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. 

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!

How to Retire in 100 Days 🙌🎉


​One of the things I am always talking to people about is about earning passive income. I love affiliate programs and we have a solid one at MinistryDownloads.com too (see the end of this post for that).

​When it comes to affiliate programs, there are a few things that you should look for. Here are 4 that make up a good affiliate
program:​

✅ It pays you over and over again

✅ Customer is tracked to you for life

✅ Free to join

✅ Great affiliate support

An example of a program that meets those four requirements is ClickFunnels.

They give you 40% of the customers bill for life. Not only do you get paid over and over again, but the customers you referred are yours for life. Anything they buy in the future, you will make money on.​ ​

The affiliate program is also free to join. However, I do recommend you to be a customer or at least sign up for the FREE 14-DAY TRIAL so you can get to know the product better.

To help their affiliates, ClickFunnels has a 100 Day Super Affiliate Challenge. If you accept the challenge, they will guide to step by step on how to become a ClickFunnels super affiliate and retire in the next 100 days​. Yes, RETIRE in 100 DAYS.

The challenge is free to join and all the training is free as well. I recommend signing up even if you don’t plan to be a ClickFunnels affiliate because the training can be applied to any affiliate marketing program.

We have a great affiliate program at MinistryDownloads.com  too. We grant 50% of conversions on all sales to our affiliates, and we grant 50% on every ALL ACCESS
​subscription. That means every leader you get to sign up for our membership we give you 50% of their monthly payment for LIFE, or until they cancel or die (both are unfortunate)! ​ If you’d like more information simply contact me here and I’ll be glad to walk you through personally.​

Where Should You Go on Your Mission Trip?

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So you’ve decided to go on a mission trip! This is an exciting time of gathering ideas and interest from your students, but it can be overwhelming when you have the entire world to choose from. While this decision should be made with input from your church and students, as well as a tremendous amount of prayer, we think there are some questions that can help you narrow down what’s possible for your group. These four questions can help you narrow down where in the world you should go on a mission trip, but don’t be afraid to speak with a reputable mission trip organization for more input!

1. How far will you go?

For every group, there are some practical limitations to consider. This question can help you narrow in on a location or region. There are a few factors that go into answering this question including budget, time constraints, and desire to engage with language and cultural barriers. Generally speaking, the further you go, the more apparent some of these things may be, but none of these are insurmountable barriers! If you feel led to serve far beyond your borders, just know it’s going to take a little more time to plan.

2. What are your hopes for your trip?

There are a variety of mission trip opportunities that all offer unique value, both for your students and the community you are serving in. Taking stock of what you hope to do on the trip can narrow down some locations. If your group is handy and ready to jump into construction projects, hurricane relief mission trips or other construction-based trips are an incredible way to use and develop your skills. Not as prepared for physical labor? Urban mission trips provide great opportunities for relational ministry that can be incredibly impactful for everyone involved.

Are you hoping to engage in what’s happening in the headlines? Or embrace struggles happening in quiet corners of the world? There’s value in both, but we encourage you to look into options beyond what’s in front of your face. There’s value in returning to a community on the long-term path to restoration and there’s beauty in showing up in the wake of disaster. Reflection on what this should look like for your group can steer your decision in a healthy direction.

3. What do you hope your students take away?

Every mission trip should first and foremost be a positive experience for the host community, but the reality is, mission trips are also an incredible way to grow spiritually and develop leaders among your youth. So, knowing your students and what you hope they gain from an experience can provide helpful direction for your trip as well. Students often walk away from trips with a greater understanding and appreciation for new people and cultures, greater leadership abilities, and a deeper faith in the God who created and watches over all of us. While these can be fostered during in a variety of serving experiences, consider how exactly you hope your students will grow and make sure your mission trip selection will allow those experiences to take shape.

4. What happens after the trip is over?

No matter where you choose to go, consider the impact your trip can have on the big picture, rather than just focusing on what your team might accomplish alone in the short span of a week. Partnering with a community or organization over a longer period of time or going somewhere where long-term relationships are already in place will allow you to get the most out of your experience. If you’re feeling called to help in the wake of natural disasters, pray about your options and consider looking beyond what’s currently in the headlines. Places like Texas or Puerto Rico, where disaster struck a year or so back, are still in terrible need and are already almost completely forgotten. Rebuilding after disasters often takes years, even if we only hear about the efforts for a matter of months.

Need help figuring out where to serve in 2019? Speak with a mission trip support representative from Experience Mission today. Call 888-475-6414 ext. 1 or fill out a mission trip interest form.

LIVE from D6: John Stonestreet

I’m LIVE blogging from the D6 Conference in Greensboro (NC).  Today I’m sharing my notes with you from the General Session and keynote speaker, John Stonestreet.

Tweetable Quotes (and Highlights) from John Stonestreet:

  • The age-old question we have always asked … “Where do we draw line?”  @JBstonestreet “What is our salvation for?”  
  • “If we only react to culture we won’t have the end in mind for discipleship of our kids. We need to be proactive.”   @JBStonestreet 
  • “When we are trying to raise kids in this culture we need to know what we’re after.”  @JBStonestreet  You cannot escape culture.
  • “We are not saved for ESCAPE.”  @JBStonestreetChristianity is not an escapist religion
  • “You can’t escape culture, culture is the water in which we swim.”  @JBStonestreet 
  • “The God of the Bible does not usually yank people out of trouble but rather walks with them through it.”  @JBStonestreet  2 Corinthians 5:18-19ff
  • “There is no such thing as being on the wrong side of history, there is only being on the wrong side of right.”  @JBStonestreet
  • “You cannot understand the story from the moment, you an only understand the moment from the story.”  @JBStonestreet 

If you’re not at the D6 Conference, please follow along on social media using the hashtag #D62018 or my personal twitter, @TerraceCrawford.