The Best Supporting Actor Award Should Go To… You

I was recently reading about a youth worker struggling with how much time they DO NOT spend with teenagers. Sounds odd right? I mean, youth workers spend time with teenagers to build relationships, impart spiritual truth etc, right?

This post was not written by some “old fart” youth worker complaining about having to spend time with teens. This was a fairly young youth worker contemplating how much time they should spend with students and should they feel bad if they did not. He and I are in similar boats.

After 28 years working with youth, I find that this generation needs me in smaller doses and bedsides, Google (right or wrong) answers most of their questions now. They don’t want a 49 year old guy trying to be their friend (that’s just weird) or creep around at events unless they are invited.

I went to one of our kids plays the other night even though she was only part of the crowd scenes. I left right after the play and texted her what a great job she did. I was there to support her and that is the role I now take, that of best supporting actor in the dram-edy that is a teenagers life. I  like being the supporting actor. In the past I thought I had to be the star, the leading man but now, like this young lady, a familiar face in the crowd sounds like the right role for me in this stage of my career.

The kids I serve are good kids, very little in the drama dept. I have good young adults who take up the slack and an Intern who does a great job at all the small things I’m not particularly interested in.

Essentially, I have worked myself out of a job, and I’m ok with that. Maybe it’s time for new challenges . So, do I think this guy was slacking? Nope. I think we should follow the lead of the students we serve as to how much we should be involved in their lives, regardless of what our church board says our involvement should be.

Parents, not youth workers, are the stars of the family. Youth workers are extra’s. We stand in the background adding value to the scenes being played out before us. Occasionally, we get a spoken line and maybe a credit in the end scroll that says “Guy on bike #1”.

I am not saying youth workers do not play an important part in the lives of some churches, some families, and some kids, what I am saying that we shouldn’t try so hard to be the stars when best supporting actor are being called for.

We should always be intentional, discerning and present at critical times in a students life so we can offer wisdom and direction.  You know, the stuff Google can’t do.

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What’s Your Passion Level?

This is part two in my series on the seven questions to re-evaltuate your youth ministry volunteers. In my last post, I shared the first question: Who has the leverage? My next question is, “What’s your passion level?”

Let me offer a caveat before I get rolling. I understand that many youth groups do not have a wealth of choices when it comes to volunteers. You may not be able to recruit because your congregation is smaller and/or older and the desire for people to work with the youth is limited. That being said, we still have to be willing to evaluate our volunteers even if that means we have to change the way we do youth ministry.

Here are some passion signs I am look for

Are they showing up?

If I have leaders who are simply not showing (no work or illness) then  their commitment is in question. By not showing up, this tells me they are not interested or invested in the youth ministry. Once again, choices may be limited, but no example is still better than a bad example.

Are they participating/engaging?

I have a couch in our youth room. It’s where the adults sit during worship while kids worship to the side. I want to burn that couch, but  I’ve had to shift my mind from “Why aren’t you with the kids? to “Are you and God engaged?”

I think we can make mountains out of mole hills. There is nothing spiritually significant about adults standing or sitting with kids in worship. Our kids are not becoming “better worshippers” because our adults are standing or sitting with them.

If there were disciplinary problems, I could see where adults sitting with kids would be of value; but our kids are good kids. It’s my job to say something interesting and keep students engaged, not my volunteer’s job to keep bored kids interested.

In the end I ask, “Are they worshipping or are they disengaged?” It’s important that I not judge them. These are grown people with jobs and lives, but I must always remind them that they are examples.

I’m also looking at the kinds of conversations they’re having with kids. Are they seeking to uplift kids or are their conversations about nothing? Are they having intentional relationships in order to lead kids further along in their relationship with Christ?

Engagement is, ultimately, in the details and visible in the fruit that is being produced. My eyes are drawn to progress and not just activity.

Am I asking them to fulfill roles and responsibilities?

I text my team a couple of times a week, letting them know about what’s going on. I offer several opportunities on how they can add value to the meeting or certain jobs that need to be done. I also call them individually if I feel like someone on my team would fit a particular activity such as games, food, etc.

I’ve been to several bookstores lately, and it’s the time of the year where bookstores collect books for school, hospitals, etc. The girl asked me “Would you like to purchase a book for X?” She continued, “If you’re feeling extra generous, this is the last in this particular series of books.” I wasn’t feeling extra generous but she had me because she asked.

What I understand is that I cannot hide behind technology. I cannot lead by text. I have to lead face to face, with human connection. It’s easy to say no to or ignore a text. It’s much harder to say not to a real person or to a real need.

Stay tuned.

Question number three What Is Your Mission?

 

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5 Questions To Re-Evaluate Your Volunteers

I have great volunteers. They’ve worked hard with me. Some have been with me for a year, some have been with for eight years. Part of my role  is to re-evaluate them to see if they need to make a shift in the ministry laterally to another position or if they need to make an exit to another ministry.

Lately I’ve been thinking hard on how to re-engage them. Our youth ministry is pretty loose. It’s pretty loose because our church is pretty loose. That’s the culture of this small, southern church.

We average around 15-20 kids a week. We have events. Our weekly meetings are almost self starting because kids come in, know what to do, and they generally and genuinely love each other.

Because we do not have a large group and because of the culture, there isn’t a ton of stuff for volunteers to do and creating more work for the sake of more work just wouldn’t work.

So, here at the end of the year, I am doing some re-evaluating of the ministry and our volunteers and there are some questions I am needing to ask. If you’re in a similar situation, I hope my thinking out loud benefits you too.

Do I have too much leverage?

This is a strange question, right? Yet I have to ask it. Volunteers have leverage if I absolutely need them to run the program I’ve designed or if the kids needs are so great they need other adults in their life to help them along.

I have leverage if the task side of the ministry is so small I could do it myself. In other words, If I am creating jobs for them to do, I can also uncreate job too and not lose anything by doing so.

At this moment, I have too much leverage, and that’s a bad thing. Much of what can be done in our youth ministry could be done by our college students or younger. It’s possible that I could just scale the ministry down and phase out the few volunteers I have, but that would also be a bad thing, in my opinion.

Some of my volunteers are going through a season; a season of personal battles, a season of kids, a season of job change, and season of working hard to make ends meet. I am empathic to that and I have to make graceful decisions in light of that.

At this point, after some though and counsel, I need to put the leverage back in their court. I need to build more value into the program and give them a sense of pride and meaning again. I want, scratch that, I need them to feel like their contribution matters.

The process continues.

Question number two: What Is Your Passion Level?

 

 

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4 Youth Ministry Games You Have To Try

I’m fresh off a trip to the National Youth Workers Conference where I hosted a few Idea Labs and co-taught a session on Discipling The Busy Teen, but I wanted to share a few games you could use at your next youth meeting.

On our first night hosting we played a few games that were simple and prop light. You can also Christmas these games up with a little help.

First , Head Shoulders, Knees, Cup

Next Tic Tac Toe Dash

The Question Game

And Finally,

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12 Keys To Unlocking Your 2018

I don’t like to rush things. I like my seasons in order. I don’t like Halloween stuff in stores before October. I don’t like Christmas music before Thanksgiving. But, I love thinking about New Years  Eve and 2018 in late summer.

There is never a bad time for preparing.  I love taking notes, jotting down little ideas for message series, service projects, etc.  and then compiling them into some kind of strategy for the next quarter.

Our preparation to make an impact on the students we serve includes

Prayer

Nothing will happen without inviting God to the party. Jesus went to a wedding and turned water to wine. Our plans, without God, are just water. Our plans, like water, are utilitarian and will suffice in keeping the engine from overheating, but that’s all. With God, out plans are changed, re-arrange and transformed into something far greater and make an impact far deeper that we could have imagined.

Asking the right questions

Jesus was asked a lot of questions and asked a lot of questions himself. We do not spend nearly the time asking the questions and reflecting on what the Holy Spirit may tell us. The answer to our biggest problems are in the questions we ask.

Putting it our there

One we have an idea we must share it. We must pass the idea around like a piece of clay rather than a rock. Passing around a rock says, “Here’s my idea, adore it but do not change it”. Passing around our ideas like clays says, “Here! Make this better. Transform it!”. Gather some people through e-mail, text, video, and in person and ask “How can we make this better”

Execution

We have to stick our flag in the ground. Talking is for the insecure. We can talk a good game but, if we do not pull the trigger, our ideas are sent to the graveyard where other ideas not acted upon go.

Don’t tell us what you are gong to do, let me see you doing it. The distance from idea to execution can be as long as it takes to work through the three steps above. The bigger the idea the long the time  it may take, the more people it may take, the more prayer it make take, but putting it in motion has to start now.

If you want to take a deeper dive, check out my new book Prepared For Impact where my friend Ryan Latham and I help you prepare for the opportunities God has waiting for you, right now, to start making an impact.

The book is packed with keys for preparing your next retreat, event, or meeting. Here’s what others are saying about it

“This book has been pivotal in the growth of my youth ministry! It is a great resource for beginners and seasoned youth workers equally. Filled with nuggets of wisdom, and challenging questions,it helps you turn your dreams and visions into a strategic plan of action. If you want to have a greater impact in the kingdom of God, buy this book!” – Jackee

“Prepared for impact” is the kind of book that thoroughly helps you become prepared for that next ministry step in your life. It brings up ideas that are both thought provoking and helpful. 10/10 would recommend.” – Amazon Customer

“If you believe you can accomplish everything by “cramming” at the eleventh hour, by all means, don’t lift a finger now. But you may think twice about beginning to build your ark once it has already started raining”
Max Brooks, The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead

Buy the book and start building habits of preparation so you can beat the rain every time.

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Adventures In Loving Others

I just returned from speaking at the National Youth Workers Convention in Memphis. It was the fulfillment of a dream I’ve had for a long time. As much as I enjoyed every moment of this dream, there was one moment that stood out more than any other and it had nothing to do with the convention.

I was rooming with a guy named Kent. I had just met him a few hours earlier. It was about 11:00 p.m. and he had to return his rental car to the airport. I told him I;d tag along because, well, who wants to do that stuff alone.

We arrived at the airport, dropped off the car and had called our Uber to come pick us up. Now, let’s rewind for just minute.

Before we ever decided to go to the airport, we sat in the opening service of the convention  and listened to a man named Bob Goff. Bob is unique, funny,  quirky, but above all, loving. He shared many stories and challenged us to love those who were not like us, the creepy people.

Bob shared a story from the Bible about a man named Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus was blind. He had been shouting to get the attention of Jesus but those around him tried to quiet him. Jesus heard that man’s call and asked “What do you want?” Bartimaeus said, I want to see” and Jesus answered his request. It was that simple. Now, back to the airport.

As Kent and I were walking to the where the Uber was picking us up a young Arabic lady in her mid 20’s with a young sleeping child cried out “Can you help me!?”. Kent was closest so he engaged with the girl and we listened to her story.

She told us that she had just landed from Dubai and was fleeing an abusive relationship. Her parents were not going to pick her up, they had turned her away. She told us that she had been considering calling the police to take her child and put him child services until she could pull her life together. Then she cried out.

We asked her, “What do you want to do?” She told us she had a friend in Indianapolis. Kent was a pastor in Indianapolis. They talked for a moment and he gave her some info on the church, etc. The Uber driver had arrived but we had no idea how he was going to react when he had to wait for this young lady’s luggage, etc. God already had that covered.

Our driver was Maurice. Best Uber driver ever. Maurice was a minister and, wait for it…. lived in Indianapolis for 20 years. Maurice, waited for luggage, loaded the car, and took us to the bus station. It was about midnight and it took about 30 minutes to get this young lady settled. Maurice willingly and happily participated in this small miracle.

We bought this young lady a bus ticket to Indianapolis and some food. She was very tired, confused, and emotionally broken. She didn’t really understand why we were helping her. In Dubai she had her own business and was very self reliant. She didn’t like being in this position of being helped. I told her that we had all been there and it was her turn, then I told her the story of  Bartimaeus.

She didn’t completely understand the story, but she got the gist of it. I told her, you cried out, God heard, and we showed up. The last thing we did was pray for her and she said. “That wasn’t so bad.” She had little to no knowledge about God or Jesus, but at least now, she had the evidence of His great for her.

Wherever you are young lady, I hope you are well and that maybe, one day, you will tell your son the story of night you cried out, God heard, and God answered with a couple of youth workers who were just happy to be a part of God loving you .

 

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7 Ways To Recycle That Youth Ministry Message

You just preached a message, you wipe your brow and say, “Whewww, that’s done.” But is it? Did you work that hard for that one message that would be done 20 minutes only to be left in a computer folder? It has more life than you think.

In an article by Andy Crestodina, called The Periodic Table of Content, and in his book Content Chemistry, Andy Share the things we create can have life in other formats.

We preach a message and say we’re done, but that message has about 10 other uses if you think about it.

  1. Take your points and create Instagram posts for your kids. You can make one post with all the points or a bunch of posts you can trickle out over the next few days.
  2. Take the message and  convert it into a devotional kids can use all week.
  3. Do a recap of the message, though video (like Instagram Live/Stories) and add some points you missed because you ran out of time, the Post Youth Report.
  4. Break down the message into discussion questions for parents to use with their families.
  5. Do a poll after the message to see which point or part of the message resonated with your students the most.
  6. Interview kids after the message to see what they received from the message. This can be done in video on Instagram or Snapchat or through an audio app or your phone’s audio message recorder.
  7. Take the slides you used and make a slide show of the major points and post it on your website or on your youth’s social platforms.

Look at that. I bet you never thought you could get that many uses out of one message, huh? These are my seven, but you may have even more. Feel free to leave your idea below.

To get more ideas like this right in your inbox, subscribe to my newsletter HERE.

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Unmistakeable Youth Ministry

When kids come to your youth ministry could it be mistaken for something else?

Could it be mistaken for a club for only the cool kids?

Could it be mistaken for a YMCA with great activities?

Could it be mistaken for a TED talk where kids just sit and listen?

Could it be mistaken for an elevator where strangers occasionally stuff themselves to get to an emotional high?

If you want your youth ministry to be unmistakable..

invite the poor, the naked, the broken and the stranger

have activities that go beyond game nights and bowling  that serve others.

preach not only to inform but to transform and invite kids to respond

use small group(s) to get kids to connect and make that ride to the top memorable

Your youth ministry will never be mistaken for anything other than God’s church if Jesus is at the center, disciples are being made, kids love one another, forgiveness abounds and, ultimately, God is glorified.

 

 

 

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Tips For Live Streaming Your Church Service

I have had the pleasure and the challenge of leading our church into the streaming age. I’ve had plenty of experience streaming my own stuff, but for a church service, we needed a little more polish.

After studying all the options, we went with Mevo, a production device that puts you in the directors chair. As you can see, in the video at then of this post, we have control over the kinds of shots we take all from our iPhone. This is a perfect for smaller churches who just want to get decent production quality for a quality price. (note: I am an Amazon affiliate, purchasing the Mevo supports my work in training youth workers) 

But what good is quality live streaming with out a live person to interact with the community your streaming to? Once you’ve established with the platform you will stream on (Mevo works seamless with Facebook Live), you must choose someone to manage the online congregation who will join you.

Here’s how I lead the online congregation during the live stream.

Welcome Everyone

Right now, we have  small group that joins us live, many a dozen or so each Sunday. Regardless, I greet each one by name and welcome them to service. If the numbers jump to unmanageable state, I will have to rethink how I greet everyone, but right now it feel just like being at our homey church.

Pin Your Greeting To The Top

Once I have started the live stream, I am write a short greeting such as, “Welcome to PGA Live, we hope you experience God’s presence as you watch and participate” This stays up until there is a change in the flow of service.

The Greeting 

During greeting time, I ask those who are in the live stream, to great each other and maybe share where they are viewing from.

Worship 

During worship, I invite viewers to participate by asking them to share a praise report or to  hit the thumbs up or heart icons if a song is ministering to them.

During the songs I will post scriptures that go along with the songs and will often pin them to the top during this time.

Announcements

During the announcements I add some flavor text as well as other details that they need to know. This gives viewers an opportunity to ask questions about our various activities and events. If I’ve made an even page on FB, I direct them over there to sign up or get more info.

Giving

Giving online is the number one way people are giving. Some churches use pay pal and others a text to give option. No matter which way you choose, if you do not have an online giving option, your online congregation present and future, are being left out of the giving opportunity.

The Message

During the message I do my best to quote our Pastor when he makes a good point or to list his points as he is going along. If you can get your Pastor’s notes in advance you’ll know what direction he is heeding and you will be ready. Always be prepared because many of the good things your pastor will say are not in his notes.

As my Pastor is preaching,  I ask questions that go along with the message giving the online congregation an opportunity to comment or ask questions.

Altar Time/Prayer

During the altar time and prayer I ask the online congregation to pray for those who have responded as well as to post their own needs so we can pray for them.

Closing the Service

When the service closes, I thank everyone for attending and invite them to visit us in person, if it is possible. Sometimes I will leave a closing prayer, benediction, or declaration.

Your church service is probably similar to mine and your live stream will need certain nuances to fit you congregation.

If you have certain live stream practices, I’ve love your input. Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments.

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3 Reasons I Live Stream Our Youth Service On Facebook

 

I have Live Streamed our youth service several times now, and I love it. Do we live stream because we have the greatest, hypest, most lit, youth ministry in the universe? Nope. In fact we are exactly the opposite. We are the most awkward 15-20 people ever and we gather to worship God just like 95% of other youth ministry just like ours.

Here’s why I livestream our youth service

I want to be an inspiration to the other 95% of youth ministries, just like ours. Our youth group is the standard in America. The hype machines, the 500 theatre seat youth rooms, etc. are anomalies. Demographics, good marketing, charismatic speakers, church infrastructure, etc. all play a a part in what we’re seeing in those videos. That is not to say that God is not in or moving in those youth ministries, because He is and will continue to.

These videos are seductive and Satan capitalizes on our insecurities to have us second guessing where we are and make us feel like “if only…”

I say “Embrace who you are. Embrace your context. Love Jesus together and don’t worry about the 1% of youth ministries are doing because you will never be like them.”

I live stream because I want youth workers to see the good, the bad , the ugly, the awkward, the rawness of what it means to do ministry with (not for) youth. I leave all the boring parts in the video because that’s real life. I know how to cut and edit video to make a youth meeting look more awesome than it may be in reality, but that’s not real youth ministry. Real youth ministry is not a highlight real of greatest moments. It is down and dirty work, day in day out and it’s the reality I want young youth workers to experience before reality punches them in the mouth.

Streaming our services serves the kids who cannot make it. Granted, most of our kids are on Instagram, but their parents are not. If a parent wants to share the service with there kids, they can. Now, many kids are not off Facebook entirely. There are plenty of young people hanging around, because they comment.

I have kids who are in the military who tune in or kids who’ve moved away watch. I have kids who have graduated out of our church, or church entirely, but not their faith and they watch to remember the good times they had in our youth room.

I might capture someone’s attention. We are a small church in a small town and there are a ton of kids who do not go to church anywhere. I think our community of students are awesome! We are not building a Pharisee Factory where pump out kids who all belive the same thing and can quote John 3:16. We are are planting a farm where, if kids will hang around  long enough, will become lifetime followers of Jesus and not just momentary believers.

Granted, I know a lot of students are on Instagram and, if I had another phone, I’d be streaming there as well. For now, I am doing what I can, with what I have, with the hopes that some kids or parent sees a game we play, a song we sing and a word I share and think., “This is a community I could belong to.”

If you want watch me share these thoughts, and a few more, you can click the video below. If you want more FB Live vids follow me on FB

Lift Youth Service

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