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

Rules: it’s the ‘how’ that matters to teens

rules

Contrary to what you may think, teens don’t have a problem with rules. But they may have an issue with how you bring them. How you communicate rules as a youth leader or a parent is a huge factor in teen’s decisions whether or not to stick to these rules.

The University of Gent (Belgium) has come to these conclusions after multiple researches amongst young people. Their conclusion is that you shouldn’t avoid rules with teens, but how you introduce them is important.

If you introduce rules in an authoritative and forceful way, teens will feel threatened in their freedom and will likely act out the opposite of the rules. This phenomenon is known as psychological reactance and it’s been well documented in several researches.

 

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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?

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How to create support for your ideas and plans

support

You can have the best ideas ever and create strategic plans for your youth ministry ‘till you’re blue in the face, but unless others support you, you’ll never get anywhere. It’s very important to have vision, but it’s equally important to have people support your vision. So how do you do that? How do you create support for your ideas and plans and get people to cheer you on? It’s all about the three R’s:

Research

Reputation

Relations

Research your plans

The first thing that’s important is that your plans for your youth ministry are well researched and well developed. You need to know what you’re talking about and be able to back it up with numbers, statistics and facts. Many plans are grand in scope, but very sketchy on the details and no one will support those. People need to see your vision is  grounded in reality. [Read more…]

Do you know your ‘red buttons’?

red button

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). [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?

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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:

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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.

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Peer groups and peer influence: does it matter?

What influence do peer groups have on teens? How do we deal with this in youth ministry?

It’s Friday and that means it’s time for another round of the youth ministry question of the week. Do you have a question about youth ministry that you would like to see discussed? Leave a comment or send me an email!

This week’s question involves the issue of a peer group. This is what Jenni wrote about her teen group:

How much does peer group matter and can we overcome the ‘problem’ of not having a peer group within our small youth group? We have a group of about 6 or 7 from age 11-16 and none of them really relate very well to each other, despite most of them having been in the same church most of their lives!

What influence do peer groups have on teens? How do we deal with this in youth ministry?

 

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