How Faith-based Friendships Fuel Spiritual Growth

As a youth ministry leader, what do you notice about the youth you encounter? What do you think they’re after? If you could discover what they need most, how would this influence the conversations you have with them?

What if you knew that youth and young adults really need friendships built around faith? And what if you knew that you–yes you–are in the best position to help them develop these friendships? How do we know that this is a relevant need? Well, let’s discuss some trends affecting youth and we’ll see where that takes us: 

Let’s start by looking at how youth experience solitude. Loneliness is part of the human condition, so of course people experience it at one point during their teens and young adult life. But what may surprise you is that youth are actually the loneliest people in society

A worldwide cross-cultural study revealed that out of all age groups surveyed, 16-24 year olds reported feeling lonely the most. And what exactly is loneliness? According to respondents of this survey, it is having no one to talk to, feeling out of touch, feeling excluded and misunderstood. 

Does this sound like something your teens are feeling? 

Another condition youth may face is a deep feeling of apathy. On the one hand, many students are energetic and passionate about changing the world. Justice and equality are things many in this generation are working towards. But what about others who may feel apathetic and out of touch with these topics? Or what about the fact that fifty percent of millennials think it’s wrong or disrespectful to share their faith with nonbelievers; what does this lack of enthusiasm for the gospel tell us? 

This apathy may result from low-expectations from other groups. Hannah Granowski of Generation Distinct explains, “if we continue this cycle in the church—the younger generation lacking boldness, the older generation having low expectations of the following generation—evangelism will eventually die, and our world will sorely suffer from its absence.” If youth are not challenged to value and share the gospel, the result is what you as a ministry leader may see quite often – a generation who is interested in changing the world, but disconnected to the One who pioneered social justice and invites us to pursue life with him.

Youth in your ministry may experience loneliness and disinterest in growing and sharing their faith. But here’s an idea: if students are lonely and disinterested in sharing the gospel, what if their need is to develop fulfilling friendships around faith? Around a faith in Jesus that is compelling and adventurous? 

This is where the #GoVoke tour can help you take steps to meet your students’ specific needs.  

The #GoVoke tour challenges youth to be proactive in building friendships and growing their faith.The first step of the #GoVoke tour is us coming to your youth group. We then show teens how they can connect with their friends via the Voke app. The Voke app uses direct messaging and video to help teens connect. But it also shows them how to have deeper conversations about life and faith. 

Together, they can explore life’s deep questions like, “how did we get here?”; “Is God good?”;, “are chrsitans hypocrites?” and more. The goal isn’t to find the perfect answers to these questions. Rather, it’s admitting that life is a complex adventure. Faith isn’t irrelevant, but rather a journey where we can explore deeper topics together and discover what Jesus says about the deepest questions and longings of our hearts. This helps youth understand two things: first, that walking with Christ is an adventure, and second, that the journey gets more exciting when you have friends to experience it with.

The #GoVoke tour is a direct response to youths’ needs. Our goal and prayer is that when we leave, your youth are empowered to connect with their friends in a meaningful way and discover that walking with Christ is an adventure. Book the #GoVoke tour while you can; you only have until September 25.  Click here to book the tour today!

30 Hour Famine as Service Learning

So often we look at ministry as a series of individual events – even if they are held loosely together by a theme for the semester or the year. Some events may be annual or monthly or even weekly while others may be “special” events that aren’t repeated. I’m not criticizing this paradigm, but I wonder if we could do better by our students if we were fiercely intentional with our planning throughout the year. Intentional planning based on the vision and mission of your ministry (if you don’t have vision and mission statements get some STAT) will help guide your students along the path that you believe God has put before you. A quote from Tony Campolo helped shape my early ministry philosophy and continues to today. “The age of youth was not meant for pleasure, but for heroic service!” Okay, great, now what? I had a lot of work to do!

I started by researching the benefits of acts of service in young people and I came across the concept of service learning. Service learning happens when we combine educational concepts with acts of service to provide a learning experience that also meets societal needs. More and more school districts are including service learning requirements for graduation and it is a cornerstone of the National Honor Society program. Benefits of service learning include leadership development, diversity awareness and positive community outcomes. In addition, the educational concepts taught as a part of service learning seemed to be retained at a higher level than ones that were taught on their own.

As people who minister to students, we are one link in a long chain of adults that help to educate kids and grow them into people ready to launch into the world. Therefore combining the biblical concepts we want students to learn with acts of service seems like it would be an effective ministry tool. The 30 Hour Famine fits in perfectly with this philosophy because it combines teachings about the heart of Jesus for the poor and marginalized with fasting and serving others. It is the trifecta of service learning! Service learning opportunities can’t be few and far between if they are going to be effective, so I suggest that you build regular service events into your calendar and make them the cornerstone of what you do with students. Not just a mission trip in the summer or a weekend during the year but regularly scheduled (once a month is a good place
to start) events that give you the chance to teach your students, in word and deed, who we are called to be in a hurting world. I have seen over and over that if given the opportunity, students will rise to the occasion and their lives will indeed be beacons of heroic service. If you try it, I hope you will too.

Sign up today for the 30 Hour Famine, and make it a regular part of your ministry to show students our calling to serve others.

Guest post by Beth Ruzanic (originally published on 30hourfamine.org)

Youth Group Mission Trips Are HARD! And worth it.

David Livingstone, the well-known 19th-century missionary to Africa said, “God, send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. And sever any tie in my heart except the tie that binds my heart to Yours.” If your youth group is planning a mission trip, whether on another continent or just down the street, we pray the same for you and your team.

Preparing your youth group for a mission trip is not easy. Somebody has to get the flights and ground transportation booked. Somebody has to communicate with the in-country partners to arrange accommodations and projects. Somebody has to design the matching mission trip t-shirts.

If your heart is racing and your palms are sweating while reading the paragraph above, that somebody is probably you!

Your original plans for this trip were marked by excitement and a deep sense of purpose. But the hard work of this tremendous effort can begin to drag on you and your key leaders. Before long you may experience a significant loss of joy in the work, and though you keep wearing your brave face, you’re wondering why you started the process in the first place. Before that happens to you, step back from the urgent tasks and consider again the eternal implications of this incredible and God-honoring adventure you’re about to undertake.

Sociologist Robert Woodberry conducted a 10-year study on the effect of mission trips on the people they intend to serve. Remarkably, he found that the total effect of Christian missions in undeveloped nations… “turns out to be the single largest factor in ensuring the health of nations.”

Guess what? The report shows that in villages, countries, and regions where Christian missionaries have built relationships with the local people and served the needs of communities, the economy, culture, and health of the people are significantly positive and flourishing. These missions-targeted areas are… “on average more economically developed today, with comparatively better health, lower infant mortality, lower corruption, greater literacy, higher educational attainment (especially for women), and more robust membership in nongovernmental associations.”

So when you start to feel the busyness building to burnout, take a minute to think again of the results you are driving toward. Be encouraged. All the hard work and headaches you’re enduring to organize a mission trip is far more significant than you know. It’s a vital part of God’s century-spanning plan to change lives for today, and redeem souls for eternity!

It’s about Christ. Not t-shirts.

At Ministry Gear, mission trip t-shirts are our business. But our true motivation is to serve Christ by using the gifts God gave us to come alongside your mission team. For over 25 years, we’ve helped churches and ministries like yours prepare for their mission trips with cool shirts that unite your team. We’re a ragtag team of artists and designers who believe in serving ministries with our talents. If we can help you with any of your mission trip gear, let us know. We’re ready to serve.

Browse our Mission Trip Designs or call 888-812-4044 to get started. Mention promo code  “TC” and you’ll save $25 on your order!

Want more info about that mission trip study? Read Christianity Today’s article for a broader look at the study. And if you want to go deep, John Piper’s article on the study spends time on the jaw-dropping evidence that the life-changing work of the Gospel is the primary reason for these amazing results.

Go here to explore custom designs at MinistryGear.com.  Use promo code “TC” at checkout and save $25 on your order!

Article contributed by Freddy Martin at MinistryGear.com. 

Win 2 Tickets to the D6 Conference! #D62019

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I’m stoked to announce that I will be speaking at the D6 Conference in Orlando, Florida this September and I want you to join me!

I am giving away 2 FREE TICKETS to the Conference (Valued at $700!) to two lucky people.  Enter NOW here for your chance to win these tickets.

The D6 Conference is the one family ministry conference designed to help your ministry team get on the same page to minister to the families in your community. We invite over 50 of the top family ministry leaders to lead you through a learning and planning process that you’ll never forget. The entire conference is centered around making sure each member of your team has the opportunity to learn and grow together!

Hurry – you must enter by May 15. Enter NOW here for your chance to win!

Have You Heard of 30 Hour Famine?

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One of the best experiences (in my mind) with students has been a shared experience with them where we tackle some of the world’s problems … like hunger.  I have taken students through a 30-Hour Famine numerous times.  I mean, who can forget going without food for 30 straight hours?  It’s not even the focus. You begin to understand, even in that small sacrifice, what others must deal with DAILY around the world.

World Vision sets you up for an experience that you and your students will never forget. They provide a FREE event kit, complete with activities and ideas for you to do during your time together as you get just a taste of the hardships others face globally.

World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine is an opportunity that will empower your students to fight global hunger. The idea is simple: students fast for 30 hours and participate in activities that help them learn about the realities of world hunger. Those 30 hours will transform their relationship with God as they discover – and help fight – the injustices that hunger inflicts on millions of children all over the world. Join thousands of other youth fighting hunger through the 30 Hour Famine.

Simply pick your own date and order your FREE event kit from World Vision! Visit their website to sign up at 30HourFamine to learn more or to get started. When you sign up, they’ll send you a FREE event kit with everything you need to impact your students’ lives.

Go to 30HourFamine to sign up.

6 Tips on Engaging Youth in Service

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My friend, Kevin Mahaffy, shared 6 tips on how to get teenagers involved in their communities and I thought these were very helpful.  I will share 4 of them with you here on the blog, and you can get the link to the full post at the end.

        • Make it fun. If serving is a drag, students will not want to do it. It can be hard and challenging, but it’s never dull. Find ways to make service fun. Build fun competition, crack jokes when things aren’t going as planned, give them fun incentives, etc. Give students shirts when they register. Host a swim party after a long day of serving. Take students out for a Slurpee or a burger on the way home. Be creative and show them that serving, especially together with their friends, can be fun.
        • Make it short. The best way to introduce healthy elements into your ministry is by starting small. For “Love Long Island,” I knew that if I asked students to sacrifice their whole spring break, our participation would have been minimal. By making it a two-day commitment on the front-end of the week, they still had five days to sleep in, play video games, or whatever they wanted. Our service days were only 9am-3pm so they still had their evenings on those two days.
        • Make it affordable. Service projects are built into my student ministry budget. I purchase needed supplies, etc. using those funds. For “Love Long Island,” I just charged students $25. For the two days that covered their t-shirt, bag lunches, chaperones, and transportation. Even if you don’t have a budget, you can keep the cost low. Again, be creative. Have students bring personal work gear, tools, and even their lunch.
        • Make it regular. Through the years I have always looked for ways to make service a constant on our calendar. In addition to our annual events and mission trips, we also designate monthly or bi-monthly “Serve Nights” for our small groups. On those nights, rather than having regular small group meetings, they plan and implement service projects as groups. Through the years they have made care packages for kids with cancer, wrote Valentine’s cards for veterans, visited nursing homes, cleaned the church, delivered goodie bags to local business owners, and picked up trash around town.

Go here to read the full post.

 

Last Day to Save!

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D6 Conference 2019 FINAL DAY to save $80.

Register TODAY and save $80 per person. Price increases at midnight.

Generational Discipleship is the very essence of cultural change. Only when the church partners with parents will true discipleship occur.

COME TOGETHER AS A TEAM TO PLAN YOUR DISCIPLESHIP STRATEGY

Register TODAY and save $80!

Go here and secure your spot(s) today!

FREE Ticket to the Student Strategies Summit

Have you gotten your FREE TICKET to the Student Ministry Strategies Summit? This totally FREE, Online conference will be held on February 26-27, 2019 and will feature some of the top experts in the field of Youth Ministries.

The Student Ministry Strategies Summit will cover topics like: Campus outreach, Communication with Senior Pastors, Avoiding Burnout, Partnering with Parents and much more!

▶ Claim Your FREE TICKET Here.

Better Man University

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I’m excited to share some news with you. I am embracing a calling to a forgotten people group.

For the last couple of years I have had a burn in me to in invest young men (19-30) and I have really approached it unintentionally. My life, since 18, has largely been dedicated to youth work (teenagers), but I have said that our forgotten generation were kids who graduate out of high school and are lost. They are often left to wander with no shepherd. And more often than not, they wander with no earthly father.

What I found was these young men began to walk into my life and I was able to mentor them. Many of them now even consider me their earthly father. ( I can’t tell you how that touches the core of who I am ).

Recently I have spent considerable time reflecting, praying, and seeking direction and have decided to create something for this forgotten group. It will begin as a blog and website, continue with a podcast, coaching, regional events and expand into more as God leads.

This new venture will be evangelistic at its core, offering practical daily advice for men (19-30+), with life lessons and tips from both Christian and secular experts, but offering the invitation to faith in Christ.

It’s called “Better Man University.”

Better Man University will call men everywhere to be better students, friends, husbands, citizens, employees, and, yes, Christ followers too.

I hope you will join in the excitement here, with a comment or a share, or both and offer a prayer for this forgotten group. And, if you are so inclined to partner up with me, send me a message! Go to www.BetterManUniversity.com to learn more.

And for those wondering, I will continue my volunteer work with teenagers, my podcast for youth workers, and my resource sites (MinistryDownloads.com and MinistryPerks.com) will continue to serve leaders everywhere!

May this year be our banner year!