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How to create unity in your youth small group

When we want our small groups to thrive, unity within the group is essential. If our small group members are aloof, combative or indifferent, realizing growth will be hard. But what can you do as a small group leader to promote unity? Here’s my advice, based on my own experience as a youth small group leader.

What can you do to create unity in your youth small group? (Photo: Stephen Eastop)

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How Evernote can change the way you work in youth ministry

 

Going paperless is completely possible with Evernote

This post is part of the Time Management in Youth Ministry seriesEvernote is one app that has truly changed the way I work. Not only that, but since I started using it about two years ago, it has saved me a considerable amount of time, energy and frustration. In a previous post I discussed 3 great ways to use Evernote in youth ministry. Today I’d like to show you how Evernote can change the way you work.

Go paperless

A year and a half ago, my husband and I decided to go paperless as much as we could. We bought a Fujitsu ScanSnap, a portable mobile scanner that scans all paper formats like crazy (take note that we own the Mac version of the ScanSnap, there’s another ScanSnapfor pc users).

And we tested it to the limit, feeding it every bit of paper we could find: policies, official correspondence, college notes, readers, conference proceedings, newspaper or magazine clippings, handwritten summaries from books, handwritten notes from sermons, courses and conferences, recipes, correspondence from friends over the years, bills, business cards, minutes from meetings, old spiritual diaries, mind maps I’ve made over the years, copies of important documents (passport, driver’s license, birth certificate) and much, much more.

By now, we have scanned over 35,000 papers and every time something new on paper comes in that we want to keep, we scan it. We’ve only kept hard copies on paper of the most important things (like current insurance policies) and everything else we’ve simply thrown out. I. Love. It. The ScanSnap (we affectionately call it Snappy) isn’t cheap, but it’s been worth every dollar so far. Continue reading How Evernote can change the way you work in youth ministry

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How not to start a sermon: 8 starts to avoid

This post is part of the series on Preaching for youth. The first minutes of a sermon will determine the overall ‘success’, especially when preaching for youth. If you lose them at the start, chances are you’ll never get their attention back. So how you start your sermon when preaching for youth is crucial. Here are eight starts you should avoid:

1. Shocking start

I’ve seen preachers use this technique and so far, none of them were successful. Starting with something shocking (a shocking video, quote, song, joke, etc) may seem like a sure way to grab your audience’s attention, but if often backfires for several reason. First of all, after a shock, it’s hard to keep interest for the rest of the sermon. You peak too soon so to speak. Secondly, the shocking part often has no relation to the topic, so the audience feels cheated and somewhat used and will lose interest. Thirdly, it’s easy to offend or even hurt when trying to shock your audience, which will have obvious adverse results.

Lady Gaga is someone who has the concept of 'shocking your audience' down to an art. But how long can she keep it up? Even shocking can become predictable.

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3 great ways to use Evernote in youth ministry

Evernote is by far one of the best apps I’m using. It’s one of the few apps that truly make a difference in my life and saves me tons of time, energy and frustration. I am convinced that Evernote can help you become more efficient and effective as well as you serve in youth ministry. I’ll show you why.

What is Evernote

It’s an app (either web based or installed on your MacBook, laptop, pc, smartphone, etc) that lets you collect any digital information and store it. The basic version is free, but the premium version I’m using has tons of extra features. Check the differences between basic and premium out on the Evernote site.

You can add files in any format (basic version only allows for images, links and pdf), clip complete webpages to Evernote (where they are readable as pdf), share notes via Twitter, Facebook or email and you can even do voice recordings when you want to record your thoughts. If you add a scanner (like the Fujitsu ScanSnap we have, take note that you’ll need another version of the ScanSnap if you have a pc), you can scan anything you want to, straight into Evernote. It’s a dream come true.

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Using personal testimonies in preaching

This post is part of the series on Preaching for youth. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there is nothing that keeps folks more interested when listening, than a story, preferably a good one. Which is one of the reasons why you should consider using personal testimonies when you’re preaching for youth. So let’s run through the 5 W’s (and the how) of using personal testimonies.

What is a testimony

With personal testimonies I mean the personal account of any person about what he or she experienced with regards to their relationship with God. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the story of ‘how they got saved’, it can be about anything they learned, felt, experienced, etc. When you’re preaching for youth, it would be perfect if you can get teens or students to share their story. It will be much more powerful than any adult (though adult testimonies are of course great as well!) I’ve had students tell about how they discovered their gifts, how they found freedom in Christ, how they decided to get baptized, etc.

It’s important that the testimony fits the subject you’re preaching about. Good preparations are necessary here. When you now what you will be preaching about, try to find a student or an adult with a personal story that complements your main point (and you do have one, right?). If you can’t find a testimony that relates to your topic, than let it go because a testimony about something else entirely might diminish your message.

The testimony of a student struggling with God can have as much impact (maybe even more) than than a success-story-type testimony

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Time management in youth ministry: Getting Things Done


We’d never heard of the name David Allen or the book Getting Things Done when we picked it up at JFK airport in September 2004. But it proved to be one of the most valuable and life-changing books we’d ever bought, because it showed us a way to become more productive without working harder. Here’s some of what I’ve learned and how it applies to youth ministry. Continue reading Time management in youth ministry: Getting Things Done

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Keeping your audience’s attention: 5 things you can do while preaching

This post is part of the series on Preaching for youth. We’ve been thinking about ways to keep your audience’s attention when preaching for youth. In the previous post, we looked at several things you can do in advance. Today’ we’ll discuss things you can do while you’re preaching to keep student’s attention or get it back if needed.

A key aspect here is that you actually know when you’re losing your audience’s attention. Whenever possible, watch your audience while you’re talking. First of all, eye contact makes people feel seen and valued and will help to hold their attention. But even more important, you will be able to pick up signals that you are losing your audience, and will be able to do something about it. These are some indicators that you need to grab their attention again: whispering/talking to others, shuffling their feet, getting out their cell phones, looking down/away, focusing on something else than you/the stage/the screen, looking at their watches/the clock, grabbing bulletins/Bibles/anything else to read, etc. When you see your audience do this, you’ve lost their attention. Now get it back. (Here’s more about how to read your audience)

If your students starts texting during your sermon, you can be fairly sure you no longer hold your audience’s attention

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Keeping your audience’s attention: 8 things you can do in advance

This post is part of the series on Preaching for youth. Teenagers are notorious for their short attention span. Yet I have seen them listen to speakers for 45 minutes and even more, fully interested and captivated. The reason? These preachers managed to keep their attention. So what’s their secret?

There are some things you can do in advance, when preparing your sermon, to ensure you’ll keep your audience hooked. I’ll discuss these in today’s post. But there are also things you can do while giving your sermon, to make sure you keep the attention or to get it back when you’ve lost it. We’ll talk about these next time.

If you want to prepare a sermon that will keep your audience’s attention, here are 8 things you can do: Continue reading Keeping your audience’s attention: 8 things you can do in advance

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Preaching for youth: Using Stories in Your Sermon

[This post is part of the Preaching for Youth series] Stories are a powerful tool when preaching for youth, for any audience really. People love stories, we sit up and pay attention the minute someone starts telling a story and it seems like we are wired such that we always want to know how a story ends.

Think about it, the parts everyone remembers best about the Bible are the stories. As a matter of fact, lager parts of the Bible are narratives…Daniel in the lion’s den, Samson destroying the Philistines, David and Goliath. These are powerful stories that keep us engaged till the end. And Jesus did the same thing, using stories over and over again to make his point. Continue reading Preaching for youth: Using Stories in Your Sermon