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

Lazy
If you, like me, have the privilege of actually getting paid a full-time salary to work with teenagers, you are in a rare category…and you are probably lazy, like me.

Full-timers: Because you work lots and lots of hours every week, you are probably really struggling with my accusation.
Part-timers and volunteers: Because you work lots and lots of hours every week ON TOP of your youth ministry role, you probably have a smug, “it’s about time…” look on your face right now.

Full-timers, indulge me for a minute.

- Do you regularly take 2 full days off each week? Volunteers and Part-timers usually don’t…they are doing youth ministry on their day off.

- Do you get paid for the week you are at Summer camp? Volunteers and Part-timers usually don’t…in fact they often have to use one of their hard-earned vacation weeks to attend camp.

- Did you take an extra day off the week following Camp? Volunteers and Part-timers probably didn’t. They were right back to grind.

- Do you ever roll into work a couple hours late the morning after a big event, or after mid-week because you “worked late”? Volunteers and Part-timers probably aren’t allowed to do that by their other boss.

- Do you ever hang out on facebook, update your fantasty football team or pin something on Pinterest on “church time?”. volunteers and Part-timers could get fired from their jobs for doing the same thing.

- Do you ever go to the dentist, go to your child’s football or soccer practice or take an extended lunch with your spouse on church time without reporting it to HR? Volunteers and Part-timers don’t have that luxury.

I could keep going. But I’ll spare the full-time youth worker community any more embarrassment! I’d be willing to bet that nobody in the full-time youth worker kingdom is “busier” than I am: I lead a team of 20 full-time staff and hundreds of volunteers that minister to thousands of teenagers each week. I serve on our executive team and my boss is Rick Warren. I am expected to give oversight and direction to the youth groups of six regional campuses and prepare for the launch of youth groups in TWELVE international campuses; each in a different country. I blog a little, create a few resources and speak here and there, too.

AND…I get paid for the week of summer camp, take an extra day off (or two) after each camp, roll into work a couple hours late after events that keep me out at night, I update my fantasy team from my office and go to the dentist and attend my son’s sporting events on company time. Benefits that my busy volunteer and part-time friends probably don’t enjoy.

Maybe I’m not “lazy”…and you probably aren’t, either. But I am fortunate, blessed, honored, privileged and overjoyed that God tapped me as one of the lucky ones. Typically I encourage youth workers to avoid the temptation to compare their lives to those around them. But today…and maybe every time you feel a little overwhelmed by your role…take a second to shift your focus from the junk of full-time youth work to the joys; from the pressures to the perks; from the busyness to the blessings.

When I focus on the junk, pressures and busyness of my ministry life I get overwhelmed and whiny.
When I focus on the joys, perks and blessings of my ministry life I want to work even harder at it.

Thoughts? Bring it on!



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

scaleYou probably got into ministry for all the right reasons.

I may not know you, but I do know myself. If we’re at all alike, there’s a good chance something else is true of you.

Some days you’re in ministry for all the wrong reasons.

Maybe it’s not as obvious as you’d think.

  • You serve God.
  • You rearrange your schedule for students.
  • You bend over backward for parents.
  • You lobby before your church leadership in all the right ways.
  • You’re not trying to trick people out of their money.
  • You don’t attempt to be the “sexier” youth group in town.

It’s as if every time people see what you’re doing, you’re caught living out the best template for ministry you can think of.

The problem is you can be doing all the right things for all the wrong reasons.

There’s a situation in my life right now with a disgruntled group of people who have found joy in being disgruntled together. They’re people I’ve loved and invested some of my best energy into, from teens I mentored and took on mission trips to adults I scrambled to serve. One of the louder households left our church and began complaining “sideways” – subtle enough to go unnoticed by most, but potent enough to create a funk that I’m still not sure what to do with. It’s as if no matter how hard I try to live out some of the most basic principles in Matthew 18 on reconciliation I’m met with misunderstanding, evasiveness and slander.

I’m doing all the right things.

At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

What I eventually realized is that some days it’s for all the wrong reasons.

There are moments that I want to be vindicated.

I want to work out the misunderstanding, because I hate having people say things about me that aren’t true- especially when I have put so much energy into doing the right things. If I dove into the reason why I do so, it is my human pride wanting to assert itself. I have to make clear that the door to reconciliation is open, but if they never walk through it or continue to group up on this then a part of me needs to turn this over to God.

Check out what the Bible reveals on this:

  • God has a pattern of vindicating His people as a whole.(Deuteronomy 32:36)
  • Humans have a desire to be vindicated individually by their behavior. (Job 13:18)
  • People who watch us will notice our desire to be vindicated and may assume the worst. (Job 11:1-2)
  • Jesus was vindicated by the Spirit – not other people. (1 Timothy 3:16)
  • We will only experience real vindication when we spend time face to face with God. (Psalm 17:15)

If you don’t get this right, then all of the serving you do will come across as ministry perfume and not the genuine scent of Jesus Christ.

Wrestle with this. Consider what you’re doing to get people to think or say better things about you. Give someone else permission to point out when you build a case against a case someone has built against you.

Otherwise, it will leak out. To quote William Ury, “When you are angry, you will make the best speech you will ever regret.”

Thank you for loving students!



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

 

 

lets talkKurt and I deviate from our usual structure (the good, bad and #smh) and we give you our TOP four tips on speaking to students.  We know that for some speaking my come easy, and for others speaking can be a challenge.  So for some we hope these tips confirm and strengthen what you already know, and for others we hope these tips encourage and give you more confidence in the work God has called you to do.

What’s your number one teaching tip you would share?

hope it helps

kurt & ac



YOU STINK!

Kurt Johnston —  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!

 

You have probably seen this.  It isn’t particularly new, but a friend of mine put this on my Facebook wall last week and I loved it.  Not only did it make me laugh it made me realize I could use it with students, volunteers, and as a training tool.

Watch it.  Laugh.

Watch it again.

Write down the top three thoughts that  strike you from the video.

Think about how you will use that as a spring board for a lesson you want to bring home to your students or a point you have been making with your team.

Enjoy!