slumpJust got an email from a youth worker asking for some guidance. He’s feeling the holiday pinch concerning the engagement and attendance of his students. So I sent him my response and thought I’d share it with all of you since we are all in the same boat one way or another this time of the year.

You need to know that the holiday pinch is normal and felt by every ministry. The holiday season is a time for the family, so families are going to do a lot of family orientated things. Students are also taking finals before break so they are studying like crazy. Then there’s winter break so families are vacationing.

There are two things you can do during this time of ministry. One of those things is to do nothing, and just let things be the way they are. The other thing would be to take advantage of this slower time of ministry. So here are seven ways you can take advantage of this slower time of the year:

  1. Use this time to spend more time with your family. Use this time to get back some of the time you spent staying late, staying overnight, going in early and/or coming home late.
  2. Use this time to invest and hangout with the faithful few who show up to youth group. You could use this time to strengthen and build up your core students.
  3. Use this time to strategize the new year. You can launch a new name for your youth group, new ministry opportunities, you can create new activities that students can bring their friends to. You can use this time to look to the future.
  4. You can take advantage of the fact that families want to do things together. Create something for the family. Last year we started doing a Christmas play, and it’s one of our largest attended things we do. Our audience is filled with parents, family friends, and new students. It’s easy to invite someone to a Christmas play, and it keeps the momentum going.
  5. You can use this time to do some much needed training with your staff and volunteers.
  6. You can also use this time to celebrate your staff and volunteers.
  7. You can strategically use this slow season as a time to engage the families that are coming out to church for the holiday season only. Maybe beef up your presence at big church. Let those families know that you exist and the things you offer.

Hope it helps,

AC

Thiago-nascimento-opera-background-speaker-jpg1In this episode of Let’s Talk Youth Ministry, Kurt Johnston and I give four practical tips to the youth worker who may be feeling disgruntled towards leadership. This is a topic that will come up at some point in your time in ministry. Check it out!!

If you have any questions or topic suggestions send them to: talkyouthministry@gmail.com. Also, Subscribe

 

Hope it helps,

AC & Kurt



Fill It Up?

 —  November 13, 2014 — 2 Comments

10475979-largeA minister waited in line to have his car filled with gas just before a long holiday weekend. The attendant worked quickly, but there were many cars ahead of him. Finally, the attendant motioned him toward a vacant pump.

“Pastor,” said the young man, “I’m so sorry about the delay. It seems as if everyone waits until the last minute to get ready for a long trip.”

The minister chuckled, “I know what you mean. It’s the same in my business.”

I’m not sure who the original author of this piece is. I came across it in a compilation of funny illustrations that someone in my church passed along to me, but this one stood out to me in particular.

On one hand, it’s easy to see why you might want to share this as a teaching illustration. It certainly does paint a picture of how many people view God and faith. He certainly does seem to get the last burst of many people’s time.

prayingOn the other hand, might there be an inverse message for you and I? Specifically, people like us who are so busy doing the work of God that we aren’t letting Him adequately work in us?

  • “I probably should start my day out in prayer, but let me just check (the news/email/Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/texts) first.”
  • “I’m really feeling spiritually dry, so maybe after I work on this lesson for everyone else I’ll spend some quality time with God.”
  • “Sure, Bob. I’ll pray for you.”

    (days go by, you see that person again)

    (to God, as the person is walking up)

    “Dear God, I pray for Bob. Amen.”

    (to Bob)

    “Hey Bob! I’ve been praying for you!”

Can you relate?

Any wisdom on how instead of running on fumes as we serve we might all more regularly say to God, “Fill it up?”

SONY DSCAnyone out there ever drank a Red Bull?

Don’t worry – you don’t have to admit it to us. Admit it to them, though, and you get ten bucks through a class action suit… for real: http://energydrinksettlement.com/claim A lot has been written about the dangers of a “red bull” type of youth ministry. It would be real easy for us to just talk about that and the dangers of running a youth group on adrenaline.

pastor_coffee_mugs-r06d4567426634d96844692280c573bf0_x7jgr_8byvr_512Instead, allow me to be a tad more personal… how’s your caffeine intake these days?

I once joked with a friend at a ministry conference how addicted pastors and youth workers can be to coffee or energy drinks, yet shrug it off as if it’s something laughable. “I just can’t start the morning without my caffeine,” we reason, high-fiving each other over it. “Where should we meet? Starbucks, of course. We’ll talk about our upcoming lesson on addictions there.” In that conversation with my friend, I noted how many people at the conference (even during sessions) kept getting up to get a free cup of coffee from the dispensers alongside both sides of the room. I asked him, “What do you think would happen if word got out that they’re about to run out of coffee?” He smiled and replied, “Nothing would happen.” SONY DSCAs the words were floating out of his mouth, another friend who was with us (and somewhat hard of hearing) interrupted. “THEY’RE ABOUT TO RUN OUT OF COFFEE?” he innocently asked, not realizing how loudly he was talking. As he got up to get what he thought was going to be the last cup available, others around us heard his declaration and saw his movement. Soon, a small swell of people began to get up and tactfully race over to the carafes to obtain what they also assumed would be the last remnant of caffeine available. As that played out, a new swell of people around them joined in… which prompted the other side of the room to put “two-and-two” together – and they got up to race for coffee on their side of the room. I’m not making this up. In a matter of a few minutes, an official break had to be called from the front of the room as the majority of people in a room that sat hundreds quickly got up to fill their styrofoam cups with hot java. I turned to my friend… and I smiled. This all happened years ago, way before Red Bull was such a household name… way before youth workers started pounding energy drinks in the name of being able to do ministry. Granted, I’m picking on one thing in life we could be addicted to. Others might cite other overlooked addictions like food, sleep, laziness and more. Feel free, as long as it’s not a defense mechanism to you addressing what your addiction might be.

skitched-20090812-090411What is your “excusable” addiction (note the quotes) that you claim in order to do ministry?

  • Is it daily caffeine?
  • Is it staying up all night to get another project done?
  • Is it horrible personal fitness?
  • Is it way too much time online?

Maybe it’s something tangible, like liquid in a cup or a can. “I need to stay awake… for the kids,” we reason. Or… maybe it’s the rush of adrenaline you crave from ministry itself. “I’m just not feeling useful,” we say. “My senior leaders keep me down from feeling like I’m making a difference. I don’t want to just be a part of the machine. I need to feel excitement… what’s in it for me if I’m just plugging away without a buzz?” Maybe ministry does need to be exciting. Maybe you do need to be maxed out physically to do what God’s asked you spiritually. Maybe. Or maybe not, Maybe you’re just an addict?



Do you know your role?

720001Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, have been in the news this week. We can all empathize with how difficult it must be for them to sort out ordinary events in the public eye. While this young couple navigates the exciting news of their pregnancy with the hurdle of acute morning sickness (attributed to hyperemesis gravidarum), the rest of the world takes it all in, wondering in the background if and when William will be named the next King of England.

Can you relate?

Years ago, I was a youth worker in a church where our senior pastor was resigning. Suddenly I felt like my life was on display just a bit more than usual as people began wondering if I (or other staff members) would take on the soon-to-be-vacant role. I started attending board meetings a bit more, as I was invited to share my perspective on various things happening. I had to wrestle with the desires of God over the desires of people, including my own.

Can you relate?

Today I was reminded of this older photo of Prince William and Kate (fresh off their honeymoon) visiting with President Barack and Michelle Obama.

Which person in the picture are you?

prince-william-kate-middleton-relationship-photos-obamas

Did you decide?

What do you think Barack and William are talking over?

What are Michelle and Kate chatting about?

Oh… and did you notice the gentleman in the background toward the right?

Look at his face. What is he attentive to?

Look at his posture. What is he ready to do?

Was he one of the choices you considered?

Why?

Why not?

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:3-5)

frozenThere is no shortage of parodies surrounding the movie “Frozen.” 

You’ve likely seen your share.

I apologize for sharing another one.

The leadership team at this church came together to create their own, all related to a pastor who is working on his sermon and won’t come out of his study.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ScxTsuRMMS0

Cheesy? Sure.

Unnecessary? Perhaps.

I do have a few questions of my own, though:

  • How do you think the church reacted after seeing this on a Sunday?
  • Why?
  • What in your church/ministry could elicit a similar reaction?

My opinion? Without knowing this church, I see a snapshot of leaders who love doing life together. Everyone got involved… and I can only assume you felt that, too. I wonder how they’re nurturing that.

Any applications or desires for your ministry?



up

Summer is a great season for youth workers. For some, things slow down a bit and you finally get some breathing room while for others, it’s packed with tons of extra events and activities. And even though the ministry I’m part of falls into the latter category, summer is still my favorite part of the year. So whether you are swinging in a hammock a little more often this summer or staying late getting ready for tomorrow’s youth event there are a few things you can do that will “Up” your summer.

“Grow Up”: Summer is a great time to read the latest youth ministry, leadership or personal growth book that’s been sitting on your shelf or taking up space on your tablet. Fall is a great time to say to folks around you, “This summer I was reading and….”

“Show Up”: Where can you show up this summer where your presence would be a welcomed surprise? Can you pop into the senior adults potluck and love on the oldies of your church? Maybe your parents have grown to expect you to miss family stuff in the summer because of your youth ministry schedule? Taking the time to “show up” unexpectedly in the middle of summer shows others that the ministry you lead isn’t the only item of importance in your life.

“Blow Up”: Summer is a fantastic time to make changes…especially changes for the upcoming school year. Far too many youth groups do way too much stuff simply because they are afraid to blow up an older, ineffective piece of their program. Sometime this summer, escape for three hours and make an honest list of the stuff your ministry still does every school year that it really doesn’t need to. Then, mentally light a fuse and blow that sucker up.

 

stirstickI go to Starbucks every morning. I’m like an old man stuck in his routine. It’s where I read, write, think, pray, and drink $2.00 tea that I could make at home for 25 cents.

Today, after ordering my tea I headed over to the condiment counter to add some milk and sugar. To my dismay, in the little spot that normally holds the stir sticks was a note that read, “We are out of stir sticks. Sorry!” I was a little surprised, because for a coffee place to run out of stir sticks seems sorta like a hamburger place running out of buns. Forgivable, I suppose.

What was more surprising to me was that two hours later as I was walking out the door…the little note was still there! How many customers had wandered over to the condiment bar hoping to find stir sticks had been left frustrated? Less than 50 yards away sits a grocery store, and I’m pretty sure they sell stir sticks. Now, they may not sell the eco-friendly wooden stir sticks that Starbucks uses, but they certainly sell something.

Why didn’t anybody on the Starbucks team feel empowered to go buy some random stir sticks from the store?
Is sticking to the “approved stir sticks” cited in the manager’s notebook more important than customer service?
Would it have been totally okay to go buy some, but nobody took the initiative?

Those are all questions that went through my mind as I walked out the door. And they raise some interesting questions for those of us who lead youth ministries:

Are you a leader who is creating a culture of empowerment…does your team feel the freedom to problem solve?
In what areas does ministry to people in real-time trump your policies and procedures?
Do you have people on your team who, if given the freedom, take initiative or do they assume somebody else will do it?

- Kurt