5 Ways To Tell The Future Of Your Youth Ministry Part 3: Balance

crystal-ball

Is your youth ministry’s future looking any clearer? I hope so. Yesterday we talked about how our attitude could indicate our future and today I want to share the importance of a balanced ministry, family, and personal life as indicators to your youth ministry’s future. Uncertainty is a toil of the minds leading to physical and emotional exhaustion. Balance was one of the missing pieces to my life. I spent too many nights at the church, too much time in unnecessary meetings, and too little time with God and my family. You could have seen my soul becoming bankrupt a mile away but I was too close to see that.

The lack of balance in my life caused friction at home, friction at church, and friction in my soul. There was no release but though prayer as it should be. This chaos was of my own doing and planning and the devil simply took advantage of it. What does my life look like now compared to then?

Balance In The Home

If there is a constant in the Turner homes it is family game night. Many of our funniest memories can be traced to sitting around a table playing Phase 10 or Monopoly and a few other games in-between. I reclaimed this time by not being persistent on saving the world. I thought if I filled my calendar with Friday Night outreaches or Saturday Night game nights for youth group somehow souls that were “won” would balance out the nagging emptiness I felt all around me. My wife told me early on in our marriage that her greatest fear is that I would choose the ministry over the family and for a short time those fears were realized until God’s grace gave me a second chance I’ve never looked back .

My son and I have recently gotten into the habit of staying up later and talking and watching movies. I love those times with him because I am still sowing towards our future relationship where we both will reap. I want all of my three kids to be my friends when I grow older so I have to balance life now to see that future achieved.

Balance In The Calendar

I plan like I eat. I try to make sure the last bite of my main dish coincides with my last bite of my side dish. OCD? May be, but I see it as balancing my plate. I balance my my ministry the way I balance my plate with equal portions of Evangelism, Worship Experiences, Deep Bible Study, and Service Projects. These qualities are important to me and serve as a balanced diet every teenagers should have and I think it’s how disciples grow in faith.

From what we know from the scriptures, Jesus took his disciples through equal portions of the spiritual life.

Small Groups on the Mount of Transfiguration and prayer in the garden of Eden.

Large teaching on the mount with The Beattitudes

Evangelism through sending out the 72

Jesus led his disciples on a balanced journey of faith.

A youth ministry that is struggling may think that doing nothing but outreach/evangelism to reach more kids will work, and it may in the short term hut what of all those kids who prayed a prayer but never received follow up?. What of the youth ministry whose event driven calendar to keep the masses happy but lacks other areas of faith and spiritual growth? The the future of such an unbalanced ministry is at best predictable (when the events stop, so do the kids) and at worse spiritually decaying (they see past the events and smell that the emperor has no clothes). A balances ministry may not lead to quick, steroid like growth but in the end you will have kids who will grown slow and steady in the faith.

Note: I’d love to help you achieve balance in your life and ministry, feel free to send me your calendar ( at the dproject@me.com) or would like to chat about your goals, just let me know.

Balance In Your Personal Life

Like me, you probably value your personal time. My time is balanced between work, family, play, and solitude. I do my best to leave work at work but ministry is like toilet paper on your shoe, it follows you even when  you don’t know it. The older I get the more solittude I need. To achieve the things God has put on my heart I need more solitude not more business. My quiet times with God are so important to me because I know now what I did not realize then, is that He is in control, not I and the temptations to just “phone it in” lurks around the corner.

I recently finished reading a biography of Bob Dylan called Dylan by Dennis McDougal . Although I did not grow up in the time of Dylan, I still appreciate his music. In his book McDougal quotes one of Dylan’s many life partners,

“According to Ruth, Bib dismissed true believers as easily as lovers. All he saw from the lip of the stage was a sea of anonymous faces. He (Dylan) clocked in each night as if he’s drawn the graveyard shift. Occasionally, he played from the heart, but more often he just manufactured widgets on a musical assembly line.”

This could be me. Any of us. Our youth groups and churches becomes anonymous faces rather than people and we can phone in our preaching and our work as if it made no difference at all. My hope is that a well balance life keeps me passionate about what I do and I don’t succumb to “making widgets” when I should be doing my best work. My hope is that the solitude I keep, much like Jesus did, will produce moments such as when Jesus stood above Jerusalem and wept. Jesus cried and declared how much he wanted to gather them (his people) up like a mother hen and protect them.

Is your life in balance? It’s snot too late to take a hard look at it and right the ship.

Head over to Part 4

Your Turn:

What do you use to  keep your family life in balance?

What tools or practices do you use to balance your calendar?

Exercise:

Draw a circle and divide it into a pie. Now, write down the five spiritual aspects of the Christian life you believe are important to the growth of a young believer. Now, look at your next 6 months of programming and put a percentage next to each of those aspects of how much time and attention you’re giving or plan to give  to those aspects in your ministry. What is this telling you about the results you’ve been getting?

Everything In my pie chart does not have to be equal, but it does have to have balance. If I am doing an outreach a month to get kids to come and know Jesus,  do I also have a small group to put them in to grow? If I have narcissistic kids how much am I offering service projects? Or outreach opportunities?

What practices do you use to create at time of solitude?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Ways To Tell The Future Of Your Youth Ministry Part 2: Your Attitude

5 Ways To Know The Future of Your Youth (2)

 

In yesterday’s post I shared part one of knowing your youth ministries future. How, when, and who solves your problems is a clear indicator whether you will spend your time putting out fires or leading your youth ministry into living out what God has planned for them. Today I want to share is all about our attitude towards God and others.The old adage that our attitude affect our altitude is correct. Bad attitudes are like storms that keep our planes grounded and unable to fly to our destination. Good and proper attitudes are blues skies that signal a clear take off for anywhere we want to go.

Let’s look at three areas that could affect the future of your youth ministry

Our attitude toward God

When I started in youth ministry I was very naïve. I thought everything was supposed to go a certain way and that God was on MY side. I believed the Apostle Paul’s admonition that if God was on our side who could be against us. Well, I found out that plenty people were not on MY side, and in my opinion, must not be on God’s side either.  As I discovered, although God was for me. God did not owe me anything. I had to get over myself and my attitude that God owed me a big youth group, success at every turn, and personal favor at all times. My attitude toward God was that if I had a great idea God should bless it because it “was for the Kingdom.’ I was like Peter who wanted to build altars to Moses, Elijah, and Jesus on the mount of transfiguration. I was totally missing the point of what God was doing.

It’s been a few year later now and I have had a few revelations

1. It’s more important that I am on God’s side and not the other way around. Knowing and doing His will rather than mine is more important.

2. Circumstance change but God does not. I have changed churches, changed  denomination, but God has remained the same. His plan is to make me more like Jesus and not just my plans for Him.

3. He cares more for the minister than the ministry. all this “stuff” is going to  burn up one day and the only thing that will remains is what will be worth saving ”

For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver.” Psalm 66:10

Our Attitude Towards “The Church”

Like other before me, my struggle with “the Church” or the concept of how church should be was/is an issue. I can’t tell you how many times I have been blasted, called out, chewed out, and plotted against. This is not paranoia, these are things that actually happened.  To say I have been let down by “the church” is a gross understatement, but it has been tempered by how many times I have let other down over the year.  My attitude towards the church, the community in which I serve, effects the future of the youth ministry.

Here is what church cannot be, for me, if I want to see a bright future for our youth ministry

  • Church  cannot be my playground- I have a job to do and a mission to accomplish. There are expectations of me and I have to  fulfill, to the best of my ability, those expectations.

 

  • Church is not my Sugar Daddy- The church is not there to fund my dreams and goals. The church exists to support one another. I can’t be disappointed every time something does not go my way. I have to plan well so the youth ministry is help and not a hindrance to the over-all mission of the church.

 

  • Church is not my destination – The church (small c)  is who employs me, The Church, universal is my community. The Church is who I am going to share heaven with. I can’t, I won’t, I refuse to wrap my whole identity in this smaller community and I choose to recognize Jesus as King of the larger kingdom not just my personal one.

Enough theological bluster. Let’s get practical. If you want to get things done and move your youth ministry forward, adopt the attitude that everyone is on your team. From the janitor to the pastor, consider everyone a teammate instead of a rival.I see everyone as a potential ally not a potential problem. I also make sure that I am the best team mate any other ministry in the church can ask for. Do this, and your youth ministry has a bright future.

Our Attitude Towards Students

As I said with my attitude towards  the church, the kids I serve don’t owe me anything. These kids are on loan to me for a short time. This was not always my attitude. I thought the kids I served were in my youth group and showed up to make my plans a reality. In reality, I am present to see what God is doing in he lives of students and create atmosphere for kids to know and experience God and create opportunities for kids to serve God living out what God has called each of them to. Students are not hear to make me look good or save my job. Students are here to figure our who God is in their lives, to  figure out what God wants from them, and then find a way to fulfill that. That’s my role and should be yours too, if you want your youth ministry to have a bright future.

Our attitude toward all three areas is summed up by what Paul told the Philippians, ” In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:” Mindset is revealed in our attitude.

Head over to Part 3

Your Turn

How would you describe your attitude toward God? Is it helping or hindering your youth ministry’s future?

How would you describe your current attitude toward your church? Do you see everyone as an ally or an enemy of your plans?

How would you describe your attitude toward your students? Are you predicting the future of your youth ministry with metrics like numbers or programs? What would a change of attitude mean for your youth ministry?

 

 

 

5 Ways To Tell The Future Of Your Youth Ministry Part 1

Crystal Ball

 

If you could see the future of your youth ministry would you want to see it? I personally think it would be scarey so i would not want to know. The good news is you don’t need a crystal ball to see your youth ministries future.  Scripture give us great and precious promises to see what God can do and will do but, as with all promises, it is dependent on our obedience. Many times Jesus said, “if you…then I” (John 11:40). In the Old Testament verses such as II Chronicles 7:14 begins with “If my people, ..”

Scripture alone can tell us the direction we are heading in life but the life of of our youth youth ministry may still seem a bit fuzzy. Let me offer five things you are probably doing right now that may indicate the future of your youth ministry. Let me begin this series with

Your approach to solving problems

We all have to solve a problem at some point in ministry and most of the time it is a challenge. I used to be a head on kind f guy, if there was a problem on my team or in my youth ministry I tacked it head on because I though it was the best way to deal with it. The two extremes of problem solving are “head on” or  the “in your face” method and the “I’ll ignore it and hope ti will go away” method. Both methods put our youth ministry’s future at risk.

The head on method may be be fast but may lead to

  • People thinking we’re to abrasive  or
  • People thinking we don’t care about the big picture

There is nothing wrong with dealing with a situation directly but the attitude with which we do it matters greatly.

The ” I hope it goes away” approach leads to

  • People thinking we do not care about the issue
  • People thinking we are disengaged

Bother approaches could spell trouble for your youth ministry .

Fortunately, age, wisdom, and failure have cured me of the “head on way” of dealing with issues as the only way to deal with them. My current Pastor never seems to worry about anything. He ends most conversations with “Nevertheless!” I have learned to

  • Let some issues had themselves – Somethings actually take care of themselves. My involvement could muddy the waters or could make the problem worse. I have learned to shut up and stay out of certain situations.
  • Let someone else handle the issue – I always heard to put someone between you and your problems. That’s why Lead pastors have associates. if the Lead Pastor has to deal with every single problem he won’t be Lead Pastor for long. If I do not think I am the best person to hand the situation I let other handle it because they have more information or have a different kind of relationship with the people who are having (or who are) the problem. if we are the only one charging the hill on every battle we won’t last long.
  • Let myself handle the issue with more grace and humility – I had a talk with my Pastor about an issue I am dealing with right now and he reminded me, what I have known for years, just to put myself in a place humility to those who are having a problem. Some phrases that I have used in the past are “Is everything o.k. between us?” and “I am sensing you are feeling disconnected, is there a reason for that?” These statements apply to my particular issue but the point is that, if want to get to the truth, we have to put ourselves out there and risk being hurt or wounded.

The way and the speed witch which we deal with the problems of youth ministry will tell us whether our youth ministry will trust and respect us for dealing with issues quickly and fairly or will distrust us because  we do not. Trust give us permission so to lead. Distrust keeps us from moving our group forward.

Some quotes for you to think about

“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”
Albert Einstein

If you choose to not deal with an issue, then you give up your right of control over the issue
and it will select the path of least resistance.”
Susan Del Gatto


A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered. – Proverbs 17:27

Head over to Part 2 of the series 

Your Turn

What is your style of problem solving? Do you tend to ignore? Go head on?

What are some of your best opening phrases to getting people to opening up about what is really going on?

 

3 Ways To Keep Youth Ministry Momentum During The Holidays

3 Ways To Keep Youth Ministry Momentum (2)

 

The one thing I don’t love about the Holidays is missing meetings with our students. Missing one meeting during Thanksgiving and two weeks during Christmas can create a momentum challenge to a youth group. I guess it’s all in the way you look at it. If you see September through December as a story arc you create then December is a perfect chapter to close with a time of rest before the next story arc begins. If you see your programming year as one continuous story, that if interrupted, is hard to get back into then you may have some momentum issues. Here are some ideas if you are looking to keep connected with kids during the Holidays that are not invasive and will not rob you or them of much needed family time.

1. Go to the movies with them 

This does not have to be an organized event you put out to everyone but an opportunity to select a few kids you don’t get to spend much time with or student leaders you want to invest more time in. A bunhc of students said they were going to see the Hobbit after youth group this past week and i tagged along. Note to sef: Do not sit near students who talk or kick my chair.   A few movies I’d recommend would be

Unbroken

Selma

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

2. Use Social Media to inspire, promote, and/or engage

Most of my kids use Instagram, Kik, and Snapchat. I choose Instagram as my platform of choice for communication with our kids. This year I chose to celebrate Advent using the Instagram Advent Calendar sold on DYM (Download Youth Ministry) to engage with students. It’s not that every one comments or likes it but they see that I am giving them small insights into Christmas when we are not together For some students it’s their devotion of the day.

Another way you can engage is my creating an online youth service. I did this at Thanksgiving and many of the kids watched and enjoyed it.

Here is the youth service I created for Thanksgiving

Here is me explaining how I put the online youth service together.

 

3. Prayer Calendar

Take the next two weeks, divide your youth among those days,and tag them on the social media platform your kids use most that you are praying for them.

 

Your Turn

What is your biggest concern about taking a break from youth group meetings during the holidays?

How do you engage with students during the holiday breaks?

 

Leave me a comment and I’ll use your suggestion in a post update soon.

 

We Have To Stop Meeting Like This: Because This Is Not How Any Of This Works

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 12.09.17 PM

I love this commercial. It tells me that we can completely misunderstand how something works.

When it come to youth meetings and youth ministry  I feel like saying, to just about everyone, “This is not how any of this works”.  Or better still “This is not how discipleship works” . Although my kids need large events, preaching, and vision stretching moments, the weekly youth meeting, and I think you might agree, is not the best way to disciple kids. Many of my kids will not give me an extra night of the week for a small group, etc. so I have to look at the one meeting I do have and revamp it to get the kids I do have more involved.

Youth Meeting are pretty standard across the board but here’s what a meeting for us looks like:

– Opening Game or Activity

– Announcements

– Praise and Worship

– Altar Time

-Preaching

– Prayer/Altar

Those are the main pieces and part of our meetings with some derivations along the way. We started doing a Connection Night once a month where students get in small groups where adults and a few students do the Bible Study. That means I would preach three times a month and they would connect once a month in a small group.

This has worked really well but we can’t keep meeting like this and here’s why:

1. There are not enough opportunities for kids to lead

If you look at our meeting above there are some ways for kids to lead

  • They do the game
  • They can do the announcements
  • They can do praise and worship
  • They can preach
  • They can pray with people at the altar

And our teens do all of these things sporadically through out the year. You may ask, “If it’s working Paul, why are you going to mess with it?” I am messing with it because I want our youth meetings to offer more than a task to those who nee meat and not milk. There are many of our kids who are past the task stage and need to move into the leading stage. Which leads to my second reason for messing with the meeting.

2. Students need the room to grow and mature

Tasks are a great beginning tool to help kids lead but the task is like tying your shoes, eventually you master that task and want to move on. I think about what the writer of Hebrews wrote to the believers at that time

Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.… Hebrew 5:12

It’s entirely possible for kids to become “dull of hearing”when they hear the same voice over and over, a.k.a my big mouth. That’s why we are inverting the process where kids lead three weeks in a month and I preach once a month. This gives kids to chew on “the meat” of God’s word  for themselves and then pass along the nutrients to their peers.

It’s also true that many of my students should be teachers by now passing along the truth to others but there is not currently a vehicle for them to get there; that’s why I’m building a custom vehicle for them. We have many tasks but not enough opportunities for our teens to do what God’s called some of them to do or the room to act on the vision God’s given them for this youth ministry.

One of the reasons I think many of our kids need “again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God” I believe, is because they never had a way to use what they were initially taught or for the gift God gave them. I like what Tom Schultz says in his article The Rise of the “Done With Church” Population

“The Dones are fatigued of the Sunday routine of plop, pray, pay; they want  to participate”

Teenagers can adopt and adapt early if we are creating a place for them to use what God has given them.

Whether a student can perform a task is not the best measurement of their spiritual growth unless we are giving them deeper tasks as they grow older. My hope is that changing the way we meet will produce kids who will never be satisfied with a task for the sake of my vision of the youth ministry  but will hunger to share the vision God has put on their hearts for their youth ministry.

You’re Turn

What is it about your meeting that is helping or hurting your kids?

What is one thing you would change about your youth meeting if you could?

For more articles on students led youth ministry check out these posts

 

 

3 Signs You’ve Outgrown Your Church

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I recently recorded a Mentor Me Monday video and I mentioned something about out-growing your church and I was asked to explain what I meant. Here was my response

“Let me first say that outgrowing a church does not mean that I have become more spiritual than others. I am speaking more to outgrowing the organization and maybe the culture of the organization. The way I know I have outgrown a church is when I have stopped doing what I have been called to do (and hired to do) and have become apathetic towards what is going on around me. This could mean that their are no more challenges or it could mean that I have stopped growing in my potential. I pay close attention to the vision of a church, if the vision of a church and it’s practice don’t match or are not growing closer together in time, my heart gets restless and I start to pray for God’s leading. I have never told a church “I have outgrown you”. I simply say “it’s time for new challenges.”

Like I said,, we can never outgrow The Church, but we can outgrow organizations called churches no matter the size or denomination. I have experienced these moments and found myself looking for another grow moment. Here are my three out-grow moments maybe they could be yours too.

1. I Was Apathetic About The Churches Vision and Direction

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in a staff meeting and was basically ignored while the rest of the team played small ball. I wasn’t the only voice for change or the appointed martyr but it was clear, I did not like the direction the church was going. I discovered it was o.k. to disagree, just not out loud. I knew I was dying in the vine professionally and in some ways spiritually because of  who we, as a church, were becoming.  I love God’s church and it kills me when when we think so small and in turn drag God down to our size.  The older I get the less I can stand it. Small dreams are like gnats,  I have to swat them away before they impair my own vision.

2. I Was Out-Learning My Leader(s) At An Exponential Rate

I am not saying I was smarter or wiser than the leaders I was under because I was not, but I was an early adopter of ideas, resources, strategies, and technologies that I felt would move the spiritual needle of our church. I read the latest books in various genres and heard the latest speakers and when I tried to bring something to the table I was patronized or disregarded. Some days this old dog fights to learn new tricks because the generation I serve needs me to stay fresh even if I can’t stay up on everything. I now know that new is not always best and the Pastors I served were doing the best they could. Growing in knowledge was not the only sign that is was time for me to go but it as the failure to try anything new that eventually caused my heart to slip away.

3. There Were No More Challenges (I Stopped Growing) 

When we first arrive at a church everything is new and shiny, isn’t it? We learn whose in charge, who’s secretly in charge, who are the most political people in the church, who are the nut jobs and and we eventually learn how to work with them or work around them. Those are one set of challenges, The other set of challenges deals with growing through personal challenges. Like any other organization, the church can become predictable. When the worship  becomes calcified, the sermons drift towards safety and the programs taste stale I start to check out. This may be due to a touch of add or it may be God is stirring something in me. I used to feel guilty because I was not enjoying church (which is different than enjoying God) but now I start to dig deeper when those feelings start showing up. God may looking to move me on to where I can be most effective.

He’s the hard truth I have to accept. Just because I am dissatisfied and believe all the above statements are true and God says stay, I stay. He knows best and knows why I need to be where he planted me.

The longest I have every been at a church is five years. Why? I think it has to do with a combination of making some poor choices with the churches I chose to align with and part of it was outgrowing those systems. This is not Yeah Me! and Boo Them!, this is a fine line I walk with any organization.. Maybe my fear is that I will stay too long at a church, becoming ineffective or worse, becoming part of the problem that creates an ineffective church culture in the first place. At the time of this writing I am currently in my fifth year, pray for me.

5 Boring Ways To Grow Your Youth Ministry

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I know boring and youth ministry should not be in the same sentence but it was necessary. I think the perception for many years has been that the leader of a vibrant, growing, youth ministry has to be young, attractive, and talented. I am none of those things and it’s possible  that many of you are not either. Good news, you don’t have to be. You can be boring like me and watch God grow your ministry.

Our youth ministry has grown over the past few years. If you’re a youth pastor of a smaller youth group, 15 and under, please understand I don’t write this to brag or to make you feel bad about your situation. I hope this boring bit of introspection about me and our youth ministry will show show you that I am incredibly average and confirm that God loves to show himself through average people.

Here are the stats on my youth ministry

I have been at this church going into my 5th year.

It’s a small to moderate church, around 250 weekly.

We are Pentecostal.

We are semi-rural. The town is a small bedroom community one high school,  a couple of stop lights, a strip mall, a grocery store and a Jacks.

Worship band?  Yes.

Decent facilities?  Yes.

Stats about me:

I am not a young hipster, I’m 46 years old.

I do not play the guitar (or any instrument for that matter)

I do not rap.

I do not follow or model myself after trendy preachers.

I do not dress cool. (ask my kids)

So, see, no advantage in the looks or talent category.

I share this because so many times we think that someone has the leg up on us because of  church size or  demographics (big city, suburbs, mega church, etc). I am average in just about every skill except maybe preaching. I work hard on that and relationship building.

Now, with that out of the way, here’s five boring principles, I  think, have contributed to our growth from 15-20 (post tornado that blew away our church) four years ago, to now having between 45- 55 weekly. And it’s boring stuff. It’s based on principles not on the latest programs.

1.  We are committed to excellence.

I know, you thought I was going to say prayer right. Well, prayer and God’s grace are certainly a part of it but if I pray and don’t create something worth coming to, my prayers are null and void. I have to do my part. My prayer isn’t for more kids, my prayer is to disciple the kids God gives me and let them reach their friends for Christ. Our programs have value, fun, purpose, and combined, create a strategy for growth.

2. We emphasize a lifestyle of outreach and evangelism.

We get what we preach. Once a month we have an outreach of some kind. It could be something small like The Maze Runner or big like having a guy jumping over motorcycles., but outreach is not a program to us. Outreach is an opportunity for our kids to connect with and invite their friends to something they believe will reach their friends for Christ. It’s not about the event, it’s about the lifestyle.

3, We do relational things well

We do follow up and connect with kids in service. We understand that we only have some of these kids for 90 minutes a week so we make the most if it. Before service I try to get around to as many different kids as possible to just touch base, introduce myself, or have a laugh with kids who regulars. I take a pre-service selfie with one or two. I’m not in hurry, If I start 5 minutes late, so what. We also have small groups once a month where kids can connect with students they don’t know and have discussion about the topic of the night. These small groups gives our leaders a chance to connect with kids because I can’t be everyone’s buddy and I am not everyone’s cup of tea. We need diversity.

4. We do things on purpose and with purpose

From programming elements to the worship songs there is not a lot of random things. We know families only have so much time and budget so we plan light and make the most of the opportunities we create. We look at the next three months, the church calendar, and where our kids are spiritually and plan accordingly with their needs in mind and what will propel their relationship with forward.

5.  I preach and call kids to commitment

I gave up being afraid along time ago. I have been yelled at by parents, chewed out by pastors, and had kids quit on me all because I told the truth in love. I am not loud or arrogant when I preach but I get to the truth and ask a lot of questions just like Jesus did. I did this when we had 15 kids and I do this when we have 50 kids. The relational end of what we do makes up for the hard truth we preach. We invest like crazy so when the hard truth comes or their is a cal to the altar the kids know we are doing this out of love and not manipulation or coercion. We leave lots of room for the Holy Spirit to do His job.

See, boring. Crafting a philosophy of ministry and then doing it day in and day out is not super exciting but, along with prayer and God’s grace, we’ve seen the exciting fruit of these boring seeds.

 

Your Turn

What “boring” philosophy have you adopted and do week in and week out?

Has it produced fruit?

What “exciting” programs do you have that are not paying off the way you thought?

 

 

6 Pieces of Mentoring Advice To Young Youth Workers

I just read an interesting article on mentoring from over on TechCrunch about finding mentors and thought the same advice can apply to young youth workers.  Mike did a fast poll of some of his social media folks receiving  their advice on finding mentors for their business start-ups and this is my summary of their results, plus some of my own.

You can’t get a (good) mentor by asking someone to be your mentor

Anyone worth asking to be your mentor is probably super busy, but I disagree that you can’t at least try. I would suggest that you don’t have to have a sit down and coffee mentor meeting every week but you could ask to have a short term e-mail conversation with the person you’d like to mentor you.

Let mentor relationships happen organically.

Examine the natural connections in your life right now, it could be a blog you read regularly (like this one) , a YouTube show you watch , a newsletter you subscribe to, or a person you are in a network meeting with. Try leaving comments on that blog you read and ask lots of questions or e-mail the person directly engaging them on the content they have posted. These potential mentors post content for interaction, take them up on it.

Ask specific questions beyond “What should I do?” 

Before you connect with your potential mentor, write down what problem you would specifically like to solve. Here’s a short list of options to explore

  • What kind of habits do I need to establish to get better at X
  • What principles do I need to understand about growing my youth group?
  • What resources should I have in my tool box?

Write down all the questions you have an then take a deep dive on exactly what you want to know.

Don’t pick a celebrity mentor who is light years away fro you.

Youth Workers who have hundreds of kids showing up have nothing in common with youth workers who struggle to get 10 kids to show up. Rather, it would be to your advantage to  choose a mentor who has 10 to 20 more kids than you who may have more time and willingness to share how they got their.

Mentors who are still “doers” are more valuable.

Doer’s does not have to mean that your potential mentor is still a full time youth pastor but they may still volunteer in their home church or they are are still keeping up with youth culture.

Avoiding bad mentors

What is a bad mentor? This is  subjective,  but let me list a few characteristics of what I think a bad mentor is

  • They don’t have time for you.
  • They make you feel small, lording their knowledge over you.
  • They don’t share their secrete, the lead you on with generalities
  • They try to up-sell you to a paid program of some kind (unless that is something you agreed to ahead of time).
  • They try to manipulate you to their own ends

Feel free to add your own in the comments below. No matter how desperate you may, be allow those who mentor you to take advantage of you.  My guess is you’re a smart person and you’ll be able to spot a bad mentor when you encounter them.

If you are looking for some mentoring/coaching, you can visit my site here to see what I offer.

Your Turn:

Do you currently have a mentor? How did you find them?

Which of these six pieces of advice can you act on right now?

Have you ever had a mentoring experience? What was that like?

 

 

The Content Driven Youth Ministry Part I

Content Driven Youth Ministry

We live in a content driven culture. We want new posts, new videos, and a site with a long  tail of searchable content. Click bait on sites like BuzzFeed and Digg create titles that titillate and get us to click so we will stay on their sites longer. As youth workers, similarly, we want our kids to extend their time in the Bible. prayer. and living for Christ beyond out youth meetings.

I create content every week in our Sunday School and Mid-week programs with the prayer that the Holy Spirit will use use it to speak to kids and draw them into a deeper relationship with God.  A lot of my time, energy, and prep goes into those meetings, but I don’t want the content of the meeting to stay in the room once my time message concludes and I am shutting off the lights to leave.   I am doing my best to ask the question,  “How do I extend the content and conversation online and off?”. The first step I took was to realize that everything in my meeting is shareable, extendable,  content.

I look at my youth ministry as a combination of social media platforms crammed into one website. Kids come to check out the content and decide if they’re going to favorite my youth meeting so they can easily check it out every week or if this is meeting is ignorable.  According to an article on Hubspot, 55% of People Spend Less Than 15 Seconds On Your Website. This data is similar to the stat that kids will decide whether they like you and hence your  youth ministry within about seven seconds. I don’t understand all the science behind that but I find it to be true of myself when checking out restaurants.

No one likes to come by my blog if I have not written anything new or if my site is confusing to navigate. Here are some links to some terrible websites.

25 Worst Websites of 2013

As you try to navigate them, ask yourself what frustrates you about them? The design? The colors? The purpose? How are these websites are like your youth ministry and is your youth ministry frustrating your kids?

Join me this week as I explore the content driven ministry and how to extend our conversation with kids.

Your Turn

If our youth meetings are like a website,  ask yourself some important questions:

How often do I update my content?

How is my content designed and organized?

Can students easily navigate our youth ministry’s or is it confusing?

Is my information relative or outdated?

Leave me your  answers in the comment section.

 

 

 

 

 

The Youth Ministry Cycle of Stupid: What Is It and How To Break It

 

CycleofStupid

You are not stupid, but the cycle of planning and programming we get stuck in sure feels that way.

The cycle of stupid is when we sow an idea, hoping to produce great results only to wind up reaping a harvest of frustration. I have been there and, if I am not careful, I can get caught it in with hardly any effort.  I call this cycle of  stupid because the whole process is draining, unproductive, and emotional unhealthy. I hate pain and failure so once I detect that I am in the cycle I examine which part I may be stuck in and fix it as quickly as possible. Amazingly, some youth workers keep repeating the cycle expecting different results. Here’s the good news, the cycle can be broken and you can have a successful events consistently in your youth ministry.

The four phases to the stupid cycle are: The Idea/Creation Phase, The Pitch Phase, The Event Phase, and the Aftermath Phase

So, how do we break the cycle?

Idea Creation

Never create ideas in a vacuum. When I get an idea, I try to bounce it off several people including students, parents, other youth workers, my Pastor, etc. Not every ideas requires such rigorous vetting, only the big ones that require many hands, a bigger budget, etc. The smaller ideas I pass by a few students and my adult leaders. Even if you are the only leader, check with other friends or other youth workers online. Most ideas are incomplete and need a tweak here or there.

Selling /Pitching Your Idea

Gathering support for your idea is critical to getting it off the ground. Her are some quick tips

1. Before I pitch my idea, I try to poke holes in it myself. I think of all the things that could go wrong or possible push back others may give and then solve those problems before presenting the idea.

2. Make sure your goals are clear. What will the outcome be if we do X? More kids, deeper walk with God, money raised, etc.

3. Practice your pitch. Ask your self: What are some key words my audience wants to here? Fun? Powerful? Inexpensive?

4. Put your info out early and often. Use very method you can online and off to to make sure everyone know the 5W’s  of your event Who, What, Where Why, and When

Event Fail (and how to fail well)

If points one and two are are a fail, and you move forward anyway, then point three in the cycle of stupid is inevitable. Event failure may not be in part to anything you have done. The failure could have been as a result of weather or some other external circumstance but more often than not, the break down happened in the first two steps. The case may be that we  did not have enough people on board to make it happen or we did a terrible job of explaining it or marketing it.

Once the event fails, take deep breath and say, “Praise God anyway, I just learned something about myself.” Don’t spend any time beating yourself up because it will do you no good. Pray, think, relax, take some time to process and let God restore you.

Overcoming Negative Image Messages

A failed event or even a series of failed events does not mean we are failures. It does means we have to examine our process of getting things done and do a better job of not getting caught in the cycle. It’s easy to blame ourselves but you may be in a church where it’s just hard to get things done or the church itself maybe stuck in the cycle of stupid. The key to staying out of the cycle is what we do right after the fail including asking the right questions.

When I fail at programming, preaching, or some other p word, I look go through all the phases.

Was this a good ideas in the first place?

Did I get enough people on board?

Was it a good idea but the wrong time?

Did I explain and pitch this well?

Did I repeat something from one of my past failed events? What was it? How do I stop doing that?

Finally, I affirm myself with these truisms:

Yes, the event was a failure but I am not.

Events do not define me.

I can get better at this if I work at it.

God and my family still love me.

Praise God, I get another chance to get it right, or fail trying.

Your Turn:

Are you in the cycle of stupid?

Which phase do you think is tripping you up?

Tell me about it in the comment below.