Last night I did a one-shot message on "Labels".  Before we started I covered myself in labels on which I had written some pretty negative words - "ugly", "fat", "stupid", "lost cause", "smelly", "loser", "unloved"We opened with some discussion on how labels can be helpful or hurtful, and why people tend to label each other in hurtful ways.  We then read the story of the woman caught in adultery, and talked about the names the men who dragged her before Jesus must have been calling her, and the label she was given as an adulteress/sinner/temptress/worse (and probably rightfully so - sometimes our labels aren't entirely inaccurate!).

But the interesting thing is that Jesus - in a deeply profound way - removes all of these voices from around this woman, before addressing her directly.  Perhaps she expected another label to be heaped upon her - "rejected", "condemned", "mistake"...

But instead Jesus says He does NOT condemn her.  She is "forgiven", "free", "released", "challenged", "called".

I gave each student a blank name tag at the beginning of the night.  During our closing prayer time I asked them to, when they felt God speaking to them, write down the "label" they thought God would place on them.  After the prayer, I asked any who would like to share to explain what their label said and why they felt like that's how God saw them.  It was super-emotional and we had some awesome discussion to end the night.

You can buy blank name-tags at any office supply store or download a template for mailing labels online.

Let me know if you try this exercise and how it goes for you!

- Tim B.
I'm working through rethinking/revamping a lot of what we do in our student ministry at FBCCS this year.  One change we want to make is simple, but could have a big impact.

In the past we've called our entry-point midweek youth event... "Youth Group".  I know, EPIC, right?

It's been fine - we haven't really pursued a name for our midweek in the past, but we want to give our time with students a name other than "youth group".  First of all, we want to call our midweek something that reflects the reason we are there - to create an exciting, safe environment for students to encounter Jesus, ask questions, feel loved and accepted, and learn how to take the next steps on their faith journey.  We also wanted a name for our midweek that sounded more invite-friendly for our core students.  Inviting a friend to "church youth group" is fine, but we feel like we can do better.

So we're working through a list of potential names - there are some great YG names out there, and some TERRIBLE ones!  Here's a list we're distributing to students and leaders, with a little tag line next to each name to help them get a picture of where the name is going.  Each person that receives the sheet circles their 5 favorite names, then will put together a short list of candidates and let students vote on a winner in the coming weeks.

I can't wait to let you all know what we decide and share the new name of our midweek service with you!

Here's the list of names:
(CLUB) 180: Turn your life around!
ESCAPE: No more normal.
PULSE: Signs of Life.
ENCOUNTER: Meeting God.
24/7: Following Jesus every second!
SOLID GROUND: Standing Firm!
UNDERGROUND: Join the movement!
XTREME: Living a life that matters!
ALIVE: Living life to the fullest!
AXIS: Jesus at the center!
BLAST: Blowin’ it up for Jesus! BIG HOUSE: Room for everyone!
COLLIDE/COLLISION: Where faith and life meet.
CROSSROADS: Meeting in the middle.
DIVE: Jump in!
YOUTH CHURCH: Speaking to you where you’re at.
DEEPER: Getting below the surface.
DV8 (Deviate):No more normal! (Romans 12:2)
ELEVATE: Taking it to the next level!
EMERGE: A generation rising up.
OASIS: A safe place.
FUEL: Feed the fire.
GROUND ZERO: This is where it happens.
HIGHER GROUND: Looking up and up…
IMPACT: Making a difference in students’ lives.
INVERT: Turning life upside down.
JOLT: Jesus offers life today.
MOMENTUM: Gaining and sustaining!
MOSAIC: Different pieces, one masterpiece.
ONE WAY: Pointing the way… John 14:6
OXYGEN: Coming up for air!
PURSUIT: Following after Christ!
RADIATE: Shining in the darkness.
REFUGE: A safe place.
S.O.S. – Sending out a message…
VERITAS – The truth, nothing but the truth.

Which one is YOUR favorite?- Tim B.
It's crucial for your youth ministry team to all agree upon a standard and strategy of YM for you to succeed.  As a way to align our team, before any volunteer can serve in the youth ministry at FBCCS they have to complete a background check, have a one-on-one interview with me, and read over and sign our leadership covenant.

We ask leaders to commit to three areas:  Christ, the Church, and the Youth Ministry.  The covenant sheet elaborates on each of these.  Click here to download it to your computer (tip: right click then select "save target/link as").

I'd love to share it with you here.  I know you can find freebies like this all over the place, but maybe this one will fit your needs or inspire you as you create your own.  This is yours - edit it, use it however you want, and you don't even have to give me any credit!


- Tim B.
Since I work at a recovering church in transition, I've largely worked without a job description for the last five years.  This has presented a number of challenges, not least of which is dealing with the question of what exactly I'm supposed to be doing!

But as we work through so many transitions at FBCCS and move towards focus in ministry in 2011, one thing the pastor, myself, and our personnel team are working on is crafting "forward-thinking" job descriptions for the areas of ministry I'm involved in.  I use the term "forward-thinking" because instead of simply describing what I am currently doing, I want to craft a framework for ministry that describes what I - or whoever comes after me - should be doing in order to achieve the best results.

So, with all that in mind, I'm experimenting with a new process for writing out these job descriptions using the acronym "P.E.E.P.E.E."

Yeah, that's right.  Peepee.  Each letter stands for a responsibility/step in a ministry, and though they would look different in application within each ministry, should (in theory) be transferable job-to-job.  This may benefit you if you are in a similar situation to me, crafting your own job description.

Here's what each letter of PEEPEE stands for:

PHILOSOPHY: The staff minister is responsible for crafting a philosophy/vision/strategy for his/her area of ministry.  Of course, this should be in line with the church's overall philosophy/vision, and should be done in conjunction with the direct supervisor/supervising team (in my case, my pastor).

ENLISTING: The next area of responsibility is recruiting people to do the work of ministry alongside you.  I can't think of any ministry areas in the church that shouldn't be done in a team setting.  A staff minister should seek to build a team that accomplishes the goals of his/her ministry.

EQUIPPING: After the staff person enlists congregation members to serve within his/her area of ministry, the process of equipping those people for the task at hand begins.  The staff person should not be the one that does all of the work of ministry, but rather the one that directs and equips (Eph. 4:12).

PLANNING: After enlisting and equipping, the staff member must then begin the process of planning out all aspects of the ministry - making sure the right people are in the right place and that the logistics of the service/outreach/program are ready to go.

EXECUTION: You've enlisted, you've equipped, you've planned - the next step for a staff member is executing the service/program/ministry experience/whatever.  This is the "pulling it off" phase of ministry, and often the only part of our jobs that people ever see.

EVALUATION: An often overlooked, but crucial step of a staff member's responsibilities is evaluating his/her area of influence.  Evaluation should be continuously impacting all previous levels of the process.

I probably need a better acronym (something less bodily-function-ish), and I'm not sure how this will shape up on paper, but I'm going to give it a try and see how it goes.  I look forward to sharing drafts of the job descriptions I come up with and how the process goes with you on here!

- Tim B.
So my ten-year youth ministry anniversary and my 29th birthday happened to be two days apart.  There were a lot of different emotions I thought I would go through marking both of these milestones at around the same time.

I thought I would feel a sort of desperate motivation to make this - my tenth year of YM and my last year in my 20's - THE year that I made something big happen.

I thought I'd also feel a lot of regret about where I'm at, and more importantly where I'm NOT, in ministry.

But do you know what I feel more than anything looking back on the last ten years and thinking about what I've "accomplished"?  I feel thankful.

Thankful that ten years ago someone took a chance on me and gave me an opportunity to speak, to teach, and to lead.  Thankful that over the years teenagers have let their guards down and allowed me the privilege of walking with them as they seek to discover who God is and what His plans for their lives are.  Thankful that parents have allowed me in to their homes to engage their children and families and be a part of something bigger than what happens within the four walls of the church building.  Thankful that in the best of times and in the worst of times I've been afforded the privilege of simply being present in young people's lives.

But more than anything else, I'm thankful that God has used me to introduce people to His Son and then say "forget me, follow Him."

For the past ten years, and all that God still has in store, I am so very thankful.

- Tim

PS - If you've been a part of my journey over the past ten years - whether in a big or small way - I am deeply indebted to you for your friendship, wisdom, and presence in my life!  Thank you so much!  People who I am especially thankful for and who deserve being mentioned by name are: Trisha, Teresa, George, Will, Steve, Dale, Joyce, Travis, Chad, Julie, Pastor Tim, Pastor Steve, Pastor Ronny, Greg, Heather, Amanda, Bob, April, Amy, Cindy, and Ron.  And many, many others!
If you're doing a message/study on spiritual growth any time soon, you can use a short quiz I came up with to get your students talking.  Click right here to download the "Ready.Set.Grow!" quiz.  (Tip: right-click on the link, then select "save target/link as".)

With quizzes like this, you have to be careful to remind students that it's just a piece of paper, not an official diagnosis of their spiritual health, and the whole point is simply to get them thinking about their spiritual growth. I used this quiz and then just asked one simple question after it, before leading in to the rest of the message - "In the last year, do you feel like you've grown a lot, a little, or not at all?"

Also, a great and more open-ended idea to get your students talking about spiritual growth is to create a "graph" like the one above I drew on butcher paper.  Label one end as "salvation" or "the beginning of my walk", and label the other end as "spiritual maturity" (using those words alone can lead to a good discussion about what spiritual maturity even is).  Give each student a post-it note, let them write their name on it, and then have them all - at the same time - come up and put themselves where they feel like they are on the "growth" spectrum.  Be sure to remind them that this is not a time to make comments or laugh because of where someone puts their name on the graph.  ALSO, make sure you don't make the same mistake I did - putting yourself up there first, as most if not all your students will assume they need to be behind you on the growth spectrum.  Oops!  Then ask one question and let them discuss: "Why did you put yourself where you put yourself?"  I was amazed at the honesty and insight our young people offered up during this exercise.  It was awesome!

If you use either of these ideas, let me know how it goes!

- Tim
On January first, I officially reached the ten-year mark of serving in Youth Ministry (in some way, shape, or form).

On January 1st of 2001 I started as "Youth Intern" at First Baptist Church of Fairfield under the youth minister there (shout out Chad Ricks!).  My primary responsibilities were developing worship for the youth group, leading the junior high guys' Sunday School class, and occasionally helping plan events/activities.  I learned a TON in my time at FBCF, due in no small part to the fact that I had only been a Christian about 6 months when I started interning.  I'm so thankful that I was surrounded by patient, discipleship-minded people who were willing to take a chance on me and encourage God's calling in my life.

Since then I've worked at camps and in various church settings doing a myriad of things, but always tied to or directly involved in YM.  I landed in full-time YM+ (youth ministry PLUS other jobs that come with being on staff at a smaller church, i.e. worship, tech, media, etc.) at First Baptist Church of Cold Spring in October of 2005, a little over 5 years ago.

Aside from all I've experienced in Youth Ministry, in the last ten years I've also married my beautiful wife, graduated college, and welcomed Grayson - my son - into the world.  It's safe to say that the last decade has been the MOST important, definitive, life-changing, insert-a-thousand-other-profound-adjectives-here of my life!

I'm hoping to write several posts over the next month or two reflecting on my experiences so far in YM and my thoughts on the future.  There's a lot going on on the inside of me right now, and I'm expecting God to do some amazing things in the very near future!

Thanks for reading this blog and my ramblings here, and if you're on the YM journey with me, I encourage you to stay faithful and walk strong - there's a generation out there that needs the men and women God is calling to reach them!

More coming soon...

- Tim
Many youth workers use PowerPoint, MediaShout, or other presentation software in their ministry to display sermon/talk notes, song lyrics, game slides, etc.  The truth is, I have seen some BAD media over the years in youth groups.  It's easy though, when pointed to the right resources, to take your presentations to the next level.  There are two quick ways to spice up your visuals - fonts and backgrounds.

Let's cover fonts first.  A lot of youth workers will build their presentations using only the fonts that are preloaded on their computer.  Here's a simple slide I made using "Comic Sans" - the go-to font for children's and youth ministries:
It's not awful, but there's certainly room for improvement.  Let's see what we can do if I take a few minutes to download a free font from one of the MANY websites that offer them.  My favorite is www.1001freefonts.com

Now, here's the same slide, but I switched the font to a free one I found called "Dead Secretary" (not crazy about the name):
A HUGE improvement!  Downloading a few eye-catching font sets will vastly improve your presentations and add some flair to what could be some drab visuals.

Here's a few more quick font tips:

1. Don't be afraid to use two different fonts in a presentation (NO MORE THAN TWO!).  Use an elaborate font for the title/headline, and another easier-to-read font for the body.  For example, type your Scripture up using a large, elaborate font for the reference (i.e. John 3:16), and a smaller simpler font for the text.

2.  Try moving the font around on the slide.  Align it left, right, center, top, and bottom to see where it is the most eye-catching.

3.  If it works, make the font slightly transparent.  Allowing a little bit of the background to seep through can add some texture to your words and makes it look more like a custom graphic instead of something you typed up on your own.

Good luck, and get creative!