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!

 



MTDB1I know when you see this type of topic it’s more about being a great follower of other people like the head Pastor’s vision or leadership in general, which I think is great, but I also believe that at the core of a great leader is a great follower of Christ.  I’m always reminded by the Apostle Paul who followed Christ to his grave that the better I follow Christ, the better I lead.  If you read about Paul’s life you will see that his goal was to follow Christ with everything. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:1 “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” Pursue being a follower of Jesus and the impact of your life and leadership will out last you and carry over into eternity.

So in order for me to lead well I must pursue a greater lifestyle of following Jesus. There are definitely more, but here are a five ways we as leaders continue to allow Christ to lead in us and through us.

  1. I seek GodMatt 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. My focus should be on knowing him and not on what I can get from him. The more I know him the better I’m able to follow him. I’m a better leader when I spend time with God.
  2. I allow Christ to search and change my heart – In order to fully follow Christ there must be a continual cleansing and changing of the heart. The bible says in (Jeremiah 17:9) the heart is desperately deceitful and wicked. David knew that and wrote Psalm 139:23-24 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. I hear people say “just follow your heart” or “the heart wants what the heart wants”, but God says it’s deceitful and wicked. Sometimes we make decisions apart from God’s word being led by our hearts and we end up doing harm to ourselves and to those we are suppose to be leading. So allow Christ to search and change your heart so that you’re leading by the word of God and not on the impulses of your heart. Allow God to replace your corrupted heart for one that beats for his guidance. I’m a better leader when I understand the importance of following God’s word above all else, even the heart.
  3. I allow the teachings of Christ to lead me – Psalms 25:5 Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.  Followers of Christ are called to care deeply about exemplifying the teachings of Christ in their own life first. The more I learn and understand the teachings of Christ the better I’m able to apply them to my life on a daily bases, and also allow what I learn to lead and guide my decision making. I become a better leader when I allow Christ to lead me.
  4. I allow Christ who lives in me to lead through meGalatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. The life of a follower of Christ is a person who continually allows Christ to lead. God wants to do amazing things through each of us, but we must allow him to work through us and that will take us dying to our plans and allowing his plans for our lives to live. I become a better leader when I allow Christ to lead through me.
  5. I allow his wisdom to lead me – Proverbs 3:6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

We become better leaders when we devote our lives to being great followers of Jesus Christ. What would you add to this list?

hope it helps

ac

 

 

 

Greg from Dare 2 Share (who I’ll be interviewing later this month here on the blog and in the SYM Today) sent along a quick note to let me know about a great new (and free!) training they’re doing next week called Follow the Leader. The focus is to try to help you become a leader worth following – something a youth worker at any level needs continual training in.

It is going to be held Tuesday December 11th from noon – 1 PM Central Time – you can sign up right here.

JG



Most youth workers I know have one thing in common…they try to do too much. Many of us are perfectionists. Many leaders care so much that they give too much. Many leaders don’t know how to recruit. Sometimes we just reach teens quickly and we seem to never be able to catch up.

I have been that guy trying to do everything. I finally started asking for help but I made a critical mistake. I started dumping responsibility on people who were willing instead of looking for leaders who could partner with me in ministry. When you dump responsibility you look for a willing person and give them stuff to do that you don’t want to mess with. You basically ask them to do the work and leave you alone so you can do other things. Sure, it helps for the short term but when they have other things to do they will hand you back the responsibility. I leaned in the process I needed sharp leaders who would partner with me in ministry so they understood the why behind the what! Here are four kinds of leaders we need to be empowering…

  • Small Group Leaders / these are leaders who will invest in teens intentionally like you wish you could do for every teen. They will mentor, guide, clarify, instruct, encourage, and pray for teens on a weekly basis. These leaders are extensions of you doing youth ministry and they are the most important partners you will have.
  • Detail Leaders /  these are leaders who are gifted administratively and can help you by talking care of the details that bog us down on a weekly basis. These leaders can organize, delegate, and systematize but they may not be great with teens. Let them thrive in the detail so you can lead the big picture!
  • Presence Leaders / these are leaders who care for teens but may not be ready to lead a small group. They just want to serve teens and help where needed when they are available. They love teens and they love your ministry but they have other things that pull them away from leading a small group. Let them run a cafe, work the parking lot, or help run games during programing.
  • Tech Leaders / these are leaders who love the digital side of what we do but may not be good at other areas of student ministry! Let them make your environment look , feel, and sound better.

What are some “leader types” that you empowered and they made you and your ministry better? What keeps you from empowering leaders?

Michael Bayne is Family and Student Pastor at Grace Community Church, Clarksville TN. Follow him on Twitter at @michael_bayne and read more of his writing at www.michaelbayne.net

If there is no one to lead than you will never get anywhere.  Doesn’t matter if your ministry has two volunteers or two hundred, if you are the only leader eventually the burdens and responsibilities will be too much.  Chances are there is at least one other leader serving in your ministry the problem is you haven’t found him or her.  You might think someone is a leader, and even call him or her one; however, you aren’t completely sure.

The reason your youth ministry needs leaders is so that you can share the burden and expand your capacity.  With other leaders more ideas are brought to the table and your ministry teams will start to grow.  Every youth ministry needs leaders; however, it isn’t as simple as going out to your volunteers and saying, “You’re a leader, so go lead.” You might call someone a leader because they are a dedicated and committed volunteer; however, they aren’t taking your ministry to new directions.  In order to share the burden and build up leaders, you need to know what one looks like.  To find these leaders you need to make sure you are on the lookout for.

Selfless Actions – A leader is someone who will serve others.  Meaning they are compassionate towards others, willing to put others before themselves.  They encourage and empower those beneath and below them, even if it means losing out on the credit.  These leaders are the ones who go above and beyond what you’ve asked of them.

Inspirational Communicators – A leader isn’t so much a doer as a motivator.  This means laying out a challenge for the team to undertake.  It means delegating in a way that empowers the team opposed to demanding.  Your leaders are people who can rally the troops and move them towards your mission.

Big Vision Casting – A true leader sees the picture before anyone else.  They might not know how or when, but they know what.  They aren’t afraid to dream big even if others call them idealistic.  They know and understand that God calls us to greater things.

What makes a great leader?  Someone willing to step up to the plate to serve alongside of you.  Granted you might be a director, pastor or manager; however, you need other leaders to help you mobilize your resources and volunteers.  Don’t be afraid to sit with your team and talk about these qualities.  Have them help you identify the characteristics and values.  When you can build leaders you can serve more teens because they will help you manage the people around you.

What are some other characteristics of a leader?

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