Yep, its a bar. Not a fancy bar; just a typical East Texas place where the locals hang out. Actually, its name is now Southland due to an owner change…but the older locals still call it Mr. Jim’s.

Get a picture in your mind: inside is the sit-at bar, games, a karaoke setup, a wall where people sign their name to make their mark. Outside is a big deck area and a playground so that people can bring their kids and dogs. White lightbulbs are strung across the yard. There’s a little wooden stage in the corner of the lot. Nothing fancy.

Its a rare weekend that I’m home but being Labor Day, I’m off the road. I had taken my dog to the dog park so she could walk me when I got this text from Sis: “Want to come up to Mr. Jim’s? I’m up here with “so” and “so.” “But I’ve got the dog,” I said. “Bring her, too. No one will care.” So I went.

People, it was fascinating and as a newbie, I did a lot of watching and listening. My sister is loved there. She is accepted for who she is when other “faith communities” don’t easily embrace her. She has deep “family-like” relationships. People hug each other. Introductions are made when strangers come in. No one cares how you’re dressed or if your dog is tied up out on the deck. When you sing karaoke, people cheer you on whether you were good or not (She was fabulous. I wasn’t). Folks ask after one another, especially after those that are missing. People celebrate holidays and other special moments together. At Mr. Jim’s, hot topics are discussed and yes, things can get heated…but they’re usually forgotten the next time the local pro-team scores.

When Sis was going through breast cancer last year, her community had pink shirts made and wore them (guys, too) to encourage her on. She got numerous cards, flowers, chocolates, etc. She had lots of visitors, calls, posts, etc., all from a community where she’s deeply rooted. 

And God is discussed. People on the fringe about their beliefs aren’t scared to mention and question because their $10 on the bar brings a sense of equal rights. Opinions are encouraged, cruelty isn’t tolerated, and life is lived.

I wish my small church was more like this.

rickwarrenlornemichaelsDo you identify more with Lorne Michaels… or Rick Warren?

The former is the long-tenured producer and mind behind Saturday Night Live. For almost forty years, Lorne Michaels has not just kept his up-and-down-in-the-ratings variety show on the air, but has more recently found much of the creative talent for late night TV. Clearly, he knows when he’s doing – even when he hasn’t known what he’s doing.

The latter is the well-known megachurch pastor, ministry coach, global activist and best-selling author. Rick Warren has connected with the average person in need of purpose and given ministers a strategy that has turned many congregations (and youth groups) around. He’s led a church where his staff and volunteers can grow into their S.H.A.P.E. for ministry.

So… which one of them is right when it comes to dealing with creative people?

In her best-selling book “Bossypants,” Tina Fey spoke about how Lorne Michaels taught her that “Producing is about discouraging creativity”:

lornemichaelstinafey

“A TV show comprises many departments — Costumes, Props, Talent, Graphics, Set Dressing, Transportation. Everyone in every department wants to show off their skills and contribute creatively to the show, which is a blessing. You’re grateful to work with people who are talented and enthusiastic about their jobs.

You would think that as a producer, your job would be to churn up creativity, but mostly your job is to police enthusiasm. You may have an occasion where the script calls for a bran muffin on a white plate and the Props Department shows up with a bran cake in the shape of Santa Claus sitting on a silver platter that says “Welcome to Denmark.”

“We just thought it would be funny.”

And you have to find a polite way to explain that the character is Jewish, so her eating Santa’s face might have negative connotations, and the silver tray, while beautiful, is giving a weird glare on camera and maybe let’s go with the bran muffin on the white plate.

And then sometimes Actors have what they call “ideas.” Usually it involves them talking more, or, in the case of more experienced actors, sitting more. When Actors have ideas it’s very important to get to the core reason behind their idea. Is there something you’re asking them to do that is making them uncomfortable… is there someone in the room the actor is trying to impress?”

Rick Warren, on the other hand, has explained that we should delegate to creative people even if we fear the wildfire:

Rick-Warren_avatar_1392753644-150x150

The key to motivating creative people to lead ministry effectively is granting ownership. At Saddleback, as much as possible, each ministry makes its own decisions without a lot of oversight from the staff. We believe that the implementers should be the decision makers. When everything has to be passed by a committee or board, we tend to ask “why?” about every decision. But our initial response to the ideas of creative people should actually be “why not?”

Warren adds that the three things to focus on include:

  • Give them a challenge: Jesus took a dozen average guys and challenged them to go tell the gospel to the entire world… something they could do over time as the church expanded under their leadership.
  • Give them control: Growth happens in an atmosphere of freedom where leaders are encouraged to dream, to try, to experiment, and even to fail and move forward. Burnout happens when we squash every new idea with a skeptical attitude.
  • Give them credit: Affirm and encourage those who serve. Point out successes, provide guidance and comfort through failure, and remind people of their calling and giftedness in Christ.

brain_gears_iStock_000013485370Small1Who do you identify with more?

Which one is your style?

Which style are you serving under?

What have you learned along the way?



Giveaway-EventsGiveaway-EventsGiveaway-EventsHere’s a quick post about something I’ve been thinking about and trying to do in as many areas as possible concerning student leadership. And that something is give away as much of student leadership as possible. In our high school and Jr high ministry we’ve tried to give away as much of the ministry as possible. If you came to our youth service you will see students leading worship, greeting, running cameras, audio, lights, directing cameras, running pro-presenter and sometimes leading a game, sharing a testimony and even speaking.

The benefits of students leading has completely out weighed the adults leading by a ton. Here’s a few of those benefits.

  • The ministry feels more student friendly.
  • Its an easy way to get students plugged in.
  • It brings the “If they can do it, I do it to” attitude.
  • And many more!!

Here is a promo idea my students created:

When launching student leadership I wanted to do just the same. So I asked the question “how much of student leadership can I give away?” I do believe that the answer is different for every ministry, but I also believe that there are areas which are universal. Here are two:

  • Conduct – How students will treat one another in student leadership. I allowed the students to process and come up with a code of conduct that they all would up hold and follow. Now, that doesn’t mean I won’t have to guide and facilitate, but what it does mean is that the students now have some skin in the game. I explained that it’s not up to me to make sure you all treat each other right. It’s up to each individual person in student leadership.
  • Areas To Serve – I want to allow the students to lead and implement in this area. If the program, event or project is super awesome it will be because of them and if it fails it will be on them. The outcome either way holds immeasurable value in their growth as leaders.

Giving student leadership away does three things:

  1. Raises the value of the program with students, because of the hands on experience they will receive.
  2. It gives students ownership. They get to leave a legacy and create some traditions within the ministry.
  3. It creates an environment where motives can be aligned. So if you joined for status you will quickly have to align or you wont make it.

Now, I just used student leadership as an example, but this really could be applied to many other areas within your youth group. It could even be applied to the youth group itself. Giving ministry away is never easy, because then you have to trust someone other than yourself to pull it off. I can truly say it’s worth it. In my experience you are able to do more, and even better ministry when you invite students to lead, create, serve, brainstorm and take ownership of the ministry.

Hope it helps,

AC

plagarismI just invented a new word: plagiarism.

(Actually, I didn’t. Someone else did. I didn’t even write that joke. I saw it on Twitter. I’m horrible. Forgive me. Hold me. Love me.)

You know how there are some things you’re sorry for because they’re wrong, and other things you apologize for because you get caught?

How does that flesh out with your teaching?

A friend of mine was busted on this and recently shared a raw confession about being a lazy preacher.

I should have seen it coming but I didn’t.

Just that morning I had stood in front of the church and I preached my guts out.

I pointed to the road ahead.

I called the people to live with a different mindset.

I unpacked the text.

I invited them to love God more.

I was eloquent. I was funny. I was motivating.

There was just one problem. One extremely large problem.

It wasn’t my sermon…

And then something happened that stopped me in my tracks. I got called on it.

(You can, and should, read the rest of his post here)

teachingCan you relate to this – whether you’re getting away with it or getting called out on it?

It’s common in ministry to use curriculum and sermons that someone else wrote to share what you feel should be said. It’s another thing to make it sound like your own and not give credit to your own journey. To use my friend Chad’s description of it – we take part in a sort of “homiletical karaoke” when we’re stealing someone else’s sermon.

Then again, couldn’t you use another person’s material and make it your own somehow? Musicians often cover each other’s material – can people in ministry do the same thing?

What’s your spin on this?

When is it okay?

When does it cross a line?



valueBeing in youth ministry I’ve had the privilege of learning a lot. And I can honestly say out of all the things I’ve learned there are some learnings that I feel like I will never stop growing in. Now, when I started this list I easily thought this could be a 10,000 word post, but no one would read a post that long. So here are a few of the things I’ve learned that I believe are valuable. I believe allowing God to grow me in these areas has made me a better youth worker. So are are 6 of 100 learnings I’ve had. haha

  1. Be Flexible. Majority of our day to day tasks in youth ministry are very random. It isn’t uncommon for my day to go from a brainstorm meeting, to a counseling session and then a hospital visit. Flexibility is one of the main ingredients to longevity in youth ministry, and it actually relieves the stress of ministry. Those who are a step by step, can’t miss a beat type of person, usually don’t last long in youth ministry. So be flexible.
  2. Go The Extra Mile. Make things the best that they can be. Consider the task you are assigned as the bottom floor. When given a task or project look for ways save time and money. Sometimes that means making sure you don’t have to make another trip somewhere or completing the whole task instead of just the part you where assigned.
  3. Attitude Is Everything. It is super easy to get caught up in the craziness of ministry especially when you are seeing the less attractive side of ministry for the first time. It’s important that you keep an attitude of thankfulness. This will require you to look past the craziness of seeing the not so attractive side of ministry, and focus on the life change that’s taking place. Also, now that you are on the other side you need to be aware of an attitude of pride and arrogance. It’s impossible to know and learn everything there is to know about the ministry during your time there. Keep a learners attitude of humility.
  4. It’s Not About You, It’s About The Students. This has everything to do with leading from a place of comfort. Serving students from a place of comfort ensures the inclusion of a few and exclusion of many. This is because you will most likely pour into, hang with, and allow to lead the students who you connect with best. The ministry will be all about you, and most likely you will end up with a ministry where everyone looks out for themselves, if it’s modeled in the leadership.
  5. You Are A Leader First. Remember you are a leader first and the authority you have to speak into their lives, is only as strong as your leadership. Your friendship with students is important, but your roll as a leader is more important.
  6. Time With Jesus Is Imperative. Just because you work in ministry doesn’t mean you are automatically being ministered to. You need to be just as active in the local church as the members. You should be serving in some capacity, attending bible study or small group, etc. It is critical that you are spiritually filled. Your time with Jesus will be something you will have to protect.

It is so important that you continue to stay open to a life time of learning and growing in ministry. I think ministering in a way that pleases God takes a complete entire life span. So keep learning and growing.

 

Hopes it helps,

AC  

I love the model of relational ministry. My push is to get the leadership team to stop clumping together in back walls. Youth ministry is not the place for adults to congregate and get caught up on each other’s lives. Get involved people! Yet, there is something that can happen from time to time where there can be “too much” relational ministry. A leader steps up to get to know students and unwittingly creates a “clique” of student followers. It’s rarely intentional. Perhaps a handful of students want to tell you alone about their problems. It could be that others think you are the “coolest” leader in the bunch.

The question becomes at the other end of the spectrum, “Can there be TOO MUCH relationship?” I think so. What are the “over the top warning signs?” Here are a few questions to ask whether you are a paid youth worker or a volunteer:

Are You Creating Cliques?

Has it gotten to the point where students follow you to the detriment of interacting with anyone else? Are they separating themselves from other leaders and students just to be with you? Remember teens like to feel special. The attention you give makes them feel set a part in a good way. However, if they are now standing away from the rest of the group, this could cause division. Most groups have natural lines drawn already with kids from rival schools attending the same group. They don’t need us to help them stay a part.

Are You More Important To Them Than Jesus?

It’s not on purpose, but there are times when we become the “god” to our students. When they text, call or talk to us they hear an audible voice and may even receive a tangible hug. It’s easier to “feel” close to us leaders than the Lord sometimes. We have to remember to not answer every question, phone call or text. They need to know we are fallible, but they serve an infallible God.

Are You Replacing Their Parents?

As youth leaders we like to use the phrase “our kids,” often. This helps others to know we have taken ownership of a particular group of students. However, if a student is talking about their “horrible parents” and we agree with them, a shift may happen in our hearts. We decide we can do a better job than their current care takers. Yet, if there is not a situation that requires us to call a state agency, they will continue to live with their parents. We must be VERY careful before we know it we have added to the issues at home.

Do You Need Teen Friends?

It makes us “feel good” when a student “picks us” as their favorite. We come to believe maybe, just maybe we are doing a decent job at this. Yet, we have to look in our hearts. Before we know it a relationship with a teen can shift to being unhealthy. Are we allowing relationships to get a little closer because it fills a need? If your only “friends” are teens and you are over the age of 21 then you need to take a hard look at your motivation.

Don’t be afraid. Jesus shows us that relational ministry has power. Yet, it’s good to be aware as we embark on this journey at how much is too much.

- Leneita / @leneitafix

P.S. – Need resource for youth volunteers? Check out all Simply Youth Ministry has to offer for developing great youth ministry volunteers!



This is simply brilliant.

It’s called a musicless music video.

It’s a parody video, of course, of the original “Dancing In The Streets” homage featuring Mick Jagger and David Bowie:

I didn’t initially realize it was a parody, though. It felt like someone had leaked old school, behind-the-scenes footage of the two pop legends. The guy who created it (Mario Wienerroither) says he did it “not because he hates music… he loves sound.” His YouTube channel will likely become exceedingly popular as he adds more videos to the few already on it.

It feels like yet another of the everyday parables around us.

mickjaggerOften in ministry we feel we’re sending across a certain message that we’ve spent time creating and producing. Equally as often, people in today’s culture are quick to look past the surface and try to understand what’s “behind the music.” Three things I’ve learned:

  • Let them look without being defensive. Did you play the original video to compare the two? I did, and I shared them both because my first response after watching the “raw footage” (even though it ended up being a parody) was to seek out the legitimate version. The same thing will play out in ministry – even a parody accusation of who you are from a potential critic gives that person a reason to be exposed to who you really are. If you’re being genuine behind-the-scenes in ministry and people see it, they will be more inclined to go searching for what you’re intending to share
  • Let the actual music sink in. I watched these videos and quickly moved on to other things. Guess what song I was humming in the back of my head? It offers another interesting lesson – God can use anything through the backdoor (including your failures, false positives or improvisation) to tell people everything he wants to experience through the front door.
  • Let the whole thing be funny: I have to imagine someone in Mick Jagger’s or David Bowie’s team will eventually hear about this and show it to them. Do you expect either man to curl up in a corner and cry over it, or to say, “That’s brilliant!” I’m reminded of countless times when I’ve learned that dying to my ego in a particular situation was better for the Kingdom of God overall, whether new leadership emerged or everything became less dependent on me. Be willing to be silenced so that others can start singing.

What would the musicless music video of your life communicate?

Uncommon Wisdom from the Other Side by Tony MylesIn my book Uncommon Wisdom From The Other Side,” I wrote a chapter devoted to “Authority, Credibility and the Temptation to Fake Both.” The core concept is when you don’t have credibility, you really only have three options:

  • You excuse it, saying, “Nobody is perfect. Give me some grace.”
  • You fake it, saying, “My life is perfect. Give me some recognition.”
  • You own it, saying, “My life is imperfect. Give me some accountability.”

What’s your takeaway?

I am sad. Not because the stage lights have gone down on one man’s larger-than-life amazing talent. After all, the collective library of Robin Williams will live on for a long time.

I am sad because a man we all knew was so distraught that earthly life no longer felt safe to him. Such sorrow led to the decision that being anywhere else was better than being here.

I am sad about Robin Williams. Not because he was a big star…but because he was a man whose humor came from a deep place of pain, and he died because of that darkness.That same pain has made our family its dwelling place before. Our son, Scotty, was swallowed up by it. 

I am sad…but God is good. 

I disagree with you, Mr. CNN commentator. Robin Williams’ demons did NOT win. That implies there’s a finality to him, and those who suffer have nothing but a doomed fate ahead. Our God has a HUGE mercy for such as these, for such as me, and in the end? “Every knee will bow above, on, and below the earth” to the God who saves in the now and/or in eternity.

Youth worker friends, don’t give up. Don’t give in. Don’t quit. EVERYTHING you do to show a child, a student that he/she is loved by you, others, and God is a step against this pit of hell. Your efforts may feel like a drop in the bucket…but as my leaky roof can attest to, the drops accumulate.

It’s not about me. It’s not about you. It’s about Him and them. Let’s get going; we have some love work to do.

Stephanie

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