the ys middle school ministry summit took place at spring hill camp in evart, michigan, in mid-september. 45 paid junior high or middle school-only youth workers attended. these are the mostly unedited notes. remember, they’re notes on a dialogue of 45 voices, not a refined set of ideas…
SERVING FAMILIES/FAMILY SYSTEMS:
This has to do with looking at our ministries individually and how do we program with the issues of our family being considered. So often we are making busy families even busier. But, doing less is not always a great career move. So what are some of the issues that come up in this line?
1) Parents following up with what is taught in the youth group. Helping the parents communicate with the students. Providing follow-up opportunities and a place for feedback for the parents.
2) Fostering opportunities for the parents to spend time with and communicate with their children.
3) Don’t cloud events with too many goals. Open lines of communication between teen and parent and provide positive family memories and those are GREAT goals (and really all that is needed).
4) We do a family ministry night that is a parent night where the pastors get together with the parents for a meeting and connection.
5) We do a dinner for the parents and new students served by the older students and their parents.
6) Family dinner nights. Family competition nights.
7) We morph our Sunday morning into a family service occasionally, such as a pancake breakfast, etc.
Is there anything that has been changed or cancelled or rearranged because it was not connecting with parents or convenient for parents?
1) Offering a Jr. High course only when there is a parent event happening that same night.
2) We don’t have anything but Sunday morning for our Jr. High ministry because we don’t want to compete with parents and family time.
3) We re-arranged our Jr. High midweek to be the same night as the children’s ministry so everything for children is on the same night instead of different nights.
4) We keep our small group homes close to the church, or close to one another so that parents are not driving all over the place to drop their children off at their events.
How many of you do something to allow a parent in their culture into your programming decisions?
1) Marko – I wrestled with that after being at a few churches where I didn’t do that. I finally found that there was a value in having a parent advisory team and empowering them to make decisions. Everyone would know it was a sham if it was a sham. But, those parents started to represent all of the other parents. They helped me make calendar decisions, set prices for trips, etc. They also had my back, and then parents knew that other parents were helping make the decision. They also can be the first to call when you mess up and share what happened. Make sure you hand-pick those so they don’t come with their own agenda.
2) One key benefit of having parents as volunteers, they tend to run with the other parents of the ministry, so having strong parent volunteers, their hands spread wide. So the other parents know what they are hearing from actual parents about the ministry.
3) I have a parent advisory committee and I would never go without it again.
4) I had one and I would never do it again – they felt like they took on more power than they were supposed to have or needed.
5) Having parents that I can say, “the other parents thought it was a good idea.” Can be powerful.
6) Utilize parents as volunteer leaders.
7) Healthy time with the parents. Healthy time with their kids.
8) Time is a HUGE issue. The longer you are there, the more they will respect you.
9) Ask parents questions. Especially about the ministry. It is very powerful when you are willing to swallow your pride and ask the parents questions about how they feel about the ministry and what is going on.
10) To love on our families, many of our parents are tired of fighting the fight and want to throw in the towel with their child. So we tell our volunteers to look for opportunities to say something positive to the parent about the parent, but also find opportunities to say something positive to the parent about their child. This makes a HUGE impact. Find ways to affirm the kid to the parent and affirm that the parent is doing a good job with their child. This can make a huge impact.
11) Pray for the family and ask them how you can pray for their family and how you can pray for them individually. This will break down walls and it is amazing the trust this brings and what comes out of it. This goes so far. Also make sure to remember what they shared and follow-up to ask them how things are going with that issue.
12) Parents become your best advocates when you make it through conflict with them and stick with it. Even when it is as hard as having to kick the kid out of youth group. Hearing their struggles is powerful.
13) If parents are the primary disciplers of students (or should be), then why do we spend so much time pulling them away from families and doing other stuff.
14) Sometimes we can find ourselves feeling in competition with parents, expecting them to change their schedules and lives based around our ministry. But, how do we do ministry in this context?
One of the things that we have done, only once though, is offer family mission trips. We sent our staff on one of them a year ago and she just went there. It was great because she got to know 4 families.
Sometimes families see us as taking value away rather than adding value to their lives (families).
We all have to see ourselves as what we provide and the value we add to families is not a side thing, but the most important thing. What we give to families is amazing.
You Win parents when you show up at their kid’s stuff.
Where else do parents go to get this? We all have a resource that is unique in this way. We play a real cool role that in most places in society we have eliminated. It is one of the few places we still go after getting loving adults to engage in these real cool ways. This is very valuable.
CULTURAL TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTAL ISSUES
Starting off with the Cultural Trends
1) Competition for time (such as sports, music, etc.)
2) Facebook, Myspace, cell phones, and more technology
3) The speeding up of growing up (growing up too soon), but also the lengthening of adolescence
4) New trends/issues
5) Post-email generation in terms of communication (IM and TXTing)
6) Music culture
7) Increased level of disrespect
8) Greater feelings of entitlement
9) Relationship differences
10) Spirituality is trendy
11) Kids are being exposed to more and more at a younger age
12) Information is being communicated faster, so the times change at a faster rate as well.
13) False Community – Internet community, virtual community, etc.
What are we facing and concerns about the false/virtual community? What are the issues concerned with that?
1) Kids act like one person in church and a completely different person online or on their myspace/facebook.
2) Spend so much time in the virtual world, they don’t understand what it means to have a genuine community.
3) Lack of a holistic identity
4) Causes more of an internal, identity war. A certain amount of this is actually healthy in development, but the false-community aspect of it doesn’t allow them to truly discover who they are.
5) We are now allowed into a more personal part of their lives than we were before because of what they are willing to post on their sites.
6) Challenge of when we find out information about them that is beyond what is appropriate and deciding when do we just approach the student and when do we have to take it to the parent.
7) At what point do you approach your leadership team about what they are posting on their myspace/facebook page. Do you allow it or stop it, or how do you deal with it?
8) How we come across the information is just changing – but our responsibility to respond to that information is still the same.
9) Potential schools and employers will check out individual myspace pages for information and to make decisions about hiring the person.
10) There tends to be a distinct difference between the types of students who are using facebook and those who are using myspace. (interesting article — link on ysmarko.com — about this shift going on in that myspace is becoming the urban, blue-collar site, and the high school kids that are college bound are switching to facebook)
What are tangible things that you are doing in light of all of this?
1) We make sure the leaders know that we are the same person on facebook and myspace and in person. The kids need that foundation.
2) Kids are sharing things more openly on facebook and myspace than they are in person. It is a “safety net” for the kids.
3) Communication is happening quicker and in a more powerful and creative way.
4) Instant access to so many more people!!!
5) Help the parents be aware of it
6) Help students to navigate and be aware of the online dangers and communities.
7) We do an internet safety seminar for parents to help make them aware.
8) Encourage parents to communicate to their own children about all of this technology.
9) For most parents of Jr. Highers this technology is foreign to the, so it scares some, some are confused, some are clueless, etc. It is important for us to help parents to get their arms around this thing. Parents will look to us for help and insight into this type of thing.
10) Lots of parents don’t even know about any of this. Don’t just give them the negatives, but also help share the positives of this new way of communication and community. There are lots of positives too.
11) Walk parents through how to use myspace and facebook. Project it on a screen and walk them through it.
Let’s talk about the whole idea of growing up too soon:
1) This is not a new issue. David Elkind, “All Grown Up and No Place to Go”. This maybe feels more pertinent now than it did then, but there has always been a feel of accelerated adolescence.
2) From the shrinking of the world on the internet and the speed of communication, it may not be that there is more immorality than before, but a sooner loss of innocence because of the availability of it and the speed of it.
3) It’s not just on the internet, but even on billboards and on TV (even Disney Channel), the material is more mature.
4) The change is not ALL bad stuff. It is just more stuff and quicker. More stuff, bad and good. 12 year olds who know how to use Wikipedia could be a good thing. This is interestingly tied to the average age drop in the age of puberty. There has to be some point that this stops, but it has not shown any signs of slowing down yet.
5) “Adolescence” is extending, so you have kids exposed earlier, and it is lasting longer. This creates a weird dichotomy.
6) Spring Break is an example. It used to be an older college thing, then a younger college thing, now it is not just a high school thing, but an even younger high school thing.
7) Kids are marketed to more now than ever before in history. Jr. Highers have access to their parents’ pocketbook and now they are marketing to them.
8) YPulse.com is a blog that we all should have in our bookmarks. Also a good book titled “totally wired” by Anastasia Goodstein, about pre-teens and teens.
9) “Everything bad is good for you” by Steven Johnson is another book recommendation. He looks at the neurological side of technology and it’s impact on intelligence.
10) If we take the technology side away, we also have pressure for Jr. Highers to perform in school, sports, etc. The allowance for Jr. Highers to be lazy for a year or 2 is now gone. Where are we giving in, where are we pushing back, how are we dealing with all of this?
11) A kid’s identity is all wrapped up in what they do. ** “The Price of Privilege” by Madeleine Levine (book) – about the effects of growing up in an affluent society. The author talks about how students can’t tell her about who they are other than what is wrapped up in the things that they do.
12) Do we program and hold these kids to a level that is too high when they really want to just be a kid. Many of these students just want to be a kid a while longer.
13) Is there really a philosophy and theology of play in our ministry? Play is not based on performance (which looks like and mimics adulthood), but is not what students need or want. How much do we see that (or the lack of that) in our students and our student ministry.
14) The transition from not yet pre-teen to middle adolescent is that they are still children, but trying on adult behaviors during that time. With that attitude, I try to make sure I don’t encourage older behaviors, or discourage childish behaviors. Creating space for play is important. They have lipstick in one hand and a teddy bear in another.
15) Intentionally in our games we make games that are not the kind of competition that is thrust into their lives in every other part of their lives. We structure the teams so there is no winning or losing or competition, but just about having fun and playing.
16) Make everyone equally inept and level the playing field, so that even the sports superstar is like everyone else, and you are all on the same level. This is one way of doing it.
17) We need to create space for both the kid stuff and the adult stuff and allow for the ebb and flow of both of those areas.
Amazing new book: Dan Kimball – “They Like Jesus, not the Church” — Talks about how people hate the church and Christianity bubbles, but they love to talk about Jesus.
Humans all long to be part of something bigger than ourselves. This is one reason that people are so interested in spirituality.
We need to be really careful not to address Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. by teaching only about: Here is about them, here is what is wrong with them, and nothing else. If we teach it, we need to be more complete about it and frame it in a larger context. We have to help kids work their way through it. The interest can be viewed as disheartening, or viewed as any interest in spirituality as a good thing because they are open to that. If we can not spin it but take it down a positive road of the truth.
Are we confident enough in God and the Holy Spirit to believe that he could draw people to himself through other means, and even exploring other spiritual issues?