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

 

sph-renewI was at home talking with my wife about this idea of renewing your passion for what you do. She’s a stay at home mom and so I thought she would be perfect to dialogue with about this topic. So out of our conversation I came up with 5 things that has helped us rekindle the passion for what we both love to do.

 

  1. Ask God to increase the desire. – I’ve learned that I lose when I strive for things in my own power. And sometimes I can start off allowing God to do things in my life, but then I think that I have to keep them up. I’ve gotta remember Philippians 2:13 - For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. This verse is saying to me “STOP and let God continue the work He’s started.” It’s also saying, I can’t do it properly with out him, and it becomes work and it drains you when you forget Philippians 2:13. I’m at my best when He has the wheel and I’m in the passenger with duct tape over my hands, feet and mouth. haha Ask God to increase the desire He gave you!!
  2. Celebrate the successes. – Sometimes I can get so caught up with what’s not going right, that I forget the countless times things have worked out for the better even when the situation looked impossible. I forget the blessings that have come out of the times of hardship. There’s an old hymnal my aunt use to sing called “Count Your Blessings”, and sometimes we need to just count our blessings. I have to remember that God isn’t just working in the good in my life but He’s also working through and in the bad. I need to think about those things and celebrate them. Celebrate the successes!!
  3. Redirect your focus. – We can sometimes find ourselves getting caught up in things that distort our focus. Whether it’s a problem with a volunteer, a parent that has become challenging or even leadership. Sometimes those things can sing louder than your assignment to the ministry. And we can allow it to become all about issue and not about what got us in ministry in the first place. We start to feel the weight and it squeezes the passion out of you. Redirect your focus back to what motivated you to do what you’ve been called to do. Redirecting your focus puts God back in view. And it reestablishes the assignment God has placed on your life.
  4. Do something different/new. – Sometimes it can be that you’ve been beating a dead horse. Change a few things up or look for ways to do things a little different. Sometimes it’s just getting excited about doing something different or new that rekindles the fire you once had!! Instead of having team meetings at the office try meeting at a park or try giving more responsibility away. Sometimes we can’t think/dream of what could be different or new because we are too busy maintaining. Look for new or different ways to do things.
  5. Hear and share stories. – Sometimes you can feel like you’re on an island and no one understands what’s going on in your world. You need to be able to hear and share some stories with people that know your world. There’s nothing worse than isolation for someone who has been called to care and be super relational with people. YOU NEED COMMUNITY!! Two years ago I took my first trip to Simply Youth Ministry Conference and it was like a breathe of fresh air. I believe the one thing that SYMC offered that I gained the most from was community. The random conversations I had with people from all over the country were life changing. It reminded me that God is everywhere changing lives and not just in my bubble of ministry. I think I left with more passion for ministry than I started with. I want to encourage you to come, but more so I want to encourage you to find community in ministry.

A lot of times the enemy wants to trick us into thinking that because our passion is not as strong as it was when we started that it means we are in the wrong profession. I had to learn not to make more out of simply needing to renew my passion. My wife and I came to the conclussion that at some point we all need to be renewed no matter what you’re doing. Just because a car needs a tune up every once in a while, does not change the fact that it’s a car. It’s the same with us.

I know there are definitely more than 5, so what helps you renew your passion for ministry??

hope it helps

ac

 



volunteer21One thing I can freely assume about volunteers is that they want to help. Other than that I should be careful about anything else I assume. I’ve been working with volunteers for a while and can say I’ve probably had more failures then successes, but through those failures it’s helped me become better at leading volunteers. So I’m writing from my failures in mind hoping it helps.

Making assumptions is one of the worst things I’ve done concerning volunteers. So I thought I’d share a few of my learnings.

  1. Never assume that they understand the cause just as much as you do. – Learning: You must articulate the cause, and your heart and passion for it. Remember they just want to help, and not everyone helping in youth ministry is called to it. So share and help them understand the impact of what your ministry does.
  2. Never assume they are going to take the initiative. - Learning: Take the time before hand and map out what it is you need them to do. When I say map out, I mean be very detailed in your instructions because they will only do what is expressed. For example, once I had volunteers and I gave them the instructions to clean up. Well, they did not do a good job and they actually left boxes and trash because they didn’t know where to put it. You see, I assumed that they would clean the way I wanted them to clean. I also assumed they would break the boxes down and take out all of the trash. The issue is I was clear on the “what” but not on the “how” so they cleaned the way they wanted to.
  3. Never assume they are self-motivating. – Learning : Volunteers need you to be a cheerleader for them as they care for students at either an event, small group or the weekend service. Be intentional about pointing out some small wins to them as well as big wins. Let them know the affect it has on the ministry. Thank them for allowing God to use their gifts and talents.
  4. Never assume they are going to know what to do next. - Learning:  Idle time to a volunteer is like water to oil. Idle time, if not communicated beforehand, can mean an unorganized ministry to a volunteer. They automatically think “didn’t they know we were coming?” Also, if not communicated you can become frustrated yourself thinking no ones doing anything, when actually it could be that they just don’t know what to do next.
  5. Never assume they want to do more than communicated. – Learning: Until your volunteers buy into the purpose of the ministry, assuming they want to go the extra mile could insure they never return.

For me, these assumptions would happen unintentionally. I would find myself playing catchup and having to stay to clean, and redo some of the work I had asked volunteers to do. I had to really evaluate the assumptions I was making and how because of it, I was not being a great steward of my volunteers time. So this is something to think about as you deal with volunteers this week. I know there is more than just 5 and I know I’m not the only one(maybe I am..ha), so what are some assumptions you’ve made about volunteers that wasn’t so smart?

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



When it comes to celebrating, I’m not a natural.
I’d be okay to never attend another birthday party, wedding (other than my own kids some day, and even that is negotiable!), or any other “celebrations” that people like to throw. I’m notorious among our circle of friends for my lack of enthusiasm to decorate for Christmas. For a few years, when my kids were really young, my idea of Christmas decor was a one-step process: I’d replace our porch light with a green light bulb. Done!

But I’ve learned that there’s power in celebrating together; especially in ministry. Especially in youth ministry. So we celebrate. A lot.

- We celebrate the 5, 10, 15 and 20 year anniversary of volunteers.
- We celebrate baptisms by making our baptism events feel like parties.
- We celebrate the various “wins” in our ministries by making it a priority to share them with each other.
- We celebrate mission trips by having reunion parties a month after the trip.
- We celebrate the idea of “team” by having Work Together Wednesdays (nobody allowed to work holed up in their office).

When you celebrate, you encourage. And the reality is that nobody gets tired of encouragement.

I don’t know what your youth ministry looks like, but I’m sure there is lots and lots of really good stuff going on…stuff worth celebrating!

270208_2181937635525_2980948_nBeing a small group leader is great and scary at the same time. I took a group of guys from freshmen year to senior year.  It was great, but there were some things I had to learn to be ok with throughout the four years that I wish i knew at the beginning. It would’ve helped me shape the group better. Some of the things I had to learn to be ok with were great and others kind of came with the territory. Knowing these ten things now will definitely benefit my next group. So I thought I’d share my learnings.

  1. Be OK with it being more than bible study. – I thought I would be just doing a study and hanging out with some dudes. Little did I know, doing life together bonds you together like family. Even though they are all at different colleges, some local and some out of state, they know that I’m here for them if they ever need me. Love my boys.
  2. Be OK with just planting seeds. - I had guys in my group that came and left and I felt like they never fully got what I was trying to teach them. It would get me down at times. I had to remember that I’m called to plant the seeds of God’s word and God changes the heart. I must be ok with just planting seeds and trusting that God will produce the harvest.
  3. Be OK with students joining and leaving. - Whether it be because of a friend who’s joining another group or the season of the student’s life is super busy and they have to take a season off of small group, there is a chance students will leave. Tip: Celebrate the students who join and don’t take it personal when someone leaves. Make sure the door is always open for them to return.
  4. Be OK with your life changing. - My guys pushed me to be the example they needed me to be. I can’t tell you how much my life has changed because of my small group guys. They pushed me to really study God’s word, be a man of prayer and be a better husband/father. Tip: expect God to change your life for the better.
  5. Be OK with being interrupted. – There will be times that your small group will need you to be there during a time of crisis. From death in the family, to them making some huge mistakes and needing advice, know that they will need you at times unplanned.
  6. Be OK with not knowing what to say or do. – You will feel this way at times, but it’s ok.  It’s actually the best place to be, when it pushes you to lean on God and seek His wisdom. I lived in this area my first year leading a small group.
  7. Be OK with students being there for different reasons. - Some are there to be challenged in their faith and others are there just to hang with friends. I’ve had several of those types of students and all I can say is be patient and trust God.  I’ve seen students who were all about just hanging out one year and helping start a christian club at their school the next year. So be confident in God’s ability to change their direction.
  8. Be OK with having your faith stretched and strengthened. - Nothing stretches and strengthens your faith like a bunch of students trying to learn and grow in their walk with Christ.  I’ve seen God show up so many times in my guy’s life that it has strengthened my faith. I would study and teach things I thought I knew very well, until one of the guys would ask a great question that would challenge my thinking on the subject. Little did I know, God was using my group to stretch and grow my faith in Him. He will definitely do the same for you.
  9. Be OK with keeping parents on task. – Communicate to the parents what you expect of them in a loving and supportive way and address issues quickly as they arise.  TIP: If you want parents there on time, be there to greet them when they pull up every time. If you want them to pickup on time, end on time and greet them for pickup.
  10. Be OK with knowing you will make mistakes and/or fail. - You are not perfect and no one is expecting you to be. There will be things you will try to do that will not work out.  You will make mistakes and/or fail at times. It’s ok and we’ve all been there.  The goal is to learn from your mistakes and failures and minimize the return of the two in the same area.

What are some other things small group leaders have to be ok with leading a group?

hope it helps

ac



mendler--difficult-parentsThis is a topic that freaked me out my first year in youth ministry. As a young parent myself, it’s not easy telling grown ups how to deal with their children. So it took me a while to really get to a place where I was comfortable with talking to parents. I’m sure I’m not alone in this area. I thought I’d list some principles that I’m learning along the way that has helped me navigate dealing with parents.

Know your role to parents. - We are support to parents first and formost. Let them take the lead. My value is in being another voice for the student to hear the same message that their parents give. It may sound different and even be presented differently, but it should be the same message. Unless, of course, the message is contrary to Gods word.

Parents are Primary. – Keep parents in their place as primary. Let them make the final decisions because they will have to be the primary enforcer, encourager and disciplinarian. We make suggestions not decisions.

Parents aren’t perfect. – Children do not come with manuals and so parents have no other choice but to parent out of their brokenness. So don’t be shocked if the parents don’t have it all together. As the old saying goes, “it takes a village to raise a child”.

Parents don’t have all the answers. - A parent may ask a question and you’re thinking “shouldn’t they know this already?!” That should never be your response but you should talk it out with them. Help them think things through and sort things out. Your perspective has an immeasurable amount of value to parents, so share it.

Parents need your prayers. – We have a great advantage of being able to pray for parents specifically and strategically. We know the needs and the struggles students have. We also know the struggles parents have. So we definitely should be praying for our parents because they need it.

Parents need your encouragement. – I understand this more now then I did when I didn’t have children. Parenting is not easy and most of the time there is no instant reward. You won’t fully see the rewards of your parenting until your children are on their own. Therefore, parents need to be encouraged that all the work they are doing now is not in vain. They need to know that making their kid come to youth group is not in vain. So be your parents biggest fan.

Keep parents leading spiritually. – Now, this doesn’t mean you get to put parents in check when you think they’re not. What it does mean is you must work with the parents and keep them the primary spiritual leader in their child’s life. For example, this year with my small group guys that I lead I’m going to send the lesson home a week early before it is taught. Then they can discuss it with their parents if they choose. This does two things:

  1. It keeps the parents in the loop on what’s being taught.
  2. Also, it challenges the parents to engage with their children spiritually. We will discuss what was discussed with their parents before we start the lesson each week. This will give me the opportunity to agree and reinforce some of the truths that the parents share with them from the lesson.

I only listed a few and I know there are many more. This post is really about partnering with parents better. I would love to hear your thoughts on the post. What did I leave out?

hope it helps

ac

YOU STINK!

 —  August 9, 2013 — 4 Comments

 

I don’t like to admit it but there are a lot of ministry “things” at which I’m not very good….Correction; there are a lot of ministry things at which I just flat out STINK! And sadly, just because I stink at certain aspects of ministry doesn’t mean they somehow go away. Wouldn’t it be cool if God said, “Hey you, since you are horrible at X, I’ll just keep X away from you and the ministry you lead.” I don’t know about you, but if He did that for me there would be more stuff taken away from my ministry than left in it!

Because I stink at lots of ministry stuff, I’ve had to develop a three-pronged approach over the years:

1) Be okay being below average at some things.  I’ve simply had to “settle” on the reality that there are some things I’m never gonna be good at, and lower the expectations I put on myself to perform at a top level in those areas.

2) Selectively learn some new skills.  And while I’m learning to be okay with just being okay at some things, I’ve also picked a few key areas at which I stink that I think are worth learning to be good at. I can’t learn to be good at all the stuff at which I stink, but in my case I was SO BAD in a few key areas that I simply had to learn the skills necessary.

3) Surround myself with smarter, more talented people. I’m completely okay not being the smartest or most talented person in the room in most cases…especially when the topic or task involves an area at which I stink and I’m not willing to learn to get better at it. Giving these areas of ministry away to others frees me up and allows people to use their gifts to make our ministry better; a win-win!

Guess what? You stink, too!  In fact, you stink really bad at some stuff that is vital to the success of your youth ministry. And for some of you, it’s hard to admit.  So I’ll get the ball rolling in the hopes that some of you may be willing to share your “stink” in the comments section. Who knows, somebody who’s really good at it may be able to help you out.

MINISTRY STUFF AT WHICH KURT JOHNSTON STINKS (Note: This is just a partial list; actual list is much longer)

- Remembering names.

- Reading and sticking to a budget.

- Keeping track of registration forms or checks handed to me by a parent.

- Not using sarcasm to make a passive-aggresive point.  But if I may brag for just a moment…. I’m REALLY good at using sarcasm to make a passive-aggresive point.

- “Turning the corner spiritually” with students in one-on-one conversations.

- Returning emails, texts and phone calls in a timely manner.

Let’s get the comments going….share a tip for me….share something you stink at….share a tip for somebody else!