Leadership 8A lot of times when we think of student leaders, we think of the students who are the elite of our ministry. And that is completely false. Student leaders are just students who are committed to serving a cause greater than themselves. My pray is that our students simply learn to serve like Jesus. So here are a few random thoughts that I’ve been noodling on that has been pushing us in that direction.

  • Grow together  – Asking students to do and be things you aren’t doing or being is the easiest road to a revolt within student leadership. Instead, take them as a whole with you included on a journey of growth in serving like Jesus.
  • We are all in the same boat - I got a great idea from one of my veteran volunteers. He gave me the idea to create a struggle sheet. This sheet listed the things that we as christians struggle with. I had them fill it out anonymously. Once they were done I collected them all and shuffled them. Then I passed them back out, with each student receiving someone else’s sheet. I then begin to say “if this struggle is on your sheet raise your hand?” Hands begin to go up with each struggle mentioned. Then I let them know that we are no different than the students we are committed to serving. They struggle with the same stuff we struggle with. My goal was to change their perspective on thinking that we were some how special or better than anyone else. I also wanted to create a level of compassion within them, for the students we will serve.
  • Setting expectations - Not for the sake of having rules, but for the sake of serving others and becoming better followers of Christ. No one is expected to have it all together, but you should expect them to pursue the growth that draws them to serve and be more like Jesus. Set expectations and expect them to meet them.
  • Create something worth being a part of - This generation isn’t just looking for change, but to be a part of a movement. They are looking to be the catalysis to helping the less fortunate or speaking up for the voiceless. Remember “Kony 2012″, “Bring back our girls” or “Blackfish”?I believe students latched on to these causes because of their longing to be a part of something. There is no other mission on the planet like showing, and sharing God’s love to the world. It’s the greatest most important cause/movement ever. I want students to join in on the movement that changed my life when I was 17. This generation is hungry to be a part of something life changing. So make it worth it.
  • Personal growth - Student leaders need to grow as a person and also in their walk with Christ. Even though we encourage getting involved, we definitely don’t want them just jumping on the bandwagon of causes. We want them to understand that their influence is important, but it also can hinder them without personal growth. Growth in influence and authority without spiritual/personal growth leads to ego growth and narcissistic leadership.

My goal is for students to simply serve like Jesus. I want their title to remind them of their commitment to serve and not just lead. There you go, just a few random thoughts. What has been a struggle for you concerning your leadership program for students?

 

Hope it helps,

AC

Let’s Talk Youth Ministry Vlog is BACK!!!!!!!! And we are posting a NEW SHOW EVERY WEEK.Thiago-nascimento-opera-background-speaker-jpg1

 

 

Show’s Topic: The Gospel!!!!!

Hope it helps,

AC



 

stirstickI go to Starbucks every morning. I’m like an old man stuck in his routine. It’s where I read, write, think, pray, and drink $2.00 tea that I could make at home for 25 cents.

Today, after ordering my tea I headed over to the condiment counter to add some milk and sugar. To my dismay, in the little spot that normally holds the stir sticks was a note that read, “We are out of stir sticks. Sorry!” I was a little surprised, because for a coffee place to run out of stir sticks seems sorta like a hamburger place running out of buns. Forgivable, I suppose.

What was more surprising to me was that two hours later as I was walking out the door…the little note was still there! How many customers had wandered over to the condiment bar hoping to find stir sticks had been left frustrated? Less than 50 yards away sits a grocery store, and I’m pretty sure they sell stir sticks. Now, they may not sell the eco-friendly wooden stir sticks that Starbucks uses, but they certainly sell something.

Why didn’t anybody on the Starbucks team feel empowered to go buy some random stir sticks from the store?
Is sticking to the “approved stir sticks” cited in the manager’s notebook more important than customer service?
Would it have been totally okay to go buy some, but nobody took the initiative?

Those are all questions that went through my mind as I walked out the door. And they raise some interesting questions for those of us who lead youth ministries:

Are you a leader who is creating a culture of empowerment…does your team feel the freedom to problem solve?
In what areas does ministry to people in real-time trump your policies and procedures?
Do you have people on your team who, if given the freedom, take initiative or do they assume somebody else will do it?

- Kurt

Led-Zeppelin-fourAs I continue to love on students and family through pastoral care, there are some things that I’ve had to become knowledgeable about. Because students and their families are dealing with these issues and in order for me to really care for them, I need to educate myself. So I thought I’d share few of the issues with you. I am by no means an expert in any of the issues I list. My goal has been to know enough to understand what it is I’m dealing with so that I can respond better.

  1. Mental Illness - There is such a huge stigma when it comes to mental illness, because we automatically associate mental illness with a lack of smarts. Therefore, people are afraid or ashamed to talk about it. Well, I had to educate myself on the topic, so I could view and pray for my students struggling with mental illness in the right light. Sometimes I think we can tack on things and misdiagnose students based on what we think we know about the student and what’s really going on. I always push parents to seeing a professional, but that doesn’t negate my responsibility to walk with the student and family through the process. The crazy part is that out of all the kids that are struggling, only 20 percent are being diagnosed and treated. It makes me want to know more, because I most likely have students and families who are dealing with it on their own.(NAMI)
  2. Self-Harm – The Huffington Post came out with an article not to long ago that said Self-Harm was becoming main-stream thanks to the internet. I’ve definitely had more conversations concerning this topic then I would like to in my own ministry. I had to become knowledgeable about it so that I could minister and care for our students who are struggling in this area. Because even though I send them to see a professional, they still need support as they go through this journey of healing. Again, I need to know what I’m dealing with because I want to be able to care and pray for my students very specifically. I created this for my leaders(click here).
  3. Suicide – It’s the second leading cause of death for ages (10-24). And the third leading cause of death for college-age and youth (12-18). There are 5,400 attempts a day by students in grades 7-12. What’s interesting is that 4 out 5 teens who attempt suicide give warning signs. Which makes me want to know what to look for, and have some guidelines on how to respond.(TJF)
  4. Abuse – In youth group a lot of things come out concerning students. I want my leaders to know what to do in case abuse is found out. Even more than that, I want them to know the signs to look for in students who they think may be being abused. There are mandated reports so it’s crucial they understand they are bound by law to report abuse.

I think sometimes we shy away from these types of issues, because it’s like opening pandora’s box. But in Matthew 9:12 … Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” Studying Jesus’ ministry here on earth leads me to believe that He was all about blowing the door off of Pandora’s box. He spent more time with those who struggled than any other people group during his time on earth. I had to open my eyes to the fact that the majority of my students are probably struggling with something. And I can’t be so occupied with doing ministry that I neglect those who are in need of being ministered to. I have to care about these students just as much as God does. They need community and people praying for them just like everyone else and maybe even more. Just a thought! What are some other things we need to educate ourselves on so we can minister to our students and their families better?

 

Hope it helps,

AC



random

- In my quest to help our students and youth leaders feel more confident explaining, sharing and even defending the gospel (which has included a quest to try to first define the gospel), I stumbled upon the book, What Is The Gospel? In it, authors Greg Gilbert and D.A. Carson take a direct, traditionally evangelical view of scripture that clearly articulates the gospel of Jesus Christ. It won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, but it was mine. Or maybe because I love tea so much I was just looking for a reason to use that analogy.

- Are you a Youth Worker? Do you live in Los Angeles? Do you like Saddleback Church? Are you looking for a challenge? If you answered yes to ALL of those questions (or know somebody who would), you may be excited to learn that Saddleback Church has launched a new campus in the heart of LA/Hollywood and we are in the early stages of preparing to launch our student ministries department. The first step: Finding the right man or woman to lead the charge. Interested? You know where to find me!

- Having mostly not surfed for the past few years (the rest of my family enjoys riding dirt bikes in the desert MUCH more), I’ve jumped back in with a renewed energy and passion for the sport. My current “quiver” (set of surf boards) includes a 9′ long board, a 6’6″ Tri-fin, a 6’2″ fun board (shaped like a long board, but short) and a 5’10″ retro fish. They’ve all been purchased on the cheap, and I’m hoping that having lots of surf boards makes it easy for the rest of the Johnston clan to give it a shot this summer!

- I’m Learning…a Lot! I’ve been leading ministry teams for over 25 years, and while it’s never been easy it’s never been as tough as it is right now. For the first time in my ministry career I feel like I am as much of a “manager of systems” as I am a true leader. Saddleback Church currently has 12 campuses (U.S. and abroad) and very soon we will have youth ministries happening at all of them, and my role is to provide leadership, coaching, quality control and ensure they are all simultaneously very true to our ministry paradigm while also feeling free to contextualize appropriately. I knew it wouldn’t be smooth sailing all the time, but what has surprised me the most is that stuff I thought would be challenging and problematic has been fairly easy, and stuff I assumed would be in the no-brainer category has actually been the hardest part. I’m hoping that an old dog can, in fact, learn new tricks.

- Have you been watching “Let’s Talk Youth Ministry”? If so, share it with a friend in the youth worker nation! Me and my buddy, A.C., post a new episode every week mostly as a way to mix up the format on this blog a little bit. It’s sort of like the old Simply Youth Ministry Show, but a little more laid back (mostly because A.C. is the most laid-back person in the history of mankind!). Here’s one fun twist: We are hoping to add a short video from one of you each week! You can send us a 60 minute video that asks a youth ministry question, shares a “I can’t believe I did that” moment, or serves as a word of encouragement (so far, these seem to be the most popular). Just shoot a one-minute video on your phone and email it to letstalkyouthministry@gmail.com

Thiago-nascimento-opera-background-speaker-jpg1Let’s Talk Youth Ministry Vlog is BACK!!!!!!!!!!!! And we are posting a NEW SHOW EVERY WEEK.

Shows Topic:

  1. What is Attractional youth ministry?
  2. Is it Good or Bad?

Hope it helps,

Kurt & AC



0e621383_headerevangelismresources13I believe that sharing Christ is our number one responsibility as a believer. When we give our lives to Christ we are commanded to share the good news with others. Now, I know that there are a lot of tools and resources out there on how to share your faith. That’s a good thing because I don’t believe that there is a set way to do it. So whatever you’re doing or using, keep it up.

When I was younger I was taught the Romans Road which was great. However, I was to scared to share in fear that if I ever got off the road, I wouldn’t be able to find my way back. Two thoughts would run through my mind as I shared the gospel:

  1. “Please don’t ask me something I don’t know.”
  2. “Please don’t know more about the Bible than I do.”

Needless to say, I did whatever I could not to share my faith with others.

I know that I have students in my ministry who probably think the same way that I did. However, it’s an invalid excuse not share your faith, because there are no valid excuses when it comes to sharing your faith. We’ve all been mandated as believers to share the good news of Christ. So I decided to help them by teaching them to share their faith through their own experience versus just head knowledge.

Also, there are some things that I’ve learned that really hinders us from sharing our faith effectively. I thought I’d share them with the youth ministry nation. So here they are:

  • We share more than we should -  I think sometimes we can share too much. We want them to accept Christ and stop smoking right there on the spot. Sometimes we trip ourselves up by taking the conversation down roads that lead away from the gospel. You don’t have to prove that you know more than you actually do. Also, you don’t have to explain the flood or Jesus turning water into wine. Just keep it simple and to the point.
  • We use spiritual language - Beware of the words and phrases you use that might be super meaningful to you, but to them are silly talk. Example: “Just run into the arms of the Lord”, “allow God to be your anchor in the midst of the storm” or “let the Holy Spirit move in you”. Make sure the words you use are understandable. Sometimes we get caught up in the spirituality of words and phrases because they sound good, but they don’t explain anything. Just use common language.
  • We get baited into a debate/argument - There are certain people who may want to ask you about your faith, for the sole purpose of debating or arguing about something. These people aren’t looking to dialogue. They are looking for a fight, so don’t entertain them. No one has ever came to Christ after losing an argument about religion. God told us that if there are people who don’t receive the good news, we need to do what He says in Luke 9:5 – “If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”  We weren’t commanded to defend our faith. We were commanded to share it. 
  • We have to know it all - This is where I struggled the most. I thought I had to know everything in order to share. I felt like a failure if I didn’t know everything. It’s ok if you don’t know all the answers to their questions. You can say ” I don’t know. Let me get back to you.” Those who are genuinely seeking truth will understand. I will also point out that there are some questions you won’t find the answers to until you get to heaven. So know that it’s ok to get back to them with the answer and be ok with saying, “Because we can trust God concerning what we do know, we believe by faith the things we don’t know yet.”

Sharing our faith should come natural and should be a huge part of what we do. We have the cure to sin, which is a disease with eternal implications. We need to share it with an urgency and not let anything hinder us. What other tips would you add to the list?

Hope it helps,

AC

leader

Wrestling with the idea of student leadership in your ministry? Having trouble landing on a model/strategy that feels right? Here are three possible scenarios:

ORGANIC
Organic student leadership doesn’t rely on a program; there are no monthly gatherings, no “requirements” etc. Instead, an Organic approach is one that simply looks for leaders to emerge and then gives those leaders more ownership, responsibility and input in the ministry. In essence, it believes that the “cream always rises to the top” and looks for those students who, mostly on their own, are setting themselves apart from the pack. In an Organic scenario, leadership is freely and generously distributed to anybody who expresses and interest…because most don’t. There is no formal program, but there is tons of student leadership happening. At Saddleback, we use this strategy within our junior high ministry.
Pros: Student leadership is available to everybody, no program required.
Cons: It lacks formality and structure and is tough to measure

ORGANIZED, BUT….
An “Organized, but…” approach to student leadership is simply that; it’s organized to some degree, but not to an extreme. In this approach there may be meetings, applications, requirements for membership, a set curriculum, etc. But which of those things exist, and which don’t would be somewhat arbitrary and may change from time to time. At Saddleback, we use this strategy within our High School ministry.
Pros: Structure, strategy, measurable results, ability to identify who’s part of program, lots of
flexibility.
Cons: The flexibility may create too much inconsistency, a feeling of “is this what I signed up for?”

ORGANIZED, AND….
An “Organized, and….” approach is simply that; it’s organized, and then some! It’s highly organized, with a well-defined strategy and systematic approach. In addition to meetings, applications, requirements for membership, a set curriculum etc. this model will often include other things such as students being nominated, voted in by their peers, given a large amount of decision making power etc. This model may also toss in some T-shirts and name badges, too. In essence, this model looks very similar to a student government model found in most school settings.
Pros: Student leadership is for the serious! It weeds out the only mildly interested. Those who are in
are usually All-in!
Cons: Can create an elitist mentality among members; a “cool kids” club. Is very high maintenance.

There are lots of ways to identify leadership gifts and develop leadership skills in your youth group. virtually any approach is acceptable. Doing nothing, however, probably isn’t.