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How to hack your ministry, your budget, and your health in one step

 by Aaron Helman | @aaronhelman | loading comments...

It's possible that I'm about to commit youth ministry heresy today, but I'm good with that.

Two weeks ago, I laid out the case for doing away with youth group standard messy games...

...but today I'm touching on an even more hallowed ground in some of our ministries.

Taco Bell. Steak 'n Shake. Starbucks.

For as long as I can remember, those were the things we did when we spent one-on-one time with students.

But not anymore.

You can build relationships outside of fast food restaurants, and it's better for you, your students, and your budget.

I've had plenty of students in my career who enjoyed spending time with me at Dairy Queen or McDonald's or the Pizza Hut lunch buffet.

And while those things aren't evil or sinful, I can't help but feel there's got to be a better way.

Because in ten years of ministry, I've never had a student come back a year later and talk about all the Frappucinos we used to grab together.

But I've had literally hundreds who remembered hiking, cycling, throwing Frisbees, or playing basketball for an hour in their driveway.

As an added bonus, those things are almost always universally free and are a dozen times healthier then spending my week ordering meals-by-number.

But as much as I like to keep myself trim (and my budget trimmer), that's not what it's all about. It's about building relationships and doing youth ministry as effectively as I can.

And if that's your goal too, then this whole thing is worth your consideration.

When you're building relationships with students, meals are good, but adventures are even better.

Before I continue, I should say that I haven't abolished grabbing food with students altogether. Meals are still a great choice when you're needing to have a serious conversation with a student about a life issue.

But for building relationships and getting to know students? Meals don't work as well, and here's a quick list of reasons why.

Meals are too quick.
Have you ever seen a teenager eat a taco? How much ministry are you going to really get done in those forty-seven seconds?

Awkward silences are amplified.
I'm not always the best conversationalist, so when I'm sitting in a restaurant with an eighth-grade boy and a pile of empty taco wrappers; these moments tend to drag on forever.

It's not in the conversational comfort zone for a lot of dudes.
My experience has been that I can have more meaningful conversations with a lot of the guys in my ministry while we're huffing and puffing around the water fountain between basketball games than I can in thirty minutes while we sip on teenager coffee at a coffee shop.

It's rarely a memorable experience.
Which one seems more likely to build a stronger bond? Eating burgers next to the ball pit while you talk about school? Or that time you got lost on your hike and it started to rain?

If relationships are really the sum of shared quality experiences, then we can do better than eating boring food in boring places.

Now, while I'm only an amateur financial guru, and I'm certainly not a dietitian, the larger ramifications are pretty significant, aren't they?

If the money you spent at those places was drastically decreased and the calories you consumed at those places was drastically decreased...

Tell me - what are the best ways that you've found to build relationships, and is food really the best way to pull that off?

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4 reasons I don't do messy games and the third one will make you think

by Aaron Helman | @aaronhelman | loading comments...

I met a guy who says he invented messy games.

It's a dubious claim at best, but he's adamant that he's the first person to plan and play a messy game.

(According to him, messy games owe their inception to an idea he implemented in summer of 1978.)

If it's true, then I've got a very personal message to deliver to the guy who invented messy games.

I wish you hadn't.

Listen I don't think there's anything inherently evil about messy games, but there's a reason I never participated when I was in high school...

...and there are reasons I don't play messy games today.

It's probably okay if you want to play messy games, but here's why I don't, and it's worth your consideration too.

This list might make you rethink your messy games, and it might make you rethink the kinds of messy games you play.

I suppose it might also make you rethink whether or not you want to read this blog, but I hope we're past that by now. Let's get started:

I don't personally like them.
I have never enjoyed a messy game. In high school, I skipped messy game night at youth group. At camp, I spent the entirety of messy games in the bathroom.

I'm not scared of messy games; I just really dislike them.

And I learned very early on, it's not a good idea to fake things. I'm not a good enough actor to get students excited about something that I'm not excited about doing myself.

My last church had a tradition of doing an annual messy games event, and I tried to keep it going like a good employee, but it started to fall apart.

Why? Because no matter how I faked it, my lack of enthusiasm seeped into my students.

Your students will be exactly as excited
for youth ministry as YOU are.

There's always someone who really hates them.
Here's the reaction you often get when you do mandatory messy games. Some of your students really love it. Some of them just go along with it because they're polite.

And then you always have one or two who end up crying. Trust me on this - for some of your students, messy games feels like torture.

So while I know there are a handful of students who say that messy games is their very favorite thing. it feels like we should be able to find other ways to have fun that don't end with other people crying.

Is this the best kind of stewardship?
Our church operates a food pantry and we are consistently requesting donations of food to keep it going and to keep the community fed.

With that in mind, I have a very difficult time justifying any messy game that involves the blatant wasting of food.

And if the people who frequent the food pantry were to somehow find out that we were playing those kinds of games? I certainly wouldn't be comfortable explaining that away.

Besides all of that, you can never know when a family is struggling to keep food on the table. Imagine that you knew your family was struggling with hunger, then you showed up to a youth group's food-based messy games night.

There's another tweetable bit of youth ministry wisdom there:

Given all that we know about hunger, are messy games
really the BEST use of perfectly good food?

I'm not sure they're worth the work.
The amount of time it takes to plan a messy game, shop for materials for your messy game, and set up your messy game...

...is only eclipsed by the amount of time it takes to clean up your messy game.

That raises an important question: Is your messy game really awesome enough to justify the time, energy, and money that goes into it?

See, here's the thing about messy games. I'm not sure that I've ever seen a messy game that my students liked more than just playing four square or dodgeball.

And if I can get the same bang-for-my-buck out of a game that I can set up and tear down in five minutes, then you'd better bet we're going with the easier game.

But you might disagree, and that's okay. Tell me all about it in the comments.

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How to help students be honest about tough topics like porn and addiction

by Chris Anton | @unsafeturtle | loading comments...

We all know that pornography use in teenagers is a problem, but do your students realize it’s a problem?

After all, 67% of young men and 49% of young women believe that pornography use is acceptable.

On top of that, 87% of young men and 31% of young women are using pornography on a regular basis.

And while the above statistics fluctuate based on the source, they all say the same thing.

Your students are looking at porn and they don’t want you to know about it.

Here's how to talk about it with them.

The secret to getting students to be honest is to explain the dangers it causes them and the horrors it creates in the world.

February is always the “sex” month for our ministry. This past month we had the overarching theme that pornography is a major cause of all the sexual issues we were facing.

We explained how pornography use directly supports sex slavery and prostitution. We explained that these women (and sometimes men) are held at gunpoint and told to “enjoy” the experience for the cameras.

We went over stats and stories after story of how porn is destroying lives, and you know what?

It worked.

I had student after student share with either me or their parents that they were struggling.

And here's something else too.

Pornography isn't just a sin issue for Christians.
It should be a social justice issue too.

Teens care about social issues. They want to see the world change. When they find out that THEY are causing these things to happen. They want to stop. We just need to provide them with a way to stop!

So this is what you do.

Educate yourself.
Do some research and learn about the horrors of pornography. Fightthenewdrug.org is a great place to start.

Educate your students.
However, you NEED to make sure you have their parent’s permission before sharing with them what you have learned. Once you have that permission, how you share this information is up to you.

After all, you know your students better than I do. Whether you create a PowerPoint, share it in a small group setting, or pass out flyers, make sure that it is done in the most effective way possible for them.

Encourage them to speak.
End your message or small group by urging students to be honest with someone about their pornography use. Whether it’s you, their parents, or another leader, being honest is their first step to recovery.

Follow up with them often.
Could you see the Holy Spirit working in Freddy or Sally while you were sharing? Follow up with simple questions like, “What did you think about tonight’s lesson?” or “What do you think we could do to fight this?”

Pray your heart out.
Prayer is our most powerful tool and we need to be praying for our students continually. Pray that the Holy Spirit works in them and allows them to be honest about their usage.

If it's worth talking about, it's worth praying about,
especially when it's difficult to talk about.

The best part about all of this is that sometimes it works and changes students' lives.

Jeff is a eighth grade student in our ministry. He is easily the most difficult student to deal with every week. He is always bouncing off the walls and distracting us from our focus.

However, during our message on porn, he was oddly quiet. When he left for home his mom asked him what they discussed. He lied and told her that he missed the message because he was in the bathroom. Then he went and took a shower to relax.

By the time he was out, he was in tears and confessed to his mom that he had been looking at porn since fifth grade.

Because we were able to show him how his porn usage was destroying his life and the life of the people around him, the Holy Spirit was able to work in his heart.

We all have students who are struggling like Jeff was. We need to give them a reason to quit. If we don’t, then their lives are literally at risk.

What have you done in order to help students be open and honest about their pornography use? Do you have any other websites that we can use to educate ourselves? Let us know in the comments below!

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