “what were we thinking?!” Truth is the adolescent brain isn’t fully developed.  One of the last areas to fully mature is the part that has to do with reason.  So when asking a teen “what were you thinking?!” they truthfully may answer “I don’t know”. This isn’t to absolve teens from responsibility. It just might explain some of our more painful choices in our own past. 

I am truly thankful I wasn’t a teen in the social media age.  Most of my mistakes, failures, poor choices etc were only known by a few close people in my life.  Literally the people who were in physical proximity to us. Today our culture lives every single moment online. I mean you can actually see a picture of what dessert your friend is having at a swanky restaurant half way around the world. Sometimes it can be way TMI (too much information). Do we need to know every thought, action, meal, and on and on from all of our acquaintances friends?  I have actually seen pictures of peoples BM’s on social media.  That’s “bowel movement”, poop.  I’m not making that up. #IDon’tWantToSeeYourFeces 

So here is where this all gets complicated for those of us living our lives online.  Once it is posted online it is always out there.  This has huge ramifications for all of us.   That is why it is wise to think before you post. Being in close proximity to youth culture I have the pleasure of being connected with many teens on social media.  Sometime it is great fun, other times I am shaking my head.  Honestly not much shocks me anymore on social media.  I have developed sort of a numbness to the insanity that is social media. This is why I am thankful I didn’t grow up in the social media age.  When I had a “moment” it was just those in proximity to me that knew. Today when a teen has a moment it is plastered all over the entire world.  Yes, the whole world has access to the hot mess that was posted by ourselves, or by a loving, or not so loving friend. I am truly thankful that I didn’t live moment to moment on social media.  I mean lets be honest.  I can’t believe some of the emotions, thoughts, and actions that I had in my teenage years. I cringe to even go there. I am thankful that there isn’t a digital archive floating around for anyone to access at anytime. 

I encourage teens to really think about what they post on social media.  Sometimes being an open book isn’t the wisest choice.  I know of people who have lost out on jobs because of what they had posted on social media.  News Flash: Employers will check your social media accounts. I wouldn’t even be surprised if colleges aren’t doing the same. I mean can you hold it against them.  You can learn a whole lot about someone from what they are willing to broadcast out to the entire world.  Life is difficult enough without having to deal with a online persona that has been created over years. Even as adults we should think twice before we shoot off that angry tweet, or that questionable picture, or bitter Facebook post.  There is nothing wrong with being real but does it really need to be plastered all over cyberspace from now till whenever?

I’m sure some will disagree or feel that I am overreacting.  However I have seen enough in the last 8 years on social media to know that there will be some regrets.  I don’t think this completely trumps all of the good that can come from social media.  I love the TimeHop app.  It is so cool to see the good memories from years gone by in my feed. However my TimeHop experience would be totally different if it were full of negative, complaining, bitter, and questionable content. Once again think twice before you post it online.  Make a choice to contribute to the collective good of social media.  Decide to be real, vent, and so on with those close to you.  I know, an actual face to face conversation, it’s so retro.  The good news? Retro is in!  

Life has taken me through some crazy places.  Even the poor choices we make collectively make us who we are today.  I am just glad I didn’t have social media in the height of the “what was I thinking” portion of my life.  If you are an adult what do you think? Can you imagine some of the things you would have posted on social media when you were a teen that you would now regret?  If you are a teen do you think you are up to the challenge to think twice?  Have you noticed the trend in our culture to expose too much online?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. 

NYLC 2015

March 31, 2015 — Leave a comment

NYLC15

This week I had the pleasure of attending Jeanne Mayo’s National Youth Leader’s Coach conference. (NYLC)  I connected with Jeanne over 7 years ago through The Cadre, which is a mentoring program for youth pastors.  To say it has had a impact on my personal life and ministry would be an understatement. If you are in youth ministry you really need to check it out. It has been an honor to stay connected over the years with the other men and women who are also in the trenches of youth ministry.

NYLC has traditionally been held every 3 years.  This is the second one I was able to attend. This year it was in Dallas, Texas.  The warm southern Spring weather was a delight to visit. I was able to bring one of our adult leaders from RSM and two students who are upperclassmen in high school.  Our local school system was on Spring break this week and it hindered many of our other leaders from being able to attend. I am thankful for the opportunity to connect with with our group, we had more than a few laughs.  It is also a huge win to invest into the lives of those who are continually giving themselves away. 

There are so many takeaways from this years conference.  I could probably write a few more posts on each of the sessions and break outs. This year the main session speakers were Jeanne Mayo, Mark Batterson, Christine Caine, Heath Adamson, and Craig Groeschel. Each of them had so much to bring to the table.  I was most impressed with their hearts for Jesus.  It is great in such a self centered culture to hear those who are all in with their pursuit of God. While each had very different speaking styles and topics in the end they all pointed towards Christ.  I am thankful to each of them for their investment and that they take the time to speak to a room full of youth leaders. 

The theme this year was “Anthem”.  We were reminded of the multiplying impact of our faithfulness and obedience.  One of my favorite quotes was “Anyone can count the number of seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed.” It really brought into focus the eternal implications of what we are doing here with our time on earth.  What made this particular quote even more powerful was who said it.  Jeanne brought her very own volunteer youth leaders from the 1960’s, Dick & Barbara Williams (pictured below).  They were now in their late 70’s. They both shared memories of Jeanne as a teen. They also recounted their story as volunteer youth leaders at a small local church in Indianapolis. They shared how blessed they were to see the fruit of the small seed they planted so many years ago.  Getting to attend a conference with thousands of youth leaders and recognizing that their willingness to serve played a part. It was an incredibly powerful image and they were about the sweetest couple you have ever seen.  

As I head home on the plane my heart and head are full. So many practical ideas and steps to take, and with so much inspiration for what is next. I am thankful that after all these years I am still in the game. There have been many times where the exit ramp was strongly calling my name.  It is amazing how being reminded of what we already know can make such a big impact. I tell our leaders that will never fully know the impact we will have on this side of eternity. It is stunning how one moment, act, or conversation can have such a profound impact. I am thankful to be reminded of that this week. 

If you are ever looking for a great student ministry conference I would highly recommend it.  I have friends who are no longer in youth ministry and they still attend because it is just that good. I am thankful to the many who contributed to create an event to invest in the lives of youth leaders. It goes to show that people still love Jesus, and love teenagers. My heart is full seeing leaders from all over the country gather to invest in themselves and become better at what they do.  I am also continually thankful for the friendship and impact Jeanne has had on my life. One day it will truly be amazing to see just how many apples came from that one small seed. 

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Every year we have an amazing opportunity to take our students to an event called CDYC.  This year the theme was Inscribed, and it comes from Isaiah 49:16 that says, “Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands…” As in years past our group had an amazing time and really connected with each other and God.  There is just something about disconnecting from the daily grind and pressures of life and making some time to really take inventory of where we are in life.  I am so pleased that we can offer such a quality opportunity for the students at RSM. As usual it is best to hear directly from the students on what exactly CDYC means to them and how it has impacted their lives.  My only regret is that you can only hear from a few of our students.  There are so many amazing stories to share.

Every year our youth group has the opportunity to go away to CDYC.  What does CDYC stand for you may ask?  We jokingly tell our group that it stands for fun. Well that is partially the truth; we have a load of fun while we are there.  It reality it stands for Central District Youth Convention (or Conference depending on who you ask). The district our church is in hosts it every single year.  The past few years it has been at Indiana Wesleyan University, only a short distance from where we are located.  So it’s just another youth summer camp, right?  Well sort of, but for us it is usually much more.  You wouldn’t have to talk to the students who attend for very long before hearing stories of how much they enjoy going, and what they take away each year.  This year was no exception.  The 10 day marathon is split into junior and senior high with a short break in between.  Usually enough time to come home, do laundry, sleep, and head back out.

In all honesty it is a lot of work.  For me it requires many hours of preparation, promotion, and the dreaded registration.  If you have ever held an event and had to track down permission slips and money you know the feeling. With the complexity of this particular event, think sports teams for multiple sports, talent contest, rooming, t-shirts, and so on it can get complicated in a hurry.  So once we are done chasing down all of the registration and get the mound of paperwork processed we then go and chase a few more students down and get them to go as well.  At least this has been the running pattern since I have been attending.  In addition to the prep there is the time involved just attending.  This is a big commitment and while this is part of “my job” it still requires time away from my family.  We also have an amazing group of adults who volunteer their time to attend with us.

So with all of the time, emotion, and money invested is it all worth it.  I am thankful that the answer to this is yes.  CDYC is an incredible opportunity for our students to detach from their routine and normal influences and step back to get some perspective.  Every year I am in awe of how God moves within our group.  It doesn’t stop with the teens either.  It seems there is something for adults to if you are willing to engage and really allow God to move on your life as well.  I’m sure CDYC isn’t all that different from the multitude of summer camps out there but for us it makes a big difference in all of our lives.

This year I was so moved to see our teens care for each other so deeply.  They more than ever seemed attuned to needs of others and were willing to show compassion, so gracefully.  The last night at CDYC our group takes the time to pray for each student in our group.  Our adult leaders and students pray and say encouraging words to every student. It was touching to hear the relationships that have developed between these students.  To hear them genuinely encourage them, and pray for them is nothing short of amazing. In a society that we rarely slow down enough to recognize our own issues it is a rarity to see teens caring for one another so tenderly.

So much happens in those ten days that I would have to post every single day when I was there to give you all of the details.  We have a lot of fun, play volleyball, basketball, and ping pong.  Students use their talent in competition and sing and play instruments.  They also submit their own artwork and photography.  We have an absolute amazing time in worship. The speakers always have great things to say and impart to our students. The group times in the evening with our own group are one of the highlights. We have a great time connecting with each other even while eating meals together. It is an absolutely jammed packed event.

CDYC has been and continues to be a vital part of our youth ministry.  I am thankful for everyone who puts the time and effort into making it happen. There are so many hours behind the scenes it is unbelievable.  I am thankful for an event that isn’t about numbers, money, an image or anything else.  It is simply there to support the local youth ministries, and for that I am exceedingly thankful.

In the end it is my prayer that students take what they garner at CDYC and apply it to their lives.  Home is where the growth really takes place.  It is easy to follow after God in an environment such as CDYC.  The challenge takes place when we return back to those familiar surroundings, relationship, and temptations.  While some may stumble, or choose not to change I have seen some who have made the step towards growth.  There are those who get back up and keep trying.  I am honored to be a part of students’ lives.  Youth ministry can be a very difficult place to be. If you don’t believe me take a look at the stats for the average tenure of a youth pastor.  What takes place at CDYC every year and there after reminds me and all of our adult leaders what is at stake.  Teens, who need relationship with God and each other. Are you willing to reach out?

Here is what a few students from RSM had to say about CDYC this year.

 

You know it may seem silly but one thing we talk about in RSM is the difference between being inclusive and exclusive.  I have talked so much about this topic that most of our teens could give this talk for me.  That is not a bad thing, this is critical to us at RSM.  So what is the big deal?  Well just as it sounds being inclusive is all about including other people, and being exclusive is the exact opposite.

Think of being exclusive like an “exclusive club”.  Only certain people are going to be allowed in.  It isn’t for everybody, you have to be somebody or know someone to get in.  That is the last thing we want our youth group to be.  We want and strive to be an inclusive group.  We want teens to feel included, that they belong, and that they don’t have to do anything to earn that feeling.

We all at one point in our life have been excluded.  We know the feeling of being left out, or on the outside looking in.  I can honestly say I have been there in my life.  I know we really start to feel that in elementary school all the way through high school.  So much of it is unintentional, while some is not.  Many times we don’t mean to exclude others, we just don’t put the extra effort to try and include them, or to make them feel part of the group.

So once again what is the big deal and why am I writing about this in the newsletter?  Well honestly I believe this is something we really never grow out of.  This pertains to adults as much as it does to the teens in our youth group.  It is really easy to get comfortable with the people we know, the table we sit at and not reach out to include other people.  While we are not intentionally trying to exclude others, it’s just that our actions say little about trying to include others.

Being inclusive comes naturally to some people, while be it few, these are the type that just make friends easily and make the outsider feel a part of the group.  Most of us including myself don’t fit into that category.  We have to go out of our way to make others feel included.  Sure we may see that person sitting alone at a table, or looking disoriented but our natural reaction isn’t to go greet them, we usually think someone else will make them feel welcome, or feel included.

Now let me say this as I do in youth group.  I am not saying that we need to be everyone’s best friend, and just be the outgoing, bubbly, life of the crowd.  It is about being genuine, and honestly wanting to make others feel welcome and included.  There is nothing worse than being fake with someone and being less than genuine in our efforts to include them.  When the opposite happens, and we are genuine and really strive to include others it can be a very powerful thing.

Let’s face it, we all want to feel included.  Even those of us who are the loaners still want to feel as though we belong to something.  What better place to make people feel included than our church.  I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and work on including others.  Go sit at a table you with someone who is alone.  Greet people as they come in and don’t expect that the people standing at the door to just do that job.

It is important that we don’t stop there.  We teach in youth group that we don’t want to be one way in the youth room and another way outside.  This principle should carry on in our daily lives, at work, with family and in school.  We can’t include others at church, and then ignore them the rest of the week. Invite people over for lunch or dinner.  Invite them to be a part of your circle of friends.  Include them in normal life activities that we all participate in and want to be a part of.  You may see something happen without you even knowing it.  That is right the “D” word, discipleship, but that is another post.