For a long time I used to resent the children’s ministry at our church because I felt we were in competition.  Whenever we had to share resources or space I would do my best to leverage the situation in my favor.  All that would occur was unnecessary tension.  It’s not that I didn’t get along with the children’s director at the time, I just didn’t see eye to eye with her. Finally, after receiving wisdom from a few friends and conferences I realized I needed children’s ministry more than I knew.

A healthy children’s ministry is the foundation to a strong student ministry.  If they aren’t doing their job and producing young disciples it’s going to make yours that much more difficult.  What that means is youth ministers need to not only focus on teenagers but see how they can invest in the ministry that is building up the next generation.  To invest in the children’s ministry at your church be sure to:

  • Cheer Them On: You know that student ministry can be a thankless calling, well so can children’s ministry.  Show your support by stopping by the programs, complimenting the volunteers and giving positive feed back to the children’s director.  If they see that you care then in turn they’ll care what you are doing too.
  • Get To Know The Programs: If you are going to work with the children’s pastor you need to understand their lingo.  What do they call their programs?  Do they have a special term for their volunteers? What curriculum do they use?  If you know the programs you’ll know how to approach them when you have a comment, question or observation.
  • Meet Regularly With The Leadership: Meet regularly with your children’s team so that you can get to know one another.  By sharing life together you’ll understand how to serve one another better and approach conflict.  Take the time to share what’s happening in each other’s lives and grow as a team.
  • Invest In A Similar Strategy: While ministering to kids is different than ministering to teens, you want to make sure that you are on the same page.  There needs to be synergy from elementary school to middle school and on to high school.  If your programs compete or collide, you’ll find yourself starting from scratch each year.

When you invest in your children’s ministry you invest in the future of the student ministry.  Youth and children’s ministry need to come together to see how they can tackle the whole journey of childhood and adolescence.  Work together, share a vision and continue to grow disciples.

How do you work with your children’s ministry?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

One of the most difficult questions to answer as a youth minister is:

What would your community look like if your ministry did not exist?

The devil whispering in my ear wants to say, “It would look the same as it does now.”  That’s doubt, and the evil one making sure I believe that my ministry is not having any effect at all.  The way I combat the insecurities that come from negative thoughts is by focusing on the youth ministry’s vision.

With vision your ministry has purpose; however, it’s not as simple as just writing one out.  Your vision has to answer the question, “Why does your youth ministry exist?”  and then you have to answer that question with your strategies and mission.  But, the way your vision is really going to take life, is if you make it a priority by:

  • Knowing It Well: In order to achieve big vision you need to believe in it.  That means memorizing and repeating it.  There’s not point to just having a statement, it needs to be the very essence of why you exist.
  • Making It Visible: Big vision is accomplished when it becomes contagious.  Share it in messages, emails, meetings and announcements.  Make it visible for parents, teens, church members and most importantly your volunteers.  People will invest in a ministry with vision because they see it has a purpose.
  • Celebrating It Widely: When you see moments of your vision accomplished celebrate them like a mini win.  Not only will this bring team unity, but enthusiasm around the process.  The more you celebrate your progress the more momentum you bring to the movement.
  • Using It As A Measurement Tool: Utilize the vision as a way to determine whether or not you are succeeding.  This means examining what you do and asking yourself, “How does this fulfill the vision?” If it doesn’t tweak the component or get rid of it completely.  Use your vision as a way of measuring success.

 

Big vision means big risks, big challenges and big results.  If you can rally your troops around the vision of the ministry nothing will stop you.  To obtain the best vision spend time with God, ask Him for guidance and then unleash it.  There is no better joy than seeing God’s vision come to life.

How do you make your vision big?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)



tonyI’m excited to interview Tony Morgan, church strategist and author of the new book, Stuck in a Funk. Here is 5 questions with Tony, and you can get a copy of his new book on Amazon right now for $5. He’s helped lead several churches I follow closely and have been inspired by him (and his incredible blog) regularly. I respect this guy a lot, and am thankful for all of the great things God is doing through him. Enjoy our discussion!

1. Excited to read your new book, Stuck in a Funk, have you ever found yourself in one? You better believe it. It’s part of life. We face being stuck in our organizations, but we also face it in our personal lives. In both instances, I’ve personally found that sense of stuckness happening when the future vision is unclear or there isn’t a plan to see the vision accomplished. Then once I determine the next steps, I need the discipline and perseverance to work my plan. All of that gets easier when you’re doing life with people who embrace the same vision.

2. Are there specific signs you’re stuck in a funk? Sometimes I find myself there but unable to explain it or how I got there to others? I think being too comfortable is a sign. The funny thing is everyone else around us is pursuing comfort and happiness. Wouldn’t it be nice if a warning light popped on in our lives when we’re getting too comfortable? It’s those seasons when we began to trust too much in our own experiences and capacities. The ironic thing is that I typically experience the most joy when I take risks where I genuinely have to trust God for wisdom and strength.

51kWfnfFAzL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-49,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_3. This book is about churches who are stuck, but it seems like at it’s core it is about leaders that are that way. Yes? Ah… I tend to agree. I think leaders getting stuck is certainly one of the key reasons that organizations get stuck. Leaders need to go back to whatever it is was prompted them to become a leader in the church. They need to recapture that passion and purpose from God. But, just to be honest, it’s going to take a different vision, strategy and systems to get different results. Hope is not a strategy. And, that’s the challenge — leaders actually have to lead at some point.

4. What is the biggest obstacle to getting out of a ministry funk? Every church is unique. Because of that, the combination of contributing factors that lead to a church getting into a ministry funk are going to look different from church to church. That said, one common challenge is being inward-focused. Another is holding onto leadership approaches or structures that may have worked in the past, but don’t now. Another common issue is gaining a clear vision, but, more important, being intentional about the strategies and systems to see that vision become reality. To get to where you want to go tomorrow, you have to know what’s important right now. Just to be honest, sometimes we need an outside set of eyes to facilitate us through that process.

5. Many youth workers have big vision and have a harder time with systems can you explain an easy way to keep these connected to move forward? Yes, vision is important. You certainly need that. The big mistake pastors (including youth workers) make is that they just need to teach people the vision, and everything will take care of itself. Well I can have a vision for being a physically fit, but hearing someone teach about it isn’t going to cut it. It may change my thinking, but systems help shift behaviors. I need new disciplines. I need an exercise system. I need an eating healthy system. I need a buddy system to stay motivated. You get the point. There are many systems in any body, and, unless the systems are healthy, the body won’t be healthy whether we embrace the a vision for health or not.

Thanks so much, Tony!

JG

Leadership continues to be one of the hot topics in the church today. Now more than ever before we are seeing books, seminars and coaching sessions revolving around leadership. My hope of writing this series of blog posts isn’t to bring anything new to the table; rather I want to share with you what in my opinion are four non-negotiable aspects of Christian leadership.

This past Christmas I went to a huge mall to buy a small gift and stocking stuffers for my wife. The problem was that I had already purchased everything I knew I wanted to get for her and now I was just getting extras. I ended up walking around the mall for a good two hours only to purchase more items than I had planned to and spent more money than I wanted. The problem wasn’t that I wasn’t being thoughtful; I had just fulfilled my earlier vision and hadn’t come around to have a new vision for the stocking stuffers I wanted to buy.

In order to get things do things properly as a leader we need to have vision and understand our mission. While I had a mission at the mall I didn’t have a vision and one without the other is incomplete. When Christian leaders are directing people where God would have them go, they need to understand what God’s vision is and how to articulate this. Jesus gives us an example of how we should interact with mission and vision of the Father. Jesus continually explains to his disciples and others his mission and the vision that he has been given. When Jesus was in Nazareth toward the beginning of his ministry he explained to the members of the synagogue that he had come to fulfill the prophecies of Isaiah by reading from Isaiah (Luke 4: 16-21). Jesus not only understood why he came he also understood his role, He knew he had come to preach and share the Gospel (Mark 1:38). By explaining His relationship with the vision God had given the Israelites, Jesus gave himself credibility while also trying helping others to understand their roles in the grand picture. This leads to the understanding of another key skill that Christian leaders should possess. If a leader can take scripture and the revelation of God in their own life and put them together it would inspire greater credibility and confidence in who they are and where they are leading.

  • What ways are you gaining credibility and helping others understand vision and mission?
  • Does your current vision for where you are going include some backing with Scripture?

Kyle Corbin has been serving youth as a volunteer or pastor for over 10 years. He is currently the youth pastor at the Bridge Church in North Vancouver B.C. You can follow his blog at: kylecorbin.blogspot.com or Twitter: @CorbinKyle



 

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Recently I took a long car ride with my children that involved driving several days through many States. As we went they knew to keep asking, “Are we there yet?” was futile. However, to make the time go faster, they decided to focus on “markers” in our trip. How long would it take to get out of the State we were driving through? When would we get to the next rest stop? There was one thing that was abundantly clear to them: our final destination. No matter the number of bathroom stops or hours in the car a point would come when we “arrived.”

This got me thinking about ministry. When we look at the scope of our students do we know where the endpoint is? In other words, when a student graduates out of our youth group who has been produced? We might say phrases like, “A fully devoted follower of Christ.” However, what does that really mean?

This is one of our first steps in leading our team or even our students. We must be clear about where we are going. In a world that often uses the phrase “casting vision,” this is vital. Anything can be conquered when we know WHERE we are going. We might have a “mission statement” for our ministry. However, if it is longer than one sentence, if everyone in our ministry can’t easily recite it, and if no one really understands its meaning, it is useless. If your people don’t know where the journey ends then they feel like all is purposeless. This one line sums up the target.

Once you and your team decide the “end student” you are hoping the Lord will produce through your ministry, talk about it, ALL THE TIME. When we got stuck in traffic on our trip it was supremely frustrating for all of us. No one wants to feel stagnant. However, the knowledge that the highway was not goal kept us all in check. We refocused on the excitement of where we were headed, and what it would look like when we got there.

Secondly, everyone wants to know, “How will we get there?” and “How do we know we are headed in the right direction?” Figure out the core values you are looking for in your team and ministry. Put these clearly in place. At our ministry they are to be Christ-Centered, Relationally Driven, Servant-Leaders and to have Integrity in everything. We explain what these mean, and how they relate to where we are going. This is one way we know HOW we are headed in that right direction. Secondly, we plan in a myriad of ways. There is a five year strategic plan that is broken into increments. We know where we are looking to get to at the end of the five years, but also in 2, 1, 6 months and even a month from now. Then we hold everyone accountable to these. This lets everyone see those mile markers to know how we are going, and how to know when we have arrived.

The trip can be really long when it comes to working with youth, especially those stuck in survival mode. We can wonder some days if we are moving at all. However, when we are clear about where we are headed and how we will get there, everyone hangs in for the ride.

Where are you headed?

 

 

Getting into youth ministry is like signing up for a basketball league where every 30 seconds there’s another slam-dunk opportunity. But once you get into it, it feels much more like a soccer game where there’s a heck of a lot of running around before reaching a goal.

Let me explain.

If you’re like me, you do student ministry for those great moments: When a student finally “gets it.” When small group conversation goes deep. When a teenager posts, “Best weekend ever!” on the Monday after the retreat. These are moments that make it all worth it!

But what about all the other in-between moments? The moments that aren’t so exceptional – that are normal. Average. Gray. Like when you have to clean up the youth room after everyone has evacuated. Or when you have to make a hundred phone calls to get the event planned (the one that get’s cancelled because of bad whether). Or when you have to dissect the copy machine because somewhere hidden deep inside of it is a stuck piece of paper… allegedly. What about all the undesirable, underrated and unexceptional tasks of youth ministry?

Now, I get that there are “soccer players” out there – that is, people who love the running around. But my general response is, “This is not what I signed up for!”

But I wonder if God can teach us all something about those gray times in between. Perhaps the exceptional times of discovery in ministry are not the moments we expect.

Oswald Chambers wrote: “It is inbred in us that we have to do exceptional things for God; but we have not. WE HAVE TO BE EXCEPTIONAL IN THE ORDINARY THINGS, to be holy in the mean streets, among mean people, and this is not learned in five minutes.”

 I am guilty of wanting five-minute fixes. Of asking for humility and success and patience… and wanting them all right now. To some extent, we are all tempted toward the big, grandiose occasions, when people point and say, “What a life-changing leader! What an incredible ministry!”

But what if our best leadership today was picking up after students? What if worship found it’s way into filling out finances? What if God was waiting to meet with us each day as we move between meetings?

And what if God’s most exceptional gifts to you today in your ministry were hidden in the common wrapping of everyday tasks?

Sam Townsend works on the Training and Programming Team at YouthWorks, where he helps develop materials to point teenagers toward Jesus. After the workday, Sam is a youth group leader, a seminary student and a conversationalist over half-price appetizers.



If you have worked in a rural context for more than five minutes, you can see that things are a little different here. The towns are smaller farther apart, and seem to operate at a slower pace. Do not let all this deceive you. You have not stepped into 1940, 1960, or even 1990. You have not stepped into a smaller version of some small city. Relationships and rivalries run very deep. Resources can be as slim here in a rural context as you would see in many urban situations.

Despite all the differences, many things are similar – parents are still parents, and students are still students. Students still have many of the same struggles as their urban and suburban counterparts, such as drugs, teenage pregnancy, bullying, and truancy. Students still hurt. Parents still try and fill every spare moment with an activity, club, or sport.

With all these challenges before you, many will ask? Why bother with Rural Youth Ministry?

Here are 4 good reasons to say “Why Not Rural Youth Ministry?”

1) Much of North America is Rural

Many refer to Rural communities as “flyover country”, giving the impression that the Rural areas do not matter. However, large portions of North America are represented when you say the word Rural. This includes a lot of students that attend small Rural schools. The county where I live has about 1100 7th-12th grade students scattered among three school districts.

2) Even though many small Rural churches are closing, there will be Rural churches around for many years to come.

I have worked as a Youth Pastor in Southern Baptist Churches for 13 years. The largest majority of churches in my denomination are under 500 in attendance. I have heard it said that the average size church in the SBC is about 350. This means that for every mega-church, there are many more small churches of less than 100, or even less than 50. Many other denominations have very similar numbers.

3) Many Rural youth ministries have smaller numbers of students, allowing more individual attention.

One of my favorite parts of Rural Youth Ministry is the opportunities that I get to invest in the lives of students in one-on-one or small group interactions. With a smaller ministry size, I can slow down and focus on one or two students that really need that help through a tough situation or rejoice with them in successes. I also get to experience a lot of “firsts”. There is a student that I have had the pleasure of being with the first time he left the state of Indiana (…and we live 20 minutes from the state line) and the first time he ever flew on an airplane.

4) We are given the mission and commission to “Go into all the world”  - and this includes Rural areas.

One of the members of the leadership team at my church has said many times over the last few years “God told us to go, that means we need His permission to stay”. In many Rural areas there are so many needs that could be met with a few small resources, a person with a specific skill set, or a person willing to take the time to help another pick up the pieces of a broken life. The Gospel is needed in Rural areas just as badly as in the prisons, urban centers, or the wealthy suburbs. They are people that Christ died for that need what only He can give.

Brent Lacy is a Rural Youth Pastor in Western Indiana that lives in the “Covered Bridge Capital of the World” with his wife and 3 kids.  You can come connect with him at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference, where he will be helping to lead the Rural Youth Workers Connect Group. You can also find out more about his book Rural Youth Ministry: Thrive Where You’re Planted at SimplyYouthMinistry.com

Disciples of Who?

 —  January 8, 2013 — 2 Comments

You thrive on life change.  That’s what makes you a youth minister.  When life is tough, all you need is that one story of a teen finding Christ.  Living out the Gospel and showing you that all the pain, hurt and junk you’ve been through is worth it.  As youth ministers it’s not always about the energy, the numbers or the accolades, it’s about connecting the teens to Christ.

But, is that what’s really happening in your ministry?  Are you seeing stories of life change for Christ or something else?  Stories of life change can happen for many reason.  As youth ministers your hope is that they happen because of a personal and public relationship with Christ.  That might be happening in your ministry, but then again you might be raising up the next generation of disciples of YOUR CHURCH or YOUR MINISTRY.

It’s a mistake that’s easy to make.  It’s a trick the evil one plays on us all.  He’ll make the ministry about you, about a program or even an activity.  With those things and people comes hype, comes excitement and again life change.  But, if the life change doesn’t point to Christ you are creating a group of disciples with shallow faith.  That means a higher chance that your teens will  walk away when they move away.

So, how do you know if you are pointing teens in the right direction?  You can start by:

  • Observing The Fruit: What path are former teens taking as they graduate high school?  Are you finding teens becoming more public and aggressive with their faith?  What you need to do is sit down with your team and determine what it looks like when a teen is truly living out his or her faith.  This comes from creating a vision for your teens and coming up with signs that indicate you are fulfilling it.
  • Getting Their Story: Have a teen write out their life story.  How is God a part of it?  Or is their life change due to people and programs?  Help them see that God is writing their story and encourage them to give Him credit.  Sometimes the reason you are creating disciples of your ministry is because of a misalignment, correct it before it goes bad.
  • Ask Them Who They Want To Be:  If you ask them “Who do you want to be?” you’ll see how their faith is influencing the vision they have for themselves.  Are they describing someone who has been shaped by the world or someone who is being shaped by their faith?  Again you can have a conversation with them that will help them see how God is shaping their future.
  • Get An Outside Perspective: Talk to parents, coaches or teachers about the life journey they’ve seen in their students.  Make sure you are connected in the community to determine the true impact your ministry is having on their growth.  Are they only “Christian” inside your ministry or are they displaying Christ everywhere they go?

In the end each of your student has a decision whether or not they are going to follow Christ.  You need to guide, influence and encourage them to focus on Christ.  While you may never have a perfect success rate, you can increase Christ’ influence by pointing them towards Him.

How do you determine who a student is following?  

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)