Effective Apps & Resources for Youth Ministry

Below are the notes for my lecture I gave at Faulkner at their Youth & Family Summit on February 29, 2016. 

A few notes before we begin:

  • Isaiah 44.9–20 – don’t make your tech an idol
  • People shouldn’t say “Wow that was a great presentation” - they should say “He or she really brought that passage to life”
  • Don’t ever let your tech speak louder than the Word.
  • God used people - Moses and Joshua and Jesus and Paul - he didn’t use an app to spread the Gospel
  • If your focus is on your PowerPoint and not pointing kids to the Gospel, you need to reevaluate your preparation
  • My process: [1] Look at the Word, [2] Write my lesson, [3] Add in any technology.

Bible Study / Apps

  • TheBible.org app / greattreasures.org (it ain’t pretty but it works!)
  • Logos Bible Software
  • YouVersion (YouVersion Live interactive notes)
  • Faithlife Study Bible
  • Accordance
  • ESV Bible

Resources

  • AdventuresInMinistry.com
  • AIM Series
  • Ministry Bits podcast
  • Active Digital Parenting
  • Start2Finish
  • Wes McAdams
  • The Bible Project on YouTube
  • The Youth Cartel
  • YFC.net
  • Download Youth Ministry
  • The Source for YM
  • Youth Ministry 360
  • The Clues Brothers (escape games from Andrew and Philip Jenkins)
  • Open.Lifechurch.tv

Reasearch and Writing

  • Editorial for iOS
  • Byword for iOS
  • Apple Notes for iOS
  • Copied for iOS
  • Simplenote
  • Evernote (good app but not recommended)
  • Microsoft OneNote

Social Media

  • Instagram (fastest growing social network in the world)
  • Flow for Instagram (nice UI, multiple accounts, iPad app)
  • Tweetbot for Mac / iOS (great Twitter client, multiple accts)
  • Fenix for Twitter for Android
  • Tweetdeck for Mac (multiple accts)
  • Buffer (time-deliver posts, multiple accts)
  • SaveFrom.net
  • Adobe Post
  • Adobe Clip

Graphics

  • Canva for iOS
  • Gimp
  • Photoshop + Lightroom subscription (9.99/mo)
  • Pixelmator for Mac

Organization

  • MinHub Youth for iOS
  • Microsoft Excel or OneNote
  • Dropbox
  • Postagram
  • Ink Cards
  • Wunderlist
  • 2Do
  • Omnifocus

Websites / Mobile Apps

  • Squarespace
  • Hover
  • Clover sites
  • Subsplash

Organization

  • MinHub Youth for iOS
  • Microsoft Excel or OneNote
  • Dropbox
  • Postagram
  • Ink Cards
  • Wunderlist
  • 2Do
  • Omnifocus

The M2Y Conference: A Review

I'll readily admit that I was very skeptical about the Ministering 2 Youth Conference in Orlando, Florida. I didn't know who had thought up the idea, who put it into motion, but I did know some of the players and a few members of the board. I was ready to give the conference the benefit of the doubt, and my congregation was gracious enough to sponsor me to go. 

I made the decision with my wife that I would not bring our family. Even though Disney was mere miles away, our boys were too small (a 3 year old and a 5 month old) to even remember it, and our second child was being difficult by not sleeping well at night. In hindsight, I'm glad I didn't, because I would have wanted to be with them more than be sitting in sessions and my mind would not have been on what I was trying to learn. 

So what was I trying to learn? What did I want this conference to help me with?

I wanted a few things:

  • Ideas about how to make our ministry more God-centered
  • Ideas about how to make our  ministry more vibrant (i.e. more involving, engaging)
  • Lesson/cirriculum ideas
  • Fun activity and game ideas
  • Encouragement

So what did I find?

Looking at the schedule of talks and keynotes, you may not see a youth-centered cirriculum, but that could be deceptive. EVERYTHING was about kids. EVERYTHING was about focusing on young people. Keynotes by David Shannon and Kirk Brothers were focused on how we can impact young people and get them back in the Bible and back to God. Classes - most were open to discussion - focused on everything from handling crises in youth ministry to ethical and legal concerns. 

For the first year of a conference, I was impressed with the quality of speakers and teachers as well as the content. There were over 150 in attendance, which was also impressive for the first year. Childcare was provided (noted by myself even if I didn't use it), and two wonderful meals were provided on Friday and Saturday for lunch. 

Thursday morning, registration began at noon and the first session at 1:30. On Friday and Saturday, the sessions began a 8:30. Each session was an hour with a half-hour break in between, and a two hour break for lunch. The last session ended at 4PM to let people have the evening to themselves or with their families. 

Sessions I attended:

  • Building Faith in Youth - David Shannon (Keynote)
  • Maintaining Faith in Youth - David Shannon (Keynote)
  • Apologetics - Kyle Butt
  • Developing a Family Ministry - Tim Frizzel
  • Equipping Parents as Spiritual Leaders - Tim Frizzel
  • Developing A Vision In Youth Ministry - Craig Evans
  • Dealing with Crisis In Youth Ministry - Jerry Elder
  • Youth Minister Care for Elders - Jerry Elder
  • Exposing Darkness & Evil - Kirk Brothers (Keynote)
  • Developing Teens that Shine - Kirk Brothers (Keynote)

Overall, it was an outstanding conference, especially for the first year. The only negative factors were the location - although I think for bringing a family along it was great, and a good start for the conference. The hotel was marvelous and centrally located to all attractions and food. The conference fee was very modest for the quality of speakers and teachers that were there. 

I do not say this lightly or for dramatic flair either - but speaking just for myself, the ideas and concepts taught have and will change my ministry and how I minister to teens. 

I will definitely be going back to M2Y next year in Chattanooga, and I will be inviting as many people as I can to go with me. What a great start for a much-needed conference. 

Audio and notes will be posted to my blog here in the coming days of nearly every session at M2Y, and also at their website. Be sure to check back soon!

Preaching from a 5.5-inch iPhone

The supposed 4.7- and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 to be announced next week. Source

If the overwhelming rumors hold true, Apple will announce not one, but two new iPhones next week at their special event in California: an newly-designed iPhone 6, one with a 4.7-inch display and one with a 5.5-inch display.

If you take a ruler to your current iPhone, it's just 4 inches diagonally. Now expand that out to 4.7 and 5.5 inches. You'll see that the 5.5-inch phone is much bigger. You get a whole lot more screen real estate with 5.5 inches.

Which brings up an interesting question - if you use an iPad mini to preach from, would you consider using a 5.5-inch iPhone to do the same thing?

I would. And I'm planning to. And here's why.

1) One device, not two. Right now I have the trifecta - the iPhone, iPad mini and my Macbook Pro. But I would love to trim that down to just two devices - my iPhone and Macbook. I use the three devices I have now for very different things. I use the phone for taking pictures, checking Twitter, taking down quick notes, and oh - texting and talking on the phone. I use the iPad mini to preach from, and I've found myself not using the iPad mini as much as I've wanted to. I surf the web and read a lot on my laptop versus my iPad. I write and watch videos on my laptop. I'm not much of a digital reader so I don't use the iPad for that (plus I do most of my reading right before bed, and they say that looking at screens before bed leads to sleep problems).

2) It won't be a 'blown-up' iPhone. Apple wouldn't do that (or at least I hope they wouldn't). They didn't just blow up iOS to fit on an iPad, they made a different interface for it. The 5.5-inch iPhone, whether it comes out 10 days after the announcement or not until 2015, will have a different kind of OS. In my opinion, it will still run on iOS of course, but it will be some kind of hybrid between iPad and iPhone views. Don't ask me to explain all of that, I just think that's what Apple will do with it.

3) The resolution will be crazy high. And that will lead to great looking text - at any size. Whether you're looking at Evernote, Simplenote, or a PDF in Goodreader, it's going to look fantastic. Text will be able to be resized to whatever you want it to be.

Are there trade-offs to a huge iPhone? Why sure. For one, you look wacky with the thing on your ear talking on the phone. Like holding small Bible to your head. Another thing would be how portable it is - will it fit in your pocket?

But to me, having one device that has everything I need and is big enough so that I can preach and teach from it will be invaluable to me.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments.

Embracing Criticism

Jerrie Barber is one of my favorite ministers, and I've only heard him speak a couple of times, mostly about being a preacher himself. Jerrie has what he calls a "Criticism Contract" that reads as follows: 

"All criticism about Jerrie Barber should be directed to Jerrie Barber and Jerrie Barber alone. Jerrie will listen to your criticism and embrace it. Likewise, any criticism about the staff or Elders must be directed to them as well." 

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First of all, great policy. Second, Jerrie says that he embraces criticism. 

Do you embrace criticism? Or do you dread and loathe it?

Indirectly and unintentionally, I have always tried to encourage my youth committee and Elders to constructively criticize me in all things. I need to know when something is wrong and then, hopefully, I can fix it. I can't do anything about anything if the problem with me is not directed at me. Sneaking around and talking about someone to someone who can't fix the problem is just juvenile and anti-Christian. 

As ministers and youth ministers, we should have an attitude of embracing criticism, not abhorring it. We should tackle problems with solutions instead of getting depressed or something about what so-and-so complained about whatever you did, said, or didn't do. Our jobs are ones that invite every type of criticism, viable or not, and we need to learn to embrace it and take it, not dread it. 

The Ministry Bits Podcast

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One of the things God has blessed me with was the ability to know stuff about technology that most other people don't know. I don't say this because I'm an expert (because I'm not), I say this because every day I come across someone who surprises me with either their knowledge or lack thereof about technology.

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Youth Ministry Workshop at the Freed-Hardeman Lectureships this past week - and I was on the other side of the table. I know a lot of stuff about technology - maybe too much. But I learned about new ways of doing things, new apps, new ways to create apps - stuff I had literally never heard before. 

So my new podcast I (re)started about 2 weeks ago is just that. It's about technology - both the tools we can use and the lessons we can learn from it in ministry. It's called Ministry Bits, and you don't have to go too far to listen. 

There are lots of people in the ministry that you and I know that are good at a lot of different things. Some are good at graphics. Some are good at using technology to preach and teach. So how can we use their knowledge to make our ministries better? We can see how they did it. 

If we want to be like Christ, we need to do the things he did. If we want to use technology effectively in our ministries, then we need to do the things that effective people do. 

Ministry Bits is an attempt to cobble together all this knowledge into one weekly podcast, so that everyone can listen and benefit. We will have guests in the coming weeks talk about perspectives on technology in ministry, reading, writing, and teaching and preaching in ministry. I hope that you the listener will benefit greatly from their knowledge and experience. We'll have shows on apps, workflows, and gadgets to use in ministry. 

Thank you in advance for supporting the new podcast. It's going to be a great ride. 

You can check out Ministry Bits right here on the website, or you can subscribe with iTunes in your favorite podcast client for easy listening. Shows run 25-30 minutes, no more. Your time is valuable. If you have a request, a comment, or would even like to be on the show, give me a shout at chad.landman@gmail.com

Lock-In Survival Guide

This post is intended as satire. Don’t take the things I say here literally, even if there is some truth to it ;-]

 

Since you're not going to say it, I will.

Lock-Ins are lame. 

Lock-Ins are the bane of a youth minister’s existence. 

Whoever invented them should be lined up and shot. 

But I digress. 

The first Lock-In dates all the way back 1596. John Wycliffe, a Bible scholar at the time, got accidentally locked in a cellar for 12 hours with 36 children, signifying centuries of tradition of staying up all night with kids and having no help doing it. 

But that’s neither here nor there. 

I have a lock-in coming up in about 28 days - and it’s a New Year’s Lock-In to be exact, the worst kind of lock-in. Why? I don’t know. It just is

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But what youth ministers fail to realize is that lock-in preparation begins 30 days before. 

At a month before the actual event, I start prepping myself mentally. I start preparing myself for voluntarily staying up 24 hours straight with screaming kids who won’t clean when it’s time to leave. I mentally prepare myself for the parents asking me when they pick up their kids 15 minutes late (which might as well be 15 hours late when you haven’t slept all night): “So did you all have fun?” And you wish you could respond: “I don’t know, does getting the mess beat out of you sound like fun!?”

But I digress.

Lock-Ins are WONDERFUL for the kids. Kids you haven’t seen in six years will come to a lock-in and act like they’ve been there all along. You can go outside and shout “LOCK-IN!!” and you will literally have kids coming from every nook and cranny, crawling out of holes in the ground and jumping out of cars. It’s absolutely ridiculous. 

But I digress. 

For me, a lock-in isn’t just a night with no sleep. It’s a week-long event. 

The three days before and three days after are just as important as the actual lock-in itself. I begin sleeping late and staying up late about three days before the actual lock-in. This never works though, as I have a family and a normal life and work that still has to be done, lock-in or not. So it all usually happens the night before, I try to sleep late but never do, ensuring I will be incredibly tired come 2AM. If, however, you have a toddler and a pregnant wife, you can play your cards right and take a nap during the day. That is, providing you have understanding Elders who will let you “lay outta work” just for some silly lock-in. 

The three days after is what I call LIR, or Lock-In Recovery. This can vary with your age. I’m 32, so I feel as though I’m 120 years old when a lock-in is finished. My wife has an IV waiting to stick me once all the kids are gone. I’ve never had to go to the hospital after a lock-in, but I am anticipating that day is not too far off. 

What follows in the next few days (again, depending on your age and experience), are nightmares, cold sweats, some sleeplessness, and an off-kilter diet because of all the honey buns and energy drinks you ingested while at the lock-in. Some youth ministers even suffer longer from PTLID - or Post-Traumatic Lock-In Disorder. 

While I won’t get into the structure of a lock-in and the activities thereof, I will tell you that it is absolutely essential that you do as little as possible while managing the lock-in. That means no basketball, running around, shouting at video games, or anything else. Just sit there. Quietly. 

The best lock-ins are the ones where you can sucker other youth ministers into bringing their groups of kids. You can lull them into a false sense of security, and then go back home and sleep. Show up an hour before the lock-in is over and say you were playing video games all night with some boys upstairs. This only works if you have a really big building though. 

So, I hope this short survival guide has opened your eyes a little and made you realize that lock-ins aren’t worth it. But we’re youth ministers, and we like punishment. 

Best of luck to you in all your lock-ins, whether at New Years or in 2014. Cause you need all the luck you can get. 

Five Questions Youth Ministers Should Be Asking

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To excel at something, you constantly have to evaluate. What am I doing right? What am I doing wrong? What can I improve upon? Below are five specific questions all youth ministers (including myself) should be asking, at least on a yearly, if not monthly and daily basis. 

1. Am I Still Effective? Let’s be honest, it’s about Jesus and His power to save, not ours. But all too often we are not looking at our own strategies, programs, and attitude in ministry as being effective enough to reach kids with the Gospel message. Is your heart just not in it anymore? Are you finding yourself saying “those stinkin’ kids” more and more? Do you dread teaching class or planning youth events? Then you might be burnt out, and burnt out ministers aren’t effective. 

2. Am I Communicating Well? Communication in any relationship is key, and communication in youth ministry is no exception. I would venture to say that you need to communicate more effectively with parents and with the leadership of the church than anyone else, including the kids in your group. Do you use more than three forms of advertising for events? Do you send out emails informing parents of upcoming meetings and activities? I’ve found that you can never have too much information out there for parents and kids to see. There’s so much information being thrown at them that sometimes you have to be insistent about making sure they know about the events and activities. Communication is in and of itself a full-time job. You must constantly working at it. 

3. Am I Focusing On My Work? Something I’m struggling with is side projects. Speaking engagements, blogging and writing, and other things. How much am I focused on my work? Meaning: how much am I focused on being a youth minister and not a preacher? Or speaker? Or writer? Or getting another degree? We can easily get wrapped up in the busyness of what we’ve been asked to do and not focus on what we were hired to do. I am very fortunate that the Elders at the congregation I work for have allowed me to fully focus on the youth. They don’t ask me to coordinate education duties, preach, or do too much outside of my youth focus. The kids and their parents need you to be focused on the youth group. 

4. Am I Taking Time Off? Right now, I have 5 ½ days left on the books to take off this year, with just over 40 calendar days left to do it. If you get to mid-December and you have 12 days left to take off, you’re doing something wrong. TAKE YOUR TIME OFF. You need it, and your family needs it. If you rate a day off during the week and can’t remember the last time you actually had that day off, you’re doing it wrong. Take your time off. The work will be there to do when you get back. 

5. Am I Christ-centered? The most important question you should ask, and this one should be asked every day. Firstly, are you taking care of your own spiritual needs and feeding your own spiritual appetite, and second - are you teaching the Gospel to the kids in your group? In youth ministry, everything we do should be to get kids to come to Christ. If that’s not our objective, we need to do some earnest thinking about just what it is that we're doing. 

What about you? What questions do you think youth ministers should be asking. Sound off in the comments. 

Rant: Churches, Stop Dumping Everything On Youth Ministers

Disclaimer: I am one of the fortunate youth ministers to be able to work with a great staff and wonderful elders who respect our job titles and let us focus on what we were hired and trained to do. So this rant isn't about me, but rather what I've observed and continue to observe churches doing to discourage and burn out youth ministers.  

<rant> 

Look, churches. Elderships. Leaderships. PLEASE listen. 

I'm so sick of seeing friends drop out of ministry. Good friends who were good ministers who were doing God's work to help young people and their parents get to heaven and they drop out of ministry just because they can't take any more bellyaching. Goodness. Youth Ministers are people too. We're people who make mistakes and have families and hobbies and go on vacations (when we can afford it and we're not paying off students loans). We have feelings too, so stop making out like we don't by talking behind our backs or better yet, publicly speaking out against us.  

Who did you hire? A youth minister or a superhero? We can only do so much. We make half what pulpit ministers make and do the same amount of more, maybe more in the summer. We do the same amount of the work because you're constantly piling stuff on for us to do. We're not just the youth minister, we're the education director, tech support, website administrator, song leader, part-time "associate" minister, children's program director, class teacher on Sundays and Wednesdays, VBS coordinator, Summer Camp coordinator, DayCamp coordinator, and a couple of other things that we forgot about because we're trying to get all the other stuff done. So who did you hire and why don't you let me do what I was trained to do, and what I'm best at instead of piling everything up on me until I quit? 

And another thing: I'm not the savior of your kids, Jesus is. I'm not the leader of your children's lives, their parents are. I can only, at most, be a guide. I can teach kids thoughtful lessons that I spend hours preparing. I can plan fun events and and do fun things with them and magnify Christ in those things. I can have discussions with parents and teens about how to work through problems. 

What I can't do is everything. I can't teach on Sunday morning, preach that same morning, do a devotional for the older people that Sunday afternoon, lead singing that Sunday night and do a devotional for the kids afterwards. I am not Carl Lewis. I cannot do everything. And when you try to put everything on me, it's just going to burn me out and make me resent ministry, and maybe even the church.  

Elders, Leaders, parents: LISTEN. When you are looking to hire me, do not look at me as your workhorse, look at me as your partner to help your kids get to heaven. Treat me as a person, not a robot. 

</rant> 

The End of Summer

For some of you youth ministers, the end of summer is here. 

Sure, you're probably still wrapping things up. Me? I'm helping tear down buildings and gut houses in Moore, Oklahoma with several of my teens and college kids this week. But this is our last big event until Fall Retreat. You're probably doing the same. Maybe it's VBS, or a DayCamp, a lock-in (let's hope not), or a back-to-school barbecue. Whatever it is, for all intents and purposes, your summer is pretty much over.  

Here's some recommendations I have for you on what to do now. 

Take a break. You've earned it. Spend some time with your family, be it your wife and kids or your mom and dad - or both. Vacation time is now while the kids get back into school mode. Take a breather from work even if it's just a couple of days. And if you don't have any time off left, work only when you have to. You can take it easy for a couple of days and recharge.  

Don't plan anything else in August. Most kids start back to school pretty early in August now, some not until mid-August. Have your back-to-school barbecue or your regular Wednesday night eating deal, but don't plan any major events at least for the next month. Your kids need a break to concentrate on getting back to school and you a break to plan some fall events. Parents will appreciate this short lull as their kids get back into the grind of school. Don't be that guy that figures he has to have an event every week. This is not the time of the year to do that. 

Do a summer review. Get your youth committee, your elders, or both of them together and do a summer review NOW. Don't wait on this. Write a summer report while it's still fresh on your mind - just a couple of pages on your major events and what went right and what didn't go so right in said events. Ask your parents and leadership for suggestions on what could be done better. Were the events spiritually-focused? Were the events managed well? How could they have gone better? 

Organize, organize, organize. I talked about this already, but you really need to do this. Organize your files and papers from your different events, your files on your computer from those events, organize your storage area for supplies and equipment so you're not having to do it before camp next year. 

These are just a few things I will be doing to end my summer. What will you be doing?  

Don't Be A George Foreman Grill

I love to grill. Like, hardcore. When my wife and I had a grill that worked (we've been "grill-less" and too busy to buy one lately), we'd grill out every other night.  

When I was in college, however, we couldn't have grills in the dorms. Something about setting off smoke detectors and being a "fire hazard." Whatever.  

So I got a George Foreman grill. Biggest mistake ever.  

This funky clamshell cooking apparatus had such promise. It was going to be the savior to my college grilling problems. I had dreams of cooking hamburgers and steaks for my friends, and us having one of those dorm parties that makes all the other dorms jealous.  

It worked fine for a week. Then reality set in.  

For some reason, the GF Grill didn't want to get hot anymore. It would literally take 4 hours to cook a burger to medium rare. I believe the hottest the grill got was like 85 degrees. It was like sitting my meat outside on the sidewalk or by the pool. In fact, it got so bad that I would start to put my various meats in the grill to keep them cool

And if that wasn't enough, when it did work, there was this handy little grease tray THAT DIDN'T ATTACH to the grill. If you know anything about Foreman Grills, they're kind of set on this downslope so all the unhealthy grease just slides right off your food and into this little tray so you can have the illusion of being healthy. But if the little grease tray was one micron off, all your grease from your food would be like a waterfall of nastiness spilling out into your countertop and floor. 

The grease tray design was bad enough. The grill didn't work properly either, so about 11 days and 50 bucks later, it was retired to the closet. I was too embarrassed to even bring it back to Target.  

So what's my point this morning? Don't be a George Foreman Grill.  

Don't promise the world and then not deliver. Specifically, for youth ministers, don't make grand plans and promises you can't keep. Keep it real, be realistic with your goals for the ministry you work for.  

Don't be lazy. In a couple of weeks, school will start back. It's what youth ministers refer to as the "Happy Month." You need to take a break, yes, and perhaps even a vacation, but don't look at August-September-October as the "easy months." Be aggressive and get some things done. Organize your youth storage room so you won't perpetually be looking for stuff come May. Write out a report for your leadership on the events of the summer, letting them know just how awesome you are. Maybe, after school has settled in, you plan an extra even for your teens. Look far in advance to any camps and retreats that need speakers booked and events planned. Don't be ineffective after a period of work like a George Foreman Grill. 

Realize your ineffectiveness. Is an event or tradition that you have not having the same effect for your youth group or church? Maybe it's time to take a hard look at what is doing a good job of getting people to Jesus in your ministry. It's so easy to do the same things over and over, year after year, but what about when things become ineffective in leading people to Christ? What about when you start to become ineffective? It may be time to look at a break, a vacation, go to a conference, or even, in the last resort, a move. We as youth ministers can become burnt our very quickly if we don't watch ourselves. 

Don't be a George Foreman Grill. Don't be broken, badly designed, and ineffective at what you do. Always be striving for the best to get people to Christ. 

(And I swear if anyone comes on here and says "I loved my GF Grill, it was the greatest!" I'm going to punch you in the face.)