I love new things, and I admire people who don’t settle for the status quo. I highly respect people that push it.

I think this is the way of visionary leaders.

Visionary leaders create new things and show little to no reliance on what other people have or are currently doing. They tend to be a bit rogue…in a good way.

I really appreciate those leaders that push the status quo through their creativity.

This guy is a PERFECT example. This is every bit of crazy, but it’s unique and stretches the status quo…by a long shot. Trust me, watch this.

- Chuck / @chuckbomar

Have you ever listened to yourself?

“Er, jump? Tiggers don’t jump, they bounce.” – Tigger

“Messy? Messy? It’s ruined! It’s ruined… why won’t you ever stop bouncing?” – Rabbit

I was talking with someone recently about the beautiful chaos found in the creation account. Genesis 1-2 shows God masterfully using order and spontaneity to bring about life:

  • First, a formless and void earth; next, water, land mass and more explode into existence.
  • First, a lack of structure; next, purposeful arranging.
  • First, a tame and blank canvass; next, color is splashed on to complete the painting.
  • First, something is made that by itself is complete; next, something is made out of that thing that is foundationally and forever connected to it.

You’ll notice both structure and surprise matter to God, each complementing the other. That doesn’t always happen among human personalities, though. We tend to find ourselves at odds with those who aren’t like us instead of creating something together that is an amalgam of the two.

It reminds me of the connection between Tigger and Rabbit in “Winnie the Pooh” movies. You’re likely familiar with how these two characters are often at odds because you see and feel it in your church environment. Whenever the process of creating something occurs, you usually hear some Rabbit or Tigger-like statements being made.

The question is – are you more like a Rabbit, or more like a Tigger?

Are you a Rabbit (or surrounded by Rabbits)?rabbitt

  • “I won’t get behind any ideas until I see them spelled out in detail in front of me.”
  • “The reason people don’t want to serve around here is because they don’t know what they’re signing up for and are tired of getting burned. Does that make sense?”
  • “We have to have a mission statement before we even begin creating anything. In fact, we’ll need several sub-statements to that mission statement if we hope to honestly and accurately filter whatever comes next. This will include knowing the end-goal with the variables in front of us, assessing our available resources, and mapping it all out in an easy-to-read, one-page chart.”
  • “What you just said sounds good in theory, but it has a lot of pieces that aren’t clear. We can’t take our first step until all of the steps are defined.”
  • “How many showed up to your event? Did you get their contact information? What will your process be to follow up with them? When will you call them again? How will you increase the percentage of participation next time? Who will you delegate to?”
  • “There is no way we can move on to something new until we correct everything that’s wrong in what we’re already doing.”

Are you a Tigger (or surrounded by Tiggers)?tigger

  • “I know we had a plan for this, but what if we did this instead?”
  • “How about we have an open approach to this where everyone’s voice matters?”
  • “Let’s be real flexible on this moving forward. There’s no reason to lock into a particular plan or approach.”
  • “Six weeks of planning? What are you talking about? We can pull this off in a week. We’re completely capable of that.”
  • “We really don’t need an agenda if we’re going to truly follow the Holy Spirit. He’ll tell us what we need to do.”
  • “I’m all about relationships. Relationships are where it’s at. Jesus was relational. That’s all we have to do… be relational. Ministry is relational. That’s what we need to do best!”

From my experience, one personality group tends to lead the charge and not realize the blind spots that are created. If Rabbits run things without Tiggers, they will focus on the 3% that needs fixing and neglect the 97% that is full of life and potential. If Tiggers run things without Rabbits, they will create 97% of damage and only talk about the 3% that is going well.

rabbittigger

We not only need Rabbits and Tiggers in any creative process, but we need to become a little more like the other if we ever hope to have sane conversations. Someone might argue we need more trust than we do checks and balances, but how can you really place your faith in another person who often seems to be making an unhindered mess?

Again, God didn’t have a “no boundaries” approach in the creation of the world anymore than He had an “I must do everything” strategy. He created something out of nothing so that it could continue the creative process on its own through reproduction within its unique scope and sequence.

Of course, there are other personalities we could talk about that you encounter in creating something:

  • The Downer: “It’s not much of a tail, but I’m sort of attached to it.” – Eeyore
  • The Petrified: “It’s awfully hard to be b-b-b-b-brave when you’re such a small animal.” – Piglet
  • The Honey-Chaser: “The only reason for being a bee is to make honey. And the only reason for making honey is so I can eat it.” – Pooh\The Story Teller: “Artistic talent runs through my family. In fact, it practically stampedes.” – Owl

However you approach this, just remember that you’re unique… just like everyone else around you.

(You may need to read that again.)

Which personality do you identify with? Who are you more surrounded by? Chime in and let’s walk through the Hundred Acre Woods together.

Thank you for loving students!

Tony

@tonymyles

*Love Tony’s insight on service and youth ministry? Receive his articles every Tuesday when you sign up for the SYM Today Newsletter!*

weekofhope-newark-ym-inline



creatvity

The (unfair) truth of the matter is that some people are just naturally more creative than others. And sometimes those folks who feel like they are lacking in the creativity department decide that instead of learning how to be more creative, it’s better (or easier) to simply admit their creative shortcomings and focus on other important aspects of ministry.

So this post is for those of you who would identify as “creatively challenged”. Here are a few tricks I’ve utilized over the years that have helped me stretch my creative muscles:

* Plan Ahead. Planning and organization IS NOT a road block to creativity as many people think. The reality is that when you plan ahead you leave lots of time on the front end of a project to chew on things, talk to others for input, etc. Many creative folks claim to be much more creative in “crunch time”, which is fine….if you are a creative folk. Otherwise, a litle pre-planning will go a long way.

* Find Your Creative Time. Creativity is hard work, so do it when you are at your mental peak. If you are a morning person, do your creative thinking first thing. If you are a night owl, wait until evening time.

* Be A Looker And A Reader. There’s an old saying: “Stop and smell the roses.” I say, “Stop and smell the roses then figure out how you can use them in an object lesson.” The world is full of all sorts of awesome sights, sounds, smells and textures that we can apply to our ministry settings. Become somebody who looks at the world around them and who reads magazines, billboards, bust stop ads etc. Observant people are usually fairly creative.

* Use T.V., Don’t Let It Use You. While watching TV, keep a notepad handy and jot down anything from the news, sporting event or show that you might want to refer to in an upcoming lesson.

* Hang Around Creative People. There’s strength in numbers. Two heads are better than one. All of us are more creative than one of us. One of the best ways to stretch your creativity is to hang around folks who seem to ooze it.

* Always Ask, “Can this be improved?”. Don’t settle for the status quo. If you plan ahead, you’ll have plenty of time to look over your lesson, event, parent meeting agenda etc. to see where you can make it better.

* Empty Your Mind Before Beginning. After an activity, it’s important to keep good records and files that you can refer to next time around, but try to avoid the temptation to make reaching for last year’s file the first thing you do this year! Sometimes starting with an entirely blank slate is the best way to let creativity flow.

* Have An Honest Ear. Is there somebody in your ministry who will be honest enough to tell you when an idea is a dangerous one, or a stupid one, or a boring one? Having somebody you trust to bounce things off will help keep you from settling for something uncreative as well as protect you when your newfound creative skills could get you in trouble!

* Become 5 Again. I’ve never met an uncreative 5-year old! But something happens as we get older: We become aware that certain ideas shouldn’t be shared. We get penalized for “coloring outside the lines”. We become insecure and afraid of failure. All of these things serve to shut down our natural creativity. Force yourself to set these adult attitudes and concerns aside from time to time just to see what the 5-year old version of yourself comes up with!

light-bulb90% of my ideas are terrible. No, for real. They are really bad. What sucks is that I’m full of ideas. I’m constantly dreaming up how to tweak or completely transform our approach to student ministry. I generate so many bad ideas that my team often just tunes me out. I get the courtesy, That sounds cool with a plastic smile.  Currently I’m doing my best to convince our team that what we need is a ginormous student building with 5 attached houses. I’m telling you it’s the future for so many reasons. Someday when every church has a student building with 5 attached houses and our church missed the boat everyone will realize how innovative I am and promote me.

Here’s the thing about my ideas. While 90% of them are terrible and following them they could lead to immediate dismissal, the loss of thousands of dollars and probable hospitalization, 10% of them are genius. 10% of my ideas could potentially change the world. The trouble is that I can’t predict which ideas are in the 90% and which ideas are in the 10%. You really don’t want to guess wrong because great ideas invent the Internet and bad ideas take you to a Nickleback concert.

My guess is that whether you realize it or not, you also have more bad than good ideas. The thing is, if we could better discern the quality of our ideas we’d save ourselves and our teams a lot of grief. Nothing is more demoralizing than when the team is chasing down an idea that everyone knows is a dead end.

The good news is that somewhere along the line I stopped implementing all of my bad ideas. When? What was the big moment? It wasn’t a big moment but it was when my ideas were forced into community. When my ideas are stuck spinning within my own head almost all of them sound fabulous. However, when having to verbally explain and defend my ideas, 90% of them are revealed for what they are. Dumb. I know you’ve been there, when you realize that the words coming out of your mouth are exceeding illogical and you wish you never started talking in the first place humbling.

Within the context of community (that is well intentioned debate over the validity of ideas) my 90% was revealed to be what they were and my life and ministry was protected from stupidity. The unforeseen byproduct of submitting my ideas to community is that my good ideas were refined and became significantly more awesome. I like this idea that you call the Internets. But what if we could connect our gaming systems and play each other?  And what if you took the off it and just called it the Internet? GENUIS! You might say that in the context of community my 10% became 90% better. If you’re not strong at math I probably lost you right there. I think I lost myself.

The point is, when you have the humility to submit your ideas to your community before implementing them you will uncover the fact that most of your ideas are terrible but a few of them are genius. Failure is not the best way to learn. Realizing that an idea is a failure before failing is a cleaner and less destructive way to learn. The moral of the story is this: if you don’t have an ideas community, get one! Honest community will save you from your terrible ideas and help reveal and refine your great ones.

Aaron Buer has been a student pastor for 10 years and currently serve as a high school pastor at Ada Bible Church in Grand Rapids, MI. Read his blog here.



Are you creative? The fact that you are involved in ministry tells me you are. Maybe you are a creative speaker, a curriculum developer or a worship leader. No matter what role you play there are times you have to get creative. The problem is sometimes we get stuck in our creative process. So what do we do, we try to find a way to get out of that rut. You might try exercising while you think, perhaps it is writing until an idea starts to flow.

In my church I am the go to guy when it comes to youth ministry, its just me and our volunteers. Because of this it means that I have to do everything my volunteers can’t help me with which means using a lot of my creative brain. The problem is lately I have been stuck in a bit of a creative rut so I decided to try to break out of it.

I have tried a lot of different techniques; from writing with the wrong hand to running while thinking through problems; with not much to help this time. So I decided to go out of what I have read and just do what felt natural. I started by getting some good tunes going and pushing aside my laptop. (Typically when I plan I use a laptop and a whiteboard). I grabbed a pad of paper, a calendar, a sharpie and results from a recent parent questionnaire I sent out. I pushed my chair to the side and started to get moving. (Throwing a ball against the wall and pacing back and forth).

Suddenly it started to happen; questions and ideas began to flow and I started writing anything that came to mind.:

  • What are we doing right?
  • What good things can we expand on?
  • Are there one or more sacred cows that need to be put to rest this year?
  • What would changing our format look like?
  • Who are some possible new leaders in our church?

As I started thinking about these things and my proposed calendar ideas started blowing up for programming, events, volunteer opportunities, parent seminars we could run. Every time I had an idea I wrote it down or printed off something to do with it.(I did use my laptop a little, but no Facebook or Twitter in between).

Now I have an office that looks like I am the guy from a Beautiful Mind; either that or people will think I’m crazy.

kyle_creative_office
So I want to encourage you; if you are starting your new year in a rut; try something a little different that still feels natural. Chances are if you have been spending some time with God before hand and are truly seeking him, the ideas will start to flow. This is just what worked for me. Give it a try; if it works for you great; if not find something natural and go with it.

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.

Is your youth ministry original?  Feels like it needs to be, doesn’t it?  When your ministry is original, it’s fresh, and exciting.  In fact isn’t the reason teens leave your ministry due to the fact that you aren’t wowing them anymore?  Yes and no.  While originality is important, it isn’t the only way to shape your youth ministry’s identity.  In fact if you can REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE what you already have, you’ll create capacity to do more.  It’s not always about the activities, message or curriculum present.  It’s about the environments and relationships you set-up.  Unfortunately, if you are constantly worrying over new content and new ideas, you’ll miss out on some of the most important aspects of youth ministry.

To create more capacity, to focus on what’s important you need to make sure that originality isn’t standing in the way.  When you reduce, reuse and recycle it gives you margin.  This is how:

REDUCE: Clutter is one of the biggest obstacles to creativity.  In order to free up new ideas you need to go through your files and folders and throw away the ones that have been lingering around for too long.  Sitting in messiness is also a recipe for a cluttered mind.  If you have time clean your desk, your office and reduce the amount of distractions pulling you from your projects.  To reduce in your ministry create systems when you are storing ideas and then cleaning inboxes, file cabinets and desktop folders.  A weekly habit is best.

REUSE:  Don’t be afraid to duplicate your efforts, especially if it worked before.  It’s easy to just toss something away after you’ve spent hours and days working hard on it; however, before you toss it, archive it instead.  There might be a time when you need to use that same message, that same exercise or activity.  In fact look to pass it on and share it with a youth minister friend who could benefit from your hard work.  It will save time and energy the next go around.  To reuse without sabotaging you reducing efforts, give your reuse folder an expiration date.  It’s on that date you can determine if this idea or activity is still useful.

RECYCLE: Outsourcing is one of the best ways you can do something new.  There are so many people out there with great ideas, willing to share them with you.  In the end you don’t always have to be original.  If you can take an idea here and another there (With permission) and work them together, you’ll find something fresh.  To recycle properly just break the outsourced material into components, separate them and answer the question, “What can I adapt for my ministry?”  Maybe it’ll work well with another resource, but don’t be afraid to try.

When you can save yourself some time on creativity you can give yourself more margin.  When you have this margin you can pour into your leaders, the students and parents of your ministry.  As a leader you don’t have to spend your time sitting behind a desk trying to come up with something new.  Look to your fellow youth workers and to what you’ve done before.  Make sure you set yourself up for success by taking away the junk.

How do you reduce, reuse and recycle in your youth ministry?

Chris (Twitter)



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.

rut [ruht] – noun
a narrow or predictable way of life, set of attitudes, etc; dreary or undeviating routine

There have been many days, recently, where I have found myself staring at my office walls thinking, “I wonder how many youth workers find themselves in a rut. How often does this occur (for most)? How do they avoid it? How do they get out of it?”

I imagine most of us didn’t get into youth ministry for the promise of a narrow, predictable, dreary, or undeviating experience. And, like the women’s restroom I accidentally walked into the other day, we want nothing more than to get out of this position.

What I am discovering is that sometimes the best way to get out of a rut is to revisit what got me excited about youth ministry in the first place.

Here are a few of my rut busters…

1) Get with students: As our ministry grows and we focus on forming relationships between students and leaders, unfortunately, I feel less and less connected. This is difficult. I need to pray and look for my own opportunities to connect. The other day one of my former students came to me and said, “Hey, do you think we could get together and study a book in the Bible?” I wanted to jump out of my skin! Heck, yes, I do! It gets even better. Then he said, “Oh yeah, and do you still want to come to one of my football games? I’ll get you a schedule.” Is that the Hallelujah Chorus I hear? I’m there! If only all of my students showed that kind of initiative.

2) Get with Jesus: In the first 11 verses of John 15, Jesus uses the word “remain” 11 times. I know that the best version of me is found in Him; it’s just a matter of getting there.

3) Get in community: Ever since the 1992 Olympic Dream Team, I always wanted to be a part of a great team. My best times in youth ministry are when I am sharing life with a team of people, focused and committed to a common goal. My loneliest and most monotonous times are when everything in our ministry comes from the idea bank of me.

4) Get creative: We serve such a creative God. When I accepted the call to communicate God’s love to students, I longed to reflect even a fraction of that creativity. In a rut, creativity is one of the first things to go. I need to allow myself the time and space to get creative.

What about you? What have you found to be your greatest rut busters?

Bryce Gernand is the Middle School Pastor at Jackson First Church of the Nazarene in Jackson, MI where he has served for eight years.