Are You Always In Control?

Chris Wesley —  December 4, 2012 — 1 Comment

About 6 years ago the middle school youth ministry at our church was a 1 1/2 man show.  The 1/2 was our worship leader Erik and everything from tech, activity, message and set-up of the room was me.  I had plenty of small group leaders and a few people to help me out with the worship portion of the ministry.  But I utilized them as room decor more than ministers.  Some of them left, a few of them stayed and eventually told me, “You don’t always have to be in control.”

It was a little shocking at first; however, the more I thought about what I was doing, the more I realized that I was doing too much. Not only that, but I was doing too much of the wrong stuff.  In the end I felt like I had to be in control over everything.

As the leader of your youth ministry you need to steer the ship, and lead the troops towards the vision.  But, that doesn’t always mean:

  • Making The Decisions: While you might hold ultimate say over what happens in your ministry, it’s healthy to allow others to make certain decisions.  Those decisions might be when to start the program to what order the message, activity and music flow for your ministry.  When you entrust someone with decision making power, it allows the ministry to move when you are not always present.
  • Having Creative Authority: You do not have perfect taste or perspective on what is quality.  There are volunteers in your ministry who have artistic and visual backgrounds that can bring your ministry to a new level.  Allow them to share their creative gifts with the music, activities and environments of your ministry.
  • Working Within The Details: You might love numbers and data, but it can be a time sucker that prevents you from extending your true capacity.  Allowing others to track expenses, growth and handle overall paperwork will allow you to spend more time on the relational aspects of ministry.
  • Getting Your Hands Dirty:  As a leader no task is beneath you; however, if you are constantly stacking chairs, sweeping floors and repairing that ping-pong table for the 100th time then you are missing out on a lot of ministry.  Build a team that is willing to get their hands dirty.  Just because you delegate it doesn’t mean you are ignoring the importance of the task.  Just realize you need help.

Being a leader means knowing when to delegate and when to get into the trenches.  That’s why you must always seek:

  • Accountability: When you are in the trenches it’s easy to develop tunnel vision.  Always have a group of people to call you out when you’ve taken too much control.  Give those close to you the authority to point out where you need help and where you need to step up as a leader.
  • Sabbath: When you are stressed, pushed and pulled it’s easy to grasp for control.  The problem is you are acting out of desperation, which means a foggy mind.  A Sabbath is not only time to enjoy with the Lord but also a time to refocus and clear your mind.  If you are rested you can think clearly on where to give and what to take.

It’s a scary concept not to be in control.  While you understand the importance of delegating and sharing responsibility, it can still be exhausting.  Trust that the Lord has surrounded you with the right people.  In the end when the responsibility is shared your ministry’s reach is much further.

What area of ministry do you struggle to share with your team?

Chris (@chrisrwesley)



This week we’re focusing on leadership—specifically, the upside-down concept that to be a great leader you have to be a great follower. Yesterday we looked at Follow-Up and Following the Leader—here are two more.

Follow Jesus
We didn’t start with this one yesterday because it may have felt cliché to lead with this one—but it is the most important “following” out of all of them…hands down. Following Jesus can be easily faked, but the person who genuinely follows Jesus shines with an authenticity that is easily recognized. Be that person! If you want to be a truly great leader, make sure you follow the Leader.

Practical ways to get better at following Jesus: Find a resource that will help you spend time with Jesus every day. Download the YouVersion Bible app and pick a reading plan—be sure to set a reminder each day to give you a nudge in you haven’t marked it completed by noon.

Block out a little time for prayer before your lunch hour each day. Spend a month and only read the red letters in the gospels. Being more familiar with the ways of Jesus might actually help you follow him more closely!

Follow a mentor
Don’t risk doing youth ministry alone. You need a person who has been there before who can share wisdom with you from the journey. It doesn’t need to be someone in the exact same profession, but someone who can relate to your calling and shares some of the same passions. All great leaders have great mentors, if you want to be great be humble enough to learn from someone else today.

Practical ways to get better at following a mentor: Find a network in your area where you can gather and talk shop. Search online for a veteran youth minister in your area to help coach you. Find blogs, books, and resources that will help mentor you and push your development. Identify somebody in your congregation, from any profession, that you respect and ask them if they’d join you for coffee once in a while.

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.

Get Better At Sharing

Chris Wesley —  November 29, 2012 — 3 Comments

The beauty of being a part of a church staff is that you are working to make an impact as a team.  The messiness comes when you have to share.  Doesn’t matter how old you are, there are certain resources and relationships you refuse to share.  Maybe you have a hard time sharing when it comes to:

  • Space In Your Building
  • The Time In Your Schedule
  • A Volunteer In Your Ministry

While you don’t want to completely sacrifice everything you have, it’s important not to hold onto them with a tight grip.  It is important not to be walked all over when it comes to sharing your resources.  But, if you don’t work on sharing then you’ll struggle to grow as a team, because you’ll miss the importance of selflessness.

So, how do you get better at sharing?  It’s starts with:

STEP 1: Checking Your Heart

If you aren’t willing to give up your time or a resource you need to know where the displeasure comes from.  Sometimes your reluctance might be fueled by not wanting to be inconvenienced.  If this is the case you need to step out of your comfort zone and realize that it will be alright.  Cast out those demons of selfishness by being selfless.

STEP 2: Reviewing Your Stuff

The more you hoard the easier it is to become selfish.  How many resources are on your shelves?  Do you need every single dollar in your budget?  There are times when we need to look at our resources and answer the question, “Do I really need that?” If the answer is no, be a wise steward and share it with the coworker, volunteer or neighboring youth minister.

STEP 3 : Seeking Accountability

You might think you are the most selfless giver on staff, when you could be the great grand child of Ebenezer Scrooge.  Find someone who you can ask to hold you accountable in how you utilize your resources.  Let them tell you when they think you are being selfish.  Give them permission to call you out when you hoard up your junk and to give you praise when you do something right.  With accountability you can become a better steward.

Sharing isn’t easy.  If it was easy toddlers would be doing it and they really stink at it.  It takes practice, it takes examination of ones heart and it takes some accountability.  Plus sharing is an act of giving that creates a generous heart.  A generous heart not only helps others by getting them the resources they need, but it becomes contagious to the people around you.

How do you monitor your use of resources? Share your thoughts.

Chris Wesley @chrisrwesley




Have you ever felt that your job was like running a marathon through a swamp?  No matter how hard you worked, you just feel like you are sinking and bushwhacking through mess after mess?  When you turn on the lights of your office in the morning you groan at the piles of paperwork?  You ever just want to delete all the messages in your inbox?  And you wonder, “How am I going to get anything done with all these meeting?”  Yep, that can be youth ministry.

If you feel like you are stuck in circles or never going anywhere in your youth ministry it could be for a variety of reasons.  Some are as simple as taking a vacation, while others are something more serious like a conversation with the pastor.  But, before you can follow through on the solution you need to understand the problem.  To move forward you need to know what’s actually slowing you down.  The reason you could feel like you are running through mud is due to a:

  1. Lack of Organization – Do you have a plan for your week or day?  When you walk into your office you need to have a strategy to how you are tackling ministry, otherwise it will be tackling you.  Too many times youth ministers are reactionary to what is going on around them, all this creates is chaos.  By having a plan (With some flexibility) you can create systems that will keep your inbox empty, your creativity flowing and your ministry healthy.
  2. Shortage of Accountability – While you want a pace that’s comfortable for you, you need people who are going to push and challenge you through the difficult times.  When you face problems solo, the burden will slow you down.  You need someone to share your triumphs and trials with.  You need a support team that will help you move forward when you can’t do it on your own.
  3. Drop In Communication – Lousy communication means lousy ministry.  If your emails are rants, your messages are ill-prepared and you only say things once, be prepared to find yourself frustrated.  When you clearly practice effective communication you begin to learn the power of delegation.  You will see how your words impact productivity.  You will grow as a leader.  Effective communication is one of the keys to mobilizing your ministry into a movement.
  4. Disconnect In Spiritual Growth – If you don’t have a healthy relationship with God, then what do you really have?  This is the easiest place for a youth minister to be hypocritical.  You tell your teens to engage in scripture, to tithe, to share the Gospel and go to worship; however, you don’t even do it yourself.  You can struggle with those habits; however, if you are not at least engaging in them, you’ll find that you’ve lost your calling.

In order to approach all these areas you need to find the time to address them.  That means scheduling an hour or so each week to look at your organization, relationships, communication and spiritual growth.  If you aren’t taking the time to analyze these areas, then you will once again find your productivity and effectiveness take a hit.

What else could slow down your ministry?

I started playing the piano when I was 8 years old and continued to take lessons until I was a senior in high school. Throughout the years I had teachers who challenged me and others who just took my money. My favorite teacher was in fact my last one, Rio Clemente. A local jazz musician who worked with musicians like Luther Vandross he was motivating and always called me out when I was slacking. It was him that I learned that if I wanted to get better at something it was going to take persistence and hard work.

When it comes to a special skill or craft like sports or music it’s easy to accept the fact that coaches help you improve. In youth ministry it might seem like an odd concept at first. But, if you think about it, you need a coach because one will:

Give You An Outside Objective: You are constantly in the trenches; therefore, you aren’t seeing everything happening in your ministry. A coach is watching from the outside and can give you the big picture.

Holds You Accountable: A coach is someone who will know your strengths and weaknesses. They will help you improve on your speaking, communication, organization, delegation, etc. You just need to let them in on the details of your ministry and life and they’ll help you follow through.

Provides New Resources: A coach’s job is to constantly improve the person they are coaching. That means always being on the lookout for materials, exercises and opportunities that will help you grow as a leader, communicator, employee and even spouse.

Ensures You Aren’t Alone: Even if you are married, and have a great relationship with your pastor, a coach will be there to help you through the dark periods. Ministry is a long journey and you need someone cheering you on and picking you up. You need someone challenge you and raising the bar. A coach makes sure you never feel alone.

So, how do you go about finding a coach in ministry? Find a veteran youth worker, or a former volunteer. Ask to meet with them monthly, give them your vision and have them set the agenda. Before you ask anyone, make sure it’s someone you trust to speak truth into your life. You might not always like what a coach has to say; yet, if the relationship is good you will grow stronger.

Do you have a coach? How have they helped you in your ministry?

Chris (Twitter)

After two years of youth ministry I felt like I got in a groove.  I knew my roles and responsibilities.  I wasn’t shocked when a parent addressed a concern with emotion.  I was comfortable asking others to get involved; life was good.  Then five years rolled by and everything started to click.  I felt like I understood systems and structures.  I was okay with droughts in creativity and multitasking.

As each year ticks by your level of confidence as a youth minister will grow.  And that’s because with each year you gain experiential wisdom.  It’s priceless and so beneficial; however, it alone will not take your youth ministry to the next level.  There are going to be opportunities that you need to take advantage of that will launch you to the next level.

These opportunities are like launching pads.  You focus on them, you make them a part of your mantra and they take you to the next level.  Three of those launching pads are:

Spiritual Accountability – On a daily basis you are pouring into others.  Whether it’s teenagers, their parents or your own team, you are draining yourself continuously.  While we know the source for replenishment lies with God, we need men and women who are going to help us out.  Three ways you should embrace spiritual accountability are through an Adult Small Group and One on One Spiritual Direction.  You need people reminding you to trust in the Lord, because without Him nothing is possible.

Embrace Risk – Taking chances is a habit that many of us need to embrace.  It’s not about being clumsy or careless, taking risk means getting over our fears to do something big.  To embrace risk properly you need to Trust in God, Gather Insight and Lean Into The Tension. Granted it might be scary; however, people will want to follow you, because they’ll see your courage.  People want a leader who isn’t afraid to fail and will do what it takes to succeed.

Collaborate With Peers – If you aren’t working and networking with other youth ministers than you are traveling a very lonely road.  When you can network with peers in youth ministry you open yourself up to some awesome ideas.  You give yourself the opportunity to learn, think outside the box and problem solve with a new perspective.  When you work with the other guys, they’ll show you how to get to the next level.  Three places to collaborate are Through Social Media, Over A Cup Of Coffee and Attending Conferences.  Get together with others.

It’s important to ask yourself the question, “How can I continue to grow as a professional youth minister?” When you utilize the right launching pads you answer that question.

What other opportunities can we embrace to take youth ministry to the next level?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more great youth ministry articles and thoughts on his exceptional blog Marathon Youth Ministry.

Weekend Teaching Series: XXX (series finale, week 2 of 2)
Sermon in a Sentence: How to be a good neighbor.

Service Length: 84 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend Craig Gross, founder of XXXChurch, spoke to our high school students in all 4 weekend services. Last week he hit the topic of pronography strong, this week he took the series on the next step – how to I share my freedom and faith in Christ with my friends. His main passage was the Good Samaritan and told stories of how he has seen God work in his life and ministry. Really powerful!

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This weekend we played Facebook Hack, which was a total riot. If you’re not familiar with it yet, steal this idea now (hit the link for the full scoop and graphics). Basically, we use an iPad and the contestant logs in and then gives control of their Facebook to the host. The host asks questions, and if the contenstant gets it wrong the host can unfriend whoever or post whatever they want. Hilarious! As an added bonus as the game was coming to a close, the contestant at one of the services took out a piece of paper and had written a poem to his girlfriend and asked her to prom with him. It made for a super memorable ending!

Music Playlist: We Could Change the World, Our God, Love Came Down, All I Am, To the Ends of the Earth,

Favorite Moment: My favorite moment was definitely the message and having Craig here to speak. I also loved having my friend Chris Wohlers back in HSM this weekend as a guest host to Facebook Hack. Chris was on the high school team last year but took a great opportunity with our adult service video team.

Up next: Workshop Weekend (1-off)

Was reading Walt Mueller’s blog this morning and loved his most recent post about boundaries with students in your youth ministry. Here’s a clip of it and would encourage you to put his recommendations into place immediately:

Over the course of my years in youth ministry I’ve learned many things the hard way. . . either by watching myself or observing friends One of the lessons I’ve learned is just how important it is for a youth worker to set boundaries. The fact is, we’re in a spiritual battle where the hearts and minds of kids are at stake. Consequently, the enemy wants to take us down. Add to that the fact that we’re all broken and sinful people trying to lead and minister to other broken and sinful people. And wherever one or more broken and sinful people are gathered together, there’s a need for boundaries. I’ve learned to appreciate boundaries. They aren’t confining. They’re life-giving. Boundaries protect us from harm and they provide for our well-being. They keep us out of trouble. And in today’s world, boundaries are more important than ever. Here are some boundaries I believe every youth worker should pursue, set, embrace, and live within.

First, don’t do youth ministry unless you have and are using an accountability network. People who decide to do youth ministry on their own without the benefit of others are usually the first to get in trouble. Find a couple of trusted friends who will engage with you in vulnerable conversation, asking the hard questions about your ministry motivations, about where you’re spending your time, and about your relationships with kids. The great benefit of this boundary is that it helps you figure out just what your weaknesses are, which then helps you set and keep other much-needed boundaries.