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!

 

right:wrong

My kids like to use the phrase” “No Offense,” as a way to tell others about their inadequacies. For example just the other day I heard my 6th grader say this to her sister: “No offense, but you aren’t really that good at art.” Later in the day brother to sister: “No offense but, you have an attitude.”  I think you get the idea.  We have tried to explain to them on more than one occasion that sticking “No Offense” in front of a hurtful statement, still hurts someone’s feelings.

Ever had a “No Offense” moment as a youth worker?  It’s when we mess up blatantly or unwittingly but still know we have steam rolled someone in the process.  Maybe you mishandled a parent, when they deserved your rage because if they had actually READ one of the notices you sent home, they would have known better.  Perhaps, you undermined senior leadership and they found out about it.  It could be you made a “WHAM” (whopping, huge, aggravated, mistake) and you know it.

What matters as a leader is less about what we have done TO mess up and what will we do TO deal with it?

1.  Take Ownership Of Your Part

Venting to your peers they will not argue that the parent or senior leadership was wrong.  However, what part did we play in the misstep?  Stop pointing fingers at everyone else, and own what you have done.  We don’t have to take the blame for everyone, but the Holy Spirit brings conviction when we are wrong, and it is obvious in our heart. This means we are willing to repent (or turn away) from what WE did.

2.  Genuinely Say Sorry

Ever seen someone say the words, “I’m sorry,” through gritted teeth?   Yeah, you know they aren’t feeling it.  Truth is you may not be feeling the apology either.  However,  taking the “high road” means we own it and then smooth out out our part in the story.  You can’t control the other party, but you can come with a repentful heart in what you did wrong. Hurting someone for the right reasons, is still a wrong approach. My daughter knows she isn’t a great artist, but her sister making fun of her was mean.

3.  Have Integrity

There are times when we “fall on the grenade.”  These are the times when we don’t think we were wrong.  There are two questions we need to ask in that situation: 1. “Does this person (like a parent or senior leadership) deserve our respect no matter what?”  2.  ”Is it worth me damaging, breaking or losing a relationship?” There are times when integrity dictates we “do the right thing,” which is to own it and apologize, regardless on if we were right or not.

4.  Next Time

Ever notice how many movie and television plots revolve around someone messing up and then not being able to properly confess it?  We keep thinking, “Why did they run again?   It’s not an unfixable mess. Rarely is anything “that bad.” Instead we ask ourselves,  “If I land in this same scenario in the future, what will I do next time?”  Every time we fall down, it really is an opportunity for growth and transformation into the image of Christ. Next time, handle it differently.

No offense, but you messed up. We all do, and we will again.  Christ just wants us to stand up and deal with it. Worse case scenario we are reminded acutely our need for a Savior.

What do you do when you have messed up?



Arms

Below is another great post from Scott Rubin….enjoy!

I’m not pretending to be some marathon expert on running; I actually only run a few times a week to attempt to fight off out-of-shapeness. But this week I had a revelation that more serious runners probably all know. What you do with your ARMS actually makes a gigantic difference when you’re running. (wait… there’s a comparison coming … )

I even looked it up online when I got home; it turns out that swinging your arms properly makes a huge difference in how fast you go! (If you don’t believe me, challenge a student to a 100-yard dash… but where you have to keep your arms pressed against your sides, while they get to pump their arms.) For the most part, I live with the illusion that my legs are all really all that matters when it comes to running.

Comparison: I think it can be dangerous to see our role in student ministry like the “legs”… and somewhere deep inside believe that my contribution is most of what matters. How I teach, how I lead, who I connect with. I’m not even talking about forgetting God’s function in all of it … I’m talking about forgetting the enormously significant role of all the volunteers around us! What you do with your VOLUNTEERS actually makes a gigantic difference when you’re in youth ministry!

— Do you give volunteers “real” responsibility in your ministry? Or do they mostly “support you” while you do the heavy lifting? (or the “visible” stuff?)
— Do you recognize the places where volunteers around you can do something BETTER than you can do it? When we invite someone to unleash that ability in our ministry, everybody wins!
— Do you train volunteers to make the most of what they can bring to your ministry? Once you help volunteers understand some of the basics, it’s amazing how they do awesome things that I would never have thought of.
— Maybe most importantly, do you ENVISION volunteers, and help them believe that the “real” youth pastor… is ALL of us!

“DIRTY LITTLE SECRET” alert… WHY wouldn’t every single youth ministry leader invite all the qualified volunteers they could find to come serve students? Oh, we can come up with our reasons:
Sure, it can be tough to locate great, safe people who are ready to invest in students. Sure, it’s hard work sometimes to get them equipped — that could be a part of it. But I think that maybe one of the dark reasons could be that I LIKE TO BE IN THE CENTER OF THINGS! Anybody else?? I love when students come running up to me and say “SCOTTTTTT!!!!!! Let me tell you what happened this week!” But when a student runs right past me towards a great volunteer and yells “DUSTINNNNN!!!! You’ll never believe this!”… I have to be confident enough to celebrate that — and count it as a giant victory!

So these days, I’m reminding myself that the “arms” in the youth ministry race are as important as the legs. And lots of times… they ARE the legs! Up for a challenge? Right now how ’bout you text one of your volunteers & tell them that they’re awesome?! And you can’t run without em! ☺)

I returned late Saturday night from a once-in-a-lifetme experience. Last week, I spent seven days in France talking about youth ministry with a group of German youth workers. That alone was amazing, but what sent this event over the top was where the training took place; in France….on sailboats…on the French Riviera.

When I first heard about it, I thought what I’m sure you are thinking right now: “A youth worker training event on yachts…on the French Riviera? Yeh, right! That just sounds like a vacation disguised as something legitimate!” But I was wrong. My week sailing the high seas in close quarters with 15 other youth workers proved to be one of the best learning experiences of my life. One of the things I decided to do was to see how many sailing lessons also applied to youth work. Here are a few:

- The Journey Is Just As Important As The Destination. Every morning we would set a new course for the day, usually with an island as our ideal destination. But what I discovered was that as wonderful as the islands we ultimately arrived at were, it was the journey that was the best part! While we sailed we had to work together, adjust course, etc. We laughed together, told stories and learned from each other.
Take Away: As I lead my youth ministry don’t be so focused on the “destination” that I miss out on the joys of the journey!

- A Good Skipper Is Key! Our boat was made up of a bunch of eager, but inexperienced sailors. We were willing to learn, and worked hard at the various tasks involved in sailing a boat in open water. But everything relied on our skipper who was much wiser and experienced. He knew where we were headed and how to get there. He knew when to let us run things and when he needed to take control. He knew what was safe and what wasn’t. We quickly learned to trust him and follow his lead.
Take Away: Am I a leader people feel confident and safe in following?

- No Wind Doesn’t Mean No Movement. One day…for the entire day…the wind was absolutely dead. We totally lost momentum, and no matter how we tried to adjust the sails etc. we simply couldn’t get the wind to propel the boat. But we had to make progress so we did what nobody on a sailboat wants to do; we started the engine! We didn’t get to our destination they way we had hoped and planned…but we got there.
Take Away: There will be times in ministry where things seem to go dead; we simply lose momentum. In those moments I have a choice: Let my ministry drift or see it as an opportunity to “start a new engine”.

- Flexibility Is Key. I quickly learned flexibility was the key to enjoyment and success on the trip. We had to adjust our schedules and plans according to the wind and weather report each day. We had to drop anchor in a harbor for the night because the marina was full. We spent an entire day on land because the winds were too severe to sail. Over the course of the week, not a day went by that didn’t present some sort of challenge to our planned agenda. So we adjusted.
Take Away: In youth ministry, planning is vital. But an equally important quality of a leader is the ability to adjust plans to reflect the current reality.

Youth ministry is like sailing….who knew!?



Can we try it again?

Last week we had a great dialogue on the topic of gay youth, the Boy Scouts of America.and a new alternative called Trail Life USA. The ground rules were simple -

“Let’s see if we can keep this respectable and God-honoring. Remember, the eternities of students are on the line.”

The goal here isn’t a debate on homosexuality, but on what it means to be a youth worker in the trenches of this ongoing topic. Whether or not you have a student in your ministry who is actively walking in this tension, your teens likely know someone who is.

On that note, I’d like to share a link my friend Darren Sutton passed along. His comments under the headline were “Wow. Courageous and unexpected.”

My curiosity peaked immediately.

2012-09_LT-GayCatholicFine1

Especially when I saw the headline: Gay, Catholic and Doing Fine.”

You really need to read the whole article, although I will offer two quotes here:

I have heard a lot about how mean the Church is, and how bigoted, because she opposes gay marriage. How badly she misunderstands gay people, and how hostile she is towards us. My gut reaction to such things is: Are you freaking kidding me? Are we even talking about the same Church?

Actually, the only time I get shock or disgust or disbelief, the only time I’ve noticed people treating me differently after I tell them, is when I tell someone who supports the gay lifestyle. Celibacy?! You must be some kind of freak.

I’d like to again raise some questions in the vibe of what I did last week. For example:

  • How do you feel about this young man taking the approach of celibacy for the sake of his walk with God? In his words: “So, yes, it’s hard to be gay and Catholic — it’s hard to be anything and Catholic — because I don’t always get to do what I want. Show me a religion where you always get to do what you want and I’ll show you a pretty shabby, lazy religion. Something not worth living or dying for, or even getting up in the morning for. That might be the kind of world John Lennon wanted, but John Lennon was kind of an idiot.”
  • Is it healthy to loop “Catholic” and “gay” together? Hear me out on this – I don’t want this to become a word study of 1 Corinthians 6:9, but perhaps we do need to nod to 1 Corinthians 6:11 as we consider the implications for youth ministry. That verse comes after a number of things the Bible lists as sins, adding (emphasis mine), “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”So if your church or denomination takes a stance on something, might it confuse youth to say, “You can be a ___________ and a (Catholic/Methodist/Baptist/etc).” Is that one step away from “You can be a ____________ and a Christ-follower?” Should the target instead be, “Receive Christ. Embrace your new identity and Story. Your sin nature no longer has reign over you, and the Holy Spirit will help you face the temptations for sins that will still swarm in on you.”
  • Honesty time – how much of your first reaction to those last two questions was filtered through your personal view on this topic versus your willingness to walk into the grace and holiness of God? No, really… how much? Is it possible more people know your personal platform on this topic more than they do your walk with the Lord? Maybe we need to take a cue from the person who wrote the blog.

Quick tip – before you hit reply, sift through that last question a bit and remember the ground rules for our discussion here. This isn’t a post about homosexuality, but about how we minister to where students may fall on this as they process it all. Try to share Jesus and not your platform. Thanks!

Top Model: Ministry Edition

Tony Myles —  September 16, 2013 — 6 Comments

Youth ministry is safe.

Before you reply back with a counter-thought that puts me in my place, hear me out.

Youth ministry is safe because it gives you a reason to not do what you’re asking students to do.

Role ModelEver notice how easy it is to spend all your time trying to get teenagers to take a bold step with God that you don’t actually take yourself? We say things like, “Share Jesus with your friends! Bring them with you to church!”

How often are you regularly doing those things with your own peers or neighbors?

Maybe you feel you’re too busy serving students that you don’t have time to sit in “big church.” Perhaps you feel so called to your niche that you don’t know where to start with other adults.

Students don’t need another pep talk from you on how to serve their generation. They need to watch you be an example in serving your generation.

Here are some ideas:

  • Print out a Google map of your neighborhood. Write down the names of the people in each home, and learn the names of those you haven’t yet met. Begin praying for everyone by name.
  • Install a basketball hoop so the neighborhood kids feel free to play on it. Use it as an excuse to meet their parents.
  • Instead of reading a book on the couch, head outside and read it outside. Be sure to say “Hi!” to those who walk by.
  • Crank up some familiar music when you’re working on a project outside. Music can help people feel you’re approachable.
  • Share chores with your neighbors, like helping them with a big project or asking them to help you with yours. Spring for lunch either way.
  • Set up a “grown up table” outside for things like Halloween when people will be walking around the neighborhood. Have bottled water and granola bars available for the adults.
  • Get a dog and walk around your neighborhood each day. It gives you the chance to linger without looking like a creeper. Just make sure you pick up your dog’s “deposits.”
  • Do thoughtful things for your neighbors, like mowing their lawn when they’re at work. (Just avoid trimming their hedges to look like a silhouette of Moses.)
  • If a neighbor has said, “If you need anything, just ask,” go ahead and ask. Sometimes you build a friendship by helping someone else feel needed.
  • If you’re not in a situation where you’re close with neighbors, such as apartments or homes that are far apart, organize a board game night in your home or a community room where you provide ice cream sandwiches and the games.

I think you get the picture. The point isn’t to regard your neighbors as a project so you can get them to church and say, “TA DA!” It’s about loving your neighbor as you love yourself so the Holy Spirit can use your example to change more than one generation.

You know this won’t be easy, and you probably have all your excuses lined up. Feel free to comment and share them so we can sort them out together.

I will say this with full confidence, though– this will be more fruitful than you think.

Teenagers aren’t just looking for a great youth worker… they’re looking for a Christ-follower who is leaving footsteps they can step into.

Thank you for loving students!

Tony

@tonymyles



football2

It’s football season! It’s on everyone’s mind and so it’s an analogy I like to use when it comes to working with our support team in ministry.  Imagine your team has shown up for their first game.  So you, the Coach says,  “Alright, the goal today is to make a touch down.   Get the ball from the other team and meet me in end zone as quickly as you can.”    You take your place on the sidelines, while everyone else looks confused.   “What game is this again?”  One asks.  “We are wearing yellow and they are wearing red, does that matter?”  Another chimes in.   “Do I knock people down if they get in the way?” The questions keep coming.

Those of us who are the “leader” are usually in the game because it is intuitive. For the rest of our “team” this is not always true. We aren’t just there to coach the students, and sometimes we forget.  That is why position, processes, and practice are vital to your volunteers.

  • Position:

Not everyone wants to teach a Bible study.  There are those that are relational, some are administrative,  others like to organize details or make meals.  Yes, yes and yes as far as who is needed.   We have a tendency to merely look at the position and take the first warm body that comes along.  This will not always beneficial. Leadertreks (leadertreks.com)  has some amazing tools that help you take a different look at placement.  My favorite tool in this area is the “Sweet Spot,” assessment.  This takes less than 5 minutes for a potential volunteer to fill out.  It helps them see where they should serve,  who the students that they are most comfortable with and where they feel they will be most useful.  When we put people in the right position then it helps the team to work towards the common goal.

  • Process:

Job descriptions are step one.  It details exactly what and who you are looking for.  Over communicating expectations is step two.   Processes help everyone to know they are on the same team, on the same field, at the same time.

  •  Practice:

Your team understands who they are and what is expected of them.  Still they want to know HOW to play.  This is where training is indispensible.   This can come in many forms.  Try having quick debriefs on youth meetings. I follow a method I learned from Doug Franklin.  The “3’s”.   3 things that went well.  3 Challenges.  3 Action steps to work on the challenges.    Once a quarter try offering a deep evening training on a practical “how to” that the team has been asking about. .  Send out an article or web link that I think might be helpful as you come across it. Obviously, there are so many ideas of ways that you can train people.  If you are reading this site you are a learner yourself. Make the time and the expectations on everyone that this is a “must” that helps them with all that they do.

These are some of the elements that help build a stronger team,  heading to the same  goal.    It can be easy to think,  “of course we all want to win together.”  Any good football team knows that position, process and practice is what takes you to the super bowl.  In this case it is producing a generation that takes over our job…

What are you doing for your “team” to teach them the game?

Scouting for Alternatives

Tony Myles —  September 12, 2013 — 17 Comments

Boy Scouts of AmericaYou probably have an opinion about this.

According to NBC News, a new Christian alternative to the Boy Scouts of America has started in response to BSA voting to drop its ban on gay youth earlier this year. The new organization – Trail Life USA – has the support of more than 1,200 former Scout officials, parents and youth from 44 states who attended a two-day national leadership convention for it.

The article quotes different fathers who are trying to voice their position on participating in the new group. One of them is John Stemberger, a former Eagle Scout, father of two scouts and Orlando Attorney:

“I want to have a prominent faith component that will be weaved in every fiber of the program… but at the same time, we are not going to become religious and churchy. This is not another church program. This is going to be a masculine outdoor program to raise young men… I want to be clear: We are not an anti-BSA organization. In fact, we are not an anti-anything or anyone organization.”

So… the story did make the news. Why is that?

I wonder if it’s possible for us to have a professional discussion here about this issue. Not a mean-spirited one where we jump into debate mode, but some observations and theorizing about how this might affect youth ministry.

For example:

  • Is a youth group allowed to create its own policies on expressions of sexuality? Can you ask a barely dressed teenager to not come into your setting or two heterosexual teens who are all over each other physically to leave anymore than you can discourage two gay students from holding hands?

    Keep in mind, I’m not asking if you should… I’m asking if you think you’re allowed to.

  • Has culture really turned the right for personal pleasure into a moral issue? If so, how in the world do you impart a higher value of listening to God on such matters?

Maybe you have some thoughts on that, or perhaps even some questions of your own.

Let’s see if we can keep this respectable and God-honoring. Remember, the eternities of students are on the line.