Leadership 8A lot of times when we think of student leaders, we think of the students who are the elite of our ministry. And that is completely false. Student leaders are just students who are committed to serving a cause greater than themselves. My pray is that our students simply learn to serve like Jesus. So here are a few random thoughts that I’ve been noodling on that has been pushing us in that direction.

  • Grow together  – Asking students to do and be things you aren’t doing or being is the easiest road to a revolt within student leadership. Instead, take them as a whole with you included on a journey of growth in serving like Jesus.
  • We are all in the same boat - I got a great idea from one of my veteran volunteers. He gave me the idea to create a struggle sheet. This sheet listed the things that we as christians struggle with. I had them fill it out anonymously. Once they were done I collected them all and shuffled them. Then I passed them back out, with each student receiving someone else’s sheet. I then begin to say “if this struggle is on your sheet raise your hand?” Hands begin to go up with each struggle mentioned. Then I let them know that we are no different than the students we are committed to serving. They struggle with the same stuff we struggle with. My goal was to change their perspective on thinking that we were some how special or better than anyone else. I also wanted to create a level of compassion within them, for the students we will serve.
  • Setting expectations - Not for the sake of having rules, but for the sake of serving others and becoming better followers of Christ. No one is expected to have it all together, but you should expect them to pursue the growth that draws them to serve and be more like Jesus. Set expectations and expect them to meet them.
  • Create something worth being a part of - This generation isn’t just looking for change, but to be a part of a movement. They are looking to be the catalysis to helping the less fortunate or speaking up for the voiceless. Remember “Kony 2012″, “Bring back our girls” or “Blackfish”?I believe students latched on to these causes because of their longing to be a part of something. There is no other mission on the planet like showing, and sharing God’s love to the world. It’s the greatest most important cause/movement ever. I want students to join in on the movement that changed my life when I was 17. This generation is hungry to be a part of something life changing. So make it worth it.
  • Personal growth - Student leaders need to grow as a person and also in their walk with Christ. Even though we encourage getting involved, we definitely don’t want them just jumping on the bandwagon of causes. We want them to understand that their influence is important, but it also can hinder them without personal growth. Growth in influence and authority without spiritual/personal growth leads to ego growth and narcissistic leadership.

My goal is for students to simply serve like Jesus. I want their title to remind them of their commitment to serve and not just lead. There you go, just a few random thoughts. What has been a struggle for you concerning your leadership program for students?

 

Hope it helps,

AC

0e621383_headerevangelismresources13I believe that sharing Christ is our number one responsibility as a believer. When we give our lives to Christ we are commanded to share the good news with others. Now, I know that there are a lot of tools and resources out there on how to share your faith. That’s a good thing because I don’t believe that there is a set way to do it. So whatever you’re doing or using, keep it up.

When I was younger I was taught the Romans Road which was great. However, I was to scared to share in fear that if I ever got off the road, I wouldn’t be able to find my way back. Two thoughts would run through my mind as I shared the gospel:

  1. “Please don’t ask me something I don’t know.”
  2. “Please don’t know more about the Bible than I do.”

Needless to say, I did whatever I could not to share my faith with others.

I know that I have students in my ministry who probably think the same way that I did. However, it’s an invalid excuse not share your faith, because there are no valid excuses when it comes to sharing your faith. We’ve all been mandated as believers to share the good news of Christ. So I decided to help them by teaching them to share their faith through their own experience versus just head knowledge.

Also, there are some things that I’ve learned that really hinders us from sharing our faith effectively. I thought I’d share them with the youth ministry nation. So here they are:

  • We share more than we should -  I think sometimes we can share too much. We want them to accept Christ and stop smoking right there on the spot. Sometimes we trip ourselves up by taking the conversation down roads that lead away from the gospel. You don’t have to prove that you know more than you actually do. Also, you don’t have to explain the flood or Jesus turning water into wine. Just keep it simple and to the point.
  • We use spiritual language - Beware of the words and phrases you use that might be super meaningful to you, but to them are silly talk. Example: “Just run into the arms of the Lord”, “allow God to be your anchor in the midst of the storm” or “let the Holy Spirit move in you”. Make sure the words you use are understandable. Sometimes we get caught up in the spirituality of words and phrases because they sound good, but they don’t explain anything. Just use common language.
  • We get baited into a debate/argument - There are certain people who may want to ask you about your faith, for the sole purpose of debating or arguing about something. These people aren’t looking to dialogue. They are looking for a fight, so don’t entertain them. No one has ever came to Christ after losing an argument about religion. God told us that if there are people who don’t receive the good news, we need to do what He says in Luke 9:5 – “If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”  We weren’t commanded to defend our faith. We were commanded to share it. 
  • We have to know it all - This is where I struggled the most. I thought I had to know everything in order to share. I felt like a failure if I didn’t know everything. It’s ok if you don’t know all the answers to their questions. You can say ” I don’t know. Let me get back to you.” Those who are genuinely seeking truth will understand. I will also point out that there are some questions you won’t find the answers to until you get to heaven. So know that it’s ok to get back to them with the answer and be ok with saying, “Because we can trust God concerning what we do know, we believe by faith the things we don’t know yet.”

Sharing our faith should come natural and should be a huge part of what we do. We have the cure to sin, which is a disease with eternal implications. We need to share it with an urgency and not let anything hinder us. What other tips would you add to the list?

Hope it helps,

AC



leader

Wrestling with the idea of student leadership in your ministry? Having trouble landing on a model/strategy that feels right? Here are three possible scenarios:

ORGANIC
Organic student leadership doesn’t rely on a program; there are no monthly gatherings, no “requirements” etc. Instead, an Organic approach is one that simply looks for leaders to emerge and then gives those leaders more ownership, responsibility and input in the ministry. In essence, it believes that the “cream always rises to the top” and looks for those students who, mostly on their own, are setting themselves apart from the pack. In an Organic scenario, leadership is freely and generously distributed to anybody who expresses and interest…because most don’t. There is no formal program, but there is tons of student leadership happening. At Saddleback, we use this strategy within our junior high ministry.
Pros: Student leadership is available to everybody, no program required.
Cons: It lacks formality and structure and is tough to measure

ORGANIZED, BUT….
An “Organized, but…” approach to student leadership is simply that; it’s organized to some degree, but not to an extreme. In this approach there may be meetings, applications, requirements for membership, a set curriculum, etc. But which of those things exist, and which don’t would be somewhat arbitrary and may change from time to time. At Saddleback, we use this strategy within our High School ministry.
Pros: Structure, strategy, measurable results, ability to identify who’s part of program, lots of
flexibility.
Cons: The flexibility may create too much inconsistency, a feeling of “is this what I signed up for?”

ORGANIZED, AND….
An “Organized, and….” approach is simply that; it’s organized, and then some! It’s highly organized, with a well-defined strategy and systematic approach. In addition to meetings, applications, requirements for membership, a set curriculum etc. this model will often include other things such as students being nominated, voted in by their peers, given a large amount of decision making power etc. This model may also toss in some T-shirts and name badges, too. In essence, this model looks very similar to a student government model found in most school settings.
Pros: Student leadership is for the serious! It weeds out the only mildly interested. Those who are in
are usually All-in!
Cons: Can create an elitist mentality among members; a “cool kids” club. Is very high maintenance.

There are lots of ways to identify leadership gifts and develop leadership skills in your youth group. virtually any approach is acceptable. Doing nothing, however, probably isn’t.

imagesI firmly believe that ultimately as leaders we lead by what we do whether we want to or not. We can be leading and speaking in one lane and living in another. And little do we know our that students over time do more of what we do and less of what we say. So it’s important we continue to grow spiritually, following Christ as we lead others. It’s important that we are investing in areas of leadership that we would love to transfer on to our students and allowing those things to live out in our own lives first. Then as we lead, teach and mentor, we will see those things lived out in the lives of our students. So here are a few things I want lived out in my life so they can be lived out in the lives of the students that God has trusted me with:

  1. Perseverance - A lot of times God calls us to do things that challenge us to trust Him. He challenges us to say I can, when we think we can’t. So, we need to model perseverance in trusting God’s timing and calling instead of our own.
  2. Humility - We need to remember that James 4:10 says if we humble ourselves then God will exalt us. We also need to remember that Luke 14:11 says if we try and exalt ourselves we will be humbled. Being humble is a state of being and not a position. Humility is not selling everything you own and living as a poor person. That is actually pride, because you are trying to buy humility by doing something. We need to model humility, which is simply knowing that God’s grace has you where you are and nothing else. We must live that out.
  3. Character – Your character shapes the leader you become, so they need to know that building Godly character is mission critical. You lead out the character you’ve developed or the lack there of. We need to model Godly character.
  4. Patience – They need to understand that patience is more then just waiting. Having patience helps you lead and make decisions with balance. Patience is really a lost art in our culture today. Amazon is the perfect example: They have a button called “Buy Now With One Click.” Just click it right there on the same page and buy it. They want to make sure you don’t have time to think if this a smart choice. They want to help you buy on impulse verses your purchase being wisely thought out. The faster we can have it, do it, use it, own it, see it, take it and eat it, the better. Patience helps you lead and make decisions apart from your impulses. We need to model patience.
  5. Compassion – One reason why compassion is important in leadership is because Jesus modeled it. Matt 14:14 says, “When Jesus saw the crowd He was moved with compassion and healed those who were sick.” There are so many takeaways from this verse, but the one that sticks out the most is that compassion has the ability to move you into doing the unthinkable. It takes a courageous, bold person to be compassionate. I can just imagine Jesus freaking people out completely as He walks through just healing people left and right. We need to model compassion.

We can teach these things a million different ways with great conviction, but the real question is…can we live these things out? It’s not enough to just teach. So what am I missing on this list? Which one is the hardest for you to live out?

Hope it helps

ac



leading-leadersI went to a small private Christian school in Michigan, and for the most part I loved it. One thing I remember happening almost everyday was my principal whistling as he walked down the hallway towards my math class. It was one of the most nerve wrecking things I’ve ever experienced. As he would approach the classroom, everyone would be standing because this usually would happen in the morning as soon as we’ve gotten to class.

He would then go around randomly asking us multiplication problems. We would all be sweating hoping we knew the answer. I remember hearing him firing off questions and thinking I know that one. I should’ve gotten that one. It was the most intense part of my week, but there was one thing that stuck out to me and it has shaped how I lead/counsel/mentor students and volunteers. He would always pick a few of us and ask this follow up question. And the question was “how did you come up with that answer?” I always thought to myself “we got the answer right, what more do you want from us?” haha

Looking back on it, my principal was actually trying to teach us that it was not enough to just know the answer but how you formulate that answer was just as important.

There’s more to the great saying “you give a man a fish he’ll eat for one day, but teach a man to fish he’ll never go hungry.” Because you’re not just teaching him something for the moment, you’re teaching him a life skill that is duplicatable and manipulatable to whatever situation he can use it in. Because the principles of catching fish can be transfered to anything. Giving a man a fish just turns him into a follower who will always be looking for the next person who can give them something. Now, I’m not saying giving is bad in general but it is bad if it is not used properly.

Teaching a man to fish gives him 4 things that he will never be able to get being given everything:

  1. The dignity of not just receiving but being able to contribute.
  2. The confidence that comes with being resourceful.
  3. The value that comes with containing not just information but insight.
  4. A skill to lead and teach someone else so that his contribution out last him.

I would rephrase the saying “Give a man a fish and you create a follower, but teach a man to fish and you create a leader.”

I think we do ourselves and our ministries a disservice when we take the easy route and just tell rather than teach or give and not show. If we want to create leaders it’s going to take us caring and being more intentional about teaching and showing. It won’t happen any other way.

How are you training your leaders to lead?

hope it helps

ac

It felt like I grabbed a can of Mountain Dew the moment I became a youth pastor. At first glance, it seemed like a prerequisite for ministry was a charismatic personality. Even the clarity of the Bible created some confusion, for the Apostle Paul said, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” introvert-extrovert

That’s the truth that caused me to lean into a lie. I wanted to see the people I cared about in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and assumed the only way I could do it was to become the life of the party.

I wonder how many of our students feel the same way.

Think about it: Is there a vibe that kids have to constantly bring their friends to youth group? What if they only have one really good friend who isn’t interested? How about if they don’t want to stand up and play your “stupid game”?

Time for a gut check. Does your ministry have as many on-ramps for introverts as it does for extroverts? Here are some ideas:

  • Before programs: Offer comfortable seating where quieter kids can come early, relax, or play video games. Provide set-up tasks they can help with (and give them a cool team name, like “Roadies” or “Techies”).
  • During programs: Help introverts take risks by not embarrassing them. Ask them ahead of time if they’d be willing to read Scripture, help with an object lesson, or do something significant behind the counter. Advance planning creates the runway for introverts to soar from.
  • After programs: Some introverts like to slip out fast when your program concludes. Assign at least one leader who will learn that student’s story and catch them with a simple question on a weekly basis, such as “How can I pray for you this week?”
  • On trips: Introverts may feel uncomfortable sharing a huge tent or being packed into a van with their peers. Let them bunk with their best buddy, and be sure to build in rest stops at malls, restaurants, or open areas where they can feel alone (yet always be within sight of the leaders).

Keep in mind that introverts may not fit the stereotype (and they may not want to). As I said, I became an extrovert for what I sensed were noble reasons. Even though I didn’t have the spiritual gift of evangelism I wanted to become more conversational and social in order to “do the work of an evangelist.”

How is this fleshing out in your church and youth group?

  • Do you see quieter kids “trying on” different personalities?
  • Has your personality (or someone else’s) become the “right” one to have?
  • Is there any kind of expectation that people have to become someone they’re not in order to communicate who Jesus is?

Introverts

What other things should we think about when it comes to serving students who may fall more into this category? For example, is it possible to swing too far toward introverts? I’ve seen a fair share of “postmodern” environments where all the contemplative prayers and incense make the extroverts run out the door to play dodgeball. I’ve even wanted to join them.

Share your thoughts, and thank you for loving students!

- Tony



First Follower

 —  August 16, 2013 — Leave a comment

If you haven’t seen (or used) this simple video to teach leadership development you are missing out.  This is a great post to show our team to wonder who we are,  where we fit,  and how to stand out as a “first follower” who causes the rest of the world to jump in and know what to do.

 

Happy Friday!

 

What about you?  Do you teach your team, even your students HOW to be a “First Follower?”  It isn’t natural for all of us.

The Bionic Teenager?

 —  August 1, 2013 — 6 Comments

I sat in a planning meeting today with several caring local professionals. They hope to host a youth summit in our area, and our conversation eventually centered on the desired outcomes of the conference. We began brainstorming  what we want to see happen in the students involved. In other words, “Who will they ultimately be when they leave this event because they were a part of it?”

After several minutes on that line of thinking, I raised my hand and offered an observation:

“It feels like we’re trying to create a bionic teenager. I don’t know if everyone remembers that old TV show the Six Million Dollar Man, but there was this concept in its opening theme that it feels like we’re sharing here – that we have the means to make students better than they were before… ‘better, stronger, faster.’

I think everything we’ve talked about are great values for kids to grow into, but if I were to force this on my own son he’d feel immense pressure because he can’t get there overnight (let alone consistently). Maybe we need to include the values of ‘rest’ and ‘journey’ somehow? Students can take steps this way, but they may need to intentionally pause along the way and take stock of their progress so they don’t crash because they feel they’re not yet perfect.”

My thoughts were met with enthusiasm, not to mention a lot of affirmation. I felt like I’d made a real contribution to the discussion.

Only…

praiseI wondered how often I’ve not had that thought in ministry. Maybe you can identify:

  • “Once kids go on this trip, their hearts will be forever transformed for Jesus.”
  • “If I can only get that student baptized, then he/she will become a role model to the others.”
  • “The more often students are consistent with youth group attendance, the more consistent they’ll be with Jesus.”
  • “They have to start (reading the Bible/praying/fasting/tithing/singing) more if they hope to have a real breakthrough.”

Even just writing those made me realize how absurd they all are.

And yet… don’t thoughts like that creep into your head and planning, too?

The thing about bionics is that something unnatural was added to appear natural.

Hmm. Is that the end?

What do you think is reasonable and unreasonable to expect in these matters?