What my kids learned from Student Leadership Conference (Dallas)

My friend and veteran youth worker, Neely McQueen, put this on her blog (http://www.morethangossip.com) last week. I know it’s a long shot, but there’s still time for you to take a few kids to one of our two Student Leadership Conferences. We’d love to have you (or one of your leaders) bring a few to experience it. Of course, I’m a little biased… I think it’s a great experience. So, instead of listening to me… here’s Neely:

Last week I took 10 student to the Student Leadership Conference in Dallas, Texas. We had a great time there and I left with a group of students challenged and instructed to step into their full potential as a leader in our ministry.

Top 5 Moments at SLC:

1. Watching my students STEP up to serve when given the chance.

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They didn’t have to choose to serve dinner to the entire conference but when the opportunity presented itself they rose to the occasion. In moments like this one I saw my students potential to serve and to lead. They had great attitudes and had fun. I had glimpses of the hope I have for them.

2. Watching my students STRUGGLE to figure stuff out.

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The students received several “leadership challenges” and it was good to watch them work hard to complete it. They needed to work well together…this is where they struggled. I took a group of young students who are new(er) to leadership. They haven’t worked together before and were trying to figure out how to communicate with each other…and deal with each other’s personalities and quirks. It was a good struggle. If they figured it out at SLC it can only make it easier back at home.

3. Having FUN with core students

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Traveling and getting away from home allowed for us to have some fun together. Laugh, experience new things (in-n-out burgers), sing in the car and stay up late talking and watching ridiculous reality T.V. It was fun. It was good for me and for some of our core students to have fun together. This tightens our relationship and helps us as we do ministry together.

4. Watching my students LISTEN to some great communicators, worship leaders and ministry partners.

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Cluster of Students (Saddleback’s student worship band), Skit Guys, Jim Burns and Doug Fields…just a few of the highlights for my students. These great communicators and leaders challenged my students – reinforced messages we’ve given them and inspired them to serve back home in our ministry.

5. The Aftershock

Today, one of the students came into my office to talk about what he has been thinking of since we’ve gotten back. He had ideas about where he could serve, how he might be able to invite more of his friends and he wanted to start working on his story to share in our ministry. He is in 8th grade. I love that we have been back for less than a week and he wants to meet with me about his ideas. He is in 8th grade. (That’s kind of a big deal, right?) To me as a youth worker the BEST thing about SLC is that my students don’t just want to be great leaders…they want to be great leaders in the church. SLC helps me equip my leaders.

SLC was definitely a win for our ministry!

There are 2 more conferences; one in California and one in Pennsylvania. Take a big group…take a few students…you won’t regret it! Check it out here.

Is others’ spiritual growth your responsibility?

“Nothing is better for the soil than the farmer’s footprints.”
(4th Generation Farmer passing on wisdom from his grandfather)

I am learning that following Jesus, walking in His footsteps, is all about Him not me. Growing, succeeding, flourishing is dependent upon the presence of the farmer not all the effort I put in my misperceived role as the farmer. As a seminary graduate, I was well trained in “farming” techniques. I have spent most of my time learning how to farm and teaching others the same.

Truth be known, I am not the Farmer. That’s the Father. I’m not the Vine. That’s Jesus. I’m just the branch. When His first two children decided to go out on their own and enjoy a fruit salad from the wrong part of the garden, the Gardener walked the Garden to find where they were hiding. When all of His kids were lost and hopeless, the Gardener talked with His Son in the garden and agreed to buy us back even if the plan was not the Son’s preferred cup.

What about growth? Hard but relieving news… it’s not about me. Sure, I’m involved. I am integral. Fruit comes through me. But seed sprouting? The Master reminds us it is all from the Father. Three clear, simple words, “All by itself.” (Mark 4:28)

What does it mean for you and me today? What signs of growth do I see in me and others and how can I help? How hard is my soil?

To pass on some sage wisdom: Nothing is better for the soil of our souls than the Farmer’s footprints.

Guest Post: Doug Webster is a long-time youth worker, long-long pastor, long-time writer, long-time friend of Doug Fields (in each others’ weddings), long-time follower of Jesus…who is beginning to learn how to follow and not lead Jesus. Doug can be found hanging out with a small group of other followers in Irvine, CA called The Following.

Maybe cliques aren’t bad: Stop trying to make your youth group like each other

“What are you doing about the cliques in youth group?”

If you are in youth ministry, you’ve probably heard that question. It may have come from a tattle-telling teenager, a concerned parent or a critical church member. In each case, the assumption is this: Making teenagers get along is part of your job. I disagree.

C.S. Lewis writes in his book, The Four Loves, about the difference between lovers and friends. Lovers stand face to face but friends stand shoulder to shoulder, looking at the same thing. Friendship is built around a shared interest for something else and their shared gaze keeps the friends side by side.

D.A. Carson writes that the church is “a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus’ sake” (Love In Hard Places). What this means (I think) is that outside of Jesus, we Christians wouldn’t necessarily be pals. What makes us a part of God’s family is not how enamored we are with each other but how in love we are with Jesus!

We exert a lot of wasted energy in getting teenagers to like each other. The problem is that outside of Christ, you can only appeal to self-serving or self-preserving reasons to get teens to get along. The cruel twist is that the more a group grows to like each other for reasons other than a shared love for Jesus and His mission, the more likely they are to stop caring about both Jesus and His mission!

If you take Carson’s thought and combine it with Lewis’ thought then you begin to realize that what you really need to do is help teenagers see and appreciate the person and the work of Jesus. That alone will lead to true biblical community. No community is more powerful than a community made up of Christian friendships built around a shared love for the Savior.

The next time someone asks you what you’re doing about cliques maybe you should reply: “Nothing. But I’m doing everything I can to help those teenagers grow to love Jesus.”

Guest Post: David Hertweck served as senior associate pastor of Trinity A/G in Clay, NY for over eleven years. He served as the lead pastor of inside-out student ministries and element young adults ministries and as a worship leader. He is an ordained Assembly of God minister. He presently serves as the District Youth Ministries and Chi Alpha Director. He’s also the author of The Word: a 31 day devotional… buy one and make as many copies as you want.