What Youth Workers Do VS What We Are Paid For

Have you been brushing up the latest youth ministry techniques? Maybe you have been reading relational youth ministry strategies. At any rate, stop! That is probably not what your church pays you for.

Here is a short list of things your church does not pay for you for:

  • Building relationships with students
  • Preaching and or teaching
  • Praying for kids
  • Attending church and or worshipping
  • Studying your Bible
  • Loving kids
  • Discipling kids
  • Good Theology

If you are called to youth ministry, you will do these things regardless. There is no price tag you can place on it.  Besides, think about your yearly or quarterly reviews. Are you ever called on the carpet for any of these things? My guess is No. So, let me present a list of things you are probably paid for and  we all should be brushing up on:

  • Budgeting
  • Training and Leading a team
  • Fun activities and programming
  • Numeric Youth Group Growth
  • Ideas that will grow the church body
  • Paper work
  • Marketing
  • Organization
  • Understanding and Operating new Technology (AKA Social Media)
  • Handling Crisis (make everything better)

So, if you are about to be hired or are changing churches, don’t get confused for what you are actually paid for. The former list is what happens in the midst of the latter list. We live for the former list and endure the latter list. You might want start thinking about changing your summer reading list. Let me offer a few suggestions

And for those who still won’t give up connecting with kids, in spite of the fact that you are not getting paid for it. I recommend the book by Jonathan McKee called Connect. Great book.

Seven Questions I’d Like My Pastor To Ask Me

I was just thinking about this and there are questions I would like my Pastor’s to ask me. Maybe you want your Pastor to ask you too. If I am missing some please feel free to add yours. These are in no particular order

1. What have you been reading in Scripture?

I don’t remember the last time, if ever, a pastor has asked me this question. I want them to ask me because I want to share what God is teaching me and to show that I am growing in my relationship with God.

2. When was the last time you looked at porn?

I struggled with this about 10 years ago and I make sure I tell every pastor I have worked for that I have struggled with it. It’s part of my accountability.

3. How is your marriage? Kids?

This is an important question. I want a pastor who is aware of not only aware of my needs but my family’s needs. How many marriages have imploded because a marriage wasn’t nurtured or because the youth pastor stayed too long at the office or on the road. This is a life saving question.

4. How is God speaking to you?

This may seem like a questions about prayer but God speaks in many ways. I want to know that someone cares about my soul and that my soul is connecting with God and not the world.

5. Where do you see your life going?

Youth pastors young or old are always seeking God’s will. They ask “What’s next?” Youth Pastors need career guidance. I need a guide to help me make hard choices. The next question I’d like to hear after this is “How can I help?”

6. Who are you mentoring/discipling?

I want my pastor to hear and feel the needs of the students in our group. I want him to ask about who I am leading and where they are in their spiritual growth. I want them to ask me this so they can walk with them through the stories I tell them and maybe take extra interest in them the next time they see them.

7. Who are you sharing/demonstrating the gospel to?

I always want to remain close to lost people. I want to be accountable for sharing my faith and passing along what Jesus has done for me. Failure to ask this questions leaves me vulnerable to the fear of man, laziness, or apathy.

These are just a few of the questions I thought of. What questions do you want your Pastor to ask you?

Are We Chasing Unicorns?

Unicorns are elusive mythological horses with one horn in the middle of their head. Posters of them adorn many a young girls room. We are fascinated by myths: Big Foot, The Loch Ness Monster, UFO’s, etc. People and organizations have spent millions of dollars over the years searching for these illusive creatures.

Wipe that smile off your face, you’ve been chasing unicorns for years. No really, we all have. We go from church to church or closet to closet in our churches looking for unicorns. “Are they  Christian Unicorns?” you ask. Doesn’t matter, we look anyway. We are in search of that mythological church experience. What kind of experiences? If you are a church worker of any kind here are the kinds of myths we chase:

  • The Pastor who “really” cares about students.
  • The Pastor who “really” cares about us.
  • The budget we “really” need to reach students.
  • The students and youth staff that are completely sold out to our ideas.
  • The church with the right facilities.
  • The church who will pay us what we are worth
  • The nice janitor.
  • The secretary who isn’t crabby.
  • The 80% of parents who are totally behind you.
  • The big youth group
  • The spiritual church

The list of unicorns are endless. We search high and low for these creatures seeking their magical qualities. We believe if we have them they grant us wishes and bring us happiness. The problem is, Jesus doesn’t want us to have them . Unicorns are God’s blessings, if we get them, that is great but if we don’t is should not matter because God did not call us to chase unicorns; He called us to follow Him. The devil’s trick is to whisper in our ear “There are unicorns right over there. Perfection awaits you at that church. You’ll have everything you need. You will be complete.” This is total garbage. The more we chase unicorns the more unhappy we become and the further away from Jesus we get.  But can we help ourselves. Some of us are jazzed by the hunt alone. We are like Ahab chasing Moby Dick. We spend our whole lives or careers chasing the imaginary, the perfect scenario and often wind up in burn own or worse.

I don’t know if unicorns exists. The Bible makes mention of them. But I tire of chasing unicorns. If one should appear during my travels with Jesus then I will thanks Him for the visitation but until then, unicorns will have to come looking for me.

Is Your Youth Ministry Leaking?

Day 52 and the news  (like like the oil) just keeps coming. The BP oil disaster in the gulf is a business/life/youth ministry in the making. Let me offer some advice about handling leaks:

You may be leaking students, vision, or enthusiasm , and  these are just  few of the possible leaks you may be facing. Looking at the questions coming out of the gulf, it seems we can do a better job if we will

1. Admit there is a leak. Ignoring it will not make it go away.

2. Determine the extend of the leak. Can I handle it myself?

3. Take responsibility for the leak. Someone has to own it.

4 Partner with others. Find the people in your network who can hep you fix the leak. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

5. Be ready to answer a lot of questions. Who? What? Where? How? and When?

6. Over communicate about the leak. If there is a problem, do your best to over communicate the progress you are making and the solutions you are coming up with.

7. Have a strategy for these leaks to not occur again. Collaborate to solve problems. BP just put cameras underwater to watch these pipes 24/7. Do you have systems in place to watch for possible leaks?

Leaks are bound to happen, but how we handle them is equally as important as stopping the leak itself.

In Defense of Over Analyzing

I was sitting with my daughter the other day having lunch. I mentioned that the triple caramel shake i ordered was not “caramelly” enough. Somehow the conversation evolved into my ability to over analyze things. I debated her of course but in the end she was right; but is that such a bad thing?

Reflecting on that conversation, I found other examples of my almost neurotic over analyzing. When my wife makes dinner I will sometimes say, “You know what will make this better?”

I caught my self the other day in Starbucks, asking the girl if she could recommend somethings new. She did, it involved soy milk, but I got it anyway. As I sat and enjoyed the drink, the over analyzing gremlin came to me again, “What would have made this transaction perfect is if she came over to me and asked me if I liked it.”

My daughter tried to convince me that this trait of intense examination is bad. I say we don’t look deep enough for the perfect.

I see my compulsion as the spirit of innovation. I mean really, if we didn’t ask, “How can this get better?” We’d still be riding horses, working on PC’s (thank you MAC), and drinking regular coffee (thank you Starbucks)

It is because we accept everything as it is that we live average lives, eating at average places, and live slightly above average Christian lives. Some of my favorite verses in scripture involve analysis:

2Cr 13:5“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” KJV

Lam 3:40Let us search out and examine our ways, And turn back to the LORD;” NKJV

Psa 26:2Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart.

1Cr 11:28But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of [that] bread, and drink of [that] cup. KJV

We often do not examine our life our youth ministry because we are afraid of what we might find. I say , look, examine, pull apart, re-tool, cry, scream and dance, because if we do not dig deeper, the result is more average. And do we really need another homogenized, average youth ministry or life for that matter?

Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living” .

I say, “The unexamined youth ministry is not worth leading”

What say you?


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.

Go Blow Some Leaves

As a full time youth worker, I sometimes I spent to much time in the office. Too much time in the office leads to more paper work and less inspiration. As I started to get our more, my creativity increased. Manual labor takes  me away from the mundane and gets me foccused on one task, like blowing leaves.

Blowing leaves is simple. Most blowers are point and shoot. It’s not complicated. I don’t have any scientific evidence for this but let me tell you my theory. The simpler the task, the less my brain has to work. Youth ministry is filled with 100 moving parts like relationships, volunteers, kids in trouble, dealing with your pastor, etc. Sitting in your office, you have no choice but to let these 100 moving parts cycle through your brain like a ViewMaster.

During my time blowing leaves I thought of this blog post. Why? I had nothing else to think about. My brain just ran free. I blew leaves for a few hours, sweated my stress away, and came up with a few new resource ideas.

I know, I know, many of us became youth pastors to stay away from manual labor and sweating. When you have reached your stress point or the bottom of your creativity barrel, try grabbing a leaf blower, it might just do the trick.

The Base vs Swing Voters: Three Things I Learned

I am a kind of a political junkie, so when I hear pundits talking about the upcoming elections I listen through my special youth ministry headset. That is what sparked this latest post. The question posed was “Should the politician go after the base or the swing voters to get elected?”.

In my  first 2 youth ministries,  I was torn between reaching the lost or fringe kids and ministering to church kids. Sometimes I have been  at odds with the expectation of parents, staff, and myself. I would get a head of steam and say  something stupid like, “If these kids won’t win the lost, I will!”. Yeah, I got far with that. The problems were many and varied

  1. I would inundate the group with lost kids and our group started to lose its shape and identity. The  group was not prepared to receive the lost, the lost were simply lost due to holes in our net. What I learned: If a group is not properly trained, the connections  won’t be made.  I should have trained  our group that we were not just some youth group but God’s church.
  2. I did not get key people on my side such as leaders, the pastor, or parents. Swing voters may come, but they won’t help you when times are tough. They are committed to the fun, not the process. The swing voters will simply swing to other youth groups and churches.
  3. I didn’t follow Jesus’ model. Jesus appealed to his base. He trained the 72 and the 12 and sent them out. Swing voters are like men Jesus invited to follow Him and they gave excuses. The base’s response , “To whom else shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

I am not saying we should not win the lost but, if you are banking on swing voters to get you “elected” you may lose your base and eventually the election (a.k.a job). Love your base, train your base, send your base.

Team Building Advice from Uzziah

Here are some Team building Tips from Uzziah

He went to war against the Philistines and broke down the walls of Gath, Jabneh and Ashdod. He then rebuilt towns near Ashdod and elsewhere among the Philistines. God helped him against the Philistines and against the Arabs who lived in Gur Baal and against the Meunites. The Ammonites brought tribute to Uzziah, and his fame spread as far as the border of Egypt, because he had become very powerful.

Uzziah built towers in Jerusalem at the Corner Gate, at the Valley Gate and at the angle of the wall, and he fortified them. He also built towers in the desert and dug many cisterns, because he had much livestock in the foothills and in the plain. He had people working his fields and vineyards in the hills and in the fertile lands, for he loved the soil.

Uzziah had a well-trained army, ready to go out by divisions according to their numbers as mustered by Jeiel the secretary and Maaseiah the officer under the direction of Hananiah, one of the royal officials. The total number of family leaders over the fighting men was 2,600. Under their command was an army of 307,500 men trained for war, a powerful force to support the king against his enemies. Uzziah provided shields, spears, helmets, coats of armor, bows and slingstones for the entire army. In Jerusalem he made machines designed by skillful men for use on the towers and on the corner defenses to shoot arrows and hurl large stones. His fame spread far and wide, for he was greatly helped until he became powerful.

2 Chronicles 26: 6-15

1. Uzziah had an army equipped for combat

If you work with teens you know that Sunday School, Small Group, or midweek can be like combat. You have to deal with that parent, that kid, the adult worker. How well equipped are your youth leaders to deal with problem situations? Make sure that your leaders understand that youth ministry is fun but it can be messy. Help them understand what they are getting into without scaring the bajeebers out of them. Make sure you include sessions with your leaders on how to deal with the hard stuff (correcting a student, dealing with a parent, etc.) of youth ministry and you will make them battle ready.”

2. Uzziah equipped and broke down his team into smaller manageable bites..

Uzziah broke down his troops into bite sized pieces. Looking at a vast army can cause panic. What am I going to do with all these people? Look at your team and see where or how you can group them. If you have a large group, try breaking your youth ministry into smaller pieces so your current or future adult leaders can grab a slice easily.

3.Uzziah made sure they knew their assignments.

Each division knew what  their role was. if your adults seem kind of confused as to what their role is try making up some job descriptions that will lay a track they can run on. In addition, if you have a planning meeting, make sure everyone is clear on their assignments (who is in charge of what and when). This will cut down on any confusion at your next event.

4. Uzziah equipped them with everything they needed.

Does your Sunday School or Small Group leaders have all their material in a timely fashion? Do they need pens, sign in sheets, props, etc. Do your drivers have directions? Do your parents have calendars? All of these things are like swords, shields, and spears to a warrior. Youth leaders who have what they need when they need it can do their ministry with greater confidence. It is the role of the leader to see that the troops have they ammo they need to do what needs to be done.

5. He organized first and got creative later.

This is/was my problem. I wanted to be creative not organized; but I found out that if I will get organized first it will create the room  in my life and brain to be creative later. If I am so busy putting our fires or playing catch up I will not have time to be creative and think of that next big thing or read that new book. One will lead to the other. Uzziah had time to create kick butt weaponry because his team was organized. Organize, then be creative.