POLL: December Pace

 —  December 10, 2012 — 6 Comments


This week’s poll is a question about the pace of December for your youth ministry. In talking with some visiting youth workers recently it seems like the month of December was one of the craziest months of the year – then in talking to another on the phone this week it sounded like for them it was super slow and a great change of pace. Those conversations inspired the poll question this week:

What is the pace of December like for you?

JG

Thought this post by Doug Fields was worth reading (and rereading when you have time to process it fully) – he talks a little bit about caring for your soul, perfect for us youth workers. Here’s a clip, follow the link for the rest:

Imagine that one side of the scale has all the stuff you already have or are trying to gain. Tipping the scale would be all the possessions and activities you typically view as benefits—houses, cars, boats, vacations, swimming pools, stock portfolios, job titles, reputation, college degrees, iguanas, all the toys you’ve ever bought, and karate lessons.

Then, on the other side of the balance is simply…your soul.

It would seem obvious that the side with all the stuff should weigh down the balance, right? Wrong! In God’s divine measuring system, stuff always loses to soul. Yet, when was the last time you stopped long enough to even consider your soul?

If you need some soul care, here’s a great resource to check out, too!

JG



Between the two of us we’ve literally created hundreds of youth ministry calendars. Over time we’ve managed to pick up a few pointers we wanted to share in this SYM Today. A calendar focuses you on the purposes for your ministry and lays out the direction for the ministry. Here’s a process you can use, modify, or mock as you plan the upcoming school year calendar:

Strive for balance
The first mission is for the leadership to be clear that one purpose or agenda isn’t going to dominate the calendar. We lead a youth ministry that wants to be purpose-driven, not driven by one particular purpose. We will spend time talking about evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and worship—not letting any one thing drive the direction. You may not be “purpose-driven,” but we hope you want to be purposeful in your approach to ministry, and a calendar helps.

Take one purpose and run with it
If you decide balance and purpose is a good thing, the next step is to plan specific events, classes, trips, and meetings that focus on specific purposes and goals you have already deemed valuable. We also look at what we did the previous year and debrief them on the fly. If they worked, we consider it for the next year. If it didn’t work, we do our best to go after something fresh. In our setting, we like to take a specific “purpose” and spread it out over the course of the year.

Repeat that process for each purpose
Then we go month by month again, this time through the eyes of a purpose, such as evangelism. After that we’ll hit fellowship dates for small groups, then drop in discipleship retreats, camps, and trainings. We cover all of the purposes, with the goal of having each purpose represented clearly on the calendar.

Drop in the deadlines
Once the calendar is more or less “set,” we drop in deadlines for registrations and various milestones that related to the projects. For example, our mission trip requires a registration start and end, as well as three meetings for parents and a celebration weekend. Small groups don’t just start on day one; they need registration dates, deadlines, and enough time for us to process the students into groups. When you plan an event, be sure to also include the follow-up dates as well.

Look at the big picture and cut away
Then we look at the overall big picture and goal for balance and health, and we start the painful process of figuring out what needs to be cut. We also go in with the mindset of what items need to be adjusted—could we partner our event with another time our target audience is already at church, instead of asking for another night out of the team and the committed?

That’s ONE way to think about your ministry calendar. What’s yours?

This post was written by Josh Griffin and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

I was asked to contribute to the fantastic Slant33 blog this past week – the question was, about practical help for observing the Sabbath and rest. Here’s a clip of the answer I wrote, be sure to check out the other thoughts on the subject over there, too!

NONNEGOTIABLE: A DAY OFF. Try to reach me on a Monday. Go ahead. You’re probably going to be disappointed! Monday is the day I sleep in, making sure my phone is turned off and disconnected from the needy ministry world around me. From Sunday at about 2:00 p.m. until Tuesday morning’s team meeting, I’m disconnected. Sometimes I’ll even leave the house for the day just to not be around if someone drops by. I’m crafty like that. If I’m going to be in ministry for years, I’ve got to take some days along the way.

NONNEGOTIABLE: TIME WITH GOD/CHURCH. I go to church every week. Worst-case scenario, I watch it online or listen to the mp3. Part of my Sabbath has to include being fed, despite complete exhaustion after teaching youth services all weekend myself. I remember, in the early days of our ministry, we even sneaked away to other churches on off nights to worship in places where no one knew me as pastor. It was glorious. Again, so sneaky, I know.

JG



Chances are you are currently in the process of wrapping things up from the year and transitioning into summer mode.  That means camps, retreats, mission trips and planning for the fall.  Even if you are year round with ministry you look forward to the summer because the weather is nice, the days are longer and who doesn’t love ending the day with a barbecue?

And then you blink.  And summer is gone, September is a week away and you find yourself scurrying, flailing and gasping for any margin that might be left.  It’s another summer you blew away because you didn’t:

Maintain A Schedule:  Granted you have more margin in the summer, but you still need to know how much.  In the summer, life is a little easier because there might be less people coming to your ministry, and the trips you planned are set to go.  Just because the summer is planned doesn’t mean you can sit back, relax and forget about it.  By maintaining consistent office hours, and a work schedule you enable yourself to build margin instead of losing it.  Just give yourself thirty minutes to sit down and plan out your weeks and days.

Communicate Consistently:  I’m sure you hate playing that game where you need to guess whether or not certain people will be back in the fall.  You tell yourself, “I need a break and so do they.” And while that is true it doesn’t mean going M.I.A. for the entire summer.  It’s wise to check-in with your ministry team online through Facebook and Twitter.  Gather them together for a cookout or give them a call.  You don’t have to talk to them with any purpose in mind other than letting them know you are thinking about them. Then when the question of inviting them back comes up, it won’t be like breaking the ice all over again.

Rest And Refresh: Whether you break entirely or just slow things down it’s important to schedule a few days and even an entire week of true vacation.  If you can’t get away because of finances give yourself a stay-cation by staying home, sleeping in, plan a fun get together with friends, just make sure you give yourself a break.  Pace yourself and even plan some time to grow individually, professionally and spiritually

Put On Sunscreen:  Don’t get burned, put on a little SPF 30 and be safe.  No one wants to see you red as a lobster with those crazy tan lines.  Plus, as great as aloe is, the burn is always still too much.

Summer is a season to enjoy, it’s a season to refresh and set you in the right direction.  For some of us it’s busier, while for others it’s just a chance to step back.  Either way do not let this season get away from you, plan, and prepare so that you can walk into the fall excited.

What other mistakes do youth ministers make in the summer?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more great youth ministry articles and thoughts on his exceptional blog Marathon Youth Ministry.

Interesting article in USA Today this past weekend about turning off – something youth workers are notoriously poor at doing consistently. Want to get more work done? Work less. Want to be fulfilled in your job? Make it part of your life and not all of it. Want to have longevity in ministry? Get away from it every once in a while. Here’s a clip from the article, be sure head there for the rest:

Do you take your smartphone to bed because you claim to use it as a nightlight, say it’s the only alarm clock you have, or need to make sure you don’t miss a critical text?

Here’s the problem with that thinking: Now that the phone is only an arm’s reach away, it’s easy to check a few e-mails, perhaps sending off a few responses so you have one fewer thing to do tomorrow.

You’ve just stepped onto a very slippery slope that will make it difficult not to be connected 24/7. You’ve become one of those millions of workers who fire off e-mails at midnight or reach for the smartphone before your first cup of coffee every morning.

You may claim that you have to work this way because your job — or your employer — demands it.

Make sure you read to the bottom of the article for some really practical volunteer team tips, too!

JG



Operation Slow-Down

 —  May 22, 2012 — 1 Comment

It’s time for youth group to start, and I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off, finishing last-second details. (Sound familiar?) Deep inside, I know I’m telling every young person, “I don’t have time for you.” But my to-do list beckons.

If someone naïvely dares to stop me, I nervously fidget and struggle to maintain eye contact because I’m worried about dropping the ball on the looming program. I peer over this mere mortal’s shoulder and silently freak out as the countdown to start time nears zero. I pacify the person who caused this momentary diversion with a shallow promise to connect later in the week. Although I know that probably won’t happen, I desperately need to return to the important task at hand. Just to make sure I’m not stopped again, I take out my phone, participate in a ghost call, and resume my pace.

Ouch! Enough confessional time. Here’s my new plan to conduct Operation Slow-Down:

• I will ease my pace. Walk. More. Slowly. Resist the urge to end conversations quickly and move on to the next project. I want the pace of leisure to be my default and attentiveness to be my act of generosity.

• I will dial-in the program in advance. Work hard during the week so the youth service or meeting goes off without a hitch. Don’t save last-minute details for when people are arriving. Make it a goal to be standing around, with nothing to do, 10 minutes before the first young person walks through the door. That way, you’ll be ready to fully engage with kids.

• I will care about people and the program. I’m a program person all the way. Nothing’s more exciting to me than sharing the timeless message of Christ in creative ways. Tension will always exist between presenting a top-notch service or meeting and spending time with people. But final details and adjustments shouldn’t crowd out expressions of love. Care about the program, care about the creative elements, be proud of your innovative message or creative mini-movie that you spent several late nights sweating over. But be keenly aware of the people who might need you beforehand.

Trying to outdo yourself can become a vicious cycle. So stop walking around with such urgency. Instead, overflow with love for the listeners. After all, that’s who you’re trying to reach.

Originally appeared in the May/June 2012 issue of Group Magazine. Don’t get the magazine yet? Hit this link to subscribe and get in on the action today!

So thankful for the guys over at Magnum Clock who donated a killer TT4040-C (the same one we’ve got!) as a giveaway here on the blog. All you had to do to win was enter your senior pastor’s average message length in the comments of the post. The winner, chosen at random was Charlie!

Thanks to everyone who entered and be sure to swing by Magnum Clocks and check out their awesome gear that might help keep track of time in your youth ministry or church!

JG