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Contrasting Attractional and Missional Models of Ministry



JIM NYDAM: Hands, Feet and Knees: the Means which I Have to Give



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hange – for some this is a scary word and for others it’s invigorating. You might not be sure exactly where you stand on that scale, but if you’re reading Equip Magazine you have been part of some changes. We have come to a better understanding of our readership and so Equip Magazine continues to evolve to meet the needs of volunteer youth workers across North America. Let me share just a few of the most recent changes with you: • We are now sharing with you other Youth Unlimited events like SERVE, LIVE IT, and ministry trips • We are now including outside ads that relate directly to youth ministry • We are keeping up with technology and have inserted QR codes • Every magazine highlights exceptional youth workers across North America These are just a few of the exciting changes in Equip Magazine. As a ministry and on behalf of all the writers, we trust you have appreciated how the magazine continues to evolve to better serve you. But we are not done yet! As you read through this issue you will notice a few more changes. • The You Asked page. Youth Unlimited receives lots of questions from youth workers across North America, and we are going to dedicate space in Equip Magazine to responding to some of them. • We are also inviting you to respond to the articles in this and future issues. We don’t want Equip Magazine to just be one-way




communication – Youth Unlimited to you. We want to hear your feedback, comments, and insights into the topics. Send us an email with your thoughts and watch for the Comments page in the next issue.

Change – being intentional about serving you as a youth ministry leader.

prayer ministry and seek to understand technology more.

Let Equip help you navigate the changes that are going to take place in your ministry. Don’t set this issue on the shelf; keep it close and "In September youth groups refer to it often as will start again, and you will you take advantage of the suggestions.

have a whole new group of students. You can expect changes in personalities, cliques, overall dynamics, small groups, study materials and perhaps even changes in leadership."

These are some of our changes, but we also realize that change is in store for you. In September youth groups will start again, and you will have a whole new group of students. You can expect changes in personalities, cliques, overall dynamics, small groups, study materials and perhaps even changes in leadership.

September comes with a wave of change that can overwhelm or invigorate you. Our qualified team of writers is intentional about addressing these changes through great youth ministry insights, practical ideas and personal reflection. Take your time as you read through this issue. Try out the game suggested on page 18, analyze your method of ministry, set up a vibrant

Change – begin the year boldly living out Matthew 28 with your youth ...

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Rest securely in that promise — "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Info Contents Youth Unlimited Equip Magazine

OPENING NOTE: Change........................................................ pg. 4

Summer 2011 | Volume 8 | Issue 4

Steps to Success ................................................................. pg. 6

Publication Coordinator | Marcel deRegt Chief Editor | Amy White Contributing Editor | Kristin Keizer Design Director | Jim Bowerman Contributing Writers | Koen Beugelink, Marcel deRegt, Gretchen Driesenga, Jeff Gates, Mark Knetsch, Ryan Kimmel, Cody Statema, Kaylyn Unterkofler, Kirk VanderPol Guest Writer | Clinton Lowin Equip Magazine is printed in the United States as a free resource to churches across North America. Canada | Canada Post International Sales Agreement #41124116. Return undeliverable Canadian address to: Youth Unlimited Equip Magazine Box 1100, Norwich, ON, N0J 1P0, Canada

Come & follow vs go & make: Contrasting Attractional & Missional Models of Ministry............. pg. 8

Stop talking 10 Shifting from neutral to drive: Navigating the Future of Youth 12

You Asked 14 I am angry 16 A youth group decathlon: Your Step by Step Guide to a Dynamic 18

Digital Immigrants Ministering to Digital Natives ............................................................ pg. 20 Hands feet & knees: The Means Which I Have to Give;

Executive Director: Jeff Kruithof 616.241.5616 ext. 3043 Leadership Development: Marcel deRegt 616.485.1966 Missions: Jerry Meadows 616.241.5616 ext. 3040

An Interview with Jim Nydam......................................... pg. 22

Summer characters & missions 24 Introducing Prayer Partners: A Multigenerational, Prayer-Based, Discipleship-Driven Program.......... pg. 26

I need somebody: Top 10 Reasons You Shouldn't Ask Others to Volunteer With You........................................ pg. 28

Judas: Thoughts on Lady GaGa's Latest................... pg. 30 The Bridge over river peer 24

Events: Millie Hoekstra 207.864.2963

Not sure what these boxes are? They are QR codes: two-dimensional barcodes that can be read by smart phones. Own a smart phone? 1. Download the app. 2. Scan the code. Hold your phone over the a code and use its camera and a QR app to to read the QR code. 3. Enjoy! The QR code will direct you to a site, a video, music, photo or other goody.

No smart phone?

Look for the link at the bottom of the page.




or many people, there is a season of evaluation that rolls in around December. By the end of the month, we’ve all created resolutions for the New Year. Lose ten pounds, get out of debt, run a marathon—you get the picture! Well, for those of us in the ministry world, this season often comes in the summer. It’s a great time to reflect on where you’ve been, dream about where you’d like to be, and come up with the steps you need to take to get there. Setting goals is a vital part of this process. First of all, goals help us stay on track. Have you ever walked into your kitchen without a plan? A bag of potato chips, a handful of chocolate chip cookies, and an old Tupperware of who-knows-what later, and you’re in trouble! The same thing can happen in our workplace. Time can slide by pretty quickly, especially with distractions like Facebook, applications such as Words with Friends, and YouTube! Setting goals can keep us on track, regardless of what else might be tempting us. Having goals also helps us remember what is important. When we are pulled in a hundred different directions, we can stay grounded by the weight we place on our goals. They help us prioritize and put



up boundaries that protect the things we deem most significant. As easy as it may sound, goal setting can be a tricky business. Whether it’s for your personal life or your ministry, here are some pointers to keep in mind when you start planning how to make your dreams a reality. Make them specific. When you set goals that are specific, there is a higher likelihood that you will reach them. A general goal would be, “I want to reach more students this year.” To make this goal more specific, define “more” and describe your plan of action. For instance, “I want to get to know at least 10 students outside of my youth group this year by spending time on school campuses once a month.” Make them measurable. When you can’t measure your goals, there is no way to step back and evaluate your process. An immeasurable goal is, “I want to lose weight.” If your goal is to merely lose weight, you’ll have no way of measuring your success. Instead, a measurable goal would be, “I want to lose 15 pounds over the next 15 weeks.” Make them tangible. There’s nothing worse than setting a goal only to see the year pass by without even

getting close. To avoid this disheartenment, make sure your goals are reasonable and reachable. Wanting to make it to every one of your students’ extra-curricular activities this year may not be a realistic goal. A more manageable goal might be attending at least three of your youth’s extra-curricular activities per month. Make them public. I know, I know. You probably cringe at this one. However, letting parents or your senior pastor in on your goals might give you the needed motivation to press on in achieving them. Don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself and others! Accountability is a good thing. There is nothing new or revolutionary about this stuff! However, I pray these simple pointers help you while putting down the stepping-stones to make your own goals a success. To spur you on in your own goal setting, here are a few of my own for this coming school year: Learn the names of all my incoming middle school students by October 1. The Scriptures say that God knows us each by name (see Isaiah 43 and John 10). Before many of our students come to

realize this, they need you to know their name, too! I'll accomplish this by creating a sign-in sheet and standing near the entrance with it. I watch students sign in, greet them by name, and repeat it as often as possible until it’s ingrained. Read one book per month. I just graduated from seminary, but I realize more than ever that my education doesn’t stop there. To keep my mind sharp I want to learn how to read for fun again! A few on my list include Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala, and It by Craig Groeschel. Get away for a personal retreat once every six weeks. Days alone are the most life-giving experience for me. It’s in these times that I sense the Holy Spirit’s direction more than ever. Sure, it’s time away from the office, but trust me—it’s one of the most productive things I can do with myself. Before summer’s end, I encourage you to take the time to set your own goals. Make them specific, measurable, tangible and public! Above all else, make them a reality. “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” — 2 Chronicles 15:7

Books pictured above: (top row left to right) Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis It by Craig Groeschel Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala As One: Individual Action, Collective Power by Mehrdad Baghai and James Quigley Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue and Unthinkable Choices by Mosab Hassan Yousef Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott (bottom row left to right): Veneer: Living Deeply in a Surface Society by Timothy D. Willard and Jason Locy Ministry in the Image of God: The Trinitarian Shape of Christian Service by Stephen Seamands The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society by Henri Nouwen Launching Missional Communities: A Field Guide by Mike Breen and Alex Absalom The Volunteer's Field Guide to Youth Ministry: Practical Ways to Make a Permanent Difference in Teenagers by Len Kageler King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus by Timothy Keller

Happy goal setting!



ttractional and Missional: There’s much talk surrounding these two competing philosophies in the world of ministry. Just so we’re all on the same page, here are my working definitions: Attractional Youth Ministry A youth ministry approach built on entertaining, normally big-budgeted programs and facilities, centered on teaching relevant topics in an effort to attract youth into the church. Think: “Build it and they will come” or “Hawaiian Night on Wednesday so bring your friends!” Missional Youth Ministry A youth ministry philosophy with a going-out-to-them approach. The intent is to transform the community by being incarnate in it, and youth groups are normally not confined to a highly interactive room or dependent upon calendar events.



Think: Service as outreach instead of program or event-driven. The youth group night is spent ministering at the homeless shelter rather than playing dodgeball. Essentially the dialogue that’s been happening is about contrasting the “as-is” model of attractional vs. the new, hip term, missional. This conversation stems from the concern that the attractional model, which has been the dominant youth ministry approach the past 15–20 years, has been missing the mark (if not totally failing) in regards to turning students into disciples. Here are some of the concerns about the attractional model: • Has a goal of successful programs (meaning large and growing attendance) • Gives students the wrong perception of what church is • Allows students to participate without any commitment


• Too much money being spent on programs and materials • Continuing segregation of the youth from the larger church body Many also point to the large number of youth who stop going to church after high school and say, “Ha! See, the attractional method has failed!” But, despite its potential shortcomings, I’m not ready to say let’s forget the attractional model altogether (I came to Christ through an attractional model youth group). Nobody argues the fact that the attractional model is great with getting kids in the door, but the problem is it’s too easy for kids to walk out the door; that is, instead of being sent out the door. Let me explain: First and Last Words Jesus’ first words to his disciples were “Come and follow me” (Matt 4:19). His departing words were “Go and make disciples” (Matt 28:19). Jesus called His

disciples to watch Him do His thing and then when He went back to Heaven, He sent them to continue to do the ministry He had been doing. So at the end of the day, I have two loaded questions for youth groups (mine and others): 1. Are students coming to Christ (come and follow)? This is loaded because it assumes that the lost are being sought and that a youth group strives to be more than a holy huddle. 2. Are students living the great commission (go and make)? This is loaded because this question is about discipleship. What do disciples do? They make disciples. So, are students being discipled to live in love in obedience to Christ’s call on their lives? Is Missional the Future?

the ever-evolving youth culture. It also provides a fundamental challenge as to whether youth groups are being seen by the community or seen in the community. Think for a moment: Are your youth group students seen by your church or as part of your church? How does your ministry approach feed into either of those perceptions? Ask Yourself… Why do students continue to choose to be involved in sports/plays/band over youth group? Part of it is the relationships they’re forming and part of it is because all those commitments call students to more than entertainment – they call them to a vision and give them a mission to accomplish. That’s what the attractional model lacks that the missional method offers. Where We Need to Go

People can easily say no to a program, but not so easily to people. When a youth group is based on programs instead of people, students may attend an event, but they are not brought into the larger ministry/vision of the church. So when the program (and their relationships But instead of the attitude that insists one tied to the program) ends—often when method is right while the other is wrong, they graduate high school—students’ I’d rather continue to evolve as a ministry, commitments are up for grabs, and glean what we can from the approaches because what’s offered next for them of yesteryear and ministry-wise together with the might not be as Whatever our method, the goal resources we have entertaining as and the knowledge can’t simply be getting students what they’d grown we gain be in the door – it needs to be used to, well, then intentional in our coupled with sending them out we get the scary continued cause drop-out rates we of it as well. for the Kingdom. now have. By contrast, the missional approach to youth ministry, in effect, says, let’s forget the laser-lights, the extra money spent on silly prizes and let’s go be present in our community by demonstrating for others the love and fellowship of the Christian life.

Youth ministry needs to stop being defined by its programs and instead needs to redefine its meaning of success; it needs to stop giving the message to students that church is a place to be entertained rather than a place of worship. I agree youth groups ought to be out in their community on a more regular basis, but I also don’t want youth group to stop being engaging, fun and challenging! Pros and Cons of the Conversation A couple things I don’t like about this conversation is that it tends to allow people to write off a ministry based on its outward appearance; it tends to polarize youth workers instead of uniting them. But what I do like about this whole conversation is that it keeps youth workers thinking about our approach, philosophy and goal in youth ministry. It keeps us from becoming stagnant by weighing what youth ministry is to

Let’s continue to invite students to come and follow Jesus. Let’s just be more intentional about calling them to the missional life of the Christ-follower by sending them out with vision. Part of this means raising the standard, but Jesus had no problem raising the standard or even intentionally preaching a sermon he knew would thin the ranks (see John 6:60-66).

spiritual formation. That’s what youth groups needs to be offering students. Often, the most fertile mission field students have is their own school. So are students overlooking their mission field because they’ve reduced ministry to crazy, fun events? Or maybe their youth group is adopting the missional model by trying to be a stronger presence to the forgotten of their community. My warning for that is that students may be physically feeding the hungry downtown while the students who have lockers right next to them are spiritually starving. Encouragement for Youth Workers… Let’s focus on the cause of Christ and challenge each other to always be learning how to do this thing called youth ministry more effectively—which includes things like open and honest dialogue about methods and stewardship. If you’re a youth worker, then God’s given you a great calling. How this calling plays out will be different in each setting, so it’s important that you find what works for you instead of simply mimicking someone else’s exact model. Understand that missionaries adapt their approach based on their context and that’s what youth workers have to do, too! Whatever our method, the goal can’t simply be getting student in the door – it must be coupled with sending them out of it as well. Come and follow. Go and make. *It’s also important to say that many who are adopting the missional approach aren’t demonizing the attractional model; they are simply saying it’s outdated and ineffective. Truth is, hard data is still being produced and so much of these conversations are still in the realm of theory.*

Overdue for an Overhaul? I wouldn’t say the missional approach needs to replace the attractional model. I think the best parts of both need to be combined. Church is a great place to be, and the community is a great place to serve (and vice-versa). Yes, call students to commit to Christ, but let’s not allow them to stop there, because Christ calls us to be His disciples. This is where the overhaul needs to happen, and this is where attractional and missional can hold hands. Disciples have mentors, relationships and a mission of ministry that feeds their

Youth Ministry 3.0; A Manifesto by Mark Oestreicher

Check out the QR codes to the right for more articles and videos on Missional and Attractional.





You’re a small group leader. You’ve read the lesson plan, prayed and thought through the material and how best to discuss it. You walk into your small group with a great plan. You have an opening activity to get everybody feeling comfortable and lots of great questions to keep the discussion going. As you get started, you realize what you aren’t prepared for: the one student who has wonderful answers to every question while everyone else is perfectly content to let that one do all the talking. What do you do? I’ve been in that situation many times both in small groups and in larger teaching situations. It’s frustrating because the student talking genuinely cares and has some great things to say, but she seems to be oblivious to the idea that she’s the only one engaged. I have tried ignoring the talker’s raised hand, saying, “someone else answer this one,” as well as less ideal methods of getting the non-talkers to talk and the talker to hold her tongue.



As I have been wrestling through this again recently, I’ve learned a few ways to help the small group time go better while at the same time respecting and encouraging both the talkers and non-talkers. It isn’t about changing personalities or taping mouths shut. Rather, it’s about understanding the goal, caring about each person, and taking some time to talk with individuals outside the small group setting. The goal of a small group is to create an environment where all personalities feel comfortable and can grow. As each person engages in the discussion, they tend to grow more. Therefore, a good small group leader tries to engage all personalities so each person feels comfortable entering the discussion as well as listening to their peers’ thoughts and ideas. The problem is that when talkers take over, they forget there are others in the room that also have great ideas but may take longer to formulate their thoughts. Those who aren’t talking are often

thinkers, they think first and then talk while the talkers talk and think as they go. So our job as small group leaders is to help the talker to expand his point of view while giving the thinkers time to think and encouragement to speak up. When I am in a small-group-type setting and there’s a talker dominating the discussion, I try to affirm the talker and draw others in. I say something like, “That’s a great observation, Cody, what do the rest of you think?” or, “Does anybody else have something to say about that?” I also make eye contact with a couple of the non-talkers when asking the group an open question. This subtle use of body language helps the talker realize the conversation should include the whole group as well as helping the non-talkers understand their response is just as welcomed as the talker’s. When that doesn’t work, I stop asking questions to the whole group and start focusing on individuals in a nonthreatening way (“Tim, what do you think about…”). Sometimes their facial and



body language reveal that they are not ready to answer, so I say something like, “I’m sorry, I see you’re not ready to answer yet, can I ask a couple other people what they think and then get back to you?” In a small group setting you need to be aware of and care for each unique personality. That’s why one-on-one conversations are so important. They allow you to invest in a specific person and focus on her individual needs. Before the small group time, I ask the talker if I can talk to her alone. I take time to affirm her, explain the problem, and offer a solution by encouraging her to think about helping the others in the group. I say something like, “I’m so glad you are part of our small group. You have a lot of great things to say. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but Sally, Kelly and Jen are not as quick to speak up and share as you are. Would you be willing to help draw them into the conversation?” Sometimes, the talker might not understand how to draw people in

graciously. Instead of waiting for someone to speak up, she may say, “Come on, somebody say something!” In this situation, I use the same strategy of asking her to talk alone, but this time I give her a more concrete suggestion when I ask for her help: “I’m so glad you are part of our small group. You have a lot of great things to say. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but Sally, Kelly and Jen are not as quick to speak up and share as you are. Would you be willing to wait to answer until at least two of them answer first?” In the same way, it’s good to ask the thinker for a moment alone. Again, I affirm him, explain that I would like to hear more of his ideas, and ask him how I can help him feel more comfortable talking more: “I’m so glad you’re a part of our small group. I think you have a lot of valuable things to say and I want to hear more from you. I would really appreciate you sharing more of your ideas in our discussions. I think it would be valuable to everyone.”

Usually, these private conversations have a huge impact on the small group time. Teens want people to notice them, understand them and take time for them. When we take the time to engage them outside the small group in a way that affirms them and encourages them, they feel valuable and want to help. The key is to understand the goal of the small group (to help each personality feel valued, comfortable to listen or share and provide opportunity to grow) and the specific personalities you are working with. We need to value and be sensitive to each person’s personalities and needs both inside and outside the small group setting. The next time you struggle with a small group where one student does all the talking and the rest just seem to check out, try turning the tough situation into an opportunity to connect with your youth oneon-one in a way that encourages them and offers them value by inviting them to help.


Shifting from Neutral to Drive CLINTON W. LOWIN


ur message remains the same; our methods must change.

Navigating the cultural trends influencing students can become a bit daunting. When considering the shift from modernity to post-modernity, some reputable youth ministry practices remain effective in certain settings. However, the cultural context of the 21st century necessitates that youth leaders contemplate new strategies to navigate the post-Christian setting. Typically, leaders find increasing tension when leading transition. The in between place, or the middle phase of the transitional process, can leave us paralyzed. The middle phase refers to the neutral zone because it “is a nowhere between two somewheres, and because while you are in it, forward motion seems to stop while you hang suspended between was and will be” (Bridges 2003, 40). Trends Shaping the Future: Church leaders have choices: either ride the tsunami of discontinuous cultural change coasting in neutral, or shift into drive—leading kingdom transformation as cultural pace-setters and change agents. The former choice rests on the laurels encompassed by a passive spontaneity and an improvisational style of leadership. The latter emulates a discerning transformational style of leadership. Here are a few trends and ministry implications to consider as we decide. Students Want to Change the World: Youth today are not waiting for the culture to change—youth want to change culture. Students are keenly familiar with injustice in the world. Global connectivity provides them a portal into human trafficking, abject poverty, street orphans, world hunger, and homelessness. Their aspiration to manifest Micah 6:8 faithfully in these situations is palpable. Students are not waiting for adults to serve in their place, instead they marshal action in a cooperative communal effort. Unswervingly, students want their lives to make a difference in these circumstances. They are resolute to serve in the center of God’s mission, regardless of the cost. Youth ministry leadership gives cause to awaken the communal, missional imagination through a mobilization of students into Christ centered engagement



of injustice. As a priority, youth leaders serve alongside students in a partnership of mission, equipping and releasing students to work communally to “be justice.” Embracing co-participation, youth leaders enable and empower the creative capacity and stewardship of a student’s gifts to be employed in kingdom-centric applications. Faith and Spiritual Formation of Students is Underdeveloped: Gathering for growth. Earlier in the century, assembling groups of students in a central location, through attractional methodologies, was a common focus of youth ministry. As a means of evangelism, the seeker-friendly church model explored ways to creatively draw students to building based ministries. Attractional methodologies often focused on using elements of culture to draw pre-Christian students to check out the church. Consequently, students associated church participation with the ethos of going to church instead of being the church. The payoff of these pioneering ministries was the numerical growth initiated by being relevant to culture. However, the spiritual growth of students normally suffered. These ministries drew students in, but discipleship took a backseat. Over time youth leadership began to realize that students were coming to the rally-like meetings, hearing about Jesus, but never going much deeper than the surface of faith formation. Gathering to Scatter … Developed for the Missional Calling. A response to this condition is a more intentional effort to develop disciples to function as witnesses representing Christ’s transformative stance in culture. Gathering to “meet with the Lord” entails the Spirit of God transforming people to be used in His mission of redemption (Eph. 2:22). God works in His people so we may work through His people to illustrate the Kingdom of God to culture (2 Cor. 15:17-21). Youth ministry leaders can champion the cause of synchronizing disciplemaking with a communal mobilization of students. Purposeful gathering enables transformation. Scattering takes the form of being sent, as Jesus was sent (John 17:17-18; 20:21). Therefore, students manifest the incarnational presence of

Jesus in the cracks and crevices of society. The mission and the apostolic task are inextricable elements of discipleship. Family + Church Driven Faith – Polarized No More: Some youth ministry models have had a specialization of age-graded ministries providing a plethora of programmatic opportunities. Indirectly, these emphases have polarized the home and church in the discipleship process. Subsequently, building a strong community among teenagers comes at the expense of separation and disenfranchisement from the family. Built on the idea that “positive change and innovation have often resulted from the merging of two independent entities to accomplish a greater effect,” Reggie Jointer proposes a solution to the spiritual underdevelopment of the next generation (Jointer 2009, 23). He denotes “a true merger between church and home” as a model of discipleship. The idea of the convergence of family and church envisions “working on the same thing at the same time is not as effective as working on the same thing at the same time with the same strategy” (Jointer 2009, 26). This shared strategy rests on the idea that the “continuity of faith within the context of a religious community depends on the observance of that faith within the context of individual families” (Christensen 2002, 151). Smith and Denton, in their research of the religious and spiritual lives of American Teenagers, have corroborated the importance of the collaboration of family and church, as it relates the effectiveness of a teenager’s faith formation (Smith and Denton 2009, 56). Youth leaders serve as catalyst uniting a spiritual formation partnership between the home and church instead of polarizing the two (Deut. 6:4-5; Judges 2:10). In Drive … Shaping the Future: At best, youth ministry historically is reactionary to trends. As Mark Senter elucidates, “Youth ministry in America has followed a cyclical pattern . . . Each cycle began with a ministry innovation responding to changes in American society and within fifty years found that the social milieu of youth had changed so

significantly that the earlier innovations had become somewhat irrelevant to the current generation of young people” (Senter 2010, xiv). This reactionary approach often places youth ministry leadership playing catch-up with the societal trajectory. At the moment we feel that we are adept, change occurs and society shifts, leaving our ministry approaches irrelevant. As a result, some methods chosen in youth ministry are guided by the doing what works philosophy, or by simply plugging and playing the next best strategy. Little attention is given to the biblical foundation guiding them or the cultural context in which they are implemented. With God’s Spirit guiding us, we can shift from neutral to drive, leading the transformation of the future in the present. RECOMMENDED READS: Find out more about Releasing Students to “be justice”: Following Jesus Through the Eye of the Needle: Living Fully, Loving Dangerously by Kent Annan Deep Justice in a Broken World: Helping Your Kids Serve Others and Right the Wrongs Around by Chap Clark and Kara E. Powell Find out more about Missional Models of Youth Ministry: Story, Signs and Sacred Rhythms: A Narrative Approach to Youth Ministry by Chris Folmsbee The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st Century Church by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America by Darrell Guder ed Missional Youth Ministry: Moving from Gathering Teenagers to Scattering Disciples by Kirk, Brian and Jacob Thorn The Essence of the Church: A Community Created by the Spirit by Craig Van Gelder TRANSFORMISSION: Making Disciples Through Short-term Missions by Michael S. Wilder and Shane W. Parker Find out more about Family + Church Models of Youth Ministry:

CITATIONS: Bridges, William. 2003. Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change. 2nd Edition. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press. Christensen, D. L. 2002. Vol. 6A: Word Biblical Commentary: Deuteronomy 1-21:9. Word Biblical Commentary (151). Dallas: Word, Incorporated. Joiner, Reggie. 2009. Think Orange: Imagine the Impact When Church and Family Collide. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook. Senter III, Mark H. 2010. When God Shows Up: A History of Protestant Youth Ministry in America. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. Smith, Christian and Melinda Lundquist Denton. 2005. Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dr. Clinton W. Lowin has served in organizational leadership in Nonprofits since 1991, primarily teaching, preaching, training and enabling others to organized service learning, experiential learning environments. He has successfully recruited, trained, and mobilized short-term cross-cultural and intercultural experiences in Canada, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and all over the continental United States. Currently, he serves as Assistant Professor of Theology at Dordt College teaching undergraduate Missions, Ecclesiology, Biblical Studies, and Youth Ministry courses. Specializing in missional ecclesiology, youth ministry, and missions. In his past role as Associate Pastor of Missional Objectives Clinton equipped, empowered, and engaged congregations in local and global missional endeavors. During his time in this role, he served as the lead catalyst and facilitator of international church planting efforts in the Dominican Republic and local church revitalization projects in Ohio called Kingdom Communities. Clinton, and his wife Amber, live on a farm in Iowa with their five children.

Think Orange: Imagine the Impact When Church and Family Collide by Reggie Joiner Collaborate: Family + Church by Michael Chanley


Q&A Many of my students like rap, but so many of the rap/hip-hop artists use very inappropriate language and messages. How do you handle this? Do your homework! There are a lot of Christian rap/hip-hop artists who have broken away from the mold and created songs with Biblical foundations and God-honoring lyrics. If it’s simply the music style your students are after, you can introduce them to a variety of artists. Group 1 Crew, Toby Mac and 4th Avenue Jones are just a few of the many out there.

How do I lead a youth lesson without talking all the time? “WAH WAH WAH WAH WAH!” Oh, fellow youth worker—you are not alone! The last thing we want to sound like is the teacher from Charlie Brown. Try to incorporate a variety of elements during your lesson. Video clips, pictures, and skits are a great way to break up your teaching. Also, invite students to read passages of Scripture. This will help students stay on track while giving your voice a little break.

What type of lesson have you had the most success with in your youth group? I recently taught a two-month series using the Enter the Story curriculum by Youth Specialties. This series involved a lot of preparation on my end, but it was well worth all the extra effort. The curriculum boasts a very interactive approach to teaching lessons. For example, to enhance what we were learning about Israel’s journey, we walked around different areas of our church campus that represented different aspects of the Israelites’ experience. Each student received a brown lunch sack filled with items like bitter candy, rocks and Shema scrolls that helped illustrate different aspects. This curriculum goes down in the books for us—our students will remember it for years to come!*

Cody Statema Youth Pastor Calvary Christian Reformed Church

*Resource website :

Is sex education a necessary topic to be covered each year in the spectrum of lessons? I would not recommend doing a sex education lesson every year. Your students will see it coming months away and groan in dread. Instead, plan on doing a full-blown sex lesson once every three years. Make it a special event that students look forward to, including an opportunity for students to make a purity commitment and a family service that recognizes their decision. This will provide two opportunities for students to participate in such a lesson throughout their time in your youth group. In the meantime, don’t forget to teach on topics such as healthy relationships, boundaries, purity, and temptation!

Ryan Kimmel Youth Pastor Corinth Reformed Church

What to do with teens listening to inappropriate music? I believe this issue stems from an over-arching theme regarding wisdom and holiness. When dealing with this issue, here are a couple guidelines I live by: 1. Your house, your rules. When you’re in charge you’re well within you right to say, “There will be no music that swears or is degrading (or whatever).” Likewise, if you’re offended by the music then students need to learn to respect that and not play it around you. But this leads to the next point. 2. If they’re not Christians, don’t make them act like they are. If a student has yet to make a decision for Christ, the last thing we should be doing is listing out for her the do’s and dont's of the Christian life. But this doesn’t mean we can’t ask her to follow patterns of appropriateness at our youth functions. For the non-Christians that God is allowing us to minister to we should be pointing them to the beauty and hope of a life in Christ, rather than telling them what is sure to appear as simply repressive religious rules. 14


Kaylyn UnterKofler Youth Pastor Crosspoint Christian Reformed Church

3. Don’t turn music into a legalistic issue. It’s not a sin to listen to non-Christian music, just like it’s not a sin to watch non-Christian movies. Both of these are more an issue of wisdom and holiness—both of which become stronger through the process of sanctification. When it comes to what is proper to watch and listen to each Christian should be, as Romans 14:5 says, “fully convinced in their own mind.” 4. Christian youth need to be challenged to set the example. If it is Christian youth that are listening to vulgar and inappropriate music then it’s time for a sit-down. But with the grace God has shown us, we should come to them as caring adults, rather than upset parents. If we tell them that this kind of music has no place in the Christians’ life, we’ll probably just come across as yelling at them and an immediate wall will be built between us and them. Rather, with love and verses like Philippians 4:8 and 1 Corinthians 10:14 at hand, remind them that the Christian life is so much more beautiful than the life those lyrics are describing. Remind Christian youth they should be demonstrating the life (holiness) and choices (wisdom) that others are to emulate. For those youth workers wanting to go the extra mile, don’t just hand them a CD of appropriate music…take them to the concert!

How do you talk about sex to a group of less than 20 youth without having them hate you for making them sit through an awkward lesson? Awkwardness is good! Awkward situations make students think. It is all right for you to admit to your students that it is challenging for you to talk to them about sex because you do not want it to be awkward for them. However, after you have broken the ice, communicate that your intention is not to make them feel awkward but to help them think biblically about sex. They will follow your lead in talking about serious and hard topics as long as they know you care for them and are an authentic God-fearing leader who loves them.

How do I lead a youth lesson without talking all the time? Usually the first step is to stop talking all the time. Ok, now that my snarkiness is out of the way, there are a few ways you can grow in this area. First, inspect the questions that you are using for your lesson… are they mostly factual/yes-or-no questions that do not require much interaction? If so, change them to questions that require application, judgment or examination. Second, assess and understand your stress while you are leading a lesson. Silence during a lesson often prompts anxiety in a leader; however, the silence is key to allowing your students the time to digest and consider an answer. Do not be afraid of silence after you have offered a question, instead welcome it and communicate to your students that you are fine if they need some time to think (after all, you would not have asked it if it wasn’t worth thinking about, right?). Third, do not ever be afraid to ask an individual student what they think. Often we are nervous about singling students out, but since every student has an opinion, it is definitely OK to ask for it.

What do you do to maintain a healthy marriage in ministry? There are lots of things I could mention including a faithful prayer and devotional life, communicating clearly the expectations you have for each other, or establishing firm boundaries with the opposite sex. However, one of the other practices my wife and I encourage is the veto. My wife has veto power over my schedule so if she recognizes that I need to be at home with the family for any reason, she has the power to say so and I will honor her need and coordinate accordingly to be home. This practice keeps me accountable and helps her to function in the midst of daily ministry sacrifice and understand that my love for her is greater than my love of work. Make sure you foster your physical relationship together in addition to your spiritual and emotional life, and have sex with each other often as well!* *Resource: Leadership from the Inside Out by Kevin Harney (Zondervan, 2007)

Do you have a youth ministry question? Email your questions to today and in each issue of Equip Magazine look for the You Asked section to get responses from some of today's most passionate youth ministry minds from across North America. No question is a dumb question!


i am angry





just woke up this morning and I thought I’d feel better. You know? But I was still mad … and I realized…it wasn’t about having my car stolen. That’s how I wake up every morning … I’m angry all the time. And I don’t know why. Carol, I don’t know why.” — Jean talking to a friend, Crash Reading this quote from the movie Crash might make you ask: What was Jean so angry about if it’s not about her car being stolen? Does it make you wonder, perhaps, how many youth in your youth group are echoing these haunting words – “I am angry all the time?” It’s crucial for youth workers to begin this new year of ministry without any preconceived notions about any students. It’s dangerous to assume that even students who attend a Christian school, come from a Christian home and/or go to church are excluded from echoing these words of anger. Perhaps it is because of our assumptions that there are more youth echoing these words than there ought to be. I don’t say this to ruffle any feathers; I truly believe it’s a reality. Far too often over my 16 plus years in ministry I have seen the deer in the headlight look from parents when I have shared with them about their child’s depression, drinking/drug habits, sexual experiments, etc. More often than not, their first response was, “Not my kid.” As youth leaders we fall into the same trap and say, “Not my youth.” As youth ministry leaders we have made too many assumptions over the years: • I just assumed he was a believer — he played bass on the praise team. • I just assumed she would not have premarital sex — she was so involved in everything at church. • I just assumed that he came from a stable home — look how happy he was. • I just assumed she would never commit suicide — she was such a strong leader. I just assumed … There are youth in your youth group who are angry even though what you see on the outside looks strong, happy and confident. Now, don’t misread this. Not everyone who is strong, happy and confident is struggling with anger or depression, but I

want to encourage you as you begin a new year not to assume. Instead of making assumptions, make it your goal to get to know your youth on a deeper level. I am sure you are familiar with the saying, a mile wide and an inch deep. Often that is how we do ministry. We want to go deep with as many youth as we can in a year but the result is that you only go an inch deep — the relationship is shallow. I know — I’ve been there, and that is where the assumptions begin. May I encourage you to go a mile deep and only an inch wide? Select a handful of youth and go deep with them into a meaningful relationship filled with love, compassion, humility and integrity. If that means you need to find more volunteers, then put the call out (See page 28). Let’s make it our goal for this new ministry year to stop assuming and go deeper in relationship with our youth so we can hear their cries of — "I am angry!" Where do you start? Begin by acknowledging whether or not you have already assumed to much about your students. Humbly fall to your knees to ask God to forgive you for your assumption(s) and to seek His guidance. Next, go to any individuals you have made unhealthy assumptions about and openly and honestly apologize, asking for forgiveness (this takes loads humility). Let them know you want to get to know them for who they really are and ask if they are willing for you to do so. Wait for an answer. This could be the longest most awkward pause of your life, but wait. Keep your mouth shut and let God speak in the silence, and, Lord willing, let the healing begin. May the Lord bless you as you begin a new program year. May He make is face shine upon you as you seek to build Godly relationships with your youth and may He give you His unending peace in the midst of all the ministry to your students.

Check out this short clip from the movie Crash.

Retreats specificly designed to support, encourage, network and minister to professional and volunteer youth workers alike. Each one is held during the fall/winter months and hosted in a variety of North American locations. Each retreat intentionally includes plenty of free time while remaining focused on Christ and the soul care of each youth worker through engaging speakers, times of corporate worship and small groups. WEST COAST SOUTH October 21–23, 2011 Dana Point Marina, Dana Point, CA Early Bird Registration: $180 per person* MID WEST November 11–13, 2011 Broom Tree, Irene, SD Early Bird Registration: $180 per person GREAT LAKES USA January 16–18, 2012 Miracle Camp, Lawton, MI Early Bird Registration: $195 per person CENTRAL CANADA February 10–12, 2012 Fair Haven Conference Center, Beaverton, ON Early Bird Registration: $185 per person WEST COAST NORTH February 24–26, 2012 Camp Squeah, Fraser Canyon, BC Early Bird Registration: $210 per person Keep Watching for added locations! FULL REGISTRATION RATES TAKE EFFECT ONE MONTH PRIOR TO EACH RETREAT. *Double Occupancy





ears ago, the student ministries team I was working with came up with a brilliant idea for an event to do with our students: A youth group Decathlon! Ten fast paced events in one night are sure to please even the toughest game critic in your group. This is a simple event you can use year after year because it can be so easily altered to make it new and fun each time you do it. Here is your step-by-step guide to hosting your own decathlon! Preparations: • First, find a location that is big enough for your group, preferably outdoors, where you can get a bit messy. • Second, figure out how you will differentiate between the teams you will create: face paint, bandanas, old sheets cut up into arm or headbands, etc. Also, think about if you will give the winning team a prize.

team to select one or two individuals to compete. The games also vary from skilled to no-skill and athletic to artistic, with the hope of engaging all different types of students.

• If a certain game does not resonate with you, browse the Minute to Win It website for other ideas that might! • Scoring: If you have four teams, have 1st place get 100 points, 2nd place get 75, 3rd place get 50, and 4th place get 25 for each game. You can easily alter the scoring according to the number of teams you have. • Make sure there is very little downtime between each game. Have volunteers working ahead to ensure you can move quickly from game to game. Keep it fast paced and energetic. Event #1 | Pennant Project:

• Third, gather and buy all your supplies and separate them by game.

Supplies: an old pillowcase, stick, markers and tape or string for each team.

• Fourth, recruit a few leaders to help. One leader should be a scorekeeper. Two other leaders can be getting supplies ready for the next game on your list.

Instructions: Give each team 5–10 minutes to come up with a team name and decorate a team pennant or flag. Have them attach their pennant to the stick and carry it with them from game to game. At the end of the night, give points according to which team was most creative and how well they took care of their flag during the decathlon.

• Fifth, build some excitement in your group with fliers, announcements, etc. Tell the students to wear clothes that can get messy and to bring a towel and extra clothes with them. Other Helpful Tidbits: • Some of these games require the whole team to participate; others require the



Event #2 | Bite Me: Supplies: five paper grocery bags for each team that you cut into various sizes (bags will need to vary in height from full size down to two inches).

Instructions: Each team must send one individual to compete. Line the bags up in front of each individual, from tallest to shortest. Contestants must pick up the bags with their mouths, starting with the tallest, and move them to a designated spot. Their feet are the only thing that may touch the ground. The first team to complete the task wins, but points go to each team in order of completion. Event #3 | Extreme Bobbing: Supplies: a kiddie pool full of water, apples, and one bucket per team. Instructions: Each team must send up one individual to compete. Fill a kiddie pool with water and apples. This is old-school bobbing for apples and they will get wet! Give contestants one minute to bob as many apples from the kiddie pool into their teams designated bucket as they can. They are all competing for apples from the same kiddie pool. Feel free to give them more or less time, based on how many apples are left in the pool. If you want to spice this up, add in several live goldfish. Bobbing a goldfish and getting it into your bucket is extra points. Points are awarded from the team with the most apples down to the fewest. Event #4 | Hoola Hoop Hoopla: Supplies: one hoola hoop for each group. Instructions: Each team must have the same number of people playing, so people may need to sit out, or have extra leaders join in smaller teams. Each team must stand in a circle and join hands. They must pass a hoola hoop around the circle by

stepping into it and putting it over their heads. They must not let go of hands while it passes around the circle. Points are awarded in order of who completes the task first. Event #5 | Roxanne Marshmallow Challenge: Supplies: CD Player/iPod/speakers, marshmallows (one bag per team) and cans of soda (one can per team), the song, Roxanne by The Police.

will get sprayed and eliminated. Give the remaining participants a new topic and continue with new rounds until you have a winner. The student who stays in the longest gets the most points, the person out first gets the least. Category Examples:

Event #6 | Shape Up:

• Disney movies • Breakfast foods • Capitals in the USA • States that start with M • Books of the Old Testament • Books of the New Testament • Song titles with “love” in it • Beatles songs • Items in a medicine cabinet • Professional baseball teams • Types of playground equipment • Cell Phone services (Verizon, Sprint) • Cereal names • Fast food restaurants • Board games • Card games • Subjects in high school • Colleges in your city/state • Types of Jewels • Types of soda • Candy bars • Types of shoes

Supplies: a List of shapes.

Event #8 | Junk Art:

Instructions: This is a simple game for everyone to play. Have the leader of the game yell out a shape. The teams must form that shape with their bodies. For example: if the leaders yell out the word "football" the teams must form into the shape of a football by laying on the ground and connecting their bodies into the shape. Whichever team completes the shape first wins. Do several rounds with different shapes each round. Think through your shapes beforehand and have a list ready. It’s fun to have a few that relate to your group; youth group name, your city or state, school mascots, etc.

Supplies: one bag of trash and one roll of duct tape for teach team (colorful tape, if you can find it).

Event #7 | Line Up:

Event #9 | Longest Rope:

Supplies: list of categories, garden hose or shaken up two-liters of soda to spray people with (depending on how messy you want to get), or silly string if inside.

Supplies: none.

Instructions: Each team sends up two participants, one to eat the marshmallows and one to hold the marshmallows and hand them to the eater. When the song begins, students must listen to the lyrics, and every time they sing “Roxanne” they must eat a marshmallow. When they hear “red light,” they must take a small sip of soda. This game is more difficult to determine a winner to, but it’s hilarious to watch and will get everyone laughing. You may have to stop the game before getting to the end of the song, as it’s nearly impossible to keep up. Your scorekeeper will have to make a judgment call of who does the best.

Instructions: Each team sends up one participant. Have all the contestants stand in a line. The leader will give them a category (Disney Movies) and they must go down the line saying something that fits the category (Aladdin, Cinderella, The Lion King). If they make it down the line, it goes back to the first person. The first person who either cannot come up with something or pauses for too long

Instructions: Give each group a bag of collected trash and one roll of duct tape. The larger and more creative the trash you put in each bag, the better the game. Each team will have to create the weirdest, funniest, most artistic sculpture out of the junk. Feel free to give them a theme if you would like to. You can give them as much or as little time as makes sense for your night. Have the judges judge each piece of art and give points accordingly.

Event #10 | Watermelon Wrestling: Supplies: huge tarp, hose, baby shampoo, two watermelons and Vaseline. Instructions: Lay the tarp out on grass moving any rocks, sticks or other items that may poke through. Spray water on the tarp and add a little baby shampoo (in case it gets in eyes) to make it a bit more slippery. Save some of the baby shampoo for consecutive rounds. Lube up the watermelon with Vaseline. Each team will designate one male and one female to participate in gender specific rounds. The goal is to wrestle the watermelon off the tarp to win. This is a great game to do last, as it can turn into a giant slip n’ slide for whomever wants to do it. Points are awarded for the winning teams only, although you can give ‘merit’ points to the other teams for their effort if you wish.

More ideas from Minute to Win It.

More on the game "Bite Me"

More on the game "Roxanne"

More on the game "Watermelon Wrestling"

Instructions: Students and leaders attempt to make the longest rope with their team. The rope will be made from stuff they are wearing or have with them (belts, shoelaces, shoes, etc.). The rope must be strong enough to withstand a gentle pull without falling apart. Students are asked to be appropriate with the attire that they remove. Give them 3—5 minutes to complete their rope. The longest rope wins the most points, and the shortest rope gets the least.


Digital Immigrants Digital Natives


Ministering to




he terms Digital Native and Digital 4G devices that allow our youth to bring the digital world with them to our youth Immigrant were coined in the early events. Typically organizations that work 2000’s by Marc Prensky, an American writer reflecting on education and learning with youth resort to one of two options. in the digital age. 1. We’ll ban cell The terms are useful phones from the The digital age is not a fad. youth room this metaphors for us to It is the new reality. Social think about when we September or 2. look at the new reality We’ll kindly ask networking, the smart phone of ministry in a digital the natives to and the tablet have changed age. Even saying it this refrain from their the way we connect with way gives you a clue as savage behavior information and with each to which one I am. ie: texting at inappropriate other. It has already changed So which one are times, txting wth the way we connect with our you? You’re a digital bd grmmr and students and the way we do immigrant if you used sexting? Before the cell phone that Bible studies. Simply putting deciding on a looked more like a brick our head in the sand about this direction I think or were fascinated yet churches digital reality does not help our schools, skeptical about the and para-church students thrive in a world in Motorola Startac flip ministries need to phone back in 1996. which they have to adapt to new spend more time You’re a digital native if dialoguing about technologies while striving to you came of age in the some key things. RIM (Blackberry) years. be more and more like Christ. There are certainly The new reality. digital immigrants that have done a The digital age is not a fad. It is the new fantastic job of assimilating into the new reality. Social networking, the smart digital reality, but they are still easily phone and the tablet have changed the spotted by digital natives (our youth). The way we connect with information and with essential difference is whether we have each other. It has already changed the come of age in the digital age (native) or way we connect with our students (thanks not (immigrant). So what are we as natives to youtwitface) and the way we do Bible and immigrants supposed to do when the studies (thanks Olivetree). Simply putting digital reality has changed the game of our head in the sand about this digital youth ministry? For the sake of this article reality does not help our students thrive in I will spend more time dealing the 3G and



a world in which they (as well as ourselves) have to adapt to new technologies while striving to be more and more like Christ. I worry that banning technology from our youth rooms does more to distance digital natives and immigrants from each other than it does in bringing us closer. We need to create opportunities where we can learn and discern how Christ wants us to employ these digital tools. Relationships. The fact that teens are relational is not new. The way they relate to each other is also not new. Back in the day (when the crust of the earth was still soft) we used to talk and write notes, now those conversations and notes are digital. It is the medium by which they relate that has drastically changed. Has the new medium created opportunity for maturing youth to experience relational headaches, heartaches and lifelong consequences (death even) for themselves and their peers? Yes. That is the sadness of this new reality. That is the reality in which we must minister. We need to help digital natives in our ministry recognize the nuances of digital relationships. You only have to hear the heartache of one teen girl dumped by text to recognize that being a digital native isn’t without its trouble. So, is it ok for a guy to dump a girl over a text convo? No. Why? Because I believe that particular conversation requires the context that only a face-to-face conversation can give. Sadly, according to most digital natives

asking someone out via text “bc u r hot” is absolutely legit. Perhaps we can come alongside digital natives in understanding the importance of context in every conversation both digital and face-to-face. Boundaries. There need to be boundaries. Why? We live in a world with boundaries—even in the new digital reality. Even though our youth feel like they are getting away with a lot in their digital world, there are certainly instances where law enforcement and school district personnel will get involved when those boundaries are crossed. Digital Immigrants can help digital natives understand the boundaries and what is at stake when those boundaries are ignored. I would caution youth workers against using social media to help teach those boundary lessons. I feel we must help keep our youth accountable to being God’s set apart people, but using social media to hold our youth accountable might not be the best way. If we are invited to sit on the steps of their culture, commenting on questionable facebook posts is a sure way to get uninvited. I’d love to see youth workers take that student out for a coke and to chat about life, God and what he saw than to police his or her profile in front of his or her peers.


Dear Equip Magazine,

Gains and Losses. Lastly, we are not doing this world a favor if digital natives uncritically swallow every new device and platform that comes their way. Similarly, it does not help for digital immigrants to always slam those new gadgets and gizmos. A conversation of gains and losses is what is going to help create understanding between immigrants and natives. In our youth rooms, natives need to hear from immigrants what is lost when we can not remain present emotionally during teaching or worship. Immigrants need to learn the advantage of using technology to bring those they are in relationships with into Christian community, even if that community is a social network community. There are pluses and minuses, and we need to have respectful dialogue about them. So when we enter into a new ministry year as digital immigrants and natives this September let’s consider a dialogue that centers on these issues.

Learn more about life on the virtual frontier.


HANDS, FEET & KNEES for the developmentally disabled population. Chris works at the local school as the lunch lady and loves it. Rachel is our college student, Sarah is our high school student and Mary our middle school student. My life has been in church life, Sunday school, catechism class, church every Sunday etc. The moment in my life when God became real to me was in college. I was challenged by a friend to let Jesus Christ take control of my life. From that night on my life changed. Equip: How long have you been volunteering in youth ministry?


quip: Please tell us a little about Jim Nydam. Family, work, etc.

JIM: Chris and I were married in Bellflower, California in 1989. Our girls are Rachel 19, Sarah 17 and Mary 14. Yes, three girls and a dog named Duke. We live in Redlands California and attend The River Church. I am a General Building Contractor specializing in construction



JIM: After our honeymoon Chris and I moved to Redlands from the Los Angeles area. Our first Sunday attending church we walked into the fellowship hall after church and were asked to lead the high school youth ministry. The couple leading the high school ministry had stepped down leaving an opportunity. Our newlywed goal was to spend one year together as a couple free from commitments. We left church and discussed the opportunity driving home. Chris and I looked at our lives and how God had been working in our past through volunteering in youth ministry, conventions, retreats and service trips to Mexico and Los Angeles. God had prepared us over the past years, which made our decision to accept easy.

Equip: Tell us a little about your youth ministry history in terms of the roles you have played over the years as well as your current role in ministry. JIM: I would be happy to write about His story in youth ministry at The River. For many years youth ministry was lead by a team of volunteers. Our church transitioned to hiring a full-time youth pastor, and since that time I have volunteered for three youth pastors. As the leader of a youth ministry I realize the importance of giving time to the ministry of youth in a church setting. When our first full-time youth pastor came I knew our ministry was in for a positive change. The additional hours dedicated to students growing through the critical decision-making years in life is huge. My question was: what does God have planned for me now? I knew youth ministry was a calling, so my thoughts turned to areas of service to advance the local network youth ministry. Our network of churches had a well-established youth committee of delegates from area churches that met once a month to plan retreats, service projects and activities. The committee met and shared the responsibilities of planning, sharing ideas and getting it done. The network of leaders the committee developed over the years continues today. What I have realized is that God works in different ways with the gifts of people

involved in youth ministry. Chris and I love music, so we offered our youth pastor the opportunity to attend a Christian Music Festival. Our youth became aware of music that glorifies and also rocks. Chris and I teamed with a local ministry building houses in Mexico and offered the opportunity to the youth. The youth travel to Mexico thinking they are going to bless a family with a house and in reality are touched personally by realizing how much we need God. Presently I am volunteering in the middle school ministry and continue to volunteer my experience with the local committee of youth leaders. Equip: If you were to take a bird’s eye view of youth culture, what have you observed over the years? JIM: I think youth culture has grown younger. High school and middle school today have basically the same influences and peer pressures. It is the younger age that is experiencing the youth culture. This change has forced youth to make decisions at a younger age. Equip: As you look back over your years in youth ministry, what are the top two things you have learned? JIM: Here are two things: 1. Get youth involved in some type of service ministry. Make them get dirty working out of their comfort zone. 2. Stay focused on the purpose of your calling and watch how God works through youth ministry to impact your own personal life. Equip: As a new ministry year is about to begin, what do you do to prepare? JIM: I get excited at the close of a ministry year because a new group of students will soon arrive. From the time they are baptized, we as a church and individuals are called to walk alongside them. I see youth ministry as a part in that commitment. The young people come into the “Plunge,” our middle school ministry, and are embraced with a spirit of enfolding and nurturing. Equip: What books do you recommend others youth ministry volunteers read? JIM: Brennan Manning is a great author. His books inspire me in my walk. I just finished Above All and gained a new understanding of my gratitude of how God consumes my

life with all this world has to offer. Books are a wonderful avenue to refresh and inspired. John Piper’s book Don’t Waste Your Life is a great book to read also. Equip: If a youth pastor and/or senior pastor were reading this, what advice would you give to them on how to encourage their volunteers? JIM: The volunteer youth leader is a tremendous gift to a youth ministry. The old saying, “Where there is no vision, a people perish” is so true. Volunteers need a vision, a purpose for taking the time out of their personal life. I believe every youth volunteer has a story behind their decision to lead in youth ministry. Spend some personal time talking about volunteering and what is behind that desire. Show them how their part in the ministry of youth can impact a life. Give some example of how youth ministry has impacted a youth’s spiritual walk in the past. One of the plus factors for youth ministry as well is what you give will be reciprocated. The volunteer’s act of giving time, energy and emotions is an avenue for the Holy Spirit to enter into a young person’s life. This effort also opens the door for transformation in the volunteer’s personal life. Ask how they have seen God working in youth ministry and how working with youth has affected their spiritual walk. Also, if a volunteer is married, meet with the volunteer and the spouse together. Even though one spouse attends youth group they are both involved and need a personal touch. Equip: Any closing remarks Jim that you want to share with volunteer youth workers across North America to encourage them in ministry? JIM: Yes, I have been truly blessed by volunteering in youth ministry through the years. As I look back on the highs and lows I see God’s means of grace coming through and directing the lives of both the youth and myself. As a committed follower of Christ the desire to gain a greater understanding of my walk will never stop. The earlier in life a young person realizes the plan God has set for them and takes the step toward a lifetime of serving Him, their life begins. It’s an honor that we get to assist in the process. Youth ministry is a means of grace God gives to us as volunteers to impact life and in turn impact a world. God has a plan; the question is what part of the plan are you?

Equip: Jim, thank you very much for your commitment to serving in youth ministry as well as taking the time to share your thoughts with fellow volunteer youth workers. God’s blessings to you as you continue to serve.





he summer movie season was full of superheroes, the walking dead, cowboys meeting aliens, barbarians and even smurf princesses. You may have had similar characters on your summer mission trip. Now that you’re back—are your cast of characters ready to impact the rest of your youth ministry, congregation and entire community? What would it take to keep your students really interested and involved in loving people and renewing broken communities? Can they make the transition from the community they just served this summer to their own community, home and school? To form the basis of those answers, we have to first look at what happens on a mission trip. An extended excursion like a mission trip will tend to touch the three key non-physical needs of a student: security, significance and strength. On a mission trip, students tend to embrace deep truths that meet their deepest needs because they are steeped in a Christian community that compresses their relationships with adult mentors. While on a mission experience, it seems more easy than usual for teens to believe Christ is all they need and to depend on Him. A life with Jesus is emphasized throughout the trip with personal devotions, group meetings, serving, testimonies, etc.) A student mission trip is an environment that can silence so many competing and conflicting messages. However, back at home, students are tempted by peer pressure, flesh and the devil to believe their needs can be met through sources other than God. How do 24


we work to connect the truth that becomes obvious so on the mission trip (that God meets our needs) with everyday life when there are so many competing messages? We need to recognize that God expects us to take His need-meeting grace to others — to let everyone know that He is our one and only true source of security, significance and strength. Next, the growth pattern in a student’s life as the result of a mission experience usually includes five areas. Make the most of these after you return. Cultivate each one and develop creative ways for students to continue to bring these areas to the surface of their daily lives. Otherwise, they tend to be buried in busyness, drowned by circumstance or changed by the attitudes of others (Romans 12:1,2). On all the mission trips which I have been a part of (whether or not I realized it, planned for it or processed it well with them), for a while students grasped a higher level of: 1. Thankfulness, 2. Generosity, 3. Prayer, 4. Justice and 5. Self (examination of personal life, including strengths, weaknesses, sin and vocational calling). These become the building blocks for a life of worship, stewardship, dedication and showing Christ's compassion to the world. Personally, I have been trying to take these concepts and weave together a creative pre and post-trip plan to help students make their short mission trips a part of their life journey.

God’s abundant grace that gives them the strength, security and significance to not only care for the needs of others while on a trip, but to also make it their lifestyle of following Christ. How do we create a plan like this? As youth leaders, how do we create long-term impact for our cast of summer characters returning from their short-term trips? We want to hear from you! Grab a cup of coffee and contact Youth Unlimited's Mission Department today to join in this exciting conversation! (or email us at

Canadian Code of Best Practices for Short Term Missions.

US Standards of Excellence in Short Term Missions.

During his years as a youth pastor and later building a short term missions structure for CURE International, Jerry interfaced with nationals in Africa, Asia, Latin America and North America, leading teams to serve around the world. Jerry is currently serving as Youth Unlimited's Missions Program Director.

Youth Unlimited is striving to start a dialogue on how to help students continue to connect their needs with





irst off, let me say that the information in this article comes out of a ministry that existed long before I took a call to my church. Over the years we have added layers to it, and, in my humble opinion, it has become an irreplaceable and eternally-effective ministry. It includes multiple generations, it points to the priority of prayer in relationship and it grows disciples. Did I mention that it’s really cheap, too? Let me introduce to you a ministry called Prayer Partners. The purpose of Prayer Partners is to pair each student with one adult member of our church. This one-to-one pairing is meant to create an environment of mentorship, discipleship and spiritual growth. In fact, we tried to change the name of Prayer Partners a few years ago to Immanuel Mentorship Ministry. Our desire was for this program to grow from just praying for the students to actually getting to know them. The new name didn’t stick. It’s hard to beat alliteration like Prayer Partners. So rather than changing the name, we changed the emphasis from prayer to praying together. The purpose of this article is to share the Prayer Partner ministry with churches around North America so that youth can get connected to adults who care for them in the name of Jesus. We’ll accomplish this purpose



by sharing a list of helpful tools for you to make this a reality in your church. Before we get to the nitty-gritty list of responsibilities and expectations of Prayer Partners, let me first say that I believe this ministry should be in every single church. If you read this article and think, “That’s nice,” then this article didn’t do what it was intended to do. This article is to give you (yes, you) the tools you need to get this thing off the ground in your own context. Ask yourself how you can be the catalyst behind making Prayer Partners a reality. Perhaps you need to rip this article out and give it to your pastor. Here’s a script to follow: “Pastor, this Prayer Partner ministry is where it’s at! This has got to happen here. Who can we dub Prayer Partner Coordinator?”

So prayerfully consider someone who will commit to being your church’s Prayer Partner Coordinator. Is it you? What does the Coordinator do? Read on. The List Our Prayer Partner Coordinator gets a list of names of all our youth from our administrative secretary. This happens sometime in late August. In our context, our youth program runs from 9th-12th grade, and so the list will have every single student in our books in those grades. The Letter Early September we place an insert in our bulletin with the following letter: Dear Prayer Partners,

The Coordinator

September is here again and it is time to connect each high school-aged youth with a Prayer Partner. Our church has committed itself to the vision statement that: Everyone Prays. We are convinced that prayer works and that God calls us to this important task.

The Prayer Partner Coordinator really is where you need to start. The goal is to find someone who is a good coordinator and administrator with a desire to see students grow in faith. (I love organized people and surround myself with them!)

Some of you may be brand new to the Prayer Partner experience. Thanks for being part of this exciting ministry! We have a pamphlet (see below) for you. It let’s you know what would be expected of you throughout the year. Please get

So, how does Prayer Partners work? Below you will discover tools. You don’t need to do all of them all at once. Do what’s practical for you. Do what time allows you to do. But do something.

to know this pamphlet as it contains important information and guidance as you connect with your Prayer Partner. If you are a returning adult Prayer Partner, thanks for continuing to commit yourself to praying and connecting with a student. This year we are adding a new initiative. We are asking that each youth/adult Prayer Partner team meet two times over the course of the year. The hope is that these meetings will allow greater connection and possibly move towards a more intentional mentoring relationship. We all have a faith story to share. Consider this opportunity prayerfully. Please respond by September 13. I would like to participate by being a Prayer Partner to a youth. Name:___________________________________________________ ___ I would like to continue with the Prayer Partner I presently have. ___ I would prefer to have a different Prayer Partner this year. ___ I am new to this ministry and would like more information. Thank you for your participation in this important ministry. The Promotion How do you recruit adults to commit to praying for a student? We run a bulletin ad asking for all interested participants willing to be a Prayer Partner. Bulletin announcements typically don’t bring in droves of people, but at least the Prayer Partner ministry is on people’s radar. The more effective form of promotion is verbal announcements in church. The best form of promotion is asking people directly in person or over the phone: “Would you like to be partnered up with a student from our church?” Our Prayer Partner Coordinator makes these calls, and it is by far the most effective way to grow a list of adult Prayer Partners. The Prayer Card (or bookmark) At our first youth group meeting of the year, our Prayer Partner Coordinator, with the help of students, gets a picture and a list of three specific prayer requests from each youth. When the pictures are printed the name and three requests are added, and the completed cards are given to each adult Prayer Partner. The Pamphlet Each adult Prayer Partner committed to this program receives a pamphlet. The

purpose of the brochure is to equip our adults to know more specifically what is expected of them as a Prayer Partner. The two main parts that make up the body of the pamphlet are entitled Helpful Instructions and Tips for Adult Prayer Partners, and Key Things to Remember as a Prayer Partner. Feel free to take the information below for your own use. Remember that Equip Magazine is online, so you don’t need to retype this all! Helpful Instructions and Tips for Adult Prayer Partners (adapted from: The Praying Church Sourcebook, 2nd Ed. by Alvin J. Vandergriend with Edigh Eajema): Early in September you will receive a prayer card that will include a picture of your Prayer Partner along with details of what to pray for. Talk to the person you are partnered with at church or by phone to find out what extracurricular activities he or she is involved in and would need prayer for—e.g., if in school, what subjects are most difficult? If uncomfortable with this idea, ask the youth’s parents for some general information on what you can pray for. Get a copy of the school and youth group calendars to become aware of special events or activities that the person you are praying for is involved in that may need special prayer support—e.g., music performances, plays, youth group outings, mission trips, Bible discussions, sporting events, exams, and so on. Make an effort to regularly send your student a card so that he or she knows you haven’t forgotten your prayer commitment. Write it on your calendar or in your day planner so you don’t forget. Holidays, birthdays and special events are good times to send a card. Say something like, “Just to let you know I’m praying for you.” Be creative. let the Holy Spirit lead you. Remember, prayer is a vital link to growth in our walk with God. By praying for one another we are drawn closer to one another and to him. Enjoy! Key Things to Remember as a Prayer Partner (adapted from Safeguarding Our Children: A Handbook for Volunteers, Staff and Leaders of Child and Youth Programs Immanuel Christian Reformed Church, Hamilton, ON): While talking with your partner, remember that topics of a personal nature are totally confidential. This is the only way trust

"… I believe this ministry should be in every single church … Perhaps you need to rip this article out and give it to your pastor." can be developed and honest sharing can occur. The best policy is not to talk about the student you are partnered with to anyone else. If meeting with the student you are partnered with, it should only be done in a public place. If you have any reasonable suspicion of abuse occurring in the life of the youth you are partnered with, you should immediately report it to Family and Children’s Services at (phone number). If your partner shares that he or she may harm others or harm him or herself, you are legally obligated to report it to Family and Children’s Services at (phone number). The Follow-Up Talk with your pastor about how they could promote the Prayer Partner ministry throughout the year. The Prayer Partner Coordinator can include regular reminders for Prayer Partners in the bulletin, or perhaps the youth group could invite all adult Prayer Partners to an evening of bowling. Whatever the case may be, make it a priority to keep this ministry in front of your church throughout the year. These tools should give you a great head start as you begin your journey to build a Prayer Partner ministry. It has been invaluable for our students, and parents are thrilled that their teen is connected to another adult in the church. I’ve heard stories of people being Prayer Partners for years after high school because it had been that valuable. This ministry has also unearthed some pretty significant pastoral care situations that would have never come to the surface if it were not for Prayer Partners. There are more expensive, glitzy and high-tech programs out there. They will all say that they are the best and brightest. They may even have a free fog machine thrown into the package. But a Prayer Partner ministry is one of the cheapest programs we have, and the payback is huge! Discover for yourself how something like Prayer Partners can become a reality in your church.



1. It is much easier to coordinate with yourself.

“Hey Me, can you take care of that?” “Sure you handsome devil, you!”

2. You will always know that the food at your event will be good!

“I like hotdogs so you will like hotdogs.”

3. It cuts down on the number of contacts in your cell phone, making that list much easier to navigate.

“Dial ME please.”

4. You don’t ever, ever have to be rejected!

No more “NO!”

5. You always know who is in charge of what.

“Don’t worry---I got this.”

6. You always know who is not in charge of what.

Don’t worry, I made sure I won’t be doing that.”

7. You will never have to share in basking in the glow of success!

“I hope you can’t get skin cancer from that glow.”

8. If a student is struggling, they will always know who to call!

“No this is not Ghostbusters…”

9. You own stock in Red Bull, Live Wire, and Monster.

“Energy? Who needs it when you have a closet full of Bull!”

10. Your family loves it when you are gone! 28

“Daddy, thanks for teaching me to take care of myself at such an early age!”



o you ever feel like you have to do a perfect cover of the Beatles song Help to get the people at your church to volunteer? Do you feel like you need to leap up in the middle of your pastor’s sermon, grab a microphone, drop down to one knee and scream, “Help! I need somebody…help! Not just anybody…help! You know I need someone… HELP!” Well perhaps you aren’t that dramatic, but you still feel like you need some help but no one is stepping up. Once during an interview with a search team, the chair of the team told me that no one at their church was going to be banging down my door to volunteer to be involved in the youth ministry. While it would be a bit creepy if hoards of volunteers were clamoring and scraping at my door to serve, it is true that people do not typically volunteer on their own without being asked (except perhaps for you, of course). So the question is: How can we get people to volunteer, especially when we need some help? If you are anything like me, it is hard to ask for more from people who have busy careers, hectic school schedules or houses full of children. However, if there is one thing I have learned over the years it is that while people may not be banging down my door to be involved, they are waiting for someone to ask them to help out! It’s true! It can be very daunting for an individual to approach you with a specific plan for how they can serve in a ministry. So it is up to you and me to prayerfully invite them to partner with us in the ministry God has given us! What should I say? I have always found that honesty is the best policy (thanks Mom!). It works in the courtroom and it works in recruiting. Never approach someone with the line, “Joe-Bob, we need you to serve in youth ministry, you are perfect for this! It barely takes any time from your week and you will love it! What do you say, can I plan on you?” For some this approach works but you and I know that youth ministry can be hard work, and that students deserve someone who wants to share grace with them and not just someone to show up and punch a clock. Be honest with those you are prayerfully approaching and communicate to them the expectations of the work while inviting them to pray about the choice. Too often in our anxiety to fill our volunteer rosters, we ask for commitments on the spot. However if we ask our recruits to pray about their choice, we remove the stress and urgency that often produces an immediate, “No.” Think about saying something like this, “Joe-Bob, I have been praying for leaders for the youth group next year, and I would like to ask you to pray about being a small group leader on Sunday nights from 6:00 to 7:00 pm. This is a great opportunity to pour into the lives of students through prayer, small group discussions, and encouragement. Will you pray about being a small group leader this week and we can talk about it next Sunday?” So I asked them to pray about serving and they did! But they said, “No.” Yep, it will happen! Don’t take it personally; you have to trust that the person you recruited did in fact pray about their choice to tell you no. (On the flip side, if they didn’t pray about their choice, you probably didn’t want them on your team anyway.) A mentoring pastor once asked me, “What is the worst thing that someone will tell you after you recruit them to serve?” Simply, “No.” While rejection is never fun, (trust me on this one, I have had a healthy share of it) you never would have known if you hadn’t asked. If they do give you a no, do thank them for praying about volunteering and taking their choice seriously, and gracefully bless them to serve where God has called them. Typically people feel a sense of guilt saying no to volunteering, so it is important for us to bless them on their way, and it doesn’t hurt to tell them that perhaps you will ask again sometime. How do I pray for volunteers? Ask God to open your eyes to the needs you have for the ministry. What gifts are you lacking and need someone to be exercising in your ministry? Do you need a teacher, an encourager, a prayer warrior, a giver, a leader, an administrator? Pray for God to raise up people with the gifts you need and to open your eyes to those people. Don’t pray alone, either; make sure you invite others to pray for those needs as well. They said, “Yes”! Wonderful! It is always a special moment to have an individual who has prayed about volunteering say that one wonderful word. Be sure to plug them in, encourage them and thank God for them. God will always provide for His work to be done! Pray for ways that your new volunteer can flourish and grow in their gifts. God has graced us with sharing His love with students—let’s not do it alone but look for those whom God has called to partner and serve with us!




’m not a Lady Gaga expert, but I do my best to keep up with the latest music and fads enough to have an opinion on her song, Judas. So when asked to give my take on it I was willing, but be warned, I’m a fairly “average Joe” just offering his $0.02. Have you ever watched a movie you enjoyed, but then the ending frustrated you because you weren’t sure what the writer/producers were trying to communicate? I have a similar response to Lady Gaga’s song, Judas. You may disagree, but I actually like the music. It reminds me a bit of Pet Shop Boys, Roxette or Erasure—all who had songs I enjoyed while growing up. But, I guess I’m just a simple man who likes things to be a little more straightforward. My wife likes Monet art; I find beauty in Monet’s work, but I enjoy a beautiful photograph of a field of poppies or a starry night better than the painting. I give these examples to get at some of the angst I experience as I think about the song, Judas. Sometimes I just wish artists would be more direct with their message. Lady Gaga leaves the door wide open to multiple interpretations of Judas. Using the lyrics and video, one could argue that she is making the case that, while she sees herself with Jesus, she finds that her sinful side is really still in love with Judas. Much like Paul who, in Romans 7, talks about the good that he wants to do (Of course, Paul is lamenting this, and Gaga’s song does not have nearly the tone of lament or repentance).



One could also argue that Lady Gaga is professing her “forbidden” love of Judas, and by the end of the song chooses Judas over Jesus—after all, she does get stoned—in the biblical sense of stoned to death. Or she could simply be using well-known symbols to talk about betrayal in relationships. Maybe she just uses the Christian symbols for artistic and marketing reasons. There’s a bunch of other nuanced interpretations of all or part of the song that I could assemble as well. This brings me back to my frustration wondering what in the world Lady Gaga is actually trying to communicate through this song. While I realize that life and morality are not easily labeled black or white, good or bad—and I don’t want to get into stiffly categorizing everything—thinking through Judas leaves me longing for a straight answer. This postmodern way of leaving everything open to the interpretation that “works for you” I find quite meaningless. I want truth. I want Jesus. Speaking of postmodern and multiple interpretations let me throw this out for discussion. Can Christians take something that was not meant to be Christ-honoring— or even intentionally dishonoring to Christ—and using our own interpretation make it Christ-honoring? On one hand, this is much of what the Christian walk involves—renewing, reshaping, and restoring creation to what it should be. On the other hand, singing along to Judas with

a bunch of other people at a concert using our own internal interpretation of the song might not really bring much glory to God since no one would know what your heart was saying. Let me explain what I mean. Once, when catching a three-mile ride home with my uncle on his 440 motorcycle, I sang part of a Bon Jovi song as a prayer. My cousin was on the front straddling the gas tank, my uncle came next driving, and I was holding on for dear life on back as we slid in and out of the ruts on the gravel road at speeds I thought were entirely too fast. So I used the chorus to Bon Jovi’s song, Lay Your Hands On Me as a prayer to God for His protection during the ride. I like to think that using this chorus as a prayer was a redeeming way to use the words and tune of that song. I’m guessing it made God smile. Could the same be done with Judas? Possibly if it was sung as a song of open repentance, confessing to God that you were still struggling with liking the things of this world (of course, the upbeat tempo doesn’t seem to psychologically mesh with repentance). But as I mentioned earlier, blaring it on your radio in public to people who had no clue what meaning you found in it would likely not be God-honoring. There’s one more aspect of this song that I feel compelled to mention that troubles me. I grew up on a farm and we didn’t have cable TV, so I grew up without music videos. The music video of Judas—as is so common in videos—is quite sexual in nature. The clothing—or lack there of—is really inappropriate for teenage males as well as teenage females who try to imitate the look. There are also poses and body movements that convey sexual or erotic meaning. While it’s not the worst that’s out there as far as sex goes, this video is not one I’d be comfortable watching with my grandmother, mother, wife or daughter. Sometimes I wish we didn’t have the music videos—I could probably enjoy more songs. There’s lots of great music out there written by artists (some under the “Christian” label, some not) that blesses me in my spiritual walk. As much as I appreciate the artistry of Lady Gaga in Judas and I like the beat—I think sometimes we need to walk away from things we like—things that are popular and that everyone else is taking part in. Adults often don’t model this, and our youth need to learn to make these hard choices too. If you can, in good conscience, answer that you are able to glorify God with the song Judas, then go ahead and enjoy it. Unfortunately, I cannot.


THE BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER PEER “Madness, madness” declares

a British Army Officer in the movie Bridge Over the River Kwai. The fact that he was sent to destroy the very bridge his own countrymen have given their lives to build caused him to recognize the ridiculousness of his mission. When I look at what goes on at a relational level in our youth ministry, I sometimes want to cry out with a declaration that: “It is all madness!” We spend time and energy trying to create an environment where strong relationships can be built, and then halfway through the year we realize the relational bridges we have built are causing some exclusive cliques in our ministry. Then for the next few months we have to work with those groups and lay some charges and blow up the notion that those relational groups have to be exclusive and divisive. A sad reality that probably impacts many in youth ministry is that our youth seem to divide their peer groups over what school they attend. For example: Christian, public and home schoolers. This alone can be a huge source of a youth worker’s frustration when examining the positives and negatives of youth ministry bridge building. Why build these bridges? Over and over again we are told youth ministry is about relationships. Imbedded in that understanding is a strong emphasis on the leader-student relationship; however, peer-to-peer relationships need to be built as well. Peer relationships that are nurtured in a positive youth ministry environment provide our youth with solid building blocks for building strong relational networks their whole lives. The key for us is to ensure we are teaching them to build those relational networks well. Anyone can build a bridge. Think back to the popsicle stick or toothpick bridges you built in junior hight. Everyone built a bridge, but only some of the bridges were able to handle the weight that the teacher applied. Those are the kinds of

relational bridges we want our youth to build in our ministries—bridges that will last under the weight and pressure of life. Those relational bridges need to stretch past the boundaries of school systems and be capable of including more than just those to whom our youth share shallow similarities with. How to build these bridges? 1. Encourage their primary influencers to do the same I am continually amazed at how youth behave socially. Their relational defaults almost always mirror the relational defaults of their parents and other influential adults around them. If youth have a tendency to resort to cliquey behavior, I can almost guarantee their parents are the ones gathered in their favorite peer clusters after church on Sunday. Typically they are their own small groups. Though I can understand that those parents may have better overall relational bridge building skills, this kind of behavior sends a powerful and dangerous message to their offspring. When you meet with parents of teens in the fall, remind them that their kids are also watching them and how they build relationships in the shadow of the church. Remind those primary influencers that their students are drawing some conclusions that may not be helping to create a relationally positive youth ministry. Encourage parents to discus and disclose to their children who they are meeting and building relational bridges with that might not be in their small groups or tight social circles. Ask parents to share with their youth the frustrations and joys of those efforts. 2. Build Bridges Yourself As a youth leader you are an incredible influencer. Talk about the relationships you have with adults around you

that may not fit into neatly labeled relationships that youth tend to categorize their relationships in. This last month I had an opportunity to meet someone new at church. The encounter occurred in earshot of a number of youth that were standing nearby. A few weeks later a youth thanked me for showing him that I was able to get out of my own comfort zone and meet new people that might not have the same interests as me. It is a very tough thing to ask our youth to do things we ourselves are not doing. In fact, it’s impossible. 3. Encourage your social engineers Every once in awhile students come into our ministries that just seem to intuitively understand. When I see them in action in my youth room I find myself wishing I had a whole ministry full of those social engineers. These are the youth that have the ability to reach beyond their comfort zone and build relational bridges that span the gaps created by different school systems and different sports teams. These students are an amazing gift to our youth ministries that perhaps we are not encouraging enough. I would recommend reminding these students as you start a new ministry year that God has given them an amazing talent of building bridges. In recent years I have even offered to help those social engineers financially by allowing them to submit receipts they have for minigolfing and coffee outings that have contributed to the building of bridges that span those typically divisive gaps in our ministry. Before your ministries begin this fall, examine how you can best approach the relational bridge building process. A realization halfway through the ministry year that those bridges need a lot of attention is madness. A reflective look at our own adult bridge-building defaults and encouraging the social engineers in our youth ministries might help provide a solid foundation from which we can bridges the gaps that weaken our ministry.

"A sad reality that probably impacts many in youth ministry is that our youth seem to divide their peer groups over what school they attend. For example: Christian, public and home schoolers. This alone can be a huge source of a youth worker’s frustration when examining the positives and negatives of youth ministry bridge building."


Dynamic Youth Ministries PO Box 7259 Grand Rapids, MI 49510 USA

Nonprofit Org US Postage PAID Grand Rapids, MI Permit No. 931




Contrasting Attractional and Missional Models of Ministry



JIM NYDAM: Hands, Feet and Knees: the Means which I Have to Give




Equip Magazine Summer Issue  

Equip Magazine is a quarterly publication that is intentional about equipping today’s volunteer youth workers for tomorrow’s youth. Each iss...

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