10 Ways to Improve Your Relational Ministry

One of the best investments you will ever make in youth ministry is the time spent on developing relationships with your students. I speak with youth workers all the time who get caught up in programming or administrative duties and have a hard time connecting with teens. My hope is that this post will help provide you with some practical ideas that will enable you to fight the paperwork and will empower you to lengthen your relational stride.

I want to share with you 10 ways you can improve your relational ministry:
1. Personal invite - We send out our fair share of mass mailings and texts but there is nothing like a personal invite. Take a moment before your next event and personally text your students. You might be surprised at the response you get.
2. Worship together - If you are not leading on-stage during your next worship service take the opportunity to sit with your students. You'll never know how much worshiping with your teens will mean to them.
3. Meet the parents - There doesn't seem to be as many youth workers making home visits these days as there use to be, but arranging a visit to the home of your student will go a long way in building a relationship with both the parent & the student! You'll learn a lot about the family dynamics too by showing up on their turf. (Note: give the parents a heads up that you plan to stop by. Most people don't like surprise guests)
4. Host a group - I frequently have groups of teens in my home. I love to host bible studies or impromptu fellowship opportunities. Why not host a small group or invite a group of teens to your home (with appropriate adult-to-student ratio) and share life together.
5. Visit them at work - You can show your support for teens on the job! Find out where students work (whether that be a fast food restaurant, clothing retailer, or coffee shop) and when they work, and drop by for a quick visit.
6. Waiting period - Arrive early or plan to stay late after your next event to spend some time to chit-chat with teens on-site. Making the most of this time to have intentional conversations with students will go a long way in growing your relationship with them.
7. Prayer - I love praying for my students and I take the opportunity very seriously. Offer to pray for your students and then make sure to follow-up later to see how God worked through prayer. The prayer investment will prove very meaningful to your relationship.
8. Social media - Comment or reply on your student's facebook page, twitter, or whatever social medium they use. You can learn a lot about a teen by what you read on their facebook, but take a few extra moments to make some comments on their wall (whenever appropriate).
9. Hobbies - Attend a sporting event, concert or do some other activity together with your teen. This opportunity will not only help you do something fun with the teens in your ministry but it will help improve your relationship with them.
10. Sharing - Take some time to share with your students. Give some focused attention to a teen and get to know them. Be willing to share your story with them too. When you hear them out you might find that you have a captive audience to be able to share more about your life. Most teens want to get to know you as much as you want to get to know them.

What might you add to this list? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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Win a Copy of The Orphaned Generation!

There has been a lot of talk in the last couple years about the shift in youth ministry and how important the discussion of intergenerational ministry is. My friend, Scott Wilcher, has written a very thought-provoking book titled "The Orphaned Generation" that really needs to enter into this discussion. The book covers 3 pressing questions: 1. Why young people are leaving the church? (2) Why do adults seem to struggle to reach out to young people? and (3) What must we do to reach them and keep them? As you read this book Scott will make you wrestle with your current philosophy of youth ministry and will push you to help bring change to the Church's approach of reaching students.

You can win 1 of 5 autographed copies of his book right here! Just follow the steps below to enter and I'll pick 5 winners at random on Tuesday, August 2nd at 12:00PM (EST).
Here's How to Win:
1. Follow me: If you have a twitter account follow me - @terracecrawford
2. Tweet this: Win a FREE copy of The Orphaned Generation from @terracecrawford, enter here: http://bit.ly/oElpVQ
3. Comment: with your twitter name (so we know you did step one) and what church\city you are from (just for fun).
At 12PM (EST), Tuesday, August 2nd we will choose 5 random winners from the comments & will tweet you!

You can download an excerpt from The Orphaned Generation right [here]
Also, its Scott Wilcher's birthday today! So if you're connected to him (or want to be) make sure you wish him well.

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The Brand-New Simply Youth Ministry Show!

I'm pretty stoked to announce my friends, Kurt Johnston & Jake Rutenbar, are starting a brand-new Youth Ministry podcast on August 1st. Awesomesauce.
On Monday there was a live taping of the premiere, which you'll be able to download in iTunes soon & can catch at www.simplyyouthministry.tv. I got to listen in from the waiting room as I was interviewed in a taping for the 2nd show, which will air on August 9th (I think).
Pictured below are Adam McLane, Tim Schmoyer, and yours truly waiting to be interviewed.

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Two Cents Tuesday: UnChurched Parents

"Two Cents Tuesdays" is a blog series where you get to help other church leaders who are struggling where they are. I take one question (one scenario) each week from my mail bag (...er email inbox) and share it with you (protecting the innocent of course by keeping it anonymous). I want your TWO CENTS.
Our church reaches a lot of people from our community. We actually have more students in our ministry whose parents aren't church attenders than those whose parents attend. The problem is that its hard to get the unchurched parents involved at all because they don't attend. We continue to reach out to them but they just don't seem to be interested. Do you have suggestions on how to get them connected?
So what say you? Have any parent ministry advice? What "two cents" would you offer this youth worker?

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Best Mission Camp Experience Ever?

I just spent over a week with a group of students from our church for quite possibly the best mission camp experience ever. My good friend, EJ Swanson, had been telling me about Lake Ann Camp in Michigan for sometime now... and I was so impressed with the things I had heard about it that I investigated if it might be best for us this summer. After feeling the nudge from God to make the commitment I immediately started thinking about splitting our 16-hour trip into a two-leg journey.

Next I decided to coordinate a service project on the front-end of our trip and searched for a church in Ohio that we might partner with. We ended up making contact with Maranatha Bible Church in the Akron, OH area. We got to help the church reach a local community by donating our time in OH to them and I also got to speak to the student ministry. It was a win\win for sure and made the trip easier for us.

Our time at Lake Ann was well-worth the investment. From the structure of the camp to the inspiring messages ... everything was great. We saw students who were lukewarm in their faith moved to surrender their lives to ministry in just a few days at Lake Ann. And the students weren't the only ones who were moved. I, too, really came away feeling ministered to. The hospitality of EJ Swanson, the great staff at the camp, some of the best messages I've ever heard (shoutout to Ken Rudolph!), and the steak dinner on Friday night really made a difference for me. What a wonderful experience this summer.

The photos you see above were taken with my iPhone. I sent a postcard to all our parents while we were away at camp with these pictures on it using a service called "Postagram." Very cool way to share the experience with the folks back home!

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Two Cents Tuesday: Is Everyone Apathetic?

I'm starting a new series on the blog. It's called "Two Cents Tuesdays" and its where you get to help other church leaders who are struggling where they are. So I'll start taking one question (one scenario) each week from my mail bag (...er email inbox) and share it with you (protecting the innocent of course by keeping it anonymous). I want your TWO CENTS.
I haven't been too far removed from seminary and have landed my first youth ministry role at a church in the midwest. I'm already having some doubts about my abilities as a youth worker. It seems like I get no support from anyone at my church. People have zero energy... or passion and no one wants to volunteer for anything! It seems like everyone is apathetic. Is it just me or are other people experiencing this in ministry?
So what say you? Can you relate at all to what this youth worker is experiencing? What "two cents" would you offer this youth worker?

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Video Webcast on Sexual Sin

My friends at Group Magazine will be hosting a LIVE online event for youth workers on Thursday, July 21st at 9am (MST) at SimplyYouthMinistry.tv. Craig Gross (of XXXChurch), Rick Lawrence and a host of others will be leading this free event.
Here's a quick word from the editor:
We here at Group Magazine decided to do something we'd never done before; a theme issue. And the thematic elephant in the room that no one is talking about is sexual sin. So we're dragging that elephant-kicking and bellowing-into the light where we can deal with it. The articles on this page each tackle a different aspect of sexual sin.

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Behind the Scenes of the Coaching Network

There's been a bit of buzz around the net in the last few weeks about my new
Coaching Network I'm launching in August. I couldn't be more thrilled to invest as much of my time as possible into youth workers who need a coach. (By the way, tomorrow is the deadline to apply!)

I've come up with plan to invest
6 months of my time into personally investing into youth workers who have been in the field 5 years or less. Behind the scenes of this blog I have been talking with veteran youth workers who want to be a part of that experience too. They will be pouring into the participants as well. I'm also excited to have corporate sponsors, like my friends at Simply Youth Ministry, on board to help deliver some great resources and offer encouragement to those wanting to learn.

I was chatting with a pastor friend the other day about some of the things that seminary doesn't really prepare you for in ministry. I talk with youth workers each week who are fresh out of academia and struggle with some of the things they deal with while working for churches. Part of my role as a coach and cheerleader during the 6-month stint will be helping youth workers process through the demands of ministry and help deliver some care and insight to areas where they might need it most.

If you are in need of a coach, I encourage you to join me for 6 months. I hope (and plan) to make this a incredible experience for you. Sign up today! (Tomorrow is the deadline)

I also wanted to share with you some of the great bloggers who have interviewed me or just talked about the network recently. Here are 4 blogs you really need to read...

Jeremy Zach is a well-known YM blogger and works for the ReThink Group. He interviewed me recently on his blog:

Why did you go into youth ministry?
Ultimately, I went into youth ministry because I felt God’s call to it. I was very involved in my youth group (as a teen) and my youth pastor gave me leadership opportunities. I felt God’s call to full-time service during my time there.

What is your prediction for the future of youth ministry?
There was some talk a while back about the future of youth ministry and I shared (via churchleaders and my blog) 5 glimpses of what I thought we would seeand who are the younger voices that will help shape the future of YM.

Read the full interview [here]...

Russell St. Bernard is a youth worker and thought-leader in Maryland. He is not only a blogger but does some youth worker training. I was honored recently when he wanted to interview me and share about the coaching network.
What is one of the most memorable moments you have had in youth ministry? I could talk about many different memories but nothing can trump the changed lives. One that I think about a lot is being called to the scene where a teen attempted suicide. Fortunately he wasn’t successful at taking his own life. I ended up mentoring this teen and months later hearing him talk about how I helped change his life left a lasting impression on my mind and heart for eternity.

Read the full interview [here]...

Michael Bayne and I have been friends for a long time. Back in the glory days Mike & I were doing youth ministry in the same city and he was a part of a youth pastor network I led. I have always felt Mike was such a great thought-leader. He's doing amazing things in TN now... but we keep in touch and he's excited to be an encouragement to participants of the coaching network. He recently shared about it on his blog, which you need to read.

Mark Cox is a blogger at ThinkNextNow.com. I've been so impressed with Mark in the short time I've known him. Not only does he really love youth ministry but I can tell through his blog and the conversations that he and I have had over the last couple years that he's constantly looking to grow as a thought-leader. So when I shared with Mark about my plan for a coaching network he was stoked. He also wrote about the opportunity on his blog. You can read that [here].

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The Top 20 Youth Ministry Blogs

I was shocked to hear that I made Youth Specialties' Top 20 List of Youth Ministry Bloggers this year. This is the third year they have published the list of Top Bloggers and I've successfully managed to stay off the list until this year. ;)

Actually, I was quite honored to make such a fine list. I mean, check out my company. I highly respect each person in the Top 20 and I count it a blessing that I know most of them personally!

2011 Rank / Blog / (2010 Rank):

1. Josh Griffin (4)
2. Mark Oestreicher (2)
3. Tim Schmoyer (3)
4. Adam McLane (5)
5. Youth Specialties Blog (1)
6. Adam Walker Cleaveland (6)
7. Doug Fields (NR)
8. Fuller Youth Institute (13)
9. Jeremy Zach (11)
10. Jonathan McKee (12)
11. Orange Leaders (7)
12. Ian MacDonald (9)
13. Rethinking Youth Ministry (NR)
14. Terrace Crawford (26)
15. Chris Folmsbee (8)
16. Greg Stier (29)
17. Mike King (15)
18. Walt Mueller (10)
19. Kurt Johnston (19)
20. Kenda Creasy Dean (NR)

I also really enjoyed the "
Behind the Scenes of the Top 20" post Adam McLane just published.

What are some blogs you'd like to see in the Top 20 next year?

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