Do you know your role?

720001Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, have been in the news this week. We can all empathize with how difficult it must be for them to sort out ordinary events in the public eye. While this young couple navigates the exciting news of their pregnancy with the hurdle of acute morning sickness (attributed to hyperemesis gravidarum), the rest of the world takes it all in, wondering in the background if and when William will be named the next King of England.

Can you relate?

Years ago, I was a youth worker in a church where our senior pastor was resigning. Suddenly I felt like my life was on display just a bit more than usual as people began wondering if I (or other staff members) would take on the soon-to-be-vacant role. I started attending board meetings a bit more, as I was invited to share my perspective on various things happening. I had to wrestle with the desires of God over the desires of people, including my own.

Can you relate?

Today I was reminded of this older photo of Prince William and Kate (fresh off their honeymoon) visiting with President Barack and Michelle Obama.

Which person in the picture are you?

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Did you decide?

What do you think Barack and William are talking over?

What are Michelle and Kate chatting about?

Oh… and did you notice the gentleman in the background toward the right?

Look at his face. What is he attentive to?

Look at his posture. What is he ready to do?

Was he one of the choices you considered?

Why?

Why not?

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:3-5)

struettcathy_sm“The one thing I take more joy in than anything else in the world is seeing young people develop.” – S. Truett Cathy

Chick-Fil-A fans and the Cathy family are taking note of the legacy left behind by the founder of America’s top chicken restaurant chain. Fifty years after he created the recipe for his famous sandwich, Georgia businessman Samuel Truett Cathy was announced to have died “peacefully at home, surrounded by loved ones.”

It’s unfortunate that some people will only get to know a person better after they pass away than from the impressions they draw from headlines. I encountered this myself when singer/writer Rich Mullins died, as he went from being in mind “that guy who wrote ‘Awesome God,’ I think” to a “candid-theologian-disguised-as-a-ragamuffin-who-I-wish-I-knew-better.”

struettcathyFor that reason, I’d like to offer just a small portion of S Truett Cathy’s thoughts from various sources, including interviews and his autobiography. There may be several transferable principles here for how you do ministry and so much more, but also consider the legacy he’s left behind:

  • “The Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich itself was born in the wake of an unexpected opportunity. When one of my first two restaurants burned to the ground, I found myself with time on my hands and the availability to develop a new recipe…”
  • “If you wish to enrich days, plant flowers; If you wish to enrich years, plant trees; If you wish to enrich Eternity, plant ideals in the lives of others.”
  • “Put two Cows on a billboard with a bucket of paint and a brush, and they’ll create some unexpected opportunities… They remind people in their unique style to ‘Eat Mor Chikin!’ The Cows still haven’t learned to spell, and their grammar leaves a lot to be desired, but the opportunities are real. Five years after they painted their first billboard, Chick-fil-A had doubled our sales volume, achieving annual sales of more than $1 billion.”
  • truett cathy“We have an impact on our children by what we say, but particularly by what we do. They forget many of the things we say, but they observe everything we do. We can’t expect to keep beer in the refrigerator and expect our fifteen-year-old not to drink beer.”
  • “My business grew on my understanding that customers are always looking for somebody who is dependable and polite and will take care of them.”
  • “It’s better to build boys than mend men.”
  • “After we make the necessary investment – buying the real estate and building the restaurant – we turn over the responsibility of running a $2 million-plus business (for a free-standing location) to these independent franchisees – many who have not yet turned thirty years old. We support them with training, technology, and anything else they need. But the bottom line depends on the Operator’s honesty, integrity, commitment and loyalty to customers and to us. We trust our Operators to make good decisions – and they do. I don’t know of another restaurant company that places so much responsibility in the hands of its franchisees.”
  • “Like wealth, poverty also has the power to build us up and make us appreciate what we have, or it can break our spirits.”
  • “The ‘Eat Mor Chikin’ Cows now have become more than characters in an advertisement. They’re real. Wherever I go I carry a bunch of plush Cow toys. They always make people happy, whether they’re children or adults – even workers in boots and soiled shirts. Everybody loves them. When I give one away I always ask the person to tell me what the Cows say, and hold onto it until they say, ‘Eat Mor Chikin!’”
  • A reporter once asked me how I would like to be remembered. I answered, ‘I think I’d like to be remembered as one who kept my priorities in the right order. We live in a changing world, but we need to be reminded that the important things have not changed, and the important things will not change if we keep our priorities in proper order.”
  • “When we share our time with children, the little things often become lifetime memories for them.”

I have to say, those last two really stand out to me most.

What stands out to you?

For that matter, how out-standing are you? What do you hope to give others based on how you serve and live in this world?

I heard comedian Steve Harvey today talk about his own hope to leave a legacy. In his words, “I’ve scooped a lot of stuff off the ground so you don’t have to slide in it. I tell that to my kids all the time. ‘I just scooped enough of this crap off the ground to keep you from sliding in it.”

Pass-baton-620x480If you were to pass on today, what would your legacy be?

How does that compare to what do you hope your legacy be, that it might be said of you when you pass on into eternity and grasped by others around you?

 



customer-misconceptions2One thing that I get to do in pastoral care is meet with parents. It is super great when the conversations are awesome, but it’s the worst when tough conversations have to happen.

So I thought I would list a few mistakes I’ve made concerning dealing with parents and my learnings.

  1. Assuming They Know. - I had to learn that parents are learning and growing in parenting, just as much as I’m growing as a youth pastor. They don’t have all the answers, and I can’t just assume they do. I also can’t assume they understand what we are here for and I definitely can’t hold them accountable for something I’m assuming they should know. Example: You can’t just assume a parent understands the importance of presence vs. presents in a child’s life. I had to learn “STOP ASSUMING”.
  2. I Can Help Without Them. - With any pastoral care issue you increase the chances of healing and restoration when the parents are involved. They are still the number one influence in a students life. Now, I totally understand cases where parents may not be there to help, but the idea that I can help apart from them, will in the long run not hold true. You will burnout and eventually leave the student to fighting on their own. Because after they leave the ministry you must move on to the next set of students that are coming in with their own problems. I had to learn to INVITE THE PARENTS INTO THE PROCESS.
  3. I’m Only Ministering To Students. - When you minister to the students you are ministering to the parents. Maybe the message is different, but you are ministering to them as well. A lot of parents stress out and anxiety comes from worrying about their children. Some worry about their kids socially, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. I know as a parent I’m always thinking “Well, what do my children think about this or that?” When my children come home from small groups or church and they are telling me what they’ve learned or it comes up out of the blue, it ministers to me. I feel super blessed by our kids ministry. We’ve even had parents start coming to church who had given up on it, because their child started coming. We’ve had parents give their lives to Christ because their child started coming to church. I had to learn “THE MORE INTENTIONAL I AM ABOUT MINISTERING TO STUDENTS, THE MORE I MINISTER TO THEIR PARENTS.”
  4. Parents Can Participate If They Choose To. It’s our job to communicate to parents the important role they play in their child’s spiritual development. They need to know Deuteronomy 6 was written to them and not the youth leader. Now, I know some may say well my parents weren’t involved and look how I’m in ministry. And I would say praise be to God for intervening, because that is not the norm. Parents are essential because they are the number one influencer. God created parents with the ability and authority to mold and direct. Do yourself a favor and encourage their participation in the spiritual growth of their child. For some parents you will be confirming some things they are already doing. Others you will be introducing them to something new. Think about how to do this in the context of your ministry. I’ve had to learn “I NEED TO ENCOURAGE PARENTS IN THIS AREA, INSTEAD OF ALLOWING THEM THE CHOICE.”

I could go on and on, but I thought I’d share my top four. The key to keeping parents in mind is to remember that you are support and not primary. What’s been a mistake you’ve made dealing with parents?

Hope this helps,

AC

Need to find a way to communicate more effective with parents of teens in your youth ministry? Try PARENT CONNECT, an editable monthly newsletter for parents. 

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i_ve_got_issues_tshirt-r279a782e08db433bbf89c733ff565140_vjfe2_324

I’ve never bought a pair of Toms shoes.
I didn’t wear a Kony 2012 T-shirt.
I declined offers to take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
I don’t have a strong opinion about immigration reform.
I’m not actively fighting against the oppression of women within certain evangelical circles.
I’ve never sponsored a child through World Vision or Compassion International.

Why? Because your issues aren’t my issues. And they don’t need to be. Your issues don’t need to be my issues…but I need to have issues because Jesus had issues.

Jesus cared about people with Leprosy, but you’ve probably never supported the wonderful work of American Leprosy Missions.
Jesus cared about Widows (maybe even as much as orphans), but you’ve probably never pledged monthly support to a widow in your local community.

I haven’t done either of those two things, either. Because not every issue needs to be my issue…but I need to have issues because Jesus had issues.

Scripture does point out some specific issues that followers of Jesus should be concerned about, but nobody can actively and effectively advocate for ALL of them…we get to pick and choose, it seems. And hopefully the collective Body of Christ is tackling the things Jesus would want us to tackle.

And Scripture also points out a whole bunch of qualities, characteristics and “fruits” that should be evident in the lives of Jesus followers and it makes sense that these qualities, characteristics and “fruits” would manifest quite often in ways that advocate for those who can’t advocate for themselves.

I need to have issues because Jesus had issues. But please don’t tell me what issues I need to have. Please don’t make me feel less like Jesus, because I’m not fighting for justice the same way you are.

And PLEASE don’t do that to your students, either. They need to have issues because Jesus had issues…but your issues don’t need to be theirs.



rickwarrenlornemichaelsDo you identify more with Lorne Michaels… or Rick Warren?

The former is the long-tenured producer and mind behind Saturday Night Live. For almost forty years, Lorne Michaels has not just kept his up-and-down-in-the-ratings variety show on the air, but has more recently found much of the creative talent for late night TV. Clearly, he knows when he’s doing – even when he hasn’t known what he’s doing.

The latter is the well-known megachurch pastor, ministry coach, global activist and best-selling author. Rick Warren has connected with the average person in need of purpose and given ministers a strategy that has turned many congregations (and youth groups) around. He’s led a church where his staff and volunteers can grow into their S.H.A.P.E. for ministry.

So… which one of them is right when it comes to dealing with creative people?

In her best-selling book “Bossypants,” Tina Fey spoke about how Lorne Michaels taught her that “Producing is about discouraging creativity”:

lornemichaelstinafey

“A TV show comprises many departments — Costumes, Props, Talent, Graphics, Set Dressing, Transportation. Everyone in every department wants to show off their skills and contribute creatively to the show, which is a blessing. You’re grateful to work with people who are talented and enthusiastic about their jobs.

You would think that as a producer, your job would be to churn up creativity, but mostly your job is to police enthusiasm. You may have an occasion where the script calls for a bran muffin on a white plate and the Props Department shows up with a bran cake in the shape of Santa Claus sitting on a silver platter that says “Welcome to Denmark.”

“We just thought it would be funny.”

And you have to find a polite way to explain that the character is Jewish, so her eating Santa’s face might have negative connotations, and the silver tray, while beautiful, is giving a weird glare on camera and maybe let’s go with the bran muffin on the white plate.

And then sometimes Actors have what they call “ideas.” Usually it involves them talking more, or, in the case of more experienced actors, sitting more. When Actors have ideas it’s very important to get to the core reason behind their idea. Is there something you’re asking them to do that is making them uncomfortable… is there someone in the room the actor is trying to impress?”

Rick Warren, on the other hand, has explained that we should delegate to creative people even if we fear the wildfire:

Rick-Warren_avatar_1392753644-150x150

The key to motivating creative people to lead ministry effectively is granting ownership. At Saddleback, as much as possible, each ministry makes its own decisions without a lot of oversight from the staff. We believe that the implementers should be the decision makers. When everything has to be passed by a committee or board, we tend to ask “why?” about every decision. But our initial response to the ideas of creative people should actually be “why not?”

Warren adds that the three things to focus on include:

  • Give them a challenge: Jesus took a dozen average guys and challenged them to go tell the gospel to the entire world… something they could do over time as the church expanded under their leadership.
  • Give them control: Growth happens in an atmosphere of freedom where leaders are encouraged to dream, to try, to experiment, and even to fail and move forward. Burnout happens when we squash every new idea with a skeptical attitude.
  • Give them credit: Affirm and encourage those who serve. Point out successes, provide guidance and comfort through failure, and remind people of their calling and giftedness in Christ.

brain_gears_iStock_000013485370Small1Who do you identify with more?

Which one is your style?

Which style are you serving under?

What have you learned along the way?

Giveaway-EventsGiveaway-EventsGiveaway-EventsHere’s a quick post about something I’ve been thinking about and trying to do in as many areas as possible concerning student leadership. And that something is give away as much of student leadership as possible. In our high school and Jr high ministry we’ve tried to give away as much of the ministry as possible. If you came to our youth service you will see students leading worship, greeting, running cameras, audio, lights, directing cameras, running pro-presenter and sometimes leading a game, sharing a testimony and even speaking.

The benefits of students leading has completely out weighed the adults leading by a ton. Here’s a few of those benefits.

  • The ministry feels more student friendly.
  • Its an easy way to get students plugged in.
  • It brings the “If they can do it, I do it to” attitude.
  • And many more!!

Here is a promo idea my students created:

When launching student leadership I wanted to do just the same. So I asked the question “how much of student leadership can I give away?” I do believe that the answer is different for every ministry, but I also believe that there are areas which are universal. Here are two:

  • Conduct – How students will treat one another in student leadership. I allowed the students to process and come up with a code of conduct that they all would up hold and follow. Now, that doesn’t mean I won’t have to guide and facilitate, but what it does mean is that the students now have some skin in the game. I explained that it’s not up to me to make sure you all treat each other right. It’s up to each individual person in student leadership.
  • Areas To Serve – I want to allow the students to lead and implement in this area. If the program, event or project is super awesome it will be because of them and if it fails it will be on them. The outcome either way holds immeasurable value in their growth as leaders.

Giving student leadership away does three things:

  1. Raises the value of the program with students, because of the hands on experience they will receive.
  2. It gives students ownership. They get to leave a legacy and create some traditions within the ministry.
  3. It creates an environment where motives can be aligned. So if you joined for status you will quickly have to align or you wont make it.

Now, I just used student leadership as an example, but this really could be applied to many other areas within your youth group. It could even be applied to the youth group itself. Giving ministry away is never easy, because then you have to trust someone other than yourself to pull it off. I can truly say it’s worth it. In my experience you are able to do more, and even better ministry when you invite students to lead, create, serve, brainstorm and take ownership of the ministry.

Hope it helps,

AC



Leveraging Chaos

 —  August 25, 2014 — Leave a comment

chaosYouth ministry brings with it a built in level of uncertainty, disorder and chaos. While many youth workers feel the need to minimize these aspects (books have been written, seminars taught, and blog posts written to help), I think a better strategy is to leverage them to your advantage. Here are a few thoughts:

Leveraging Chaos

- Many people find that they are most creative in a crisis or under pressure. Use the most chaotic times in your ministry…when your brain is firing like crazy…to think of areas in your ministry that need an extra dose of creativity. When you are problem solving in one area, leverage that energy to problem solve in others, too!

- Make a change! Most people simply try to survive the chaotic seasons of ministry. But when there’s a lot going on, why not add one more thing…like a significant change or course correction. People like smooth sailing, which is why they dislike change. So, making a change when the water is already a little rough oftentimes is the most strategic time.

- Ask for more resources! Times of tangible chaos (high growth seasons, busy seasons, when your church is adding multi-site campuses, etc.) is a great time to ask for more help. Financial help, volunteer help, etc. It’s always good to be able to point to something obvious and tangible as a reason you are making an extra ask.

- Reassess. Use chaotic seasons to make a fresh assessment of things. What is causing the chaos? Is this chaos the good kind (the result of growth, God’s spirit moving in unexpected ways, etc.) or the bad kind (result of poor planning, trying to do too much, doing the wrong stuff, etc.)? Youth ministry is always going to be busy, but are you busy doing the right stuff, the stuff that matters to you, your church and the kingdom (and…do you, your church and the kingdom agree on what that stuff is!)?

Don’t fear Chaos; leverage it!

- Kurt / @kurtjohnston

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Want to hear more on the topic of chaos in youth ministry from Kurt Johnston? Download his talk, Controlling Chaos here! 

valueBeing in youth ministry I’ve had the privilege of learning a lot. And I can honestly say out of all the things I’ve learned there are some learnings that I feel like I will never stop growing in. Now, when I started this list I easily thought this could be a 10,000 word post, but no one would read a post that long. So here are a few of the things I’ve learned that I believe are valuable. I believe allowing God to grow me in these areas has made me a better youth worker. So are are 6 of 100 learnings I’ve had. haha

  1. Be Flexible. Majority of our day to day tasks in youth ministry are very random. It isn’t uncommon for my day to go from a brainstorm meeting, to a counseling session and then a hospital visit. Flexibility is one of the main ingredients to longevity in youth ministry, and it actually relieves the stress of ministry. Those who are a step by step, can’t miss a beat type of person, usually don’t last long in youth ministry. So be flexible.
  2. Go The Extra Mile. Make things the best that they can be. Consider the task you are assigned as the bottom floor. When given a task or project look for ways save time and money. Sometimes that means making sure you don’t have to make another trip somewhere or completing the whole task instead of just the part you where assigned.
  3. Attitude Is Everything. It is super easy to get caught up in the craziness of ministry especially when you are seeing the less attractive side of ministry for the first time. It’s important that you keep an attitude of thankfulness. This will require you to look past the craziness of seeing the not so attractive side of ministry, and focus on the life change that’s taking place. Also, now that you are on the other side you need to be aware of an attitude of pride and arrogance. It’s impossible to know and learn everything there is to know about the ministry during your time there. Keep a learners attitude of humility.
  4. It’s Not About You, It’s About The Students. This has everything to do with leading from a place of comfort. Serving students from a place of comfort ensures the inclusion of a few and exclusion of many. This is because you will most likely pour into, hang with, and allow to lead the students who you connect with best. The ministry will be all about you, and most likely you will end up with a ministry where everyone looks out for themselves, if it’s modeled in the leadership.
  5. You Are A Leader First. Remember you are a leader first and the authority you have to speak into their lives, is only as strong as your leadership. Your friendship with students is important, but your roll as a leader is more important.
  6. Time With Jesus Is Imperative. Just because you work in ministry doesn’t mean you are automatically being ministered to. You need to be just as active in the local church as the members. You should be serving in some capacity, attending bible study or small group, etc. It is critical that you are spiritually filled. Your time with Jesus will be something you will have to protect.

It is so important that you continue to stay open to a life time of learning and growing in ministry. I think ministering in a way that pleases God takes a complete entire life span. So keep learning and growing.

 

Hopes it helps,

AC