DSC_0051I wanted to share an Idea I have had for some considerable time.  We have a 15 Passenger Van that we have used here at the church for years.  It is a Ford Van that has a “raised” roof and seating that you would normally see in a van that is used to move people around as a shuttle van.  It is modified from the original van and with modifications the air conditioner doesn’t work that well.  It only took one trip from Arkansas to Florida to understand that it was not the ideal van for traveling long distances.  This has been the main complaint from our Seniors (50 Plus) too and they no longer use the vans unless it is absolutely necessary.  The Transportation Team discussed even the possibility of getting rid of it when we purchased a new van for church-wide use.  I shared with them some ideas and the fact that it is a great van for getting students to and from our Wednesday Night event (Flipside 517).  There is an obvious need for this van in our ministry and now we have the opportunity to have the van for primary student ministry use. Church Van w/o Graphics 1 I had always liked the look of vehicle wraps and the usefullnes they have in advertising ministry locally as a rolling billboard.  We began to look into that brand of advertising and found that a local Sign Company was capable of taking care of us at a very reasonable rate.  So now I am collecting all the necessary details needed to present it as option we have to benefit our local church.

The cost could have been worked into my annual budget but our team decided to raise the money through student activities and donations.  Exactly what that is going to look like is still taking shape.  Hopefully we can take it before the church after the first of the year and begin with the process of wrapping the van with high quality images and designs.  This being a learning process, I am happy to pass on a couple of things that I have learned so far.

1. Know what type of advertising you want.  Is it going to be something that you notice as you pass by the vehicle at 60 mph and you need the image or ads to be recognizable in a very short time or do you want something that will generally be viewed for longer periods of time?  We opted for the latter.  Our hope is that an individual could stand and look at the graphic artwork for 5 minutes and still find something new on it.  So bright colors and logos, contact information, different “programs” offered for our students, a little town pride with the local school(s), etc.  The sky is the limit.

2.  Have all of your ducks in a row before you present it to the church.  It is never a good situation to be caught off guard by a valid question, especially when you are the one in charge, “I will have to get back to you on that,” is never an option in my book, so be prepared.  I have done legal research with the help of Arkansas Baptist State Convention and found out some very helpful information regarChurch Van 2ding possible tax issues for non-profits.  You can sell “ad” space on it, but that would take filing specific paperwork with the IRS to cover that “revenue.”  It most likely isn’t that difficult but we opted to not pursue this. Having some great business from within our church “buy” space on the van to help cover the cost of the wrap would be fun for me…but the trouble with “income revenue” is not a rabbit I want to chase.  Obviously that is up to you to decide.  This is just an example of the things that you need to be able to answer if you are presenting this as an option.  Know the cost involved, how much time will it take, how long will it last, will it be ugly or not, and so on.  Homework with larger scale ideas like this is never time wasted.

3.  Have a plan.  Who, what, when, WHY, and how.  Why are you going to do it?  Is it in the mission of the church and fit the overall goal of what you are trying to do in the community and with your people?  I envision it to be a great promotional tool for us.  I would like to have it as an instant eye catcher for block parties, parked outside our weekly events, picking up and dropping offimage8 students, plus add a little creativity to our ministry.  Nothing screams fun like a specially painted “school bus” for youth groups or a wrapped van that everyone knows where it is from and what it represents.  Do you know how you are going to design it?  Busy or subtle graphics, mesh over the windows that is part of the overall scheme or leave the windows clear?  I can talk about this for probably too long.  Communicating your vision in this area is just the same as communicating your vision for your ministry.

4.  Be flexible.  My ministry here does not hang on whether or not we get to chase this dream.  I love my church and have wants and desires like everyone, but am I going to lose focus or quit over something like this? Absolutely not.  Is this a hill I want to die on or be remembered for showing my rear-end on? Nope.  I budget promotion every year.  We support the booster club and get in all the programs and on the sport calendars with our ministry, some local ads in the newspaper and then there would be this.  A rolling billboard that communicates what we do in the community.  So I hope to keep you posted with the process of wrapping our church van.  Should be a fun ride.

I am posting before pics of our van and a wrapped van from a church I served at in Florida so you can see the potential I am speaking of.  My good friend and current Youth Pastor Brad at Park Avenue Baptist Church in Titusville, FL was able to wrap a Dodge van to promote the Student Ministries there.  I saw it when I was down this summer on a Student Leader (STUlea) Trip and it galvanized the dream I had for our van.  It helped to have pics of this van to cast the vision here.  I haven’t seen too many church vans that have been wrapped well and would love to see other pics or comments if you have them.  Keep dreaming and chasing after the Father!

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Student LeaderStep Two: Accountability
I recommend that you have this well planned out ahead of time, because there will always be that one student that tests something not thought through. It will happen. So plan for it. I have the same standard plan that most Youth Pastor’s have. I have a certain mental picture of what I feel God wants a student to be prepared for before leaving our ministry and entering the next step, whatever that may be. It could be college or the workforce or military life. Each student is different and I tailor ministry to each one that I meet but there is a general set of expectations that I have for students that plan on sticking with Student Leadership here.
1. They have to show interest in it. I do not seek out students at this point. Encouragment is at all levels of our ministry and this has been successful in moving students from one level to another. So the questions usually go like this, “Dustin, what does it take to be a student leader?” Bingo. Next Step.
2. I sit down with each student and go over the expectations very quickly and then let them think on it. I cover the high points and let them know that by “signing” on with Student Leadership they are agreeing to all of the above. Here they are. a)Faith in Christ. I allow them to share their testimony with me. b)Church attendance. We have several different denominations involved with our weekly ministry, so attendance at their home church is required. If they don’t have a home church, they must be at ours. At least 3 out of four Sundays a month. I set the bar high. If a students starts to slack off in this area, I always check in and see what is up. c)Attendance at all Student Ministry Events is required for them. Obviously, not everyone can be at all the events all the time, so they just need to let me know what is up. So basically, there are times that Student Leaders are excused. d)By being a Student Leader, they are held to higher standards than others. They are giving me permission to call them on the carpet for their behavior…this includes online, school activities, anything that may affect their witness is fair game. I am up front about this and obviously I handle all of those issues individually and with grace. Teaching opportunities should never be wasted.

**Additional thoughts on Accountability: I often ask for report cards/mid-term grades and make sure that they are keeping up with the studies (No Pass/No Play). If they get in trouble at home/school, then there are ramifications on this level as well.

This will get them to the next step, Discipleship see pt 3

StudentsI get asked a the question a lot about our Student Leadership style here, I wanted to take a little time and really flesh out what it is that we do strategically. Student Ministry is different in each church, so before we discuss all the aspects of it, I needed to get down our overall plan for Student Leadership. So here goes. Please take it at face value…if there are aspects of it that you can use, then feel free. If you have a comment, then feel free to leave it and maybe we can come out with a better understanding of what Student Leadership is.
Student Leadership began here out of necessity. Things needed to get done and I was only one person. When I moved into this ministry venue in 2003, I had to establish my style here. I moved from a larger church situation to a smaller church and community here on the edge of the Mississippi Delta and some of the “resource” changes caused me to evaluate what was important and what was urgent. What I mean by resources are not just with money/budgeting changes, it means different people, different buildings, and a different local culture. I had a handful of students that didn’t know me and I didn’t know them…so that was the place to start. With the few students that were attending, I found it easy to establish expectations early rather than having to “retrain” a large group. The image that comes to mind is steering a small dingy verses trying to turn a large ship around. Obviously it is easier to set the course with the small boat.Super Summer Orange

Step One: Responsibility
The first part of establishing my expectations was responsibility. Clear and very real. Student Leaders have a job, or should have a job to do. Each responsibility has very real expectations and evaluation. For an example I am going to use the job working the lights for our stage in our facility. It seems easy to some and difficult to others. I look very closely at the way a student is “wired”. If keeping up with details are not a big strength for a particular student, then that may not be a good place for them to plug in. Careful and correct placement is a win-win for both the ministry and the student, this will also help keep that student from burning out or becoming frustrated with serving. The responsibility involved needs to be clear and evaluating “job” performance is a great teaching moment.
“If you, as the youth leader, are not able to be specific about what leadership looks like, acts like, how it spends its time, what results are expected – then don’t ever expect your students to be able to do that for you. Set the vision of where you believe God wants your ministry to go, then make a list of functions in your group/ministry that need to be done in order for that vision to be accomplished. Then begin praying for God to raise up the students who can be trained to fulfill those functions.” Eric Ball, Youth Communicator & Student Ministry Consultant

Another piece of the responsibility puzzle is that as that student gets older and more proficient in the area of lighting, he/she is responsible for training a replacement before they graduate. This is a big one that helps keep the ebb and flow of graduating out talented ministry oriented students in check. If they are the only ones doing the job after they figure it all out…then you face a huge hole in your leadership and back to square one when that gem leaves you pushing the light buttons by yourself or worse, it lowers the quality in the presentation of the Gospel, if even for a short time. So keep them recruiting and training new blood. Some will wash out and decide not to be a part of it…but the ones that keep with it are truly worth their weight in gold for sure.
The responsibilities in our ministry have moved from two or three “jobs” to literally dozens of places for students to take ownership of our ministry. Year one involved setting up the couches and making sure the Xboxes were on. Now I am truly amazed at how “adult” they seem to be. The first three student leaders weren’t even called that…they were just solid students that wanted to be around and help out. Now I have a list of nearly 40 students that want to be a part of something bigger themselves…God has truly blessed. My time now is spent building positive relationships with students and less time setting up the chairs (and I truly hate setting up chairs) for our ministry activities. We have now established a “Lead” Student Leader…I am not sure how that sounds, cause to tell you the truth I am having difficulty naming it. I don’t want to have a “president of the youth group” so I explain it this way. I now don’t have to go to each individual to make sure things are squared away, I go to one student and ask. It works surprisingly well. For this article I will call it the office of “the guy who’s tail is in a wringer if something is not being taken care of for Flipside 517,” how’s that. It’s great, everyone should have one. My philosophy is this, if you want a job you can have one…but be prepared for the next step. Accountability will be taken care of in pt 2.

This seems to be a popular topic right now. I am not sure if it is because we in the “Budget” creating times of the year or if we are all re-evaluating our rooms/spaces that we meet in. I am a big fan of “cheap cool” as well as the big budget items that some churches have the blessing to use. Here are a few ideas that I have used in the past as well as some spaces that some friends of mine have been able to pull off. Get creative and use materials that appeal to the students. I highly recommend having the students involved in the planning and installation of any changes you may make. So here is a visual montage of some great Ideas that I have seen or been a part of. Please comment if you have visited this part of the blog…thanks, Dustin

In this pic you see what our “stage” looks like. The large letters with the lights are just 4×8 sheets of plywood with 188 “clip in” light sockets and 40w clear bulbs. Looked great attached to a dimmer pack. No limits to what you can do with plywood, just drill a hole and the sockets just clip in. I would recommend a spot of liquid nails to secure them (as per engineer Ward S.) have fun! fiveoneseven band stage

Some guys have some room for “prayer walls” and/or walls that students can constantly change and write on. Upstairs SouthEast Wall Sharpies and crayons…remember to check the wall regularly to make sure some knucklhead hasn’t “tagged” with something inappropriate. I occasionally put extra photos that we have or use the wall as a time to put your favorite verses on and prayer requests.

One of the exciting thing about networking with other youth pastors is the times when you can rejoice with them as they get blessed with great facilities. My friend Scotty J. was able to design and have tremendous input into his new metal building for their student ministry. Take a look at some of the ideas that he incorporated. Very nice, I spoke at a D-Now (Disciple Now Event) in February and was amazed at how well it turned out. Farmington Baptist Church 1 Farmington Baptist Church 2Farmington Baptist ChurchFarmington Baptist Church 4Farmington Baptist Church 5

Their Stage is very simple but has the ability to “morph” into anything needed. Tri-angle trusses and four screens (two rear-projection and two large flat-screens).Farmington Baptist Church 6

An Idea we used for the north-end of our upstairs game room was to put galvenized roofing steel up on the walls. There was pool table there when I arrived at the church and I got tired of repairing the sheet rock that was damaged with pool balls and cues, so with a minimum investment of $200+/-, we gave it a face-lift and now have no more dings in the walls to patch. I am not sure I would advise putting sheet rock up anywhere near my students in the future. I trimmed out the edge with 1×2 furring strips and then horizontally every three feet or so for support. Once the steel was attached with self-tapping screws, I had some 2″ flat steel cut to use as a black boarder. 1″ angle to “cap” the ends. 2″ pipe in the corners for looks and to cover the edges.Steel on Wall.

I am going to add several pictures below so you can see some different ideas of youth rooms and stages. Let me know if you need further explanation about them. I have had to share space with other ministries over the years and still like to “create” atmosphere when I am in those locations. It it a lot of hard work but it has paid off for sure. My philosophy is, “paint is cheap” and you can create so much with just paint and some creativity. Recently I saw just regular old ceiling tile taken and used as canvas for artwork and then it was put in the rooms…good stuff.

Stage with Signs

Another view of Steel and Logo Painted on WallSenior High Sunday School Room PHBCCopy of DSams_0677First Baptist Church Stuttgart, Activity CenterLights Up: When we set up "living room look"Youth Room Geyer Springs BCNorthpoint Stage 2Northpoint Stage 1

Ronnie & KarissaI was cleaning up some photos that I had in my office the other day and decided to share this simple idea that I have been using since film was invented…uh, well you get the idea. We all have “extra” photos laying around from events or just random snap-shots. We also try to stay connected with our students…so I just get a “sharpie” and write some quick thoughts to students on the back of these extra pictures…and mail them. Write and postage the photos like you would any other postcard. Students love to get them and it is cheap fun. Make use of the pics that would normally end up in the trash or collecting dust somewhere. I have only had good feedback from this easy way to stay connected. Of course some get damaged or may even not make it…but any way we can cut a few steps in the process of staying connected is great for me. Experiment with it…have some fun and brighten a student’s day.

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Trying to expose some of you to the quick and easy finds there are on the net…blogs and Student Ministry websites are becoming more and more common. However, sometimes we can be a little overwhelmed with the info out there and whether it is a waste of time or will bring added depth to what we do on a daily basis. Here is one of those resources…it sometime is hit and miss…no one can have great content all of the time…but you YS is tried and true…(nod to the ministry of the great Mike Yac!) Youth Specialties Podcast Episodes are great for helping to sharpen what we do. Since I like Jonathan McKee’s stuff…his Ideas on here are quick and easy. The cell phone is a biggie for our ministry…we have been doing this type of cell phone stuff for a long time (a ton of options, be creative) and it is great since we have don’t have to have Polaroid Scavenger Hunts anymore, unless you want a retro night! haha. Just used the cell phone thing tonight to get info from students tonight and 245 text messages later, our ministry was helped with contact info and they won some free stuff. (I chose the 15th and the 25th student for example) Please, make sure you have unlimited texts on your plan! A double whammy with this episode is the fact that Kara Powell’s thoughts at the end of the video deals with 2 Corinthians 5:17…which happens to be the same verse we themed that we “Branded” our Student Ministry with – “Flipside 5:17” Whoot! Keep laughin’ DVS

So Here is the first one. Lawn Mower Racing. You heard me. Our church-wide picnic has always been a highlight of our calendar year, but most of the time the young families would stick around after the lunch and play and the older generations would tend to head home out of the sun and to catch a nap. 😉 One of my trips back out to Washington State I went back to see my sister in Mansfield, a small wheat farming community in North Central Washington. They have “Mansfield Play Days” during the summer and it was in full swing. During the festivities were some lawn mower races and I fell in love. Check out the first year out and the wreck 1:00 into the video below. Worth your time. [youtube]iwDz6GgwbKk[/youtube] Basically with some simple modifications you could be running fast and with some more time involved…you could be on your way to the ER. Great fun for all involved. So I brought the idea up during one of our “fusion-of-the-forehead” meetings with the staff and we all thought it was worth a try. And the rest is fun history. The first event was held in May of 2006 and we have had races every year…uh, except ’08 when a tornado blasted us and 250+ homes/businesses here in Stuttgart, just a little bitter about that. We have learned and tweaked it as we go along. We have tried oval track, kidney-shaped, drag races, push-lawnmower footraces, stock lawnmower classifications, and who could have the most parts fall off during a race. Ha The Modified Classes are the most fun and by far the most popular. DSC_0091 So far it has been friendly fun and the only rules we have regarding the Lawnmower is that is has to have a stock lawnmower engine and lawnmower “rear end”. We did have one almost top 50 mph…but it couldn’t turn too good. 😉 All in redneck fun…but it fairly cheap fun for a great fellowship together.

DSC_0108I would like to think of myself as a creative guy…i definately think outside the box. So here are some ideas that may or may not help you. The point is, if I run across something that needs sharing…we will do it. For Freeeee! So if you have an idea to share, lay it on me and we may throw it in a video.