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Recently I took a long car ride with my children that involved driving several days through many States. As we went they knew to keep asking, “Are we there yet?” was futile. However, to make the time go faster, they decided to focus on “markers” in our trip. How long would it take to get out of the State we were driving through? When would we get to the next rest stop? There was one thing that was abundantly clear to them: our final destination. No matter the number of bathroom stops or hours in the car a point would come when we “arrived.”

This got me thinking about ministry. When we look at the scope of our students do we know where the endpoint is? In other words, when a student graduates out of our youth group who has been produced? We might say phrases like, “A fully devoted follower of Christ.” However, what does that really mean?

This is one of our first steps in leading our team or even our students. We must be clear about where we are going. In a world that often uses the phrase “casting vision,” this is vital. Anything can be conquered when we know WHERE we are going. We might have a “mission statement” for our ministry. However, if it is longer than one sentence, if everyone in our ministry can’t easily recite it, and if no one really understands its meaning, it is useless. If your people don’t know where the journey ends then they feel like all is purposeless. This one line sums up the target.

Once you and your team decide the “end student” you are hoping the Lord will produce through your ministry, talk about it, ALL THE TIME. When we got stuck in traffic on our trip it was supremely frustrating for all of us. No one wants to feel stagnant. However, the knowledge that the highway was not goal kept us all in check. We refocused on the excitement of where we were headed, and what it would look like when we got there.

Secondly, everyone wants to know, “How will we get there?” and “How do we know we are headed in the right direction?” Figure out the core values you are looking for in your team and ministry. Put these clearly in place. At our ministry they are to be Christ-Centered, Relationally Driven, Servant-Leaders and to have Integrity in everything. We explain what these mean, and how they relate to where we are going. This is one way we know HOW we are headed in that right direction. Secondly, we plan in a myriad of ways. There is a five year strategic plan that is broken into increments. We know where we are looking to get to at the end of the five years, but also in 2, 1, 6 months and even a month from now. Then we hold everyone accountable to these. This lets everyone see those mile markers to know how we are going, and how to know when we have arrived.

The trip can be really long when it comes to working with youth, especially those stuck in survival mode. We can wonder some days if we are moving at all. However, when we are clear about where we are headed and how we will get there, everyone hangs in for the ride.

Where are you headed?

 

 

summer-events-all

Summer is right around the corner, and that means we’ve got summer interns coming in hot!

I’m thrilled to add them to our student ministry team – each of them is “home grown” – the only summer interns we bring in are former students in our ministry who are ready to come back as leaders. We do offer longer internships for outsiders (if you or someone you know is interested, let me know!).

So what am I hoping our summer interns get out of this summer?

Watch
Enjoy the first month. Work hard. Do everything that is assigned. Get to know the team. Get to know students. Highly relational boss. Be above nothing. Laugh and learned a lot. Begin to wonder why people think youth ministry is so hard.

Partner
Co-lead an event. Co-teach a Bible study. Co-plan a trip. Work directly with a supervisor/mentor to understand the ins and outs of everything there is to do in youth ministry. Begin to understand the full scope of serving students.

Lead
Your turn. Lead the team. You shoot and edit the video. Run something from start to finish. Pull it off. Backup as needed, encouragement all the way, but it is yours to lead! Begin to feel the weight of leading a ministry and the pressures that comes with it. Also begins to understand the depth of fulfillment when following God’s call.

So pumped about this summer!

JG



Rubber Bands

 —  April 4, 2013 — 1 Comment

Rubber Bands

Over the years, rubber bands have made expected and unexpected appearances in our junior high ministry.

- We’ve held contests to see how many somebody could stretch from ear to ear.
- We’ve held contests seeing who could shoot theirs the farthest.
- We’ve wrapped tons of them around a pumpkin hoping to make it burst.
- We’ve spent an entire small group night unwrapping a rubber band ball and attempting to re-wrap it.
- We’ve played “dodge-band” in super tight spaces (that one didn’t work too well)

Rubber bands, and the multitude of strange uses they provide, are a wonderful reminder of a junior high ministry principle:

Junior Highers Will Get Excited About What The Leaders Make Exciting

For sure, every single one of our rubber band adventures could have flopped; there was really nothing uber-exciting about any of them, but the adults in the room were committed to the cause. As far as the adults were concerned, shooting rubber bands for distance or playing a round of “dodge band” was going to be the most exciting 15 minutes of the week…and this convinced our junior highers of the same thing.

Attitudes are contagious.
Fun is contagious.
Energy is contagious.
Passion is contagious.
Compassion is contagious.
Joy is contagious.
Love is contagious.

Junior highers will follow your lead. They will go where you choose to take them. Rubber bands prove this to be true.

Youth ministry was very frustrating until I realized it’s more of a journey than an experience. My problem is that I wanted instant and powerful results. All I got was disappointment. It’s not that the ministry was a failure (It was anything but that), it’s just that what I wanted was not what we were getting. I was impatient.

Again, youth ministry is a long journey and if you stick around long enough you will see fruit. To produce disciples and bring teens into a deep relationship with Jesus Christ takes hard work, patience andPERSISTENCE. If you are persistent in your ministry you’ll eventually build momentum and see the reward to your labor. Three areas in youth ministry where persistence is key are:

Recruiting Volunteers:There is no silver bullet to recruiting volunteers. It takes a lot of:

  • Meet and Greet
  • Email Blasts
  • Announcements From The Pulpit
  • Phone Calls
  • Invests and Invites

The more you make it a part of your routine and your volunteers the more leaders you’ll recruit. There will be seasons when you get better results than others; however, the key is to continually ask.

Connecting With Parents: No offense, but you are not the first person on a parent’s mind. To bust through the noisiness of a parent’s life you need to persistently call, reach out and connect with them. If you are hosting an event, don’t just throw out a flyer, create a buzz. If you are trying to meet one on one with a parent, set-up the meeting, check-in and then confirm it. Hold them accountable and support them by consistently communicating with them.

Leading Up: If you want your pastor to respect and support you, then you need to make the relationship a priority. To keep it in the front of your mind you need to be persistent when dealing with contention and disagreement. Communicate when it’s hard to talk and shout his praise when it’s not easy. Work through the tension and watch the relationship grow.

Persistence is a key to endurance in youth ministry. It means working through the tension and trusting that God will pull you through. It’s easy to give up, change things around and abandon ship when life gets hard. What you need to do is stand up straight and move forward.

Where else is persistence needed in youth ministry?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)



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-Stephanie :)

I recently took a four-day Sabbath. Sabbath for me means I have to shut down my “picc line” to all things social media, clamp off my wifi life. Since I’m spending the Easter break at home, I felt the fast would be a good way to journey the Triduum with Jesus.

Geez and yikes. This was hard. I’ve done it before but it felt somehow “more” this time around. I can’t tell you how many times I had the thought, “Oh, l’ll ask that question on FB.” Or, “What would my tweep friends say about that?” Then I’d remember my Sabbath fast and think, “Guess I’ll just have to talk to my family…or God.” What a horrible default thought!

20130403-133923.jpgThe quietness was loud at first. But as the weekend progressed, I found myself chatting with God about many things and a sweet dialogue ensued.

The four days passed, Easter was celebrated at Casa Caro and nothing fell apart because of my disconnect to the info superhighway. As you can see, I’m connected again.

What did I learn from this about my ministry? About myself? I’d tell you, but I think I’ll stick to chatting with God about this one. Take what you need from my experience. Better yet, try it for yourself.

 



Freshmen Transition

 —  April 3, 2013 — 3 Comments

It is hard to believe that the school year is almost over! That means that it is time to say goodbye to our seniors and hello to our new freshmen! This year, we want to take Freshmen transition to a new level, so we are getting a head start on what we are going to do and how we are going to do it.

The biggest transition piece we are doing is a not-so-new event called Freshmen Frenzy. It is something that we used to do years ago, but we let it rest for a while. Each year we did Frenzy differently and, keeping with tradition, we are completely rethinking how we are going to do it this year. We are already tossing around a few ideas that include the local high schools schools, student leaders, volunteers, videos (high school survival tips, etc.), and other fun/inclusive activities to make our freshmen feel known, loved, and welcome in our ministry.

We are so excited to be at the front end of planning, what could be, one of the most important events we throw all year! We can’t be the only ones rethinking freshmen transition. So here is the question:

What is your ministry doing to transition your incoming freshmen? What worked? What didn’t work? 

Colton [Email||Twitter]

The week before going to camp or this case a retreat is always hectic with tons of plans and last minute details that have to hammered out. The stress level is high and patience is running low as we rush around sourcing out pens and extension cords. We do a retreat every year and somehow we hadn’t learned from the year before and were allowing students to sign up after the registration deadline which increased the workload for our team in shuffling cabins and bus lists but we knew it would be all worth it and after all the more the merrier of course!

In the craziness of last minute registrations and final details we were experiencing a problem bigger than insufficient pens and power bars. With two days remaining until we were leaving for camp, a significant number of our leaders were not committed or not coming to camp. When our leaders sign up for the year we give them two weekends we were all hands on deck for and this was one of them and they just weren’t committing to be there.

I was frustrated.

I was frustrated because they had said they would be there and now nearly half weren’t coming. Some had to work, others had weak excuses and others did not respond to multiple emails and texts. We had a leader crisis two days before camp.

I didn’t know what to do, so I drafted up a long and well articulated email that outlined my frustration, reminded them of the commitment the made and tried to explain the life change that happens at camp and basically tried to take them on an all expenses paid guilt trip. It felt great to write, to get my feelings out but I quickly realized that while helpful for me, it was not going to be helpful for our team. I left the message for an hour and after showing my colleague, rewrote the email shorter, clearer and outlined THE NEED -More volunteers for the weekend THE ASK - Would you consider shuffling the weekend to spend with our students at camp THE WHY - Help them understand why our weekend camp is the most important event we do all year. The result was 11 more volunteers committing to being there.

Here is what I learned:

  1. Anger, Frustration and Rebuke are not best communicated via email.
  2. Let someone you trust get you off the ledge by showing them your draft and chat with them about your frustrations.
  3. Deal with the need before the event and follow up one on one after you have cooled down.
  4. Remember that God is going to do something in spite of you, or your volunteers.

There are going to frustrating situations where you might be tempted to use email to let someone or a group of people know how you are feeling, and while it might feel good for the moment its not the place for conflict. Deal with immediate need and once you have sorted out your feelings, take the time to meet one on one with your team when the extra time to meet will be worth it in the long run.

Long story short: Don’t send that email.

-Geoff @geoffcstewart