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?

270208_2181937635525_2980948_nBeing a small group leader is great and scary at the same time. I took a group of guys from freshmen year to senior year.  It was great, but there were some things I had to learn to be ok with throughout the four years that I wish i knew at the beginning. It would’ve helped me shape the group better. Some of the things I had to learn to be ok with were great and others kind of came with the territory. Knowing these ten things now will definitely benefit my next group. So I thought I’d share my learnings.

  1. Be OK with it being more than bible study. – I thought I would be just doing a study and hanging out with some dudes. Little did I know, doing life together bonds you together like family. Even though they are all at different colleges, some local and some out of state, they know that I’m here for them if they ever need me. Love my boys.
  2. Be OK with just planting seeds. - I had guys in my group that came and left and I felt like they never fully got what I was trying to teach them. It would get me down at times. I had to remember that I’m called to plant the seeds of God’s word and God changes the heart. I must be ok with just planting seeds and trusting that God will produce the harvest.
  3. Be OK with students joining and leaving. - Whether it be because of a friend who’s joining another group or the season of the student’s life is super busy and they have to take a season off of small group, there is a chance students will leave. Tip: Celebrate the students who join and don’t take it personal when someone leaves. Make sure the door is always open for them to return.
  4. Be OK with your life changing. - My guys pushed me to be the example they needed me to be. I can’t tell you how much my life has changed because of my small group guys. They pushed me to really study God’s word, be a man of prayer and be a better husband/father. Tip: expect God to change your life for the better.
  5. Be OK with being interrupted. – There will be times that your small group will need you to be there during a time of crisis. From death in the family, to them making some huge mistakes and needing advice, know that they will need you at times unplanned.
  6. Be OK with not knowing what to say or do. – You will feel this way at times, but it’s ok.  It’s actually the best place to be, when it pushes you to lean on God and seek His wisdom. I lived in this area my first year leading a small group.
  7. Be OK with students being there for different reasons. - Some are there to be challenged in their faith and others are there just to hang with friends. I’ve had several of those types of students and all I can say is be patient and trust God.  I’ve seen students who were all about just hanging out one year and helping start a christian club at their school the next year. So be confident in God’s ability to change their direction.
  8. Be OK with having your faith stretched and strengthened. - Nothing stretches and strengthens your faith like a bunch of students trying to learn and grow in their walk with Christ.  I’ve seen God show up so many times in my guy’s life that it has strengthened my faith. I would study and teach things I thought I knew very well, until one of the guys would ask a great question that would challenge my thinking on the subject. Little did I know, God was using my group to stretch and grow my faith in Him. He will definitely do the same for you.
  9. Be OK with keeping parents on task. – Communicate to the parents what you expect of them in a loving and supportive way and address issues quickly as they arise.  TIP: If you want parents there on time, be there to greet them when they pull up every time. If you want them to pickup on time, end on time and greet them for pickup.
  10. Be OK with knowing you will make mistakes and/or fail. - You are not perfect and no one is expecting you to be. There will be things you will try to do that will not work out.  You will make mistakes and/or fail at times. It’s ok and we’ve all been there.  The goal is to learn from your mistakes and failures and minimize the return of the two in the same area.

What are some other things small group leaders have to be ok with leading a group?

hope it helps

ac



lets talkWe went to the email bag with this topic. Remember email us at talkaboutym@gmail.com with your questions or topic suggestions. This is a topic that needs more attention and dialog. We decided to talk about it in the context of our on ministry.  Also, we probably give the best advice that we have on the topic towards the end.  Let’s keep the conversation going. We would love to hear how you approach this topic within your ministry.

 

hope it helps

kurt & ac

Question-300x300As summer is quickly coming to an end and fall is quickly approaching, I like to think about how the events or programs I oversee can be better. I also like to brainstorm new ones. My goal is to learn from my failures with summer events, so I don’t repeat them in the fall. Through failure I’ve grown to love the planning process a lot more. Here are 7 questions I ask myself based off of events/programs that I didn’t think all the way through.

  1. What’s the purpose of the event/program? – Knowing the purpose of the event I’m planning helps me gauge my target audience. Not every student will want to come to a worship event or discipleship event. Knowing the purpose allows me to go all out on promotion that is specifically created with the purpose of the event in mind.  My goal is to reach those I’ve identified as my potential taget.
  2. Will students want to come? –  I have to be careful that I don’t plan something based on my own preference but I plan something that will be great and fun for students. I’ve pulled core students in on the planning just to get their perspective on an event or program.
  3. Is there opportunity for building relationships? – I think of this question in terms of student to student or leader to student. Of course there will be both going on but being intentional about which one best fits the event takes the event to the next level.  A lot of times I push students to our events so they can get connected, so I have to think about that during the planning process.
  4. Is there follow-up or next steps needed? – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve missed the opportunity to challenge students to take the next step or follow-up with them because I didn’t think it through beforehand. I’ve been thinking about helping students follow-up with friends that they bring to events. This is definitely a question you want to ask yourself.
  5. Should it cost and is it the right amount? - I’m always thinking is there a way not to charge. Sometimes it’s doable, like the park day we do where we provide lunch, but this is not always the case. Some events or programs have no budget and students have to pay, which is ok, as long as it’s the right price point which has been thought through. Parents will definitely appreciate this step.
  6. Where can we cut cost? – Again I’m thinking about budget and parents. Budget money is coming from people who believe in the God given mission of the church. I definitely want to care about where their money is going. So where can we save money is the question.
  7. How can we help students invite their friends? – Students are connected non-stop with their friends through social media and text. We’ve had great success using these mediums to help them invite their friends.  The goal is to be as creative as you can be.  If you’re not that creative get some of your students to help you.  They will love it and you will have potentially started a new ministry.

Now, I know there are more than just seven questions, so what else can we think about in the planning process to make it the best event/program ever?  Would love to hear your thoughts!!!

hope it helps

ac



 

You can’t be good at everything. You don’t need to be good at everything. And lots of stuff you are really good at or hoping to become good at don’t really matter too much at the end of the day.  So what if we narrowed it down to only THREE things youth workers do need to be good at; what might be the top three universal skills of a youth worker?  NOTE: I purposely left “spiritual” things such as prayer life, integrity etc. off the list because (whether true or not) I’m gonna assume we’ve got that stuff dialed in.

My List:

* The ability to be a fantastic active listener.  Just being a good listener isn’t enough, but being a fantastic active listener means you are listening, responding with guiding questions, probing here and there and picking up on themes that you might want to dig into deeper at another time.

* Patience. Patience makes almost everything better! Being patient with the annoying students, the struggling students, the cocky students, the “church” students, parents, elders, volunteers, yourself and the whole “process” of youth ministry and discipleship may be the most underrated but important skill/mindset you can have.

* A strong work ethic. This next statement won’t win me many fans, but here it goes: Lots of youth workers are lazy. To be specific, lots of full-time youth workers are lazy. We have somehow confused reading blogs, downloading sweet apps and checking the Instagrams of our students as hard work. Don’t get me wrong, times have changed and how we work is in a state of flux, but (and here’s the money tip…) many of the people we work for such as senior pastors, elders, parents etc. don’t yet “get it” and still expect us to be willing to do the nitty-gritty grunt work every now and again. When we complain that we haven’t had a day off in almost an entire week, or insist on taking an extra day off after the grueling scavenger hunt we led for our small group they have a hard time feeling our pain.  Here’s a tough question: If an elder followed you around for a week, would he feel compelled to recommend you for a raise or that you be replaced with a part-time college student?

What skills would be at the top of your list?

The Bionic Teenager?

 —  August 1, 2013 — 6 Comments

I sat in a planning meeting today with several caring local professionals. They hope to host a youth summit in our area, and our conversation eventually centered on the desired outcomes of the conference. We began brainstorming  what we want to see happen in the students involved. In other words, “Who will they ultimately be when they leave this event because they were a part of it?”

After several minutes on that line of thinking, I raised my hand and offered an observation:

“It feels like we’re trying to create a bionic teenager. I don’t know if everyone remembers that old TV show the Six Million Dollar Man, but there was this concept in its opening theme that it feels like we’re sharing here – that we have the means to make students better than they were before… ‘better, stronger, faster.’

I think everything we’ve talked about are great values for kids to grow into, but if I were to force this on my own son he’d feel immense pressure because he can’t get there overnight (let alone consistently). Maybe we need to include the values of ‘rest’ and ‘journey’ somehow? Students can take steps this way, but they may need to intentionally pause along the way and take stock of their progress so they don’t crash because they feel they’re not yet perfect.”

My thoughts were met with enthusiasm, not to mention a lot of affirmation. I felt like I’d made a real contribution to the discussion.

Only…

praiseI wondered how often I’ve not had that thought in ministry. Maybe you can identify:

  • “Once kids go on this trip, their hearts will be forever transformed for Jesus.”
  • “If I can only get that student baptized, then he/she will become a role model to the others.”
  • “The more often students are consistent with youth group attendance, the more consistent they’ll be with Jesus.”
  • “They have to start (reading the Bible/praying/fasting/tithing/singing) more if they hope to have a real breakthrough.”

Even just writing those made me realize how absurd they all are.

And yet… don’t thoughts like that creep into your head and planning, too?

The thing about bionics is that something unnatural was added to appear natural.

Hmm. Is that the end?

What do you think is reasonable and unreasonable to expect in these matters?