The Inspired Volunteer

A blog to inspire the Youth Volunteers of Shepherd Church

Get Parentals Involved — September 29, 2015

Get Parentals Involved

Post by: Garrison Polsgrove
Youth Discipleship Pastor at Shepherd Church

“I got your 6!!” is a phrase used by soldiers in battle to communicate blind side coverage. The “6” refers to the number six on a clock dial and represents the backside of a soldiers viewpoint. When a soldier hears “I got your six,” he or she is given an instant bolster of courage due to knowing they have someone supporting them in areas they cannot patrol. Since harm can creep in from anywhere, 360-degree coverage is needed so a soldier can focus on the objective straight ahead in their 12 o’clock viewpoint.

Discipleship Group leaders have a limited viewpoint when it comes to knowing all that goes on in a student’s life. We only know and can speak to the information given to us by the students themselves and even then the information relayed to us can be tainted by immaturity and ignorance. Of course, we want students to disclose personal feelings and experiences, however, we may be only getting part of the story and thus our advice is limited in its effectiveness.

The best way to get a better understanding of a student or a situation is to get their parentals involved by relaying to them the types of things their son or daughter is mentioning in the group. You may or may not need to go into specific detail with the parents, but giving a general overview of your understanding of a situation allows them to confirm or deny your perspective.**

I get it…it is awkward speaking to adults you barely know and telling them things that might be embarrassing for them to hear. However, you have a limited perspective. By clarifying your understanding and giving a student’s parentals a larger perspective you are in a sense creating a 360-degree student discipleship perimeter that brings to light details a student may try to keep hidden.

Make an effort in the following weeks to call the parentals of your D-Group students. Inform them of how grateful you are to have their child in your group and summarize your understanding of their child’s personality and disposition. Ask any questions you may have had over the past several weeks and get ready to listen, listen, and listen some more (parentals love talking about their kids).

Taking the time to give a parental a greater perspective into the discipleship process of their child will endear you to them. Also, it will bolster your confidence knowing the parents… “got your 6!!”

**Please, first notify Shepherd Youth Staff if a student mentions anything that entails the intent to harm themselves or others, or if they imply others are inflicting harm on them

Expect What You Tolerate — September 22, 2015

Expect What You Tolerate

Post by: Garrison Polsgrove
Youth Discipleship Pastor at Shepherd Church

A mentor walked with her three girls through the forest and pointed at three small seedlings barely poking through the soil, “Can each of you uproot one of those?” The mentor said to the girls.

“Of course!” they replied. And with just a small effort they pulled up the roots and all.

The mentor continued to walk through the trees, “What about those?” She was pointing at three young trees not much taller than them. The girls raced with excitement over to the young plants and placed both hands around the plant’s trunk and pulled with all their strength. After about a minute of pulling each of the girls exclaimed,

“Got it!!”

The mentor then pointed at three full-grown Oak Trees that stretched to the skies. “Can you uproot those?”

“No way!” Said each of the girls in their own shocking tone. “They are already full grown and their roots are too deep.”

The mentor then looked at each of the girls with an intensity they had yet seen and said, “Such is a metaphor for destructive behaviors in our lives. When they first begin they are the easiest to end. However, the longer you tolerate destructive behaviors, problematic people, and negative issues to remain in your life, the more difficult they are to uproot.”

The above is a metaphor that communicates the principle of starting early to remove negative influences from your life. In this case, however, I want to use it to communicate the importance of starting early in the life of your D-Group to end problematic issues caused by disrespectful students.

Nothing discourages a leader and throws off the dynamic of a group more than a disrespectful student who says inappropriate comments at inopportune times. You may say to yourself, “Well, he is just a kid…what can you expect?!” However, you are exactly right, you will only get what you expect. In other words, you can only expect to get what you are willing to tolerate.

Every D-Group leader needs to feel empowered to put an end to group member behaviors that disrupt the group and cause other students to go home feeling ashamed. Make a point to end the behavior of a disrespectful student in the young beginnings of your group while you are still establishing your expectations. After all, you are the leader and in charge of setting the spiritual climate of your group. Only tolerate what you want to someday expect.

Here are a few steps to take in consequential order to end a student’s disruptive and disrespectful behaviors:

  • Talk one-on-one after group. Let the student know how much you are glad they are in the group. State specifically the actions you will not tolerate and give ways for them to become a positive asset to the group. End the conversation with a side-hug or high-five telling them you think they are awesome.
  • Call the parents. Be completely honest about their child’s behavior. Do not sugarcoat it.
  • Contact Garrison. I will call the parents and strongly suggest taking a semester off.
Small Group Gold: Text Messaging — September 15, 2015

Small Group Gold: Text Messaging

Post by: Garrison Polsgrove
Youth Discipleship Pastor at Shepherd Church

I have no desire to vacation in countries where English is not the main language spoken. Go ahead…let the shaming remarks begin. Trust me, whenever I disclose this I get all kinds of judgmental facial expressions. It is not because I have an under appreciation of the past or close-minded thinking towards foreign cultures (Ok..well, maybe a little bit), but it is more about feeling isolated due to not being able to communicate to others or have others converse with me. Not knowing the language of the people I want to win over leaves me feeling frustrated and misunderstood.

I say all this to relate it to the “language” teenagers “speak” today. Small group leaders want to show their students they care about them by saying while in group, “Hey guys, I want you to know that I care about you and want what is best for you.” But without any effort outside of meeting you might as well have been speaking German.

An easy way to show a student you care about them is to “speak” their language by sending them a text message when you think about him or her throughout the week. Not only does it communicate, “Hey, I am thinking about you.” But it also says, “Hey, I care about you enough to learn your language.”

A friend of mine who is an avid traveler told me natives of foreign countries are much more amiable towards American tourists who at least try to speak their language than those who assume everyone should just speak English. And the same is true for students as well. Although it may take you five minutes to type a twenty-character reply and you have no idea how to insert emojis (or even what they are), a student will hear your message loud and clear, “I care about you.” Throughout the day a student gets hundreds of text messages from their peers, so make an effort throughout the week to make one or two of them from you.

Here are some ideas of simple text messages that communicate you care:

“Hey there! Hope you are having a great day! You are awesome.”
“You are awesome. Know that.”
“I am proud of you.”
“I prayed for you today. See you Wednesday.”
“I just prayed for your prayer request you mentioned last Wednesday. God is working.”
“Here is a great verse I just read: “(Copy and Past the verse from U-version Bible App)

6 Things To Keep In Mind — September 9, 2015

6 Things To Keep In Mind

Post by: Garrison Polsgrove
Youth Discipleship Pastor at Shepherd Church
6 things to keep in mind while leading your small group:

1) We influence people through relationship. So, invest time early to merely get to know each of the members, it will show them you care about them personally and thus they will slowly begin to trust you.

2) Keep the group focused on a specific subject or topic. It’s tempting to want the group to merely “Go with the flow.” However, your group may touch on ten subjects and leave everyone feeling that nothing was accomplished. So, come prepared with one topic in mind and direct everything to that subject.

3) Don’t allow one person to dominate the discussion. Others may be intimidated to talk and thus defer to the strongest person in the group. So, if one person is answering all the questions and talking majority of the time, say something like, “Thank you for sharing. I really appreciate your input, but lets allow some other people to share.”

4) Call on people. Some people have to be called upon to share. So, invite them by saying something like, “What about you ___________, what do you think?”

5) Have plenty of questions on hand just in case some questions flop in getting a response. If one question is confusing or doesn’t really apply, move on! Don’t spend five minutes explaining what you are asking. Ask it once, then rephrase the question once…then if nothing happens…move on! Some questions look good on paper but flop depending on the audience.

6) Be Open. Set the tone of the group by being the first one to “open up.” Start by telling something personal from your life to break the ice and inspire others to open up as well. Use discretion when giving information, but you can totally give others the “gist” of something without telling every detail of a situation. Remember, this is a group you are leading…this is not a personal counseling session. Don’t use the group to vent your personal struggles or issues. Save those things for your close friends or spouse.

3 Things All Good Small Group Leaders Do — September 1, 2015

3 Things All Good Small Group Leaders Do

Post by: Garrison Polsgrove
Youth Discipleship Pastor at Shepherd Church

1) Ask good questions
2) Listen, Listen, Listen
3) Affirm, Affirm, Affirm.

1) Ask Good Questions:

  1. Start questions with: “What would YOU do?” “What do YOU think?” “How would that make YOU feel? “
    It’s easy to get lost in generalizations so focus on things that pertain to each individual
  2. Try to make the stories in scripture real to them by getting them to think about how the biblical characters might have felt.
    For example: What you would have done if you had been Paul in that moment? What would it had been like if you were in Noah’s place and given such a huge task?
  3. It’s better to start with the narrative stories of the bible. Begin in the OT (Genesis) and work your way through the Bible. As you read the stories in the Bible its easier for the students to put themselves in the stories. Then, you can always pick our principles and relate them to their lives. For example: Noah was the only one who did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. Have you ever been in a situation when you were the only one doing what was right?

2) Listen, Listen, Listen:

  1. Try not to cut off a student who is answering. Also, do not let others talk over each other.
  2. Give affirming responses after a student gives an answer. (For example: Great answer Johnny! I appreciate when you give your input.)
  3. Do not preach. Allow the students to work it out. I know we may be thinking to ourselves: “I’m just going to tell them!” However, one of the keys to understanding is self-discovery. So, as a teacher, the key is to allow them to say a few dumb answers while their mind zig-zags to the truth.

3) Affirm, Affirm, Affirm.

  1. Be their biggest cheerleader. Make them feel like they are awesome…because they are. One of the greatest quotes I have heard when it comes to this is: “People will not remember what you say, but they will remember how you made them feel.”
  2. Affirm character, not performance. Tell them how much you appreciate their personal attributes.
    For example: “I really appreciate what a kind person you are. Others really benefit from your kind spirit.” Or “You are a leader and God is going to use you in great ways.”
    You want others to walk away feeling great about who God has made them, instead of them focusing on an action they did. Actions come and go and performance can be flaky, but their character is something that will last and it is the very thing actions flow out of.