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

FIVE-682_747448aOne of the things I get to do with being in pastoral care is listen to a lot of what’s going on in students lives. And what I’ve come to realize is that youth ministry compensates for a lot. God has us in a space like no other. Never think that what we do is not needed or insignificant. You are supporting parents who desperately need an outside christian influence pointing their children towards Jesus. I’ve met with students and I would end up saying the same things their parents would try and say to them, they just needed to hear it a different way. I really want to encourage you in some of the ways I believe God strategically uses us.

Stability - You may have students who come from dysfunctional homes where the family is relationally unstable in every way. Also, for students life is always changing because they are. How does He use us?

  1. Youth group meetings every week.
  2. Leaders being there for them each week, ready to love on them.
  3. A program with their best interest at heart every week.
  4. We provide a place to go every week that is safe and stable.

A positive environment - You may have students who are growing up in a very negative environment, where it’s hard for them to see any of the good that is going on in their life. Maybe they are growing up in a home where people speak negatively about them directly to them. How does He use us?

  1. We share and model a hope that gets us through the negative in our lives.
  2. Leaders to see and speak the good about them directly to them.
  3. Encouraging lots of fun and laughter. This is the love language of students!! Fun and laughter creates an incredible positive environment.

Attention - We are in an era where parents are busier than ever. And I don’t mean that entirely in a bad way. Some parents have to work two jobs or single parents have to work. Students are craving for someone to ask a follow up question to “how was your day”. How does He use us?

  1. We listen to things other people would consider silly because we know it’s not silly to them.
  2. We’ve made ourselves available to meet as a mentor or hang as a friend.
  3. We genuinely want to know and will ask the follow up questions.
  4. We make ourselves available to support them however we can.

Unconditional love - You may have students who feel a performance based love at home. How well they do in sports, academics and even with how much they participate in church activities determines the level of love they receive. How does He use us?

  1. We teach, share and model a love that is not performance based. We model a love that says no matter where you come from or what you’ve done or haven’t done you are loved unconditionally.
  2. We create an environment that says all are welcomed and loved not just the students who agree with our religious views. I think a great question every youth group should ask is “if a pregnant girl came to our youth group would she feel loved or judged?” Would she feel judged by our messages or would she feel love and hope?
  3. We teach about Jesus Christ and the unconditional love that He offers to all.

Mentorship - Every year before small groups start we do a meet and greet with the parents and leaders. Last year after we prayed over the year with the parents. I had a Dad approach me and said that he had just became a Christian and was nervous about the questions his son may ask. He felt unequipped to talk about God. It felt so good to help this dad grow in his faith with his son. God used us to mentor a family that is now living for Him. I can give you countless stories of how God has put people in my path to share His wisdom with them. He uses us to mentor students and families.

Know that what we do matters and is desperately needed more now than ever before. God has strategically positioned you to support parents whether they believe in him or not. And of course we are not trying to take the place of parents, but we definitely stand side by side with them in this war the enemy has declared on their children. Would love for you to add more ways God uses us in the lives of students and their families! Let’s encourage one another!!!

hope it helps

ac

 



lets talkFInd out the TWO volunteer trainings Kurt and I would do if we could ONLY do TWO trainings each!!!

Also learn two things about us you probably didn’t know. One has to do me surfing and the other has to do with whether or not Kurt reads my blog posts.

 

 

What would be your top two volunteer trainings?

 

hope it helps

AC and Kurt

Arms

Below is another great post from Scott Rubin….enjoy!

I’m not pretending to be some marathon expert on running; I actually only run a few times a week to attempt to fight off out-of-shapeness. But this week I had a revelation that more serious runners probably all know. What you do with your ARMS actually makes a gigantic difference when you’re running. (wait… there’s a comparison coming … )

I even looked it up online when I got home; it turns out that swinging your arms properly makes a huge difference in how fast you go! (If you don’t believe me, challenge a student to a 100-yard dash… but where you have to keep your arms pressed against your sides, while they get to pump their arms.) For the most part, I live with the illusion that my legs are all really all that matters when it comes to running.

Comparison: I think it can be dangerous to see our role in student ministry like the “legs”… and somewhere deep inside believe that my contribution is most of what matters. How I teach, how I lead, who I connect with. I’m not even talking about forgetting God’s function in all of it … I’m talking about forgetting the enormously significant role of all the volunteers around us! What you do with your VOLUNTEERS actually makes a gigantic difference when you’re in youth ministry!

— Do you give volunteers “real” responsibility in your ministry? Or do they mostly “support you” while you do the heavy lifting? (or the “visible” stuff?)
— Do you recognize the places where volunteers around you can do something BETTER than you can do it? When we invite someone to unleash that ability in our ministry, everybody wins!
— Do you train volunteers to make the most of what they can bring to your ministry? Once you help volunteers understand some of the basics, it’s amazing how they do awesome things that I would never have thought of.
— Maybe most importantly, do you ENVISION volunteers, and help them believe that the “real” youth pastor… is ALL of us!

“DIRTY LITTLE SECRET” alert… WHY wouldn’t every single youth ministry leader invite all the qualified volunteers they could find to come serve students? Oh, we can come up with our reasons:
Sure, it can be tough to locate great, safe people who are ready to invest in students. Sure, it’s hard work sometimes to get them equipped — that could be a part of it. But I think that maybe one of the dark reasons could be that I LIKE TO BE IN THE CENTER OF THINGS! Anybody else?? I love when students come running up to me and say “SCOTTTTTT!!!!!! Let me tell you what happened this week!” But when a student runs right past me towards a great volunteer and yells “DUSTINNNNN!!!! You’ll never believe this!”… I have to be confident enough to celebrate that — and count it as a giant victory!

So these days, I’m reminding myself that the “arms” in the youth ministry race are as important as the legs. And lots of times… they ARE the legs! Up for a challenge? Right now how ’bout you text one of your volunteers & tell them that they’re awesome?! And you can’t run without em! ☺)



prepared-businessman1I wrote a post last week listing out 10 things that I had to become ok with as a small group leader. You can read it here. I had a lot of great conversations about it last week. Talking about the post got me thinking about the things I could’ve been prepared for. Although as a leader you must be ok with some things, you also as a leader can be better prepared for other things. So I thought I’d share ten things I needed to be prepared to do as a small group leader.

Set Boundaries – Letting your leaders know that it is ok for them to set boundaries with their students if need be. From experience, you may want to set boundaries from day one in a lot of areas especially these two:

  • Texting and phone calls – I know that we want to be available and reachable at all times, but you want to set some guidelines. For some students this may not be a problem, but for others you could run into all types of issue as the season goes on.
  • Hanging out – You definitely want to spend time with your group outside of the day you have group, but you need your own time to hang with other friends.  You can easily burn out if theres no life outside of your small group. Take a break. It’s ok.

Communicate Smarter - Setting up a group text with your students and an email group for the parents right away will be one of the smartest things you do. Text the students and also email their parents what’s going on. Because there is a huge chance your students won’t share with their parents what you need them to share, until the last minute or when it’s too late.

Inform Parents How You Will Discipline – Set up how you will discipline and inform parents right away. Nothing causes more problems then you as a leader disciplining students a certain way and the parents learning about the how the day you do it. So let them know how you will discipline so when their student tells them what happened they won’t be shocked.

How To Communicate Conflict - You may not always get the email saying that you are the parents favorite person. You may get an email from a parent disapproving of something you’ve said or done. Here is my response to confrontational emails “I’m sorry you feel that way. Is their a time we can talk in person or via phone about this?” email lacks context so whatever you say could be perceived the wrong way. If the issue can’t be resolved, let the ministry know so they can help resolve the issue and let them know sooner than later.

If you have to communicate something tough with a parent do it in person and in love. Bring the ministry in the loop right away.

Let Parents Know About The Sex/Pornography Talk – There are some lessons that leaders need to let parents know they are doing. So the parent can make the choice if they want their students to participate or not. There may be more topics, but sex and pornography are two examples of subjects that parents need to beware of. Tip: send parents your outline so they can have an idea of what will be discussed. This will save the ministry a lot of heartache. We know that the best setting for these issues to be discussed is small group but a better place is also the home . So lets give parents that respect and courtesy.

Not Drive Students – This may seem small but there is a legall limit to how many students can fit in a car. Leaders need to know that the last thing the ministry needs to be doing is explaining to a parent why their son/daughter was in a five seater car with 9 people. Students will pressure and you may seem cool for braking the law, but your breaking the law. Let students know up front that it’s not going to happen.

Set Language Standards - For some students you will have no problem but for some you may have to get a sensor button. haha Let students know up front the type of language you will not tolerate.

Talk About Social Media – This may need to be an ongoing conversation with students. Students need to know that they will be perceived by what they post, like and who they follow and friend. Don’t be afraid to call them out on questionable pictures, statuses and questionable friends or Instagram feeds.

Say No – Sometimes students and parents can take advantage of someone who has set out to care for them the way small group leaders care for them. So leaders need to know that it’s ok to say no. You don’t have to pay for every meal when you go out and you are not a personal taxi. It’s ok to say no!!

Deal With Non-Believing Parents- Your leaders are in a great position to be a witness to the students parents. I actually wrote a post about this awhile back (click here) I’ve seen God do some amazing things in this situation. Tip: Prayer is the key in this situation. Pray for wisdom and opportunities to share the love of Christ with the family. Whether it be through the student or one on one, pray for God’s intervention.

What would you add to the list?

hope it helps

ac

 

copy-my-tribe-header1

The Youth Cartel’s Middle School Ministry Campference has become one of my favorite events of the year! If you work with young teens in a paid, part-time or volunteer basis we would love to have you join us for three days of learning, laughing and encouragement with others in our “tribe”. The campference is just that: A camp combined with a conference, which is what makes it so unique. If you want to join us, it’s almost too late…but not quite! You can get details and register right here.



FiveI’ve learned that relating to students is more about what you do than who you are. I wrote a post a while ago called “The B’s to being a great youth leader” and it was about clearing up the misconceptions of what a youth leader has to be in order to relate to students. I believe that the misconceptions of who a youth leader has to be cheapens youth ministry in general. I believe the focus of a youth minister should be on what they do and not on who they are. Because I believe youth ministry is mostly about relationships, the fact that God created us to be in relationship with Him plays a huge part in that idea. Jesus was a walking relational powerhouse. In the three years He spent in ministry everything He did pointed to the fact that it’s all about relationships. A lot of what I do I’ve learned from Jesus’s time here on earth doing ministry. So here are 5 things I’ve learned from Jesus concerning viewing and relating to students.

  1. View students in light of their potential. – Jesus always looked passed people’s present circumstances and looked at who they had the potential to become.  Jesus looked pass the fact that Matthew was a tax collector and saw his potential. Jesus looked passed the lifestyle of the women at the well and saw her potential. We should do the same. Who they are today doesn’t have to be who they are tomorrow.
  2. Make time to talk. – Jesus was never too busy for a conversation. I like the fact that Jesus didn’t come to earth doing ministry from a fire breathing chariot because I can’t do that. Instead, He came doing ministry through relationships one conversation at a time. I’ve gotta make time to talk to students. Allow the programs and events to be the vessel to great life changing, life healing conversations.
  3. Focus on who they have the potential to be and not on who they use to be. – Jesus never dwelled on the past. Jesus paints a great picture of this with the disciples. He was always moving people to the life they had the potential to live. Students need someone speaking into their life words that moves them toward their potential. The more they dwell on the past, the more they will live in the past. Students need to know that there is a better life then the one that they are living, and that they can have this better life.
  4. Challenge their faith. – Jesus was always challenging the disciples to do what they thought was impossible. He was building their faith in Him. Challenging students to do things they think are impossible without God, increases their faith in God. Growth comes when we are stretched in our thinking and in our view of who God is.So stretch them by challenging them in their walk with God.
  5. Pray for them. – I love how Jesus never said “I’ll be praying for you”. He just prayed right there on the spot for those in need. This is something I’ve definitely tried to model. I’ve learned that when it comes to praying, students will totally follow your lead. So don’t wait, pray with them right there. I had a student who was having surgery. I randomly ran into her and her mother and some friends two days earlier. Once she told me about the surgery I asked if I could pray for her.  She said “of course” and so I pulled everyone together to pray. It almost brought her mom to tears that we were all praying for her daughter. It also felt good to just be bold and pray. We don’t have to confine God’s power to just move in the four walls of the church. He’s everywhere. So let’s minister like He’s everywhere.

Viewing students and relating to them in this light will change the way you view and relate to them. I only listed five. Can you think of more ways Jesus has taught us how to view and relate to students?

hope it helps

ac

 

 

If you are fortunate enough to even have a youth ministry budget, most of us work to preserve at least a chunk of it until the end of the year. For many, that means some critical purchasing power at the end of the calendar year (or fiscal year, depending on when your church “resets” everything back to the start).

If you find yourself in these merry last few days of the year with some funds left to spend on your own development and your youth ministry, here are a few recommendations for you to consider:

A resource for your students
Think of a spiritual growth tool to put in your students’ hands to help them grow in their faith. Right now the 1-Minute Bible (the most popular resource in our Grow Booth each year) is only $6.99 and a total steal at that price. Next closest is Amazon at $10.14. Lots of other great options to get good stuff in your students’ hands, too!

A training event for you
There are a ton of great training events and conference on the local, denominational and national level. Pick one that has some offerings that will encourage you were you are at and push you where you need to grow. I highly recommend the upcoming Simply Youth Ministry Conference and I’d love to meet you at one of the events I’ll be attending in the future, too! You can get a great book or tool – those are certainly helpful – but there is something special about being in the same room with hundreds of other men and women who share your calling.

A challenge for your volunteers
Find a great resource to develop your team, too! 99 Thoughts for Small Group Leaders has been fortunate enough to be one of the best-sellers of the year at Simply Youth Ministry. Doug Fields and I wrote it to help youth workers lead their groups better – think of it as leader training in a simple little book. Combine it with a Starbucks card and it is a total winner. On sale right now for $4.99.

What are you thinking about buying here at the end of the year?

JG