Accidental Traditions

I feel confident that every group out there has some interesting traditions. Whether its where you go on a mission trip, how you fundraise, a special Christmas event or an annual outing, chances are you have inherited or created some traditions.  Have you ever asked around about how these things got started?

What is a tradition in your youth group?

Have you ever been around when a tradition was accidentally established?

One year, at the closing night of a mission trip, I spontaneously praised the Sunday night youth group attendance of one of our graduated seniors.  I talked about how you don’t always get that when seniors get busy and I appreciated his presence throughout the year. In this unplanned moment I actually mimed the motion of presenting him with a senior attendance award that was of course, named after him. Everyone clapped and we posed for a picture. It wasn’t until the following fall that I realized the new seniors were already discussing who would be wining the attendance award that year.  When I left that church the senior attendance award was 3 names deep (and had to be referred to as such, of course).  We never created an actual trophy or anything, it just became a “thing” for our group.

One year, a parent in our church offered to host a New Year’s Eve party for the youth. During this party a goofy dance move was created.  I was not at the party, but believe me, I heard about this dance move. I said we could make a video of everyone dancing and the kids really got into this idea – bringing costumes and props and we had a hilarious night of recording their dance moves. The parents loved this video we made, as did the kids, and so I guess I should not have been surprised when the following spring they asked when we were making our video.  This dance video became an absolute highlight of our program year.  We had a whole process around selecting the song, a student or two would volunteer to choreograph some moves and teach the group for a part of the song. We would film it early in May so they could see the finished result on our last night of the program year. This became the best “bring a friend” night of the year.

In both these cases, I did not intend to start a tradition, and had I known what would happen I may have made a few different choices (I’m a planner!) but the energy these traditions created were worth it!

What are your accidental traditions?

Youth Worker Refresh – May 13

matt-icons_view-refreshDexter United Methodist is home to one of our largest and most active youth groups. The team at Dexter, from Senior Pastor to volunteer small group leaders, have learned what it takes to grow and nurture a great youth program.

Dexter’s Youth Ministry Director, Jeremy, is partnering with the Ann Arbor District to offer a one day Youth Worker Refresh, and everyone is invited!


This would be a great time to bring your volunteers or staff team for a day of learning and reflecting.  I hope you can join us!


Nominate a Student for THRIVE

Thrive logo final-2Who is the teen in your group who is ready to take some leadership?  Do you have a student that is interested in growing as a disciple?  Nominate him or her for THRIVE Youth Leadership Academy 2017.

THRIVE will take place at Lake Louise United Methodist Camp from Sunday July 16 – Thursday, July 20, 2017.  It is designed for high school students.  We spend time learning, reflecting and sharing about what it means to be a leader in our church and a follower of Christ.

Students are nominated by their Pastor or Youth Worker and then invited to apply.  The application process is designed to ensure a student understands what they are signing up for, not to turn anyone away.

Once you know who you want to nominate, go to this google form  Churches may choose to nominate more than one student.

Be in touch if you have any questions!

Student Leadership

Guidelines for Safe Fun and Meaningful Youth Ministry #4

Student Leadership

Student Leadership is common aspect of lots of youth ministry programs. Different churches give students different opportunities to be leaders – whether it’s being a leader of younger kids at Vacation Bible School or in Sunday School or having a leadership role in worship.  The important things is that students feel included and encouraged.

How is your congregation doing with offering students opportunities to be leaders?

Let’s look at 3 different ways students can be in leadership:

First, let older kids help with younger kids.  They can be a helper in an elementary Sunday School class, or in the nursery. For the younger kids, there is no one more exciting than the teenagers at church.  Maybe some of your youth would be leaders for Vacation Bible School, either shepherding a group of kids or leading a craft or story telling station.

Second, let young people be leaders among the congregation. Youth Sunday can be a great way to get youth in front of the church.  And more than that, maybe there is a young person that could be a liturgist more regularly.  Find out if the choir is open to teenagers joining. You might have a teen that would like to be on the missions committee.

Lastly, invite students to be leaders among their peers. Try a curriculum designed to be student lead. (I recommend Synago) Have students lead their own small groups – let the adult in the group be a participant instead of the leader. When you go on a service trip, assign each work team a student leader and put them in charge of delegating work, leading team devotions and making sure everyone stays hydrated.

One thing not to put youth in charge of: Logistics. Student Leadership is not about getting youth to make all the phone calls and arrangements. Students growing in leadership is about relationships and experiences, not to-do lists. As youth get older, bring them in on some of the behind the scenes tasks so they see the larger picture (if they are interested). In the meantime, let their leadership play out in hands on ways.

All of this depends on the youth you work with and the church you work in – figure out what works best in your context.  If you want some help brainstorming, give me a call. And remember, inviting students into leadership is a lot of work for you – they will need encouragement, training and your mentoring.  It will be worth it.

New Calendar Time


I know most people use the calendars on their phones now, so not everyone has gone out to purchase a new 2017 calendar. I have not made the switch to my phone so I do have in front of me right now, a whole book of blank pages in my new 2017 paper calendar. I kind of ike the tradition of starting fresh and filling it in. However you do your calendaring, there are a few things I want to be sure you are aware of coming up for youth!

ANNUAL CONFERENCE: Happening in Traverse City this year, we have spots for youth to attend.  This is not for everyone – but if you have a young person that is interested in the workings of the church, let me know!  Annual Conference takes place from June 1-4, 2017 in Traverse City.

THRIVE Youth Leadership Academy: This will be our third year offering this 4 day leadership camp at Lake Louise Camp near Boyne City.  This is for high school aged youth who are ready for the next step in discipleship and leadership.  Students are nominated by their Youth Worker or Pastor and invited to apply.  This years dates are July 16-20, 2017.

THE CONNECTION 17:  Statewide youth conference!  Join us with your youth group in Mt. Pleasant November 10-12, 2017 for speakers, workshops, worship and fun!  Lots more coming out on this in the next few months, but get it on your calendar now.

YOUTH 2019: Yes, that says 2019.  The conference will be again getting busses to get us all to Kansas City for the national gathering of young people in June 2019.  Plan to bring your group!

Be in touch with me if you have any questions about any of these events – check back here for more details as events get closer.

Authenticity Matters

Guidelines for Safe Fun and Meaningful Youth Ministry #3

Authenticity Matters

I am not a very spontaneous person.  I tend to be more of a planner, and then I tend to stick to the plan.  While I don’t mind speaking in front of people, I think you would call me a presenter before you ever called me an entertainer.  And, I think it was about when I turned 30 that I turned in my cool card forever.  I am not cool.  I’m not totally sure if I ever was, but I stopped worrying about when I turned 30.

Before I got into Youth Ministry, I believed that these aspects of my personality made me entirely unqualified to lead a youth group.  I saw the people leading youth ministries as super fun and entertaining and always, very cool.  They were, from what i could tell, spontaneous and goofy and very fun to be around.

Once I got into youth ministry I wondered if it would be a good fit over time because I didn’t fit what I perceived to be the mold.  I have learned a lot since then – about myself, about what works and about the people I had been observing.

Most importantly, I have learned that youth are drawn to adults that are comfortable in their own skin.  Maybe you are goofy and entertaining, maybe you are not.  Maybe you are on top of fashion trends or pop culture and maybe you are not. Being authentic is the where the connection happens, not with a certain kind of leader. Teenagers need their leaders to know and be comfortable with who they are so that they can know and be comfortable with who they are too.

Teaching youth that God loves them, that they are a child of God, does not require a certain type of person or a particular style of program.  It requires a passion for teenagers and discipleship. There is not mold for the perfect Youth Worker.  Be authentic, use your gifts and help the young people in your church transform the world.