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.

How To Get The Youth Ministry Job You Want

I can remember wanting to be a youth pastor so bad, I would have taken any job, and I did. They were my fever dream decisions. If I had read the job description better and put on my thinking hat instead of my heart hat, I could have avoided a few things like working too much for too little and getting in over my head.

Every church ad for a YP  differs from church to church based on denomination, size of church, etc. Some churches put everything in the job description you will be doing and others out just enough to lure you in and then  CLANK! the gate slams and you’re caught.

I want you to be able to discern what a church is asking of you so you can decide this is good fit and if you should even apply for.

Let’s get started. This is a real ad and church names. etc. have been left out.

JOB DESCRIPTION: Family Life Coordinator (this means you’re about to do a lot of work and not just youth pastoring) 

JOB SUMMARY

The Family Life Coordinator is a qualified professional teambuilder who contributes to the mission of the Church both by active service and by personal example. The Coordinator interacts with parish and diocesan staff, and the People of God – especially youth and their families – to promote authentic religious values and authentic Church teachings.

Note: Churches put fancy talk in their job descriptions. Besides, what is a Qualified Professional? Do you need a certificate?

JOB RESPONSIBILITIES

The Coordinator serves in promoting family life in the parish, principally through running a Middle School and High School youth program, interacting with wider parish membership, being present at parish events, and managing the parish social media and membership communications. The Coordinator will accomplish the following responsibilities:

Note: I made this statement bold because managing social media is a full job in itself. Trust me ( blog, podcast, youtube, etc.) I smell over worked and underpaid immediately. So far, they have said they want  a qualified professional teambuilder and a social media director (2 jobs, paid for one I would negotiate higher pay from the get go if you have any certifications in these areas)

1. Develops successful Middle School and High School youth programs, including a team of volunteers, that meet once a week (except for vacation periods) during the school year and include occasional special activities/initiatives.

Note: make them define, in writing, what they think a successful MS and HS programs look like. You are cheating yourself if you don’t have a clear goal.

2. Facilitates the recruitment and training of volunteers for the youth programs.

Note: What is the median age of the church, is there enough viable people to recruit, is there an established council, or are you on your own?

3. Leads a delegation of youth/families/individuals to the annual March for Life in Washington, DC.
4. Manages the parish web site, Facebook page, Twitter/Instagram accounts, and makes recommendations on effective social media usage to the Pastor.
5. Evaluates and further develops means of regular communication and outreach with parishioners: SMS/text, email, parish app, bulletin, etc.

Note: Once agin. Job #3 Manage a website.  Skill not listed in qualifications.

6. Assists with the layout and production of the weekly parish bulletin.

Note: No, just no. This is job #4

10. Keeps statistics and metrics so that the effectiveness of our activities/initiatives can be measured on an occasional (at least annual) basis.

Note: First thing I’ve read that I like. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth measuring.

11. Attends periodic staff meetings (usually monthly).
12. Works with the DRE to run background checks on and ensure Youth Protection certification for all volunteers.

Note: Another thing I like. A church that does not do background checks is asking for trouble. In fact, you should not work at a church that does not do this at some level.

13. Assist the  Secretary occasionally with phone/receptionist responsibilities for brief periods.

Note: Job number #5!!! Stop reading and move on. They cannot afford you at this point.

14. Collaborates with the Wedding Coordinator on the usage of the Cathedral Life Center.

Note: Job #6 Wedding Coordinator. Say no to the dress.

15. Collaborates with other parish activities and initiatives on the common promotion of family life in the parish.
16. Assist with occasional “all hands on deck”-type parish events, under the direction of the Pastor.

Note: All hands on deck? I don’t have any hands left.

SUPERVISION

SUPERVISED BY: The Pastor/Rector
SUPERVISES: Team Volunteers
LEADS/GUIDES: Team Volunteers

Note:  A) I supervise volunteers they do not supervise me. B) We are peers and mutually accountable for God’s work.

JOB SPECIFICATIONS

EDUCATION:

  • Required: Bachelor of Arts or equivalent, as well as prior experience with youth programs and demonstrated competence and prudence with social media. 

Note: They forgot the degree in Social Media, Wedding Coordinating, and All Hands On Deck-ology.

  • Desired: Demonstrated success in a similar position held previously.

LICENSES, CERTIFICATION AND/OR REGISTRATIONS: N/A
EQUIPMENT/TOOLS/WORK AIDS: Computer skills, copying machine, and knowledge of other office equipment

Note: Double Nope! Ok, you should know how to push the copy button.

SPECIALIZED KNOWLEDGE & SKILLS: Must be:

9. Creative, without imposing personal opinions on people.
10. Organized and able to multi-task through wise prioritization and scheduling.

Note: Number 9 is pure garbage. If you’re a creative who cannot push your ideas forward, why are they paying you? This may have been placed in here due to a former pushy employee. That’s how rules get made.

PERSONAL TRAITS QUALITIES & APTITUDES: Friendly, willing to work with others and have the capacity to delegate tasks. Open to the ideas of others. Willing to work for the greater good of the Parish, the Diocese, and the Universal Church. Willing to use personal gifts for the good of the whole. Able to win the respect and loyalty of co-workers. Able to relate to youth in a prudent manner and encourage them in their practice of the faith and spiritual/human growth.

  • Be flexible, assertive, persuasive, organized, and highly motivated
  • Demonstrate an ability to accept responsibility for direction, control, and planning of an activity
  • Demonstrate an ability to make generalizations, evaluations, and decision based on sensory or judgmental criteria
  • Demonstrate an ability to perform a variety of duties requiring the changing from one task to another without loss of efficiency or composure
  • Demonstrate an ability to communicate effectively with people of all socioeconomic backgrounds
  • Demonstrate an ability to solve problems in a creative and effective manner
  • Be willing to assess personal strengths and weaknesses and receive and respond to performance reviews and constructive criticism

Note: This person does not exist, so it cannot be you.

Verdict: They want you to work 6 jobs and pay you for one. This job is an F. Do          not apply.

If you’re looking at Youth Pastor job ads, and see one that is crazy, send it over to me and I’ll be happy to dissect and grade it.

If you would like practice applying for a youth ministry job, I offer practice interviews HERE

Real Youth Pastors Don’t Starve

About a week ago I was asked by author Jeff Goins if I wanted to be on his book launch team ; I said sure. I was familiar with Jeff through some videos and his book The Art of Work so I was excited to jump on board, and I am glad I did,

Jeff’s new book, Real Artists Don’t Starve, has hit me where I Iive. God knew what he as doing when he connected me with this book.

I can’t just read a book, though. I read a book like a butcher cuts meat. I trim the fat and cut the book into chunks for easy digestion. Here are my goals

    Let every youth worker know they’re an artist (who happens to play dodgeball).
    Share some thoughts from each chapter of the book to help you become a thriving artist in your ministry.

Let’s start with the fact that you, the youth pastor, are an artist. Don’t believe me? Here’s the proof.  Many of you, weekly

    craft messages
    design slides
    take photos
    edit video
    There’s an art to all this. I know the care you put into all of these things, so why sell yourself short? Say it with me, “I am an artist”.
    I take my messages and post them up in my store at fair prices. You could do the same.
    Back in the day, youth ministry had it’s now version of the starving  artist. The youth pastor had to have a crap car, we had to share our room with the kids church, all the furniture in the youth room was donated crap, and our offices were the old  janitorial closet. I am familiar with all of these and at some point I thought I was super holy to live this crappy. That is until I changed my mindset.
    Many of you chose to go into youth ministry young and have grown in it. Some of you have entered youth ministry later in life and I salute you. All of us brought skills into the ministry and some of us learned them along the way.  Some of us are musical, some of us are graphic designers, and others us are amateur carpenters. Don’t you dare say you are not an artist.
    In the book, Jeff says,

Thanks to the power of this myth, many of us take the safe route in life. We become lawyers instead of actresses, bankers instead of poets, and doctors instead of painters. We hedge our bets and hide from our true calling, choosing less risky careers, because it seems easier. Nobody wants to struggle, after all, so we keep our passion a hobby and follow a predictable path toward mediocrity.

You became a youth worker because you love teens. Many of your teens are blooming artists, we owe it to them to hold our profession in high regard even if no one else does. We should model to our kids what it means to boldly display our art and give them a peek behind the scenes of how we do what we do.

If you are just getting started, take Gary Vaynerchuk’s advice and document your journey in front of your kids. Share your message prep on Instagram and show them the slides you’re creating (and ask for their advice) on Snapchat. Show yourself setting up for the outreach on FB Live.

The first step to changing your mindset from “I’m just a slob who works with teens because no one else will” to “I am a youth ministry artist, creating the atmosphere for kids to know God every week.  No one can do what I do like I do it.” is Jeff’s first point

The Starving Artist believes you must be born an artist. The Thriving Artist knows you must become one.

No one is born a good youth pastor. No one gets a special kiss from God to be one. We all work at it. If you don’t think you’re an artist now, stay in youth ministry long enough and you’ll become one, if you want to be.

I hope you’ll purchase the book for yourself and get the full context and all the great stories Jeff uses to deliver his points.

Check out the second post in the series: The First Lesson I Learned In Youth Ministry

 

25+ Hats You Didn’t Think Your Youth Pastor Wears (But They Do)

Today is Labor Day and I’d like to highlight some of the hats youth pastors pastor wear that you may not be aware of.

The youth pastor role has evolved and morphed into many responsibilities depending on how many people are on staff, size of the church, etc. Some roles were handed out because youth pastors were/are the youngest people on staff other jobs because they are the most technologically advanced person on staff. A youth pastor does not do all of the things I’ve listed, but many do a combinations of these responsibilities. Here’s the list of roles and responsibilities youth pastors take up or are assigned (I had most of these jobs).

  • Preparing and preaching messages
  • Counseling students
  • Organize Parent Meetings
  • Worship Leader
  • Children’s Pastor
  • Sweeping and Cleaning the youth room
  • Keeping the bus/van washed and clean
  • Organize Youth Trips (Day Trips)
  • Organize Mission Trips (5-7 days)
  • Youth Camp Leader (5-7 days)
  • Teaching Sunday School
  • Cleaning the church
  • Changing the church sign
  • Keeping the website up to date
  • Run sound
  • Graphic design
  • Organize outreaches
  • Crises management
  • Chief Marketer
  • Research and development (coming up with new ideas to grow the church)
  • Driving the church bus/van
  • Social Media Director
  • Janitorial
  • Head Chef,
  • Bargain shopper
  • Dressing up like a cow
  • Event planner,
  • Caterer,
  • Budget manager
  • Event MC
  • Interior designer,
  • Tutoring
  • Mediator
  • Drives kids home after church (Taxi)
  • Fundraising
  • Recreation Director
  • Church Landscaper (mow the church lawn)
  • Bus/Van Driver
  • Set Up/Tear Down Leader
  • Actor (for those last minute Easter Play roles)
  • Kill the animal /bug in the bathroom guy
  • The occasional sacrificial lamb
  • Administrative Assist (Secretary stuff. I answer the phones on Friday’s)
  • Carpenters (see below), and Painters

Fellow Youth Worker Ryan Deal posted this just today

Sometimes youth pastors preach… Sometimes they disciple… Sometimes they paint space capsules…

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I agree with Saint Francis of Assisi when he says

“He who works with his hands is a laborer.
He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.
He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”

Let’s add one more thing to the list of duties/identities and this one is true every day for youth workers. They are all artists.

Happy Labor Day Youth Workers!

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.Galatians 6:9

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I know there are many more jobs so feel free to add some I’ve missed in the comments below.

Your Turn

What is the oddest (job you didn’t think was in hour job description) job you’ve been assigned by your Pastor/Board?

Idealism Or The Idea? Your Choice Means Misery or Success

 

If you blow up the picture above, Captain America is waxing eloquently about how America should be. He ends with the phrase “no, you move.”  Idealism works for Cap, he’s a comic book character, he does not live in the real world, we do. Idealism says “you move”. Cap would not make it as a pastor.

According to the dictionary Idealism is the practice of forming or pursuing ideals, esp. unrealistically. I cannot begin to tell you how much idealism almost wrecked me in my young days. The battle between idealism and reality is strong and ongoing. Every conference we attend, article we read, and video we watch, draws what is perfect in our heads. When we bring those ideas to the youth ministry table, and start to push others around us to conform to it, that is where the trouble begins.

Idealism pushed people away.

Idealism forces it will upon others.

Idealism crushes our hearts and creates bitterness when it becomes unrealized.

The Bible is ideal. How Jesus disciples is ideal. Becoming consumed with the ideal attendance, the ideal strategy for small groups, or our ideal preaching style can all blind us to the reality of what Jesus is doing in our midst. We can become so consumed with the ideal anything, we miss the point of the idea itself. Idealism is the enemy of the idea.

Have you been ever been more consumed with your idealism (the forceful perfecting of an unrealistic vision) than in love with the idea, letting unfold naturally? Share your wisdom on how you killed the beast.

Post summed up: Idea good. Idealism bad.