Youth Pastors, Why Isn’t This In Our Job Description?

Failed Job Desciptions

  • Schools teach Math, History, etc.
  • The military teaches discipline, leadership, and job skills
  • Sports teams teach sportsmanship and how to pay the game
  • Churches run programs to keep people busy and not sin as much

These are organization with a list of activities with no clear goals. What if they said,

  • School’s produce imaginative students ready to solve problems in a complicated world?
  • The military trains men and women to be people of character who can ably defend our country both home and abroad.
  • Sport teams make leaders who will do their best on and off the field.
  • Churches make disciples who make disciples to impact the world for Christ.

These latter job descriptions are far more compelling than the former.

The church teaches about God? Really? Is that all? You may say, “Isn’t that enough? Think about the job description you received when you were hired. How much of that are you fulfilling? What impact are you  making because of it? Now, think about what you are CALLED to do. How much of that are you fulfilling? Who we are as believers and youth pastors impact schools, military, and sports teams by impacting students . In a word, we impact CULTURE.

What has the church, as an spiritual organism/organization produced in recent years? We can’t produce Christians because God does that; so what does the church produce? Can’t we produce better educated, leaders of characters with skills to impact the world around us? Why isn’t it in our job description simply ot make disciples of Jesus who make disciples of Jesus to impact the world around us? Why doesn’t the details of  this job description include

  • Helping kids use their imaginations to see what God sees
  • Teach job skills and make better employees of our community
  • Take more mission trips and have less pizza parties.

Why do churches set the bar so low by asking youth pastors to “run the program” ?  Why can’t churches set the bar high with “Equip students to do the work of the ministry” or “Make disciples of Jesus?” . Why Because it’s less work, and less mess, to just run the program.

Your Turn

How can you expand, re-write, your job description to be more effective at making disciples of Jesus.

Breaking Down The “Why?” Question In Our Youth Ministries

 

I have been reading the book Start With Why By Simone Sinek. The focus of his book is in the title; that people are more about why you do something than what you do or how you do it, so why don’t we start with asking why before we create another ineffective program? I used to think that if I told kids what we did (events, fun, concerts, etc.) and how we did it ( with energy, lots of give aways, food, big crowds) they would be sold, come to the event, and then stick around for a while. Had I stuck to that premise only, I would have left youth ministry a long time ago. The what and the how no longer excite me, but the why is still what has kept me going.

I think most of the kids have stuck with me in the ministry for a while because they know I do not do it for the money, fame, and glory because their isn’t any. They stuck around because I cared about them enough to hang our with them, share the truth with them, and from time to time, discipline them. They figured out that the Why? under current of my life was to see them become fuller followers of Christ while they were under my watch. They knew I was with them for as long as I could be, and I never gave up on them so long as it was within my power.

This does not mean my WHY was not without a few faults. I would slip from time to time back into what we do and how we do it and make that the focus. I would sometimes not do relationships very well, but the kids hung around anyway, God bless’em.

So, how do we take the translate the meaninglessness out of our what and how of youth ministry to give us a compelling story instead of an invitation tag line or bumper for the next video of a  program we’re pushing? I recently re-thought out our worship band and this is my why, what, and how of our youth band. I recently sent this to our band leader.

 

WHY do we have a band? – This is purely philosophical, but if we cannot answer the why then the what and the how do not matter.

Why do we have a band?

  • Because it allows young people to use heir gifts and talents to glorify God rather than be spectators.
  • Because young people need peers to model what worship is. 
  • Because, if we do not create an atmosphere of worship, with the best that we have, that lifts God high, we will never see students step out in faith and worship God in the fulness of the Spirit. 

Simple right? This is WHAT the band is going to do

1. Practice become worship leaders to their peers to the throne room of God, in band practice.
2. Grow deeper in their individual walk with God because of their commitment to worship
3. Become the best they can be at their instrument and vocals.

More simple, right?  This is HOW we are going to do it: We will

1. Expect them to be at practice and on time. Let’s have a few weeks of grace but the rule in the past is: If you do not practice with the band, you do not play with the band that following week. Let’s stick to that.
2. Create an environment of innovation. No idea is too crazy, no song to stupid, no combination of instruments too ludicrous. In other words, if they have an idea, let them share it, weigh it against the feedback of the rest of the band and what you think; and if it is doable, run with it. This means:

a. If someone has a solo, either instrumentally or vocally let’s figure out how to fit that in (special, offering, communion, closing, etc.)
b. Mentor and challenge kids to step up. Don’t let talented kids hide. Encourage them to step out. Really focus on certain kids to be lead worshippers. Here is a four step process I use when mentoring

I do it you watch (this might mean you show them how to pray out loud, move in the Spirit, etc.)
I do it you help (give them opportunities to do what you just did)
You do it and I watch (take the training wheels off and let them ride, even if they crash, they learn something)
You do it I train someone else ( Once that person has to confidence to do it, let them do it and move on to someone else all the while being available for feedback, etc.)

3. We’re going to bang the drum in all these areas. We will  say it, write it, practice it, show it, paint it, sing it, or any other method that will keep our WHY at the forefront.

4. We will start each practice with a short devotion about worship, more story driven than principle driven but not leaving out either. The devotion will be short with interactive (open ended) questions and we will let kids struggle with the answers to  “what does this mean for me personally?” and “what does this mean for us as a band and a youth ministry?”

5. Recruit fantastic musicians and singers, from inside and outside the church, to mentor our kids in their instruments and vocals.

 

That took me about 15 minutes to think through and write out. Feel free to steal it, rework it to make it your own, or come up with your own.

 

Part II Coming Soon: Steps To Coming Up With Your Why Statement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Senior Sunday Saddens Me

Why Senior Sunday Makes Me Sad

Let me preface this post by saying I’ve been at my church for under a year. I understand that you have to jettison a senior class or two within a youth ministry to expunge former philosophies and practices and to import new ones that will grow over time. This fact does not make Senior Sunday any less sad for me.  Eighty percent of the seniors I’m graduating, have not had any significant relationship with me or have they been involved in the youth ministry over the past year. This means, when I stand up to introduce them to the congregation, I will not be able to

  • Share stories of spiritual growth
  • Share moments from trips or events
  • Share about about how much I care about them (I do but it’s hard to really care about people you don’t know)
  • Share about funny moments we all shared

Even sadder, their parents could care less if I shared about these things. Maybe because they’ve had all the spiritual moments they needed in life. Maybe because with strong family units they did not need another spiritual community. If this is the case, God Bless them.  Here’s a another saddening realization, their futures, unfortunately, include

  • Not attending church
  • Not continuing to grow in their faith
  • Not caring whether the generations that come up after them in the youth group will have spiritual role models

What if I read that as their future plans in addition to going to college? Right, like a lead balloon. Can you say job hunting? The last of the saddest news is, I don’t know if their is an answer for our community. Oh, I could say Jesus is the answer but that is trite, and quite frankly, stupid. Jesus is not duck tape, You don’t slap him on broken spiritual lives and hope it holds them together.

To quote the great philosopher Dirty Harry, “A mans got to know his limitations”- Magnum Force.

I know mine. I also know God’s, He has none. Only God, by his grace, can save, inspire, and bring to pass, the spiritual growth needed to move this community past Senior Sunday. I have no confidence  in the flesh. I have great confidence in God, but, that does not make me any less sad.

Your Turn

What challenges or emotions do you face on Senior Sunday?

 

Help! I Need Training, Mentoring, and Community! Now!

My friend Nathan over at Called To Youth Ministry asked me a few weeks ago if I was interested in doing some mentoring and I told him I am always up for helping fellow youth workers. Called To Youth Ministry is sponsoring an online training opportunity. For twelve  weeks we’ll cover topics like Dealing with Burnout, Getting Your Youth Ministry Plan Together,  and the How To’s of Discipling Teens. In addition, and most importantly, we’ll search the scriptures and pray together for God’s will for you, your family, and your ministry.

I will be leading 1 hour conference calls on selected Thursday nights at 9:00 p.m. CST and we will be posting thoughts back and forth over the course of the semester. If you are interested in getting some more training on a flexible schedule and at a minimal cost, you can check it out or sign up HERE

I look forward to the journey.

Paul

Taking The Pain Out Of Parent Meetings

I could have used a lot of pictures for this blog that would have best represented how we feel about parents meetings . Here is another photo that I would deem appropriate.

Which ever picture you relate to, sometimes it feels like this when it comes to meeting with parents. Here are a few tips to give you the confidence to meet the parents.

Here are what I think are the top reasons youth workers don’t have or struggle through parent meetings

1. I Feel Inadequate

Whether you are young or old these feelings can be very scary.  Youth workers get in trouble when they focus on pitching programs that mess with normal. The thought is, ” I hope they like my ideas” To go from inadequate to incredible, don’t make programs the center of your meeting. Selling ideas is secondary to meeting needs. make it your mission to empower parents and those knees will quit knocking.

2. I Don’t Have Teens or Kids

If you don’t have kids of your own you might find it tough to relate to the parents in the room. No worries. Not having kids does not make you any less a good youth worker. This does open the opportunity to:

  • watch and learn how parents and kids interact
  • admit you are not an expert and you need help
  • build a team with parents who can help you understand the family dynamic

3. I Don’t Have A Plan

Many youth workers live from event to event. Parents are professional jugglers, between school, sports, teens personal lives, and church. Why is the church always the least organized of these? If a softball team can have a schedule of games and practices so can we! Maybe  we don’t want to have a meeting with parents because we don’t want to look like a charlatan. If you don’t have great organizational or planning skills, recruit parents and a team to help you and let them help you present the meeting.  Play to your strengths, delegate your weakness ,but don’t bow out of the process. Start small and build on it.

I am offering Paul’s Quick Guide To Parents Meetings, on the freebie page, which really deals with the dynamics of creating and hosting a successful parents meeting. It’s a nine page guide with a few tips and tricks. If you are a pro at this, and want to offer some comments, I’ll be glad to add them into a 2.0 edition.

Anatomy of a Blown Event: Where Did I Go Wrong?

If I had a $1 for every failed event….well, lets just say, I would have a lot of dollars. Events are cool when we pull them off, but is that all there is to an event? Not the good ones. When the pre, actual, and post event pieces come together, it’s a beautiful thing. When they don’t, we get called into offices, meet with budget committees, make volunteers mad, and possibly lose kids and respect. If we have a string of events like this, it can cost us out jobs. Let me offer sell you some Event Insurance. Take a look at your events and see where they are going off track.

Every event starts with an idea.. The problem with ideas are that youth workers cook these up in a secret lab in an undisclosed location, a puff of smoke rises, we cry, “Eureka!” and begin telling everyone what we are going to  do and how everyone is going to help me execute my great idea. It’s right after that great idea pops in our head, that we can start going down hill, and fast.

Failed events have one or more of these elements in common

  • We keep an idea to ourselves. In other words, it’s our event and not the groups. It is our precious idea and we don’t want anyone else getting credit for it (see the last point)
  • We plan it ourselves. We get so jazzed about our idea, we break out our Mac or yellow note pad and before you know it, it’s done. Just because we have a good idea doesn’t mean we should do it.
  • We promote it ourselves. I hate making announcements. They are a necessary evil though, if we want to get the word out. But wait, what if the students, and your adult leaders were so bought in you could tone those announcement down a notch.
  • We execute it ourselves. Because we thought of it we feel most responsible to make it happen. So, we wind up making all the phone calls, set up all the chairs, and call for the food. This makes us a stoke waiting to happen.
  • We praise ourselves. I think the true test of any event is not how much we have done but how many people did it take to accomplish it. If it is something only you could do, it is possible that your event was too small.

Successful events have one or ore of these elements in common:

  • Start with “What If”. Take your idea to various levels in your church, from students, staff, parents, pastors, heck, ask the custodian while you are at it. Not everyone will care but they maybe able to offer that nudge that gets you a better insight on your idea.
  • Pray about it, plan and tweak it together. At your next meeting of students and adults, have a marker board available and do some brainstorming. Collect ideas and then whittle them down to the best ideas. Be sure to pray before and up to the event.
  • It’s everyone’s job to promote. Social media like Facebook, Twitter, and other venues, make it easy to get the word out, but nothing beats a personal invitation. Put some invites in your kids and leaders hands and let them loose. Check out the Freebie Page on my website www.thediscipleproject.net for a checklist called How To Get The Word Out.
  • Students do it, you help them. If the students own it form the idea phase you won’t have to do much but assist them. Let them be the visionaries and you hep them execute it. Let them book the band, call the speaker, set up chairs, order the food, etc. Assign an  adult to each student or group and let them walk through it with them.
  • Celebrate the successes and mistakes. Every event or group of events should have a debrief. Talk about what worked and what didn’t. Make sure to share the joy of watching your students lead. Praise will make them want to try again, and again.

Youth ministry is not all about events, but if we must do them, we might as well do them successfully. There are a multitude of tiny details I could have included, why not fill in the gaps for me. Leave your suggestion(s) below.

Check out my cool diagram I included here Anatomy of a Blown Event.

Agreeing On The Word Success

Success is a word that is truly open to interpretation. There is maybe no greater discrepancy of this word than between a pastor (or committee) and their youth pastor. Let me show you what the differences might look like

Their version of success means: You reach a lot of kids

Your version: I reached one kid. THAT Kid.

Their version of success: You caused the least amount of trouble

Your version: I took risks and chances that caused a stir

Their version of success: You are a self started that does not need coddling

Your version: I am a team player who is in a mentoring relationship with my leader.

Somewhere in the mix of these definitions you both  have to come to an agreement of what success looks like  for your youth ministry. If you cannot agree, their will be unfulfilled expectations and broken spirits. When you do come to agreement, life and ministry will be easier to navigate.

As a team decide which of these is success

  • How many kids in the program
  • How  many kids on the retreat
  • How many in SS
  • How many on the youth team

I put most of these in the “how many” category because that is how may pastors see it. Look for balance though and suggest these “how many’s” be added to the list as well

  • How many students have stepped up in leadership
  • How many kids bring their friends
  • How many kids have person spiritual disciplines
  • How many guests have you had in the past few months
  • How many kids kids has the team connected with
  • How many new kids went on the missions trip

“How many” is only one dynamic of success but unfortunately it is the most visible and therefore judged more readily. Don’t forget to add other intangibles and growth markers to the list. Help the team or your pastor see some of the other things Jesus saw like

  • Understanding truth (Luke 10:21)
  • Acts of faith (Peter stepping out in faith or the centurion’s faith)
  • Servanthood (following Jesus’ example of foot washing)

There are other examples in scripture and I invite you share your insights. Until then, find he balance and you’ll find success, if only in God’s sight.

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When Sunday School Teachers Go Rambo

We’ve all been through it. We inherit a volunteer who you think you can work with and then you notice you can’t. Why? In my case it’s about teaching the curriculum, I have asked them to teach, connect with new students, and show up to appropriate meetings,  actually teach scripture, ya know , little things like that. Of course this thing is never easy. He’s taught for along time, the kids like him (of course, what teen woud not like to goof off  for an hour each week in SS. I have tried to work with our volunteer and he just wants to do what he wants to do.

Disclaimer: I like this teacher as a person. His son is on our leadership team (he takes after his mother).

My choices

1. Get rid of him outright (you are not doing the job)

2. Try to get him on board again (I don’t like this option, he’s not going to play ball)

3. Talk to the parents of students in this group ( not a fan of this either, makes me look petty, us vs him)

3. I may install an independent evaluation group. Just like public school teachers who do not make the grade, they are evaluated on progress of their students. I would have other staff members or parents, sit in in the class and evaluate the teacher/class. I like this option best for two reason

a) Parents see what I am talking about. I am not making it up

b) The teacher(s) do not get the backlash from me. They are getting it from independent people. In addition I plan on doing a Parent Poll looking for feedback on what they want in a teen Sunday School Class. The bring that to the teachers. Anyway, back  to the evaluation sheet:

Evaluation standard on the sheet

1. Did the appropriate lesson get taught.

2. Class discipline

3. How did the teacher/class respond to new guest

4. Was there prayer (yeah, you would think that I would not have to ask this)

5. How did the discussion go.

I would keep the list short but you are more than willing to add to it. What would you look for?

Are Your Seniors Spiritually Ready For The World?

How Do You Know Yoyr Senior s Are eady

In the previous posts I shared how the different ways students could graduate. Now, the gate has been narrowed. Most states offer some sort of exit exam. What is the point of an exit exam?

“to make sure no students graduate or move on to other courses without proving they have mastered what they have studied.”

This begs the question “Have our students mastered what they have studied?” Never mind mastering what have studies, but what have they studied? How do we know if a student is prepared to leave our youth ministry?

Your Turn

Here is my question to you. If you could create an exit exam to make sure your students knew what they needed to know to move on to the next level what would it look like? Would it be a written test? How many questions would they have to answer to satisfy you to move them on? Would it me Bible questions? Theology questions? Practical questions? Would it be multiple choice? Essay?

Let collaborate. Share 6 questions, in any form, you wold put on the exam that would satisfy you that a students under your ministry was ready to leave. Ready. Go.