Senior-Pastor-Friend-or-Foe_718_245x169Dear Senior Pastor, Yours is a tough job. The responsibility buck stops with you and I get that totally. So the list you’re about to read is said with love, familiarity with both “pairs of shoes” and its nothing new, really. I’m just slipping it across your virtual desk as a reminder.

1) Give loving feedback EARLY on: Don’t wait till staff review time or a board meeting 6 months later to let your youth worker know you weren’t happy with something. How can they improve if the expectations are unknown? Make sure there aren’t any unspoken/invisible rules.

2) Make sure your YP has a thorough job description from the get-go: I’m still surprised how many youth workers, whether paid or volunteer, are working without a job description. Isn’t that a little like giving them a foreign car but not the manual? Some stuff comes easy, but a guide is necessary when its time to fix things that don’t come instinctually.

3) You weren’t always so organized, either: Along the way in your early years, I bet a church secretary or the CE person took you under his/her wing and set you straight about deadlines, etc. Don’t get frustrated; just teach your expectation and create a framework that helps the youth worker succeed. Systems and processes are important in successful youth ministries. Read Mark DeVries’ “Sustainable Youth Ministry” – SOLID stuff!

4) Don’t wait till after the big summer event/trip to tell them they’re moving on: Maybe this is just my personal pet peeve…but I’ve known more churches who waited till a few days after the summer mission trip to let the YP go when the truth turns out they’d been unhappy for a long time. Truthfully? It feels like the YP was a little used so they would go on the trip and the board members didn’t have to. Not cool.

5) Wait 3 days after a retreat/7 days after a trip with any complaints: Just today I saw a post from a youth worker ON their mission trip who was asking for prayer because the church board wanted a meeting the day after he gets back “with problems.” Remember your last mission trip and how long it took you to recover? Your YP needs some time to rest plus a few days to “bask in the afterglow” of the amazing things God did while they were on the trip.

6) Catch them doing good work: For every one complaint or problem you have to bring up, catch your youth worker doing 10 things right. Share it with them…and everyone else while you’re at it.

OK, all for now…but what would you add?


Values are the ideals or principals that help shape the way in which we live our lives, or in our case, execute our ministry. They protect our ministry. They help us define what is we pursue and what we abandon in order to build our ministry. Sustainable Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries says this about them, “Values protect a youth ministry from becoming so goal-oriented that it sacrifices the things that matter most.” For a lot of us, this can be a really convicting statement. Whether you have made a conscious decision about what they are or not, you have values. Being ignorant can be dangerous, because your ideals might actually be more harmful than helpful.

Can you clearly define your values? If not, identify them. Think about the things that will keep you from sacrificing the most valuable parts of your ministry. For me, I’m going to start valuing grace. I feel like too often my desire to have a great event, a solid weekend service, or a thriving program keeps me from showing grace to the rest of my team when things don’t go the way we planned. When I start to care more about reaching my goals than the people around me, then I know my priorities are off. Setting grace as a value is a step I want to take towards protecting my ministry.

Spend some time writing down your values. Pray that God reveals to you, what DeVries would call, the values that will keep your ministry from sacrificing the things that matter the most.

Already know your values? Share them below!

Colton [Email||Twitter]

I did it today.  I ran my first half marathon.  I met my goal, I placed well, and I had a great sense of accomplishment.  I have thought about doing one for the past 7 years since I did a ten mile run, but I didn’t do it until earlier this year- as it is one “one of those things to do before my wife gives birth” sort of thing.

Paul reminds Timothy to “train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8 NIV).” Keeping this in mind, as I reflected over this morning’s race- there were some leadership and ministry principles that came to mind. Here are a few.

A dream never becomes reality until we do something about it.
Proverbs reminds us that “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (29:18 KJV). I believe this is more than a dream or a hope for something.  If God has given us a vision for our community, people, or goal- we have to begin to prayerfully plan this out.  I said that I always wanted to run the marathon.  What accomplished it? It took the act of setting my deadline and planning out the steps that it would take to make this happen.

What goal, dream, or vision do we have that could be accomplished if we planned to do something about it? Keep in mind that when we plan and pray, God may and can change our plans.

There will be opposition when we work to accomplish our goals.
Running hurt.  There was one or two runs I couldn’t finish while training.  There was rain, cold weather, and even snow (thank you Wisconsin!). It rained all morning before the race.  The thought of not following through definitely crept up many times.

We have critics.  We have people with different ideas, and others that may not share our vision.  Not only that, we have an Enemy that is against our goal to help others take steps with God.  We have opposition, and this is going to be tough.  But stick it out!

Move at a sustainable pace.
During my training, I knew that I could run at a 9:00 minute a mile pace and sustain it.  I started slower than I thought, and worked to make up lost time.  I ran a 7:00 minute mile! It felt great- but I quickly realized that I would burn out at that pace before the race finished.

In leadership, we may be running at a pace that is unsustainable.  We may be able to accomplish more things in the short term and feel great (I felt really good about the 7 minute mile), but if we aren’t honest- we will burn out much faster than we are supposed to.  Move at the sustainable pace- you will accomplish more that way.

We must rest to race at our best.
My training called for a week and a half “taper” where I did a few light runs and rested from regular exercise.  I was told that this will help my body be in optimal shape before the race.  It was tough- I wanted to run the week during the race to make sure I “still had it.”  However, I simply trusted in my training and made it through.

I think about our ministry’s big events- mission trips, camps, and retreats.  Not to mention every weekend is BIG.  What if we trusted in our preparation before our big day in order to be at our best before the big day? What if we planned out our rest time before- so that we will be at our best when we need to be.  I need to be at my best for my students every Sunday, and I need to be at my best on our big events of the year- because this is an optimal time to help them take steps with God.  I can’t help but wonder if I had more of purposeful rest before hand that will allow me to be at my best.

Finally, it is best to celebrate with friends.
I loved knowing that my wife and two great friends were waiting at the finish line as I finished the race. Even though I was in pain, it was great to share the journey with them and grab a meal afterwards.  It made the experience better.  Before moving onto what’s next- take time to celebrate what you accomplished.

Tyler Volkers is the Student and Elementary Pastor at The Ridge Community Church in Greenfield, WI.  You can follow him on Twitter at @tylervolkers.