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Every once in a while I'll pull an old post or article I've written and repost it.  I'd love any thoughts you may have!  This post is from December of 2009.  Please forgive the lack of capital letters - I went through a cool lower-case phase...

last night trisha and i were talking about several of our students that are going through some rough patches. some are making some bad decisions and facing the consequences, some are just caught in the middle of other people's bad decisions. it's tough watching those that you are seeking to shepherd in ministry go through seasons like these.

trisha remarked that it's especially tough when we've been walking with them for so many years and can remember them when they first entered our ministry. it's heartbreaking to remember a bright-eyed, unburdened, laughter-filled middle schooler and see them today caught in the middle of a messy divorce, or succumbing to the pressure of a bad influence in their life, or choosing lying and deception over honesty and taking responsibility.

it's hard to watch children become adults.

kids are full of optimism, hope, simple joy, and laughter.

adults are (sometimes) full of doubts, pessimism, depression, and tears.

while it's all at once disheartening to watch this change happen in so many young people we care about, it's also one of our biggest privileges in youth ministry to walk with them during times like these and offer them friendship, hope, direction, purpose, and most importantly JESUS.

as trisha put it, "maybe a big part of our job is just to be there with them while they go through it all."

no maybes about it.

- tim
 
 
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One of the most important things I do in Youth Ministry is continuously ask God to work on my attitude.  Of course what I'm really seeking and growing toward (I hope) is putting on the attitude and love of Christ.

Before I meet with students for worship, hanging out, special events, etc., I ask God to give me the right heart, the right mind, and - maybe most importantly - I ask Him to help me when I meet new students to love them before I meet them.

And I really do.  I make the decision that when I meet a teenager, no matter how stinky, rude, mean, troubled, distracting, whatever they are, I'm going to love them.  Am I perfect in this practice?  Of course not!  But man does it help to pray and set my mind and heart on choosing love and acceptance on the front end BEFORE the new junior high kid that shows up puts a hole in the wall or the high schooler falls asleep during my message time.

Do you do this?  Do you decide before you ever meet a new student that all you will do is love them?  Do you decide against judgement, criticism, resentment, or impatience?

What if our students did this as well?  What if they decided that every one of their peers that walked through our church/youth room doors was going to be loved, accepted, encouraged, and welcomed just as they were?  How awesome would that be!?

I'm going to challenge my students to do this - I encourage you to do the same!

- Tim B.
 
 
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There's a great article at Christianity Today's website that my friend Steve at NAMB sent over to me today.  Titled "The Leavers" it deals with the trend of drop-out from church attendance in youth and young adults.  It's moderately lengthy (took me about 5 minutes to read it all - yes, we live in a culture where 5 minutes is considered lengthy!), but worth checking out for sure.  Here's an excerpt:

...There has been a corresponding drop in church involvement. According to Rainer Research, approximately 70 percent of American youth drop out of church between the age of 18 and 22. The Barna Group estimates that 80 percent of those reared in the church will be "disengaged" by the time they are 29. Barna Group president David Kinnaman described the reality in stark terms:

"Imagine a group photo of all the students who come to your church (or live within your community of believers) in a typical year. Take a big fat marker and cross out three out of every four faces. That's the probable toll of spiritual disengagement as students navigate through their faith during the next two decades."


Click here to read the whole article!

 
 
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Do you, as a youth minister, desire to have influence among the young people in your church and community?  If you’re like me, being able to influence students with the life-changing message of the Gospel is the goal you’re aiming for, but it is also one that can often seem difficult if not impossible to reach.

The problem that many youth ministers/ministries face when trying to gain influence among the young people of their churches and communities is that they try to gain that influence based solely on a strong desire or assumed “right” to speak in to students’ lives.  Without laying down some essential “stepping stones”, you will never be able to have the impact you hope to have on teenagers and their families.  However, if you build a path toward influence by focusing on a few basic steps, you will see your influence increase and God begin to change lives and do something great in and through your ministry.

Instead of focusing on the end-goal, focus on each of these in progression to build the path to influence:

Intimacy
Before you are able to influence anyone, you need to be influenced by your Heavenly Father.  Spending consistent time with God in prayer and devotion is the well-spring from which all of the following steps toward influence flow.  Without being plugged in to the Source of the life-change you desire to see, how are you ever going to see your ministry become a catalyst for that life-change?

Inspiration
Spending time with God in worship, prayer, etc. will ultimately lead to inspiration.  If you are consistently and earnestly praying for God to move amongst the young people of your church and community, He will eventually answer that prayer by inspiring you to some sort of action or next step to take toward that goal.  He may speak to your creativity, your leadership, your passion, or your pastoral heart; and when He does, you will know!

Implementation
It’s important then to act on the inspiration that God has given you by implementing whatever changes, new strategies, creative programming, individual or group mentoring, leadership development, etc. you’ve been inspired to do.  So often we feel led in a fresh direction, get inspired to do something, and then fail on the follow-through.  This may be the hardest step on the path to influence because it often requires the most work or encounters the most resistance from our critics.  But remember to be faithful not just to your inspiration but to the One who inspired you in the first place!

Interest
If you’re lucky, whatever changes or new directions you’ve implemented in your ministry will begin to generate interest among the youth of your church or community.  It’s important that you construct your ministry so that what you’re doing captures the attention of students.  Lack of interest or boredom among the young people you engage can not only kill momentum in your ministry but can kill your passion as well.  Remember that patience is key – it may take months or even years to see the fruits of what God is doing, but staying true to what God has inspired you to do and working hard to implement that is one sure way to make sure that interest is generated and that those fires stay hot!

Involvement
Once students begin to take interest in what your ministry is all about, it’s time to get them involved.  Make sure you have a process in place that moves youth along the most basic path of involvement:  fringes à committed à core.  You should be taking those students that are interested in the message of your ministry, helping them to own it for themselves, and then equipping them to be leaders.

Influence
Once you have generated enough interest, and students begin to become involved in owning their own faith and growing in to leaders, congratulations – you’ve gained influence!  You will be amazed at how deeply you’ll be able to impact the lives of those young people God in His grace has seen fit to send to you.  And remember – it all started because you relied on God and your relationship with Him to be the source of this influence, so remember to give credit where credit is due.

This may not be a sure-fire way to grow a giant-sized youth ministry, but it is a practical approach to gaining the ability to make a difference in the next generation of students for God’s Kingdom.  Good luck in your adventures in YM – I’d love to hear what you’re up to!  Comment this post or drop me a message using the “Contact” box at the top of this screen.

-Tim B.

 
 
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Click the new "Links" button on the menu bar up above (or, alternatively, click here) to check out tons of YM related sites.  From blogs, to downloadable media, to curriculum/resources, to missions, and more; you'll find tons of great content from people all over the YM world!

If you notice any glaring omissions or if you have a blog or website you'd like me to link to, please click the contact button on the menu bar above and let me know!

Happy surfing.

- Tim B.
 
 
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So I have serious trouble keeping up with the whole blog thing.  And I think my problem is that my focus is way too broad.  Every time I log on to Weebly to start writing a new post, I can't decide if I want to talk about YM, worship, my family, what happened on The Office last week, etc.

So I've decided to narrow my content focus.  I chose the new name - Youth Ministry (YM) Stuff - and switched the blog address over with the intent of having this blog focus almost exclusively on YM content.  I'll post what I'm thinking about in YM, what I'm teaching/speaking on currently, how I'm engaging students in discipleship and leadership, games that we're playing, songs we're singing in worship, etc., etc., etc.  I also plan on sharing some of the great resources that others in YM are putting out there, like my friends at Group and Simply Youth Ministry, Youth Specialties, Lifeway, and others.

I don't have any grand dreams of becoming a famous youth worker, or anything like that.  If anything, working on this project has reminded me of how small and "normal" my ministry to students is.  But I'm hoping that I'll get a lot out of the blogging process personally and that someone out there, either in my own network of YM friends locally or elsewhere, will find something they can use in their own ministry to young people.

Here's hoping this is the start of something good!

- Tim
 
 

Here's an article I wrote for this month's edition of our church newsletter - enjoy!

Last week Trisha, Grayson, and myself had the awesome opportunity to spend a week in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  Being on vacation with a six-month-old is an interesting experience.  In the past one of my favorite parts of vacation was being able to go to bed without setting an alarm clock and having the chance to sleep in till 10 or 11 if I wanted to.  Well, I have a feeling that those days are long gone!

My wonderful son "provided" me the opportunity to get up several mornings to see the sunrise.  As we sat on the beach together watching the sun break over the surface of the water, it was a great chance to pray, reflect, and seek God's heart for my own life and also for our ministry here at FBCCS.  In those morning hours I really felt God impress upon me two things.

First, He reminded me that there is much work to be done here.  There are so many things He wants to accomplish in our midst!  I have a renewed heart and passion to see young people give their lives to Jesus, to see families restored and renewed with a passion to grow in their faith together, and to see our youth make a difference in their schools, their community, and their world!

I was also reminded that to achieve God's will both in life and in ministry, we've got to remember the simple truths that we are so often distracted from.  The most important things an individual, a church, or a ministry can focus on is to:

KNOW God.
GROW together.
GO serve.

These are biblical values (see Matt. 20:27-28; Mark 12:30, 15:16; Acts 1:8; Hebrews 10:25; and many, many others) that we have been working on imparting to students for the last five years.  My hope is that over the next several months we can recapture a passion and a heart to live out these values in our everyday lives and in our efforts as a youth ministry.

It's back to the basics, and I'm excited for what God wants to do in Youth Ministry here at FBCCS!  Will you join me in praying for, and possibly serving, the youth of our church and community?

Renewed, rededicated, refreshed,

- Tim Blake
Youth Minister, FBCCS 
 
 
 
 
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So I haven't posted here in a few weeks.  Been CRAZY busy with youth ministry as we head in to the school year and with worship stuff as our church transitions from separated worship services to one combined blended service.  I'll write about that soon enough, but here's a quick glimpse in to some big things going on in my head/heart/life lately:

- Relationships still beat programming/planning/production any day.  This summer we didn't have a trip/camp/getaway like we usually do in YM, so the overwhelming majority of my focus this summer was on building and strengthening relationships with the students in our ministry.  Whether it was eating lunch or dinner, hanging at church, bummin' around WalMart, shooting videos, or whatever, I re-learned this summer that the most effective youth ministry strategy is still relationships!

- Just because God is quiet doesn't mean that He's not working.  I'm still waiting for the big AHA revelation from God I've sensed looming under the surface for over a year now - a new leading in a fresh direction for Trisha and I and our ministry.  While a big spiritual breakthrough has yet to come, I've definitely been feeling the rumblings in the ground around me - so to speak - which let's me know that God is laying a foundation, cultivating seeds, and preparing some sort of a harvest.  If this all sounds very vague, spiritual, or metaphorical to you, it's because it's hard to put in to words some of these feelings.  But after all is said and done, I know I'll look back on this last year or so and realize what God was doing all along!

- Change is hard, but oh so necessary.  As we make a lot of transitions all over the place at FBCCS, I'm reminded how hard change really is.  But I'm also reminded that it's so necessary if we want to continue to grow and keep up with the movement of God in our community.  God never says "enough" and is happy to stand still, but instead His Spirit is always moving in fresh and new directions, bringing the life-changing power of the Gospel to people in ways that only He could!  While there are certain aspects of faith tradition and daily Christian life that should always be treasured and honored, there is also a need for us to be ready to change when God leads us to!

That's just a bit.  So much more is going on right now, but I'll have to write about that later!

For now,

- Tim B.
 
 
Yesterday in Youth Bible Study I taught on "Death and Dying".  At first glance this sounds like a depressing topic!  However, as we got in to the Word and discovered a Biblical perspective on death and dying we quickly learned that hope is around every corner and in every word of Scripture.

Here's a recap of the main points:

1.  Contrary to popular belief or the ideas represented in the theme song to the Lion King ("The Circle of Life"), death is NOT a "natural" part of life.  In fact, death was not a part of God's original plan, nor will it be a part of His final plan.  Death is a consequence of sin and the Fall, and understanding that truth makes the pain we feel when confronted with death make far more sense.  See 1 Cor. 15:21-22, Romans 5:12, Romans 6:23.

2.  Again, contrary to what pop culture thinks is "in" right now regarding the afterlife, when we die we don't go to purgatory or limbo, we don't become ghosts and wander the earth, we're not annihilated, reincarnated, or anything like that.  When we die, we go straight to God and face judgement.  At that point, considering we're all sinners before God, it's a pretty good idea to have a relationship with Jesus, as He will claim you as His own!  See Heb. 9:27, Rom. 3:23, John 3:16

3.  As Christians, it is okay for us to experience the full range of emotions God gave us and mourn for loved ones - Jesus did - as long as we maintain our Biblical perspective on death and dying and profess faithfully the hope we have over death in Jesus.  See John 11:35.

There may be some things that seem surprising to you when you begin to understand a Biblical perspective on death and dying.  What doesn't sit well with you?  What suddenly makes all the sense in the world?  What lingering questions do you still have?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!