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    Part comedian, part teacher, and part pastor, Dugan is a traveling speaker who loves to speak at a variety of events. If you're interested in finding someone to speak at your next retreat, conference, ministry night or leader training, you're at the right place! Dugan has experience speaking to students, adults, men, kids, and more! Whether you're looking for something powerful and moving, or light and comedic, Dugan offers both (as well as everything in between)! Check out Dugan's newest book "Never Alone" and shoot him an email 72,69,82,69,46.EREH

6 Tips I Learned About Student Ministries

This past weekend, I had the privilege of traveling to Virginia to hang out with and teaching about 450 middle school students and a ton of amazing staff and volunteer adult leaders. On Saturday, I spent some time speaking to and learning from the adult leader who were there with their students. I spent a good chunk of this time outlining 6 tips about student ministries that I’ve learned. Most of them I learned either by accident or by God beating me over my stubborn head until I got it, but all of them have been important as God has developed my passion, philosophy, and vision for student ministries.

Anyway, I was asked by one of the leaders in attendance to write them down so, here they are! I won’t go into a lot of detail in this post but feel free to check out my book “Sow What?” at http://www.slimbooks.com/sowwhat for a more in-depth discussion and examples of each one!

 

1). Raise the Bar. My student ministries philosophy revolves a lot around 1 Timothy 4:12, which says: Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. I love this verse and I think it’s so important for anyone working in student ministries.

I really believe that through this verse, Paul is telling us that young people in Bible times (much like today) tended to be looked down on by older people who think they knew more and that is now okay. It it a major pet peeve of mine when students today are subconsciously or literally told to wait until they’re older or ‘more mature’ before they can take their life, decisions, and faith seriously. What a waste. According to what I read in Scripture, God frequently used young people for His purposes. David, Samuel, Esther, Timothy, and Jesus’ Disciples to name a few.

Because of this, I believe student ministries need to call students to a high standard of ownership in their faith. Things like teaching, worship, and community shouldn’t ever be dumbed down for the sake of students. Instead, we should teach up and call students to a high standard of life by taking them seriously, like I believe God does. It’s my belief that not only is this how God desires us to lead students, but also appropriately empowers students to learn from a young age what it means to personally own their faith, independently from their parents, pastors, or friends. Whether owning their faith means admitting they aren’t sure they even believe in God or they’re on fire for Him, I think students need to learn what it means to take their faith seriously and through that, discover the truth of God that will last far beyond middle school, high school, and college.

2). Fun. Not the band, although they’re really good. I believe fun needs to be a significant priority in student ministries, not just a throw-away element. Students need to know it’s okay to fully love Jesus…and still be/have fun. Gross games, hilarious videos, and youth pastors who don’t take themselves too seriously are key factors for students. Fun is so important. It knocks down walls, creates laughter, and is needed for students whose lives often time consist of things like the isolation of school, tons of homework, bullies, broken homes, dysfunctional families, shallow friendships, and even worse. Plus, in my opinion, by unashamedly having fun with students, we earn the right to go deep and teach up to them in teaching, worship, and community.

3). Just Say “Hi.” It’s amazing how a seemingly small, insignificant thing can lead to something incredibly important. As an introvert, it’s really difficult for me to walk up to someone I don’t know and start a conversation, but in the context of student ministries, I’ve learned that it is vital. A new and/or shy student who walks into a ministry without any friends there is already doing something incredibly brave and terrifying. And as uncomfortable as it might be for me to walk up and say hi, the impact it might have is well worth the initial awkwardness. By simply saying “hi” to a student, it could mean the difference between them coming back the following week, getting involved in a small group, signing up for a retreat, beginning a relationship with Jesus, and becoming a student pastor of a ministry with 1,000 students 10 years later. Obviously that’s not going to happen with every student you say hi to, but at the very least, you will have made a student feel welcomed and appreciated for a few minutes.

4). Create a Culture. In this context, I define culture as: “A very inclusive inside joke.” Culture is something that you feel apart of something the second you walk into the room. Culture in a student ministries context could be anything from a yearly trip, a silly chant, sports, music, merchandise, a game, or anything else that makes a student feel accepted, included, and a part of something with everyone else right away. When it comes to creating a culture, I think every student ministry will do this differently. A lot of it depends on the area, church, and student interests but I also think a lot of this depends on the personality of the student ministry leader. I once heard that Biblical teaching is “truth through personality.” In the same way, I’d say that creating a culture is a student leader creating elements of their ministry that are fun, random, and consistent, all connected to their individual personality, skills, and passions, so that any student who walks in will automatically feel a part of something.

5). High Expectations for Volunteers. I used to always lead volunteer leaders with a twinge of guilt in the back of my mind. Since they were giving up their time to serve students in a ministry, which I was paid to lead, I never wanted to make them feel pressured or taken advantage of. So, I would always ask things of them with a “but if you can’t, no big deal” kind of attitude. However, I found that this lead to many leaders not being fully engaged in their role as a volunteer. Instead, through some wise counsel and God patiently teaching me, I decided to unapologetically raise the expectations for volunteers. Things like consistency, connecting with students outside of ministry nights, and required weekly, quarterly, and yearly attendance for leader meetings/trainings became part of the deal.

What this did was not only clarify what was expected for a volunteer in student ministries, it also A). Showed how seriously we took our influence in the lives of students, B). Affirmed how important their role was as a calling to intentionally invest in and build relationships with students, and C). Make it much easier to have candid conversations with volunteers who couldn’t or wouldn’t follow through on the commitment.

6). Discipleship. This is a word that used a lot today in the context of ministry and for as many people that take discipleship seriously, there are as many opinions about what it is and how to best do it. The simplest way I think about discipleship in a student ministries context is how Bo Boshers talks about it, which is: “The Be-With Factor.” In a small group of 8-12 students, there might be one (possibly two) student who is ready for discipleship, which is simply an intentional, consistent, and one-on-one time with their small group leader to walk through life with them and help them grow. I think discipleship will look different for each church/ministry/leader/student but is key for any student ministry to take students who are ready to a deeper place of growth and relationship with Jesus through the relational influence of the leaders of the ministry.

 

These are just things I’ve learned in my experience but I am no expert. I would love to hear from any of you on things you also find to be keys for students ministries and/or any comments on anything I wrote as well.

Thanks for reading!

D

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Friday Five #12

Welcome to the dozenth (?) edition of the Friday Five! Hope you had a great Saint Patrick’s day and first day of spring this past week. Here’s some fun stuff that I hope you find interesting!

D

 

1). 15 Fun Facts about Saint Patrick’s Day. In honor of my heritage (well, mostly my skin and hair color), here’s some fun stuff you might not have known about March 17th: http://mentalfloss.com/article/55599/15-delightful-facts-about-saint-patricks-day?bypass=1

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2). Uncle Saul playing Candy Crush. Homeland is one of my favorite shows and Saul is my favorite character on it. We call him “Uncle Saul” because he’s just so awesome, I kind of wish he was my uncle. Check out this clip of him teaching Jimmy Fallon how to play candy crush.

3). 5 Sermon Illustrations to Retire. Great article from Relevant Magazine by Sammy Rhodes on some somewhat over-used (to put it mildly) illustrative tools that pastors need to pack away in the attic and find something fresher to us. http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/5-sermon-clich%C3%A9s-retire

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4). Key and Peele Make Fun of Everything. Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele are two of my favorite comedians. Their show on Comedy Central is hilarious and very well done. Here’s an interesting article from Time where they talk about humor in a world of politically correctness. http://time.com/22993/key-and-peele-make-fun-of-everything/

 

5). 18 Things Creative People Do Differently. If you’re a creative person or happen to live/work/know one, this article from Huffington Post will give you some insight. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/04/creativity-habits_n_4859769.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

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Be the Iguana

When I was about 10 years old, I joined the kid’s ministry drama team at my church. Even though that sounds kind of lame, it was kinda legit. We would meet on a weekly basis to train and practice drama so we could help present the message of the Bible in fun and relevant ways to the various ministries at our church that used drama and acting to do so. At the time, the leader of our team was named Deanna Armentrout and she was not only a fantastic teacher, but she was very educated in the field of theater. Deanna had gone to school for acting, been trained as one, and even worked as an actress professionally.

My favorite part of being on the drama team, by far, was playing silly improv games. They were meant to help develop our acting abilities as we were forced to listen to other people in the game and respond appropriately. They were also meant to help challenge and grow our wit, teach us  character development, or just be fun. Games like Zip-Zap-Zog and Mirror were some of my favorites.

One game we played that I also loved was called Yes, Let’s! In this game, two people are in front of the rest of the class and after a person is selected to start by the leader, they turn to their partner and say something like: “Let’s go fishing!” Person 2 then enthusiastically says: “Yes, let’s!” and both begin the motions of fishing for a second. Then immediately, person 2 turns to person 1 and says something like: “Let’s play Frisbee!” Person 1 says (you guessed it): “Yes, lets!” and they begin tossing a frisbee. This goes on until one person fumbles their words or can’t think of anything else to do, at which point they’re replaced with a new player. The goal is to try and stay in the game as long as you can, which might sound easy but it’s meant to move at a fast pace so even though it’s simple, it becomes pretty difficult pretty quickly.

It was a fun game but like most improv games involving middle school students, one of the biggest obstacles (at least for me) was not wanting to embarrassed or look stupid. Even though the games we played were fun, wanting to make sure I still looked cool was always in the back of my head. It was easy for me to feel awkward and uncomfortable when asked to portray certain roles or characters that required some kind of physicality or silliness. I was too busy trying to be cool in my baggy jeans and Starter jacket to embarrass myself, especially if there was a chance that a girl could be present.

I remember there was this one time that Deanna could tell we were all feeling squirmy and uncomfortable as lanky, pimple-faced students and weren’t really letting go of our insecurities to truly embrace what it meant to act. She then told a story that I’ve never forgotten.

She told us all to sit down, looked us all in the eyes for a few moments and then said: “Guys, I want you to be the iguana!”

We giggled and looked at each other, confused.

The story goes like this: When Deanna was in college pursuing her degree in theater, her and her fellow classmates were taking part in an improv game where they drew a few pieces of paper out of a hat and had to then create and scene incorporating each of the things written on the pieces of paper they drew out. When it was Deanna’s turn, she happened to draw out: Iguana and Toilet. Obviously these were two pretty odd things to combine, but after struggling with the thought of what people would think of her, Deanna made a decision that she was just going to go for it and not care what she looked like.

She then improvised a scene where she got flushed down the toilet and (in a clever move, with her back the group) applied green make-up to her face and came out totally transformed into a very believable iguana. She physically portrayed the motions of what it would probably be like to be flushed down a toilet and then crawled around with side eyes and tongue flickering with such commitment and believability, that both her teacher and the rest of the class voted her improv performance their favorite.

So, how did she go from having, arguably, the most potentially embarrassing combination of words, to being voted the favorite by her class?

She just went for it. She took something potentially dumb-looking and definitely silly and just said: “Yes, Let’s!”

She was so committed to the role and didn’t care what people thought, that those watching her forgot they were watching their friend Deanna and, instead, saw a woman get flushed down a toilet and turn into an iguana.

“Be the iguana.”

Don’t care what people think, just commit yourself 100% to whatever you’re doing and by doing so, people won’t have time to make you feel embarrassed because they’ll be completely drawn in to whatever your’e doing.

 

And this is something that I see in some of the greatest comedy actors today. Jimmy Fallon, Reggie Watts, Fred Armisen, Kristen Wigg, Zach Galifianakis, and Amy Pohlar are just a few examples of actors (mostly in comedic and/or improvisational roles) who commit themselves so much to whatever role or character or scene they’re doing, that no matter how ridiculous it is, you can’t help but be drawn in, laugh, and praise them in the end for how funny and talented they are.

A perfect example of this and one of the best iguanas I’ve ever seen is Will Ferrell. No matter what he’s doing, Ferrell gives himself completely over to what he’s doing. And this isn’t better seen than in the movie Elf. Easily one of my favorite comedies and Christmas movies of all time. Despite being a modern movie, it quickly became a classic in many people’s holiday traditions and is full of charm, humor, wit, character, joy, hope, ridiculousness, and heart, all because a guy names Will dressed up in a stupid costume and became Elf.

After seeing this movie, despite scenes of talking snowmen, hugging raccoons, and snowball fight massacres, nobody walked out of the theater and thought it was cheesy or lame or over-the-top. Why? Because the guy playing the 40 year old elf became the iguana. Had he given 99% or less, it would have ruined the movie. Had he not taken his character completely seriously, then there’s a good chance nobody else would have either.

 

All that to say, these concepts have influenced my life in a few ways.

In a generation of sarcastic skepticism being the default, I’m learning how to pause before immediately making fun or arguing and simply go along with the opinion of a friend or the mission of a product. Instead of filtering the world through the lens of criticism, I’m learning to try and see things through a “Yes, Let’s!” filter. I want to be someone who sees the good, believes the best, and in genuinely interested in people and their ideas, not someone who’s quick to shut something down or discredit it.

And similarly, I want to commit to whatever I do with full abandon and not be ruled by the norm or what has been done in the past or with being overly concerned with what people will think of me. I’d rather be an impressive iguana than a conformed Dugan. Playing with my daughter in public, teaching groups of students, talking to a homeless person, loving my wife, and much more are things that I want to give myself to fully, regardless of anything else.

 

There’s a woman at the gym I exercise at that spends the entirety of her work out dancing and singing with full feeling while holding five-pound weights. She looks ridiculous. People stare. I stifle laughter. But there are two things that I’m sure are true:
1). She’s getting a good workout.
2). She’s having a blast.

And if she asked me to join her, I’d probably say…”No thanks.” But when it comes to my life, I hope I can start living in a way that when asked to be flushed down a toilet and turn into an iguana, without hesitation I say: “Yes, Let’s!”

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Friday Five #11

Welcome to the Friday Five! Each week I try to feature five fun, random, interesting, educational, or funny things from the web that is world wide. Hope you enjoy!

D

1). The Weirdest Things Sold on Ebay. This is a little sad and a lot hilarious. – http://aff144.teensdigest.com/articles/716?page=0

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2). Pothole Art. This goes out to all my friends in the mid-west. – http://www.buzzfeed.com/mackenziekruvant/artists-turn-city-potholes-into-street-art

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3). The Power of Sleep. Whether it’s napping or sleeping at night, as someone who needs a solid 8 hours a night to be pleasant to be around, I felt empowered by this information.

http://mentalfloss.com/article/55471/5-tips-napping-your-way-success 

Sleep Infographic

4).The Original Locations of 15 Fast Food Places. – http://mentalfloss.com/article/54809/original-locations-15-famous-food-chains

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5).  President Obama on Between 2 Ferns. I know some people were offended by this and I also know Obama probably just did it to appeal to the younger generation, but I thought he was a good sport and it was hilarious.  – http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/18e820ec3f/between-two-ferns-with-zach-galifianakis-president-barack-obama

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Friday Five #10

Welcome to the Friday Five! This week’s edition is short and sweet. Just five (or 6…okay, 7…maybe 8) quotes from fictional characters that caught my ear. Enjoy!

D

1). “Sometimes what you get isn’t really what you want.” – Holder (The Killing)

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2). “You’re gonna break a few eggs when you’re swinging a sledge hammer down at the bus station.” – Ron Burgandy (Anchorman 2)

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3). “The best hobbies are the ones that take us furthest from our primary occupation.” – Dr. Vogel (Dexter)

“The greatest battle in life isn’t danger, it’s boredom.” – Dr. Vogel (Dexter)

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4). “I have no idea what I’m supposed to do. I only know what I can do.” – Captain Kirk (Star Trek: Into Darkness)

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5). “When you fling enough crap into the universe, occasionally the breeze is gonna blow your way.” – Brass (CSI)

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5+). “Cheese. It’s milk, that you chew.” – Chandler (Friends)

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5++). “Life’s barely long enough to get good at one thing. So be careful what you get good at.” – Cohle (True Detective)

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