Really enjoyed this take on time off, rest and sabbath from Doug Fields’ blog the other day. If you’re struggling with margin, balance and time away from ministry, read on:

Almost daily I get an email from a ministry leader who is tired and on the verge of burn out. There is so much about ministry-world that is exhausting. I understand this reality firsthand. It’s real and ugly!

Too many leaders don’t even slow down enough to be faithful to God’s call for a Sabbath rest.

When I was a young leader I received great advice from a mentor who urged me to faithfully guard and protect a weekly day of rest. I’m so grateful for that advice and encouragement! Without intentional action, it’s simply too easy for a leader to slip into justifying non-Sabbath actions like, I’m just going to pop into the office, or I’m so far behind, I just need to catch up or They need to spend time with me and I don’t think I can say no.

Sound familiar? Me too! Want to see how he approaches his day of rest? Head there for more!

JG

“What do I do when the former youth pastor is still attending our church?”

I get this question from time to time and have actually had to work in this environment in both of the churches I’ve served in over the past 20 years. A couple days ago I talked about how thankful I am for the supportive role of the former youth pastor at my church, Doug Fields, and how life-giving his role is to me. I hope to be the same way someday when someone succeeds me.

But what do you do when things aren’t so great? What do you do if the former youth pastor is NOT supportive of you or how you run the youth ministry? Glad you’re back for more!

Realize the difficult situation they are in
It is easy to focus on yourself in this situation – but take a second to think about them! They gave up leading something they loved and potentially had some success in. They moved on (maybe promoted, burned out or were asked to leave the role) but a piece of them stayed behind. Maybe they aren’t so happy in their new role in the church, or didn’t want to go in the first place. They are in a tough position and a wise person will empathize with their situation and not just focus completely on yourself.

Involve them in the youth ministry
Consider putting them in an advisory role in the ministry. Consider asking them to “consult” with you once a month over coffee or a Coke. A relationship is key to building a bridge between the two administrations. Communication is critical to head off problems at the pass. Ask yourself what could be done to minimize the competition and comparisons between the two of you?

Ask directly for their support
I think building bridges is key to bringing someone to your side. Someone has to make the first move! If you’re not ready to bring them onto your team (I get that!) at least reach out and ask for their support in where you’re taking the ministry. Remember that reconciling a situation like this speaks volume to your leadership, humility and is certainly going to be eagerly watched and modeled to your youth group kids.

Have the difficult conversation
Sometimes you just have to have a face-to-face dialogue about the tension. You might be a long ways from consulting with them and maybe asking for support has been a dead end. Time for a conversation, possibly mediated by your supervisor or the senior pastor. This is a tough one, but things that need to be said are better said in front of each others faces rather than behind backs.

Honor their legacy
Pay for their kids to go to camp. Give him or her special access and the VIP treatment. Talk highly of them no matter what. Focus on the here and now rather than the old and wrong past. Besides, someone is going to follow you someday, too, and you want them to do the same!

Know it takes time to let go
This is going to take time. There’s no quick fix. Hang in there!

Had a hard time with this? What did you learn? Share in the comments and help someone in the middle of this difficult journey, too.

JG



“What do I do when the former youth pastor is still attending our church?”

I get this question from time to time and have actually had to work in this environment in both of the churches I’ve served in over the past 20 years.

Sometimes the former youth pastor takes a promotion and ends up as a worship pastor or the director of a regional campus. Maybe they were a key volunteer holding together the ministry during transition until you stepped into the role. In larger churches, he or she might have been promoted to the Student Ministries Pastor and you take over a junior high or high school ministry. In any case, contending with the former head of a youth ministry you are now charged to lead can be unsettling, challenging or even painful.

I wanted to share a few thoughts today to help you as you process and live in this situation:

If the youth pastor is supportive
I had the privilege of serving under Doug Fields when he was the Student Ministries Pastor at our church. Now I get to carry on his legacy as the high school pastor. People always talk about the “big shoes” I had to fill and the pressure of following him. Doug has an incredible intuition – in just a few minutes he can spot weaknesses and offer ideas on how to come up with creative solutions to them. He is honest with me, he loves me and I know he makes our ministry better. That’s why I hang on every word he says – because of that relationship I know he cares about me as a leader, our high school ministry and wants what’s best for us both. At the same time he wants me to break the rules, challenge the methods of the past and move the ministry forward. He values what I value even if it is different from the way he did it.

A supportive former youth pastor who remains engaged can still be intimidating and challenging but it is one of the best gifts you can be given as a leader. Having a cheerleader and a fresh set of outside eyes is invaluable as you rarely look up from the trenches of day-to-day ministry. Being set up to win by the youth pastor who went before you is affirming and legacy-building. Thank God if you have one of these loving men or women in your church today.

If the youth pastor is not supportive … check back tomorrow for part 2!

Would love to know the situation you serve in and ideas you have to thrive in this environment, too!

JG

Some great posts from friends around the tragic Matthew Warren story of this past week. Matthew, the son of our pastor, battled with depression and took his own life on Friday morning. Needless to say this has been a challenging season for our people. The response has been incredible though, so proud of our church and of much of the greater Christian community. Here are some thoughts from friends.

From Doug Fields – Friends Show Up:

When my mom was in the hospital, then on hospice, and then when I had to deal with post-death details, I felt extremely exhausted and lonely.

During those three weeks, I realized that I’ve been an average friend to my friends who have experienced crisis. Here’s what happened in my situation: almost every one of my friends made contact, told me they were praying for me, family, mom, etc., and most said and/or wrote, If there’s anything I can do, let me know. It’s a very sweet and genuine gesture. Actually, it’s EXACTLY the type of gesture that I’ve expressed in the past. Exactly!

But here is what I learned during those three weeks that has changed my response: I’m not just offering up help, I’m showing up. (I’m embarrassed it took so long to learn.)

From Walt Mueller – Matthew Warren, His Family, And Guidelines For The Rest of Us:

  • Don’t speculate. Don’t speculate on what happened or the reasons behind it. Don’t speculate on the specific causes and circumstances. We don’t know. We won’t know. We don’t need to know.
  • Don’t simplify. This was a 27-year-old man whose story was just as complex as your story and my story. There are no easy answers here.
  • Don’t downplay depression. It’s not something a person can magically turn on and turn off with the flick of switch or a decision. If you’ve been there yourself or with someone you love, you know how powerful, deeply difficult, and complex depression is.

From Beth Moore – Sadness and Madness:

But even now at the hardest moment of their lives the Warrens can teach something vital if we are willing to learn. Their heartbreak demonstrates what has always been true but has never been more profoundly overlooked: these who serve us publicly also suffer privately. They are not caricatures. They are not just personalities. They are people living on a painful planet with the rest of us.

The Warrens will come forth like gold. The enemy will not win. They will fight the good fight. They will finish the race. They will keep the faith.

I love the Body of Christ. I don’t want want to get cynical. I don’t want to sit around and hate the haters or I become one. But this morning I just want to say this. We can love each other better. Let’s do. People have enough hurt. Let’s be careful with one another.

JG




Do you have a youth ministry degree? There are MANY roads to youth ministry though I am curious what was your formal education path (if any). As for me, I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Business from a Bible college. How about you? Vote now!

Also, if you’re interested in getting a youth ministry certificate, check out Youthsphere from Point Loma – a cool online way to get some official training and a piece of paper for your wall at the end. Use promo code MTDB to get 10% off today!

JG

As I’ve written before, I am immensely thankful for my friendship with Doug Fields who has taught me so much about youth ministry. One of the things I love about Doug is how he pours into the lives of youth pastors & students through his Student Leadership Conference. In fact, I can say that its largely because of SLC last summer that we’ve seen such an incredible year of student leadership within our High School Ministry here at Saddleback. They heard from the best and had a great experience together and came back changed – I couldn’t be more excited about signing up for another year at SLC!

Believe me, I get how difficult it is to train, equip & prep student leaders on a weekly basis. It’s no easy task. It is all about having a servant’s heart first. It all starts there. Once students understand that – it provides a great framework for their involvement throughout the year in ministry.

Whether or not you’ve heard about it before, I can safely say that if you’ve never been to SLC before – you and your student leadership team are missing out. I can’t wait to take my students back this summer, especially because I know what that means for how we’ll start next school year.

Excited to be a part of Doug Fields’ Student Leadership Conference - I’ll be in 2 of the 3 locations (California and Pennsylvania as a speaker and with our student leaders – sorry Dallas, my youngest is graduating from kindergarten) and am pumped to meet you and your best and brightest student leaders, too! Going to be so cool!

JG



If you are fortunate enough to even have a youth ministry budget, most of us work to preserve at least a chunk of it until the end of the year. For many, that means some critical purchasing power at the end of the calendar year (or fiscal year, depending on when your church “resets” everything back to the start).

If you find yourself in these merry last few days of the year with some funds left to spend on your own development and your youth ministry, here are a few recommendations for you to consider:

A resource for your students
Think of a spiritual growth tool to put in your students’ hands to help them grow in their faith. Right now the 1-Minute Bible (the most popular resource in our Grow Booth each year) is only $6.99 and a total steal at that price. Next closest is Amazon at $10.14. Lots of other great options to get good stuff in your students’ hands, too!

A training event for you
There are a ton of great training events and conference on the local, denominational and national level. Pick one that has some offerings that will encourage you were you are at and push you where you need to grow. I highly recommend the upcoming Simply Youth Ministry Conference and I’d love to meet you at one of the events I’ll be attending in the future, too! You can get a great book or tool – those are certainly helpful – but there is something special about being in the same room with hundreds of other men and women who share your calling.

A challenge for your volunteers
Find a great resource to develop your team, too! 99 Thoughts for Small Group Leaders has been fortunate enough to be one of the best-sellers of the year at Simply Youth Ministry. Doug Fields and I wrote it to help youth workers lead their groups better – think of it as leader training in a simple little book. Combine it with a Starbucks card and it is a total winner. On sale right now for $4.99.

What are you thinking about buying here at the end of the year?

JG

7am: Wake up, read the paper, drive to work
9am: Start work
12pm: Lunch break with lunchtime workout
1pm: Back to work
3:15: Coffee Break
5pm: Home time
6pm: Dinner
8pm: Kids to bed and TV Watching
10pm: Bedtime

Is this what your routine looks like? Mine neither. As youth workers we often have some weird schedules. We are up late so we start in the office later. Some days are 12 hrs long while others wrap up in a just a few, because we just came in for a meeting.

No matter what your day looks like to be effective you need to find a rhythm. Music sucks without it and so will you. What does having a Rhythm look like?

I don’t believe that every day has to look the same, in fact if it did that would be rather boring. However, I strongly believe in finding what times of day I am productive in and when am I least productive.

About a year ago I sat in on a seminar Doug Fields was leading at a conference and he was challenging people about living a balanced life. One of the things he talked about was finding your productive times and using them well. For some people that time is morning, for me it’s mid afternoon. So that’s when I focus on getting things done. I would strongly encourage you to do the same find this time yourself.

In order to figure out our productive times and how to fill them we need to look at two things:

  • Priorities: For me this looks like the time I spend with God for personal time and for work it is writing talks and strategizing. If it’s the most important thing to me shouldn’t it be what I am giving the best of my time and brain power
  • When do I have maximum brain capacity: This took some searching and messing around with the order I did things during the day. I tried writing at the beginning of my day, the middle and the end. I’ve tried starting off my day with God and ending my day with God.

Through this investigation I figured out how to make my life at home and work more effective. While my day looks nothing like what I wrote above it does have some consistency. I slot my Bible reading and message writing for mid-afternoon. I often have a snack and drink before I do this. When others are hitting that wall or slowing down, I find I can break away and really focus on God.

Now some people may be wondering what I am going to do in my less productive times, and for them I answer the things that take less brain power. I find looking for graphics, updating Facebook or twitter to require less from me so I do them during this time.

So what is your Rhythm? If you have found it, have you put your priorities in place? Are you honoring God with your time and your efforts? I want to challenge you to mix up your day and see if there is a way to make better use of it. We are never perfect but we can strive to be better.

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