Utilizing Skype in Student Ministries

early computer

Last year I was an interim Freshman Bible Teacher at a local high school. Our students were reading through a book, and I thought it would be awesome to finish out the project by doing a Skype Q&A with the book’s author. The classroom has a smart board in it (which is basically a 6-foot iPad on the wall). That never panned out, but my dream… wouldn’t… die. Are you inspired yet? ­čśë

Years ago I flew in an incredible apologist to come and speak in my High School Ministry. After paying for the flight, hotel, food and honorarium it got a bit expensive. It was worth it, but it was expensive. I wanted to bring him back right away.

And then it hit me… why not Skype him in?

No flights. No meals. No time away from his family.

We have the technology available (laptop, strong internet connection, mics). SO WHY NOT?

And it’s working out. It looks like we’ll lock him in at about 1/4th the cost! He’ll have to do some prep and do two 30-minute Skype sessions, so I want to honor his time with an honorarium… but he’ll get to speak from his house, with all his resources right there in his lap, his family down the hall, while getting piped into our youth room hundreds of miles away.

Is anyone else utilizing this kind of technology in a ministry setting? It seems like such a win-win!

Couch Races

Here’s an event idea for youth pastors.

Last week we had 14 teams face off for our first-ever High School Ministry┬áCouch Race. We transformed our church’s parking lot into a simple race track. We piled hay bails at the sharp turns, but thankfully nobody crashed into them! We decorated with race flags I found on Amazon for next to nothing, set up some speakers, and I did the color commentary. We got couches from local thrift stores from $6-$20.

We had 14 heats, then the 2 teams with the top times raced to determine the overall champion. I got some fun trophies from a local trophy shop to award our overall champs, 2nd place, last place AND the couch that was “Most Likely to Survive a Zombie┬áApocalypse”. That team got Chuck Norris bobble-heads.

It was a GREAT way to kick off the school year- giving a handful of our groups something to work on together. The kids are already asking for us to do it again next year.

Take a peek: 

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/50449583″>Couch Race Recap</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/missionhs”>Mission HS</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

My Worst Sermon Ever

They say public speaking is the #1 fear for most people.

That seems silly to me, maybe because I’m comfortable speaking to large groups… but also because I’m much more afraid of guns, sharks and checking my bank account balance.

But on a Wednesday night back in 2008, I stood in front of a large group of teenagers, microphone in hand, and I was petrified.

I have been speaking once or twice to students since the beginning of 2002, not to mention some camps, trips and other events, so I had probably given 700 or 800 sermons before that day. At least a dozen of those sermons were the same topic that I was about to teach through.

It was week #1 of a love/sex/dating series. There were probably a couple hundred kids in the room.

It was absolutely horrible.

  • Problem #1: I was still pretty new on staff, so I didn’t feel like I had much credibility yet. All I had going for me is that I was (usually) funny, and that I looked like Dane Cook.
  • Problem #2: About an hour before we met, another youth group of about 40 said they were going to visit our group that night. They all walked in looking like they wanted to stab me.
  • Problem #3: Our church’s lead pastor decided to come visit us on this night, and this night alone. He stood in the back the entire time, right underneath a light fixture.
  • Problem #4: I titled the sermon, “Taming the Inner Stallion”. I was trying to be funny, but it was a dumb title that didn’t fit. I definitely avoided eye contact with the Lead Pastor while sharing the title.
  • Problem #5: I had no passion whatsoever, and I spoke with no authority. All of the sudden I didn’t even know if I agreed with what I was saying, like, ya know?

At one point I froze up, and I think I made eye contact with every confused kid before I uttered another word…

At that point what I could have (SHOULD HAVE) done is wrapped it up and trusted the Holy Spirit to translate my mess into something helpful.

But no, I am stubborn… and I thought, “I can fix this”.

Thirty minutes later, I wanted to drive to the Huntington Beach pier, cover myself in shark bait, and take a dive. I think I faked a stomach ache and went home immediately.

I say all of this because tomorrow night I’m kicking off a 3-week teaching series on love, sex and dating.

Wish me luck ­čÖé

My Worst Sermon Ever

They say public speaking is the #1 fear for most people.

That seems silly to me, maybe because I’m comfortable speaking to large groups… but also because I’m much more afraid of guns, sharks and checking my bank account balance.

But on a Wednesday night back in 2008, I stood in front of a large group of teenagers, microphone in hand, and I was petrified.

I have been speaking once or twice to students since the beginning of 2002, not to mention some camps, trips and other events, so I had probably given 700 or 800 sermons before that day. At least a dozen of those sermons were the same topic that I was about to teach through.

It was week #1 of a love/sex/dating series. There were probably a couple hundred kids in the room.

It was absolutely horrible.

  • Problem #1: I was still pretty new on staff, so I didn’t feel like I had much credibility yet. All I had going for me is that I was (usually) funny, and that I looked like Dane Cook.
  • Problem #2: About an hour before we met, another youth group of about 40 said they were going to visit our group that night. They all walked in looking like they wanted to stab me.
  • Problem #3: Our church’s lead pastor decided to come visit us on this night, and this night alone. He stood in the back the entire time, right underneath a light fixture.
  • Problem #4: I titled the sermon, “Taming the Inner Stallion”. I was trying to be funny, but it was a dumb title that didn’t fit. I definitely avoided eye contact with the Lead Pastor while sharing the title.
  • Problem #5: I had no passion whatsoever, and I spoke with no authority. All of the sudden I didn’t even know if I agreed with what I was saying, like, ya know?

At one point I froze up, and I think I made eye contact with every confused kid before I uttered another word…

At that point what I could have (SHOULD HAVE) done is wrapped it up and trusted the Holy Spirit to translate my mess into something helpful.

But no, I am stubborn… and I thought, “I can fix this”.

Thirty minutes later, I wanted to drive to the Huntington Beach pier, cover myself in shark bait, and take a dive. I think I faked a stomach ache and went home immediately.

I say all of this because tomorrow night I’m kicking off a 3-week teaching series on love, sex and dating.

Wish me luck ­čÖé

This Church Sucks…

One of the risks of having a large church or youth ministry is that people can go unnoticed.

We’ve taken steps to make sure that new and current students are greeted, included, and followed up with after they visit on a Sunday, but apparently our process isn’t perfect.

A student wrote this on the patio outside of our youth room a couple weeks ago:

Every single Sunday we have two small groups scheduled to do all of the greeting and new student check-in. They stand in our hallway, at the doors, and even inside the room. They’re there 15 minutes before service and 15 minutes into the service. It seems like a perfect setup… but we missed one.

For 3 years this kid has been coming, and for 3 years he has felt ignored.

Jesus leaves the 99 to go after the 1 who got disconnected. I love my 99, but this is a pretty clear cry for help.

This story does have a good note. One of my leaders saw this student right after he wrote this. He went up to him to talk to him but the student was angry and brushed him off. I looked for him the next week and saw him in the back of the room, in the farthest corner. He was sitting right next to another one of my students who had no idea about this little graffiti incident. He saw him sitting alone so he went over to talk to him and to sit with him.

I take a lot of pride in my students and our greeting format, so at first I got defensive and wanted to write this kid off. I want to blame him for not doing his part to get connected. I’m not going to do that though. I’m going to use this as inspiration to work even harder on making sure every kid feels like they’re noticed and known in our gatherings.

Q & A with High School Students

A couple weeks ago we asked our students to write down any questions they have about Christianity, faith, spirituality, and that sort of thing. I’m going to answer a handful of them from the stage over the next few weeks, and then I’ll answer the others on video and post them on our ministry blog. Here are a handful of good ones I am looking forward to answering. (Side note: I will do my best to answer them. I don’t want to come across like I’m some answer machine when it comes to all things spiritual).

  • What will heaven be like, specifically?
  • How does predestination work?
  • What makes this religion (Christianity) different from others?
  • Where do religion and evolution meet?
  • Are the stories in the bible supposed to be taken figuratively or literally?
  • Are only Christians going to heaven?
  • What does God say about dating?
  • Can God help me get better at something?
  • Does God believe in love at first sight, or is it a myth?
  • How do I know if God is mad at me?
  • Is it OK to be mad at God?
  • Did Jesus feed 5,000 people or 4,000 people? The gospel accounts don’t say the same thing.

How Many You Got?

It’s the question that 98% of youth pastors hate to get asked:

“How many kids you got coming?”

Why? Because most of us don’t have huge youth groups.

My guess is that most groups have about 15 students coming each week, and that’s probably a combined crowd of Junior High and High School students.

My attendance was in a constant state of flux for years. I became the Golden Boy one year when I hosted an event with over a thousand teenagers in attendance. My title didn’t last long.

We had about 200 kids coming for a while in my Junior High Ministry. Then I transitioned to High School where we’d peak around 160 but then valley in the 60’s at times.

Nothing had changed but the attendance. I was doing the same thing year in and year out. I was working hard. I was committed. I was even putting together “evangelistic” events and teaching through topics that we intended to draw crowds. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.

Today I’m the same guy, doing the same thing (sort of), teaching through the same bible… but this year our attendance is way up.

I can’t take the credit because I’m doing the exact same thing I was doing when I got fired for my low attendance just 2 years ago!

Jesus would probably get fired by most churches if he was the youth pastor. He’d spend way too much time with kids and not enough time planning huge events. He’d be horrible using technology. I’m guessing he wouldn’t shop at Buckle. And come on Jesus… 12 students doesn’t really cut it if you’re church is MEGA.

Attendance isn’t everything, faithfulness is.

Hey youth pastors will small youth groups: you’re in pretty good company!

I worked my heart out for years and had 60 kids coming. I’m doing the same thing now and the numbers are up.

I think God is involved. God may have wanted me to have a smaller group for some reason. He might choose to cut my current group in half next year. He’s got the right to do whatever he wants. Or he may double it. Who knows!?

If your success as a youth pastor is based on your attendance, I’d like to introduce you to my friends at Church Staffing. Quit now, and go find a church that wouldn’t fire Jesus. Feel free to send me your resume’.

Don’t give up or give in.

Random Acts of Kindness

We had about 50 students and 15 leaders show up for our “Random Acts of Kindness” project on Saturday.

We took a special offering for the event for two weeks, then divvied up the money on the day of the event. We got them all into groups of 10, gave each group $100 three hours to go and do some covert serving in the neighborhood. Everyone seemed to LOVE it! Some of the random acts cost money, others didn’t cost a penny! Here’s a few of them:

They bought…

a necklace and ring for a woman.

movie tickets for a couple.

a Build-A-Bear for a child.

cleaning supplies to wash windows

Dairy Queen

a whole bunch of people Starbucks

a whole bunch of things at Walmart and Goodwill for random shoppers

toys for kids

dropped off flowers at the emergency room and toys for kids in the waiting room

delivered cookies to a mechanic shop, which led one of them to say, “Aww that just made a fat guy happy!”

delivered more cookies to a fire station

gave $6 to the Chik-fil-A cow standing on the side of the road waving at cars

handed out balloons to small children at the mall

There were a whole lot more… The students are anxious to get out and do it again. My hope is that they won’t wait for me to plan it.