May 22, 2017
by Walter Norvell
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Examining the Bible with Teens

Teens are very teachable. The Bible is a book many teens want to investigate. And, that’s exactly what we want to occur in our teen Bible studies. An old friend of mine encouraged me in my early days of youth ministry to never tell a teen something from the Bible that you could help them to discover for themselves. I still value that advice.

An effective Bible study with teens will have three major elements. The first is motivation which we addressed in the previous blog. The second is examination. The third is application.

  • Motivation helps the teen find interest in the passage under study so that it draws their attention.
  • Examination helps the teen learn what the passage said to the original readers and then what it means to us today.
  • Application is the action teens decide to take in living out the truth of the passage.

Let’s focus on examination.

In examining the passage, teens take to time travel. They go back in time to ancient Israel to see what the passage meant then. Then they come to the present to determine what that passage says to us in our times. Finally, they look to the future to see how they can live out the meaning of the passage. Giving them questions and helping them search for answers are keys to teaching them Bible skills.

Help teens ask three basic questions and other supporting questions:

  1. What did this passage mean to the original readers?
  2. What does this passage mean to us in our culture today?
    • What did you learn from this passage?
    • What does this passage teach us about God (or Jesus)?
    • What does this passage teach us about humans?
    • What truth do we find that we should believe and obey?
    • What sins do we find that we should avoid?
  3. How can we live out the truth of this passage?
    • How can we practice this truth in our community?
    • How can we practice this truth with our families?
    • How can we practice this at school or work?
    • How can we practice this in our church?

Many different teaching methods support examination. I encourage you to read the book listed below to find great suggestions for guiding examination. The book was written by a friend, Karen Dockrey. She knows how to teach teens! You will get great ideas.

Scripture: Read Isaiah 28:9-10. How can you teach teens line by line?

Dig Deeper: Read The Youth Worker’s Guide to Creative Bible Study by Karen Dockrey.

Now It’s Your Turn: What are some ways you help teens examine   Please share your ideas so we can all grow together.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

May 18, 2017
by Walter Norvell
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5 Ways to Interest Teens in the Bible Study

I guess the teens in your church do what teens I used to teach do. They rush to get to church early. They tell you how eager they are to learn from you. They always have their Bibles. They carry notebooks and take notes all through the Bible study session. Just kidding. My teens at church seldom ever did that. I know yours don’t do it either. But, this is a topic we can address.

Every good lesson with teens has three elements. The first is motivation. Motivation is the actions that can help teens become interested in the Bible study. The second element is examination, when the group leader guides the teens to examine the Bible passage to discover its meaning. The third element is application, actions that help teens apply the Bible passage and truth to their everyday lives. In this post, let’s look at motivation.

Ideally, we want teens to quickly see the value of the Bible study and what this study offers them. To do this we need to create interest in the study or tap into the teens natural interest or curiosity about the passage. How do we do this?

  • Study your Bible passage. Determine what the passage said to its original readers and what it means to readers today. Pick one truth from the passage that you think your teens need.
  • Know your teens. What interests them? What is happening in the culture that gets their attention? What is making the news for them? Where are your teens in their development? What are their needs, even if they are not aware of their needs? You can connect the answers you have here to the Bible passage.
  • Know what’s hot with teens. What sports, movies, music, books, or apps are getting your teens’ attention? Find a connection here and relate it to the Bible passage.
  • Create interest in the passage. Cite a fact about the passage that will interest the teens. Tell a related story. Ask thought-provoking questions. Present a problem that the truth they will learn in the session will answer.
  • Push teens off intellectual or emotional balance. This imbalance will encourage them to use the truth in the passage to restore the balance.

When we guide teens to discover the “why” of Bible study, then they will give attention to the study. Sometimes we must overcome months and years of disinterest but don’t give up. When teens come to value Bible study, they will read the Word, obey the Word, and love the Living Word, Jesus Christ.

Scripture: Read Psalm 119:9-16. Why would this passage be an outstanding goal for every one of us who guide Bible study for teens, students, and youth.?

Dig Deeper: Read The Youth Worker’s Guide to Creative Bible Study by Karen Dockrey.

Now It’s Your Turn: What have you done to create interest for youth in Bible study? Please share your ideas so we can all grow together.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

May 15, 2017
by Walter Norvell
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7 Steps in Leading a Student Small Group

For some reason unknown to me, lots of people are fearful of leading small groups of teens. What I have found is that if you love on kids, they will eagerly participate. This generation of teens really enjoys time with adults. So, what are the basic actions an adult leader can take to lead a small group for teens? Here are my seven steps:

  1. Read. over the coming lesson and Bible passage. Read it slowly in two or three different translations. Look for key ideas, words, places, people and actions. Write questions you have about the passage.
  2. Study. at the passage in detail. Define any key ideas, places, people, or actions you identified. Answer any questions you identified in the passage.
  3. Set a goal. Think about your small group: who they are, what interests them, what are their lives like, what challenges do they face, what do they need to learn next about Jesus. Decide on one (Yes, only one!) truth in the passage that you feel addresses something your teens face. Then ask yourself, “What do I want to see change in the lives of these students as a result of this session?” Shape that answer into a goal that identifies what the students will do to show they have learned.
  4. Make a group plan. Plan 5 to 8 steps that will interest the students in the Bible passage, help them explore the meaning of the passage examining the passage a few verses at a time, and lead them to determine ways they can apply the passage in their lives and families.
  5. Let your lesson get cold. Let your lesson plan rest a day or two. When you pick it back up, any mistakes, gaps, assumptions, and omissions will be easier to identify.
  6. Put the plan into action. over the plan again. Adjust and clarify the plan. Make a list of supplies and teaching aids you will need and gather them up for the next session.
  7. Put the plan into action. Arrive at your meeting before any of your students. Get the space ready for the meeting. As teens arrive, greet them. Welcome any guests. Start the meeting. Carry out your plan. Ask lots of good questions that allow teens to process their learning and allow you to evaluate how they are learning. Always help the group pray together. Encourage them to practice the passage in the coming week.

If you want more help with leading a small group of teens (or any age group) look at my online presentation, “Preparing to Lead a Small Group Bible Study Experience.”

Scripture: Read 1 Kings 8:36. Like Solomon’s prayer, maybe God will use you to teach teens “the good way in which they will walk.”

Dig Deeper: Read Creative Teaching Methods: Be An Effective Christian Teacher by Marlene LeFever.

Now It’s Your Turn: What steps do you use to prepare to lead a small group of teens? Please share your ideas so we can all grow together.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

May 11, 2017
by Walter Norvell
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8 Tips for Leading Student Small Groups

Over the past few weeks I have been posting ideas about working with students at church. Today, let’s focus a bit more on students or teens in small groups.

 

As you learned in earlier posts, this generation of teens (often referred to as Generation Z) is different from other generations passing through their teen years. That means we need to approach leading and teaching them in a different fashion as well. Generation Z has now entered college so I try to use these tips myself.

  1. Start where your students are. Get to know them as much as possible. Learn to be comfortable just listening to them and observing them.
  2. Answer the questions they are asking. If you want them to be interested in the content of your Bible study, design it to answer questions for the issues they face. Take the Bible truth and form it in a way that connects to them. No one is interested in the things for which they are NOT looking; we all want to find the things for which we are looking. What are your teens looking for as they come to your small group?
  3. Connect this lesson with the last lesson. God’s revelation is one great story, Genesis to Revelation. We cannot let our lessons be isolated, disconnected snippets. Our Bible lessons are all part of a great whole. Teens need to grasp the whole, not just bits and pieces.
  4. Help them find Jesus in every lesson. I know. Jesus is not mentioned in every passage. You are right. But the whole story of God points to Jesus so find ways to use your lessons to point students to Jesus. Jesus stands behind every page of the Bible.
  5. Once they see Jesus, help them adore Jesus. Reading, hearing lessons, listening to sermons, singing Christian songs should all inspire teens (and us) to worship our Savior.
  1. Help students serve. This generation is very interested in serving others. They are volunteering at record levels. They are also very open to serve through the church. Find challenging service and then work alongside with them. Think of the benefits: learning to serve, learning to lead, modeling, building relationships, building teams, AND serving in Jesus’ name. Your small group can stock food bank shelves or pick up the park. I bet your students will tell you what they want to do if you ask them.
  2. Involve caring Christian adults with teens. This generation loves to be around adults and learn from them. The more significant adult relationships our teens develop at church, the more likely their will keep their faith alive into their adult years.
  3. Ask them regularly about what God wants them to do. In my last blog post, I discussed the Barna research which showed that most of today’s pastors were once youth group members. Fuel their desire to see what God is doing in their lives and for what He is preparing them. God is calling teens into ministry leadership so let’s help them hear His call.

Most every day I thank God for the opportunity to lead and influence students. Helping teens develop a passion for Jesus will result in multiplying leadership in our churches and stronger marriages and families for the future. That is so worth it.

Scripture: Read Joel 2:28. In the day of the Lord all will understand and proclaim the Word of the Lord. How can this apply to our work with children and youth in our churches?

Dig Deeper: Read Meet Generation Z by James Emery White.

Now It’s Your Turn: What are your ideas about ministry to student through small groups? Please share your ideas so we can all grow together.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

May 8, 2017
by Walter Norvell
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Where Do Pastors Come From?

You probably never considered the question. Since I teach ministerial students I have asked the question. Often. I had the hunch pastors come out of youth ministries. Well, someone has proven my hunch true.

This past week, the Barna research organization released a study of 900 Protestant pastors, “Common Experiences in Pastoral Calling,” researchers probed to discover common factors in pastoral callings. Every pastor is called in some unique ways. But, there is a lot in common among pastors. Here is my take on the findings.

  • Over all the pastors in our country sensed their call into ministry leadership between the ages of 14 and 21.
  • Among American pastors, 85% attended church as children.
  • Almost half (48%) grew up in small churches of under 200 in attendance.
  • Most (84%) felt their childhood church was a healthy environment.
  • Almost three-quarters of the pastors surveyed (72%) were involved in youth ministry.

Church health is very important. Healthy churches deal appropriately with church conflict. Healthy churches value all members and attenders regardless of age. Healthy churches are on mission for God and have a clear path for making disciples. As a result, healthy churches produce young church leaders. In a time when many denominations are hurting for pastors, wise churches see their role in producing leaders as significant and work to create the environment where that is going to happen.

Children’s ministry has a powerful impact in leadership development in the futures of their children they nurture. Children’s ministry deserves our full attention, putting the best teachers and leaders in instructing and disciplining children.

We cannot underestimate the huge impact of youth ministries in local churches. While we do need more intergenerational opportunities so children and youth can be with and observe faithful adults, we cannot throw away age-group ministry. We must surround children and youth with caring, adult disciplers. Such ministry also expands into work with college students and young adults.

We need to regularly encourage teens to listen for and obey God’s call in their lives. God is still calling men and women in to ministry and that call seems to come most in the teen years. When teens respond to God’s call to ministry leadership, we need to mentor these young people in preparation for obeying God’s call. I work with college students who have responded to God’s call. Many do not have anyone in their churches to mentor them. Two years ago our Department of Christian Ministries created a mentoring guide that uses Dr. Jeff Iorg’s great little book, Is God Calling Me? If you want a copy of our mentoring guide, Calling Out the Called,  you can find a download link here or you can contact me and I will send you a printed copy. We just ask you to mentor young ministry volunteers with it.

Finally, small churches take heart. Sometimes small churches feel as if they are the step-children among American churches. Not true at all! Small churches are getting it right. Small churches are producing half of our pastors! Small churches, look at what God can accomplish through you. Don’t grow weary or discouraged. Create healthy environments where children and youth are treasured and discipled. Kingdom work is waiting and it is our privilege to participate in God’s work.

Scripture: Read 1 Timothy 4:12. Which youth do you know that you can help them realize the truth of this verse?

Dig Deeper: Read “Common Experiences in Pastoral Calling.”

Now It’s Your Turn: How has this post encouraged you in your church’s work with children and youth? Which church leader do you know who should read this blog?  Please share your ideas so we can all grow together.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

May 4, 2017
by Walter Norvell
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Leader Prep for Sunday School Classes or Small Groups

I teach a college Bible study almost every Sunday afternoon. I love it. I love studying to teach the group the most. I teach my students to also prep all week. But, honestly, there are times when I don’t succeed at prepping all week.

However, I have a plan to prep all week. When I slowly prep across a week, I am amazed how much I get out of my study. I also stumble across all sorts of cultural connections that helps me make the lesson more relevant. College students want the “So what?” when they open the Bible. They want to see a connection between the text and their daily lives. Prepping all week helps me emphasize such connections.

Several years ago, a LifeWay curriculum I was using at the time had a wonderful, two-page spread to help teachers plan for teaching through the week. That clicked with me. I can carry out this plan in about 15-20 minutes each day. Here is the presentation I use. Use the left and right arrows at the bottom of the presentation to navigate. I teach this in my classes as well. I hope you can use it, too.

 

Preparing to Use a Small Group Bible Study Experience, by Walter Norvell (adapted from LifeWay)

Remember the key words from this presentation. These are the leader’s action verbs in preparing each week:

  • Read.
  • Study.
  • Set a goal.
  • Make a plan.
  • Review and refine.
  • Lead.

This plan helps me every week. I hope it helps you, too.

Scripture: Read Deuteronomy 4:9-10. How do these instructions from Moses encourage you as you prepare to teach?

Dig Deeper: Learn more about studying the Bible as a teacher by reading Knowable Word: Helping Ordinary People Learn to Study the Bible by Peter Krol.  

Now It’s Your Turn: When is your best time to prepare to lead your group? Please share your ideas so we can all grow together.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

May 1, 2017
by Walter Norvell
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Why Spiritual Disciplines

I teach a course for B.H. Carroll Theological Institute called Christian Disciplines. In the course, we survey several spiritual practices that can help us discipline ourselves for a life walking with God. We use the title Christian disciplines to make a distinction between practices of Christians as opposed to a secular viewpoint which is often referred to as “spiritual” but not necessarily Christian. I am old fashion, so I use the term spiritual disciplines as I talk to students and other believers about such practices.

What are some spiritual disciplines? Here are some basic disciplines that are common among believers: Bible reading, Bible study, Bible memorization, prayer, fasting, silence, solitude, service, worship, small groups, journaling, and witnessing. Many other practices can also be used to help us be open to and focus on God.

As I have tried to practice such disciplines and as I have studied about them, I made a startling discovery that I missed for several years. The disciplines are not about developing practices. Disciplines are about making room in your life for God. I do not know anyone who feels they have mastered a single discipline but mastering a discipline is not the point. The point is practicing habits that help us know God and allow him room to work in our lives. Think of some of the disciplines named above. Bible reading makes room in our lives to experience God through his Word. Prayer makes room in our lives for God to talk with us. Fasting makes room in our lives for God to control our bodies so their cravings do not shout over God’s still small voice. Worship makes room in our lives so we can magnify God’s greatness and acknowledge our awe of him. Journaling makes room in our lives so we reflect on God’s work in our lives. The point is never about filling a journal with “spiritual” writings. The point is never about how long I can go without talking. The point is not about witnessing to get “notches” on the spines on our Bibles. It is about making room in our lives to invite others to faith in Jesus.

Today is the last sign up day for our Deepen Retreat for men. You can read about it here and here. These retreats were birthed in me as I prayed and asked the Lord to show a way to expand my teaching in ways to help the church more directly. The first retreat is for men. The retreat will be May 22-24 at Cedar Glade Baptist Encampment near Imboden, AR. Everything in this retreat centers around each man developing his own plan for deepening his walk with the Lord. If you have been considering attending, please contact me through Messenger or at my email found at Williams Baptist College’s website. The space is limited but there is still space. When you contact me, I will respond with more information. Again, today is the deadline, so contact me soon. This is an opportunity to dig into the habits that help us clear our lives for God’s work.

Scripture: Read Jeremiah 31:34. How do you seek to know God?

Dig Deeper: Listen to a wonderful interview between Nathan Foster and his father, noted teacher and author, Richard Foster. This interview is titled, “Disciplines Aren’t the Point.”

Now It’s Your Turn: What is your impression of spiritual disciplines? If you could ask me a question about their use, what would it be? Please share your ideas so we can all grow together.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

April 27, 2017
by Walter Norvell
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34 Ideas to Help Teens Serve

As we have already discussed in previous posts, today’s teens, known as Generation Z, desire three things: information, stimulation, and connection. Small student/youth Bible study groups can accomplish all three things. During group time, students can learn the concepts and content of the Bible. When a small student Bible study group steps out to serve others, teens find the stimulation and connection they desire.

Please be aware that helping teens serve may have a few restrictions, almost always for the safety and security of the teens. If teens are serving children, your church may require some screening to protect both teens and children. Sometimes a service project requires transportation so screened drivers are important. Finally, while letting teens take the lead in serving, they need at least two unrelated adults with them for safety and security issues. But, instead of seeing this as an obstacle, it is clearly an opportunity to surround teens with caring adults who model for them and disciple them. Teens need five or more caring adults at church which increases the possibility that these teens will carry their faith into their adult years. Remember to debrief any projects or service days because letting teens talk about their experiences consolidates the benefits of learning to serve others.

Here are ideas you can use to help teens serve:

  1. Pick up trash at the park or in a neighborhood.
  2. Rake leaves for an elderly or disabled person.
  3. Conduct a prayer walk.
  4. Sponsor a date night for couples and provide childcare.
  5. Conduct a food drive with the local food bank.
  6. Serve at the food bank.
  7. Sort clothing at a shelter.
  8. Serve meals at a homeless shelter.
  9. Serve in Vacation Bible School.
  10. Hold backyard Bible clubs.
  11. Be ushers for regular worship services.
  12. Visit the nursing home. Distribute bananas to residents.
  13. Host a senior afternoon table game time.
  14. Help a school backpack feeding program.
  15. Become lunch buddies with elementary school students.
  16. Adopt a senior adult. Connect with them for conversation.
  17. Help with Meals-on-Wheels.
  18. Adopt a child in another country and send money every month.
  19. Adopt a church planter for prayer and for obtaining supplies.
  20. Help with a block party evangelism event.
  21. Volunteer with a local community festival or a 5K run event.
  22. Provide snacks for the police station or fire station.
  23. Offer to conduct a read aloud story time at the local library.
  24. Take shifts to be welcome center workers on Sunday morning.
  25. Adopt a missionary and help gather needed supplies.
  26. Gather supplies for the church’s mission trip.
  27. Give away Bibles at school to friends.
  28. Distribute Bibles to homes in your area.
  29. Participate in local one-day mission events.
  30. Volunteer to help with free medical clinics in your area.
  31. Participate in a walk/run event to help raise funds for a cause you can champion.
  32. Help with a buddy sports team or a buddy walk with special needs kids.
  33. Assist with a telethon or other fundraiser.
  34. Plan a fun day with a children’s home or a children’s shelter near your community.

Students want to serve. Your small student Bible study can become the enabler to help teens learn to serve in the name of Jesus. Surrounding them with caring adults, working side-by-side, will challenge youth to develop a life of serving in the church for the Kingdom.

Scripture: Read Psalm 100:2. How can you help teens learn the value of this verse?

Dig Deeper: Read “When Teens Experience Empathy” by Jeremy V. Jones with Focus on the Family.

Now It’s Your Turn: What are some ways that your church seeks to lead teens to serve in the church? Please share your ideas so we can all grow together.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

April 24, 2017
by Walter Norvell
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My Journey to Deepen Retreats

I served as a church staff minister in education, youth, and children’s work for twenty years. During that time, a gnawing question began to develop in my soul. I looked around me and wondered about Christian growth. How does a person learn spiritual things? What is sanctification and how does it happen in our lives? Is there anything at all that I can bring to bear in teaching that may set the stage for the learners in my groups to experience spiritual transformation? How are believers spiritually formed? Such questions would not let me go so I resigned my church position and moved to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to earn another masters’ degree and my doctorate in Christian education. I learned a lot but God also put me in circumstances where I could experience my own spiritual growth and observe and guide others in spiritual growth. Some of those experiences were rich and rewarding and some were rich and devastating. I can see how the Lord is bringing my academic studies and my life experiences into focus and given me direction.

I love teaching and particularly teaching here at Williams Baptist College. Teaching in the Department of Christian Ministries has been a multiplying experience for me. We have graduates doing wonderful work for the Lord across the globe. Yet a couple of years ago I began to see that while teaching in college is a gift-opportunity from the Lord, I have not been able to teach in the church as much, another multiplying ministry opportunity. I have been teaching in our church for almost twelve years, but beyond that, hardly any teaching in churches. So, a desire to teach more widely in churches and other events has grown in me. Last year, after working through Living Forward by Hyatt and Harkavy, I developed a plan to expand my teaching ministry. But on further reflection, the idea of developing retreats to help men, women, and pastors and staff ministers deepen their spiritual lives began to hatch. God added to my plan.

So, I have acted on that reflection by creating Deepen Retreats.  The purpose of Deepen Retreats is to help Christians deepen their spiritual lives and renew their lives with a closer walk with the Lord. These retreats will use two common elements in teaching: silence and small groups. Eventually, at least four complete retreats will be available, each expressed for target groups: men, women, and church ministers.

Our first retreat is May 22-24 at the Cedar Glade Baptist Encampment near Imboden, AR. This retreat is the basic Deepen Retreat. We are limited to only 34 men and we still have space available. Who might want to attend:

  • Men who want to deepen their spiritual lives
  • Students
  • Retired men
  • Pastors
  • Church staff ministers
  • Dads seeking to be spiritual leaders in their homes
  • Husbands seeking to be spiritual leaders for their wives
  • Busy men who need to slow down and listen for God’s voice and direction

I invite any interested man to attend. This retreat is on week days so I know that is a challenge for many men. However, I think it will be worth the sacrifice to attend.

If interested, me please contact me with the response boxes below or through Williams Baptist College. I will get back to you ASAP with costs, preparation ideas, facility description, and other information. Please consider attending with someone: a pastor with his church staff, a man bringing a friend, or a father and a son. The registration deadline is May 1. Remember, space is limited but we hope to fill every spot for this retreat. If you cannot come, please be praying for this effort as I seek the Lord’s leadership. We hope after this retreat, we can make improvements and start offering these retreats. So, if this date doesn’t work, watch this blog for announcements about future retreats.

Scripture: Read Colossians 2:6-7. How is “being rooted” and “built” related?

Dig Deeper: Read Living Forward by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy.  

Now It’s Your Turn: Can you describe a time when you wanted to go deeper with the Lord? Please share your ideas so we can all grow together.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

April 20, 2017
by Walter Norvell
0 comments

No Lazy Generation Z-ers

Have you heard the talk about lazy teens? I hear it all the time and I sometimes see it. But in last year’s research article by the Barna Group, “The Myth of the Lazy Teen,” that concept is challenged. Here is what they found and why that matters.

Teens report a high participation in volunteer service. Almost three-quarters of the teens polled say that they have participated in some volunteer service recently, at least every few months. Most of that group report volunteer service every week or every month. Almost half of teens today say they volunteer through the church or another ministry. The church is so central to these teens’ service that about 61% say they have volunteered for a service project with a church. Parents play a role here because a majority of teens who attend church with their parents find the involvement and encouragement of their parents a key to serving themselves. Mission trips are valued among teens.

Youth pastors play a role in missions involvement of teens. Youth pastors say that sharing the gospel on those mission trips is very important. Mission trips make a lasting impression on teens, especially where teens were adequately prepared for the experience and were adequately debriefed after the trip. Some effective follow-up actions after a mission trip include:

  • Youth sharing their experiences with other students or the church body.
  • Reminding students of every day service opportunities.
  • Discussing the mission trip at a social event immediately after the trip.
  • Praying for those impacted by the trip.

Brooke Hempell, Barna vice-president of research concluded with this statement: “The church, and youth groups in particular, have a unique opportunity to stand out as an authentic example of love through service by being the hands and feet of Jesus to those in need.” These experiences help teens learn about the gospel and what it means in their lives and in their discipleship.

We need to know this as we ministry to teens in our youth groups and our small groups. If teens are really looking for opportunities to serve, and most teens serve through the church, we have an unfolding blessing on our doorsteps. Help teens serve with ideas like these:

  • Help with church functions: worship services, special events, or outreach events.
  • Connect teens to organizations that need their energy: food banks, homeless shelters, nursing homes, hospitals, clothing closets.
  • Give teens the opportunity to hear from people in your community or church who are working in ministries that will utilize teens.
  • Organize groups of teens for a project: cleaning streets, home repairs for the needy, lawn care for the elderly, or random acts of kindness.
  • Adopt a needy child in another country and work together to fund that child.
  • Involve them in projects in other countries they can support by giving: clean water projects, solar lighting projects, immunization projects, shoes for children, vision, dental and health projects.
  • Take them on mission trips: local for a day at a time, in another county or state, in a foreign country.
  • Plan and carry out projects your student small group can conduct: “adopting” retired adults, reading to children, working in a neighborhood or city-wide festival, or a national fund-raising.

How do teens learn the most from these mission and ministry actions? First, they work with and develop relationships with adults. Today’s teens love and trust adults and want to know them. Think of the discipling that can occur as teens work with adults. Second, always debrief the teens about their experiences. Help them reflect on their experiences. Ask them to describe what they learned and what they want to continue doing as a result of their service experience. Help them transfer those reflections into meaningful new service projects.

Scripture: Read Matthew 25:31-46. How can you teach this passage so teens are awakened to Jesus’ call to serve others?

Dig Deeper: Read “The Myth of the Lazy Teen” by Barna Research.    

Now It’s Your Turn: What steps can your church take to help teens serve? Please share your ideas so we can all grow together.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”