Since the mid 70’s a ministry focused on the teenage years has become pretty much standard for most churches and denominations. But even throughout a single denomination things can vary when it comes to ministering to teenagers. USMB NextGen wants to know how are different ministries reaching the next generation, what are they struggling with, how are lead youth workers being developed in our churches, and more. So we want to hear from any church (any denomination) all throughout North America. This survey will help us better resource and edify our youth ministries.
So we are asking every lead youth worker from every church to fill out this survey below. It doesn’t matter if you are full, part, or volunteer we are only asking for the person who oversees the youth ministry. And by filling out this 10-minute survey you will receive a $25 gift card to Amazon as our way of saying thank you!
All surveys must be filled out by February 15, 2023.
*ONLY ONE Amazon gift card PER CHURCH will be given out
When you work with teenagers, what works one year doesn’t always work the next. To be effective you must constantly be willing to adjust and change. For some, that much change is exciting, challenging, and enjoyable. To others, it is scary, and difficult, and may even freak them out. At USMB Youth, we never want to find ourselves stuck and unwilling to change. We are always constantly evaluating, preparing, and elevating what needs to be done so we can be more effective in helping youth workers make an impact for the next generation.
For many years our sole focus had been on planning a national youth convention (YOUTHCON) that happened every four years. Then, following the 2019 convention, we began to expand our vision to include a move toward impacting the next generation of leaders. Our leadership team went from the “national youth conference planning team” to “USMB Youth” to better reflect what we felt called to do. This included the addition of a National Youth Worker Network to come alongside youth workers (full, part, and volunteer) to help encourage them between conventions. We also adjusted from the once every four years YOUTHCON to an annual summer camp called ASCENT. Unfortunately, COVID hit and delayed the launch of this new vision. While we have now been able to experience ASCENT on a national scale at ASCENT, like most churches, COVID forced us to evaluate further and adjust yet again.
We believe that a national camp and a youth worker network are great, but maybe not address a bigger need. We have seen leadership turnover in youth and other ministries across the nation and a lack of leaders equipped and ready to serve. So, perhaps the bigger need is finding, nurturing, and equipping the next generation of leaders to serve our churches. There seems to be a national trend toward a leadership shortage in the church across most denominations. We are seeing fewer and fewer people from within our denomination applying for staff and pastoral positions and the majority of our new pastors are from outside of the denomination. Thus, in 2022, we started the Leadership Pipeline to identify leaders, invest in them, and release them to make an impact for the Kingdom. At the same time, we are inviting churches to join in the opportunity to serve and be served by these young leaders by providing internships in a variety of ministry areas. God blessed our first year by providing 9 interns with the initial pilot program. We are looking and praying for even more this coming year. With the launch of the Leadership Pipeline, we recognize that now two of the three ministry areas of USMB Youth are for leaders rather than youth. Our branding no longer matches our mission. We still love and are for teenagers and our focus has shifted slightly to more intentionally come alongside our USMB churches to provide opportunities to further equip and invest in the leaders who are and will be impacting the teenagers and the entire local church body.
With that in mind, the leadership team has made the decision to rebrand from USMB Youth to USMB Next Gen. We feel it better fits what we are about, impacting the next generation of LEADERS and youth. The vision includes youth workers, as well as, those serving in the areas of worship, kids ministry, church planting, missionaries, service organizations, etc. The immediate focus of USMB Next Gen will continue to be on ASCENT, the National Youth Worker Network, and the Leadership Pipeline. The ministries and services don’t change, just our branding. We hope this helps us connect more accurately with youth ministry, post-high school ministries, educational institutes, and the greater church mission.
A new logo will be announced soon as well as some other changes. The next two months will be an adjustment so please bear with us as we launch to this new branding. We will be updating our website, social media, and printed material but in the meantime feel free to still use all the USMBYouth URLs (usmbyouth.com) and usernames (@usmbyouth). And for a while, we will be using both. But by summer 2023 it will just be USMB, NextGen. So stay tuned for more details.
ASCENT 2022 was our second annual national summer camp for high schoolers. With 2021 being overshadowed somewhat by COVID restrictions this year was more in line with the original vision of ASCENT. God blessed us with a great year and we are excited from all the stories we heard from people’s camp experiences. Thank you to everyone who planned, prayed, sang, led, taught, helped, and served at ASCENT.
The Christian Leader (our denomination’s magainze) will be putting out an article all about ASCENT in the September issue but for now, we wanted to run down the numbers.
We all know or at least have seen the spiritual euphoria after returning from summer camp. We call it the “camp high” it’s not a bad thing but a result of what happens to most students who spend a week with their friends, away from most distractions, having fun, being challenged by dynamic speakers, and joining in engaging worship. I mean who wouldn’t feel good and close to God after that. But all-mountain top experiences fade over time. Here are 10 quick tips to help you as a youth worker to follow up with your group and create momentum with the “camp high”.
The first tip is a reminder not to put so much pressure on yourself if your feelings don’t match the feelings of your students. If you’ve gone to camp 10+ years you start hearing the same messages, singing the same songs, playing the same games. Even hearing the same testimonies on “cry night”. You might not be going away with the camp high like some of your students but don’t throw the momentum away just because you aren’t “feeling it” this year. Remember that many of your students are experiencing this for the first time or God moved in a big way in some of your students and follow-up isn’t about you, it’s about them and God. So be okay with talking about camp even if you personally didn’t have a good experience or your expectations were not met because you can now compare it to a decade of camps.
“You should be praying harder after camp than before camp…” That was a challenge to me many years ago that I only recently began to understand. I would ask everyone I know to pray for students leading up to camp and I would be praying hard too. But once camp is over I just moved on to the next event. I didn’t pray for momentum after camp, I never prayed for revival. And in case you don’t know a revival is as simple as “a movement of God.” We should all be praying for a revival, but after camp, we don’t realize that maybe we just experienced one because we’re too busy planning the next event. So keep praying as you did leading up to camp!
This is my go-to event. The next time we meet as a regular youth group we bring in some coffee or Italian sodas (check them out here) and have students who went to camp get on stage to share their stories and have a Q and A with the students who didn’t. We share pictures, show a recap video, and just celebrate camp.
Plan ahead of time (if you know the theme, messages, etc.) and try to send out daily devos on your social media following up with camp. This helps keep the focus on growing their faith in God and studying His word. You can write them yourself or purchase a set from downloadyouthministry.com.
Take some time and ask a few well-spoken, and confident students to share on a Sunday morning to your whole church. Maybe even make a whole service out of it with your student worship band playing some of the camp songs and messages even. Take the time to also thank the church for praying and supporting you and the students at camp. Don’t skip this opportunity if it’s given to you because it benefits everyone involved!
One of the best ways to bridge the years together is by showing a recap video of camp from the year before. We do it every year leading up to camp the next year so students who went to camp can be reminded of a memory and students who didn’t go to camp can see what it’s like. Add testimonies from students in the video or with separate videos as both recaps and promotional tools.
Taken from my fellow youth worker DJ Toelle – Pass out pens and paper with each student’s name on them with an opening question, “I experienced God at camp this year by…” and have them write down all the ways they enjoyed camp and what they learned while there. The key to this tip is to do it while it’s fresh in their minds by giving it to them on their way home from camp and collecting the papers before they leave (like when you stop for a meal). If they have to turn it in like homework you will never get them back.
I always enjoy throwing up goofy pictures and doing a “caption contest” with the best pictures as a team game. I would read off what each team wrote for their caption and then we would vote for the funniest or best one (they cannot vote for themselves). You could also do this on social media if you are feeling brave… but be aware of inappropriate comments if you’re not careful. Some people take humor too far.
In the Old Testament, humans made alters to God when they wanted to remember what God did. I used a physical alter by giving out smooth stones to everyone to write one word that describes their camp experience and then we collected it in a jar. I have had picture collages with everyone. And I even worked at a church once that added a group picture, t-shirt, and other knick-knacks to a wall in their room every year after camp. They would make up cards like description plates for a stick, or pop can that shares the story of why it’s on the wall that year. It was really cool to add to it every year.
Spotify is an amazing youth ministry tool. We have now started creating “camp jams” playlist every year and sharing the playlist with everyone who went to camp. It was full of the worship songs we sang, funny songs we enjoyed on the way to camp, or any other song that created a memory. People kept adding to it and listening to it for the rest of the year. Until the next camp came and we created a new list.
What other tips do you have that could be added to this list?