What does this sign say? More importantly, what does it NOT say and do we put out things about our youth ministry just like it?
Clearly, the grocery store is going for price point sale. We have cheap stakes, they are not the best steaks, but they are the cheapest. Do we “sell” our youth ministry in a similar fashion? Do we say things like “We are a fun youth group!” We use that to get kids to come and hope they stay. It may be true that our our youth groups are fun but is it a bait and switch tactic?
Jesus told people up front, this thing called discipleship, it’s tough. Now, I am not in favor of pinning a visitor to the wall with an all nothing proposition on their first visit, but I wonder how much this proposition comes up at all in youth groups.
I also do not think we should advertise our youth ministries as the cheapest faith in town, “Come on by, we won’t make you angry by challenging you or preaching the gospel, but heck we’ll have fun.”
What do you think? Do you think youth ministries still practice bait and switch tactics and is this hurting youth ministries (and churches) in the long run in making disciples? Tell me what you think.
I spent two days with my son at a camp recently. Spending time with and being a counselor for 100 5th graders was an experience in itself. Something that impressed me, but also irked me were the meal times. The food was good but the process of clean up was so tedious it was almost maddening; but there was one feature that caught my attention and that was the weighing of the left-over food. They weighed the waste. It was pretty cool on multiple levels:
1. It showed kids how much food they were wasting in any given meal. The first weigh in was 8 pounds among 100 kids.
2. The waste included orange juice and milk because it came from living things
3. They challenged the kids to decrease the waste at each meal By the end of the weekend we had reduced our waste to 2 pounds. Pretty good, considering the finicky-ness of 5th graders.
This experience got me thinking about how much money, time, and resources, I’ve wasted in youth ministry over the years. Some would argue that their is no waste in youth ministry, it’s all of value, but I disagree. Think about your last few events. How much did you spend? Was the outcome worth cost? How do you know? Take how much you spent and divide it by how many kids participated. Now, if it was a paid event, like a retreat, and it was a wash, then it’s even. The events I am focusing on are the vents where we throw the Hail Mary event and hope for the best. So, how do you measure your waste? Take these four areas and throw them on the scale.
Time We all do this. Whether it’s Angry Birds or if you are like me, Empire Avenue lately. What should be on your scales?
face time vs social media time with kids
office time vs personal interaction time
serving time vs relaxing time
reading/study time vs t.v. time
phone calls vs e-mails
student leaders vs the new kids
The list can go on, add yours in a comment section of the post. We waste a lot of time rather than investing time where it counts.
As I said earlier, we waste a lot of money on events and stuff, that does not work. Try a personal budget audit. Look at the last few events you had, and see if they were pluses or minuses. Then compare them to last year, if it is a yearly event, were they pluses or minuses? Take stock of the curriculum you bought. Have you used them? Were they effective? Throw it on the scale and make some changes.
This is an important item to put on the scale. How much man power capital have we wasted because of personal conflict, inner turmoil, prejudices, and other factors. Are we wasting our own time because we are not investing in others? What goes on the scale?
Your Team or Youth Team Recruitment Capital
Each of these are resources we could be ignoring and it could be a waste of our time and of the personal capital we own. In other words, do you find yourself working too hard because you are unwilling or unable to use your relationship time more effectively. Most of my problems can be solved with a 10 min phone call. But if I don’t make those calls, it leads to hours, days, or months of wasted time managing the problem vs solving it.
I am in the midst of a youth room make over. I don’t like wasted space, so I am trying to fill it with usefulness. Do you have couches where a cafe could go? Do you have old equipment where a counseling are could go? How often do you use your youth hall or gym? Once a week? Once a month? How much of that space is wasted? What new ministries could you start (not run) to fill that space? Our motto should be: No Space Put To Waste.
If I could have banned a word last year it would have been the word: awkward. From sit-coms to general conversation, the word just creeped in to describe anything uncomfortable to talk about. Although I don’t like the over use of the word it completely describes my youth ministry and just about every other youth ministry in America. But awkwardness can be the catalyst for learning.
Consider this, we are trying to build a community and a church and the church, out of awkwardness. We have kids with no filters from brain to mouth, kid who are shy, kids who figuring out who they are. I struggle on a weekly basis to connect jocks with nerds, cheerleaders with anime chicks, and I wonder why the group doesn’t grow or achieve certain goals.
Every youth meeting is fueled with awkwardness. From trying to get kids involved in games to getting up and sharing a testimony or announcements. We are flying in the face of adolescent angst. So, what do we do? Nothing. There is nothing we can do. I’m not sure we need to.
The disciples, I’m sure, could recall some awkward moments:
Peter sinking right in front of Jesus
James and John’s mother requesting special favors for her kids
Jesus talking with women
Jesus arguing with Pharisees
Jesus healing lepers
Judas running out on the last supper
The woman challenging Jesus about dogs getting crumbs of bread
The list goes on. Jesus was a master of creating awkward situations. Jesus did not avoid them, he embraced them. Maybe, instead of trying to avoid awkwardness or abolish it , we should capitalize on it. It is the awkward moments that create teachable moments.
You know what is really awkward? Trying to explain all this in a staff meeting.
There is nothing fair about life or ministry, yet, we spend an enormous amount of time and energy trying to make everything fair for ourselves, our our youth ministry, and our leaders. Jesus was not fair. Jesus chose less qualified people and shunned the most qualified. Trying to be fair:
Decreases trust in our leadership.
Hampers our ability to make hard decisions.
Pushes us towards people pleasing.
Leads us to be double minded.
Cautions us from taking risks
Keeps us from pulling the trigger on important projects.
It’s not fair that we give scholarships to some kids for camp and not others. It’s not fair that we choose some to be leaders and not others. It’s not fair that we spend more time with students than others, but we do and we should stop feeling guilty about it. Jesus did not apologize for choosing Peter, James, and John to be with him during pivotal moments. He did not apologize to the Jews for blessing Samaritans. He did not apologize to the Pharisees for saying that prostitutes and thieves would make it into the kingdom before them.
If we have a chance to be fair, in certain cases, we should. Trying to build our lives or ministries centered on fairness is like chasing Big Foot, it’s a myth.
Where are you being fair where you should be leading? I think my post Timing Is Everything is complimentary to this)
One of my biggest headaches in youth ministry, is the sign up system for events. It is an exercise in futility. Names on sheets of paper feels archaic. I feel like I am asking them to churn butter. Let’s face it, It doesn’t matter how many SIGN UP for “the next beat thing” a quarter to half will not show up. I thought Facebook’s Create Event feature was a god- send but, like all things, it got old. Contrary to popular belief, kids are not checking their Facebook every five minutes, and if they are, they are ignoring our requests to get signed up.
I am going to start fooling with the online event registration system that Youth Tracker supplies. I’ll get back to you on how that works. They have some good How To videos HERE and HERE
What are your sign up headaches? How can we get more kids signed up and to stay on until the event? Is there a better, easier, or funner (not a word) way?
Have you found a Sign Up Secret that works? Share it with the world in the comments section.
I wanted to show some love to the people, place, and things that have helped me or my youth ministry out this past year. These might make great gifts for your students or volunteer leaders. Don’t know what to get your volunteers or leader? I have provided and handy dandy for form you can use for Christmas or anytime this year. This idea came out of a conversation about Christmas on the weekly show Life In Student Ministry with my friend @Tim Schmoyer. Enjoy.
Pay for a maid service for one day (this is for the busy family volunteer)
Time with them- Take them to lunch or just hang out
A Coupon Book (free car wash etc. students in your group could volunteer for various chores
Card games or games in general (this way they always have something to play when kids come over)
A coupon filled with discounts for next years trips
A thank you card (with items from the Free Questionnaire)
Gift them some songs from itunes or itune cards
Art (framed pictures or paintings, or something you make for them)
A poem written by you
A video on you tube thanking them or kids thanking them.
Tickets to a sporting event
Tickets to a play
Tickets to a concert
Yourself- offer to pray with them or e-mail them daily prayers of affirmation up until Christmas
Nothing is too outlandish. If you are meeting a need for that volunteer you are giving a great gift. That is round one of gift giving ideas. I may have more as I go along. Do you have any ideas? Please leave your suggestion in the comments.
I used to think I could work anywhere, anytime, and for anybody. I thought I was the youth ministry swiss army knife that was good for all occasions. Like the army knife pictured, I had 85 gadgets good for any denom, para church, or non-denom situation. Boy, was I delusional. One of the things I learned working at a Methodist church is that I cannot work in a Methodist church. I understand that all are not created equal, but if it’s traditional and I have to keep up with a ton of paper work, then, that is not the job for me. Are you suffering from the Anywhere , Anytime, Anyone Syndrome? Let me break it to you harshly
You can’t work just anywhere
As much as I believed I could, I couldn’t. Eventually it catches up to us. all. When I start looking outside my frame of reference I have this justifying thought that goes, “Youth ministry is the same everywhere.” It is and it isn’t . Youth ministry, as far as mechanics may be the same, but the context and structure is different. I thrive best when I have the freedom to do and don’t have too many bosses, etc. “Well of course you do Paul who wouldn’t?” Well, to start with, most youth pastors in their first 5 years. Learning the ropes, the politics, and a million other things keeps new guys hopping. I have been through the fire and now I know what kind of structure I want. It only took, 5 churches and 20 years to figure it out.
You can’t just work anytime
Seasons are called seasons for a reason. There is a short amount of time for each season to do it’s work in the earth. Plants must grow, wither, die, and grow again (see Ecclesiastes). There are times when we think we should be doing this not that. Joseph thought he should have had his brother bowing down to him, not rotting in jail. Youth Ministry and all ministry comes in seasons
The employed/life is good season (growing)
The I am miserable at my church season (withering)
I am working at Chick Fila to pay the bills season (dying)
I hate the ministry and I am never going back (dead)
I am called whether I like it or not, sign me up (growing again)
God brings us through these seasons so we will grow and prosper according to His plan. Anytime is in God’s hands not ours. There are things to be learned that can only be learned beyond the church walls.
You can’t just work for anyone
I know, there are jobs we take because we want to and those we take because we have to. I have done both. I can’t just work for anybody anymore. I have dealt with my share of type A personalities, driven men who have little time for you. After working for the same kind of guys and being fired (twice) buy those kind of guys; the Lord revealed to me that I was like a wife who went from bad marriage to bad marriage, endured beatings, only to fall into the arms of the first man who would take care of me. I need a pastors and team who are committed to relationships and doing life and church together. I need pastors who value my opinion. We sabotage ourselves when we accept positions with the faulty notion that we can work anywhere and for anybody.
Let me encourage you to say no. If you can,
Say no to the jobs that don’t fit you.
Say no to the wrong pastors and leaders for you.
Say no to the wrong structure that will inhibit you.
Say no to the jobs that do not play to your strengths.
Say no to jobs that are about pay checks instead of passion.
Say no to working for anyone, anywhere because you think you can, you can’t.
God has designed all of us to be somewhere with someone who compliments us and challenges us. I was a martyr for many years, thinking I had to go through these things, with these churches, with these men. Whether I did or didn’t have to learn this way I don’t know. What I have learned is that God has made us all a certain way, for a certain purpose, with certain gifts to be used in certain ways. Don’t settle for less.
It’s simple, you can’t build a 2200 sq. ft house on a 100 sq. ft foundation and yet we have all tried. We’ve tried to build on hype and hype is short lived. Those who want to build their youth ministry large, must build the foundations wider an deeper. Scripture says, ” When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Psalm 11:3
Here are my top five foundational builders
Doctrine- I cannot emphasize enough how important this is. If we are not teaching our students biblical beliefs we are building on sand. Storms will come and if our students are banking on our next worship services to get them by, we are in trouble. Try teaching through the Apostles Creed for a semester. Doctrine is the steel that is laid throughout the foundation to tie it all together.
Relationships- Go to that wedding, that funeral , even if you don’t have to. It’s foundational. You are showing that you care about more than just a youth ministry but a whole church family. Keep your relationships with parents, staff, and students hot. Make that phone call, post FB status’ when kids succeed, send that e-mail to parents, it matters. Ministry does not happen without relationships. Ministry is relationships.
Vision- Where are you going? Where are you promising to take them ? What has God put on your heart and what has He shown you in His word? Organizations need vision. Make it plain and then follow up with the steps to make it happen.
Execution- Do what you promised. Nothing will send cracks through your foundation quicker than unfulfilled promises.
Mentoring- If you are not training students to lead, don’t unpack, you won’t be there long. We must have a plan and a path to lead students along. Weekly meetings with key students (see #2) and empowering them to do all that God has put on their hearts (see #3) will only strengthen the foundation. Don’t do a for a student what you can train a student to do.
There are more, but these have been my core values for over 20 years. Did I miss one? Let me know what has been foundational for you.
I was just thinking about this and there are questions I would like my Pastor’s to ask me. Maybe you want your Pastor to ask you too. If I am missing some please feel free to add yours. These are in no particular order
1. What have you been reading in Scripture?
I don’t remember the last time, if ever, a pastor has asked me this question. I want them to ask me because I want to share what God is teaching me and to show that I am growing in my relationship with God.
2. When was the last time you looked at porn?
I struggled with this about 10 years ago and I make sure I tell every pastor I have worked for that I have struggled with it. It’s part of my accountability.
3. How is your marriage? Kids?
This is an important question. I want a pastor who is aware of not only aware of my needs but my family’s needs. How many marriages have imploded because a marriage wasn’t nurtured or because the youth pastor stayed too long at the office or on the road. This is a life saving question.
4. How is God speaking to you?
This may seem like a questions about prayer but God speaks in many ways. I want to know that someone cares about my soul and that my soul is connecting with God and not the world.
5. Where do you see your life going?
Youth pastors young or old are always seeking God’s will. They ask “What’s next?” Youth Pastors need career guidance. I need a guide to help me make hard choices. The next question I’d like to hear after this is “How can I help?”
6. Who are you mentoring/discipling?
I want my pastor to hear and feel the needs of the students in our group. I want him to ask about who I am leading and where they are in their spiritual growth. I want them to ask me this so they can walk with them through the stories I tell them and maybe take extra interest in them the next time they see them.
7. Who are you sharing/demonstrating the gospel to?
I always want to remain close to lost people. I want to be accountable for sharing my faith and passing along what Jesus has done for me. Failure to ask this questions leaves me vulnerable to the fear of man, laziness, or apathy.
These are just a few of the questions I thought of. What questions do you want your Pastor to ask you?
Unicorns are elusive mythological horses with one horn in the middle of their head. Posters of them adorn many a young girls room. We are fascinated by myths: Big Foot, The Loch Ness Monster, UFO’s, etc. People and organizations have spent millions of dollars over the years searching for these illusive creatures.
Wipe that smile off your face, you’ve been chasing unicorns for years. No really, we all have. We go from church to church or closet to closet in our churches looking for unicorns. “Are they Christian Unicorns?” you ask. Doesn’t matter, we look anyway. We are in search of that mythological church experience. What kind of experiences? If you are a church worker of any kind here are the kinds of myths we chase:
The Pastor who “really” cares about students.
The Pastor who “really” cares about us.
The budget we “really” need to reach students.
The students and youth staff that are completely sold out to our ideas.
The church with the right facilities.
The church who will pay us what we are worth
The nice janitor.
The secretary who isn’t crabby.
The 80% of parents who are totally behind you.
The big youth group
The spiritual church
The list of unicorns are endless. We search high and low for these creatures seeking their magical qualities. We believe if we have them they grant us wishes and bring us happiness. The problem is, Jesus doesn’t want us to have them . Unicorns are God’s blessings, if we get them, that is great but if we don’t is should not matter because God did not call us to chase unicorns; He called us to follow Him. The devil’s trick is to whisper in our ear “There are unicorns right over there. Perfection awaits you at that church. You’ll have everything you need. You will be complete.” This is total garbage. The more we chase unicorns the more unhappy we become and the further away from Jesus we get. But can we help ourselves. Some of us are jazzed by the hunt alone. We are like Ahab chasing Moby Dick. We spend our whole lives or careers chasing the imaginary, the perfect scenario and often wind up in burn own or worse.
I don’t know if unicorns exists. The Bible makes mention of them. But I tire of chasing unicorns. If one should appear during my travels with Jesus then I will thanks Him for the visitation but until then, unicorns will have to come looking for me.