FREE iPhone App for Youth Ministry

Barefoot Ministries are a resource partner for youth workers, parents, teenagers, and local churches. We are working to improve and enhance all the resources we provide to you, our ministry partner. You may not have heard yet, but we are doing a complete redevelopment of our subscription-based youth ministry tracking tool and resource site, BarefootOnline (Learn more about it here). Along with that, we are working to provide creative media solutions for you. In that effort we developed an iPhone app that delivers two of our most used small group resources, Life Journey and Lectionary, from our Weekly Plan tool.

Life Journey has more than 40 miniseries addressing specific topics from a scriptural point-of-view. Topics include friendship, dating, family relationships, sexual purity, sharing the faith, and much more.  Each miniseries is 3 to 5 lessons long and can be used back to back with other Life Journey miniseries or by itself.

Lectionary is a Bible study that follows the passages of Scripture from the Lectionary calendar. Teach through the various seasons of the Christian year (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, etc.) in order to lead teenagers into a deep awareness of living out the gospel story each day. Each lesson in the Lectionary curriculum teaches the theme that arises from all of the Sunday Scripture passages from the Revised Common Lectionary.

If you like the lessons and are interested in getting thousands of great resources, then sign up to become a member of BarefootOnline.com today!


Better Now That I Quit

I once (a long time ago) was a full-time youth worker. I have a number of other friends who are also ex-full-time youth workers; and the ones I have posed this question to have all answered it the same way.

The question: Was your relationship with your family and God better when you were a paid professional youth worker, or is it better now, in your new role?

Each one basically said those relationships are “better now that I quit.”

I can’t tell you how that bothers me; but I can tell you it is true for me too; my relations of stated priority—God, spouse, and family—all improved after resigning from full-time youth work. Back in 2002, The Association of Youth Ministry Educators (AYME) published a study reporting among its many findings that most former youth workers (more than 70%) admitted that their relationship with God improved dramatically upon leaving full-time youth work.

What do you think about this issue? Is the way in which we approach youth work detrimental to our own relationships with Jesus and our families?

Is this a legitimate concern? Do you think my anecdotal findings and those of AYME valid or true today?

I will follow this up with some of my thoughts in the near future but would love to hear from you, today.


Recruiting Volunteers

A little over a year ago, I was asked to speak at a church. I remember perusing the church bulletin and seeing this:

WANTED: VOLUNTEERS!
We DESPERATELY need volunteers to help with our children’s and youth ministries. No experience needed, just a willingness to sacrifice your time and money.
If interested, contact…

As I read that ad, I literally burst out laughing. My first thought was, Who in their right mind would respond to this?

So if this is not the proper manner, how should we go about recruiting volunteers? Let me offer some simple steps.

1. Pray. Far too often we skip this step, and yet it is the most important step we take. We need to seek God’s guidance before we start this task and allow him to guide us to the right people.

2. Know your needs. What exactly do you need the volunteers to do? Create a list of the roles and responsibilities you need for all areas of the youth ministry. Regularly refer to this list to make sure all your needs are covered.

3. Create and keep a list of potential volunteers. When you’re facing a crisis, that usually isn’t the best time to start thinking about volunteers. Create a list ahead of time of potential staff you are looking at to fill future needs. Use the church staff, current volunteers, and even your students to suggest names for this list.

4. Try to recruit a diverse team. The makeup of the volunteers should, in some way, be reflective of the makeup of the church. Look at issues such as race, age, sex, personal interests, etc. Too often we recruit only young adults, believing they will best be able to relate to adolescents. However, my experience has shown that having a mixture of young adults, middle adults, and even senior adults is desirable because each brings wisdom and life experience to the task.

5. Keep the congregation abreast of youth ministries. I operated on a simple principle: a bulletin or newsletter never left the church office without some mention of the youth ministry in it. I regularly asked the pastor for time in the service to recognize a teen or volunteer or to share with the congregation something positive that was occurring in our youth ministry. Then, when I had to go to them with a need, the response was always much more immediate because they were attuned to the good things the youth ministry was doing.

6. Get to know them and observe their character. This is more than just a job interview; you’re asking people to work with teenagers’ souls. Therefore, we need to make sure we are recruiting people who sincerely love God and are willing to follow your local church and/or denomination’s ethos for behavior.

7. Meet with the potential volunteers and share the vision for the youth ministry. Spend some time interviewing them and allow them to ask lots of questions. You want to make sure that they have as many of their questions as possible answered before they are working with the ministry so you don’t end up with a mess later. You also need to ask lots of questions in order to make sure this person is the one you want. Provide an information packet that details the overall vision and plan for the youth ministry and how the job you are recruiting them for fits into that vision.

8. Ask them to fill out an application to volunteer and agree to a criminal background check. This is becoming an ever more important issue as churches routinely face lawsuits from families whose children were abused in some way by volunteers who hadn’t been properly vetted by the local church. Make sure you are following the policy for your local church or denomination on this because each state has different requirements.

9. Provide a job description. Nothing frustrates volunteers more than not knowing what they are supposed to be doing. Make it explicit, and give them a time frame. You can always “re-up” them at the end of that time period, but they need to know that they aren’t committing to this for the rest of their lives!

10. Invite new volunteers to fill short-term, helping roles. This helps them get to know the kids well and discover whether this ministry is for them. Consider it a trying-out process for both you and them.

11. Train them! Give them the tools necessary to help them succeed. Pair them with experienced volunteers. Hold regular training sessions for all your volunteers. Suggest (or even provide) reading material for them. Encourage, challenge, and support them.

This list is not new. Variations of it have been at the core of good volunteer recruiting and training for centuries. The key is actually thinking far enough ahead to know what needs you have, the type of people required to meet the need, and the best way to recruit them to the mission. Using this list can be a major step forward in that process.

By: Jim Hampton

Photo credit: WAstateDNR


Spiritual Decisions That Last a Lifetime Part 2

In part one, we explored our role as youth workers in why some of our students make spiritual decisions they later deny or dismiss.

What are we to do about this? Let me offer three suggestions.

We need to change our thinking.

As leaders, we must refuse to bow to the pressure to produce measurable results and recommit to seeing teenagers experience a life-changing encounter with a living God. We must be re-energized by the idea that God really can and will change the lives of our students when we allow Him to do it His way in His timing. We need to view each student as a person in need of God’s grace, not as a project that needs to be conquered for Christ.

We need to get a fresh perspective.

When you are working from a motivation of love, you grow a greater desire to see your students run headlong into the arms of Christ. You realize that the same old “every head bowed and every eye closed” may get you numbers to report to your pastor, but it may not bring the life-change you are praying for with your students. When you love someone, you want the best for them…and, in this case, the best thing is a love relationship with God through His Son Jesus.

We need to be patient.

My first step was to have faith that God would do what He has promised. In Isaiah 55:11, God promises that His word will never return void. In John 12:32, Jesus says, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” I realized that it may not happen the way I expect it to, or when I expect it to, but if I am faithful to communicate the gospel in all of its power, He will be faithful to draw my students to Himself.

I wanted to respect my students enough to give them the time they needed to make such a significant spiritual decisions as these. I began to see that when I allowed a student to fully examine the claims of the gospel, they took my request more seriously. It now seems to me that when we allow the Holy Spirit to have time to work in a student’s life, God will work miracles we can’t reproduce.

So when will students make spiritual decisions that last for a lifetime?

  • When our students sense that we love them and sincerely desire to see them fully become the person God created them to be.
  • When we accurately communicate the truth of the gospel in all of its power.
  • When we allow students time to investigate the value of the decisions we are encouraging them to make.
  • When the Holy Spirit works in their lives and convicts them of their need for following King Jesus.

A Prayer That Got Hold of Me

Over the past thirteen or so years, I have become a student of written prayers. The church has a long history of written prayers and of encouraging her people to recite those prayers frequently. In the Anglican Church, The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) is one of the places we find a great treasure of written prayers meant to be recited. The BCP has helped develop and direct my prayer life in ways that seemed impossible.

One of the prayers I found in the BCP that genuinely got a hold of me and has yet to let go is a closing prayer from Morning Prayer. It is a prayer I never seem to plumb the depths of or fail to see a new facet. The language of the prayer sketches all kinds of word pictures in my mind (plants reaching toward the sun; a child and parent embracing; tulips pushing through a spring snow), and the message of the prayer seems to capture the stark beauty of God’s desire to restore all things. It is a prayer that brings our missional, relational, and incarnational God face to face with us and our place in God’s grand story unfolding in our midst.

I share it with you in hopes that you will take time and find in this prayer a depth worth pursuing and praying on a frequent basis.

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretch out your arms on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you, for the honor of your name. Amen. (BCP p. 101)

 What do you see in this prayer? Do you have a prayer that has a hold on you?


Free Pentecost Bible Study!

Pentecost is one of the lesser celebrated holy days in the Christian year. The average youth group celebrates Christmas and Easter as the main events of the Christian year. Yet Pentecost and Trinity Sunday round out the powerful journey of through the Gospel that the church walks through each year. So we’re giving away these free resources (we’ve thrown in Trinity Sunday as a bonus!) to help youth workers show how important these aspects of the Christian year are in teaching the whole gospel of Jesus Christ to teenagers.

These resources come from The Lectionary small group series. The Lectionary is a series of Bible studies which follow the passages of scripture form the Lectionary calendar. It allows you to teach through the various seasons of the Christian year (Advent, Christmas Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, etc.) in order to lead teenagers into a deep awareness of living out the Gospel story each day. Each lesson in the Lectionary curriculum teaches the theme that arises from all of the Sunday scripture passages from the Revised Common Lectionary.  This resource and others are included in the BarefootOnline.com subscription.

FREE Bible Study Download

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Your Ministry Role
 full time youth leader part time youth leader volunteer youth leader parent

 

Pentecost Lesson Overview

Calendar Reference:

Year B, Day of Pentecost; Week up to and including May 27, 2012

Lesson Title:

“Can These Bones Live?”

Scripture:

Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; Romans 8:22-27; John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

Theme:

The Work of the Holy Spirit

Focus:

The Holy Spirit has been sent to us to be our present Counselor, encourager, and comforter in the world. The Holy Spirit guides us into all truth, shows us the future, brings glory to Christ Jesus, and helps us in our distress.

Student Tension:

Have I received the present help that Jesus sent for us when He returned to heaven? What is the work of the Spirit in our daily lives?

 


Spiritual Decisions That Last a Lifetime Part 1

Why don’t the spiritual decisions that our students make last for a lifetime?

This is a very difficult question with a complicated answer. A part of the answer is the thinking and ministry practices of youth pastors and youth workers. Let me share with you three driving thoughts of youth workers that affects the decisions teenagers make.

Desire Job Security

We as youth pastors and youth workers must shoulder much of the blame. Let’s face it, many of us don’t have the job security that we need to work in complete freedom. Depending on our context, we use well-worn approaches to draw a desired response from our students. Then we spend little time for follow-up, and we end up praying and hoping our new Christian students “get it”. If your ministry is caught in this cycle, step back and develop a long-term comprehensive plan to both see a student come to Christ and to disciple that student to maturity in Christ.

Desire to Be a Success

Secondly, the pressure that we feel to produce “plugged-in kids” (and thus be “successful” in our ministry) leads to questionable methods of recruitment and evangelism. We think that we can present the truth of the gospel to students in ten minutes at a big rally, a lock-in, or in one of our services, convince them to pray a pre-written prayer, and congratulate them on their decision. We follow up (if we follow up at all) by giving them a new believer’s booklet and having them announce their decision to the church. We introduce them to our leadership as “having prayed the prayer” and everyone slaps our back for the fine job we’re doing.

Desire for Meaning

I can testify from experience how discouraging it can be to feel like your ministry doesn’t make an impact at all. In order to speed up the process, we can be tempted to cut a few corners. Often, the gospel we present has been cheapened of its power because we eliminate the necessity of turning from our way of life in order to follow a Kingdom way of life. Most often our presentation of the gospel requires nothing more from the students than a short prayer or a name signed on a dotted line. If we do not lead our students to see their desperate need for Christ, how can we say that they have had a conversion experience?

Regardless of our ministry setting, we should all have a burning desire to see our teenagers “get it”. We long to see them embrace Christ, commit their lives to Him, grow in faith, and serve Him for a lifetime.

 

Photo credit:{Salt of the Earth}


Perfection Not Needed

There is a truism I have discovered and experienced more times than I can count over the more than four decades of my life, and that is: Prayer is hard. It is something many of us come to realize, and yet it is not regularly admitted. I bet, if you are still reading, there is something to this truism that rings with authenticity and clarity for you.

For many years, the difficulty I had praying kept me from a regular and vital prayer life. During this dark time, I stumbled onto a quote that was of great encouragement and moved me beyond thinking that if I couldn’t pray perfectly, I couldn’t pray at all. The quote comes from Dom Chapman:

Pray as you can, and do not try to pray as you can’t.

After reading that quote, the parable that Jesus tells of a tax collector and a Pharisee came to my mind (Luke 18:10-13). The Pharisee prays from a presumptuous and arrogant place, while the tax collector humbly acknowledges his more realistic place before God. Jesus’s point is that we are to come to God in prayer—not as we desire to be, or wearing a mask to find God’s approval. To approach God the way the tax collector does is to fight the temptation to employ pious language or perfect formulas or to act like we are more accepting of God’s will than reflects our personal reality.

When we find it difficult to pray, we should avoid the temptation to put on a mask or bring only the holy parts of ourselves before God. Let us come before God in honest prayer, bringing our whole selves, praying as we can—with few words or many; not using language that puffs us up but words that reveal our need for God’s mercy, power, and love.

When I find it difficult to pray, I often pray simply: Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner. Amen.

 

Photo credit: kelsey_lovefusionphoto


Engaging the Whole Family Part 4: A Way Forward

In this series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) we have used the works of David Elkind, Diana Garland, and Marjorie Thompson to guide our reflections on discerning the family. We continue this reflection by turning to the challenges facing the family and their proposals for a way forward for the church to minister to families.

The Challenges
Elkind, a child psychologist, is concerned with the health of children in North America. He describes three major shifts in the roles of parents, children, adolescents that correspond to the modern to postmodern shift. Parenting in modernity was focused on intuition and technique in postmodernity. The view of the child changed from innocence in modernity to competence in postmodernity. The view of adolescents changed from immature in modernity to sophisticated in postmodernity. Elkind concludes that these shifts led to an imbalance of stress upon children and adolescents which he calls the “new morbidity” of youth (98-152).

Garland, a Christian social worker, is primarily concerned about the faith of families. She is informed by Craig Dykstra’s work in faith practices when she engages the particular stories of families. She finds that the challenges facing the faith practices of families are busy schedules, lack of training of parents, lack of knowledge of Scripture, competing values within a family, and different levels of personal faith in the family (127-198).

Thompson suggests one of the main obstacles to the faith development of families is the church. She writes, “What I am suggesting is the communal church and the domestic church need to recapture a vision of the Christian family as a sacred community. This will require an awareness of the ‘sacred’ in the ‘secular,’ of God in the flesh of human life (20-21).”

A Modest Proposal
Elkind, Garland, and Thompson all suggest a way forward for the family and I believe that youth and family pastors can find a generous and faithful way forward in their collective proposals. In bullet points here are some suggested movements forward….

  • Elkind suggests a concept called the “vital family.” The vital family values include emotional ties of committed love (a movement beyond intimate love and mutual engagement), authentic parenting (blend of parenting out of intuition and technique), interdependence (blend of autonomy and togetherness) and a balance of unilateral and mutual authority.
  • Elkind suggests a reinvention of adulthood. This reinvention includes parents appropriately exercising authority and sharing space with children and adolescents. This space sharing includes the development of safe environments for children to grow in competence and teens to grow in sophistication.
  • Garland and Thompson suggest that the local church is integral in teaching families the practice of faith. They call for the church to see their role as learning community for families of faith.
  • Garland suggests the informal teaching moments for faith in families are found in the dark moments of death and conflict.

I find hope in these suggestions. I believe that God can choose the local church in these days to lead families forward into God’s mission. The church by God’s grace can practice space sharing with youth in our corporate worship. In humility, the church has the opportunity to publicly seek Christian ways of resolving the conflict as a way to train families. We can learn together what it means to seek God in the dark moments of life. We can practice the values of the vital family through Christian faith practices. We can provide space for families to learn and serve together. We can extend the call to all families to enter into God’s saving embrace in Christ as a way forward for their family.

More Resources:

Parent Journey Series

Practicing Our Faith

 

Photo credit: Capt Kodak


Engaging the Whole Family Part 3: What is the Family?

The value of defining the family for our contemporary context is that it gives us orientation in our engagement. If we can’t name the thing that we encounter, how can we have a meaningful experience? We have a word for God that has some meaning, and that concept seems a lot more complex than family.

So tell me, what is the family? I want to know because, for the life of me, I can’t find one definition that does justice to the multiple realities of family that I experience. For example, I’ve seen heads of households be single, biological parents, biological grandparents with single parents, two biological parents, two legal parents with no biological relation, one legal parent with no biological relation, two legal parents who are also the biological uncle and aunt, and the list could go on. And then try to account for sibling relationships, and I almost want to give up on ever finding a definition.

But what if we moved away from a sociological or structural definition? What if we tried a theological definition?

Here is my stab at it:

Family – a supportive and formative group of people, connected through a common biological lineage or covenant, who are meant to learn and practice the worship of God through their relationships with God, each other, and the world.

Does that definition sound familiar? I hope so because the definition is derived from a definition of the church. And here is my bias in favor of this definition. I think the church is called to be the family of faith for the world.

I also think the definition helps youth and family ministers imagine that the goal of families is to become, in the words of Jonathan Edwards, “little churches.” And the concept of families becoming little churches corresponds to Diana Garland’s sociological research of more than 100 families. Her research revealed faith practices as an essential element of family life. As a complement to that research, Marjorie Thompson’s book argues that spiritual formation naturally happens in families in both positive and negative ways. Therefore, we can conclude that families are going to worship something. It is the role of the church to be the family of faith that invites them into the worship of God.

Questions to Consider:
What is your definition of family?
What do you think about the above definition of family?
What do we do with this definition of family?

Photo credit: greenpin