Conquering ourselves

Mountains

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re usually right.”

Henry Ford said those words and I have to agree with them. I am often my own worst enemy and my ‘inner dialogue’ is not helpful a lot of the times, as I struggle with low self esteem.

“It’s not the mountains we conquer, but ourselves.”

It’s why Sir Edmund Hillary’s quote rings so true to me. I don’t know if you recognize his name, but he was the first man to climb Mount Everest together with Tenzing Norgay and Hillary climbed many mountains after that. I have no intention of trying to climb Everest (though one never knows – I;ve certainly grown to love hiking the last year), but I think he’s right. No matter how hard the task before us, it’s not the task that we have to conquer, it’s ourselves.

If we keep telling ourselves we can’t do something, that we’re just not good enough, not holy enough, not old enough or wise enough or whatever enough…then we’ll never do it.

In what area do you have to conquer yourself?

Mountains

Your greatest path of influence with teens

love

As youth workers, we are striving to make an impact on the life of teens. Ultimately, out goal is to make them into devoted followers of Jesus. But how do we get them there?

Programs?

Bible studies?

Sermons?

Discipleship?

Small groups?

I think these all have their place. But sometimes we focus so much on these, that we forget our greatest path of influence with teens: love. Unconditional, selfless, Christ-like love. [Read more…]

Bullying brings status: an anti-bullying policy for youth ministry

bullying

Bullying is gaining more and more attention from researchers, school, parents, lawmakers and others and rightly so. In the last few years, there have been several heartbreaking stories of the effects of bullying and it’s a serious problem we need to address as youth leaders as well.

We can’t pretend bullying doesn’t happen in youth ministry. I should know, I left the teen ministry of my own church as a teen because I was bullied and the leaders did little or nothing to stop it. I still attended my ‘home church’, but I was involved in another church’s youth ministry (one that was way less radical in its message I might add!) because I was accepted there and felt safe.

We need to stop any and all bullying in our youth ministries. But what does an affective anti-bullying policy look like?

[Read more…]

The power of shame: I’m saying ‘me too’

shame

If you have never heard of Brene Brown, you’re missing out. Brene Brown is ‘Vulnerability TED’ as she says herself, a worldwide ‘celebrity’ after her famous TED talk on vulnerability I blogged about before. It’s a talk that has had a lot of impact on me as well, which was why I was very motivated to watch a new TED talk from Brene Brown, this time on shame.

Now shame and vulnerability aren’t topics that appeal to a lot of us at first glance. But what Brene Brown has to say is important and it has consequences for how we do youth ministry as well.

In youth ministry, I think we’re at a cross point, a point where we have to choose a new direction, a new way of doing things. But deciding on a new way of doing youth ministry involves risk, innovation, change…and none of these happen without vulnerability and every single one will make you face shame.

[Read more…]

The 7 regrets of youth pastors (1)

regrets graffiti

I’ve been in youth ministry for about fourteen years in one capacity or another. Looking back, I sure wish I would have done some things differently. I’m fairly sure many of us feel that way.

Now I personally think regrets are a waste of time but ‘7 things many youth pastors wish they’d done differently in hindsight’ didn’t sound quite as catchy for a title…

So here, we go with 7 things many youth pastors wished they had done differently aka the 7 regrets of youth pastors:

1. Avoiding conflicts

As Christians, we’re supposed to be loving, kind and forgiving. The problem is that this often results in an avoidance of conflict at all costs. I’ve let certain situations continue for too long because I wanted to avoid a conflict. Well, the conflict happened anyway and it was much nastier than it would have been if I had faced it head on.

[Read more…]

Helping teens deal with difficult situations at home

Some of our teens face a really difficult situation at home. How can we help them deal with this?

There’s no such thing as a perfect family, but some of our teens face a more difficult situation at home than others. Their parents are divorced, they’re growing up in a single parent family, they’re part of a complicated family structure with step- and half-siblings, you name it. Or they have to deal with unsupportive parents who are not doing a good job in raising them, who take their own frustrations out on their kids.

How do we help our teens to deal with difficult situations like this with their parents? Is there anyway we can help them, equip them? Can we in anyway compensate for what they miss out? Here are some of my thoughts.

1. Help them understand

While it’s certainly not their task to be the adult in the relationship, it does help if teens understand their parents better. That means we may need to take the time to explain difficult family dynamics, or educate them on the effects of for instance divorce or loss.

We need to be careful not to condone any negative behavior, but we can try to make the teen aware that there are reasons for it. Also, it’s important to realize that this is especially tough for younger teens who have a hard time understanding abstract concepts and emotions, so make it as clear and concrete as you can.

If we can help teens understand their parent(s) better, it’s a good first step in coming up with a constructive approach to the situation.

Some of our teens face a really difficult situation at home. How can we help them deal with this?

[Read more…]

Do you know your ‘red buttons’?

Red buttons are certain words or behaviors that trigger a disproportionate response in you. Do you know your own red buttons?

A couple of years ago, I was doing a management training provided by the hospital I worked for back then. One of the topics was team work and the trainer asked us to think about a specific coworker or employee we had trouble working with because they irritated us for some reason.

Someone came to my mind immediately: an experienced nurse whom I respected very much, but who frustrated me to no end. The trainer then explained the concept of ‘red buttons’: certain behavior or even certain words that trigger an excessive, overly emotional response in you.

I immediately knew the trainer was onto something and after some analyzing, I could figure out what went wrong with that nurse. She was patronizing me. She had over 30 years experience as a nurse and she made me feel it. I liked her as a person and I valued her as a nurse, but every time we interacted she pushed that red button with her attitude (though I’m sure she didn’t even mean it like that).

I understood something that I had not seen before. My reaction to her was disproportionate. Yes, she was patronizing, but I could handle other negative behavior (like gossiping about me or challenging my authority) far more easily than what she was doing. Obviously, being patronized was a red button.

Red buttons are certain words or behaviors that trigger a disproportionate response in you. Do you know your own red buttons?

[Read more…]

Why reading fiction is good for you

Research has shown that reading fiction isn;t just relaxing, it's actually good for you because it helps you understand human emotions better in real life. Who knew, huh?

I love reading. Not a day goes by when I don’t pick up a book at some point an read a few pages…or a whole book. Obviously, I read a lot about youth ministry, leadership and related topics. But I also read a lot of fiction. Reading fiction is one of those things that really fills up my tank and prevents me from running on empty.

Yet I’ve often felt guilty about reading fiction because it feels like such a waste of time. Sure, it’s relaxing and everything, but not very useful…or is it?

It turns out reading fiction actually has benefits. I quote from a recent Harvard Busines Review post:

Over the past decade, academic researchers such as Oatley and Raymond Mar from York University have gathered data indicating that fiction-reading activates neuronal pathways in the brain that measurably help the reader better understand real human emotion — improving his or her overall social skillfulness.

In short: reading fiction helps you to understand real human emotions better, it improves your social skills. Ha! I always knew I was on the right track there…

Research has shown that reading fiction isn’t just relaxing, it’s actually good for you because it helps you understand human emotions better in real life. Who knew, huh?

[Read more…]

The power of vulnerability

Every now and then you hear a message that has a profound impact on you. The TED talk on the power of vulnerability I saw the other day is such a message. Brené Brown calls herself a researcher-storyteller and some years ago, she did research into human connections. That research quickly turned into research on shame and vulnerability. She made a discovery that changed the way she lived her life.

I urge you to take 20 minutes to watch this video of her talk about what she discovered on why some people seem to be able to live ‘wholehearted’ and why others can’t:

[Read more…]

What to do with a teen pregnancy in your youth group

teenage pregnancy

It’s a tough one this week, the question of the week. Last week I got into contact with a British youth worker who was wondering how to approach the situation of a teen in her youth group being pregnant. I figured it was a good topic to write a bit about, since unfortunately it’s something we can all encounter. What do you need do when a teen in our youth group is pregnant?

There are a few practical things to consider and then there’s the more emotional and pastoral stuff. Let’s start with a few practical guidelines you’ll need to remember when dealing with a teenage pregnancy in your youth group:

Know the law

It’s important first of all, to know your legal obligations. Unfortunately, not all teen pregnancies are caused by voluntary sexual relations between teens. That means your knowledge of the pregnancy can have legal ramifications. Are you obliged to report it if the pregnancy turns out to be caused by rape, incest, or from sex with an adult? Know the law so you can do the right thing and be honest about this with the teen(s) involved.

Don’t promise confidentiality

While confidentiality between youth workers and teens is crucial, a pregnancy is not something you should promise to keep a secret. Sure, you can give the teen a week or so before telling her parents because she may need some time to think about how to do this, but don’t ever promise to keep it confidential. You can’t and you shouldn’t, this is something the parents should know and be involved in.

Seek help

If you know you’re in over your head, seek help. There are people who deal with this on a professional basis and who can give you information, help, and support. Don’t feel like you have to do it all yourself, if it’s too much or too big for you, it’s in everyone’s interest that you seek help and/or let someone else handle it.

[Read more…]