Why do some youth groups seem to be more successful than others? What separates one youth group from another when it comes to making a difference in the lives of youth within a particular community? What if you could discover the secret to that growth?
Dave Rahn and I may have stumbled on to some answers during our research. A few years ago, we got to lead a team of researchers coast to coast looking for youth groups where a vibrant outreach ministry was the norm. These youth groups were seeing more teens reach other teens for Christ that what was common. The research from this project fueled the book Dave and I co-authored, Evangelism Remixed: Empowering Students for Courageous and Contagious Faith.
Jim Dekker is Associate Professor of Youth Ministry in the Center for Youth Ministry Studies and has been teaching there since 2002. Jim is a dear friend and we share a love of the outdoors and of laughter. He earned his B.Th in Pastoral Studies at Ontario Bible College (Tyndale College), his M.A. in Christian Education from Calvin Theological Seminary (Grand Rapids), and his Ph.D in Educational Studies from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is the author of numerous articles and book reviews and he enjoys camping, fishing, kayaking and sailing.
Jim’s expertise is in a wide array of topics that inform youth ministry. In this interview on the YS Roundtable, Jim tackles an under-discussed topic that silently confronts our ministries every day. When we can identify the systems in our community, locate others who can help us work within those systems, and then develop more effective strategies for youth ministry, we can see a higher level of effectiveness in our ministry. But, hey, Jim talks about this much more eloquently, so I’ll leave it up to him:
A few months ago I served as the director for a video shoot at a large printing company. We were shooting a promotional and the video company was short-handed, so I filled in for the day. Working with a great videographer (he drove a BMW) and the company owner, I (who drove a rusted-out conversion van) interviewed various people and set up a range of video “B-roll” shots. I was very impressed with the company, but was most impressed by how competent the owner was at every front-line job at the plant. He knew the in’s and out’s of how each worked, while still recognizing that those who ran the machines knew them even better. They were the ones who dealt with the breakdowns and the particularities of each machine.
That moment challenged me in my own life. How do I stay fresh in my teaching? How do we who lead have “working knowledge” of what’s happening on our frontlines? In fact, that day reminded me that I just miss being involved in youth work.
I was watching The Voice on NBC last week and found myself really enjoying it and laughing a lot, not as common when watching TV these days. I thought, “Why am I laughing so much?” Then it hit me that I was captivated by how much fun the four judges were having together and how much they seemed to be enjoying each other. Most reality shows feature arguing since producers think conflict and snippy judges make for interesting TV. This year Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, and new judges Usher and Shakira (who is other-worldly popular among the four judges, illustrated by her 20+ million Twitter followers) really like each other – and you could tell it. It was like a bright light on TV and Twitter lit up about how much fun it was to watch the show because of the fun the judges were having together.
Think about why the YOUTH MINISTRY GARAGE video show is so popular among youth workers. It’s not the content that we’re drawn to (just don’t tell the hosts that) as we watch Doug, Josh, Katie and Matt interact with each other. Maybe we like that they answer questions and interact with the audience. But, I think we’re drawn to them as a group because they like each other (as far as we know, at least). We watch it to be encouraged by that, we laugh with (and at) them, and we are drawn into their world. And because of that, many of us feel encouraged and like we can continue on for another month in youth work. read more…
This past week Seth Godin wrote that real-time news is neither. He said, “Go watch an hour of cable news from a year ago… what were they yelling about that we actually care about today?”
It made me think about my field of youth ministry and the books that we clamor for and trumpet each year. Some received a LOT of press when they came out but today are rarely mentioned or discussed. Others have seemed timeless and continue to inform the field. Others may not have sold as many copies, but have a devoted following.
People fear the introduction of technology into education and its classrooms. However, perhaps its ability to deliver content will free instructors to teach, challenge, develop, and shape thinking in new ways… the way that used to characterize teaching. Think about it: Much of traditional teaching has been the ‘banking’ method (Paulo Freire) – where the instructor has this information and by talking nonstop for 50 minutes, supposedly deposits it in the students’ minds. And whether real learning has happened is anyone’s guess.
So, to challenge our fears a bit, read this blog and then watch this video: