- What are some of the “out of the box ways” that we can keep the kids’ attention (during small group discussions, activities, games, teaching time, etc.)?
To be 100% honest, don’t be boring. If your students are on their phones or talking when you’re talking during a sermon or small group, then the issue is 100% you and not them. You are not being engaging enough to hold their attention. You don’t need to set fireworks off and do tricks; you just need to treat them like people, be engaging in your body language, and learn to read the group. If your small group is all over the place, take them outside. If they fiddle on the couch, then sit on the floor. I would say the vast majority of time kids are disconnected is because you’re being boring. So, my “out of the box” idea is to be less boring 😛
- What are some of the typical biases that leaders have when they enter into Youth Ministry, whether leading or pastoring, and how can we be sure to avoid those ideas or ways of leading?
I think the biggest biases that leaders face as they go into youth ministry are that they think they know everything. Often, new pastors have had 4-5 years of Bible school with a 3-6 month internship. They step into their new church role and think they know everything. The problem is, they do know a lot about the Bible, but very little about their new church’s culture or students. Their Biblical knowledge is strong, but their relational knowledge is virtually zero. The byproduct of this is that they tend to think they know better than the local leader who’s been faithfully serving for a decade. While they might know better, they can only discover that over time.
- What is the key to developing relationships in a large youth group? How do I encourage a youth that doesn’t want to be at the group, but is being forced to by their parents to get more involved?
This is a two-part question, so let me give you two answers.
The first answer is that you cannot do all the work yourself. You need to empower your leaders and key students to help you take care of your group and develop relationships. At best, you can do a dozen, so if your group is bigger than that, then you need help. The best way to do that is make sure every student is in a small group and then release/empower your small group leaders to work with their “few”. If everyone does their part, then the whole group is taken care of.
The second answer is that you can never force a student to get more involved. But, as a rule of thumb, I often say, “Every fringe-student is only one conversation from being on the inside vs. the outside”. If you go back to part one of this answer and actually do it, then every kid will get a conversation, but it’s up to the student to get involved.
- Is it common for you to develop your own teaching schedule/material or will your lead pastor want to be involved?
Most of the time, you will be creating your own or following a curriculum of your own choosing. However, from time to time you may get asked to align what you’re doing with what the church is doing. These are fun moments to join together, however lots of times pastors resist this opportunity. I would see it as that: an opportunity to partner and raise the profile of your program, and your boss will LOVE YOU.
- How theologically intense should you teach?
You can go as deep as you want; you just need to show your work along the way. Basically, you need to show students how you got there, and define the words/concepts for them. You can’t assume they will know, but that doesn’t mean you can’t teach them. As a rule of thumb: the deeper you go, the more time it takes to explain things to kids. So, just be aware of your sermon length.