I liked Chuck Bomar’s thoughts on getting the most out of a conference – seemed like most of it was transferrable to what you would experience at a youth ministry event, too. Here’s 2 of his 4 suggestions – we’re excited to have Chuck as our discipleship retreat speaker in January, too.

  • Develop a filter. Every speaker is there for a reason. Most have thought a ton about the subject their teaching on and have experience (hopefully) in that particular area. But, they don’t know your context, the people you work with, or the traditions you live in/with. Therefore, you have to develop a filter that would sift out the things that wouldn’t apply in your context — no matter how epic the thought might be. God’s called you to the context you’re in and you’re at the conference to be more effective in that context. So, the filter is necessary.
  • Purchase carefully. Sometimes we go to a conference because we just need some time away, but usually we attend conferences because we’re hungry for some direction, training, and resources. And, oh man, we go into the resource center and everything looks good. We have the budget, so we just go crazy. Getting resources, by the way, isn’t a bad thing. If there are resources you think will be useful in ministry by all means buy them. But, just be careful to buy those that will actually be used. Far too many budgets are spent on resources still in the wrapper 12 months later.
  • JG

    Thought this post on Ministry Best Practices was great. May this never describe us!

    2. Evangelism Atrophy

    Most churches in America aspire to have evangelism as a driving force but they have lost their passion. Ask every one of them, however, and they will proclaim it as a core value. Yet, a quick look at their checkbook, annual budget and programs will tell the truth. For most churches in America evangelism is a great thought and desire, but in all actuality very little in the way of evangelism is done.

    3. Failure To Be Relevant

    The Gospel was not written in a cultural vacuum. The words we read today were written thousands of years ago. They still apply today, but we must learn to understand them in their cultural context and then find ways to help 21st century people understand.

    Church is no different. We have to do church in a way that connects with this culture otherwise the church simply becomes a huddled mass of cloistered believers hiding from a sin-sick world.

    4. Inwardly Focused

    The new unspoken mantra of the modern American church is; “It’s all about me.” While no one will readily admit it, all one has to do is look at the ministries and programs. What can be quickly discovered is that most churches build ministries to satisfy the already fed. These programs are good to keep the flock happy. Not necessarily a bad thing, but too much of a good thing ends up being a bad thing.

    5. Personal Conflict

    Church people have found a way to make an argument out of almost anything. Political power struggles rule the day.

    JG



    Wondered which of the fantastic guest posts was the most popular? Keep in mind some have only been online for a few days and others were up the whole month. Either way, here’s the top 10 so you can check out the best of the submissions if you missed one – and thanks to everyone who submitted and everyone who was published:

    10. GUEST POST: What Do You Do All Day?
    9. GUEST POST: Facebook – Spiritual Dipstick
    8. GUEST POST: The Compass of a Great Question
    7. GUEST POST: 9 Questions to Ask When Planning a Youth Ministry Budget
    6. GUEST POST: When the Youth Ministry Search Takes Longer Than Expected
    5. GUEST POST: No More Silly Games
    4. GUEST POST: Is Youth Ministry Worth It?
    3. GUEST POST: Youth Leaders and Alcohol
    2. GUEST POST: Youth Ministry Made from Scratch
    1. GUEST POST: 12 Ways to Connect With Your Students Outside of Youth Group

    JG

    You’ve got a limited budget for your youth ministry - if you’ve got one at all. Maybe you’ve had some cuts this year, or maybe you’re in the rare group that even got a little budget bump. Here’s when I think are the best times to buy youth ministry resources:

    Late Summersmall group material, volunteer training/development
    Right now is the best time to check out potential resources for your small groups. Check out curriculum from a few different sources, and be sure to download samples to make sure it fits in your context. Think about building your volunteer team as well, look for good resources to pour into your people and help them become better youth workers.
    Some suggestions: LIVE, 99 Thoughts for Youth Workers (ha!), Youth Leader Training on the Go

    Fallpersonal development books/tools
    November and December are slow months for me personally (small groups are going, campaign is over, the big kickoffs and back-to-school launch are done) so during the holidays I like to read. Pick a few books that you’ve been wanting to read, order them and be sure you make the time to read them, too.
    Some suggestions: Thriving Youth Groups, Sustainable Youth Ministry, Speaking to Teenagers

    Winter – updates to small group curriculum, retreat help
    Winter is the time when most youth ministries work hard to carry over the momentum from the fall. The weather has changed, and the “newness” of the year has faded. Take some time to research possible retreat centers or winter camps, then find some resources to help you pull it off. I like to do some mid-year evaluation on our small group materials then, too.
    Some suggestions: Camp in a Can, Guy Talk Girl Talk

    Spring - summer materials, missions trip stuff
    Youth ministry usually changes in the summer, so change up your resources to go with it. Try something new – maybe go for something unexpected. Also, most missions and workcamps happen around Spring Break and summer, so think of what tools will help your missions effort, too.
    Some suggestions: Mission Trips from Start to Finish, Prepare Go Live

    Saleseverything
    Whenever there’s a sale on stuff you’ve been looking to pick up for your youth ministry, pick it up to stretch that dollar even further. Buying many things at once helps to save on shipping from online retailers, too.
    Some clearance suggestions: Igniter Videos, Youth Ministry in the 21st Century, Every Young Man’s Battle

    When do you buy youth ministry resources?

    JG



    While I can’t pretend to be an expert in this area, I have been through this a couple of times and thought I would share what I do know. There are a few major things you have to look at when you are planning a budget. It won’t give you final answers, but these are questions that will at least begin to formulate a direction you are headed.

    1. Have you prayed about this?
    I know it is clich

    Many of our youth ministry events are what we consider “break even” events – essentially what we charge students should ideally cover the cost of the event so we don’t to rely on our youth ministry budget. Times are getting tight (hence strong sales of The $5 Youth Ministry and see the latest poll results) so every dollar counts. Recently we had an event that unexpectedly cost us quite a bit of money, and here are the tweaks we talked about in the debrief to make sure it doesn’t happen again:

    RULE #1: Buying in advance is wise, if you’re careful.
    Reserve conservatively in advance. I’m all for saving money – and usually booking something as a block, as a group or in advance will all net substantial savings. But big savings don’t matter if you can’t fill the seats. Remember only to reserve that you can for sure fill – you don’t want to be the youth worker forcing kids to go because you’ve still got 98 tickets to the baseball game or 32 spots left on the bus to summer camp.

    RULE #2: It is always easy to add a few more.
    Plan for a few less than you think will be there. Too often as youth workers we get optimistic about how many people will be there, so we plan a significant’y larger budget than what actually showed up. Hence, lots of leftover pizza and the event doesn’t come close to breaking even. Be sure to never run out of pizza, but make sure you really strive for an accurate number when working on your first draft budget.

    RULE #3: Something will come up.
    Build in a little contingency. Something will most definitely come up – so plan for it. Take 5% of your event budget, and don’t assign it to anything. Gas prices go up, but you’ve got a little in reserve. A few students couldn’t pay, but you let them in anyhow, so now there’s expenses with no income to offset it. But you created a little contingency – and if you do have any leftover at the end, take a volunteer out for lunch as a thank you for serving at the event.

    RULE #4: Charge a little bit more
    If you charge just a little bit more, it could make a big difference. Just remember that each dollar is an impression you’re giving off, so the cost on a flyer is still very much a big deal – charge too much and people can’t afford it, and too many high-priced events lead to people forming an opinion of the type of student that is expected to attend the program. But there’s little difference in $25 or $30 for joining a small group, and camp at $314 might just as well be $329.

    What else can we do as youth workers to help break-even events break even?

    JG



    From time to time youth workers ask me what video editing software we use, so thought I would give a quick rundown on all of them that I have experience with. There are higher and lower versions of these software releases, but I’ll try to stick with the one which feature set you would typically use in a youth ministry setting:

    iMovie ($79)
    Mac only … and super easy to use. While it doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles of higher end software, it can get a decent movie made in with a short learning curve. Good for beginners and Mac enthusiasts. B

    Final Cut Express ($199)
    Also Mac only … and easily the best of the bunch – but it’ll take you a while to even figure it out, much less master it. This is the software the big boys use, and it is ultra powerful – higher versions of the suite can go for up to $999. You can pretty much produce feature quality shots and effects with this guy. If you take the time to learn it, you’ll make great videos – this is what several people on our team use regularly and the bar to shoot for. A

    Sony Movie Studio HD ($89)
    This is the program I use personally – it is an awesome PC application that chews through HD footage no problem. The price is right and the performance is incredible. You can make slide shows in seconds, drop in transitions and split/cut/splice massive pieces of footage in seconds. Simple to learn, and has lots of options to make a highly polished final product. A

    Windows Movie Maker (Free)
    This one comes free with your Windows PC, and while it has gotten far better than earlier versions, it still takes up the rear. While it is free, the end product isn’t great and there are all sorts of limits to what you can produce. Still though, for the budget conscious, this is a place to get started. C+

    Of course, none of this will matter soon because you’ll just upload videos and edit them on the web. Post your thoughts and experiences with these and others in the comments!

    JG


    Looks like we’re going to be down 8-10% from last year’s budget … how about you?

    JG