Random Randomness

- We had our end of Summer beach baptism last night which was really neat. A funny highlight was losing a tiny, very slippery, 7th grade boy under a massive shore-break wave that caught us off guard. Talk about baptism by immersion!

- This weekend, we're starting a series called 'Old Timers' and we're going to take a look at a different Old Testament character each week. This week we'll be looking at King Saul. A fun element is our weekly video in which we got John Allen, our 77 year old volunteer, to dress up in a bible costume and share the story of the person of the week. He dressed the exact same for every video and just changed his opening: "Hi, I'm Saul", "Hi, I'm Shadrach", "Hi, I'm Esther"....should be pretty funny.

- Got turned on to a website called www.highrisehq.com yesterday. It looks like it could be a pretty cool tool for managing volunteers, students etc. It's sorta a database meets outlook meets personnel manager.

- On December 1, we are hosting our first Global Youth Summit on Aids. It's being tagged on at the end of the adult summit. I'm super excited about the potential to raise awareness and compassion in the students of So. Cal.

- My wife refuses to let us sleep with the air conditioning running (she has some crazy sense of financial responsibility, or something....) and the last three or four nights have been brutal. Windows open, fan running and a wet wash cloth by the bed to keep me cool!


Systematic Relationships

This is a follow up to the post and discussion from a couple weeks ago regarding regarding the importance of junior high relationships. Here's a follow up thought:

As your ministry grows, the ability to be relational with students becomes both more important and more challenging at the same time. I think there are probably three strategic ways to keep the relational touch in a ministry that is growing:

1) Recruit more adult leaders to help thus keeping the student-to-leader ratio small enough to ensure relational ministry.
2) Implement some sort of small group structure that allows the big group to feel smaller and helps emphasize the importance of relational ministry.
3) Create systems that help the ministry 'feel' smaller and more relational.

I think strategies 1 and 2 are probably getting most of the effort and attention (at least I know they are in our ministry). But what about strategy number 3? What systems can and should be in place to ensure kids don't fall through the cracks? What type of follow up strategy? How do you track kids? Do you take attendance? Do you have a database software and if so what is it (this is an issue for us right now)?

There's nothing sexy about systems, but certainly they are the third leg of the relational stool.



Internship Opportunities

Most of you would have no interest in this, but....

Our church offers 2 year internships, and our junior high team has a couple of spots opening up soon. If you are a college graduate looking to get some incredible, hands-on, experience we'd love to talk to you about the details of our internship program. You can read a little bit more about it for yourself here.


Weekend Wrap Up

Attendance: Average
Lesson Topic: Week 10 of our summer series: Road Trip Summer (Temptation)
'Fun Factor': Above Average
Volunteer Involvement: Below Average
Music: Above Average
Lesson Quality: Average
Length of Lesson: 22 minutes
Student Response: Average

Overall, a pretty decent ending to our Summer program. The highlight was our spontaneous game of "Singing Bee".

We had a game that didn't work very well at our first service, so in between services we quickly created our own version of Singing Bee. We simply picked two songs that we had loaded onto our iPod and played them for everybody to hear until we got to the chorus. At that point, we paused the song and the contestant had to try to sing the chorus....it was super fun.
The two songs we used: Since You've Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson and Fabulous from High School Musical 2.


Top 2 Volunteer Tips

If you are the leader of your junior high ministry, one of your roles is to develop some sort of team of volunteers to help you lead your ministry. Getting people on the team is a big step, but how do you keep them on board? Let me share, what I believe, the two most important things to do with your volunteer team:

1. Get Them On The Same Page: A team that works against each other is doomed. One of your most important roles is to get everybody heading the same direction.
- Why does your ministry do what it does?
- Why doesn't it do what it doesn't do?
- What are the ministry values?
- What is the purpose, mission, strategy etc. of your ministry?
- What are the expectations of being part of the team? What do you expect from them and what can they expect from you?

2. Encourage Them: Training is important (in fact it's one of the key ways you keep everybody on the same page), but I've seen far too many well trained volunteers leave youth ministry because they are worn out and discouraged. My theory is that if you keep your leaders encouraged, you'll have plenty of time to train them!

My suggestion:
- A formal interview process on the front end that allows you to get to know the potential volunteer. Do a background check, ask for and call references, work the potential volunteer through your purpose statement. Be clear in your expectations and what it takes to be a member of your team.

- Monthly or quarterly training meetings with the entire team.

- Regular, ongoing encouragement.
emails, coffee dates, group outings etc. Simple, low-maintenance ways to encourage your team and let them know you appreciate their sacrifice.


Random Randomness

-We are wrapping up our Summer series this week. I like the idea of a Summer-long series, but 10 weeks always feels long.

- We are on a short, three-day, vacation in Palm Springs with Ron and Katie Edwards. Ron's parents have a time share so we are staying in a REALLY nice resort at no cost.

- I went golfing today in 106 degree temperature and hoped to play alone. Instead I got paired up with another guy who had the foulest mouth I've heard in a while. He used all the classic words about a thousand times each and introduced me to several phrases I'd never heard. The Pastor and The Cusser on the course together. It was actually a pretty good time.

- My daughter downloaded most of the songs from High School Musical 2. How embarrassing is it to admit that I actually like most of 'em!

- I flew out to Colorado a few weeks ago to shoot 10 video small group lessons and learned today that something went wrong and two complete lessons never got captured. Now I'll need to fly back out for one day to re-shoot those which is a total bummer, but I promised my team we'd have 10 ready to go by Fall.

- I'm watching sports center and most of the stories are revolving around NFL and College football. The season is almost here! GO BRONCOS.


Barry Bonds Card

I was going through a bunch of old stuff while working in my garage, and ran across some old baseball cards. To my astonishment, I found a Barry Bonds rookie card, mint condition. I really think that at some point in the future Bonds will be exonerated of most all steroid charges and will go in to the Hall of Fame distinguished as the best hitter of all time.

If you, or anybody you know, might have an interest in buying this card, let me know ASAP. I'm giving it 2 weeks and then putting it on Ebay and taking whatever I can get for it. I've included a scanned copy of the card to show it's condition - as you'll see it is in MINT condition.

(SO to Alan Mercer)


Maximum Occupancy

...I'm wondering if this is what it looks like when Willow Creek takes their junior high ministry to the local water park.


Reaching the Un-churched 13 year old

I've been doing a whole lot of thinking lately....maybe a little too much. It seems like the majority of my recent posts are trolling for answers and insight which serves as a reminder that we'll probably never totally figure this thing out!

Here's my current wrestling match: What does a truly effective weekly junior high program look like?

In our setting, we've got a variety of programs for students at a variety of places in their spiritual journey, but we do have ONE PRIMARY program each weekend that is more of an entry level experience for students. This is the program we hope will attract un-churched students and the program we hope our regular attenders will invite their friends to.

It's a solid program, and one that I think is serving us well, but we're missing something.

Is it that we need more adult volunteers loving on kids? Is it that we need a better follow up system to help us notice when students are missing? Is it that we need better lights, a new fog machine and bigger screens (gosh, I REALLY hope it isn't that...)? Is it that we need to radically examine how we teach the gospel? Is it that the program is fine but we need to be spending more time with students on campus, at games etc. earning the right to be heard?

This could prove to be a lively discussion....so don't be afraid to fire away with your ideas, your successes, your failures and your reactions to what others say.


Training, Resources, Encouragement and More..

A reader recently posted this comment:

"I just discovered you, the simplyyouthministry newsletter, and the simply jr. high podcast. One question: where do I look to get your best training material? Podcast, articles from the newsletter, or somewhere else? (I miss the podcasts! But I’m sure you are crazy busy). If you have time, please let me know."

This reader may already be aware of the fact that there are plenty of other, BETTER places to get junior high resources and training, but I thought it would be worthwhile for everybody to share a few places, companies, people, events etc. you go to for your training, resources and encouragment. If you feel so inclined, include what that particular organization's 'specialty' might be.


Junior High 'Worship'

I've been in a little email discussion with several junior high youth workers concerning the best way to approach music/worship. Some questions that have been raised:

- What types of songs are best?
- Should students be able to understand all the concepts the words and theology of the songs they are singing?
- How often should new songs be introduced?
- Other than singing, what elements are being mixed in to the worship time?

Great questions.....what are your thoughts?


Weekend Wrap Up

Attendance: Below Average
Lesson Topic: Week 8 of our summer series: Road Trip Summer (How To Handle A Breakdown)
'Fun Factor': Above Average
Volunteer Involvement: Below Average
Music: Above Average
Lesson Quality: Above Average
Length of Lesson: 24 minutes
Student Response: Above Average

We had a really fun weekend. One of our interns, Brian shared the lesson and did a fantastic job! He told a great story that inner twined through the whole lesson that really connected with our students. Games were fun, music was great. All in all a good weekend.


Going Green

Today, we finished shooting our small group video curriculum....we shot 10 lessons in two days! Yesterday we were on location for the 'Bible Stuff' series and today we were in the studio filming the 5 lessons for 'Tough Stuff'...that's me doing a stupid "I have no torso" bit in front of the massive green screen. By the end of two frantic days of filming, we were getting a bit loopy.

I've already been asked if these videos will be made available, and if so when. Yes, Group Publishing is producing them for Simply Junior High and we hope to have both sets of video curriculum available by November 1st.


Video Road Trip

I'm on a quick road trip trying to film 10 video small group lessons in two days. Last year, we filmed ten lessons that our leaders could throw in the dvd player without any prep. The idea was that they would be used when a leader hadn't had time (or taken the time) to prep the usual lesson, if it felt like the group needed a break from the usual curriculum or for any other reason.

We purposely only filmed 10 lessons because we didn't want the use of video curriculum to become the norm in a small group. Despite the super poor quality lighting and sound, our groups absolutely loved the stuff.

So this year we are going way more professional in hopes of producing a much higher quality resource for our leaders and students.

I've written ten 'scripts' but I tend to freestyle quite a bit so it should be interesting. We've budgeted our time to allow about one hour per video! I'm stressed about the next two days, but excited to put some better stuff in the hands of our leaders.


Weekend Wrap Up Etc..

- Weekend: It was a pretty good weekend over-all. The weekend immediately following Summer Camp is always interesting because students are super tired, but super excited at the same time. I ditched the programs on our Lake Forest campus to head down to our San Clemente campus (A beach town about 30 minutes South) to be a part of their first Saturday night youth service. About 25-30 kids showed up and it was really fun. In fact it was fun enough to make me pause and wonder what the heck I'm doing in a massive ministry setting. The whole vibe was super mellow, highly relational and just wonderful.

- Another camp: My 10-year-old son, Cole, heads off to camp his afternoon and is pumped. Our children's ministry seems to do everything really well, and camp is no exception.

- Still another camp: We head out next Wednesday to our second summer camp...Beach Camp. This camp is only open to about 80 students and is much more laid back than our traditional summer camp. We stay at a church near the beach and spend the days hanging out surfing, body boarding and laying around. Oddly, this camp seems to be gaining popularity while our traditional camp seems to be losing popularity.

- Football Season! I spent much of last night at a friend's house with my family. In addition to a few rousing rounds of Guitar Hero, we watched most of the Hall of Fame Game between the Saints and the Steelers. I can't believe football season is almost here.

- Worst Show Ever: I was channel surfing late last night and stumbled across "Rock of Love" on VH1. I'm not even willing to link to it. Ridiculously bad television.