article.2013.03.12One of the questions we are often asked is: How do you get it all done? To be honest, no one gets it all done. But, we have come up with a few techniques over the years to help us squeeze more into each day. This week we want to take a little time to help you boost your productivity.

Turn off notifications
Notifications are the derailment of getting stuff done. And while you may pride yourself on giving quick answers and having instant follow-up, what you are actually doing is interrupting continued focused thought in one particular area. Try prepping your next sermon using iA Writer (iawriter.com) and see if the focus helps you prepare faster and more effectively.

Do email in bursts.
Similar to the “turn off notifications” idea: Only check your email a few times a day. This one is harder than ever with that little “new email” icon or unread number calling out your name to check it incessantly all day. Stop the email madness! Do email in the morning, noon, at the end of the workday and just before bed and you can knock out a bunch in one block rather than let it persist all day.

Never eat alone.
Everyone has to eat lunch! So make your productivity matter even over your lunch hour. Spend time with a mentor, a student, a volunteer, your spouse, one of your kids—make every meal count.

Manage your meeting times.
It doesn’t take long for a meeting to turn into a marathon, so master the subtle ways to help move them along. Ask good questions, make sure there is a clear objective beforehand, and don’t be afraid to help bring it to a conclusion so you can be on time for the FCA meeting or volleyball game coming up next.

Get out of the office.

Have a secret location that no one knows about where you go to “get stuff done.” Starbucks by the church is a little too obvious for me—I (Josh) love a little Boba place around here that is quiet, has free wi-fi, and no one has any idea where I’m at for a few hours to crank stuff out. I can be ultra productive there and get totally in the zone.

Open your door/close your door.
I love the “open door policy” of our church, but there are certain times it just isn’t a realistic option. Don’t be afraid to close your door 20% of the time to help you get things done without interruption.

What is your best tip for productivity?

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

article.2013.03.05Madonna. Walkmans. TV dinners. Land lines. Bowl cuts. MC Hammer. Star Wars.

Lady Gaga. iPods. Starbucks. iPhones. The Fade. LMFAO. Hipsters. Hunger Games.

When we were in high school, things were a little different—instead of iPads we used wide-margin notebook paper, and our collection of 75 CDs of music was stored in twin towers of jewel cases. The idea of storing 5-kajillion songs on our phone would have caused our heads to explode!

One of the most intimidating aspects of youth ministry is understanding youth culture. One of the biggest roadblocks that potential volunteers face when joining your ministry is determining if they still “get it.”

Here’s the good news right up front: You don’t have to be culturally relevant, but it may be helpful to know the world your students are living in. Here are a few ideas to help you connect with their culture quickly:

  • Find out what shows your students watch and watch 10 minutes of each every now and then.
  • Watch the MTV Movie Awards (or similar show) for a quick burst of culture…and a quick shock to your system.
  • Pay attention to the commercials directed towards teenagers—what are they selling to students?
  • Browse the magazines your students are reading.
  • Stroll through a local mall and window shop at stores aimed at teens.
  • Pick a student up after school for a Starbucks…get there a little early and just observe/listen.
  • Join Facebook!
  • Surf the Internet—visit sites that your students frequent.
  • Go to the local movie theater on a Friday night.
  • Ask questions.

The bottom line is simply this: The more you understand about the world today’s junior high and high school students live in, and the more you are willing to remember about yourself at that age, the more effective you will be as a minister.

Even though technology, music, and clothes have changed…the need for love, acceptance and encouragement in a student’s life hasn’t changed a bit. Blessings as you minister today!

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.



thisbookgetsaround

THINK YOU KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT YOUR FRIENDS? THINK YOUR FRIENDS KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU? THINK AGAIN!

This Book Gets Around is a fun way to learn something new about your friends or family members, neighbors, co-workers, teammates, whoever! (You might even uncover one or two surprising things about yourself, too.)

Pass the book around, let people answer imaginative questions and do some creative activities, and then see what’s written on the pages.

— Buy This Book Get’s Around Now!—

Give the book to specific people or let it follow a random path back to you whatever way you use it is fine. Get the fun started today, and discover something cool, unusual, surprising, or amazing about the people you already know!

Order This Book Get’s Around for YOUR Youth Group Today!

About the Author:

kurt_johnson_NEW_bw KURT JOHNSTON has been in youth ministry since 1988 and currently leads the student ministry team at Saddleback Church in Orange County, California. His ministry of choice is the junior high department, where he tries to spend approximately 87.4% of his time. Kurt and his wife, Rachel, have been married for a long time and have two children: Kayla, a college student, and Cole, who’s in high school.

Enjoy!

Stephanie

yhst-95977426524948_2249_4827794At the Simply Youth Ministry Conference this past weekend they released Kurt Johnston’s new book for students, This Book Gets Around. They created a

This Book Gets Around is a fun way to learn something new about your friends or family members, neighbors, co-workers, teammates, whoever! (You might even uncover one or two surprising things about yourself, too.)

Pass the book around, let people answer imaginative questions and do some creative activities, and then see what’s written on the pages.

Give the book to specific people or let it follow a random path back to you—whatever way you use it is fine. Get the fun started today, and discover something cool, unusual, surprising, or amazing about the people you already know!

JG



Running on Empty?

 —  March 1, 2013 — 1 Comment

article.2013.02.12We know the feeling well. The energy of the fall is gone, seniors are already starting to head toward the door, and you’re questioning your own sanity because you were the one championing the junior high overnighter this Friday night. What do you do? You’ll need to find what is right for you, but here are a few suggestions to help you push through the funk.

Take an hour.
Sometimes you just need some space to clear your head for an hour or so. Go for a walk. Journal. Be silent. Exercise. Get a haircut that you haven’t had time for…you’re starting to resemble John the Baptist. Look at your Outlook calendar right now and make and appointment with yourself.

Take a personal day.
Not everybody has the luxury of being able to sneak away for an entire day…but if you do, DO IT! An entire day of rest, relaxation, reading, reflecting and rejoicing might be just what the good doctor ordered. Of course you CAN do things that don’t start with the letter “R” but they probably won’t be as rewarding (see what we did there…another “R” word).

Get some sleep.
When you’re robbing yourself of sleep at night, you’re robbing yourself of energy the next day! Put down the controller, step away from the refrigerator, and find a pillow with your name on it. If your MacBook has sleep mode, you should too.

Clear the calendar.
In some of the most extreme cases, the wisest thing you can do is slow everything down. Trim the calendar. Slash the calendar. Talk to your supervisor about changing office hours expectations. Cancel that thing that has you stuck.

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

Youth Ministry Don’ts

 —  February 25, 2013 — 1 Comment

article.2013.02.19This week we’re taking on a few youth ministry do’s and don’ts! With our experience, we’ve learned a few things about both sides of this—we’ve both had some solid successes and some epic failures! Would love for you to read these, and then add your own in the comments, too!

Don’t avoid the stuff that doesn’t come easy to you.
Too often youth workers simply ignore what they don’t want to do, or what they aren’t good at. That explains why the chairman on the finance committee is always shaking his head at you when it comes to receipts. Just because something isn’t natural or in your gifting doesn’t give you a free pass to avoid it and hope it goes away. It doesn’t go away; it gets worse! Ministry is full of what we call the “hate to/have to” stuff we hate to do, but we have to do!

Don’t avoid the difficult part of youth ministry.
Follow-up with that parent. Don’t leave someone hanging. Report it to the authorities. Speak the whole truth—do it in love—but speak it all to them. Receive criticism well. Be a learner.

Don’t give up on your relationship with the rest of the church.
For many youth workers, they want to take a rowboat out to youth ministry island and live there. Be a part of the church! Otherwise you’ll create a great ministry at a church your graduates will never attend. Be one with the leadership, the vision, direction, and the whole church.

Don’t miss the small things that matter to other people.
Be on time. Fill the van up with gas. Let someone know about the problem before they stumble onto it. Clean up the youth room. Pick up that trash as you walk in from the parking lot.

Don’t be ignorant of your perception.
A wise man once said, “perception is reality” and it is never more true than when we apply it to youth ministry. Know your reputation, know your weaknesses, and work to get better on the stuff you fail in. If you are blind to your blind spots, you will be blind-sided.

Just a few youth ministry “don’ts” to get your week going. Got one to share with everyone, too?

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.



Youth Ministry Do’s

 —  February 21, 2013 — 1 Comment

article.2013.02.20This week we’re taking on a few youth ministry do’s and don’ts! With our experience, we’ve learned a few things about both sides of this—we’ve both had some solid successes and some epic failures! Would love for you to read these, and then add your own in the comments, too. Here are some things we think are big time “Do’s”!

DO stay committed to the basics.
Youth ministry isn’t rocket science. In fact, some of the most important parts of a healthy youth ministry are actually quite simple: remembering names, following up with a newcomer, visiting a sick student at the hospital, sending a birthday card, remembering prayer requests, etc. Staying faithful to the basics is often what makes the biggest difference.

DO work to win the trust of parents.
I (Kurt) have a favorite saying: “If parents are for you, who can be against you?” And one of the best ways to get parents “for you” is to earn their trust. Here are three simple things that help build trust with parents.

  • Consistent and accurate communication
  • Treating their children well
  • Having a “transparent” ministry where parents questions, concerns, etc. are welcomed

DO empower your leaders.
Your ministry’s ability to grow, expand and advance the Kingdom is largely determined by your ability to empower your volunteer team and give them mass amounts of ownership and responsibility.

DO get out of the walls of the church and look around!
There is a big, wide world of youth culture out there that you need to understand! Read what your students read, watch what they watch, and listen to what they listen to…not because you like it, but because you care enough to be educated. Hang out at the movie theater on a Friday night and take mental notes. Volunteer to chaperone the winter formal. Good church work often requires getting away from the church!

DO take care of yourself.
We know you hear this one all the time, but you’re going to hear it again! Your ministry really is only as healthy as its leader.

Those are a few things we thing every youth worker needs to DO! What would you add to this list?

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

article.2013.02.05New, new, new!

For many youth workers a big part of their job description seems to include “Think outside the box on a regular basis”… constantly coming up with new ideas and innovative programs that are bigger and better than last year, last week, and last night. And while there is certainly a place for risk-taking and improvement in each new season, sometimes what you really need is tried and true, solid stuff. Stuff that is actually totally inside the box!”

Ask yourself these questions as you look at planning the season ahead:

  • What has worked really well in the past year?
  • What is a “classic” that would be fun to revive?
  • What were people talking about after last summer?
  • What is MY favorite event of the year?
  • Where did we see the most life-change in the last season?
  • What is easy to plan but brings the ministry a big win?

There’s a fine line between tradition and boredom, so be careful as you plan—but sometimes, the best things you can do are ones that already worked in the past.

Here are a few examples of ideas that started off as new ideas and have become traditions in our youth ministry:

You Own the Weekend—This is a series where students completely run youth group. It has had an incredible response every year!

Pumpkinfest—We don’t do a ton of big events, so we tend to really do our best to go “all in” on just a couple a year. One is this fun festival in the fall that students now know and love.

Guys Trip / Girl’s Trip—These fun summer overnighters have become really popular with out students and were one of the highlights of just last year. So guess what? We’re doing them again this summer.

Take a second to think inside the box for your next season of ministry!

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.