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!

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. 

You Will Be Missed

Then Jonathan said to David: ‘Tomorrow is the New Moon festival. You will be missed, because your seat will be empty.’ - 1 Samuel 20:18

Growing up, I was made to go to worship. Every time the church doors were open, I was there. My mother would (almost) let me miss school before she’d let me miss church. It was engrained into my mind that I would be there.

This carried over to later in my life when I found a purpose in worship. I found that it wasn’t just about me getting what I could get out of it, it was about participating in the worship of our Lord and giving what I could to Him.

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I think that maybe a lot of us fail to understand that these days.

As a youth minister, I see it a lot. If there is something better to do, then that certain kid won’t be at worship services, whether it’s sports, a concert, or homework. So what are we raising our kids to think their priorities are?

Without getting too much into the actual importance of being at worship, I just want to say one thing: that when you’re not there, believe it or not, you are missed.

In 1 Samuel 20 Jonathan says this to David, talking about the New Moon festival. Without reading the context of this verse, we may think, “Aw that’s sweet. Jonathan was concerned for his friend.” But if you read into it, you’ll understand that David was staying away from the festival because he was sure that Saul would try to kill him.

Every true worshiper needs to understand this verse – You will be missed, because you seat will be empty. If they do not understand this, perhaps the rest of us need to remind them.

As Christians, we have a lot of things in our job description. Be an example of Christ. Care for those less fortunate than you. Preach the Gospel to everyone. But another part of our job that we sometimes overlook is something I like to call Retention.

During my time spent in the Marine Corps, I learned that every base of large unit has something called a Retention Officer. This officer’s only job was to make sure that Marines were staying in the Corps past their allotted time of duty. He would call us from time to time to see if we were thinking about reenlisting and what those reenlistment options were. Sometimes, big incentives were given to high-value occupations.

As Christians, in our local churches, in our local communities, what are we doing to keep people there? Do people know you care? Do people know that they are missed when they’re not there?

I encourage you - members, youth ministers, ministers, what have you - to start making an effort to see where the empty seats are located. Christians need to be with other Christians. Christians need to worship.

It may sound like just one more thing we have to do, but the rewards of finding that one lost sheep among the ninety-nine will be incredible.

 

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> 

Don't Worry About It

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Don't you hate it when people say that to you? It's almost like they don't care. It's like they don't sympathize with us about our worries. But...that's exactly what Jesus said to do - not worry about it.  

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

I'm a worrier. I worry about things non-stop. But as our pulpit minister Kyle Bolton pointed out in his sermon yesterday, there are some things we need to know about worrying, and some specific points Jesus makes in Matthew 6.25-34.  

Worrying is illogical (v 25). Mr. Spock on Star Trek would say this. Worrying is highly illogical. 

Worrying is a distraction (v 26). We are distracted by so many things in life, and worrying about things is a distraction to us being able to serve God to our full potential. If God can take care of the birds, why can't he take care of us, his greatest creation?  

Worrying is useless (v 27). What good will worrying do? What will it accomplish? Will worrying solve problems? No! 

Worrying is pointless (v 28-30). Have you ever seen Caffeine-Free Diet Mountain Dew? Neither have I. But apparently, it exists. What's the point of drinking a drink like Mountain Dew with no sugar and no caffeine? If you are the type of person that drinks that, you don't drink it for the lack of those things, you drink it in spite of and because of those things. Just like Caffeine-Free Mountain Dew, worrying is pointless. Why even bother with it?

Worrying is faithless (v 31-32). This one hits me hard. If we as Christians are supposed to be the "called out" and distinctive in this world, why do we worry about trivial things so much? When we worry, it demonstrates a lack of faith. 

Worry is out of focus (v 33). If we would put the first things first (i.e. God, Jesus, and His church), then all the small things in our lives would fall into place.  

Worry is borrowed trouble (v 34). Most of worrying is completely unfounded, meaning what we worry about usually never comes to pass. Think about that. When we worry, we are just borrowing trouble from the next day, week, or month - and friends, this day has enough trouble on its own.

Take one day at a time. 

Refuse to borrow trouble.  

And don't worry...be happy! 

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?