We all know that some people learn best by hearing, some learn best by seeing, and some learn best by doing.  It's important for us as youth workers to engage students in a multi-sensory capacity so that we can give them an opportunity to encounter God's truth in the way that speaks to them most effectively.

So, whenever an opportunity presents itself for me to teach with words, visuals, and something tangible, it's exciting.  Last week I spoke on the cross, and during a response/prayer time at the end, I tried to engage students visually, audibly, and tangibly.  First, we had a video playing (see below) featuring a "Jesus Painter" (there are several of them, I'm not sure which one he was) that students could watch.  During the video the song "By His Wounds" was playing.  Finally, I gave each student a 10-inch metal spike to hold during this time, as a reminder of the price Jesus paid for us and as a physical point of focus.  They were able to take these home as well as a reminder/keepsake of the night.  

It was a great experience!  I recommend it, but with this disclaimer - I gave out the spikes BEFORE the message, and did so with a VERY strict admonishment that they were for a prayer experience later in the night and they were NOT to be used to stab your neighbor, or poke holes through the pages of the youth room Bibles, or carve your name on the back of a chair, etc. etc.  Because I did this I think it went well, but I think it's crucial that you address the potential distraction that they could be (this goes for any tangible illustration you use).

Let me know if you use this and how it goes!
 
 
If you ever need a quick game to fill some time or to break the ice with your kids, "Canny Do It" is great!  It's an older game, and I don't know where I heard it or who invented it, so I can't give credit except to say it's not originally mine.

Basically you split the room/group in to two teams (I really like guys vs. girls).  You then choose a random "champion" to come to the front (can be from either team, or it can be an adult leader).  Tell each team you are about to give them a task to do, but you won't tell them what it is.  They must "bet" on whether or not the champion can do what you're going to ask them to do.  If they are right, they get a point (or a million points!).  At the end of however many rounds you choose to do, the team with the most points wins.  

For the tasks, come up with some silly, random stuff.  Examples are:
-Do a cartwheel.
-Touch their tongue to their nose.
-Juggle three balls.
-Name all fifty states.
-Name the last four presidents.
-Name three people that you pick out of the group (first and last names).
-Eat a packet of kool-aid while keeping a straight face.
-Solve a long division problem.
-Eat 10 saltine crackers in less than 60 seconds.

Try this out - tweak the rules to fit your situation, make up some fun challenges (or better yet, have students write some down to use!), and have fun!
 
 
You can listen to the message from this past week's youth service by clicking right here.  It was a great night, and I've been doing good at keeping the messages around 20 minutes or less.  Let me know what you think!
 
 
This is an article I submitted to my friends over at YouthMinistry.com - click here to check out their awesome website!

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“Praise the Lord.  Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” - Ps. 106:1

“Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." - Col. 2:6-7

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” - 1 Thess. 5:18


It’s the time of year when many stop and take stock of all they have to be thankful for.  For us, as believers, an attitude of gratitude (yup, I went there!) is something we should pursue daily, not just once a year.

But why?  Why is it so important for us to pursue thankfulness as followers of Christ?

For every aspect of His own life-giving character that Jesus calls us to put on, He calls us AWAY from an aspect of our sinful nature that is destructive.  Another way to say this is that God calls us away from brokenness and towards wholeness in Himself.

So as we pursue giving thanks, which is “God’s will for us in Christ Jesus,” we move away from:

-Jealousy.  It’s hard to be jealous of what others have when giving thanks for what we’ve been given.

-Entitlement.  When I am grateful for what I have, I tend to stop thinking about what others, including God, owe me.

-Complaining.  Have you ever tried thanking God for something and complaining about it at the same time?  Try it.  It’s impossible!

-Bitterness.  We become bitter when we spend our time focused on what we DON’T have instead of being thankful for what we do.  It’s an easy hole to fall in to, but not an easy one to climb out of.

How does all of this apply to youth ministry?  Think about the list above.  Have you ever been jealous of someone else’s ministry?  I have.  Have you ever felt a sense of entitlement, that you DESERVE something that you aren’t being given, whether that’s praise, compensation, or whatever?  I have.  Have you ever complained about your youth ministry situation?  I have.  Have you ever wrestled with feelings of bitterness?  I have.

All of these attitudes can lead to self-destruction in ministry, but pursuing thankfulness can not only help us become closer to Christ and stronger in our walk with Him, but help us create healthier youth ministry environments in which we can lead young people away from these destructive attitudes in their lives and towards wholeness in Jesus.

So go ahead - take stock.  What can you be thankful for today?

 
 
Wanted to share an amazing game our youth have been loving!  Nine-Square-in-the-Air is a super fun hybrid of the classic game 4-Square and volleyball.  We first had it at our fall lock-in earlier this year, and it was a huge hit!  Youth were literally playing it all night long.  We also did an open gym/game night event this past weekend with 9-Square, and it was a big hit again!

Click here to visit the official website.  Confession - we built our own.  It uses a little more duct-tape and prayer to hold it together than the official set, but we put it together for a little less than $200.  If you've got the budget though, I'd definitely go with the official set.

It really is a lot of fun, anyone can play (it requires very little skill), and kids actually invite their friends just to play it!

Do you have any games/activities that bring kids out like Nine-Square has for us?
 
 

This is a letter I wrote and posted on Facebook after a young man in our community who many of our students knew took his own life.

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Suicide.

It’s not something we like to think about, and when we are faced with the reality of it, as many of you have been over the last week, it causes us to ask many questions.

“WHY did this happen?”

“Could I have done or said anything to prevent this?”

“Is this my fault?”

“Is my friend in Hell because they committed suicide?”

“IS suicide an option when it seems like there is no other way out?”

When dealing with the suicide of a friend or someone you know, it’s normal to grieve and to ask questions like the ones above.  There is never anything wrong with asking questions and putting words to the emotions you are feeling inside.  You NEED to work through those and talk to someone who you can trust and be open with.

Let me encourage you with a few thoughts.

#1 - You will never have all the answers.  The “why” question is often the most difficult one to deal with, because suicide, by its very nature, leaves many questions unanswered.  They say that hindsight is 20/20, and you may in fact look back and see many warning signs in your friend’s life, but know that when a person reaches the point of taking his or her own life, there is a lot more going on than what you or I see on the surface.  There are so many layers of doubt, depression, loneliness, hopelessness, etc., and often even psychological or physiological issues at play, and we will never know in this life all the reasons “why”.  As hard as it is, we have to bit-by-bit let go of our desire to completely understand what happened.

#2 - It’s not your fault.  Like asking “why”, looking back and thinking of all the things you did or didn’t do that might have saved your friend is ultimately a futile exercise.  All the “what if’s” in the world won’t bring him or her back, and they often lead instead to feelings of guilt or blame, both of which are unhealthy.  If you must ask “what if”, do it with a group of friends, or a youth group/church group and don’t focus on what you COULD have done but what you WILL do for others in the future.

#3 - Suicide doesn’t send a person straight to Hell.  Some religions teach this, but the Bible - which I believe is God’s truth - does not say ANYWHERE that suicide is an unforgivable sin.  I believe that there are Christians who have taken their own lives who will, by God’s grace and mercy, be in Heaven.  Ultimately, the issue isn’t how your friend’s life ended, but whether or not they put their faith in Jesus as Savior.  Never forget that we are not a people of despair, but of hope!

#4 - God has a purpose for all of us.  If you have ever had suicidal thoughts, or you see that your friend has “escaped” the troubles of this life and you wonder if it really is a way out, I want you to always remember one thing:  You are here for a reason!  God has a plan for each and every one of us, and the first part of that plan is that we would find our faith, our strength, and our hope in relationship with Him through His Son Jesus.  I hope you know what I’m talking about because YOU have that relationship, but if you don’t, let me ask you - what do you stand on when everything in this life falls apart?  What is your foundation, your solid ground?  We all need something - SOMEONE - greater than ourselves to hold us up when the brokenness of this life pushes us down.  Do you have that?  Do you know that kind of strength, that kind of hope?  If you don’t, I encourage you to talk to someone you know who is a Christian or even pick up a Bible and start reading the book of John.  If you are a Christian and still struggle with thoughts of depression or even suicide, find someone to talk to and remember God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11 - “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Suicide.

It’s a terrible, awful thing, and a reminder to me of how broken this world that we live in is.  I grieve for the loss of life and also the loss of potential - of all that those who choose to take their own life could have done to escape the darkness and then reach out to those still trapped in it with the hope of a better tomorrow.  My heart breaks for those left behind who have to struggle with all the unanswered questions. 

But more than any of that, I still remain hopeful, because there is One who is bigger than loneliness, bigger than hopelessness, bigger than depression, or doubt, or darkness, or death, and my life is in His hands.

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If you are having thoughts of suicide or need someone to talk to, you can message me by clicking the "Contact" tab above, or e-mail me at timisbatman@gmail.com.  Don't go through this alone!
 
 
Halloween is just a few days away, and I'm sure some spoooooky topics will come up with your students.  You can hear a message I gave to our youth on ghosts, spirits, and the afterlife by clicking right here.  Feel free to steal it!  
 
 
You can listen to the message from last night's IMPACT Youth service by clicking right here.  It's one of the shortest I've ever done, but that's probably because I'm talking like a hundred miles an hour!  I'd love to hear your feedback!
 
 
This is a post I did last year, I hope it benefits you today!

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 --> committed --> 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.

 
 
Ahhh.... so good!