Take Ownership Of Your God Given Talents Or Someone Else Will

This is my 10th post, in a series of 12, where I use Jeff Goins book, Real Artists Don’t Starve, to convince and inspire you, the local youth worker, that you are an artist.

This particular chapter deals with artists who give away too much of their art or do not recognize the worth of their work or realize too late.

The church does not own you or your  God given abilities. You are loaning them to a particular Body for a season (or several seasons). I want you to be a smart artist who recognizes what you can do, not in prideful way but a discerning way, otherwise, like many other jobs, your talents will be abused or worse, forsaken.

The church, in it’s call and design, is meant to be the hands and feet of Jesus, in the carnal, most church are autonomous organizations that define themselves how they want, feeling their way in the dark, and doing their best in light of God’s word.

This chapter of Jeff’s book deals with artists who wished they had recognized that their gifts and talents were being misspent and the artist himself held back from being all they could be. Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers was such an Artist (band)  and this is what he said after he discovered that the record company had done him wrong.

And when you trust the system fully, there may come a time when the system no longer needs you. “I wish I’d had a mentor,” he told me. “I never picked up on the fact that if you want to get somewhere, look at where you’re trying to get and start by studying the people who’ve gotten where you want to go.”

This is true when we do not take ownership (being good stewards) of what God has given us.

Sadly many youth workers, maybe even you, have told themselves that it was God’s will that you’re supposed to be at the church you’re at, even if it’s toxic. I disagree. This is where the youth pastor job is just a job. There is  call, but you have  choices as to where you want to serve without the fear of God’s wrath coming down upon your head.

This is where a ‘church” is like any other organization. The church is far from perfect and often reflects any other “business” with terrible bosses, underpaid staff, and terrible working conditions and we chalk it up to God’s will. I disagree. I do not believe it is God’s will to be miserable when we have a choice not to be.

We have to own our faith and talent, like a musician should own their songs, and decide what is acceptable and what is not, otherwise the system will dictate that for you.

Owning your faith means you don’t drink the Kool Aid everyone is feeding you. It means, when the orderlies come with your meds you hide them in the back of you mouth between check and gum in stead of swallowing it. It means thinking for yourself, being clear headed and discerning. Newsflash: Your Pastor, board, deacons, elders, are not always right and it’s ok to disagree.

If you continue to go along and believe that it’s Gods will that you should suffer under terrible,

out of context preaching

awful communication skills

a lack of vision for the community in which you live

and

a laychsidaiscial, satisfied, way of how God’s business get done, then you will look up one day ,like Stephen Kellogg, and discover that you gave away a good many years to a system that could have cared less wether you

became your  best

were emotionally/mentally/spiritually healthy

were prepared for the future (professionally/spiritually/or financially)

The “system” will alway carry on, while many youth workers limp away or worse, decay within that system.

I know this sounds like a dire warning, and maybe it is. You are a believer in Christ who loves young people and most of you are like the prophets of old, filled with fire and gasoline to burn, as described by Hebrews

They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they were put to death by the sword. They went around in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, oppressed, and mistreated. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and hid in caves andholes in the ground.These were all commended for their faith, yet they did not receive what was promised.…

Many of the churches and organizations you work for are not worthy of your God given talent. They waste it, abuse, ignore it rather than nurture it and give it opportunity to flourish.

Taking ownership of your faith means not casting off your responsibility to

  • feed yourself from God’s word than take what is said from the pulpit as gospel truth.
  • to better yourself by reading books, listening to podcasts., watching videos, etc. from various disciplines.
  • to look for opportunities, outside the church, that will allow you to shine the way God made you to shine

I can’t tell you whether you should leave your church or not, that’s between you and God, but I would ask that you prayerfully (not pridefully) consider the gifts God has given you and ask yourself, “Am I being used for God’s glory or just being used?”

Tenth post in this series: 9 Ways You Should Be Preparing For A Life After Youth Ministry 

 

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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?

 

 

 

 

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3 Tips For Apprenticeship While You Looking For A Master

photo credit

This is day three of my twelve part series, using Jeff Goins new book, Real Artists Don’t Starve, to convince you, the local youth pastor, that you are an artist. You can catch up by starting here and then here.

Why not grab the book and read long with me?

Little did she know, how- ever, her first career was just preparation for what was to come. – Jeff Goins

Tip #1 Consider Everything You’re Doing As Practice For What’s Next

The story goes that Tia, the one Jeff references in the quote above, did not know where to go or what to do with her life after High School, so she followed in her friends steps and went to law school at Stanford.  She wound up working at a big firm, but became tired of the grind. Little did she know that she was practicing for her next career, as an actress.

When I read the the quote above, I was floored. I’ve been feeling this way for some time; like I have been practicing for something else, I just can’t put my finger on it. Maybe, by the twelfth post, I will have discovered it.

Because I’m in the position I am in, I have both the time and the permission to practice. I have done the social media for our church, written copy for big events and for most of the written marketing we produced. I used to gripe about my place in life, now I am thankful and consider it all practice, and joy, for what’s next.

What can you practice where you’re at?

Tip #2 Stop Waiting For the Big Break

Starving Artists wait for their Big Breaks. Thriving Artists become apprentices in their crafts. – Jeff Goins

For the past seven years I’ve worked in a small church, in a small town. Not a lot of elbow rubbing and networking with big dogs in a town like this; but I have reached out via the internet. I connect with Jeff on FB and Tada! I’m on a book launch team.  Big break are what we make, not some random Big Bang that happens to us.

Tryst me, I’ve struggled, bitched, and moaned as much as any ambitious guy  in a small town will do, but all the while I’ve tried to keep my head down and put one foot in front of the other, slowly making progress, to creating my break(s)

If nothing else, I’ve consistently honed my skills in both youth ministry and other fields such as blogging, networking, and technology. Ready to serve the cause, idea, or person I choose, or that chooses me, at any moment.

Tip #3 Consistently Practice While You Wait 

The marks of a good apprentice are patience, perseverance, and humility. – Jeff Goins

In a way, I’ve chosen to serve Jeff, the author of the book, by doing these blog posts and by sharing his  book on my social, etc.. I expect nothing from Jeff (I mean, he already gave me a free book, what else could I ask for?).

I try to apprentice things, ideas, and people (like Jeff) I believe in. I show my value by using my skills to further these ideas and causes and I hope, in the process, to be found a good apprentice.

I’ve been patient, I’ve persevered and, whether I like it or not, have been humbled. All of these traits are critical for the apprentice (and the master of that matter)

The best thing about these traits are that anyone can have them and practice them. You don’t have to be pretty, strong, or popular; you just have to show up.

If you’re in a job or place that is suffocating you, find a way to apprentice. Apprentice for your church or another ministry in your church that’s struggling. Don’t waste the time or the opportunity you’ve been given.

Since Tia’s jump from law to acting has done a few tv shows and commercial. Modest, but progress none the less. She Tok advance of what she learned as a lawyer and put to work in acting. What skills can you hoe right now for what’s next?

For now, I’m still practicing, waiting patiently, but not idly.

I’m focusing on serving in the role of both apprentice and master.

When I do reach that place I want to be, I’ve imagined it will look something like this. vvv Who’s the master?

Be sure to read the fourth post in the series : Stubborn Youth Pastors Always Win 

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The First Lesson I Learned In Youth Ministry

I was at a Youth Specialties NYWC and I was sitting in a Doug Field’s breakout session  and he said, “You don’t have to be original, beg, borrow and steal.”

Wait, I didn’t have to come up with all this stuff myself? It was ok to steal ideas from other youth pastor and youth ministries? This was pre-internet so stealing wasn’t as easy as it is today. I had to wait for the pony express to arrive to get the latest youth ministry ideas via magazine. I actually had to go to other churches and actually talk to other youth workers about stuff they were doing. Barbaric, right?

The internet has made it much easer to steal ideas from others. In Jeff Goins new book Real Artists Don’t Starve , he says

The starving artist strives to be original,                                                          the thriving  artist steals from his influences.

In the first post of this series, I tired to convince you you were an artist and not just a youth pastor. I hope you’ve since added the word artist to your vocabulary and your resume. What we do requires prayer, wisdom, and a whole lot of creativity. That last one is where we can get stuck.

I have heard many people, even youth workers, say they are not creative. What? Youth Pastors, above al things are creative. I mean, youth ministry is creativity gone wild.

We have to be creative with our budgets, our games, our themes, our messages, and our programming. We ooze creativity. Creativity is almost mandatory if for no other reason than survival.

The God we serve is creative and by His Spirit in us we have access to al the creativity we need to make our youth ministries work. We don’t have to be original, we just have to steal creatively.

I would never suggest that we steal someone’s message, especially verbatim. I would never suggest we not give credit where credit is due when we use someone’s idea. There must be honesty in our thievery.

We should steal from other youth ministries, but only if it serves our kids. We shouldn’t try to steal an idea and then cram that round peg into our square hole. We can, and should,  adapt it , change it, and refine it to fit our ministry uniquely.

We should steal from culture. God is not absent from our culture. He certainly has bee maligned and obscured but if the scripture says that His glory fills the whole earth, that means God is present in our culture and we have the opportunity to bring him to the front.

I “steal ideas all the time. I “stole” from The Hunger Games when I created my best selling Hunger and Thirst Games outreach/curriculum

I “stole” from Star Wars when I created a similar outreach called Soul Wars: Winning The War Within 

I “stole” from the TV show Top Shot when I created a series of small group lessons for guys called The Apostle Paul’s Guide To Living A Top Shot Faith

I “stole” from Playstation when created a message series called Greatness Awaits

I did not “steal” creative license or content from any of the notable  intellectual properties that I mentioned. I as influenced by them and turned them into useful things for my youth ministry. You probably do the same.

As Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the son.” All  good ideas and inspirations come from God. You have access to the same God I do, so you can take the influences around you and put them to work in your youth ministry just like I did mine.

Jeff Goins says,

If we want to become artists, we are going to have to break some rules. We cannot do just what is expected of us. At some point, we must break away from the status quo and forge a new path. As it turns out, this is how creativity works best.

Stop killing yourself, as I did, in an effort to be original. To be the first kid on the block with a new toy. It will never happen. “Steal” from those around you, give credit where credit is due, and put your your own spin on things.

Creativity works best not when we are trying to be original but when we are “stealing” from others. Break a few rules, do something unexpected, and you may find that creativity comes more quickly.

BTW, feel free to steal as many games and ideas from my Youtube channel. That’s why I put them there.

I hope you’ll grab Jeff’s book, Real Artists Don’t Starve, and dig a little deeper Into your creative and artistic nature.

Check out the third post in the series:  3 Tips For Apprenticeship While You Looking For A Master

 

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3 Ways to Spice Up The Boring Grad Gift

You Still Have Time 

To make your grad gifts shine! Whether you are a youth pastor prepping for Grad Sunday or a parent just want to make graduation a little extra special, here are three ways to spice up the boring grad gift.

I just finished the video that shows my completed grad gift boxes (or suitcases) and I hope it will give you some last minute inspiration.

Let me offer three ways you can still make your grad gifts excellent and memorable.

1. Change the experience

You may have no control over what you are giving to your grads, but maybe you can change how they receive them. I made suitcase but you could create a different kind of experience.

Lock up each gift with a combination lock and give each grad one or two numbers (depending on how many grads). After service they have to trade numbers to get the right combo to open their gift.

Hide one gift and, after service, give them a clue sheet to go and find it.

2. Change how many senses are involved 

Use all your grads senses, not just sight and touch.

Connect a smell and/or taste to a place you have all been. Put some coconut or fruit with your gift to remind kids of that mission trip the Caribbean everyone went on.

Put together a Spotify playlist of all the worship songs, retreat songs, etc. for their last ride out of High School and that also reflects their time in the group.

Record individual audio or video messages to each student and text it to them after the grad service.

3. Change the packaging 

What did you get your kids for Grad Sunday? How can you change the packaging to make it more special or fun? How about wrapping them in fast food bags to represent all the times you went out to eat? Or put their gifts in a their favorite pizza boxes.

I hope these last few ideas stirs up some inspiration and will make your Grad Sunday or Wednesday the best it can be,

You can also check out my Graduation Playlist on Youtube for some extra ideas.

Have an awesome Graduation Sunday Service!

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I Don’t Want You To Be A Better Youth Pastor

Making life-long followers of Jesus. It’s kind of the point of my blog here. Every idea, video, etc, is meant to encourage you to think long term. To change something about yourself, your program, or even your theology when it some to making disciples.

I want you to become life-long disciple makers, not just more creative youth workers. Playing better games is a means to an end.  Being an awesome communicator is not the end game . It’s not about tactics, it’s about the lifestyle.

“But making disciples is far more than a program. It is the mission of our lives. It defines us. A disciple is a disciple maker.”
― Francis Chan, Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples

My hope is that every post, every video, every resource, leads us all to becoming lifelong disciple makers and not just better youth pastors.

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What Is My Time Worth? You Decide

I’ve heard it said, “If people won’t pay for your time, your time isn’t worth anything.” That’s has been stuck in my head for a while and I decided to see if this is true.

For the past seven years I have brought you the best content possible as an active, in the trenches youth pastor. I am one of you! I share my heart, my successes, and my failures.

In addition to my office hours, I pass along what I create in the form of blog posts, podcasts, videos, and lessons. All of this takes time. How much is my time worth? Today you get to decide.

I have started a Patreon account. This is a tool by which you can choose a way to support the work I do, especially for those youth workers who have no budget, no support, and no encouragement so they can receive free resources.

There are three ways you can support me,

Team Turner $1 a month

This is just your app of saying, “I am with you Paul and I appreciate what you do for all us.”. It’s less than .05 cents a day and an easy way to show your support.

Turner’s Tips. $3 a month

This is for those of you who really enjoy my content and want a deeper dive into the who, what, where, and why of what I do. If you want to get a behind the scenes look at ministry, this is where you’ll see it.

Turner’s Tribe $5 a month

This is for those of you who have no budget, are under-appreciated, bi-vocational, volunteer and slap any other adjective to describe how hard youth ministry is sometimes. As part of Turner’s Tribe You will receive freebies such as full lessons, special training videos. special Q and A sessions and more.for only $5 a month.

That’s it. Easy as 1,3, 5

What is my time worth? You decide.

You can choose your gratitude path right here.

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Youth Ministry Excuse # 5 I Am Powerless

I have been told, in various churches I’v served, that I could not do something

I could not use secular music

I could not take kids to such and such

I could not redecorate the room

I could not do pool parties

All of which I thought were stupid, but it wasn’t my call.

After I pitched my little fit and blamed everyone for why the youth ministry could not grow or said “If you just let me do …,  I got busy doing what I could do.

Staying within the lines is not my style (and still isn’t) but if I wanted to keep ministering in the local church I had to quit making excuses about being powerless.

How To Kill This Excuse: Collaboration

Many Youth Workers have very little control or say so in the direction of their ministries, but we do have influence. We don’t sign the checks or have a vote, but we do have passion and vision. We can talk, persuade, vision cast, and influence the people around us who do have control over the things we want/need changed.

Real power is not having full control, real power is, according to Dacher Keltner  in his book The Power Paradox, is

“altering the states of others”

This can be done through force or it can be done though joy, surprise, or kindness.

I was a big proponent of the first way. I’d make every argument in the book for why my way was the right way. I changed very little hearts or minds with that method.

Keltner goes on to say that power is given not grabbed and then shares how power is really attained. He uses the word groups, but we can safely include the church in his examples

Groups (Churches) give power to those who advance the greater good. 

For too long I fought for the rights of our youth ministry. I saw my self as the ministry only advocate and I raised my voice when I thought we were being disrespected.

What I did not take into account was that I was a selfish knuckled and did not think of the church as a whole. I wanted what I wanted and let the rest do what they wanted. It was not until I got my thinking unstuck and started to do what was best for the whole and not just for me, did I experience true power.

This leads to principle number two

Groups (Churches) reward those who advance the greater good with status and influence. 

The more I asked,

“What can the youth do to further the churches vision, message, and principles?”

the more I was seen as a team player and less of a rabble rouser.

The more I committed to being a team player and not a dangerous outlier that could upset the apple cart, the more responsibility I was given, the more my opinion mattered, the more I heard yes instead of no. For a youth pastor, this kind of power is like gold. My youthful passion cost me quite a bit of gold.

Lastly, the good use of power leads to principle number three

Groups (Churches) construct reputations that determine the capacity to influence

My negative actions had built me a reputation. Although I had skills, I did not have power. I was the talented monkey playing with matches. I had to rebuild my reputation

It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it. –  Benjamin Franklin

I had not only lost my reputation, I had buried it.

Think of the basket ball player who consistently hogs the ball and tries to make crazy shots with zero results. That was me. The team may decide they need you on the court for defense but they do not have to throw you the ball any more.

Also, griping about not getting the ball will only get you traded.

One of my great tenants of youth ministry, now,  is how can the youth ministry bless and serve the rest of the church. I do this by

  • integrating the churches theme (mission, purpose) into the youth ministry DNA
  • serving other ministries in the church from nursery to senior citizens
  • create youth Sundays that will bless our congregation

You will never know greater power than when you are given it rather than trying to take it.

You are not powerless! It’s not that the church won’t let you do anything, maybe just have a bad definition of what real power looks like and your process for getting it is flawed.

Collaboration, not instigation, brings true power.

On to Excuse # 6: It’s Too Much Work 

 

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End Of Year Review: The 9 Questions You Must Ask Your Students

 

Kids want to share how they feel about us and the ministry they are a part of, but too often we’re scared to ask. We think, if I just keep my head down and plan lots of stuff I’ll be alright and I won’t have to listen to any criticism. Is that what you really want? Don’t you want to know what they really think?

Hearing them out is a win-win. They get to express themselves, we get to grow, and we get to plan on purpose for the next year.

Check out this mini-workshop on doing an end of the year review and the questions you must ask your students.

What other questions might you include?

 

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New Three Week Sermon Series: Transformed

 

youtube-transform

 

I wrote Transformed because I wanted kids to see themselves as works of art in progress. They are unfinished, but no less beautiful or valuable.

In this three week series we cover the transformations of people like Paul, Peter, the woman at the well and more. We look at their lives before and after meeting Jesus and the process in-between. We use stories about art, phone apps, hands on art projects, small groups and more to drive home the point that we can be transformed by the power and grace of God.

I’d love for you to give it a try. This is a money back guarantee, if you don’t like it, I’ll give your your money back. It’s that simple. Check it out HERE.

The series includes

– Opening activity ideas
– Art related activities
– Power Point and Keynote Slides
– Small Group Questions
– Promo Art Work
– Movie and Music Suggestions
– Curriculum Coach Audio

The series is flexible and you can design it anyway you’d like to meet the needs of your specific kids.

And remember, you are in the transformation process as well. God is not done with you yet. Keep going, and one day you will spread your wings and fly as well.