Youth Ministry in the Facebook Age

 

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” Ignorance is bliss” was a term first coined by Thomas Gray in his Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College.  I may be the only one who feels this way, but as a veteran church youth worker sometimes I miss the blissful ignorance I was able to experience previous to social media.  I do not say this as a technology hater, but as a person who loves social media and has an account on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and even maintain my Myspace for a rainy day.  I miss the days of ignorantly believing that every one of the students in my ministry was latching on to the things they were being taught and learning to live them out.  I am such an optimist in most cases, I want to believe the best about people and believe that all of them are truly opening their heart to God.  The world of social media sometimes robs me of my optimistic dream world as students so openly and truthful share who they really are on the world wide web.

Maybe this is just me, but my heart hurts sometimes when I read the words of those I shepherd online.  It hurts so much because every part of me knows that the answers and joy that they are seeking in other places is found in allowing their head knowledge about Jesus to become a heart devotion that consumes their life.  It hurts so much because many of them sit week by week and learn more head knowledge about Jesus, but never let him completely lead their lives.  I wonder what it may have been for my youth leaders to have to sit and read the filth, doubts and soul searching I spewed from my mouth as a teenager.

None of these feelings I have come from a spirit of judgement, at least it does not feel like judgement in my heart.  Every student means the world to me, whether they realize it, or I show it poorly.  The passion of my life is helping people truly know Jesus, and I want that for every student that has ever been under my care.  My heart breaks anytime a student walks away from church.  My heart breaks anytime I see a student post things that dishonor Jesus.  My heart breaks when a student can sit through service after service at my church and still miss Jesus.  I used to be able to lie to myself and believe they were all getting it, but social media gives me a taste of reality.  A hard reality.  A reality I do not like to acknowledge.

I definitely see the great things that social media brings to my ministry.  It provides so many great tools for communicating, relationship building, and getting a window into the students world.  Maybe I am ignorant for saying this, but sometimes I wish the window was not so clear.  Satan uses it often to whisper to me of my ineffectiveness.  While many times my methods are ineffective, I know I serve a God who can change any life and that is what keeps me going.  My calling will always be to show people Jesus and hear me clear that is exactly what I want to do.  If you sometimes feel like I do cling to Jesus and your calling even when what is before you may not seem to be bearing fruit; those who you shepherd need you to keep going.

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Attn: Youth Pastors

Hope this post finds all of you well. To all those serving in youth ministry, I wanted to see if you would be willing to answer a survey for me.  Since 2004, I have been researching burnout in youth ministry and working on putting together that research into book form. Now that I am done with seminary, I really want to dig into this project.  I wanted to see if you would help me with this research?  Below is the survey, let me know if any of the questions are unclear.  Thank you in advance for your insight into this subject. You can reply here or send to the email listed below.  

  • Burnout Survey 
  • Name: 
  • Church/Organization: Position:  
  1.       What do you believe are the common causes of burnout in youth ministry?           
  2. What do you believe are some warning signs that you are burnt out or may be on the cusp of experiencing burnout? 
  3.   Do you feel burnout is a major issue that is plaguing youth ministers? If yes why do you feel it happens so often?   
  4. What are some unfair expectations that you believe are placed on youth workers and how does that affect performance and job satisfaction?  How do expectations lead to burnout?   
  5. What are the dangers of comparing your ministry to the ministry of others and how can that affect us personally?  
  6.   In your ministry what event/ events have shaken your faith and made you doubt your calling or feel insufficient to lead? 
  7.  Share stories of how fellow staff members (senior pastor, education minister etc) encouraged you or discouraged you in your ministry? What impact did this have on your ministry
  8.    Share a personal story of when you experienced burnout in ministry.  What caused it? What were your thoughts during that time? What helped you get out of the pit of burnout and be refreshed? 
  9.  How important are mentors, family, co-laborers and friends in staying fresh in youth ministry? Why?
  10.  What advice would you give youth workers who are beginning to feel hints of burnout?  What are the keys to staying fresh? 
  11. What value does your call to ministry have in staying fresh and avoiding burnout? 
  12. For someone who is burnout what advice would you give them about how to reconnect with God and allow Him to refresh them?  
  13.  Even though ministry takes so much out of you at times, what keeps you going? What makes you desire to keep pouring your life into students? 
  14. If this research were to be used in a published book would you be willing for us to use your answers and quote you by name?

Leadership

Allow me to just be transparent for a second, and just say sometimes being a leader is so hard.  With all my heart I want to please God, but sometimes in pleasing God I have to displease people.  That is hard for me, because I have such a desire to please people, to be respected by them and to have them on board with where I am leading.  This is another time in which I feel God is stretching me.  There are great decisions that face me in the coming weeks, vision to be cast and steps of faith to be taken.

God give me the courage to follow you, even when the choices that need to be made may not be popular.  God help me to hear you clearly, let this be your youth ministry and not my own.

Camp 220

Wow, so I had every intention of really sticking to this blog deal and writing often, but as I look back I realize it has been almost 3 months since my last post.  Let me first say that God is good.  He has done so much in our student ministry this summer, that I could probably blog all day. 

The highlight of our summer had to be Camp 220.  God showed up in powerful ways and challenged the students of Lakeland to a deeper and more intimate walk with Him.  I am going to make this entry short but I wanted to leave you with quotes from some of our students on what God showed them at Camp 220.

Kelsie Pinckard- ” At Camp God showed me the tiniest glimpse of the vastness of His impossible unconditional love…and it blew my mind.”

Andrew Miller- ” At camp 220 God showed me that He can change your life in a split second. That He can make you see things that you never thought that you would be able to see and that you can forgive people no matter how bad they have hurt you in the past.”

Ragan Forson- “At Camp 220 God showed me that no matter how big or small the situation is, when you let God take control of it, He can change your life forever. :)”

Emily Jasper- ” At Camp 220 God showed me that he is my true master and his love can overcome any fear or worry that I have! Also that he truly can make me whole again…never really got that saying until camp! yay!”

Jessica Christian- ” At Camp 220 God showed me how the smallest things in this world can keep you from getting closer to God.”

Alaina Blowers-” At Camp 220 God showed me the He puts me in a place for a reason”

Lauren Snow- ” At Camp 220 God showed me how He can do the impossible just because he can…and that God is faithful, always, in answering our prayers no matter how long it takes as long as we trust Him with our prayers and his ability to meet our everyneed no matter how big or small our need is…and how small we are compared to His love-we dont usually think that the idea of love can be bigger than a breathing human but it is, it rules the world b/c God is love and God is in control of everything”

More on what I have been reading tomorrow