Next Saturday (Sept. 12), we’ll have the privilege of welcoming Tim Schmoyer, Barry Horton and others to Koinonia, a day-long youth leadership training event (click HERE for more info). Tim is a local church youth pastor in Minnesota, but connects daily with youth group leaders nationwide through his extensive social networking and blogging efforts at http://www.timschmoyer.com and http://twitter.com/timschmoyer. He was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions. If you are involved in youth ministry or know someone who is, please join us or tell your friend or youth pastor to join us to hear more from him.

How did you get involved in youth ministry? Were you a youth group kid growing up who had visions for how youth ministry could better appeal to you and your friends or did you stumble into this world some other way?

I actually didn’t grow up in a youth group. When I was in high school my church had a couple parents step up and start a youth group, but I always felt it was largely lacking something. I got hooked on youth ministry after someone from Student Venture, the high school division of Campus Crusades for Christ, took a personal interest in developing me as a leader. His passion for teenagers wore off on me as we worked with my peers together, and I’ve been doing it ever since. More about that story here: http://www.studentministry.org/the-story-of-how-i-got-involved-in-youth-ministry/

Since this youth event you are speaking at will be on the grounds of a camp that operates primarily in the summer and on weekends in the offseason I’m curious what your experiences have been with Christian camping and ways you’ve seen summer camps or retreats enhance a youth ministry (or take away/make it harder to minister for that matter)?

Between the late ’90s and early 2000s I served as both a camp counselor and then as a director. Started out at Camp Sankanac near Pottstown, PA, then directed the Angel Tree camp for inner-city kids at Camp Haluwasa in Hammonton, NJ, and also in Hewitt, NJ. I directed a week of church camp for my denomination’s conference in Texas, too.
Camping ministry is definitely a passion of mine.

Summer camp is an amazing way to build relationships, get kids out of their routine to help them focus on God, surround them with positive influences for an extended period of time, and even push them out of their comfort zone. I love it!

Will this be your first time in South Jersey? What have you learned from your experiences traveling to different parts of the country and interacting with youth group leaders from different places? Do you find that youth ministry is youth ministry no matter where you are or do geography and demographics play a roll in making youth ministries in different parts of the country unique?

Oh no, I’ve been to Jersey many times. I grew up in Doylestown, PA, about an hour north of Philly and 20 minutes from NJ, so I’m a little familiar with the area.

Demographics definitely play a role in youth ministry. People are different everywhere you go: they have different value systems, different ways of doing things, and different interests. When my wife and I moved from Texas to Minnesota in 2007, I had to rethink much of how I was accustomed to doing ministry, especially with how I communicate and the kinds of hang-out things we do together. That’s why it’s so dangerous to turn off your creativity brain and just try to copy what another ministry is doing. Just because it works in someone else’s context doesn’t mean it will work in yours.

I understand you are going to be talking about youth group communication. Without giving too much away about your talk, could you give an elevator version of what you are going to be talking about?

Umm, I would, but I’m not sure yet! lol Julio and I are still working that out. Depending on how much time I have and how many people are in the group, I may just take a poll and see what aspect of communication people are most interested in and go with that. We could cover communicating youth group announcements with teens and parents throughout the week, communicating with youth leaders, non-verbal communication (like body language), social networking and online communication, and more. I know I won’t have time to cover all of that because I could spend hours on just one of those areas, so I may see what the audience wants to talk about and go with that. Who knows.

What would you say are some of the biggest bust ideas you’ve had in youth ministry and some of the best ideas that you initially didn’t think were that great?

Bust Ideas: Thinking that what worked in PA could transfer to VA. Relearned that lesson when I tried to do it again in TX, and again in MN. I never learn!

Best Ideas: Casting vision for the ministry.

In what ways would you say technology has changed youth ministry since you were of youth group age and how do you stay in touch with youth culture as the age gap between you and the kids you are trying to reach increases?

Teens today are looking for instant communication. When I was growing up, it was normal to have a pen pal where we used the postal service to mail letters. The turn-around time was about one week if they wrote you back right away. Today, kids want their communication to be like pulling the trigger in a video game — instant and effective. That’s why text messaging continues to increase. I have on kid in my youth ministry who sends 18,000 text messages a month! They also like to multitask with their communication. With text messaging and IM, they can talk with multiple people at once, unlike making a phone call.

I do my best to keep up with it by using their communication methods myself. As I grow older and my value system becomes more and more distant from teenagers, I may start to think that their communication methods are stupid, but I’ll still do my best to use them (I hope!).

When you visit with us we’ll be sure to dispel some of the myths or stereotypes you may have heard about Jersey. But before we do that for you, I was hoping you might dispel some of the myths or stereotypes people from Jersey might have of Minnesota.

Nah, I’m familiar with Jersey. I still hate traffic “circles,” though. Seriously… and jug-handles? Whose idea was that?! And most of the stereotypes you have about Minnesota are probably true.

Every summer we get a lot of campers who express interest in going into youth ministry. What advice to you have for teenagers who see themselves as being the next Tim Schmoyer?

First, don’t see yourself as Tim Schmoyer! Or Doug Fields, Greg Stier, Mark Mattlock, or anyone. See yourself as YOU. Don’t do the comparison game. God didn’t create you as a carbon copy of anyone else.

Second, I never aspired to be where I am today. I believe the Lord continues to bless me as I am faithful in all the seemingly “little” things and opportunities.

Third, don’t wait until you’re older to start. If you’re truly passionate about student ministry, the perfect time to start is while you’re still a student. That’s what I did — I started ministering to my own peers while in high school, and you should, too.

What’s one thing about Tim Schmoyer, completely unrelated to youth ministry that would likely never come up in a training workshop?

That I’ve never chewed a stick of gum in my life and that I only had soda once (but it was an accident!).

In closing, I’m curious what verse/s or passage/s of scripture has/have turned your world upside down lately?

My wife and I are almost finished reading through Hebrews together. I wouldn’t say it’s turn my world upside down, but it has given me a renewed appreciation for the new covenant established by the Lord and the salvation that freely flows from it.

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