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Time management in Youth Ministry: designing the ideal week

In the series Time Management in Youth Ministry we’re checking out all kinds of ideas, tools and tips for becoming more efficient and more effective. Today’s topic is designing the ideal week. What would your perfect work week look like? Note that I’m saying work week, not vacation or retreat. I know what that would look like…we’d all head to Hawaii, right? But let’s focus on work, if you were to describe your ideal work week, what would you wish for?

Have you ever though about your ideal work week?

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Preaching for youth: Sermon Language

This is part four in a series on preaching for youth. Today we will focus on language. What guidelines are there with regard to the kind of language you have to use when preaching for teens or students? Here’s my list of three things you should avoid.

Don’t try to be hip

It can be like, you know, really irritating if you are trying to be down with the lingo, you know? Like, really irritating. Enough already.

Don’t start using words you wouldn’t normally use, just to appear hip and happening. You’ll come across as fake and sort of desperate. Trust me, not the kind of image you want to project. You don’t need to be anything else but yourself to connect with youth. Continue reading Preaching for youth: Sermon Language

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Time Management in Youth Ministry: becoming efficient and effective

I’m one of those people who believes in the benefits of good time management. Why would I want to spend an hour on something when half an hour would be enough if I would just do it differently? Over the last ten years, I have tried out many things to become more efficient. Some were very successful, some not so much, and in this new series on Time Management in Youth Ministry I will share much of what I have learned, along with some lessons others have written down.

Generally speaking, as youth leaders we need all the efficiency we can get, because there’s always more work than can be done in the time we have. Our overflowing inboxes prove that we’re still not on top of our email, our to-do-lists seem to get longer instead of shorter and there’s always this nagging thought in the back of our head that we still haven’t done this or that…

Time management can help you become efficient: doing more useful work with less energy

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Four risks of making your sermon too practical

[This post is part of the series on preaching for youth.] we’ve all heard it at some point: teens don’t have the abilities yet to deal with abstract concepts (or more accurately: some do and some don’t and even the ones who can, aren’t able to ‘go abstract’ all the time). That means our messages for teens need to be concrete, practical.

However, there are several risks involved in making your message too practical. Yes, there is such a thing as too concrete and too practical… Continue reading Four risks of making your sermon too practical

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Preaching for youth: What’s your key message?

This is part of the series on preaching for youth, be sure to check out the rest of the series! There are myriad ways to write a sermon. Some people prefer to write it out word for word. Others only write down keywords. There are people who are a big fan of using mind maps in one or more phases of their sermon preparation. All in all, it doesn’t really matter, you just have to find a style that suits you.

One thing is essential though, regardless of your method, and that is your key message. Every sermon has to have one, and it’s no different when your audience consists of teens or students. In each sermon, you should only discuss one key message, one central idea. Continue reading Preaching for youth: What’s your key message?

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Preaching for youth: what to preach about

An important topic to consider when preaching for youth is what to preach about. As always, there are different ways of approaching the choice of a text (and yes, I’m assuming you will use the Bible when you teach!). Some people pick a verse or more to preach on, and then study it to derive its message. Others prefer to come up with a theme or topic first, and then study the Bible to find appropriate verses. I’m not denouncing either method, they both have their distinct advantages and possible down-effects.

What is important to keep in mind when choosing your subject and your verses is this: the younger your audience is, the more trouble they will have with abstract thinking. Teens are simply not capable of much abstract reasoning, so you’ll have to keep your message concrete. That also impacts the verses you want to talk about. Continue reading Preaching for youth: what to preach about

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Why parents can’t understand their teens

I just googled the search term ‘why parents can’t understand teenagers’. The results were interesting. First of all, Google wanted to make sure I didn’t mean ‘why parents don’t understand teenagers’. I didn’t. But searching for the reason why parents can’t understand teenagers, I only came across reasons why they don’t. And in the top ten of search results, there were also some sites with complaint from teens that their parents ‘just didn’t understand them’.

But you see, it’s not just a matter of not wanting to understand, or not trying hard enough. It’s also a matter of not being able to. And that has to do with our emotional memory.

Can you remember what it felt like to be a teenager?

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Asking the right questions to get your small group talking

Everyone who has ever lead a small group will have run into this: a small group that is eerily quiet with too long periods of uncomfortable silence. Questions keep lingering in the air, without anyone offering an answer, or the answers are of the one syllable kind. For a leader, a small group that won’t talk, that won’t share, can be a real struggle. One of the reasons for a small group to keep quiet can be that the leader is asking the wrong questions. Because asking the right questions will get your small group to talk!

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The importance of a code of conduct for your youth ministry

Does your youth ministry have a code of conduct for all volunteers and leaders? If not, I strongly advise you to make one, or to discuss doing this with your leader or pastor.

I’ve discovered that a code of conduct creates clarity for all involved, helps prevents conflicts and promotes a culture of transparency and accountability (actually, the same goes for all youth group rules that you create together and communicate). The process made us even grow closer as a team and helped me renew my motivation to be a youth leader. Continue reading The importance of a code of conduct for your youth ministry

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Get your small group to share with awareness questions

You know what it’s like. You’re about to start with your small group with teens and you are sincerely interested in how they are, how they have been these last week or two since you last saw them. But the standard question ‘how have you guys been?’ will result in only one or two kids answering and even their answers will be shallow (unless you’re blessed with one of those over-sharing types in your small group, in which case you may have a different challenge all together). So what question can you kick off your small group session with to really get them to share open and honestly? Here’s my advice: ask an awareness question.

What is an awareness question?

An awareness question is a question you ask, that makes your students aware of a specific emotion or experience in a certain time period, usually the last week or two. Each session you can focus on a different emotion or experience, and as the group gets more open, you can make them more personal.

It’s important that you let each member of the group share his or her experience and that you determine a time limit to prevent long winding stories (2 minutes per person usually works). If you have a group of young teens or if you have a few kids that have a tendency to respond negatively to people’s weaknesses, you might consider telling them not to react to each other’s story with questions or remarks. Just make them listen to each other at first.

Awareness questions can help your small group to share and become closer

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