Think Ahead

 —  December 12, 2014 — Leave a comment

Some well-intentioned things can backfire if you don’t think ahead.

Bad-Family-Christmas-Grandma

With Christmas coming up, it’s possible that you may be winding down your ministry plans. What I’m about to propose to you may seem absurd, but I’ll offer it anyway.

Be intentionally busy, just a few minutes longer.

Think ahead and have a plan before Christmas for your spring and summer ministry.

It’s common for people to check out a church during the holiday season. You may be meeting parents and teenagers who need something tangible to look at and explore to give them a better sense of your youth ministry. Here are three quick tips:

  • Have a 2-month calendar on paper: Be ready to hand this out to anyone you talk with. Better yet, create a team of students whose ministry it is to do this during weekend services.
  • Make sure there is one big event coming up in January: Highlight it on the calendar, whether you end up doing an all-nighter at your building or a local serving opportunity.
  • Ask a question on the backside of your calendar related to some larger serving experiences you’re considering: Link it to your webpage via a web address and a QR code, and on that page ask them what type of serving experience they would be most excited about taking part in. Here are some of my favorites:
    • DSCN3560Group Workcamps: A 6-day, high-energy mission trip of up to 400 participants. Join other youth groups to repair sagging porches, rebuild unsafe steps and wheelchair ramps, and paint homes. No special skills needed…just a willing heart!
    • Week of Hope: A 5-day trip of up to 100 participants. Campers are challenged to live as Jesus did while serving the needs of people through local ministries and non-profit organizations. You’ll serve meals to the homeless, work with disabled children, share stories with an elderly person, and more.
    • Lifetree Adventures: An international mission trip that makes it easy to serve abroad. Send your youth on a trip to Haiti, Peru or Puerto Rico and get back teenagers who are more confident, more compassionate, and more appreciative of the advantages they enjoy.

Got any other favorite tips or trips to add to the list?

 

It’s just two words long.

“Spreading ideas.”

ted-logoThat’s the new mission statement for TED, a unique organization known for its thought-instilling conferences and powerful, mini-presentations on Technology, Entertainment and Design. The company’s former mission statement was “Ideas worth spreading.”

Still, TED does have a more comprehensive understanding of what that means.

“TED conferences bring together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes or less).

Do you know what your mission statement is?

Do others around you?

Can you say it out loud? Can they?

Thom Schultz has chronicled on his blog more than once about the importance of a mission statement in relationship to a church’s sense of purpose. The documentary When God Left The Building has a telling moment about how a struggling church might need to pay attention to its own verbiage (or lack thereof):

mission-statementI’ve worked hard over the years at clarifying and designing vision/mission statements within churches and ministries I’ve been in. My initial drive was to say everything in a sentence that seemed to go on forever. I later took some advice from Peter Drucker who pointed out that if it can’t fit onto a t-shirt, it’s too long. The wave of today is “the shorter the better,” as long as it doesn’t overgeneralize nor pigeonhole the initiative.

Here are some notable companies and their spin on a mission statement:

  • Smithsonian: The increase and diffusion of knowledge. (6 words)
  • USO lifts the spirits of America’s troops and their families. (9 words)
  • Livestrong: To inspire and empower people affected by cancer. (8)
  • Invisible Children: To bring a permanent end to LRA atrocities. (8)
  • The Humane Society: Celebrating Animals, Confronting Cruelty. (4)
  • Wounded Warrior Project: To honor and empower wounded warriors. (6)
  • Oxfam: To create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and social injustice. (10)
  • Best Friends Animal Society: A better world through kindness to animals. (7)
  • CARE: To serve individuals and families in the poorest communities in the world. (12)
  • The Nature Conservancy: To conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. (11)
  • JDRF: To find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research. (14)
  • Environmental Defense Fund: To preserve the natural systems on which all life depends. (10)
  • Public Broadcasting System (PBS): To create content that educates, informs and inspires. (8)
  • National Wildlife Federation: Inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future. (9)

What does this mean for you?

go-4_wide_t-1024x576In my opinion, all churches share the same biblical mission… so your mission statement should reflect the biblical values in Scripture. I classify a vision statement as how it uniquely plays out in your context… “This is how us living out the mission will look for us.”

Maybe none of this matters, or maybe it does. My suggestion is take your church’s primary statement and add the word “students” to it. For example, “We will reach the lost and broken in our area for Jesus” could become “We will reach the lost and broken students in our area for Jesus.”

That said, what are you trying to communicate? Do you believe it should be shorter than 20 words? 15? 10?

If you can’t, might a tagline sum it up?

The end goal of crafting a better mission statement isn’t to be clever… but to clarify what it means to follow Jesus so that others might join you in serving Him.

Thoughts?

What is your church’s mission or vision statement? How do you or others feel about it?



Fill It Up?

 —  November 13, 2014 — 2 Comments

10475979-largeA minister waited in line to have his car filled with gas just before a long holiday weekend. The attendant worked quickly, but there were many cars ahead of him. Finally, the attendant motioned him toward a vacant pump.

“Pastor,” said the young man, “I’m so sorry about the delay. It seems as if everyone waits until the last minute to get ready for a long trip.”

The minister chuckled, “I know what you mean. It’s the same in my business.”

I’m not sure who the original author of this piece is. I came across it in a compilation of funny illustrations that someone in my church passed along to me, but this one stood out to me in particular.

On one hand, it’s easy to see why you might want to share this as a teaching illustration. It certainly does paint a picture of how many people view God and faith. He certainly does seem to get the last burst of many people’s time.

prayingOn the other hand, might there be an inverse message for you and I? Specifically, people like us who are so busy doing the work of God that we aren’t letting Him adequately work in us?

  • “I probably should start my day out in prayer, but let me just check (the news/email/Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/texts) first.”
  • “I’m really feeling spiritually dry, so maybe after I work on this lesson for everyone else I’ll spend some quality time with God.”
  • “Sure, Bob. I’ll pray for you.”

    (days go by, you see that person again)

    (to God, as the person is walking up)

    “Dear God, I pray for Bob. Amen.”

    (to Bob)

    “Hey Bob! I’ve been praying for you!”

Can you relate?

Any wisdom on how instead of running on fumes as we serve we might all more regularly say to God, “Fill it up?”

 

177227729

Recently I was in a meeting of the youth ministry minds where this question was asked:

“How often does your group, your youth or your church think of missions?”

The answers ranged from weekly to monthly to an honest, “never.” It was a great question that I felt was poised around “opportunities” to “go and serve” both locally and abroad. In short it was really asking how often we “went” somewhere to think of the people outside the doors of the church. I believe this is an important question and I was humbled at how much others are doing to inspire students to “Go, make disciples.”

Later that week I was taking a flight with my husband. It was on one of “those” airlines where you do not get to pick your seats ahead of time. Instead you line up in a lump by “zone” and hope for the best (unless of course you want to pay the extra to get first pick.) My hubby and I ended up in the final zone, making me really grumpy that we would probably be separated for a four hour flight. Although we ended up towards the back thankfully we were together.

Until…

Now what I didn’t tell you is that I really hate to fly. It makes me nervous on a good day. Yet this time I especially had a knot in my stomach since my flight the week prior had literally bounced through the sky for hours until I reached the safety of the ground.

The “glitch” in this system of picking your seat was that families sometimes get separated.  It happened on this flight; a Dad and young child needed a seat that was not separated.  The voice on the intercom was asking if two people would move so they could be together.  The attendant made jokes about, “babysitting the child next to you” if no one would move.

No one budged.

Again the plead was made, explaining that the only empty seats available were two middle ones in exit rows. A small child is not allowed there. I looked at my husband and asked him if, “It was the right thing to do to give up our seats.” We waited for someone else to step up. I didn’t happen.

Did I mention this flight was at night and I hate, really hate to fly in the dark?

An offer to buy those that moved alcohol was made. I don’t drink.

One more time with desperation, the attendant called, “We can’t move the plane until this Dad and child can sit together.” It had moved from an inquiry to a demand.  Still none of us jumped up.

We looked at each other. Sighed. Gave up our seats. I got to sit in the middle of two people who had brought on food that stank to high heaven, were unfriendly, drank “Bloody Mary’s” the whole way and the flight was bumpy.  It wasn’t pleasant.

I did not want to give up my seat next to my husband. I did not want to have to sit where I did. I wanted my way. Obviously so did everyone else on the plane. Yet, we knew the “right thing” was to let the Dad and child be together.  We wouldn’t want our little one to be stuck next to a stranger just so we could be in a window or an aisle. While I lost four hours of conversation with my hubby there are worse things.

I wonder if thinking about “missions” is far simpler than we realize.

I got “nothing” out of moving. I asked if I could exchange the offer for alcohol for free wifi and the answer was, “I wish I could do that for you.”

There are so many lessons in my little interaction about the reality of “missions:”

  • Sometimes you serve because it’s right, not because you want to.
  • The “blessing” of serving is not always immediate in getting to “see” a “finished product.”
  • Service could be about going out of your way. When I had asked if I could ensure a seat next to my husband in the first place I was simply chided for not paying the money to get one early.  I was offered 3 $5- $7 drinks but no one could float me a code for $8 internet. What about a policy so that children always sit with parents?

I am not the picture of perfection here. I didn’t want to be the person who moved, I just did. I should have been the first person willing to go, and I am sad to say I wasn’t.

Trips are worth it. Yes, put them on your calendar. Use them as a catalyst to get your students thinking beyond themselves. Then teach them to give up their seats. The big events only work when we learn how to use them in the day to day.

-Leneita

@leneitafix

Speaking of trips :) Group Workcamps and LifeTree Adventures offer some amazing options you should check them out!



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?

prince-william-kate-middleton-relationship-photos-obamas

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)

What have you learned makes a serving experience or camp a great one?

Doug Franklin over at Leadertreks has some great thoughts on how most of this is up to the posture of adult leaders. Here are ten of his observations:

  • Mission_TeamGoing is not enough: “…we don’t just want them to go, we want them to grow.”
  • Be a trip mentor: “A trip is a great place to develop a long-term, life-changing relationship with a student.”
  • Have a purpose for the trip: “What do you want your students to look like when they return?”
  • Inspire spiritual growth: “Students will feel a need for God while on the trip, and this is a great opportunity for you to introduce them to spiritual disciplines”
  • Find teachable moments: “…mix a student’s experience with the truth of God’s Word.”
  • Challenge students: “… [it[ starts with challenging the top performing students.”
  • Get sleep: “Trips become increasingly ineffective as team members become tired.”
  • Add value to your adult volunteers: “… the number one problem I see over and over again is adult volunteers who have no idea what they are doing on the trip. They come because youth trips need adults, but beyond that they are not sure why they are there.”
  • Remember Boundaries = Love: “Don’t give students what they want; give them what they need.”
  • Stay connected to God: “You can’t impart what you do not have.”

(Read the rest of Doug’s solid article here.)

I think Doug is spot on. Just last month we had a major difference in a serving camp experience because of the investment we made into our adults, which in turn helped them better invest into students.

Which of his points most stands out to you?

Is there anything you would add or subtract?



It’s no question that we have “orphans” in our culture, and it’s obvious that caring for orphans (and widows) was not a suggestion for Christians. But it’s also no question that most of us have no idea of what life is like for them. This video, however, will change that.  Watch this because it may just move you toward obedience. That step of obedience will definitely look different for each of us, but we all need to take a step…

ReMoved from HESCHLE on Vimeo.

- Chuck

I have one final thought for you.

First, we asked the question: Should I stay or should I go?

Next, we pondered a couple check marks that remind us what’s most important.

In a moment, I’m going to post some wisdom from the trenches. As far as my contribution, I’m ending on something so simple that it will offend you with its innocence.

Still, it’s truth.

Consider this picture that shows the innovation of man. It’s a way to take an old trampoline that’s lost its bounce and help it to find renewed usefulness.

trampoline

Now… if humanity is capable of that kind of innovation…

what do you imagine God can do in your life today regarding the clash you’re feeling?

Ponder that, all as you consider these thoughts from others in ministry:

If at all possible, “going” should be a planned act not a last ditch effort to maintain sanity or “peace.” Why can’t we leave as well (and as purposefully) as if we stayed, or even as well as when we came in? Leaving shouldn’t be the easy way out, but just as tough as staying because there is still some “umph” left in us and our ministry. We should leave well – not just leave and let some other poor youth worker pick up the pieces. How we leave (and how we stay) is a defining moment in our life, in our ministries life and in the life of the church. – Philip Allen

One thought: How do you help your kids in the process? Seems like they are left to survive or blow up as an after thought. They might not need to know details, but what and how do you include them? - Jon Batch

Family dynamics matter. Every time my dad moved churches as a pastor my parents created it as an adventure. For Chicagoland, it was the Hispanic culture, food and getting to go to Chicago. When we moved to MN they gave us Vikings sweatshirts and hyped up on the positives. They also coached us on how to say good bye to a friend. They definitely gave us time to adjust to the idea of moving and the adventure that was coming. – Kerensa Huffman

The clash can sometimes also be in understanding what your calling is and staying close to that… not that there may be times for that to change. An example is in my most last recent transition, when i went in as the Pastor of Student Ministries. In my second year, the Children’s Director resigned and I was now the Pastor of Children & Student Ministries. For a couple years I struggled through this as I was not wired to be a Children’s Pastor. I found myself treading Tuesday night “AWANA” and trying to survive it, but excited for Wednesday night Student Ministry. After a couple years of this, I felt like I was not doing anything well and that I needed to focus on what I believe God has called me to do and focus on Student Ministries. It was a very difficult decision because I did love the church staff, leaders, my Pastor and student ministry but knew that God had called me to serve full time in Student Ministry. There was not the possibility to stay where I was at because somehow I had proved to the leadership that I could pull off Student Ministry and another ministry so even if I was able to hand-off Children’s Ministry to someone there would be the expectation of “Well, what else will Scott do?”

It took a couple years of praying, looking and church interviews until we moved to where I am at currently. For me it came down to understanding my calling and finding a place where I can be laser-focused on how God has wired me. – Scott Tinman

I have a friend in our youth pastor network who floored me the other day. He said the good stuff happens after year 20. “Twenty?” I shuddered. I had only been at my church a year and 2 months and I was already looking at my watch, thinking “How long was long enough?” His comment made me realize that there is immense value in long-term commitment. Even if I don’t stay in the church as long as him, the commitment he had brought much fruit, and so I should consider this when constantly looking at the grass on the other side.

I told him that I am squirrely. That if things weren’t going quite the way I wanted them I would seek change. There must be “better positions, better churches.” But his comment reminded me that most likely it wasn’t the church that I needed to change, but my acceptance of it, for all it is. My perception was the thing preventing me from closer relationships to the folks I was serving and the commitment required to make an impact in our community and congregation.

I stayed. I still look to the other side of the fence. Not because I want to leave, or the grass looks greener, but I realize in my imperfection I may have chosen a place God wanted me for a short time, and I could also overstay. Only time and discernment will tell. - Ali Petrey

nowwhatAny thoughts?

  • If you stay, now is the time to invest and dig in. What do your goals look like? Is it time to make a new friend, venture into a new place in the community, create a five-year plan for youth ministry… one that you might actually see through?
  • If you go, now is the time to leave gracefully. What does it mean to communicate, communicate, communicate? How do you express your love and gratitude to your friends, volunteers and those who have poured into you? How can you speak into those you’ve had opposition with without bad-mouthing them?

What is your personal takeaway from this?