Youth Ministry Focus: How to Minister with Introverted Teens

Introverts are said to make up a third of the U.S. population, so there’s a good chance a handful are in your group. Their unique personalities bring a lot of value to a student ministry. They’re sensitive to the needs of others. They’re observant. They’re sponges for knowledge.  They’re aware of other’s needs that are otherwise unnoticed. They perceive the true atmosphere of your group. And if given the opportunity,  they could probably blow away your whole group with a profound answer.

Here are 15 tips for doing ministry with introverted teens.

1) If possible, allow them to enter a space first. Let them have some time in the room alone to adjust before others enter. This way it becomes “their space” that others are entering.

2) If you’re the person there they know best, stay close by. If you have to go somewhere or do something, invite them to go with you or help you. If they came with a friend, try not to separate them.

3) Prepare something for them to do. We try to always have a project set up as people arrive for youth group that allows everyone to express themselves through creativity or activity. This gives introverts a non-threatening environment that invites them to interact once they’re ready. This is a lot more effective than having unstructured hang time as people arrive, which puts pressure on people to rely on their social skills (or lack thereof) to interact.

4) Give them space. Let them adjust to their surroundings before approaching them. Let them retreat if they need space. Give them an “out.” In other words, if they start shifting around uncomfortably as you’re speaking to them, find a reason to excuse yourself kindly, or direct their attention towards something they could engage in.

5) Avoid trying to engage them in small talk. Small talk may seem meaningless to an introvert. This doesn’t mean they’re rude. It means they would prefer to build a relationship and then talk about something that’s really important to either you, or them, or both.

6) Find out what they’re really interested in and try to experience it with them. Take the time to find out what their interests and hobbies are. This may require a conversation with a parent or friend. Once you know what they’re into, find some time out of a church setting to participate in it with them.

7) Help them communicate what they’re thinking or feeling. Give them time to process what they’re thinking.  Provide outlets of expression through journaling, art, and activity.

8) Initiate conversations with them, and be prepared to carry the conversation. I know this seems the opposite of #5, but no two introverts are the same. Some introverts would never dream of striking up a conversation with someone they didn’t know well, but they’d still appreciate talking with someone. Many introverts are excellent conversationalists as long as they’re not the one carrying the conversation or thinking of all the questions.

9) Understand that they may feel really uncomfortable just being around a lot of people. Some introverts struggle with social anxiety or shyness. This may reveal itself in socially awkward behavior when you seek out interaction with them. Try not to draw attention to the fact that you notice it, or take their awkwardness towards you personally.

10) Arrange to connect with them 1-on-1.  Try to find some time with them when a big group isn’t around. Invite them out on an errand, fast food run, or for coffee (but not to “just talk” bring some cards, or something else to do).

11)  Teach them strategies for handling conflict. Introverts have trouble processing tense social interactions as they’re happening. Remember how you often think of a great comeback to an argument a few hours after it happened? That’s the life of an introvert! They’re often the targets of bullies because they’re easy targets, shyness is stigmatized, they’re non-assertive, and they’re not quick-thinkers in stressful situations.  Be quick to pick up on the signs they’re being bullied, and teach them strategies for handling conflict in advance.

12) Give conflicts and emotional situations time to resolve. Introverts need a lot of time to process an argument or stressful situation after it happens before they’re ready to talk through it. Let them collect their thoughts before debriefing a situation or mediating reconciliation.

13) Don’t call them shy.  Try to avoid bringing attention to the fact they’re quiet or reserved. This includes asking questions about it or making observations about their personality. Sometimes we think we’re diffusing the awkwardness by trying to bring humor to the situation by saying something like, “You’re a shy one, aren’t you!?” Instead it just makes them feel like they’re being made fun of.

14) Don’t try to “fix” an introvert. Sometimes extroverts feel a need to break introverts out of their shells. But introversion is part of the actual brain make-up, and often can’t be changed. In other words, that’s the way God made them, and introverts don’t need to change. Society and the church needs introverts. Although many introverts may need to develop their people skills to keep from being misunderstood, eventually they’ll learn do be comfortable in their own skin (and student ministries need to help them in that process).

15) Accept them for who they are. I know what you’re thinking, “Duh, I’m a youth worker, that’s kind of what I do – accept people where they are.” But we often mistake shy or introverted teens as being moody, stand-offish, aloof, brooding, or rude. Make sure you’re not misunderstanding an introverted teen for a rude teen. Take the extra effort to understand the the perspectives and intentions of the heart. Love them for who they are and who they’re becoming.

How to Make a Mini Marshmallow Shooter using 1/2″ PVC Pipe (step by step directions with pictures!)

You can make an awesome mini marshmallow blowgun in just a few minutes, and with only a couple dollars worth of supplies. Here’s how:

Step 1: Head to the closest hardware store and get the needed supplies.

You’ll need:

  • At least 24″ length of 1/2″ diameter PVC pipe
  • (1) 1/2″ diamater PVC “tee” connector
  • (1) 1/2″ diameter PVC end cap
  • (2) 1/2″ diameter PVC 90-degree elbows
  • a bag of mini mallows

photo (1)

Step 2: Measure and mark your PVC pipe.

  • Lay your section of PVC on a flat surface.
  • Use a measuring tape and a Sharpie to clearly and accurately mark the pipe at 6″, 11″, 16″, 20″, and 24″.

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Step 3: Cut your PVC pipe.

  • Use a hacksaw or mitre saw to cut on the lines you made.
  • Sand or file the cut edges to remove any burs and make them nice and smooth.
  • When you’re done, you should have 5 sections of pipe:
    • (1) 6″ section
    • (2) 5″ sections
    • (2) 4″ sections

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Step 4: Assemble your mini mallow blowgun.

  • Gather your 5 sections of pipe and the 4 PVC connector parts your bought at the hardware store.
  • Assemble the 9 pieces following the pattern in the example below:

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Step 5: Take your new mini mallow blowgun for a test run.

  • Load a mini mallow in the back of the blowgun.
  • Use both hands on the two handles, bring the blowgun to your mouth, take aim, and using a forced “P” sound blow the mallow through your blowgun into your target.
  • Go find your friends and family members and use them for mallow target practice.

Be sure to use proper and safe technique while using your mini mallow blowgun. Dry mallows work best, so don’t slobber all over them or they will get stuck and gunk up the inside of your blowgun. Do not breath in on your gun once the mallow is loaded, as you could choke. Don’t run with the blowgun in your mouth. And avoid shooting people in the head and face.

Have fun!

Are You An “Individual” Abuser?

We’ve all been in that position before. We have to make a speech or write something official, and we’re tempted to make ourselves sound smarter than we really are. You know what I’m talking about. We change the word order of our sentences and replace small words with bigger words. This leads to quite a bit of thesaurus abuse, and style that no one would use in a normal conversation. Take a look at these two examples from the subbreddit /r/iamverysmart.

This one is from a cover letter on a resume. Continue reading

The Five Steps of Spiritual Maturity in Student Ministry

Encouraging, equipping, and motivating students to grow in their intimacy with Jesus is one of the greatest responsibilities and joys for youth workers. Spiritual maturity happens when we focus our lives more and more on Jesus, and become like him. A key to helping teens develop in Christian maturity is to identify where they are in their walk with Jesus, then help them take the next step. The five steps of spiritual maturity look like this: Continue reading

In the beginning

The earth was created first. There was nothing else but the earth and a giant empty universe.

Light comes next. Light comes from the sun, but the sun doesn’t come until three days later. So, this light comes from where? God?  And there’s a day/night cycle, so the earth is spinning, and this light comes from one direction. Or does the light circle around the earth?

In these primal days, God is alone with earth, spinning, dancing, before the drama of humanity begins.

The earth is the oldest thing in the universe.

Once Naked, Now Clothed (or the profound tragedy of Genesis 3)

Man has not resembled his first design
since the Honest Garden was lost to him.
He took God’s warning words as breath benign
leaving his naked nature to sin’s whim.
God’s first design gave something else to us –
a pristine pattern for our human role –
A want for union unadulterous
with God, to bare the organs of the soul
that drive the blood, not hind’ring nakedness
of either spirit or skin with our dress.
In that Honest Place, man was pronounced “good”
where heaven met with blood and meat of mud.
But haste he made to taste the nuding fruit.
And now our pattern is the fig leaf suit.

Apology, Poverty and the Evangelical

It’s Wednesday and I have the day off. I led a youth retreat this weekend called Fall Forward. One girl put her faith and trust in Jesus for the first time. That’s why I do what I do. It was a great weekend, but retreats always exhaust me. On Sunday afternoon, after we returned, I lay down at 4:30 to “take a nap.” The next time I woke up was 3:00 AM the next day. A long weekend, that’s why I have the day off.

I spent part of the day watching the movie Blue Like Jazz about Donald Miller, the author of a book with the same title as the movie. Continue reading

My Dog Brings a lot of Laughter to my House

My dog has been compared to a lot of things. Because she snorts a lot, she’s been called a pig. Because her thick fur makes her appear chubby, she’s been called “fat biscuit.” Because she’s short and wide, she’s been compared to the foot-stool dog in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

Chewey is a black and tan Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. It’s a big name for a small breed. Cavaliers are known for their happy-go-lucky, submissive, harmless, and playful personalities. Chewey is not very smart or athletic, but she makes up for it in charm. She’s hilarious, and brings constant laughter to my family’s house.

If conversations run silent, all we have to do is whip out her laser and she’ll chase it around like a cat for hours. If she’s a little to hyped up, you can just lay her on her back to deactivate her.

One of the funniest things she does is sleep with her eyes open and snore like a banshee, such as in this video:

My dog is awesome!

The Top 10 Weirdest Old Testament Laws

Leviticus was God’s contract with Israel. Like any other contract, Leviticus is boring. But it also has its moments. Some of the Old Testament Laws are quite bizarre. Here’s a top 10 list of the strangest.

We begin with two… uh, shall we say ballsy laws.

10. Keep your hands off the goods, ladies.

According to Deuteronomy 25:11-12, if two men were engaged in fisticuffs, their wives couldn’t come to their rescue by grabbing and twisting the other man’s private parts. If she did, her hand would have to be cut off. An episode with all that action would certainly boost the ratings of Real Housewives.

9. Sacrificing animals with damaged testicles is forbidden.

In Leviticus 22:24 it says, “You must not offer to the Lord an animal whose testicles are bruised, crushed, torn or cut.” This kept the Israelites from attempting to offer animals that couldn’t reproduce, and thus were less valuable.

Next, we have a couple laws of the culinary variety.

8. Eating locusts: good. Drinking blood: bad.

Eating most bugs was forbidden, but insects with jointed legs for hopping were okay. This included locusts, crickets, katydids, and grasshoppers, Leviticus 11:21-22 says. However, drinking the blood of animals is an abomination, according to Leviticus 17:10-12. So all of you Twilight fans who were Team Edward, because he mercifully only drank the blood of animals, were wrong. I also shouldn’t have eaten all that blood sausage while I was visiting my sister in Ireland.

7. Your hamburgers must be plain.

In Exodus 23:19 it commands not to cook a goat in its mother’s milk. Some interpreters see this as a ban on mixing meat and cheese. Additionally, Leviticus 11:3 permits the eating of animals with divided hooves that chew the cud only. So you couldn’t eat horses, because even though they chewed the cud, they didn’t have a divided hoof. And even though pigs had divided hooves, they didn’t chew the cud. In that case, I guess the meaty, cheesey, bacony deliciousness that is the Baconator would have to be taken of the Wendy’s menu. Booo!

Now we move on to some simple laws that had drastic punishments.

6. Excommunication for not celebrating a national holiday.

Any Israelites who didn’t celebrate Passover were supposed to get kicked out of the camp forever in obedience to Numbers 9:13. Does this mean I was justified as a kid in egging my grumpy neighbors who didn’t hand out candy on Halloween?

5. Death for desecrating or working on a Sunday.

… Or Saturday, in the case of the Israelites, as prescribed in Exodus 31:14. Everyone needs a day off from time to time, so observing a Sabbath rest is actually an awesome law, but isn’t Sunday afternoon often the most convenient time to mow the lawn? If you got caught clipping the turf as an Israelite – BUSTED.

4. Death for rebelling against your parents.

Are you one of those teens who cussed their parents under their breath, or snuck out to a party without permission? In Exodus 21:17, a kid who cursed their parents was to be put to death, and in Deuteronomy 21:20-21, rebellious teens could be stoned by the townsfolk. As a youth pastor I’m really glad this law has passed away, or I might not have too many teens to hang out with.

Here’s a couple laws about sculpting your luscious locks.

3. Tell the barber to take it easy on the sides.

Not too many people prefer the reverse mohawk look, but apparently God does. In Leviticus 19:27 the prescribed holy haircut involved not cutting the hair on the sides of the head, or trimming the edge of the beard. This look would help the Israelites stand out from the people of the other nations.

2. Burn it with fire!

If an Israelite wanted to set themselves apart as especially holy to the LORD, he could take the vows of a Nazirite. The three vows included no eating grape products (wine, raisins, etc.), never cutting their hair, and no close contact with a dead body. But what if someone randomly died in your presence? Too bad. According to Numbers 6:9 and 18 you had to shave off your long hair and burn it in a fire, and you could never be a Nazirite again.

And now for one of the strangest passages in all of Scripture…

1. Dust bunnies: the first lie detectors.

According to Numbers 5:11-31, if a man suspected his wife was having an affair, but had no physical proof, he could take her to the priest. The priest would sweep some dust off the Tabernacle floor, and mix it into a vessel of water, and make the wife drink it. If the dusty water didn’t make the woman sick, then she was innocent, but if her belly swelled up with pain, then she was guilty. It’s even weirder if you read it straight from the Bible.

So there you have it, the ten weirdest laws in the Old Testament.

All joking aside, God gave the Israelites the Old Testament Law because he knew they wouldn’t be able to keep it. It would lead them to realize that they needed a Savior. At the perfect time, God sent his one and only beloved Son into the world, Jesus Christ, who lived perfectly according to the Law. At the end of Jesus’ life, God punished him for our sins, so that by faith in him, his perfection could be given to us, and we could be presented as blameless before God. Jesus saves us from God’s just anger for having broken God’s laws.

That’s the Good News of the New Testament.

Annoying iTunes Updates, Leviticus, and what it Means to be a Servant of Jesus Christ

“I have read and agreed to the terms and conditions.”

It seems like iTunes updates their software every other month. I power up my MacBook, get ready to listen to some music, and then, BAM! “A software update is ready to be installed.” Continue reading