bleeding woman touches jesus

Every year our junior high, high school and college teams sneak away for “Staff Camp”. We jam-pack the 36 hours away with training, dreaming, planning, laughing, playing and eating…lots of eating.

It’s at Staff Camp that I introduce the area(s) of our ministry that I’d like us to give extra attention in the upcoming year. Usually, I pick aspects of our ministry that have tangible, measurable results affixed and challenge our team to give these areas a little boost in the next 12 months. But not this year. This year I decided I wanted our team to focus on ourselves instead of on our youth ministry. Granted, as we boost these two areas personally, it will impact our ministry but that wasn’t the ultimate goal.

So this year, I’ve asked our youth ministry team to strive to be more faithful and faith-filled. Here’s how I hope that plays out:

FAITHFUL: A big part of being a youth pastor is simply showing up; being faithful to your role….making the donuts. Knowing your spiritual gifts and using them faithfully, being consistent in the little things, refusing to bury your talents, etc. are some of the ways we can be more faithful in our roles as youth workers.

FAITH-FILLED: One of my favorite Jesus encounters in scripture is when the bleeding woman reaches out to touch his robe as he walked by. Her “If/Then” faith is astounding. She didn’t know much about Jesus…mostly stuff she had heard through the grapevine, but she had the faith to think, “If I can touch him, then I will be healed”. I want our team to have that kind of faith! I want our team to do youth ministry with an “If/Then” mentality! What might it look like if we minister in a way that assumes Jesus will show up if we give him the chance!

Chances are you and I haven’t met. I don’t know if you are full time or part time; the leader of your youth ministry or part of the team. I don’t know the size, style or denomination of your church; if your youth groups meets in a spacious youth center or in the janitor’s closet. I don’t know the challenges you’re facing or the victories you’ve won.

But I do know that you can be faithful and faith-filled….and if you were on my team, that’s what I’d be hoping for you this year!

It appears that the multi-campus strategy for church growth is here to stay…for a while, anyway. And regardless of how you might feel about it, if your church decides to launch a new campus or two or three, you will quickly find yourself trying to figure out what that looks like in your youth ministry setting.

Our church, thus our youth ministry, has been functioning as a multi-site campus for about seven years. Because we’ve been at it so long, you’d think we would have it completely or mostly or at least partially figured out by now. And we do! We have it partially figured out (we’re slow learners). As our youth ministry has struggled to get our arms around multi-site youth ministry, here are a few of the bigger questions we’ve asked ourselves as we continue to muddle our way through a multi-campus approach to youth ministry:

Does The Youth Ministry Approach To Multi-site Ministry Need To Mirror That Of The Larger Church? Because so many youth ministries have a fair amount of autonomy and often do things ways that don’t reflect the rest of the church, it makes sense that this question needs to be asked. Our decision was that we would mirror the larger church in the bigger, more crucial, pieces of the strategy while reserving the freedom to customize things that we needed to. As a result, our youth ministry multi-site strategy is a very similar looking hybrid of the overall strategy.

How Much Freedom Do We Want Each Youth Ministry To Have? This is a huge, and ongoing question. Right now our motto is, “We Are Many; We Are One!” which is an attempt to keep in the forefront of our minds the desire to be one youth group in several locations. In reality we are several youth groups that share leadership, resources, strategy, etc. We’ve created a red light, yellow light, green light system of checks and balances: Red Light things are things the various campuses have to do exactly like the rest of us. Yellow light things are things they can “proceed with caution” on; do it how they want but be mindful of bigger picture. Green light things are things they have complete freedom to do in any way that makes sense in their context. Determining the level of control your central or “main” campus will have over the others is a fundamental question that needs to be answered…and evaluated on a regular basis.

How Do We Solve The Curriculum Quandary? What do the various campuses teach, and when? Who writes curriculum and lessons? Are messages pre-produced on video to ensure quality control across the board? Should every campus be on the exact same scope and sequence? We’ve decided that each campus can have the freedom to teach anything they want…as long as it’s from our massive archive of lessons that have already been used in our original youth ministry. Not a perfect approach, but it’s working for us.

If you happen to be part of a multi-site youth ministry, please share some of the questions you’ve had to answer along the way!



Lazy
If you, like me, have the privilege of actually getting paid a full-time salary to work with teenagers, you are in a rare category…and you are probably lazy, like me.

Full-timers: Because you work lots and lots of hours every week, you are probably really struggling with my accusation.
Part-timers and volunteers: Because you work lots and lots of hours every week ON TOP of your youth ministry role, you probably have a smug, “it’s about time…” look on your face right now.

Full-timers, indulge me for a minute.

- Do you regularly take 2 full days off each week? Volunteers and Part-timers usually don’t…they are doing youth ministry on their day off.

- Do you get paid for the week you are at Summer camp? Volunteers and Part-timers usually don’t…in fact they often have to use one of their hard-earned vacation weeks to attend camp.

- Did you take an extra day off the week following Camp? Volunteers and Part-timers probably didn’t. They were right back to grind.

- Do you ever roll into work a couple hours late the morning after a big event, or after mid-week because you “worked late”? Volunteers and Part-timers probably aren’t allowed to do that by their other boss.

- Do you ever hang out on facebook, update your fantasty football team or pin something on Pinterest on “church time?”. volunteers and Part-timers could get fired from their jobs for doing the same thing.

- Do you ever go to the dentist, go to your child’s football or soccer practice or take an extended lunch with your spouse on church time without reporting it to HR? Volunteers and Part-timers don’t have that luxury.

I could keep going. But I’ll spare the full-time youth worker community any more embarrassment! I’d be willing to bet that nobody in the full-time youth worker kingdom is “busier” than I am: I lead a team of 20 full-time staff and hundreds of volunteers that minister to thousands of teenagers each week. I serve on our executive team and my boss is Rick Warren. I am expected to give oversight and direction to the youth groups of six regional campuses and prepare for the launch of youth groups in TWELVE international campuses; each in a different country. I blog a little, create a few resources and speak here and there, too.

AND…I get paid for the week of summer camp, take an extra day off (or two) after each camp, roll into work a couple hours late after events that keep me out at night, I update my fantasy team from my office and go to the dentist and attend my son’s sporting events on company time. Benefits that my busy volunteer and part-time friends probably don’t enjoy.

Maybe I’m not “lazy”…and you probably aren’t, either. But I am fortunate, blessed, honored, privileged and overjoyed that God tapped me as one of the lucky ones. Typically I encourage youth workers to avoid the temptation to compare their lives to those around them. But today…and maybe every time you feel a little overwhelmed by your role…take a second to shift your focus from the junk of full-time youth work to the joys; from the pressures to the perks; from the busyness to the blessings.

When I focus on the junk, pressures and busyness of my ministry life I get overwhelmed and whiny.
When I focus on the joys, perks and blessings of my ministry life I want to work even harder at it.

Thoughts? Bring it on!

YOU STINK!

Kurt Johnston —  August 9, 2013 — 4 Comments

 

I don’t like to admit it but there are a lot of ministry “things” at which I’m not very good….Correction; there are a lot of ministry things at which I just flat out STINK! And sadly, just because I stink at certain aspects of ministry doesn’t mean they somehow go away. Wouldn’t it be cool if God said, “Hey you, since you are horrible at X, I’ll just keep X away from you and the ministry you lead.” I don’t know about you, but if He did that for me there would be more stuff taken away from my ministry than left in it!

Because I stink at lots of ministry stuff, I’ve had to develop a three-pronged approach over the years:

1) Be okay being below average at some things.  I’ve simply had to “settle” on the reality that there are some things I’m never gonna be good at, and lower the expectations I put on myself to perform at a top level in those areas.

2) Selectively learn some new skills.  And while I’m learning to be okay with just being okay at some things, I’ve also picked a few key areas at which I stink that I think are worth learning to be good at. I can’t learn to be good at all the stuff at which I stink, but in my case I was SO BAD in a few key areas that I simply had to learn the skills necessary.

3) Surround myself with smarter, more talented people. I’m completely okay not being the smartest or most talented person in the room in most cases…especially when the topic or task involves an area at which I stink and I’m not willing to learn to get better at it. Giving these areas of ministry away to others frees me up and allows people to use their gifts to make our ministry better; a win-win!

Guess what? You stink, too!  In fact, you stink really bad at some stuff that is vital to the success of your youth ministry. And for some of you, it’s hard to admit.  So I’ll get the ball rolling in the hopes that some of you may be willing to share your “stink” in the comments section. Who knows, somebody who’s really good at it may be able to help you out.

MINISTRY STUFF AT WHICH KURT JOHNSTON STINKS (Note: This is just a partial list; actual list is much longer)

- Remembering names.

- Reading and sticking to a budget.

- Keeping track of registration forms or checks handed to me by a parent.

- Not using sarcasm to make a passive-aggresive point.  But if I may brag for just a moment…. I’m REALLY good at using sarcasm to make a passive-aggresive point.

- “Turning the corner spiritually” with students in one-on-one conversations.

- Returning emails, texts and phone calls in a timely manner.

Let’s get the comments going….share a tip for me….share something you stink at….share a tip for somebody else!

 



lets talk

Small groups was our very first request for a topic (you can send your topic requests to talkaboutym@gmail.com). So here we go!

Small Groups are the lifeblood for many youth ministries, and for good reason! I’ve often said that if I was told by our Pastor that we could only do ONE thing in our ministry the one thing we would do is small groups. Workshops have been taught and books written on the topic, and today we add a few simple “Good, Bad and #SMH” thoughts of our own on the newest episode of “Let’s Talk About Youth Ministry”.

clothespin

That’s right, I said it. There are actually tons of perks those of us fortunate enough to work primarily with young teens enjoy that the rest of the youth ministry nation doesn’t. For example:

- Parents are somewhat interested in what we are teaching on Sunday, where we are going to camp, and what movie we are showing at the lock-in. Yep, that’s actually a perk.

- Most of the stuff you teach is brand new to them! For the rest of their lives when they hear old, worn out, illustrations and stories they’ll think to themselves, “Hey, this dude stole my junior high pastor’s story!”

- Their enthusiasm and energy. I know it drives you crazy sometimes (errrr, most of the time), but the fact that junior highers are almost always “all in” is a wonderful thing.

- They almost always look back at their time in the junior high ministry favorably. For some reason, the further removed from the ministry they get…the better the junior high ministry was!

- You get to cherry pick high school and college age volunteers who already understand your ministry and want to follow your leadership because they spent two or three years in it themselves.

- Junior highers say really funny/awkward stuff:
“Rachel, our van stopped on the way to the girls trip to feed a Hobo.”
“Kurt, your nose is big! But that’s cool ‘cuz there’s lots of great smells out there.”

- You are viewed as a Martyr in your church. Sure, many of the adults in your congregation don’t understand why you do what you do, or what you actually do…but they LOVE that you are the one doing it, not them!

- You get paid piles of cash! Ummm….scratch that one.

Add your favorite “perk” of working with junior highers in the comments!



workshop_weekend

Weekend Teaching Series: Workshop Weekend (1-off)

Sermon in a Sentence: This weekend we had 4 messages – students got to choose which one they would hear.

Understandable Message: This weekend we had a couple videos and a couple songs, then divided up the students into1 of 4 workshops for them to hear about a topic they chose for the weekend:

1. The Comparison Trap: A workshop about the dangers of comparing yourself to your siblings, classmates, celebrities, etc. Learning about how to appreciate who God created you to be. Even showed the Dove video.

2. Modern Day Compassion: Learning to have compassion on other people because everyone has a story. Everyone has their own struggles. They went through Bible stories of compassion and learned how to compare them to everyday life.

3. Judging: Good or Bad? We all have heard about judging being wrong. It can be hard to live out. So they took an in-depth look at what the Bible says about it. Learn how and why God calls us to stay away from judging.

4. Self: Compassion: Learning how to let go of what you’re holding onto. God has forgiven you, and you should forgive yourself as well. The workshop helped students understand God’s love better through teaching them about God’s compassion for us. It is hard to have compassion on others if we can’t have compassion on ourselves.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: Didn’t have much in this department this week – pretty straightforward service for sake of time. Good stuff!

Music Playlist:  Holy Moment, Like an Avalanche, All I Am

Favorite Moment: Seeing students and leaders team-teach the workshops was SO cool. LOVED this idea. It isn’t sexy or flashy like some of our other stuff, but I like it a lot.

Up next: Crazytown (series premiere, week 1 of 3)

StudentWorshipConf-banner

Pretty excited for our students (and maybe yours if you don’t live too far away)to participate in a 2-day Student Worship Conference here at Saddleback Church. Here’s a little bit from the website that just launched this week:

To be quite honest, this conference is probably similar to other worship conferences, however, this is geared specifically to students to truly build them and see a bigger picture of what it means to lead people to the throne of GOD. Even more, this Student Worship Conference is intended to help equip students with the basics of what worship is and what it means to be a musician and/or a vocalist in ministry. Many adults volunteers, youth pastors, worship leaders or pastors assume students are to already know what they need to know when it comes to leading worship through music. WRONG!!! No student knows what they are doing. For the most part, most adults do not even know what they are doing. We need to teach all students to become worship pastors and not just worship leaders, because anyone can lead worship (we will explain that more at the conference).

There will be lots of special guests, student bands and fun here at the Refinery at Saddleback. Get more details here, hope you will join us!

JG