Leadership. Seriously!?!

Teaching on leadership in youth ministry is sometimes like buying stock in the Green Bay Packers for Canadians, WORTHLESS!

We teach on the character of leadership, leadership traits, develop leadership teams, buy leadership curriculum to take our students through so they can be better leaders. WHY?

Because leadership is the new buzz word in church and I think we drank the Kool-Aid without thinking.

Leadership, in it's essence, is a spiritual gift given by the Holy Spirit from God to his children.

Do you focus as much time, energy, study, preparation, research and conversation with other on any of the other Spiritual Gifts that your youth would have received?

When we give our youth examples of anyone they should look up to we instinctively parade before them "leaders" and 9.5 out of 10 times they are male. Why?

Do we not know any women who lead in the history of Christianity? Where have all the women gone in our stories, in our conversations? Why do we always need to be reminded of the women of faith and not just remember them?

Women who have the spiritual gift of leadership or any of the other spirit gifts for that matter. Start using them as examples as you speak to your youth. Know the history of the women of the Christian faith.

An focus more on the spiritual gifts then on the office that someone holds.

Here's a brief movie clip about a movie that has a female hero in the lead role for the first time in the history of PIXAR. It's time that we start sharing about the female heroes of the Christian faith as well.

by Disney/PIXAR

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Mentoring Devotional Download

Our friends over at Barefoot Ministries are giving you the opportunity to download at no cost a 14 day devotional on mentoring. My good friend and author of this great tool for you and your youth leaders, Paul Sheneman has been very gracious to us in allowing you to have this for free.

Download it here.

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Free training by @peergiving to help charities & churches thrive online http://ow.ly/9e8aM

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Going Slow with Dr. Low

The Holy Season of LENT
Today is Ash Wednesday which is the first day of Lent.  Many people are not familiar with Lent or don't practice it in their churches or their personal lives but most people are familiar with the Season of Advent.  Just like Advent helps prepare our hearts and minds for Christmas, Lent provides us a similar opportunity with Easter.  When we don't celebrate Advent Christmas can come and go so quickly and we can lose the meaning of it.  Easter too can come and go so quickly that it's easy to skim over the incredible sacrificial journey Jesus took for us.  When Easter is limited only to a day, or maybe a long weekend, it can end up being just another holiday where we get a break from school and work and go shopping with friends and family.

So one of the big advantages of celebrating Lent is it gives us a 40 day period, almost 6 weeks, to focus on the Easter miracle and the Good Friday sacrifice.  During this 40 days Christians are invited to spend more time praying, fasting, worshiping, serving and tithing than we usually do.  Focusing more on our faith in these intentional ways can help turn our hearts and minds towards Easter weeks before it's on our doorstep.

It's been traditional for hundreds of years for Christians around the world to give something(s) up for Lent such as chocolate, meat, liquor and other luxuries that are difficult for people to sacrifice.  In the past it was often food related because these types of foods were considered delicacies so people really missed them when they couldn't have them for 6 weeks.  Nowadays many people are giving up things technology-related because technology has become the comfort, treat or indulgence that special foods were hundreds of years ago.  For example, every year some of the students at Rocky Mountain College in Calgary go on a technology fast.  For the 40 days of Lent they give up social media, texting, gaming and/or movies in order to give more time and attention to their faith.

Why give something up for Lent?  Well, for starters, it's hard to add in more prayer, journaling, serving, tithing etc. when our lives are already so full of things that keep us busy and satisfied.  So sometimes we need to give things up so that we more time and energy for God, and seek Him to satisfy us rather than the usual things we use in our culture to satisfy or even sedate us.  You might be thinking, "Ya, but that sounds really hard!" - especially the technology fast.  Well, that's the point, it's supposed to be hard.  If giving something up for Lent isn't hard then you can't really call it a sacrifice.

Why sacrifice?  Partly to give yourself more time and energy for other things and partly to recognize your comforts and maybe even addictions so you can turn to God to comfort you, fill you and heal you rather than turning to other "gods" as we so often do.  The other reason for sacrificing during Lent is because Lent is largely modeled after Jesus 40 day fast in the desert before His crucifixion.  Biblical scholars agree that Jesus' time in the desert was about preparing Him and strengthening Him for the journey ahead.  He was tested and tempted in ways that strengthened His faith and trust in God rather than giving into worldly comforts.  Lent is an invitation for us to follow His example and symbolically join Jesus in His journey towards the cross.

I did not grow up practicing Lent in my church or my family but began following the tradition in my late teens.  Every year it is such a rich experience for me as it turns my heart and mind towards Jesus in a way that wouldn't happen if I just keep going about my regular life routines.  Every year I give up one or two comforts which forces me instead to turn to God when I'm tired, bored, obsessive, depressed, lonely or whatever rather than turning to my usual fixes.  This has become a very formative part of my Christian walk so every year I look forward to it even though it can be very challenging.  This year I will be giving up chocolate and Facebook Scrabble.  That means every time I gesture towards eating chocolate or playing Scrabble (several times a day for both) I will have to catch myself and turn my attention towards God to fill my desires rather than these instant fixes I am so accustomed to.

If you have any questions about Lent feel free to write me at coach@frombeginningtoend.org and I would be happy to join you in exploring Lent this year.

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Tara's Game Time List - On Prayer

There are several memories from being a high school student in my church’s youth group that stand out above others.  One of those moments was when one of the youth leaders named Tara was speaking and she pulled, what appeared to be an old folded note, out of her pocket.  She said, “this is my ‘game time’ list”. The edges of the paper were stained blue from her jeans and it opened with ease as if it had been unfolded and refolded a hundred times. 
As she was unfolding the paper I could see that it was covered in hand written names.  She began to cry a little bit but then quickly regained her composure and said “The reason why I’m crying is because this is a list of my friends who I pray for to meet Jesus”.

Tara explained that she prays for her friends everyday. She encouraged us as students to pray for our friends that didn’t know Jesus.  It was that week in grade 11 that I started to pray through my yearbook every night. Praying for my friends from school transformed my life.  A passion for evangelism and service welled up in my heart and when I prayed for my friends I heard God speak to me about His love for them and his call on my life to be an ambassador for Christ.   As I began to pray for my friends I saw the hand of God moving in my their lives.  I remember praying everyday for my friend Jared and how incredible it was when he decided to start following Jesus.

Today when I preach I remember that my persuasive words cannot produce a lasting passion in side of the hearts of students.  I can remind them that they are lights in their schools and missionaries to their friends but unless God works in their heart the passion will not last. When we create environments of prayer we create an opportunity for them to catch a piece of God’s heart. 

I am grateful for my youth leaders who created a culture of prayer. 
As a response to this short post, ask yourself, ‘how can I create an culture of prayer in my youth ministry’?

Jason is the director of campusfire, a ministry partnering with local churches to empower high school students to reach their schools. Jason graduated from Simon Fraser University in 2010. He has been married to his best friend, Rachael, for two and a half years, and their mission in life is simple: to see students live out their faith in the midst of culture, and to encourage them to lead their friends to Jesus.

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4 Volunteers You Need On Your Team

Working with volunteer staff can be the most rewarding, or most frustrating part of doing youth ministry. Your team will either take the reigns and run with the vision, loving and pastoring students or stall all forward momentum. I have been a part of youth ministry volunteer teams for more than a decade now and I have seen many different teams come together and if I were to put together an all-star team I would look for these four types of people.

The Cheerleader – We all need one of these people, when you announce an event or a retreat from the pulpit, they are the people in the crowd pumping people up about it. This person is all energy, and can rally the crowd in a way that adds validity to our claims that an event is going to be a “Can’t Miss”. They pump it up on Twitter, on Facebook and anywhere else people will listen. I have a few on my team, but could always use a few more

The Straight Shooter – My friend Jason takes someone with him every time he speaks at an event and not because he needs a friend with him, but to keep him honest and give him feedback on his preaching. We all need that person whose opinion and feedback is not taken personally but instead comes from a caring friendship and serves to improve our leadership. We all need someone to challenge us to be better, who can tell us where we missed the mark with our preaching and can offer safe and constructive feedback.

The MacGyver- This is that person who can do anything with next to nothing, constantly looking for needs and trying to fill them. A servant heart, loyal caring nature, a take charge attitude and willing to take on any task that needs to be done and make it happen. We have a guy like this on our team that just loves to serve, has no assigned tasks, but seems to be everywhere at once, his name is Matt and he is a legend!

The Encourager- This person is more valuable than they will ever know as their sincere words and feedback can really be all that keeps you from leaving after a youth night thinking, what the heck happened and what I am doing here? Last year I had a team member that would write me notes, or pull me aside to just encourage me, offer prayer and just be a great friend. There were nights that it was all the kept me from staring at the ceiling all night wondering if I could get my old business job back.

I know there are more types of people than just these four, but when I think of the people on my team I know that it would not function nearly as effectively or as organically without these types of people serving and leading our students and each other. Is there a type of person on your team that you could not imagine not having?

Geoff Stewart is the Youth Pastor at Peace Portal Alliance Church in Surrey B.C. where he oversees Journey Student Ministries. He is married to Lavonne and they have two cats, Norman and Puff Daddy. Geoff Blogs all over the place and tweets often, but not TOO often. Follow him on twitter @geoffcstewart.


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Prayer of Transformation

Over the past few weeks my attention has shifted to preparation mode for an upcoming mission trip with a group of grade 11 students going to Guatemala in just over 6 weeks. I have had the pleasure of leading and being part of over 20 trips in my my life, but this one opened my eyes a tad to some old thinking I had in my younger leadership days.

As I met with parents, team leaders and students our attention turns to prayer. Not that it had been missed or even neglected it in fact had its central part in all we were doing. When I self examined myself I found myself praying with parents "Lord we pray for safety" or travelling mercies or protection. Now this is not wrong to do, I would even say we need to pray for those things, but perhaps for me it is not to be the first prayer out of my mouth as it has been. A simple word that I have heard so many times in ministry, classroom and conversations came to mind and has been there since. "Transformation." I used to pray for protection, safety and trip details, because those things effected me. How would I handle all those things. However I have been reminded that transformation is something God does and is in control of, not me. When I sent my prayer letter out for the trip I started by asking for prayer for students to be transformed, that is my hope now, not just for safety and a good trip so parents and leaders will think well of me.

This generation of students who I see as crusaders and those who want to make a difference have less concern for being comfortable or safe, it is God who wants them to be transformed.
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Going Slow with Dr. Low

My name is Rob Low and I'm a Spiritual Life Coach.  One of the main focuses of my ministry is helping people to slow down, stop, wait, listen, retreat and rest in God's presence.  Without this kind of reflective and prayerful practice many of us simply keep spinning our wheels at top speed and miss some of the growth and learning opportunities God brings us daily.

This is especially important for youth workers and youth themselves.  Most youth and youth workers run at a pretty fast pace.  Life is busy and full; ministry is demanding; friends, family, church, school and jobs take a lot of time and energy.  God understands this and is with us in these ventures and in the midst of it all He invites us to rest - to rest in Him.  And this is just not an invitation for those who are tired and worn out, this is an important invitation for us all because it involves our very salvation and strength:

"...In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength..."
 ~ Isaiah 30:15

  • Do you have an over all attitude of repentance or do you just repent from specific sins from time to time?
  • Do you ever spend time in rest and quietness or do you fill your time with as much noise, people and activity as possible to fill the lonely moments?
  • Where does your salvation come from?  Resting in God or working harder yourself (or perhaps a bit of both)?
  • Are you feeling strong these days?  What do you need to ask God for today?

Don't make the mistake many youth and youth workers make - filling their life as full as possible so not only is there no time for quiet time with God but seemingly no need because we feel full and satisfied with other things.  Stop, look, listen...slow down and join Jesus in His teaching and example of Sabbath Rest.  Jesus, of all people, was very busy, active and successful in His ministry but he regularly modeled rest and retreat as He pulled Himself aside to seek intimate, life-giving moments with His Father.  God loves spending one-on-one time with us; are you taking Him up on His invitations?

For more information on Dr. Low or his Spiritual Life Coaching Ministry click on his website or his blog.

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A Friday Thought from Acts...

Today, my mind is wrestling with the supposition that Acts 2:42-47 represents the church at her best, fullness, and completeness in this world. Is this even possible in our world of 2012? Does youth ministry have a head start (or an easier time potentially realizing this fact)?

Acts 2:24-47 says this, "42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." (The Living Bible)

The church was favored by all people. Can our youth ministries be favored in the communities that we live in? Are they? What would it take to be favored?

The interesting thing was that Jesus was favored by folks at 12, but not 33. People couldn't understand what He was attempting to do. I'm wondering, if the church in Acts isn't more like Jesus at 12, or a new born baby - pristine - yes, new - yes, perfect - yes, but not mature, not without a whole lot of growing to do. . .

What does this mean for our youth ministries? Is this what we need to be striving towards?

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Out of It

Have you ever felt “out of it”? Perhaps you’ve had a foggy head from being sick, bogged down with too much to do in too little time, or just felt out of the loop in a crowd of people.

That’s how I found myself on Monday. I was over spent from the busyness of a long ministry weekend, my head was getting congested and just plain worn out from the stresses that we have faced as a family over the past few weeks. I described how I felt to my wife as “deeply tired with no end in sight”.

And so, as I was lying in bed I cried out to God.

I’m tired.

I’ve run out of ideas.

I’m not sure what to do next.

I don’t know what to do with the plans I’ve made.

And while my prayers/thoughts/reflections to God were varied, the theme was the same: God, I’m out of it.

Out of strength. Out of courage. Out of dreams. Out of ideas. Out of possibilities.

And then I heard it. God’s voice as quiet as can be, whispering to my heart.

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. Psalm 62:5

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

And that’s when I remembered. That when I am at the end of myself, God is already there. He’s “It”. He is all I need.


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Supporting and Maintaining Youth Workers

Here are 7 tips for supporting and maintaining youth workers via a video blog I did for an online Youth Ministry Conference back in November 2011:

1.  Build healthy relationships with them
2.  Meet regularly with them
3.  Motivate and affirm them
4.  Provide them with a variety of responsibilities
5.  Evaluate them
6.  Clarify expectations with them
7.  Pray with them and for them

"The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few."  Matthew 9:37

Clayton Imoo is husband to Gail and father to sons Sean Isaiah and Jacob Isaac and daughter Kayla Marie.  He has served as the Director of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver for the past ten years.  Learn more about him at http://www.claytonimoo.com or follow him @claytonimoo

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Understanding Your Ministry Landscape

Whenever I meet a new Youth Pastor one of the first things I tell them is, do some research and learn the Ministry Landscape that exists where they are. The leg work in doing this research will help to have a greater understanding of what is going on, what has gone on and help them get things going faster and easier. Here are the 3 P’s of the Ministry Landscape.

People: Get to know the other Youth Pastors in the area; these guys and gals will be your greatest resource. They know the lay of the land, they know people, the might even know some of your students and above all they are knowledgeable. Attending your local youth ministerial meeting might seem arduous, but the value that comes out of it will be greater than the time invested. Shared responsibility on events, brainstorming, accountability, and prayer and support are available for you there, you just have to show up. Having people that know the culture where you are and know what to look out for are invaluable.

Para-Church: Besides youth groups, what else is happening? Young Life, Youth For Christ? Spending regular time in the High Schools is becoming more and more challenging and if you are wanting to visit the schools, chances are Young Life already does and they can help you navigate through the many hoops it can take to get in. Spend time getting to know these people, because there is typically overlap in students between your ministry and theirs, they are a great ally to have as they are in the schools, and often closer to and more in tune with the youth culture than we can be.

Past: It is really important to understand what has happened if you are new in the area. Unfortunately, there are many instances where the Church, or Youth Pastors are not seen in the favorable light. A moral failure, a well publicized injury or lawsuit or anything like this can make being a YP that much more challenging. It’s important to understand what has happened, peaks and valleys of the Ministry you are taking over as well as the others around it and what has caused them. The more you know about the history, the better you will be at planning to avoid past pitfalls.

Before you go in and gut your new Ministry, take the time to get to know the landscape, the people and the stories. The value that will come of it will help you as you discern the next steps in the building of His Kingdom.

Geoff Stewart is the Youth Pastor at Peace Portal Alliance Church in Surrey B.C. where he oversees Journey Student Ministries. He is married to Lavonne and they have two cats, Norman and Puff Daddy. Geoff Blogs all over the place and tweets often, but not TOO often. Follow him on twitter @geoffcstewart.


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A little video from Guinea, Africa to inspire you to get your dance on this Friday http://ow.ly/8ZQ6O dance inspirational

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I was sitting across the table having a one on one conversation with one of my students. He was stuck. He didn't know what to do and he had just told me another version of so many stories I've heard before. I knew I needed to say something as he looked at me with awkward glances.

During our conversation I was listening, taking mental notes, but most importantly I was asking Jesus to give me the words to say to this young man. I think I was begging with Jesus for the right words to say because my initial thought was to say, "suck it up buttercup."

As I took a deep breath about to impart words of wisdom to this young man he broke the silence by saying, "I'm sorry to bore you with this but I just don't know what to do." I quickly responded with the first word that came to my mind, "Wow!" I thought to myself, "did I say that out loud?" This young man had just poured his heart out to me for the past 15 minutes, asking for my advice and I started my response with 'Wow'. What was I thinking?

Yet, what I didn't realize was that one word would be the hinge that opened the door to our conversation. We continued our conversation for the 90 minutes and its sparked other conversations down the road and our relationship went deeper then I could have ever imagined.

This conversation reminded me of some of things I love about youth ministry:
Shepherding students is messy: when I enter the lives of students I must allow them to enter my life. the pain, hurt discomfort and unsettling frustration that they have going on in their lives is when I share with them my stories of pain, hurt, discomfort and unsettling frustration. if teenagers rooms are messy, so are their lives. the one thing that I have to remind myself is that my life is also messy.

Process with students: life is full of things we like and don't like. when you and your students experience one of those things, process with them, but don't allow your emotions to dictate your response with your students.

Resource your students: have follow-up resources on file and ready to help your students process through circumstances. if you don't have the answers, don't pretend you do.

These are three things that I've found that help me as a youth worker. What would you add to this list?

Read the full post at thinkyouthministry.ca

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A Powerful Reminder of "Why" and "What" we do...

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