volunteer21One thing I can freely assume about volunteers is that they want to help. Other than that I should be careful about anything else I assume. I’ve been working with volunteers for a while and can say I’ve probably had more failures then successes, but through those failures it’s helped me become better at leading volunteers. So I’m writing from my failures in mind hoping it helps.

Making assumptions is one of the worst things I’ve done concerning volunteers. So I thought I’d share a few of my learnings.

  1. Never assume that they understand the cause just as much as you do. – Learning: You must articulate the cause, and your heart and passion for it. Remember they just want to help, and not everyone helping in youth ministry is called to it. So share and help them understand the impact of what your ministry does.
  2. Never assume they are going to take the initiative. - Learning: Take the time before hand and map out what it is you need them to do. When I say map out, I mean be very detailed in your instructions because they will only do what is expressed. For example, once I had volunteers and I gave them the instructions to clean up. Well, they did not do a good job and they actually left boxes and trash because they didn’t know where to put it. You see, I assumed that they would clean the way I wanted them to clean. I also assumed they would break the boxes down and take out all of the trash. The issue is I was clear on the “what” but not on the “how” so they cleaned the way they wanted to.
  3. Never assume they are self-motivating. – Learning : Volunteers need you to be a cheerleader for them as they care for students at either an event, small group or the weekend service. Be intentional about pointing out some small wins to them as well as big wins. Let them know the affect it has on the ministry. Thank them for allowing God to use their gifts and talents.
  4. Never assume they are going to know what to do next. - Learning:  Idle time to a volunteer is like water to oil. Idle time, if not communicated beforehand, can mean an unorganized ministry to a volunteer. They automatically think “didn’t they know we were coming?” Also, if not communicated you can become frustrated yourself thinking no ones doing anything, when actually it could be that they just don’t know what to do next.
  5. Never assume they want to do more than communicated. – Learning: Until your volunteers buy into the purpose of the ministry, assuming they want to go the extra mile could insure they never return.

For me, these assumptions would happen unintentionally. I would find myself playing catchup and having to stay to clean, and redo some of the work I had asked volunteers to do. I had to really evaluate the assumptions I was making and how because of it, I was not being a great steward of my volunteers time. So this is something to think about as you deal with volunteers this week. I know there is more than just 5 and I know I’m not the only one(maybe I am..ha), so what are some assumptions you’ve made about volunteers that wasn’t so smart?

hope it helps

ac

flip-it-Title

This week we played Flip It! This is a super simple game of heads or tails…but better.

Rules:

  • Ask the crowd to choose either heads or tails publically by either grabbing their head… or tail.
  • Then the game host flips a coin. If the coin is heads, all those who choose heads are still in… same with tails.

That is all you need.

Coin-Flip

Now…Here are a couple ways to make this a little more techie.

  1. The graphic above is free, click here and download the 720p version. Now you have a slide to introduce your game.
  2. Instead of a coin I used the app “FlipANickel.” It has a free version and a $.99 version.  I mirrored the app from my iPhone to our video screens using AirServer.  Everyone was able to see the coin flip and know if it was heads or tails on the big screen.

Using the app was great, it was visible and built good anticipation.  I looked at about 15 coin flipping apps, and this was the best (if you know if a better one please add it in the comments). The free version is good, but I am not a fan of ads in my apps… especially when I am screen mirroring to an audience so I dropped the 99 cents like a boss!

Keep up the good work,

Brandon

@uthguy9

 



lets talkKurt and I discuss culture and that is exactly what it was a discussion. So hopefully a few learnings pop out as we discuss culture. Our conversation ranged from Miley Cyrus to Darryl Strawberry. We talk about it all. Now, right up front you will learn two things:

  1. How Kurt dances his way through youth ministry.
  2. How the word twerking made it’s way into the “Let’s Talk Youth Ministry bit archive.

If you have a topic you would like us to talk about send us an email to talkaboutym@gmail.com.

 

hope it helps

ac and kurt

When it comes to celebrating, I’m not a natural.
I’d be okay to never attend another birthday party, wedding (other than my own kids some day, and even that is negotiable!), or any other “celebrations” that people like to throw. I’m notorious among our circle of friends for my lack of enthusiasm to decorate for Christmas. For a few years, when my kids were really young, my idea of Christmas decor was a one-step process: I’d replace our porch light with a green light bulb. Done!

But I’ve learned that there’s power in celebrating together; especially in ministry. Especially in youth ministry. So we celebrate. A lot.

- We celebrate the 5, 10, 15 and 20 year anniversary of volunteers.
- We celebrate baptisms by making our baptism events feel like parties.
- We celebrate the various “wins” in our ministries by making it a priority to share them with each other.
- We celebrate mission trips by having reunion parties a month after the trip.
- We celebrate the idea of “team” by having Work Together Wednesdays (nobody allowed to work holed up in their office).

When you celebrate, you encourage. And the reality is that nobody gets tired of encouragement.

I don’t know what your youth ministry looks like, but I’m sure there is lots and lots of really good stuff going on…stuff worth celebrating!



2015GameChanger3inx3inAs I was thinking about this post “3 potential game-changers”, I came up with more than three, but with this post I also wanted to highlight things that seem common to us in youth ministry. I believe we all do these three things to some degree but if we did them intentionally it could be a game-changer for the ministry. Here are three potential game-changers:

Prayer – Prayer can be the easiest thing to get swept away by the business of youth ministry. The effectiveness of what I do every day in youth ministry relies on me receiving inspiration and direction from God. I love how Jesus would get away and pray. He stayed in communication with God. The key to being consistant in prayer is to be intentional about it. Prayer that is done intentionally can radically change your ministry. This is because you are now prioritizing the divine intervention of the Holy Spirit. Being intentional about prayer is more than just praying before service. It starts with your personal prayer life. If you’re not consistant in your personal prayer life than it will be nearly impossible for you to be consistant in praying for the ministry. Four ways to be intentional:

  1. It starts with you – Be intentional about your personal prayer life.
  2. It’s not just something you do – Prayer is your connection to divine wisdom, instruction and direction. Prayer is a big deal and you should treat it as such.
  3. Be strategic - Be creative and think of ways to getting more people praying for the ministry. One example: we have a lot of parents praying for our ministry. I want to unify them which will strengthen them and also bring more focus to what they pray for. Be strategic in prayer.

Listening - I can’t tell you how many students I’ve spoken with that feels like no one listens to them. Specially those who self-harm or have thoughts of suicide. Listening is a powerful part of ministry that can be overlooked. We can be so quick to give the cause/solution/advice not even realizing that everyone else in their life is probably doing the same thing and no one’s listening. Unless I’m intentional about listening I won’t. I will have answers before there needed and solutions before I hear the whole problem. Listening is just as important as having the solution. Whether you are talking with a student, parent or volunteer be intentional about listening because it says a lot. Three way to be intentional:

  1. Listen with the intent to listen – listening helps build trust. If people feel like you genuinely listen to them, then they are more apt to listen to you.
  2. Ask good question – don’t be so quick to respond with advice or the solution because you may miss something. I try and ask a minimum of 20 questions. Asking questions lets them know you are listening.
  3. Watch your body language – your posture can give off unwanted vibes. So make sure your whole body is attentive to the person speaking. It makes a difference.  

Being interrupted – How many times after service, before service, via phone call or a drop by the office were you approached/contacted by a student and you said “heyyyy…how are you?” and they said “I’m alright”with the look of my life is falling a part and I need you to hear me out and speak some life into my situation. I can tell you that happens to me every week. I believe you have to be intentional even about being interrupted. Nothing that is going on during your program or work day is more important than making sure you allow yourself to be interrupted by that student. Three ways to be intentional:

  1. Pray about it – Pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance when interrupted. While things may interrupt us they never interrupt Him. Pray God doesn’t allow you to look the other way.
  2. Be more specific than the question “how are you” - Most of the time we ask that question out of habit, but in order to be intentional about it you need to be more specific. Ask “how’s freshmen year ” or “how’s the family”. Being specific is an intentional way to let them know you don’t mind being interrupted.
  3. Followup – I always have them come to me after service because I can forget. I also set up a time to talk with them again.

What else in ministry could be a game-changer if done intentionally?

 

hope it helps

ac

reflect-product-image-2_grandeEver been to a new church and left with the a vibe about the church that was either positive or negative? Well, I think this happens with a lot of places. I went to what I thought was a fast-food restaurant one time and it changed my life. This place was in a league of it’s own. They cared about my experience from the time I walked in the door til the time I left. I felt cared for and important to them. I literally felt like my experience at this place was their number one priority.

I got the chance to meet the owner of the empire. He explained that what I experienced at one of his many restaurants was the things they value as a business. Then I got to read their mission statement and then my experience made sense.

“To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”

My experience reflected their mission statement. This got me thinking about youth ministry and what would a first time student or parent say about my youth ministry. You see I believe their is an overall message that our youth groups scream out to the people who visit for the first time just like the restaurant I went to.  I believe in order for that to happen you must be intentional about it. So here are four things I believe will help you.

  1. Know and understand the purpose/mission statement. – Everyone that works in your ministry needs to know and understand the purpose of your ministry. If they don’t know it then the overall message of your ministry is probably not reflecting it’s purpose/mission statement.
  2. Make sure all operations are aligned to the mission/purpose statement. – Check your ministry for well intentioned programs that are not reflecting the mission/purpose of your ministry. Help leaders within the youth group focus their efforts toward aligning their area of ministry with the purpose/mission of the youth group.
  3. Strategize on ways to scream it even louder. – If you feel like this is the reason God has placed this ministry where it is, then you should feel obligated to do your due diligence in making sure it is reflected at the highest level. Which means looking at the small things that could scream really loud. For an example, if you go to Chick fil a anywhere there is a Chick fil a and say thank-you, you will get the response “my pleasure”. Now, that seems small but it screams their mision statement that says “we want them to have a positive influence on all who comes in contact with Chick fil a. Sometimes it’s the small things that screams the loudest.
  4. Survey students and parents. – I oversee pastoral care in my youth group and I want a student or parent to be able to say “oh yeah this part of your ministry reflects the purpose/mission of our youth group clearly. In order for that to happen feedback is key. It’s not about are they satisfied with the service, but are we aligned with our purpose/mission statement.

What are some other ways to make sure that your ministry reflects the purpose/mission statement?

hope it helps

ac



prepared-businessman1I wrote a post last week listing out 10 things that I had to become ok with as a small group leader. You can read it here. I had a lot of great conversations about it last week. Talking about the post got me thinking about the things I could’ve been prepared for. Although as a leader you must be ok with some things, you also as a leader can be better prepared for other things. So I thought I’d share ten things I needed to be prepared to do as a small group leader.

Set Boundaries – Letting your leaders know that it is ok for them to set boundaries with their students if need be. From experience, you may want to set boundaries from day one in a lot of areas especially these two:

  • Texting and phone calls – I know that we want to be available and reachable at all times, but you want to set some guidelines. For some students this may not be a problem, but for others you could run into all types of issue as the season goes on.
  • Hanging out – You definitely want to spend time with your group outside of the day you have group, but you need your own time to hang with other friends.  You can easily burn out if theres no life outside of your small group. Take a break. It’s ok.

Communicate Smarter - Setting up a group text with your students and an email group for the parents right away will be one of the smartest things you do. Text the students and also email their parents what’s going on. Because there is a huge chance your students won’t share with their parents what you need them to share, until the last minute or when it’s too late.

Inform Parents How You Will Discipline – Set up how you will discipline and inform parents right away. Nothing causes more problems then you as a leader disciplining students a certain way and the parents learning about the how the day you do it. So let them know how you will discipline so when their student tells them what happened they won’t be shocked.

How To Communicate Conflict - You may not always get the email saying that you are the parents favorite person. You may get an email from a parent disapproving of something you’ve said or done. Here is my response to confrontational emails “I’m sorry you feel that way. Is their a time we can talk in person or via phone about this?” email lacks context so whatever you say could be perceived the wrong way. If the issue can’t be resolved, let the ministry know so they can help resolve the issue and let them know sooner than later.

If you have to communicate something tough with a parent do it in person and in love. Bring the ministry in the loop right away.

Let Parents Know About The Sex/Pornography Talk – There are some lessons that leaders need to let parents know they are doing. So the parent can make the choice if they want their students to participate or not. There may be more topics, but sex and pornography are two examples of subjects that parents need to beware of. Tip: send parents your outline so they can have an idea of what will be discussed. This will save the ministry a lot of heartache. We know that the best setting for these issues to be discussed is small group but a better place is also the home . So lets give parents that respect and courtesy.

Not Drive Students – This may seem small but there is a legall limit to how many students can fit in a car. Leaders need to know that the last thing the ministry needs to be doing is explaining to a parent why their son/daughter was in a five seater car with 9 people. Students will pressure and you may seem cool for braking the law, but your breaking the law. Let students know up front that it’s not going to happen.

Set Language Standards - For some students you will have no problem but for some you may have to get a sensor button. haha Let students know up front the type of language you will not tolerate.

Talk About Social Media – This may need to be an ongoing conversation with students. Students need to know that they will be perceived by what they post, like and who they follow and friend. Don’t be afraid to call them out on questionable pictures, statuses and questionable friends or Instagram feeds.

Say No – Sometimes students and parents can take advantage of someone who has set out to care for them the way small group leaders care for them. So leaders need to know that it’s ok to say no. You don’t have to pay for every meal when you go out and you are not a personal taxi. It’s ok to say no!!

Deal With Non-Believing Parents- Your leaders are in a great position to be a witness to the students parents. I actually wrote a post about this awhile back (click here) I’ve seen God do some amazing things in this situation. Tip: Prayer is the key in this situation. Pray for wisdom and opportunities to share the love of Christ with the family. Whether it be through the student or one on one, pray for God’s intervention.

What would you add to the list?

hope it helps

ac

 

graduation 1

 

 

It’s their last year with you, their school, their family and their childhood.  For many High School Seniors the Fall is filled with college visits, gathering information and college applications.  Parents are navigating the “FAFSE,” and wondering why this child doesn’t have a full ride based on their academic or athletic prowess?  Many of them start pulling away from youth group even at the start of the year.  This is the “biggest year of their lives,” as they focus down on proms, class trips, graduation and a final year with their friends.

As they appear aloof and “grown,” it’s easy to just let give some wise advise as they enter in, and then let them go. However,  I have found this to be a vital time of transition for both us and the Senior.

Beyond a potential small group for “them,” what do they need from us?

1.  Hands:

They may act like they have it “all together.”  They may even tell you they do.  However,  there are only a small handful of overachievers that have the rest of their lives figured out.  Guidance counselors are overworked and don’t have the time to really talk “future” in detail with students.  Sit with them and think through not what they want to do as much as who they want to be “when they grow up.”

2.  Hugs:

Not always a literal embrace.  Sometimes they just need someone to keep reminding them they are meant for more. I have met too many Seniors who in the end stay home because the future is just too overwhelming.  The start of the school year is the perfect time to start holding onto them, and reassuring them that God has this and it’s going to be alright.

3. Habits:

What are they doing to foster their relationship with the Lord?  Is it all wrapped up in actions or do they understand they are pouring into a relationship?  Guide them to rely less on you, leaders or programming, and ensure they know how to take time daily to spend time with Jesus in prayer, worship, & His Word.

4.  Hinges:

You are the bridge between this last year of  “adolescence” and “young adulthood.”  At least this is how they are feeling.  It will need to be an ongoing process of aiding them as they look to their year after HS.  When they look at schools, what’s on and around campus in the way of Bible Studies and Christian organizations to help them with accountability?  Could you or a volunteer make some calls to churches around their potential schools to find out how they can get involved?

5.  Help:

Sometimes they just need practical help in how to fill out an application. What’s the best grammar for an essay? What’s their ideal major?  If they aren’t “ready” or “made” for college then what?  Do they need a year on the missions field or to find a trade school? How can you help them talk to keep communication lines open with parents? Parents need you to be with them as they help students think forward.

All those years they have been with you, this is the time to pull it all together and walk out this final year. Most of all let them know this is NOT the “LAST HURRAH” this is an exciting step ahead.

What are you doing for your Seniors starting this Fall?