article.2013.03.19If you’re like us, it takes you 45 minutes to spill all of the details of the 60-minute workshop you attended that changed your life last week at a youth conference. Inspired by it, you lay out a vision for your youth ministry for the next five years. The volunteers sit there like a deer in the headlights; then one of them timidly raises her hand, “Sounds like somebody went to a youth worker conference last week,” she says.

It happens! Sometimes at an incredible event we come down with a case of Let’s Change Everything Syndrome (LCES). If you’ve ever had LCES, you know the temptation to overhaul every aspect of your ministry in the first five days after you get back. Beware of the side effects: volunteer abandonment, blurry vision and upset supervisors.

Post-conference excitement is natural, and there’s nothing wrong with the desire to make changes when we’ve been exposed to new ideas. But LCES can do more harm than good. Here are a few tips to avoid it.

Pray about what God is asking you to do.
Sometimes after reading an incredible book or hearing an inspiring speaker we think about what we want to do as a result or what worked for them instead of what God’s voice is clearly directing. The only way to distinguish between competing visions is to spend time with God and ask for his vision. Usually taking some time to process, decompress, and pray are the best steps to hearing from him after you’ve been exposed to new ideas.

Wait for the right season to change.
The right time for changes is typically not the Spring or the middle of Fall (which, coincidently is when lots of training events happen). Think strategically about when to bring about significant changes to your ministry. Lay an infrastructure for the move to small groups all summer long; then release them in January. Prepare your volunteers for the junior high/senior high split at the start of the school year this Fall, rather than eagerly announcing it out of the blue tonight at youth group.

Start with one thing.
Reflect in your Moleskin journal or iPad app on some of the biggest things you learned at the event, or conversations you were inspired by. Make a list of everything that is considered an “action step” and prioritize them and map out a 1-2 year plan of action. Update it occasionally as you retreat or receive additional training and insight.

Keep a dialogue going.
Don’t make changes in isolation! While the church might not have been able to send your whole volunteer team to an event, take the time to share your “one thing” with your spouse, your volunteers, or student leaders. Once you’ve taken the ball down the court, don’t be afraid to rally support and analyze it to make the ideas better and increase ownership.

Any learnings you want to share after coming home from a youth worker training event?

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

capo_owns_the_weekend

If you’ve been reading my blog for a few years – you know that our annual student-run series called You Own the Weekend is one of the highlights of our youth ministry year. The idea came from a student who wondered what would happen if students took over everything – we merged and melted the idea into a series where for 5-6 weeks, students from each of the major high schools collaborate and pull off the entire weekend service. And they go all-out, too! Here’s a silly picture from this weekend where Capo High School even got the football team’s inflatable tunnel to use for decoration! Our mantra is that every student from every school gets an invitation to church.

So we’ve been doing this for 5 years now – tons of students come, everyone brings their friends and lots of parents show up to cheer on their teenagers, too. But, we had a first happen this past weekend. The high school principal came to his high school’s weekend service! It was incredible! Made me thrilled for our students, thrilled for the leadership they sit under each week! Thrilled what God is up to next. #awesomemoment

JG




Had an acquaintance who went from having a new Twitter account to 5K followers in less than a week. Possible he did it the right way, but probably not. Ever bought followers or been tempted to? Vote in today’s poll!

JG

steubenville

Everyone is talking about Steubenville this week. You don’t have to look far online to find someone’s opinion or thoughts on the case in Steubenville. Whether it is about the crime, the victim or the young boys at the center of the case.

This case is about 16 & 17 year olds. Teenagers that could be at my church or at your  church.

Everyone is talking about it…are we?

I mean, we should be…right?

Not only are there things we can learn as parents and youth workers from this sad story, there are also things that we should be talking about with our students.

I want to dedicate this week to talking about Steubenville. Each day I’ll post a blog that will either focus on what we can learn or what we need to communicate.

Tuesday: (Communicate) Be Kind, Hurting Others is Always Wrong (First Things First)

Wednesday: (Learn) Everyone Has Potential To Make Bad Decisions 

Thursday:  (Communicate) Don’t Just Be a Spectator (If you see something…Do something)

Friday: (Learn) What Should Our Youth Ministries Be  Saying About Sexual Abuse?

Saturday: (Learn)  Links to Relevant Reads (Where I am learning stuff…)

I am excited for this week. I think we’ll have some great conversation. I know that I am learning stuff and I can see a huge value in engaging with our students on such an important topic. I hope you’ll tune in for the week.

Also, I would like to open the blog to guest posts about this story or to related conversations. If you are interested in joining the conversation- email me at neelym@occ.org

 



It’s 2013 and the majority of churches have a website, this is good news. Unfortunately, the mere presence of a website isn’t enough. Just as a pastor must prepare, research for and develop a sermon, churches should prepare for a website, research websites and develop a plan as to why and how they should utilize a website. A 2011 LifeWay research project shows less than half of the congregations that have a website actually use it for interactive purposes. Scott McConnell, the director of LifeWay Research, summed it up by saying, “Many churches are using their website like a Yellow Pages ad characterized by basic information and infrequent updates.”

From 2000 – 2012, internet users grew an outstanding 566% worldwide. Currently, there are over 2.4 billion internet users worldwide. What does that mean? It means a church who utilizes their website has an amazing opportunity to, not only reach local people, but reach those 2.4 billion people who are actively connected to the internet. No longer are websites a simple source of information for local visitors, church websites are now an active and growing source of ministry, sharing the Gospel and making disciples all around the world. In 1534, Martin Luther finished his German translation of the Greek and Hebrew bible. Through media and the technology of the printing press, Luther was able to make the Gospel available to a large number of Germans and put a spark in the protestant reformation. The fact that so many churches have a website is great news, but are those churches using the available media and technology to spread the Gospel and make disciples? Some churches are, but there are a lot of churches that could improve their websites. There are five areas I believe church websites need to improve upon:

1. A website isn’t an online brochure
Out of the five areas church websites need to improve upon, this is the greatest most important area. As it is said in the real estate business, “location, location, location”, the mantra of church website owners should be “Content, content, content”. In the same LifeWay Research survey I talked about earlier, one of the results show 42% of churches only update their site once a month. Most church websites only show the basics, such as location, service times, church staff and an overview of their ministries. The question is, why more? Why should a church add more content, aren’t those the most important things a visitor looks for when trying to find out information about churches?

The answer goes back to my introduction. Church websites should not only focus on providing information to potential guest, they should also be a source of ministry and sharing the Gospel. Yes, absolutely add information for your local audience, but don’t neglect the fact that your website can and will be accessed by people seeking answers to biblical questions. People locally and people on the side of the world will come into contact with your website.

2. A website isn’t it’s own entity
Everyone has heard of Twitter, Facebook and the recent explosion in social media growth. One of the church’s main reasons for having a website should be engagement. To obtain growth in engaging potential members, visitors and those who are curious about the church’s message, church website owners should not constrain themselves within the bounds of their own website. Going back as far as the book Acts, community has played a huge part in the church. Personal and local community is great but digital community should also be a consideration when managing a website. Church websites need to integrate with Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other social media websites to help build a community. Anytime there is an update made to your website or an event going on at your church are you tweeting about it, posting a Facebook status update or adding pictures to Pinterest? Does your church website show an active stream of your church’s Twitter account or show a Facebook updates widget? Is it possible for members and guests to share a blog post on your site to Facebook directly from the blog post page itself? Your church website should be viewed as the hub of your online community. Church websites should allow direct interaction with social media from the website and social media should be directing people back to the churches website.

3. A website isn’t enough, it must look good
I might step on a few toes but a large majority of church websites are…well…not attractive and that’s a problem. A website is the digital face of your church, a representation of how much importance the church places on it’s online presence, the proverbial book cover of your church. We all do it, we all judge books by their cover. Unless we know the content of the book is exactly what we want, the cover is the first thing we notice and analyze. If content is king, design is a knight in shining armor protecting that king. If a church website has a lot of great content but the colors have bad contrast, the text formatting is off or the website breaks on certain browsers than the potential of loosing visitors is pretty great. Why do companies pay tons of money for graphic designers to create beautiful package and marketing designs? Good design builds trust. One of my favorite quotes comes from Steve Jobs:

“In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains of the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.”

Did you get that? According to Jobs, design is the expression of the soul of the product or service. Does your church website express the soul (in a manner of speaking) of your church?

4. A website must have a purpose
I see a lot of churches that throw up a website and forget about it. It’s nothing more than a flyer or (see problem #1) an online brochure. When I look at these sites, I see a clear evident lack of identity, focus and purpose. If the only purpose of having a website is display the exact same information that can be found in the yellow pages or by a quick two minute call to the church, what is the point? Does your church website have a purpose? If not, why doesn’t it? If you’re not sure what purpose your church website should serve, I will tell you. It should serve as a means to share the Gospel and make disciples. One way this can be accomplished is through podcasting. When a pastor preaches a sermon, record it and put it up on your website. You can also submit your church sermons to iTunes. This opens up your sermons to millions of potential listeners. Another area which your website can build its purpose is through blogging. Pastors are extremely intelligent people and have a wealth of knowledge. Often times, they are also good writers. If your church website doesn’t have a blog why not? To get started, your pastor could easily sum up his sermon preparation notes into a 500 – 750 word blog post. This would provide a weekly blog post and would most likely be a great source of information for someone. You could also ask the deacons or elders to volunteer writing a blog post once a week or even month. Another area which can be taken advantage of is highlighting events. A church events calendar will give an inside look to visitors at what your church places emphasis on in relation to local community. If a visitor sees that your church has a dedicated group working at a homeless shelter once a week or doing odd jobs such as yard work for the elderly they will realize your church cares for others outside of the church. If a teenager visits your church website and sees pictures or videos from a recent youth group outing the will see church youth groups can actually be fun, exciting and laid back.

5. Intimidation is the greatest barrier
Volunteers are very helpful and a lot of churches rely on volunteers to handle website related issues. The thing is, sometimes volunteers just don’t have time. If your church has a website there should be someone on staff that knows how to add content, fix issues and manage the website. This means learning the backend administration panel, learning basic HTML/CSS and not being afraid of the unknown. I have encountered tons of ministers who say something along the lines of, “Well we want a site but we just don’t know anything about the technology.” That’s a shame because all it takes is a little bit of patience and a little bit of time. A lot of people are intimidated by websites and technology but when you think of your website as a ministry, why would you not spend some time learning how to improve it? If it’s possible to know the record of your favorite sports team for the past ten years, it’s possible to learn a little bit about website management and maintenance.

In the past five to ten years, technology has grown at an outstanding rate. In my opinion, the internet can be one of the church’s greatest tools locally and globally. I find technology absolutely fascinating inside and outside of the church, unfortunately I see technology advancing outside of the church at a far greater pace than inside the church. Having a well designed, user friendly, engaging, socially integrated website is, in my opinion, one of the greatest tools a church can have and use. The question we must ask ourselves is, “Will our churches use this technology to share the Gospel and make disciples or will we overlook a valuable tool.”

Dallas Bass is a professional web developer living and working in Amarillo, Texas. He is also the founder of ChurchPres, a business dedicated to providing a cost effective easy solution for churches who need a website. You can learn more by visiting www.churchpres.com or his personal blog www.dallasbass.com

Learning should not stop the day your ministry begins. Becoming an effective leader requires you to be stretched by shortcomings in order to become the best leader you can possibly be. Lifelong learners become stretched by shortcomings when they become aware of their shortcomings, make a conscience effort to learn from them and open themselves up to correction.

Becoming aware of your shortcomings
It’s pretty easy to fall into the trap of making the same mistakes over and over again. That happens when you become comfortable with a certain way of living. Whether your shortcoming is that you jokingly make fun of people or that you are always late, you have first got to recognize the shortcoming so you can get on the right track.

Conscience effort
After recognizing your shortcoming you’ve got to put forth a constant conscience effort into making a change. If you are constantly conscience, you are able to catch yourself before falling. You will catch yourself and be back on the right track. Accountability is very helpful as well in staying on track.

Open to correction
All of us can use a little correction now and then. Opening yourself to correction allows you to grow in ways unimaginable. People who are open to correction are teachable; they are the lifelong learners who are stretched by their shortcomings. Put aside your pride, you do not always know what’s best. Be ready to listen the next time someone corrects you.

Though you may fail at a particular task, it is important you get back up and try again. Lifelong learners are aware of their shortcomings, make a conscience effort to learn from them and open themselves to correction. With a desire, you too, can become a lifelong learner stretched by your shortcomings.

Ashley Fordinal is the Children’s Church volunteer at Family Life Church in Sulphur Springs, TX.



Leadership continues to be one of the hot topics in the church today. Now more than ever before we are seeing books, seminars and coaching sessions revolving around leadership. My hope of writing this series of blog posts isn’t to bring anything new to the table; rather I want to share with you what in my opinion are four non-negotiable aspects of Christian leadership.

Have you ever tried to lead without a team? How did it go for you?

I am slowly learning over time about team building and team management. I have had two scenarios of leadership that have taught me the hard way a lesson I should have picked up on simply by following the example of Jesus.

My first hard lesson came when I worked at a summer camp in a leadership position. I wasn’t in charge of building a team, rather training them and working alongside the leadership team. My failure came in the form of not training people to do tasks I could do more easily by myself.

The second lesson came while working in my current church. I work in a midsized Canadian church and struggled for a long time with building a team. I procrastinated and it backfired. As a result of my failure to build a team I dealt with a period of decline in attendance and struggles of being overwhelmed with my workload.

I believe that we learn from the example of Jesus when it comes to team management. The first lesson we can learn simply is that we need a team. One of the first things Jesus did during his ministry was to gather his disciples. In the first chapter of Mark we see Jesus beginning his ministry by sharing the Gospel, and while walking along he sees Simon and Andrew and says to them “Come, follow me… and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mark 1: 16,17). In addition to these twelve He also called an additional 72 to go and prepare the way for His coming. (Luke 10:1) Not only does Jesus appoint people to a place on His leadership team, He also takes the time to empower them. “And He called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.” (Matthew 10:1) A key skill as a leader is to find a team and surround oneself with them. Once a good leader has found a team they will equip and train these new leaders with the skills to carry out the necessary tasks at hand.

How do you build and empower your team?

Kyle Corbin has been serving youth as a volunteer or pastor for over 10 years. He is currently the youth pastor at the Bridge Church in North Vancouver B.C. You can follow his blog at: kylecorbin.blogspot.com or Twitter: @CorbinKyle

I remember the summer of 1990. I was listening to a youth speaker at a Christian youth conference share the message of God’s Word with over 700 other young people. God transformed my life that week in some unforgettable ways. Funny thing is, that was over 22 years ago and I still remember the stories that the youth speaker shared that week.

If you communicate/preach/speak/teach the Word of God to students, it is vital that you use memorable illustrations. Hopefully, you have a system in place for saving and filing the illustrations that you come across. Personally, I use Evernote. Find what works best for you and USE IT. Most youth pastors hamper their effectiveness by under-utilizing an illustration filing system. What are the secrets to finding these illustrations in the first place? Here are five:

1. Examine your own life.
Personal life stories tend give the most bang for your buck in terms of impact. Take time out once per week to examine your life and think through humorous, sad, disappointing, fun, adventurous, or life-changing moments. As they come to mind, WRITE THEM DOWN.

2.  Utilize Media.
Television shows or movie scenes can act as a great opener to your message. The internet itself is full of an endless supply of great quotes, news stories, and anecdotes. Be sure to save these as you come across them in your daily life. An extra ten seconds of work to save and file an illustration or thought can save you hours of research and preparation months later.

3. Remember the Bible.
It’s God’s Word. It’s 100% true and infallible. You can never go wrong illustrating biblical truth with stories from the Bible.

4. Borrow from others.
One of the best secrets to finding great illustrations is to borrow/steal/abscond the great ones you hear from other speakers. I’m not condoning using an entire message; however if you hear an illustration or story from another speaker that you think you could use in the future… Save it and file it. Word of caution… Do not reuse illustrations with your students that both you and your students heard at an event. You will lose all sorts of credibility.

5. Read books.
It may sound archaic, but reading books is still one of the best ways to find great stories and quotes. I do most if my reading on the Kindle application. Any passages that I highlight get saved in the cloud; then, I copy, paste, and tag it in Evernote for future use.

What are your secrets to finding, saving, and filing great illustrations?

Matt Maiberger is the High School Pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Parker, CO, Matt gets to live out his passion by helping students know Jesus Christ and grow into the leaders that God has called them to be. www.youthspeakerscoach.com