Helping youth thrive

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It’s not often that you encounter people with the passion for youth of Peter Benson. His whole TED Talk titled ‘How youth thrive’ shows his love for young people and it encouraged me.

Peter Benson is not a youth pastor however; he’s a psychologist who does research amongst young people on their ‘spark’. By ‘spark’ he means a skill, a cause or a quality that makes people thrive, that makes them happy and whole.

In his talk, he shares some interesting statistics. Right now, there are 80 million young people aged 8-18 in the US. But only 25% of these 80 million are on a pathway to human thriving (meaning being happy, connected, kind, contributing, etc.) and the rest has fallen behind. They are lost, confused, medicated and alone. Those statistics should give anyone involved in youth work food for thought. [Read more…]

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

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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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The 7 regrets of youth pastors (1)

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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.

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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?

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How to create support for your ideas and plans

How do you get people to support your ideas and plans? It's all about the three R's: research, reputation and relations.

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 will 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? 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.

If you have a plan for instance to reach unchurched youth by opening a youth café, support it with a realistic budget, solid prognoses for attendees, requirements for the room/building needed, etc. The more detailed your plan, the easier people will support you.

How do you get people to support your ideas and plans and basically cheer you on? It's all about the three R's: research, reputation and relations.

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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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How to motivate your volunteers for youth ministry training

When your youth ministry volunteers appear unmotivated, ask yourself if that's really the issue. Maybe they're just extremely busy or maybe your training is boring...

We’re doing a blog series on how to train your youth ministry volunteers and we’ve been looking at creating a youth ministry training plan. But what if your volunteers aren’t motivated for training?

Is it really lack of motivation?

The first question you have to ask yourself is if the issue really is a lack of motivation, or if there are other problems. In my experience, lack of time is often the biggest cause for volunteers to not be interested in training. It doesn’t mean they’re not motivated, it means they have no time for the training. And who can blame them when they’re trying to fit in their family, jobs and their youth ministry related activities into their schedule.

When your youth ministry volunteers appear unmotivated, ask yourself if that's really the issue. Maybe they're just extremely busy or maybe your training is boring...

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Why you need to explain the ‘why’ of rules

If we explain the why of rules, youth are far more likely to accept them

My almost four-year old son is in the why-phase. Whenever I say something, his standard reaction is ‘Why?’. Why do I need to be in the car seat? Why do I need to to go to bed? Why does daddy get five meat balls and I only get two? Why can’t I take rabbit (his favorite stuffed animal) to Kindergarten? Why won’t you buy me that toy?

It’s sometimes annoying, it’s requires patience, but it’s also incredibly challenging. He has managed to make me think about the ‘why’ of things more than I have ever done before. And the funny thing is that when I take the time to explain the ‘why’ of things to him in a way that he can understand, he is often satisfied with the answer. He accepts rules much easier if we explain the ‘why’ of the rule to him.

In youth ministry, it’s really not that much different. When we take the time to not only tell the rules, but explain the why, teens accept the rules much faster.

If we explain the why of rules, youth are far more likely to accept them

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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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