It never ceases to amaze me that out of all the stuff that is going on in the world celebrities and famous people are talked about and televised more than anything else when it comes to the news. And I get the fact that it comes with being a celebrity or famous, but what I don’t like is we’ve become a culture hooked on drama.

So once again Bieber is in the news for breaking the law and Richard Sherman is in the news for throwing out how great he is in someone’s face. Now, the one thing I believe these two have in common is the same thing that I believe we all have in common, and that is the ability to fall prey to stupidity.

When I heard about Bieber/Sherman I immediately thought about my students and how they will respond to this news. I know that they are reading and watching drama like this unfold. There friends via social media are all talking about it. I can hear the football team defending Richard Sherman. And I’m sure the debate on Justin Bieber is going something to the tune of Justin Bieber is stupid or poor Justin Bieber. The debate on Richard Sherman is he’s either a loud mouth bully or he has the right to speak his mind since he’s a Stanford graduate and pro bowler. And since I know my students I ask myself the question how can I use what happens in today’s culture to help my students grow more like Christ. Here’s what I would share with my students.

  1. No one has the right to judge the person who falls prey to stupidity, because we would totally be unrightfully casting the first stone. We’ve all said stuff we wish we could take back now, but we weren’t thinking that during the time we were saying and doing the stupid stuff.
  2. Who you are in secret will come to light. It’s just a matter of time before it shows. So be who you want to be without the limelight. whether your limelight is just the kids at your school or fifty million people across the globe.
  3. Don’t be concerned with just the stupid acts you commit or Justin Bieber/Richard Sherman commit, but be concerned with why the act was committed in the first place because often times there you find the root of the problem which will lead to a solution that will bring about real change.
  4. Choosing the people you surround yourself with is one the most important decisions you’ll ever make. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character”. Show me the people you hangout with and I can pretty much tell you where you’ll most likely end up.
  5. There is a verse in Ephesians that says “Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.”(Eph 5:17) this verse really sums up what I would share with my students who found themselves stuck in stupidity. I would say Don’t just do what God wants you to do, but also understand why He wants you to do it. Focus more on understanding God’s plan for your life and less on trying not to act thoughtlessly. And you will see yourself falling less into stupidity. And even if you do fall it will be way different then the times before you made God’s plan a priority.

I guess my thought to you as youth leaders is based on Ephesians 5:16 which says, “Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.” Now, I know some of you scholars may say, “Well contextually the writer wasn’t thinking in this vein,” in which my reply to you would be “shut up…I’m the Richard Sherman of youth ministry, you better recognize” hahahaha just kidding.

I think I can make a case that Jesus followed this verse not only in how he lived, but also in how did ministry. I will probably forever ring the bell that youth workers who minister ignorant of culture are most likely not doing very sustainable youth ministry. So I would say never be afraid to use culture to teach biblical truth.

Would love for you to add your thoughts. GO!!!!!!

hope it helps,

ac

help+wanted

Recently in a youth ministry seminar the presenter asked the question, “How many of you feel like you have enough volunteers in your ministry?” One guy raised his hand. The rest of the room wanted to punch him in his smug, little, “I’m awesome” nose. Because almost nobody who leads a youth group feels like they have enough volunteers, a popular discussion when we get together is sharing ideas to help persuade/recruit/guilt-trip/trick/entice folks to join our youth ministry team.

I’d like to share with you the world’s easiest way to get new volunteers: JUST ASK.

Ask, ask, ask, ask, ask, ask, ask, ask, ask, ask, ask. And when you get rejected, ask.

* Bulletin announcements are fine, but not as good as an ask.
* The senior Pastor pleading from the pulpit is great, but not as good as an ask.
* A youth ministry booth at the annual ministry fair is fun, but not as good as an ask.

Who should you ask? Everybody. If there is an adult who loves Jesus and likes teenagers, ask.

Who should do the asking? You, your current volunteers, your students. Believe it or not, the most effective asks usually come not from the “paid spokesperson” (you), but from the “satisfied customers” (current volunteers and students). When a teenager approaches an adult and asks if he/she would be willing to help out in their youth group, it’s tough to turn down! when a current volunteer tells a peer that serving in the youth group is rewarding, and worth the time commitment, it makes a powerful statement.

Don’t say somebody else’s “no”. I first heard this from Bill Hybels. Too often we assume somebody is too busy, uninterested etc. so we say “no” on their behalf without ever actually asking them to serve. Don’t assume. Don’t say somebody else’s “no”.

There are probably more people in your church willing to work with students than you think. You just have to ask!

In my next post, we will take a look at some strategies that will help make “making the ask” a little bit easier.



The Simply Youth Ministry Conference is coming up March 7th-10th and you do not want to miss out. Register (here) Check out Kurt and I as we discuss what makes SYMC so great!!!! You will also learn of our great love for dates!!!! ha Enjoy!!

 

kurt & ac

One of the things I love to do, is share what I’m learning in ministry with other youth workers and volunteers. With this post I wanted to share something that I need to remind myself is the better option. I’m always thinking of the person who’s attending my workshop and I always want them to get the most out it. So my first thought is to allow questions during my session because it’s important that they leave feeling like they’ve gained a new perspective on the topic in some way. Also, I don’t want them to forget the question so I allow Q&A during the workshop. Then immediately when I’m done I regret it. Here’s why:

  1. I’ve just valued a few over everyone - By the end of the workshop I’ve spent more time answering questions for the few, then sharing the material I prepared for everyone.
  2. Random personal rants - Every person in my workshop is there to get what they need. They are not thinking about everyone else which is natural and ok. The flip side to that is they begin asking questions as if they are the only ones there.  
  3. A question becomes the workshop – I’ve just taken 15 minutes to explain something that has nothing to do with the focus of my presentation. All because someone asked a question that needed background info on the answer. Now I have question on the answer I just gave.
  4. The workshop was highjacked – I’ve just went back and forth with one person who has a rebuttal to every answer I give them. We’ve now frustrated the whole workshop and have created an angry mob. Now I’m looking for an exit. ha
  5. I ran out of time - I had to rush through the rest of my material which makes me look like an idiot, because everyone in my workshop is thinking that I should of managed my time better. I have to make the embarrassing announcement about skipping portions of the material so they can make it to their next workshop on time. Or I “Jesus-juke” everyone and say “I feel led to stop here and dig deeper” when in reality I just don’t have the time to go any further.

QA

Now, I’m a firm believer that a Q&A within a workshop is necessary. I’m also aware of the fact that some of these things that I mentioned above can’t be avoided, but they can be managed. So here are 5 ways to do a Q&A right!

  1. Write it down. - I will let them know that there will be a Q&A at the end and that they should write their questions down as they come to them. So they don’t forget them.
  2. Set a time limit. – This help’s me manage my workshop time schedule. Also, it helps me keep track on how many questions I can take. So as the time comes to a close I can say “we have time for three more questions” or something like that.
  3. Preference the type of questions you want asked. - I will usually preference by saying “if it’s a question that you think would help everyone”. I will also say that I’m free afterwards to answer more specific questions that may not be helpful to everyone.
  4. Go off-line. - Don’t be afraid to take some questions that need more elaborate answers to email. Nothing kills Q&A time like a question that takes the whole time to answer. Let those people email you, that way you don’t subject everyone to a question that effects 5 out of the 25 people that are in your workshop.
  5. Take polls. – Some of the questions you get may be on the minds of everyone. Take a poll if you think that the question may be universal. The people in your workshop need to know that they are not the only ones struggling in that area or have that problem. Also this is a great time for them to help each other. Be cautious that no one highjacks this time either.

Answering questions that I’m covering in my presentation before I cover it is counter-productive. And that’s exactly what happens when I do a Q&A during my presentation. On the other hand, you are not going to cover everything about the topic in your presentation. So you need a time of Q&A to maybe catch somethings you didn’t mention in your presentation that the people need to know. So for me Q&A’s works best at the end where it can be managed and utilized to it’s fullest potential.

Let’s help each other out. What are some other helpful workshop tips?

Hope it helps

ac



5imagesI had the privilege of hanging out with some our volunteers and doing some training recently. As we were talking and just hanging and swapping stories about students, it really got me thinking about how important our volunteers are to our ministry. We are definitely a million times better with them! Hanging with them got my mind going and I started to think about 5 things I never want to forget concerning them. I want to continue to do these things better and better and better.

Empower - I’ve learned that the more you empower and train your volunteers, the more you can give certain responsibilities of the ministry away. You actually create the capacity to grow healthier when your volunteers are trained and empowered.

Teach to communicate - If your ministry leans heavy on small groups, then your volunteers need to know how to best communicate to students. Your life group leaders will spend way more time with students then you, so equip them to teach well. Now, by no means am I saying that you have to turn them into world renown speakers, but they do need to know what you value when it comes to what’s being taught. Giving them curriculum is not enough. It’s like giving a gun to someone who’s never shot one before, and telling them to shoot a soda can off a roof. They need training and guidance on how to communicate God’s word.

Involve – One of the worst things I believe you can do to a volunteer is under utilize them. I learned that I have to stop thinking of volunteers as hired help and think of them as a part of my team. You will be surprised of the skills your volunteers have and are ready to use, if you acquired about them and used them. I’ve learned that when you are all in with your volunteers in terms of involving them as a team, they will be all in with using their skills, talents and resources to move the ministry forward.

Value – Volunteers stay where they are valued (not just appreciated). The best way to show a volunteer that he/she is valued is not by just simply showering them with gift cards and thank you notes (which by the way are super important and shouldn’t be under valued at all), but you show how much you value them by how much you invest in them. Here are some examples of investing in volunteers:

  • Grabbing coffee
  • Bringing them along to a conference
  • Asking them to share with younger volunteers
  • Training them
  • Letting them run a portion of the meeting
  • Caring about their personal life
  • Caring and knowing their families
  • etc…

The truth is, we invest our time in the things we value. So I’ve learned that if I invest in my volunteers, I’ll see more stick around longer.

Appreciate – While volunteers don’t do what they do to be appreciated, it’s a must that you show your appreciation to them. Your appreciation to your volunteers communicates 3 things:

  • It communicates that they are important to the ministry.
  • It communicates that they are making a difference.
  • It confirms their call to serving where they are.

It’s our job to appreciate our volunteers. Make it a rule of thumb that however you decide to show them appreciation take it up another level.

Now, I know there are definitely more then five so what I’m I missing or what would you add to the list?

hope it helps

ac

STOP DOING GOD’S JOB!!!

 —  December 23, 2013 — 4 Comments

images (1)I don’t know about you but when I think about ministry in the new year I think about setting goals. I want ministry moving forward and so I think about what that looks like. I think about the problem area’s of ministry and how I can make it better in the new year. I think about the students who struggled last year in their faith and the one’s who decided this God thing wasn’t for them. I think about what programs or resources we need to add to help these students. And if I’m not careful (I) can easily become the down fall of my efforts in the new year. An important passage of scripture we must remember in ministry is 1Corinthians 3:6-7.

I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.

If we are not careful in our thinking we can quickly become the solution. Our programs and resources no longer point to salvation but becomes salvation for people. And we have to remember that God uses what we do for his glory not our own. So that is why we must not get to caught up in what we can provide over Who we are pointing students to.

  • Stop Doing God’s Job - I would keep 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 visible so you can stop trying to do work that’s way above your pay grade. Trying to do God’s job in the lives of students will discourage you quicker than anything else. Because if their life change depends on you it will be short lived. Stay in your lane.So no matter what 2013 looked like for your ministry the only question that is relevant is did you point students to Christ. I totally understand the fact that we have to do our do diligence and checklist of how we can do things better, save money and stuff like that, but at the end of the day if you can honestly say that your ministry pointed students to Christ you’ve done your part. We must remember that we are not responsible for life change, that’s God’s job and it’s more important then what we do. 
  • Think Preparation – Our job is to be prepared for the life change God brings. I had to change my thinking on how I was going to get students to retain their faith, think different, evangelize, grow in their faith, love God, love others or grow a heart for serving. I’ve changed my thinking to how can we be prepared so when God does something in their heart towards these things we are ready to help them with what God has awaked in their spirits to do. Example: If a student hears a message on serving and God does something in their hearts to serve I want to be ready to help them carry it out. Example: Maybe a student hears a message on growing in their faith, well I need to think how can I help them grow whether it’s with a program or resource. This is how we should think and this is our job. We are not responsible for stirring/changing/increasing/convicting the hearts of students, we plant, help, encourage.act that pointing students to Christ is my Job. God’s Job Is More Important –  If we are honest sometimes we can really feel like since what we are doing is for God it is just as important. And we may not say that with our words but we definitely say it with our actions. Here is one question to ask yourself to figure out if this is true for you or not. How much time to do you give to prayer for the ministry Vs. meetings for and about the ministry? If God’s job is more important then He needs to be highly communicated with because His involvement is crucial and more important then anything we do at any given time.
  • Beware Of Discouragement - I can tell you that it’s not easy because you can become discouraged when a student doesn’t get it, and falls prey to a scheme or trick of the enemy, and not follow what you’re teaching or trying to show them. I have to be reminded myself that it’s not my efforts but it’s the God I serve that changes lives in His timing and in the way He sees fit.
  • Be Encouraged – The God of the universe is on our side and is close to us. Be encouraged that you get to point students to a God that never fails, never sleeps and will never forsake them. Be encouraged that He allows you to be apart of the life changing process, but most importantly be encouraged because you can rely on Him even with the part He’s entrusted to you.

I pray it encourages you to think differently in 2014. What would you add to the list in light 1Corinthians 3:6-7?

hope it helps

ac



237_many_hatsI had the opportunity to give a few thoughts on discipleship to our small group leaders. So I thought I’d share them with you all.

I’m a firm believer that small groups are messy and not as clear cut as some may make them out to be. Therefore, discipleship within small groups is not as clear cut either. I believe the many hats a small group leader has to wear shows the messiness of small groups, and also presents a reason as to why small groups are messy.

Small Group Leader Hats

  1. Counselor
  2. Teacher
  3. Mediator
  4. Friend
  5. Disciplinarian
  6. Role Model
  7. Support System
  8. Advocate
  9. Many More

Wearing this many hats makes a checklist discipleship system impossible. I’ve worn many hat’s being a small group leader and many of them at the same time. What has helped me the most are the principles Jesus used discipling his disciples. When I look at how Jesus discipled, I see a more patterns of principles than methods or structure. Principles deal with the important intangibles that effect areas of our life long term.

We must understand that every time you interact with your students you are discipling them. Whether you know it or not you are discipling with your life and with the choices you make. How you live and the choices you make effect your students for the better or worst. And that’s why I believe Jesus discipled based on principles. Discipling through these principles has been encouraging and literally life changing for me and my small group. So here are the three principles I feel like Jesus used with his disciples:

 

  1. Disciple Through Relationships – Grow and Build Relationships With Your Students – Jesus was always sharing with them who He was and what what He was here to do. He was growing them closer together but also closer to himself. For the sole purpose of building trust. Jesus knew that there would come a day that they would need to trust him and each other. I can tell you from experience that there will come a day that your life group students will need to trust the wisdom you give and know that it’s out of love and not judgement. They will also need the support and confidence of their group.
  2. Disciple IntentionallyBe Intentional With What You Teach and Do – Jesus was intentional about what He taught and also how He challenged the disciples. When Jesus taught the sermon on the mount He intentionally used verbiage that the people already knew so that His words would resonate with them. He intentionally used those words to relate to them so they would hear him and follow. Think about the ways you can be intentional with what you teach. Don’t just teach, speak intentionally to the hearts of your students. How can you challenge them intentionally? You don’t want to just throw ideas at that wall and hope one stick. Have some intentional conversations with God and also with them so you can challenge them in areas that would benefit them for sure.
  3. Disciple the Potential – I feel super strong about seeing the potential in students, I may do a whole post on this topic alone. I see it as a non-negotiable in youth ministry. Jesus chose the disciples based on what he saw in them. He saw three fisherman and a tax collector as world changers preaching the gospel way before the did any of that. He saw a christian killing machine like Paul as someone who would change the world way before he did any planting of churches or writing of the scriptures. Disciple the potential of your students and don’t allow their present circumstance to sway what you see in them.

I got the chance to let our small group leaders know that how you disciple is super important. And again,  I’m not talking about method or structure, I’m talking about in principle. There are a million methods out there and they are all great in their own right, but Jesus gave us some principles that can be used no matter what the method or the structure looks like.

Would love for the youth ministry nation to weigh-in. What  are some other principles Jesus Christ displayed that we can use to disciple our students?

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