5 Words That Define A Successful Youth Staff Meeting

Five Words

We had our monthly Team Fusion meeting last night and as I was reflecting on what makes these meetings successful and I came up with five words.

Laughter

We usually meet for about 90 minutes and a third of that is spent in jokes and laughter. These people like each other and it shows.

Prayer

We eventually get to a point in the meeting where the conversations turns to the needs in the group and our adults begin to pour out stories of kids who are in need or crisis. We don’t wait until the end of the meeting because I know the needs can be great and we don’t want to treat this time lightly by rushing it.

Stories

Likewise, it is also inevitable that I ask, “Who are you connecting with?” and adults will share stories of kids they are getting to know. i love to share stories about kids journey’s and where they have come from to where they are now. These breathe hope into meeting and make us realize why we are meeting in the first place.

Action

I had several projects on the table for this meeting. I constantly learning to let go and trust the people around me. Not an easy task if you knew me very well. I love when adults take ownership of the ministry even if it’s a small task.

Questions

Sometimes leaders have to push back or make me be more clear. A meeting without questions means I am not challenging them enough or that I am only dispensing information and not allowing more conversation. Sometimes I need to be more clear about what I am asking them to do so questions are not only welcome but vital.

If you’d like the outline of my youth staff meeting I’ll be happy to send it to you. Just e-mail me at thedproject@me.com

If you are interested in how to keep good volunteers long term, check out my new show Mentor Me Monday below

Your Turn

What words define a successful youth staff meeting to you?

Leave me some of your words in the comment below.

 

Turning Your Youth Room Into A Courtroom

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Just this week I did a video by the same title offering some ideas for talking about judging one another with our students. The video had come good inf but I thought I’d expand upon it even further. Here’s the video below.

If you like the video, don’t forget to subscribe to my channel.

This kind of series or lesson has multiple applications. Here are six themes you could use:

Here Comes The Judge – God’s Judgement

Don’t Judge Me Bro- Judging One Another Righteously

Witness for the Prosecution – Are There Any Witnesses To Your Faith

Your Life On Trial – What Are We Guilty and Innocent Of  (You could also also use Our Youth Ministry On Trial)

Judges Gone Wild – Character study through the book of Judges

 

In the video I mention building a judges bench but here are a few more ideas:

Have a student or police officer in your church be the bailiff for the night

Have a jury box for jurors (who will judge us?)

Have a witness chair (swear kids in)

Have students take up the roles of prosecuting attorney and defense attorney (which could be Satan and Jesus respectively)

 

You can get all the props you need right HERE

 

Feel free to add your own ideas in the comment section.

 

 

 

 

 

What If I Told You I Had 500 Students?

 

What If

 

Let me clear, I do no have 500 students. But what if I did? Would it change your perception of me?

Would you read my blog more?

E-mail me for success tips?

Try to be my best friend?

Buy me coffee?

Call me to chat?

Hate my guts?

I don’t have 500 kids and I probably never will. Can we still be friends? Connect? Talk shop?

My point is, it shouldn’t matter how many students I have. It shouldn’t matter how many kids you have. Yet it seems it does matter to many  youth workers.  Many youth workers judge success by the numbers and numbers = that guy is cooler, smarter, and more anointed than me. What if I told you none of that was true? Success has many meanings. If you have kids showing up at all, I would call that a success.

The number of student should not effect our relationship because

1. We are brother and sister ins Christ

Wes share the same spiritual DNA. If there are no Jew or Greek in Christ, there is no small or large either. Lets put our head together, pray for one another, and enjoy the fellowship God designed us to be in.

2. We can still learn from each other

People with smaller youth group than me still have great ideas and are great people. I want to learn from them. They have elements that are working that I have no idea how to get working my youth ministry.

You are probably a great youth worker no matter how many kids you have. You love those kids and you love Jesus. Now pretend for  a moment that that’s enough. How do you feel? Better? Good. Now take a deep breath and don’t pretend any more. Love kids, love Jesus and be happy with that if only for today.

Your Turn

How does your perception of success affect your relationships with other youth workers in your community?

 

Youth Ministry Reality: Our Public Life and Private Struggles

With so many stories lately of famous people committing suicide (Chris Cornell from Soundgarden, Chester Bennington from Linkin Park)  and hundreds more with no fame at all, I thought it was important to share some of my journey with depression with you.

When I say depression, I’m not talking about down days but weeks and months of down days. I have struggled with depression on and off for about 12 years and regardless of your beliefs about depression, as a Christian, I can tell you it is a real thing and a real pain in the butt to deal with. Let me also say, I am not clinically depressed or been diagnosed in any way, but I know myself better than anyone else, it’s something I am aware of and I monitor it,  pray about it, cry about it, plead the blood of Jesus over it, and then I move on. It’s what most Christians who struggle with depression do and it’s what most Christians in the church try to hide from others.

I know what you’re saying, “But Paul, you are always a (semi) happy person. You like to make others laugh, you like to help and serve other people.”All of these things were said about Robin Williams, and then bam!

Now, I am not writing this on the ledge of tall building but I am also not writing this from the top of a mountain either. It’s where most depressed believers live. There are good days and bad days, as with all things, but it’s the weight of inner thoughts that is so exhausting to carry.

I don’t usually share my condition for fear I will be scrutinized, judged, guilted, and even scriptured into even deeper darker places. To help those who serve the church, in a public capacity and to otherwise avoid these deeper, darker places.

Leaders in the church experience burn out, fall into tail spins and hit funks more than we care to admit. Here is a Google search I did about pastors and suicide ” Pastor commits suicide outside church”.  It seems incredible that lovers and servants of Jesus would do such a thing but they do and we are left wondering why.

Pastors, Youth Pastors, anyone in the church who has to get up in front of an audience and teach, preach, or train is a public figure. This public life can take a toll on us and our families. We live our successes and failures in public ways in front of a small audience called the Church. Every event, message, and outreach is scrutinized, commented on (personally and publicly), and in some cases, dismantled and demonized. How important is it for the church to understand or change the way they understand the pressure, pains, and problems of those who lead them? Let me offer a few thoughts.

Scripture says,

But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work.” I Thessalonians 5:12, 13

We must remember that Paul wrote these words from a prison cell. He had been through a lot at the hands of mostly religious people. It’s no wonder that he was encouraging the body of Christ to treat those that led them (the Thessalonians)  better than he had been treated. He asks that we esteem those in leadership and appreciate them.

Here are 5 ways you can encourage others and promote emotional health.

  1. Tell them privately or publicly (online) you were blessed by something they said or did.
  2. Tell them you are praying for them (and then pray for or with them).
  3. Tell them you are here to listen if they need someone to talk to, and do it without having a quick solution to offer.
  4. If you need to criticize, do it constructively, privately, with love, and with a willingness to be a part of the solution.
  5. Bless them with the gift of time off to recoup, be restored, and get emotionally healthy.

In the end, our hope is firmly planted our identity in Christ and not in the praises of others, although they don’t hurt either. I know that He who is in me is great than he who is in the world and that is enough for me.

Things have gotten better because of medication, prayer, and a few close friends. The when the shadow of depression looms large, I remember that I am not alone and wanted you to know that you aren’t either.

I went first. I shared my story. I’d love to hear yours. Tell me:

Are you a Christian who serves publicly and deals with depression?

How are you coping with the down days?

What do you wish people understood about you?

What do you wish you could share publicly with those you serve with?

How can I pray for you?

 

 

 

My 5 Principles For Leaving A Legacy

Youth Ministry is not just something we do in a church setting, it’s something we do everywhere there are young people. You can be legacy builders and never be full time youth pastors. Parents, teachers, plumbers, camp counselors, whoever loves students can be a legacy builder.

In my post yesterday, I shared the experience I had at camp this year when I went and spoke. It was my 14th year and the the fruit that the Lord revealed to me was amazing. As I reflect back on 14 years of speaking at this camp I want to share how I think I got here.

1. I never changed my message

My camp messages are small journey’s, taking kids from a place of brokenness to a place of healing. I always did my best to stay on message and not get caught up in the drama of the day or focus on the cultural whipping boy (or girl) of the moment. Jesus and his sacrifice and our response to it has been the centerpiece of my messages.

I used to try to be funny, work the messuage up a bit, but that only clouded the message I was trying to get across. Jesus got lost in my amateur comedy bit. When I focused my message and gave the students who I was instead of who I thought they thought I should be, that’s when I started to see the fruit of my labor.

Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus. – Alexander Graham Bell

2. I made time for  relationships beyond the meeting

I have watched camp speakers over the years, and all the good ones build relationships with students throughout the week. Maybe they eat their meals in the dining halls with the students or do activities with them, making themselves accessible.  I stick around and talk, pray, laugh, whatever, to just be with kids. I’ve seen too many speakers do their thing and then leave. I don’t think I would have seen the results over the years had I made that a practice.

In addition to making time for the kids I would hang with counselors in their off time. Sometimes we would go to lunch or we’d hang in the counselors library and chat of play games. Building trust with counselors is equally important as building trust with kids.

3. I did what God called me to do and then got out of the way

In the early days of being a camp speaker,  I would go back to a cabin and hang out or share with campers. I realized that I was taking too much responsibility and was over reaching with my influence.

I quickly shifted  from making myself the “answer man” and made the counselors the “go to” people. Counselors are the bread and butter of the camp. Most of them are college students who want to share their hearts and experience with Jesus and I don’t want to stand in the way of that.

God called these counselors to this camp to fulfill their purpose and me to mine. I speak at camp and allow God to do what he does and then I make the counselors the hero of the story; because they are the ones who spend day in and day out with these kids and I don’t want to get in their way. I want to support their ministry.

4. I down-played my role in the process

In the past 14 years I have seen the rise of the celebrity Pastor/Speaker. I don’t care much for it. In fact, I do my best to play down any kind of over the top compliments. I had a young lady call the The Almighty Paul, that made me cringe. She didn’t mean anything by it, she was being complimentary, but I quickly reminded her that there as only one Almighty and I am not HE.

It’s easy and fun to take the credit, but in the end, I knew I was just a conduit for His greatness to be revealed.

Humility is the true key to success. Successful people lose their way at times. They often embrace and overindulge from the fruits of success. Humility halts this arrogance and self-indulging trap. Humble people share the credit and wealth, remaining focused and hungry to continue the journey of success. – Rick Pitino

5. I challenged kids to be The Church

Yes, I want them to impact their schools, homes, etc. but I wanted them to closely identify themselves as the hands and feet of Jesus. I reserve Thursday nights as a challenge night for every kid to take their place in God’s Kingdom. We end in celebratory worship  to Jesus like an army marching off to a war that knows it has already won.

With kids who are graduating from camp, I encourage them to give back, be a counselor, be a Jr. Counselor, participate in some way. Thankfully many of them have answered the call and why the camp has great counselors every year.

It takes time and patience, but you can build a legacy right where you are. Stick to your principles,  make Jesus the focus, and you’ll be on your way

Your Turn

How are you building a legacy of discipleship in your youth ministry?

What are some non-negotiable principles that have helped you through the years?

Legacy Building In Student Ministry

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I recently spoke at Life For Youth Camp, the camp I received Christ at when I was 13 years old, and my mind was blown. Here’s the first mind-blower, I had five girls attending camp this summer who were aging out, they would not be able to come back. All of them chose my week of camp for the last seven years. When I thought about it, it really humbled me. Who am I that kids, teenagers, who would commit a week of their summer at based on the fact that I was speaking. To honor them I secretly put together a short graduation service for them on last night of camp.I made them some graduation boards, had then line up for Pomp and Circumstance, and gave them their graduation diplomas.

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You can watch the video down below on how I made the grad hats.

It was a sweet and surreal moment. The kids who attend my camp are like another youth group to me. I pray for them and follow up with them they commit to Christ. The fact they they were all moving on and I would not see them again next summer was sad and yet I felt like it was a moment of accomplishment for them and for me. But, the mind blowing had just begun.

The next mind blowing moment started after I had done the grad ceremony with these five students. I knew there had been a few campers on staff and I heard from some of them “You never did that for us?” I said, “Well, I just thought of it this year, man.” Anyway, I came to find out that we had 15 former campers on staff. Some of them I knew really well and others not so much. So, I decided to honor them as well. I made more diplomas (but no hats) and had them stand up to receive them at the staff meeting after the Friday night service. I asked each of them how many years they had been to camp. The number ranged from two to nine. I then asked how many of them had been at the camp  or received Christ during my week of camp and all of them had raised their hand for one or the other. Brains cells exploded everywhere. I fully understand that many factors were a part of them becoming counselors and not just my influence, but I am proud to be a part of all their stories.

It’s easy to say I bragging, but to be honest I had not been keeping track except for the number of years I had been going out to the camp. Tomorrow I want to share my thoughts on how I think I intentionally/unintentionally arrived here.

Your Turn:

What does building a legacy in student ministry look like to you?

Have you experienced it? What has your experience looked like?

Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

 

What It Takes To Be Generous

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Generosity is a gift and a skill. It’s something we all have the ability to  do and get better at. Giving  our praise, c comment, a thumbs up, a retweet, a share, a shout out, a pin, etc. are all things we can do if we want to. So, how come we are not more generous? And hat will it take to become more generous

Time

It takes us less than a few seconds to decide whether something is of value to or not and how we want to respond to it. In the old days, if we liked something or was grateful for something we sent a thank you card. We had to buy the card, physically write something in it, put it in an envelope, put a stamp on it and mail it. That clearly takes more than a few seconds but if what we experienced was worthy of a hand written card or note we did it. Today, we have the ability to be far more generous to far more people in for less time, yet many people consider it a bother.

Yesterday I commented on a blog of someone I do not know to say thank for sharing, a retweeted about a half dozen people and it took me less than three minutes. I believe you reap what you sow. if you want more likes, give more likes, etc.

The will to be generous

 Generosity is a choice. It is normally not a pungent emotion that overwhelms us like cheap perfume, although if we handed a million dollar check or if someone did something unbelievably awesome for us we would be touched emotionally. For me, your stuff does not have to be that great, effort is what counts. If you gave a it a shot to wow me, entertain me, or educate me I am going to be generous to you.

The passion to see others smile and succeed

I love to give the students in our ministry music. Back in the day I gave away  hundreds of tapes and cd’s to kids especially if I knew what kind of genre they liked. I recently listened to a female rapper called Heesun Lee. I love her music and play it in the youth hall frequently. I overheard one of female students comment that they really liked one of the songs so I gave here the cd. I did not ask her to thank me or trader her for a comment, I just gave it to her. i saw this her post this that evening

Probably one of the best female Christian rappers I’ve ever heard. Thank you, Paul
for this wonderful CD I can’t seem to stop listening to.listening to HeeSun Lee
I wanted her to enjoy the cd and I wanted Heesun Lee to be heard. Win/Win.

The desire to reap

I don’t know about you but I like to reap. I like to see the fruition of my effort pay off, that’s why I like to sow.  I believe in the law of reciprocation. It is unavoidable. I know there are probably many bloggers, etc who wonder why they do not get what they think they deserve and, to be honest, I think they like to reap where they have not sown. I don’t deserve your comments, your likes, or your shares, but my hope is that the material I share, post, or produce will be worthy of all those things and if I miss the boat once or twice you’ll be generous anyway.

Your turn:

If you want to be generous go and

Comment on 3 blogs you regularly read but have never commented

Recommend 5 resources that have greatly benefited you

Retweet 10 tweets

Be generous and see what happens.

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Things I Learned On My Mission Trip To Alaska

 

 

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Good morning all.  I just got back from Alaska (Saturday) with a fantastic group of people from our church. We had mom’s and daughters, mom;s and sons, and a scattering of youth and young adults and myself and today I want to share 10 Things I Learned On My Mission Trip

1. The devil is a big fat liar.

Well I knew that before hand but before the trip I felt like he was working me overtime to get me to believe things that were not true. Things about my team, myself, and our mission. None of mt F.E.A.R’s came true. Fear stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. He almost got me, but the truth of God’s word saved the day.

2. Our students stepped up bigger and better than expected

Now, I know my kids are awesome, but for all of them save one, this was their first mission trip, ever. I could not have been prouder of our students. They worked hard with the camp kids, they all got along really well, and kept griping to a minimum.

3. Children can handle the truth

I am a Youth Pastor, I don’t usually do kids ministry unless I have to. It’s not because I don’t like kids, it’s because I feel awkward/ I tend to speak about issues and in a way that might be above their heads. I don’t intend this, it just happens. Anyway, these kids (some of who were in foster care) received some straight talk from the guest speaker and responded with open hearts. Kids can take meat in small bite sized, chewable pieces.

4.  I still like being a cabin counselor

I grew up a camp kid at a camp where we were assigned cabins with a counselor. When I grew up I became a counselor and did six or seven summers as a counselor. Now, it’s been a long time since I have been a counselor with kids I had no ideas who they were, but I found my “counselor heart” to be a little dusty but still in tact.

5. Alaska is breathtakingly beautiful

From the water to the mountains and all the lush forest in between, it;s beautiful country. We took the boat tour from Seward and saw whales, otters, and many more of God’s creatures roaming free.

6. I could not live in Alaska

As beautiful as Alaska was, I could not live there. It’s a five hour plane ride from Phoenix. Once you are in Alaska you are there unless you really like to fly.

7. 24 Hours of Day Light is no way to live

During my time in Alaska it was daylight 24/7. On the last night of camp the kids did midnight swimming and it looked like ti was 4 in the afternoon. I am noticing, now that I am home, that my sleep patterns are messed up. Lawd! Help me!

8. I way over packed

I had a ton of clothes I did not wear. Gonna go skinny on the next trip.

9. I saw a dead moose

We dd not see the moose get hit by the car but we saw the damage a moose can do to a car.

10. I met a kid whose middle name was sourdough

I learned that if you were a long time resident of Alaska they called you a Dusty Sourdough. This kid dad’s name was Dusty and his dad put sourdough in his name. Weird and cool at the same time. If this were my name I have a feeling I’d get hungry every time i wrote my name down.

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: John Mark McMillan’s Borderland Lyrics

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I have to say, I am digging the new album by John Mark McMillan’s, of How He Loves Fame (yeah I know you thought Crowder wrote it)  album Borderland. It’s a really moody album and reflects the angst of Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town meets Bruce Cockburn’s lyrical punch on Stealing Fire. Throw in a little Mark Been of The Call and you have a pretty amazing album.

Tons of great lines from the album but here are my top 10.

Holy Ghost

Dead in the water
Lamb to the slaughter
If the wind doesn’t sing her song

You don’t have to be pentecostal to enjoy this line, but it makes more sense.

Love At The End

Tell the reaper
Tell the repo man
I’ve got nothing that belongs to him

So true. When we are empty of this world, they have nothing to come for.

Guns/Napoleon

And you keep coming on
Like Napoleon
And I’ll lose my head and throne
In the bloody revolution

God is a lover and a fighter when it comes to our souls.

Future Past

All treasures of wisdom
And things to be known
Are hidden inside your hand
And in this fortunate turn of events
You ask me to be your friend

God does not need us, He wants us.

Borderlands

Help me Holy Jesus
Won’t you show me how to live
I’ve got monsters at my table
I’ve got Bibles bent like shivs

Really deep song and worth some reflection. The law makes us feel like we are looking at God through a chain link fence, leaving us to do battle with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Counting On

When the stakes are raised
We hold the hand we’ve drawn
You’re what I’m counting on

Sometimes we have no control of the life we are dealt but we we can always count on God.

Monsters Talk

We are fragile creatures on collision
With our judgement days

Powerful reminder of who we are and where we are headed. Walk gently.

Tongues of Fire

We can still push up against those pillars
We can light those foxes tails ablaze

This speaks to me as a calling back to my youth and to be a passionate believer. I can be Sampson in my finest hours.

Silver Shore

We were born on heaven’s silver shores
I know it in my heart there’s more to be afforded

Heaven has more for me.

Visceral

Memories rust and trophies fade
In the remnants of our glory days
Will we regret the thing that we’ve made
From your table I can see a better way

Lots of hope in these words. it reminds me to be careful of what I make because it will all fade away one day.

Here is an interview with JMM with Relevant magazine

Here is the song Holy Ghost, and it has some of the best lyrics on the album

 

You can buy the album and other JMM stuff from his website at www.johnmarkmcmillain.com 

 

What profound music lyrics are running through your head today?

 

 

It’s Not The End Of The World

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I had to tell myself last night: It’s Not The End Of The World.

This is the second year we’ve have done Mission Week and I had high hopes after last year. But this year just pooped out. I mean we had a great start on Sunday then we were rained out on Monday and now Tuesday I am answering phones because one of our secretaries is out. So, if you’ve ever had a case of the “emotional poops” this is for you.

It’s not the end of the world if…

something does not work the way I want…

someone isn’t who I thought they were…

I never get what I prayed for…

if a program fails…

if my family is out of sorts…

if I lose my job…

If my kids are not perfect…

If I don’t have enough money…

If I didn’t lose all the weight I wanted…

If a relationship goes sour…

If I have money problems…

It’s not the end of the world.

Every disappointment we encounter is a chance to make something right, to make it better, and to redeem it for good. The feeling of failure is just that, a feeling, it is not The Truth. The only truth, that is truth, is God’s word. It’s not the end of the world, it only feels like it.

You know what is the end of the world? The end of the world.