I was watching a children’s ministry podcast this past week and heard a great question – as a youth worker, do you like your children’s pastor/leader? Thought it was an interesting question, watch their podcast for lots more on the subject but first vote in today’s poll!

JG

When I was young and single, spending time with students was simple and it was easily the best part of my job. But then I got married and we had two kids (third on the way!), and all of a sudden an evening with a sophomore meant a night away from my family. Juggling those commitments is the most difficult part of my job.

That’s why I look so forward to the second week of Christmas vacation. Students are past the Christmas craziness and I am too. By the second week of Christmas vacation, life has slowed down for me, and all of my students are still out of school.

Time to hang out! Scheduling time with students during school breaks is easy and fun. Lunches and hot chocolate breaks mean that I can spend most of my day with students and all of my evening with my family. It’s too important an opportunity to miss. Here’s how to make the most of this week:

Leverage social media like a pro.
Try this. Pick up a book. Go to the food court. Update your Facebook status to say something like this:

Hanging out at the food court until 2:00 p.m. today. If you come and hang out with me for twenty minutes, I’ll buy your ice cream!

Then wait.

Email parents.
Send an email to parents to let them know that you’re available and excited to spend some one-on-one time with students. They’ll be thrilled to get their stir-crazy child out of the house for a little bit and will take care of the scheduling for you. This is also a great way to spend some time with students who are too shy or uncomfortable to set up one-on-one time themselves.

Tell your staff what’s going on.
You don’t want someone to accidentally charge you a week’s worth of vacation just because you weren’t around the office. Explain that this is the BEST WEEK you’ll have all year to spend one-on-one time with students. That’s why you won’t be around and that’s why you won’t be available for meetings.

Are you missing out on the best week of the year to build relationships? Are you going to do anything differently in 2013?

Aaron Helman is on a mission to help end the epidemic of youth worker burnout. He writes Smarter Youth Ministryto help youth workers with their biggest frustrations. He is also the youth minister at Firehouse Youth Ministries in South Bend, Indiana.



Have you ever felt that your job was like running a marathon through a swamp?  No matter how hard you worked, you just feel like you are sinking and bushwhacking through mess after mess?  When you turn on the lights of your office in the morning you groan at the piles of paperwork?  You ever just want to delete all the messages in your inbox?  And you wonder, “How am I going to get anything done with all these meeting?”  Yep, that can be youth ministry.

If you feel like you are stuck in circles or never going anywhere in your youth ministry it could be for a variety of reasons.  Some are as simple as taking a vacation, while others are something more serious like a conversation with the pastor.  But, before you can follow through on the solution you need to understand the problem.  To move forward you need to know what’s actually slowing you down.  The reason you could feel like you are running through mud is due to a:

  1. Lack of Organization – Do you have a plan for your week or day?  When you walk into your office you need to have a strategy to how you are tackling ministry, otherwise it will be tackling you.  Too many times youth ministers are reactionary to what is going on around them, all this creates is chaos.  By having a plan (With some flexibility) you can create systems that will keep your inbox empty, your creativity flowing and your ministry healthy.
  2. Shortage of Accountability – While you want a pace that’s comfortable for you, you need people who are going to push and challenge you through the difficult times.  When you face problems solo, the burden will slow you down.  You need someone to share your triumphs and trials with.  You need a support team that will help you move forward when you can’t do it on your own.
  3. Drop In Communication – Lousy communication means lousy ministry.  If your emails are rants, your messages are ill-prepared and you only say things once, be prepared to find yourself frustrated.  When you clearly practice effective communication you begin to learn the power of delegation.  You will see how your words impact productivity.  You will grow as a leader.  Effective communication is one of the keys to mobilizing your ministry into a movement.
  4. Disconnect In Spiritual Growth – If you don’t have a healthy relationship with God, then what do you really have?  This is the easiest place for a youth minister to be hypocritical.  You tell your teens to engage in scripture, to tithe, to share the Gospel and go to worship; however, you don’t even do it yourself.  You can struggle with those habits; however, if you are not at least engaging in them, you’ll find that you’ve lost your calling.

In order to approach all these areas you need to find the time to address them.  That means scheduling an hour or so each week to look at your organization, relationships, communication and spiritual growth.  If you aren’t taking the time to analyze these areas, then you will once again find your productivity and effectiveness take a hit.

What else could slow down your ministry?

I used to be jealous of our children’s ministry because I thought they were getting all the attention. Space in our church needs to be shared; therefore, everything needs to lean towards “CHILD FRIENDLY”. Just like the teenagers I serve I would grow embarrassed by the “KID-LIKE” décor that filled the walls. I would wonder, “Do teens want to come back after seeing that?”

I eventually matured and realized that as a youth minister I need the children’s ministry in order to succeed. They are the future teens you will mentor. They are laying the foundation for what you do, and if they fail your job will be that much harder. So, what does that mean?

YOU NEED TO INVEST IN THE CHILDREN’S MINISTRY

How are you supposed to invest in the children’s ministry in order to create a better student ministry?

GROW WITH THE CHILDREN’S PASTOR
Not sure what the relationship you have with your children’s pastor looks like but it needs to be healthy. This means getting to know them as a coworker and a person. Schedule a weekly or biweekly meeting where you can discuss obstacles, share stories of success and challenge one another. The more you get to know them the more you begin to trust them.

SPEND TIME IN THE MINISTRY
I found that much of my frustration with the children’s ministry was due to old expectations. I always compared it to the misconceptions I had about children’s ministry. All this did was create suspicion. By observing the children’s ministry you will see how it is serving your student ministry. You will also be able to give your children’s pastor an outsider’s perspective.

ENCOURAGE YOUR TEENS TO SERVE
Just as you need multiples of volunteers, so does the children’s ministry. One thing you can offer them that they can’t offer you is a teenage workforce. Encourage your teens to give what they have been given. Your teens will not only be youthful and energetic, but a positive role model for the kids.

PUT THEM FIRST
While you may want a bigger budget, make sure it doesn’t come at the expense of the children’s programs. On top of finances, help them recruit leaders and help them communicate to parents about what they are doing. By serving the children’s ministry in your church, you are building the foundation of your future teens.

It’s easy to grow jealous of others if you are only focused on yourself. The way that your ministry will grow is if you learn how to grow with others on staff. After your pastor the best place to start is with the person running the children’s ministry. It’s not only your future but also your foundation. Help them succeed.

What are you doing to invest in the children’s ministry at your church?

Chris (Twitter)



Have you ever felt like a failure? Okay, we all have at some point, because we all fail. We all do certain things that may be great ideas, but go about it the wrong way, and utterly fail. One thing that I desire is for others’ to learn from my mistakes and failures. I try to do this with learning from others’ failures, and hopefully they can learn from mine as well. Today, I want to give you the top 5 failures that I have committed in student ministry:

  1. Epic Fail #1- Train and Equip Parents- As I have grown in student ministry (not going on 7 total years), I have learned that the parents represented in our ministry is as important as the students we are ministering too. Now, I am trying to teach, share resources with, and help parents become better parents to effectively parent the teens of today’s culture. If you are first starting out in ministry, go ahead and begin equipping the parents to build stronger families.
  2. Epic Fail #2- Recruit a team of adult leaders- In my earlier years of ministry; I had a couple of leaders, but did not set up an adult leadership that would take us to the next level like I should have. Regardless of the number of students in your ministry, it is important to begin building a team to take your ministry to the next level.
  3. Epic Fail #3- Inform parents when disciplining a student- There have been some times where a student gets in trouble, and I do not inform parents, and then the parents come back with a twisted story from their teenager, and I have to backtrack a bit, and build their trust and relationship back. I have learned that when a student gets in trouble or has to be corrected in our student ministry on an event or on Wednesday night, it is always important to mention it to the parents. I do not care how small, but in doing so, it builds relationships with the parents, and builds a greater trust from them to you.
  4. Epic Fail #4- Think through games and pranks- I am a prankster, and am personally okay with pranks. My failure is that we have not totally thought through pranks in our ministry. At camp we decided to play “human clue” and fake a real murder with the students. It seemed like a fantastic idea, but when it played out, we had students crying, had a girl faint, had a young boy call his mom for a lawyer, and upset some families that were at camp. What seemed like a fantastic idea was horrible, because it was not thought out. Think out your ideas of what could happen, and it will save you a lot of problems.
  5. Epic Fail #5- Building relationships with the local schools- Do this first. This should be one of the top things in your ministry that you are consistently doing. I have wasted time in this area at my ministry, and now am trying to play catch up. Building relationships with schools takes a great deal of time, and it is important that you stay at it, and consistently plan time to build this relationship.

So, do not fail at these things, and try your best to learn from the epic fails that I have done in our student ministry.

Josh Evans is the student pastor at Union Grove Baptist Church in the Winston Salem, NC area. He has been a mentor and pastor to students for 4 years. You can connect further with Josh on his blog or send him a direct email at joshhevans@gmail.com.

Loved this article from last week’s Homeword newsletter. Jim Burns wrote  Taking Advantage of the Parent/Youth Ministry Partnership – here’s a clip of it but the whole thing is solid and might be a great addition to a parent newsletter or meeting soon:

Build relationships with your youth pastor and youth workers. This is so valuable to the parent/youth ministry partnership, yet is so often overlooked. Do yourself and your family a favor and make the effort to build relationships with the youth ministry adults who work closely with your kids. Building relationships with these youth workers creates common ground, understanding, and trust. Building relationships fosters empathy, caring, love, and concern. We are better together, and even more so when we see each other as friends.

Help your youth ministry team help you. The more vulnerable and open you become to those who work most closely with your kids, the more understanding they will have into your family, and the better prepared they can become to help guide your kids, and to provide you with the support and encouragement you need. Scary? Perhaps. Valuable? Absolutely.

Engage with your youth ministry. Do you know what your youth ministry is trying to accomplish in the lives of kids? Do you know what programs are being offered, and what goals they are trying to achieve? The more you engage, the more you’ll know and understand, and the greater the sense of partnership you will feel.

Attend regular youth ministry parent meetings. Ask questions. Read ministry newsletters, emails, and texts. Stay in touch. When those seasons of life arise where you aren’t able to keep up on everything, and when you finally get your head above water, give your youth pastor or youth worker a call and ask for an update.

Volunteer in your youth ministry. Maybe you are a good fit for being a youth leader, or maybe not. If so, and if your kids are agreeable, volunteer! But even if serving on the front lines with kids isn’t your gift or passion, there are still many ways you can help your church’s youth ministry become stronger, healthier, and more sustainable. Prepare food, provide transportation, help with administration and communication, or offer to be a sounding board for new ideas and programs. In providing support to the youth ministry, you will be helping your own teenager.

JG



My friend AC has a great new blog about leaders at our weekend services being active and available in our youth group meetings – here’s a clip of how he is leading our volunteer team on the weekend. Read this teaser, and head there for the rest:

  1. Greet – We want to greet students.  We will greet students instead of wait in a corner for them to come to us.  We will reach out to them instead of waiting for them to reach out to us.
  2. Meet – We want to make sure that we genuinely meet them.  Refer to the hand out “Hand Shake Hi to a Hug Goodbye/”.  I also had them refer to this handout I created to help them really connect with the students “Conversation tactics for youth workers“.
  3. Connect – We want to make sure that we are intentional about our conversation with students.  We want to look for ways in the conversation to suggest a next step.  For new students we want to guide them towards community.  That could range from life groups to serving opportunities within the ministry or summer camp.  You can even suggest grabbing coffee, lunch or ice cream with them sometime.  For students who are already in life groups, you can suggest serving in a ministry, missions or summer camp.  We want to make sure students are getting connected.
  4. Pray – We want to pray for students.  While you are connecting through conversations, once an area of struggle, pain, disappointment, hardship and trial appears offer prayer.  We want to avoid saying “I’ll be praying for you”.  Pray for the student right there on the spot.  Even pray for the core students you already know that have been met, greeted and connected.  Go deeper in conversation and pray for them.  Just because they are a part of our core students doesn’t mean they have everything together.  Every situation will be different but when the opportunity presents itself feel free to pray.

JG

I really enjoyed reading Thom Shultz’s Holy Soup take on why students are leaving the church post-high school. There’s been so much discussion about this issue I enjoyed a fresh angle on how to help fix it. Here’s a clip, head there for his complete thoughts:

So, why are our young people losing faith in the church and God? It’s a relationship problem. They don’t think of Jesus as their friend. He’s a concept or an historical figure. He’s an academic subject that their churches teach. And once they graduate from youth group, they forget about the Jesus subject—just as they forget about their other high school subjects. Jesus gets left behind with algebra and early American literature.

Ironically, many youth ministry analysts suggest that the cure to the young’s exodus is . . . more academic religious knowledge. They insist what’s really needed is “deeper study,” “stronger biblical teaching,” and “more robust theology.”

Thorough Bible knowledge is a good thing. I’d like to see more of it. My organization publishes Bibles and Bible resources. But kids aren’t walking away from the church because they lack an adequate accumulation of Bible facts.

They lack relationship. And relationships—of any kind—rarely grow and bond primarily due to the accumulation of data. Relationships—with people and with God—develop through demonstrations of unconditional love, building of trust, forgiveness, reliance, and tons of two-way communication.

JG