Advice To Young Youth Workers On Choosing A “Winning” Church Part Two

So, what is a winning church to you? In my last post, I detailed what I think scripture describes as winning components of a church. In this post I want to be a tad carnal, in a life giving, not offensive to God, kind of way.

I know as a young pastor, I just wanted to get in the game. I just wanted to be a youth pastor so bad, I would have taken any job at any church, and I did. Bad mistake. Several of them.

Every church says they want to grow, but that is not true, it’s assumed.  Most youth workers I know, like to be a part of churches that are growing or at least making progress. Yet, many of my youth workers friends are in churches who are more interested in maintenance that growth.

So, before you shake that hand or sign on the dotted line, ask yourself  a few deeper questions.

Does The Church Perform Like It Wants To Grow?

Churches that only hope to grow without a plan to grow, will not grow. Churches that plan and execute, on a regular basis, grow.

I’ve heard it said that we ought to pray like its all up to God and work like it’s all up to us. When I hear Pastors say, “Well, its all in God’s hands” I want to say,”No, it’s not. He put it in our hands” That’s the point of the Great Commission.  We work with the Holy Spirit to get the message out, make disciples of those who believe and build the kingdom of God through love and service.

What outreaches is the church running on a regular basis?

What corporate outreaches do they have? (Easter plays, etc.)

Don’t be a part of a lazy church.

Does The Church Pray Like It Wants To Grow? 

All work and no prayer makes the church a machine, a grind. Churches need to work and pray. Nehemiah says, of the rebuilding of Jerusalem,

 From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah  who were building the wall.  16,17

Yes, the work has to go on, but there must also be watchmen on the wall making sure the enemy doesn’t come and destroy the work being done.

Churches that make sure that there are leaders (the Pastor being chief among them) in the church who are upholding the work of God with prayer and urging the  pursuit of depth of spiritual life (personal and family) are necessary for a healthy church. Does the church you’re looking at feel like prayer is important?

The church who balances the work of God with the spiritual health of it’s people is a winning church.

Does The Church Plan Like It Wants To Grow? 

A well planned, purposeful  calendar is a sign of winning church. Events and activities to reach the lost, disciple the faithful, and offers leadership training opportunities is looking to avoid a growth crisis, a maturity crisis, and a leader crisis.

Organizations tend to only address things when they see that it’s becoming a crisis versus being a proactive to avoid the crisis in the first place. The winning church looks ten steps ahead, sees the potential problems and plans to avoid it best they can.

Some of this you won’t know about the church until you’re neck deep in it, but ask to see a calendar, ask how far along they are planned and look at what’s in the bulletin to give you an idea of what their planning mindset is like.

Do they have regular planning sessions? Monthly or Quarterly?

Do they have planning retreats? Do they plan for the whole year?

The attitude. leadership, and work ethic of a church will tell you whether that church is going to win or not. Sadly, many youth workers only look at is the pay check and youth room possibilities as to whether they work at a church or not; then two years in, they bolt.

Winning doesn’t mean perfect. Every church you apply to has it’s problems, even “winning” churches, but I can put up with the nonsense of church people. politics, and over all messiness of community life if I’m seeing people coming to know Christ and growing in their faith.

Non-winning churches are exercises in futility, constantly putting out fires for no gain. Life’s too short for that. Choose your church wisely.

 

 

Advice To Young Youth Workers On Choosing A “Winning” Church Part One

It’s middle of summer and I’m missing football.

This got me thinking about the churches I’ve served at and I feel like I needed to equate them to NFL teams. In no particular order, on purpose,

One church I compare to the  Chargers, They were fun with lots of great moments and lots of talent, and had  some success.

One church I thought of as the The Browns, they didn’t not know how to win. Bad coaching, bad players, messed up locker room.

One church thought they were the Cowboys, lots of hype and chatter, but lots of drama in the locker room.

One church, Packers for sure. Legendary coach, hard working, lots of tradition, but lost the vision for what winning meant as well as the fans who supported them, no matter what.

Another church was the  Jets but with Brett Favre. This was a short stint.  Felt like I got traded . This was a pristine team. Strategy over comradere. All machine, no passion, no wins.

There were the Steelers.  A team of great tradition, but with an aging quarterback. There’s some talent, but they just can’t put it all together.

I know, you think I’m being judgmental. I’m not. These are my opinions. Youth workers have to decide what a “winning” church is and then apply to them.

When a football player retires, he remembers the good and bad of each team he’s played for. His favorite coach and his least favorite. Somehow, we think we shouldn’t define winning teams and losing teams when it comes to the church. I disagree.

If you’re a young youth pastor, you’re going to have  define, early on, what winning is and what does a church look like when they are winning. Otherwise, you’ll be desperate for a job and sign up with any team. Don’t do it!

By the way, prayer is a big part of this search, but I find that all prayer and no discernment is a terrible way to choose a youth pastor position. All I am saying is, I could have avoided some :losing” churches if had committed to Acts 2:42-47 as my Biblical definition of winning and what I really wanted out of working at a church.

First, look for the biblical definition of a winning (not read as perfect) church and then consider asking these questions of the church you are applying to or at least ask them inwardly and look for signs to the answer.

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 

Does the church stick to the Bible or does it run on the pastors personality?

Do the people of the church like to get together or is it a chore, just one more event/meeting?

Does the church enjoy meals together? (most to)

Doe the church value prayer in and out of Sunday service?

43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.

What do you believe about the supernatural power of God? Does the church you want to work at share your beliefs?

What signs and wonders or manifest works of God would you want to see at your church?

44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.

Is there a general sense of unity in the congregation?

Are people on board with the pastor’s vision? (How can you tell?)

45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.

Is this a generous church?

Do they bless the community or take from it?

46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,

Does the church have a small group piece to facilitate discipleship?

Is there a general sense of hospitality?

47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

How many new members have been added in the past year?

How many are finding Christ in the church and through it’s members?

Is there a premium put on evangelism events and personal soul winning?

How many have been baptized?

How many guests are in service during your visit?

Don’t be enamored with the preaching, there more to church than preaching

Don’t be enamored with the worship, trends come and go.

Don’t be enamored with the facilitates, they only facilitate the work being done.

Don’t be enamored by “potential”, look at what is real and happening in real time.

If you want a long term, fruitful youth ministry and you want to maintain your own spiritual health and life goals, these questions are a critical part of making these decisions. Winning churches, not perfect churches, care about the process, the journey and not just the destination.

The Church Every Youth Pastor Wants To Be A Part Of

You, the local youth worker, are an artist.  That is my premise as I break down Jeff Goins’ new book Real Artists Don’t Starve and share the principles as to why this is true about you.

In the past, we’ve romanticized the struggling youth worker: no budget, crap car, and low pay. Many people bought into this myth as the way things should be, including me. Not any more.

As I had towards the mid-century mark after 27 years of full time youth work; I am sold on a new reality: I am a youth worker, but I’m also (and always have been) an artist. I create messages, videos, and programs and if you don’t think those are artistic endeavors, you’ve never tried working  with teenagers.

This is the fifth post in a series of twelve and today I’d like to talk about going where the creativity is flourishing versus trying to make creativity happen.

I used to think I could work anywhere, any church and flourish. This is a bold face lie I told myself. Yes, I could work anywhere, but some of the churches I worked at were not only not bastions of creativity they were creativity killers.

Show me a church that rejects creativity (or at least adaptation) in how does ministry, and I will show you a dead or dying church.

The Starving Artist thinks she can do her work anywhere, but the Thriving Artist understands that where we live and do our work affects the work itself. – Jeff Goins Real Artists Don’t Starve

If you’re a creative young man or woman looking for your first (or another) church to work at; let me offer a few suggestion on the type of church you may want to keep an eye out for because where you serve matters.

If you’re a church looking to attract young creatives to your cause, pay attention, this is the kind of church I’m suggesting they look for.

The church that documents their journey

I just came back from a mission trip to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, working with  CEAD church. They had it going on in the tech area. They equipped us with 20 interns (most under 25), most of whom had super quality cameras to record our journey, our journey with them, and as a way to show the their community how their church cared about meeting their needs.

They totally got it. They knew how to document the journey as well as promote the vision of the church. They used Facebook Live in their church to record services and how to effectively use narrative video in their announcements.

It doesn’t hurt that God is doing in their church what God does when you take the breaks off of Him. Many churches don’t  embrace technology or social media because, to be honest, there’s not much to document.

In addition, and most importantly, if a church is not meeting needs in their community, technology is the least of their problems.

Seth Godin talks about the foolishness of a business who tries to use technology or slick marketing to fix their lousy product, when, in reality,  no amount of either can do anything to fix a lousy product. No amount of tech or social can fix a lousy vision.

Look for a church the is documenting what God is doing, not trying to make it look like God is doing something.

The church that’s changing to meet needs, not keeping up with trends 

Every church should know who they are, what their mission is, and who they are trying to reach. The churches who do not embrace this are trying to keep up rather than forge ahead. These churches have a “me too” attitude when it comes to adopting program, etc. rather than, lets do what’s right by the community we are planted in.

The creative church should be asking, “Is this important?” and if is important, “how do we creatively meet this need using the the right people and the right right amount of money, and the right amount of compassion an wisdom.”  Anything less than this, is lip service.

The church that not only embraces artist, but creates them. 

If you want to be in or work at a creative church, look at the kind of people the church is producing. Is the church looking to raise up artists and creatives who are using their gifs and talent for the glory of God? Or is that church stifling the artist and is stuck in one or two dimensional thinking when trying to convey it’s message?

In our church, the ladies get together for Craft Night. Craft night is, as you would thing, ladies getting together to paint and create seasonal crafts, etc. But why is the only kind of craft night most churches have? Why can’t their be a craft night for men to

  • do wood work
  • iron craft
  • model painting
  • drone flying
  • cooking/grilling
  • building
  • car repair/upgrades

All of these could be “crafts” men participate if the church saw and men saw themselves as artists. The same goes for kids and youth. Are we showing kids and youth how not how to get off the media train, but how to discern, harness, and use the tech and media they love to speak the The Word.

In his book Real Artists don’t starve. talk about Hemingway’s journey to Paris. In Paris, Hemingway met all kinds of creative people that made him the creative he was.

Why can’t the church be someone’s Paris. A place where people who understand they have a God-given gift and want to use it for His glory? Why can’t someone with non-tradtional gifts and talents discover how to use them for God’s glory?

Youth workers, if God is calling you to use your creativity, sadly I cannot encourage you to just take any job, at any church. Go where God leads you.

In the end, you have to find your Paris, your scene, where your gifts can be cultivated and grown so you can make an impact.

If you are a youth worker, you are an artist and I recommend picking up Jeff’s book. Pick it up and follow along with me.

Check out the sixth post in the series: This Is Where Your Best YM Ideas Will Come From 

 

 

 

 

Stubborn Youth Pastors Always Win

Welcome back! This is my fourth post in my attempt to convince you that you’re an artist. You may be a youth pastor, a small group leader, a                         bi-vocational youth worker who does plumbing on the side, or a volunteer youth worker. You are all artists in your own way.

You can read my premise for you being an artist by starting at Real Youth Workers Don’t Starve. This series is based on the book by Jeff Goins called Real Artists Don’t Starve that helps creative people, like youth pastors, embrace the the artist title.

I hope you’ll pick up a copy of the book and read along with me.

Let me clarify my title: Stubborn Youth Pastors, Who Are Stubborn About The Right Things, Always Win.

Stubbornness is not obstinance. Youth Pastors should not be stubborn just to be in the way to be a block to progress. Youth Pastors should be stubborn on principles things and flexible on details.

We all need the ability to persevere and maintain passion for long-term goals despite adverse circumstances—or what Angela Duckworth calls “grit.” – Jeff Goins Real Artists Don’t Starve

We have to be stubborn when it comes to working with teens because, well, teens are stubborn bunch and we must match their stubbornness with a stubborn kind of love.

“No matter how much you miss youth group, I’ll always save a sit for you”

“No mater how much you resist me, I will always be welcoming”

“No matter how much you choose the wrong thing, I will love you and help you choose the right thing.”

This is the same kind of stubbornness parents have with their kids. As youth workers, we should match our teens stubbornness with godly stubbornness. the Bible called this long-suffering.

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed,“The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and egracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, Exodus 34:6

God stubbornly, puts up with our mess and  loves us still.  This is a youth workers kind of stubbornness.

What does all this have to do with me being an artist Paul? Simple, we design programs that give us the opportunity to connect with students so we can show teens this kind of stubborn love long term. We have to be stubborn about the principles of youth ministry, not the details.

Here are a few examples  of where my stubbornness comes in when designing   any youth program.

I am stubborn about who is on my team

I don’t let adults just hang out (other than parents) because they don’t want to go got Wednesday night service. I they are downstairs with me, they have a purpose or they are not there.

I recently had to tell an adult they could not come downstairs any more because they were avoiding all the parameter set to be a volunteer for me

  • Be in the adult service on Sunday for x amount of time
  • Be in the adult Wednesday night service for x amount of time
  • Go through our partnership class

There are a few other standards we have,  but the point is that we have set up standards to first keep students safe from just anyone being a part of the youth program. Second, I want to make sure the leaders we have are mature enough to lead kids into faith, If an adult cannot go through a class, come to service on Sunday morning consistently, they I do not feel they will be a good fit on our program that expects them to lead kids by example.

I am stubborn on discipline

I knew I shouldn’t have let this kid come on the retreat because of his age, but his mother sweet talked me into it; I felt I had to give him chance. I have him Several chances but after having him make a few calls to his parents, I had to ask his mom to come pick him up.

Things like camp, missions trips, and even the weekly meeting only go well when we are all on the same page, or at least in the same book. Sometimes we all have to pull a kid aside, have the talk, and most of them time that settles it. There are other times when we have to make the phone call, send. kid up to their parents, tell a kids “no, I don’t think you’re ready for this.” . All of this discipline is designed to help kids grow in character and faith and secondly to keep the program or trip on track.

Stubbornness like this is a stubbornness that my Pastor, my parents, and even the students appreciate because they know I will do my best to help the kids who need help and make event worthwhile for everyone. A lack of stubbornness on some things, like discipline, causes an unease and a mistrust of our leadership.

I am stubborn on keeping the door open 

When a kid leave my youth ministry, its not the end of ministry with that kid. I have launched out students to go to other youth ministries because those youth ministries offered them opportunities that I could not.

These same kids who leave or that I launch, I’ll run into at the store or they may hit me up for advice online. I am stubborn on this because it’s easer to just close the door and pretend like those kids don;t exist any more, but they do and God may not be finished with me and them yet.

We have to be stubborn because the opposite of stubbornness is complacency, weakness, and irresolute. I always want to be stubborn about the things that matter not the details that don’t. We can be stubborn and flexible.

Steve jobs was stubborn on design.

Edison was stubborn on the creating the lightbulb

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon,  is stubborn about the culture he creates.

We are creators and creators but must be stubborn, not about everything, but about the right thing.

When you harness your strategic stubbornness, you give the world a reason to believe in your work.  – Jeff Goins Real Artists Don’t Starve 

Our stubbornness, about the right things in our youth ministry, will only lead to the right people taking notice and supporting what we create; and isn’t that what we want?

Catch the fifth post over here: The Creative Church, The One Every Artist Wants To Be A Part Of 

 

What are you stubborn about in your youth ministry?

Why do you need to be more flexible about in your youth ministry?