Give Every Teen a Voice

Chris Wesley —  March 28, 2013 — 1 Comment

I have mixed feelings when it comes to student leadership groups within your student ministry.  While it’s important to create leaders, to group them risks creating a click within the ministry.  No matter what your feelings are on student leadership groups, it’s important to nurture teens to be leaders.  One of the best ways to do this by giving them a voice.

It’s with a voice teens feel empowered, encouraged and valued.  It’s with a voice that you are mobilizing the next generation.  To give teens that voice you need to:

Encourage Them To Serve: Actions speak louder than words.  Not only does service speak loud but it teaches humility and love.  Allow teenagers to serve alongside of adults in ministry and mission.  They’ll become visible to the rest of the congregation and community, and that’s huge.  If they lead with their actions, you give their actions a physical voice that’s hard to ignore.

Seek Their Feedback: If you speak to teens you need to get their thoughts and input.  To be proactive give them rough drafts of your message, ask them to comment of possible statements you might make.  I do this by going on Facebook and messaging a few teens I know.  Give them permission to share with you what they really think and they’ll support you in your leadership.

Brag About Them To Leadership: If there are teens in your ministry you want to spot light let the rest of your staff (Especially your pastor) know about their hard work.  This will encourage coworkers to recognize the student leaders in your church and they’ll feel like they’ve been noticed.  This will help them feel value beyond youth ministry.

Give Them A Platform: If teens are given the opportunity to share their faith publicly you prepare them for leadership roles in the future.

  • Playing in a worship band.
  • Giving a testimony.
  • Small group leading their younger peers. 

Are all ways of how teens can lead as adults in the future.  Not only are you giving them a platform; but, the opportunity to lead in the same way adults can lead.  This will show them how they can lead in the future.

When teens feel like they have a voice they’ll embrace your ministry more.  They’ll be taking on responsibility to grow the church and have it function at a high level.  When they feel empowered they feel motivated.  When teens have a voice you’ve done your job of mobilizing the next generation.

How do you give teen’s in your ministry a voice?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

Every weekend I do my best to have a couple outside voices share their learnings from the world of youth ministry. In all honesty is started as a simple way for me to get away from feeding the monster I created when I started this blog now 6 years ago. Still today I enjoy reading other opinions, even when I don’t always agree with everything written, and often find myself learning from their posts or nodding in agreement.

Here is a selection of the most-viewed guest posts over the course of 2012. Some really solid stuff here:

JG



Here at the end of the year I just want to say thank you!

Thanks for being a part of MoreThanDodgeball’s community, from the most casual passerby to the most dedicated never-miss-a-post hardcore follower. Thanks for helping others by adding your thoughts, thanks for adding your voice with guest posts, thanks for loving students and Jesus!

Here is a collection of some of the top content posted on the blog throughout 2012 – with a focus specifically on youth ministry blog posts. There were over 1,200 blog posts this year – bringing the total content of the site to 6,501 posts and 19,867 comments. Incredible!

Here’s to a great 2013 together!

JG

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)



When I inherited my budget I remember thinking, “Okay, where do I start?” I had everything from moon bounces to ski trips. I had volunteer stipends and non-capitalized equipment (Not sure what that meant). I just took a stab at what I thought it would be and to my surprise it got approved. To tell you the truth not much was different from the previous year. That next year I would go over my budget in some areas and under on others, which is typical. As the ministry began to change and evolve my anxiety levels increased and so did the need for a larger budget. Instead of analyzing what I was doing with my budget, I just felt like it needed to grow.

No one gets into youth ministry to manage a budget; however, it’s a necessary part of the job. If managed correctly you can maximize your resources and extend your impact even further. It’s not always about needing more, instead it’s figuring out how to be wise with what we have. To maximize your budget you need to understand it, and to do that you should:

Consult The Church Financier: Sit down with the person who runs the overall church budget and ask them to explain how it works. Where is the income for your budget? Is it purely giving? Tuition, and camp registrations? Where is the money coming from? Get the big picture of how money comes in and it will help you see why your budget won’t always grow.

Seek Outside Advice: If someone in your church is an accountant or is just awesome at budgeting, sit down with them and get their insight on how to track a solid budget. Sometimes the challenge isn’t creating a budget as much as it is tracking. Get their advice on bookkeeping so that you can maintain the margin you need.

Label, Categorize And Organize: Whether your budget is itemized or just one big lump, it’s important to categorize. When your budget is in categories it will help you track where money needs to be spent and what need to be eliminated. This can be hard, but it’s important. Sit down, look at where you spend your money and categorize it.

Ask The Difficult Question: Do you really need it? It’s easy to assume everything on your budget is necessary because you put them there. But if an outsider were to sit down and look at your budget could you justify to them why you spend, what you spend? This is where you may need accountability so that you aren’t wasting your money.

If you can accurately build and maintain your budget you’ll be able to give accurate information to leadership when they decide whether or not to increase it. It won’t happen every time; however, they’ll value the work and research that goes into it. Times are tough, everyone is living tight and that’s why we need to be wise with our money. If you don’t get an increase in budget it shouldn’t deter you from being a wise steward. When we are wise with our money, we open ourselves to God’s blessings.

How do you maximize your youth ministry budget?

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.

The excitement of fall kickoff has subsided and now you are in the meat of your youth ministry year.  It feels good because most of the rust is off and you are just turning that wheel to keep things going.  Most times it’s easy to think, “Okay, smooth sailing ahead.” But that rarely works because after a while obstacles, responsibilities and distractions will build up.  Ministry will get harder, people will find more reasons to bail and the momentum that was created in the fall will be completely gone.  How do you keep it going?  How do you build momentum in the middle of your year?

Change Things Up – You want to show that your ministry is willing to change without showing instability.  That means changing up the topics in which you talk about, and possibly rearranging the format of your program.  Just as you are supposed to change up a workout routine to stimulate new muscles, you’ll want to change a few things up in youth ministry to stimulate new faith growth.

Pour Into Your Team – Half way through the year your team is going to grow tired and even a little burned out.  Maybe their small group hasn’t maintained the attendance they wanted, or they could be dealing with a teen in crisis.  It’s even possible that a major issue in their personal life is going on.  Even if it’s a one-day mini retreat, pour into them, and cheer them on.  Give them the motivation they need.

Doing Something New – Whenever something or someone is new a little excitement forms.  Whether it’s a new video game in your hangout space or a new speaker delivering the message, take advantage of its freshness by promoting it.  While it might not be the most mind blowing achievement, new always brings about some momentum.

Pace Yourself As A Leader – When the craziness of a season subsides it’s important that you as a leader take the time to cool down.  That might mean revisiting your schedule and working within the limits.  It could mean taking a day of Sabbath to reconnect with God.  If you aren’t ready for the long haul, neither will your ministry.  To maintain momentum you need to be willing to push it when it is needed, so rest up.

Ideally you want your ministry to consistently grow on the same trajectory over time; however, that isn’t realistic.  You are going to find obstacles and distractions and that’s why it’s important to rest.  You will face hitting a rut and that’s why it’s important to shake things up.  There is no exact science to how much newness, change or motivation one should pour into their ministry; however, if there isn’t enough momentum will slide.

How do you build momentum mid year in your ministry?

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.



If there is no one to lead than you will never get anywhere.  Doesn’t matter if your ministry has two volunteers or two hundred, if you are the only leader eventually the burdens and responsibilities will be too much.  Chances are there is at least one other leader serving in your ministry the problem is you haven’t found him or her.  You might think someone is a leader, and even call him or her one; however, you aren’t completely sure.

The reason your youth ministry needs leaders is so that you can share the burden and expand your capacity.  With other leaders more ideas are brought to the table and your ministry teams will start to grow.  Every youth ministry needs leaders; however, it isn’t as simple as going out to your volunteers and saying, “You’re a leader, so go lead.” You might call someone a leader because they are a dedicated and committed volunteer; however, they aren’t taking your ministry to new directions.  In order to share the burden and build up leaders, you need to know what one looks like.  To find these leaders you need to make sure you are on the lookout for.

Selfless Actions – A leader is someone who will serve others.  Meaning they are compassionate towards others, willing to put others before themselves.  They encourage and empower those beneath and below them, even if it means losing out on the credit.  These leaders are the ones who go above and beyond what you’ve asked of them.

Inspirational Communicators – A leader isn’t so much a doer as a motivator.  This means laying out a challenge for the team to undertake.  It means delegating in a way that empowers the team opposed to demanding.  Your leaders are people who can rally the troops and move them towards your mission.

Big Vision Casting – A true leader sees the picture before anyone else.  They might not know how or when, but they know what.  They aren’t afraid to dream big even if others call them idealistic.  They know and understand that God calls us to greater things.

What makes a great leader?  Someone willing to step up to the plate to serve alongside of you.  Granted you might be a director, pastor or manager; however, you need other leaders to help you mobilize your resources and volunteers.  Don’t be afraid to sit with your team and talk about these qualities.  Have them help you identify the characteristics and values.  When you can build leaders you can serve more teens because they will help you manage the people around you.

What are some other characteristics of a leader?

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.

As the phone rings you dread the idea of picking it up.  It’s not about who is on the other line as much as it is what that phone call might do to your day.  As you pick up the receiver you hope it’s a call that’s quick with no follow up.  Phone calls, emails, and paperwork are only a few of the things that clutter our schedule.  The reason they clutter is not because there are many, but because they are disorganized.  And when you are disorganized in what you do, you experience:

BOUNDARY ISSUES
When our boundaries have been violated it’s easy to start throwing around the blame and losing focus on what’s important.  If you are going to have any chance of getting anything done in youth ministry, let alone survive the week you need to know what you are doing and why you are doing them.  This will help you set-up boundaries that are realistic and flexible; yet, will keep you on the right path.  To organize your responsibilities and stay within the boundaries you need to know:

WHAT IS IMPORTANT – It’s easy for a youth minister to become a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none and that’s because of a lack of focus.  If you are going to create any type of boundaries you need to know what has to fill up your day.  To figure this out you need to create a list of everything you do and narrow it down to the five most important responsibilities that only you can do.  The rest can be discarded or delegated.

WHAT IS URGENT – Urgent responsibilities are the unexpected events that have to be done; however, are not planned.  A perfect example is the death or illness of a teen in your ministry.  To work with the unexpected you need to be able to SCHEDULE IN MARGIN and COMMUNICATE WITH THOSE CLOSE TO YOU.  Scheduling in margin will give you leeway when something urgent comes across your desk like a teen in need.  Communicating with those close to you will enable you to talk about when family or personal time might need to be sacrificed.

WHAT IS DISPENSABLE – There are probably habits, meetings and responsibilities that you do that are no longer necessary.  To figure out which ones to keep and which ones to toss, list them and then by each item ask the questions, “What is its purpose?” and “How is this fueling us towards our vision?” If you cannot answer these questions toss them.  If there are ones you should keep but are not necessary for you to accomplish look at passing them on to a trusted volunteer or coworker.

When you can determine the importance and necessity of certain responsibilities you can build a healthy calendar.  The reason you leave an hour later than planned or continue to work at home is because you have organized your day.  After you know what it is you need to do and you paint out that 40 – 45 hour work week, ask God to give you the grace to do it.  After all he wants you to succeed, he doesn’t want you to compromise your family time or Sabbath.  Trust him.

How do you know what’s important, what’s urgent and what’s dispensable for your youth ministry?

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.