Youth Ministry

Filling the Bleachers

We recently partnered with Youth Ministry 360 to publish a few blogs for their website. We want to share them with you! Below is the last of 5 blogs. This one was written by Tony Souder, founder and director of the Pray for Me Campaign. 


FILLING THE BLEACHERS FOR EVERY STUDENT

We have all had those backyard moments when we are imagining the closing seconds of the game in the sport of our choosing. The moment when we score the decisive points to win the game and we make our victory run with our arms lifted high into the air while the crowd goes wild. How sweet it is!

Unfortunately, this is only an imaginary moment for most of us. We’re never actually in that moment when the final score relies on us and we make the magic happen. We never hear the crowd go wild at our heroics. That experience is embraced only by a select few. And that’s OK. Because fortunately, life is so much more than our buzzer-beating sports fantasies. Our students do not need to be the hero to flourish in life. But it sure helps to have some fans.

EVERYONE NEEDS AT LEAST ONE FAN!

Can you remember how important it was for you to look into the stands or the audience and see at least one person who was there specifically to cheer you on? The motivation and encouragement that comes from knowing that someone cares about you are powerful.

This truth is actually more important when it comes to passing on the faith to the next generation.  Our students don’t need just one fan; they need the whole church cheering them on. It cannot be overstated how important it is that each of our students has multiple adults (fans) apart from you and their parents who are intentionally cheering them on in faith and life. The “Sticky Faith” research from Fuller Seminary shows this is one of the primary factors in students who stay connected to the church and flourish in their faith.

We see this truth all throughout the Bible. Not the use of the word “fans” but the truth of men and women speaking encouragement into the lives of young people helping them to press on in the faith. The Apostle Paul spends significant portions of his letters cheering on the people of God and making sure key leaders are there to encourage the church when he is not there. Psalms speak of one generation commending the greatness of God to the next.

What about you?

Think for a moment about your own life. Where would you be without the adults who invested in your life? A little reflection usually reveals that God has given you a cheering section filled with fans that have cheered, served, and sacrificed for you to get to where you are in life. Did you have too many fans? Not likely! I don’t know anyone who feels they would have been better off if they only had fewer people who cared about them.

FILLING THE BLEACHERS

My question over the last five years has been something like this: “How can I fill the bleachers, for every student in our ministry, with adults from every generation in the Church who are cheering them on in faith and life?” This is a vital question but it is no small task, in part because the distance between generations seems to be growing along with the distance between student ministry and the overall church. Every student ministry needs to have a plan to make it normal for every student in their ministries to have a “fan base” of adults that is representative of every generation in the Church.

As I have come face to face with the benefits of intergenerational ministry I believe that it needs to become a non-negotiable component for all of our ministries. Don’t stop reading! I understand the how easy it is to be weighed down by the vast responsibilities of developing an effective youth ministry.

Simple, Natural and Repeatable

There is so much great information out these days that can help when you are formulating your plan. Check out all the Sticky Faith resources that are designed for you as a youth pastor and for families. It was the Sticky Faith research that was instrumental in stimulating the creation of the Pray for Me Campaign. Because of their research, we began to relentlessly ask the question: “How can we get more adults connected with more teenagers more naturally than ever before?” The Pray for Me Campaign is our answer to that question.

The PFMC is a simple way of helping churches bridge the gap between generations through prayer. Students are equipped to invite three adults from three different generations to be their Prayer Champions for a school year. The plan is repeatable because each year students invite three new Prayer Champions, which gives them a growing cluster of “fans.” A student who is in your ministry from 6th grade through 12th can have as many as 21 different adults apart from your student ministry and parents who have prayed for them in a significant way.

“I WISH MY CHURCH DID THAT WHEN I WAS GROWING UP!”

This has been the refrain of adults from every age group when they hear about the Pray for Me Campaign. It seems no matter how old we get we can remember our own longing for adults who were on our team. “Fans” who wanted us to succeed in both our faith and in life.

May we do everything we can to give each of our students the intergenerational relationships they need to flourish in faith and life.


Tony is the Founder of the Pray for Me Campaign and Executive Director of the Chattanooga Youth Network, a ministry dedicated to helping the Church flourish in bringing the greatness of God to the next generation. For over two decades he has served the Chattanooga and north Georgia regions by connecting, coaching, and caring for youth ministry leaders across denominational and racial lines. Tony and his wife Rhonda live in Chattanooga, Tennessee with their twin daughters.
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Frontline Testimonies

We recently partnered with Youth Ministry 360 to publish a few blogs for their website. We want to share them with you! Below is the third of five post published on their website. 


We asked two youth pastors the question, “How has the Pray for Me Campaign impacted your youth ministry?” Their responses were powerful. So we thought we’d share them in their entirety with you.

Tim Keller, in his book on Prayer said, “Prayer is the only entryway into genuine self-knowledge. It is also the main way we experience deep change—the reordering of our loves… Prayer is simply the key to everything we need to do and be in life.” The Pray for Me Campaign has had a deep and lasting impact on the life of our church. Students and families have seen and experienced change. Older generations, through the catalyst of prayer, have been folded into the mission and vision of the student ministry. Prayer, using the prayer guide, reorders our lives and takes us farther away from the sin that entered in the garden, namely, that you can’t trust the goodness of God or His commitment to our happiness and well-being.

 

It is easy to sometimes forget our role in the life of the church. We just show up on Sunday and allow the professionals to handle the rest. The Pray for Me Campaign “reorders our loves.” Our church, in the midst of transition, has seen the student ministry remain constant in Kingdom impact. I have no doubt this is a direct impact of the Pray for Me Campaign. Having an army of Prayer Champions praying Scripture-saturated prayers has aided in the student ministry.

 

Part of my vision for student ministry is to impact the community our church resides in. This shift would not have been as successful without the Pray for Me Campaign being launched in my first year at the church. If prayer is not a central part of your student ministry, Tony Souder has given you an opportunity to change that with the Pray For Me Campaign.”

— Ryan | Student Pastor in Chattanooga, Tennessee

“Since launching the Pray for Me Campaign in September, we have seen an untold impact on what I would call the invisible link between teenagers and the church as a whole. Too many times, youth ministry is done in a vacuum or a silo as if what is done at the youth gatherings has no significance or bearing on the church as a whole. Launching the Pray for Me Campaign has brought the needs of students to the forefront of the thoughts of many adults who were previously disconnected from our youth ministry.

 

This past year, there are several examples where the bonds of the Pray for Me Campaign literally became the spiritual glue that would bind up wounds and bring healing. For one eighth-grade girl, her prayer champion served as a pick-me-up when she was feeling alone and isolated in the midst of middle school drama. Another tenth-grade boy needed his prayer champion in a way that no one except God could have fashioned. After suffering the loss of a friend to suicide, this young man reached out to me for prayer, and I was able to connect him to his prayer champion, a fifty-two-year-old lady, who had recently lost her nephew to suicide.

 

The Pray for Me Campaign has impacted at least three facets of my youth ministry: 1) the spiritual growth of students, 2) the awareness of student needs, and 3) the spiritual lives of adults in the church as a whole.”

— Bobby | Student Pastor in Ringgold, Georgia

We pray you are encouraged by these frontline testimonies from the Pray for Me Campaign. If you would like to see this kind of change in your church, you can find out more about the Pray for Me Campaign by clicking HERE.

5 Benefits of Utilizing the Pray for Me Campaign

We recently partnered with Youth Ministry 360 to publish a few blogs for their website. We want to share them with you! Read below Andy Blanks' follow up to The Pray for Me Campaign is the Secret Sauce of Intergenerational Ministry.


Recently I wrote a post about the Pray for Me Campaign being the secret sauce of Intergenerational Ministry. In that post, I wrote about the combination of three ingredients that set the stage for life-giving intergenerational relationships. I would like to follow up with a focus on...

FIVE BENEFITS THAT FLOW DIRECTLY FROM THE IMPLEMENTING OF THE PRAY FOR ME CAMPAIGN.

1. Every student is connected.

Students gain a growing network of adults from every generation who love and support them beginning with prayer. The Pray for Me Campaign is set up so that every year students invite three adults from three different generations to be their "Prayer Champions" for the school year. Each year the students invite three new adults to be their Prayer Champions which means that a 6th grader who is involved with the PFMC could have 21 different adults who have prayed for them in a significant way during their middle and high school years.

2. Parents are encouraged.

As a parent, I am so encouraged when I see adult friends begin to invest in my children. I feel the layers of God’s goodness that are being extended to my children through the love and care of these other adults. Being connected with youth ministry for a long time I realize that not every parent has a network of adults who are investing in their children. But, I also believe that there should never be a parent in the church that feels alone in helping their child flourish in following Christ. I know that is a bold statement, but the Pray for Me Campaign makes this type of beautiful adult investment available to every family in the church.

3. Volunteer involvement increases.

I’ve met very few youth leaders who say they have enough support for the ministry. Because of the design of the PFMC most youth ministries increase the number of adults who are involved in the ministry by 1,500%. No, that isn’t a typo. Let’s do the math . . . Let’s take a ministry that has ten students and two leaders. Those 10 students will invite three adults from different generations to be their "Prayer Champions," which equals 30 adults who are serving as new volunteers in the ministry. Since we started with two leaders, every time we add two more leaders that is a 100% increase, which means adding 30 new leaders is a 1,500% increase in volunteer involvement. I know you may be thinking that these “new” volunteers don’t help me with my need for hands-on volunteers. Let me encourage you not to be too short-sighted here. People always move toward what they care about and now you have 30 adults who are specifically praying for the students in your care. Prayer is one of the primary ways God enlarges our hearts towards the things He cares about.

4. The community in the church is strengthened.

What if there was a way to naturally connect adults from different age groups in a missional way? One of the incredible aspects of the Pray for Me Campaign is how it naturally creates intergenerational relationships for everyone involved. Of course, every teenager gets relationships with three adults from different generations, that is covered in the first benefit. There are actually six relational connections that are created every time a student invites their prayer champions for the year. The student with the three Prayer Champions but also the Prayer Champions with each other. The Prayer Champion connections are vital because many of these adults either don’t know each other before entering into the PFMC or it is a general knowledge from a distance. I could see churches capitalizing on this one aspect of the PFMC to create a greater community all throughout the church.

5. Adults’ prayer lives are deepened Let’s face it, many of our prayer lives need a boost.

One of the side benefits of the PFMC is that adults who say yes to being a Prayer Champion for a student find their prayer lives getting a positive jolt. I think this takes place for a couple of reasons. First, being specifically invited to pray for a specific student ignites our motivation to pray. There is something powerful that takes place when a student looks you in the eye and asks, “Will you pray for me?” Secondly, the Prayer Guide makes it very easy to stay on track praying scripture for the student through the 7 Essential categories. It is natural for a Prayer Champion to begin adding more and more people to their prayer times including their own children or grandchildren. This handful of benefits are incredible and yet they don’t even touch the incalculable supernatural benefits of having every young person in the church have three adults who are interceding for them regularly.


Andy Blanks is the co-founder and Publisher for ym360. If it’s a blog post, resource, or workshop, Andy had his hands on it. Andy has been designing Bible study and discipleship resources for youth ministers since 2003. He lives in Birmingham, AL with his wonderful wife Brendt, their three daughters, and one son. He’s a pretty big fan of both the Boston Red Sox and anything involving the Auburn Tigers. When he’s not hanging out with his family or volunteering at his church’s youth ministry, you can find Andy trail running or mountain biking. Follow Andy on Instagram: andy_blanks