Finding Peace in the Chaos

networking in youth ministry
For most people in ministry that I have met, vacations and time away from the ministry are often left on the back burner. This is something that, over the past year, I have found to be EXTREMELY hazardous to your spirit as well as your body. We need to have some time to get out and do things that get us out of the 24-hour-a-day mindset that is required in Youth Ministry. For some time now, I have had moments in planning and writing and organizing things for the Youth program to where I have found myself absolutely stressed out over the smallest things. I realized that I wasn’t allowing myself adequate time to “turn off” so to speak.

In order for our hearts and spirits to be able to make a connection we have to allow time for both of them to receive nourishment.

I know I am not the only one out there who struggles with this. There are countless Youth Pastors who seem to struggle with this as well, including the Youth Pastors that are bi-vocational.. In order for our hearts and spirits to be able to make a connection, we have to allow time for both of them to receive nourishment.
Over the past few months, a few friends and I have begun to set out a time block (Thursday mornings at 10am CST) and join each other from all different parts of the United States in a Google Hangout. This has been incredibly refreshing for myself and it is honestly something that I look forward to for the entire week. The conversations have been excellent! We laugh, we discuss, we brainstorm, and most importantly… we pray for each other. There is something so refreshing about receiving prayer from others who are called in the same field of ministry as you are. I leave the hangout every week encouraged and uplifted to take on the next week. This has truly been a time for my spirit to receive nourishment.  Worship, reading and prayer are great additions to this as well. However, something that my heart absolutely strives for is joining in community. It’s who I am. I think this is an important thing for anyone in ministry, because we have so many people who we constantly are in contact with that put on their best appearance and try to be perfect, like we are going to speak badly to Jesus about them or something if they don’t.Something that we often miss is the sense of community. It can be flawed and can have problems.  But we need help and encouragement to tackle what life has thrown at us. I have been extremely encouraged by this and I would absolutely love for anyone in ministry who is reading this to join us in the Google Hangout on Thursdays.Seriously, you will not regret it.

Secondly, we have to find time to allow us to be ourselves. Whatever your hobby is, pursue it in your free time. I have two distinct hobbies that I absolutely enjoy more than any others…golf and graphic design. They both provide me with the opportunity to clear my head and focus on what I am doing. If i get frustrated, you can typically find me on the putting green or behind my computer designing things. This is my getaway, my spot in life to where it’s just me. I can recharge my mind and body within a matter of an hour or so and get back to work.

Hobbies are extremely important, and I would recommend you pick one up or more passionately pursue your hobbies. Students can see through burned out, exhausted, and spiritually dry leadership. They will call you out on it more times than not. But the thing is… THEY ARE RIGHT!

Allow yourself time to recharge and grow this week. I hope that you can discover a hobby that works well for you.

Also, I am sure there are some other techniques that work well for others. Post them in the comments below! I would love to read them.

 

What would happen to your Youth Ministry if you left?

Yesterday, one of our contributors, Frank Gil, posted this

He’s not alone, and I know many Youth Pastors are planning beyond their Fall Calendars and are thinking about the entire ministry year that lays ahead of us, and if you haven’t started that process yet, you should.

Last year around this time, I was coming home from our annual vacation at the end of the ministry year and starting that process, and laid out a ton of great plans, from what topics we would cover in our sermon series to our Middle School small group curriculum and High School bible studies, and the events we would plan. Quite honestly, this is one of my favorite things about Youth Ministry, planning out where we hope our students will be after a year of ministry and how we can actually get them there.

Proverbs 19:21 tells us that

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will prevail.

Last July, I laid out plans for our 2013-2014 school year and felt it was going to be an incredible year in our ministry, and after the awesome spring semester and Middle School camp we had just had, I was so pumped for what was coming. But then in January I had a conversation with my Sr. Pastor that concluded with the resolution that my wife and I would be leaving by June 1st, if we didn’t find a new ministry sooner. I could go on and on about that experience, and may do that in other posts, but the short of it is this:

In all my planning for the ministry year, I never planned that in 12 months I wouldn’t be leading that ministry.

But no one ever really does, do they? God acts swiftly and decisively, and though it may sometimes take longer than we want for him to work, we don’t know what he is going to do over the next 12 hours  let alone the next 12 months. But through this experience I got to go through, I was fortunate enough to have that long of a timeline to work with, knowing where our students were, where our leaders were, and what would be coming after I left. Though there was a lot more I wish I could have accomplished in my time at Trinity, and there were many more things I could have done in even my last 6 months, I enjoyed the challenge of being able to plan for sustainable health and success in the ministry without me in it.

Ultimately, I think that should be one of our tasks every year as we plan out our ministry calendars. Youth Pastors aren’t planning on leaving, you may be praying about something, God may be doing something with you over the next few weeks and/or months, but Youth Pastors rarely plan to leave 12 months out. But this summer, as you make your plans for the next year, challenge yourself to plan a ministry that you aren’t involved with.

If you knew that in 12 months you would be leaving your ministry and they would be without a “Youth Pastor,” what would you change about the way you operated in your ministry during that time? What training would you give to your volunteers? What lessons would you discuss in your small groups to ensure the students had a foundation that wasn’t reliant on one teacher? What would you pass off to volunteers to coach them in to be able to do without you there?

I hope you see my heart behind these questions. I don’t mean them to create an egotistical view of yourself in Youth Ministry, of all the things you are needed for, and I don’t mean to encourage you to leave your ministry. But wouldn’t you like to know that if God does change your plans this year, you’ve cultivated a ministry that doesn’t rely on you? With the added bonus that if you are still there 12 months from now, you’ve got a much deeper volunteer base, as well.

 

Putting down the baggage of Youth Ministry

Sometimes a youth pastor, or any pastor for that matter, comes to a new church with excitement on the outside, but on the inside we’re carrying some baggage and nursing all kinds of scars. This baggage and scars may come from the way we were treated as we left our previous church, maybe even some guilt for leaving those who’s lives they spoke into. Whatever the case, the baggage is heavy and the scars are fresh.  And that’s exactly where my family and I found ourselves as we came to our new church 365 days ago!

As I started my new ministry position, my excitement for ministry was fading.  I tried not to let my ministry “baggage” or scars get in the way of what I felt God wanted me to do here.  I took some time to evaluate the programming and tried to gauge the maturity, both spiritual and emotional, of my new group of students. Once I did that, I hit the ground running! Little change here…little tweak there…add this program here…this outing there…ahhh back to “normal”!  But as the weeks went on nothing really seemed to be working.  Students didn’t seem excited and I know I wasn’t. Then I realized something…the “normal” I had reached was the same “normal” in ministry that gave me the extra baggage and a lot of the scars.

This wasn’t the same church I had come from and these weren’t the same students so why would I think the same programming would work for them?  Why was I trying to make myself comfortable with what I was doing instead of trying to help students grab onto and grow into a deep relationship with Jesus?  I’ll tell you why…because I still had a death grip on my ministry “baggage”.  When we have our hands full with the trauma from our past experiences with old pastors, old churches, old parents, old “jobs”, old anything, we don’t leave our hands free to grab onto what God has planned for us.

It took me a few months after I realized this to finally let go of the baggage; to finally be willing to forgive and ready to grab on to what God has planned for this ministry and for my life.  I had to reevaluate everything I did and everything I didn’t do in ministry.  It was God’s way of showing me Isaiah 55:8 (don’t worry – I had to look it up too!) Once my hands were free and I took hold of God’s plan; not only did the way I do ministry change, but my life did too. There is excitement again and it is growing!

It took a few hits in the head with the “divine 2X4″ to work through my baggage and scars, but God put away the baggage and healed the scars!  I’m so glad God loves us enough to work through the junk of our lives with us.  It’s amazing what can happen when we’re willing to put the baggage down.

This post was submitted by Nate Eckert, a Youth Pastor at Flora UMC in Flora, IN. Want to submit a guest post? Email it to Ben@youthmin.org and we’ll go from there!

Wisdom for Rookie Youth Pastors: Personal Development

The old saying, “You can only lead where you’ve been” is true.

Us youth pastors were once teenagers. We’ve gone through the fires of puberty and  have come out as stable human beings. Since we know what its like to be a teenager, we have the ability to help our students steer the waters of uncertainty. Yet, because we can lead our students where we’ve been, we are faced with the temptation to not grow. We know what to do, so there’s no need to improve upon it.

I’ll be honest, if you’re not doing something to personally develop yourself as a believer in Jesus Christ, you’re failing in your calling. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to be students for the rest of our lives. Now, how that looks like is up to you, but I’ve learned that if you want to truly grow, you need to be intentional about how you do it.

Here are three intentional ways you can develop yourself as a disciple of Jesus Christ throughout the year:

Daily

Reading the Bible, good Christian literature, blogs, listening to podcasts, sharing the Gospel, and praying are all things you can do on a daily basis to grow as a disciple. The wealth of information that is out there is mind-blowing, and there is no excuse not to be learning something new. Moreover, don’t just stay in the world of youth ministry when it comes to blogs, books, and podcasts. Be willing to dive into different waters, and even be willing to read stuff you don’t agree with.

Quarterly

Go on a mission trip and attend various conferences. I know many of us already go on mission trips because we take our students on them, but have you ever gone on one that isn’t about students? If you haven’t you need to, because its a world of difference and can be a game changer in your walk with Christ.

Furthermore, plan to attend a conference that is more than one day. Go to a conference that focuses on youth ministry, and then attend one that has nothing to do with youth ministry. Getting out of your comfort zone is key to personal development.

Annually

Once a year, go on a retreat. This can be one where you go by yourself, or you can do it with your spouse. We all need a time where we can stop and let God pour into us. We pour into others all year long, so the least we can do for ourselves is to take time away to allow God to refuel our tanks. If you’re not sure about where to go for a retreat, LeaderTreks offers them for youth workers. If you would like to have a retreat with your spouse, check out Weekend to Remember put on by Family Life. They offer a free registration for full-time ministers and their spouses. All you have to do is contact them.

In the end, I know this list may sound exhaustive, but the idea here is to jog your brain on how you can start growing as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Life always manages to get in the way, and that’s why it is important to be intentional about what you are doing to grow. Also, I didn’t mention it, but if you really want to do something that will stretch your faith and you can participate in every singe day, consider attending school. Speaking from experience, its like attending a never ending conference.

What are some other ways a minister can develop as a disciple of Jesus Christ?

Is there anything on the list you think is asking too much, or too little?

Youth Pastor's and Tithing

My wife and I are going through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University with our church right now, and I’ve been diving into it head first. Never in my life did I think that it was possible for a Youth Pastor, on a Youth Pastor’s Salary, to actually be able to get off of living from paycheck to paycheck. So I’ve been researching bank accounts, reading articles, selling what we can, and really just going all in with Dave’s mantra “Live like nobody else, so you can live like nobody else.”

Yesterday, I was reading an article on his site and found this stat that kind of blew me away

53% of Christians have not given to their Church in the last month.

Now, that stat alone is pretty mind boggling. But it also got me wondering, after a conversation with some other Youth Pastors, about what percentage of Youth Pastor’s are actively tithing or not tithing.

I remember for a while when I was younger, I took what would be my tithe and instead of giving it to the church, gave it to people in need. In the below survey, I’m defining Tithing as going directly to the church. Thanks for participating!

[socialpoll id="2173467"]

How You Know Its Time To Leave Your Church

*Disclaimer*

This post was actually written to be a part of  the series “Part-Time Youth Pastor, Full-Time Hero,” that just wrapped up on Youthmin.org.” Due to a mix up it never got published, however, even though it is written with the part-time youth pastor in mind, we believe it still speaks volumes for those who work in full-time ministry. Thank you for the support and grace you give us!   

As a part-time youth pastor, you make more sacrifices than someone who is in full-time ministry. You work two 40 hour jobs, you get paid very little, and you’re expected to do it with a smile; however, there comes a point where you have to consider what’s best for you and your family. This can be hard because of the baggage that comes with discerning whether you should leave or not. Baggage like, “Am I wimping out on my calling to this church?” “I owe it to my students to stay.” ‘Does this mean I’m not called to ministry?” “Or, will I never work in ministry again?” These are all valid concerns. Yet, after much prayer and counsel with godly men and women, you have to make a decision and pull the trigger. Here are five reasons to consider why you may need to leave your church.

You think you can do a better job than your pastor

God has called your pastor to be the spiritual leader of your church. Not you. Yet, no pastor is perfect, and sometimes there are pastors who get comfortable or struggle with leadership. When this happens it affects the entire church, including your ministry.

When you reach a point where you and your pastor don’t see eye-to-eye on vision and purpose, and you start thinking, “If I were the pastor, I would do it like this,” then it is time to leave. If you are thinking this way, then you will question his decision making and become skeptical, which can lead to a bitter relationship. When you and your pastor’s relationship are on the rocks, with no improvement in sight, the best thing you can do is leave.

You (or your family) are spiritually dead

In a previous post, I wrote about different disciplines you and your spouse can participate in to help stimulate growth, even though you’re not being spiritually fed at your church. If you and your spouse have put effort into these different disciplines, and are still spiritually dead or being spiritually drained, then it is time to leave.

Even though you are called to be the youth pastor at your church, your church should be a place of worship and growth for you and your family. Furthermore, your first calling is to your family, and if they are suffering spiritually it is your job to take care of them first. Students come and go, but your family stays. Take care of yourself and them first, because if you don’t, you’re useless to everyone.

There are no ministries for your family

Let’s be honest, sometimes we take a job based off of our current life circumstance. For example, you took a part-time job when you were single or dating someone, and you were willing to sacrifice some commodities because all you had to worry about was yourself. Or maybe it was just you and your spouse, and you took the job knowing both of you will sacrifice a little to serve the church.

Yet, life happens. We get married and start families, and that changes everything. Our new family dynamic means that we have to consider how the place we serve at will encourage our families’ spiritual growth; if there are no ministries for them, then we have to put them first and be willing to find a place for them, even if that means we have to leave our current position.

You cannot support your family

If you haven’t figured it out now, your first ministry is to your family, and you are called to take care of them first. Going into part-time student ministry, you know you’ll have to work two jobs to make it work; however, if your church is pulling you from the job that is paying a majority of the bills, but does not have any inclination to help you, then you may have to leave.

Sadly, churches can be notorious for trying to get maximum output with little compensation. And what’s worse? Churches will even make empty promises saying they would like to eventually make you full-time, or help you out, but have no intention too, just to keep you around longer. Be honest with your current situation, and never feel bad about choosing your family over your position.

You are called to full-time ministry

If you have every intention of going into full-time ministry, or you believe God has called you from part-time to full-time, than you need to start looking for a full-time position. The longer you stay at your current part-time position, the more restless you will become.  When we become restless about not being in full-time ministry, it can lead to bitterness or anxiousness, which can spread like wild-fire into your current ministry. If you’re called to full-time ministry, take the first steps you need to move into your new calling.

In the end, for many of us, our part-time position is the first church we have ever served at. And in all honesty, our first church can be related to the first relationship we have ever had. It’s new, exciting, and we feel emotions we have never felt before. Yet, we grow and learn what love is and isn’t, and we come to the conclusion we shouldn’t be in this relationship anymore. So we break up, but we keeping going back to the relationship because its our first love and we don’t know any better. This causes us to be trapped in an unhealthy cycle of breaking up and getting back together, which hurts us in the long run. Don’t get caught in this cycle. If you need to leave, leave and don’t look back. Cherish the memories and know God will provide you with another church to serve.

What are some other reasons why a youth pastor should leave a church?

What are some reasons that youth pastors use, but that you disagree with (and why)?