Don’t Kill Yourself – Volunteers are Key

youth pastor volunteer

Volunteers… We don’t always have them but we need them.

I have been in Youth Ministry for a little over 4 years now and for about the first 3 years I thought that everything was my responsibility. I did three lessons a week, scheduled a meal sign up sheet and made contact with whoever was signed up for the current week, spent as much time as I could with the students (which wasn’t much). I led parent meetings, did lock-ins, 30 Hour Famines, Camps, Mission Trips and all of the fundraisers that our program needed. I had parents come and volunteer their time but I never appreciated their help fully until about 6 months ago. I started in a new church about a year and a half ago and for the first year I continued my devastating trend of not allowing anyone to help me. I was exhausted, I was depressed, I didn’t feel like I belonged in ministry anymore.

The past 4-6 months I have truly begun to understand the need for allowing adults to help in student ministry. I need to be in the front leading the group in the direction we are going but that doesn’t mean that I have to be pulling the entire group behind me. Now, I have a group of 4-6 adults that are absolutely invested in this ministry. I bounce ideas off of them, I ask them to do stuff for the ministry (instead of me doing it all) and I do my best to be there whenever I have a leader that has a question or idea for the program. Believe it or not, I am not stressed anymore. I don’t worry about how I am going to tackle certain tasks now, because I have a team that I know can help me and is behind me 110%. Whether that task is little or daunting, my team works together with me and we accomplish it.

A question arises though… Where can I get the leaders that I need to do this?

1. Talk to People

There are many people in the church that don’t do anything and are not invested because they have never been asked to do anything. Invite them out for lunch one day, give your vision for the ministry, ask where they can see themselves helping out and give them the reasoning on why you chose them. Most of my volunteers have stepped up because I have asked them or talked to them about the ministry.

2. Broadcast Your Ministry to the Church

Make sure your church knows that they actually have a student ministry.  And make sure they know that the student ministry is doing everything in its power to equip the students with the faith and the biblical understanding that they need to be able to tackle the challenges that are waiting on them when they leave to go to college. Your students are your best promotional opportunity, so get your students to stand up in church and make announcements for the youth program. When you go on a mission trip or go to church camp, get up in front of the church and let the students share how God moved in their lives during the event. Adults love to hear how the students are tackling the difficult concepts of faith early in their lives and more than likely would love to help out.

3. Make Sure Your Ministry is Inviting

This is something that really took some effort and practice on my part. In all my time as a Youth Pastor, I had never truly worked on being open and inviting to criticism and being open to people trying to help out. I honestly believe that I have had some great volunteers run through the ranks of my ministries and I have burned bridges by not listening to ideas and critiques. Make sure that you are welcoming to volunteers when they have questions or concerns. Discuss their thoughts (neutrally), find solutions to the problems and move on with implementing the solutions. Burning bridges because someone gave you a critique that you didn’t like will only make it harder for you in the long run. Be humble and be wise. You do not always have the right answers, neither do your volunteers. That’s why it is best to work as a team.

 

Please don’t kill yourself like I did for close to 3 years… It’s not worth it. Find some volunteers that share your vision and love on them as much as possible. Give them tasks to accomplish, get their opinions on things that are happening and get out there and love students with everything you have.

Streamlining Church Communications

I was talking to a friend in our Facebook community and he added the title “Church Communications Director” to his title. That got me thinking about my time as a communications director for a global missions organization. If you are in a similar situation, below are some tips that will help your ministry be productive and ensure the highest quality. The list isn’t exhaustive, but it should help. If you have any tips to add, please leave them in the comments. I’d love to learn from you too!

1. Establish a clear line of approval

The very first thing I would do as a new communications director is establish a clear line of approval. Pastors and ministry leaders are typically used to creating whatever they want with little to no approval. This needs to stop under your leadership. You need to set expectations and establish a clear process. This could involve but is not limited to: design request forms, sermon design theme worksheet, requiring “idea boards” for design projects so you have an easier time designing, etc. Don’t be afraid to say no. Churches often hire communication directors but when you start making changes, what churches really want are designers. Remind them that they wanted you to be a communication director, not a designer.

2. Set standards

One standard I have is that we will never use clipart. I believe that if you cannot find a real picture or a design element for your design, then you don’t need it. Clip art is 1995 and should not be used and avoided like a STD. When I first started everyone was used to designing their own things. When I raised the standard, I started to get some push back. I want to tell you…that’s normal. Expect it. At first everyone responds as if you’re taking freedom away (which you are), but once the quality starts to improve, everyone will get on board.

Another issue you’ll probably have is that every ministry probably wants their own brochure. Study after study shows that people don’t read brochures let alone 10 from your church. I’m a big fan of creating ONE brochure or booklet for the entire church. Everyone gets a page in it. Most ministries will say they need more space. That ok! Just let them know that they need to refine what they say, remove all of the filler text, and simplify their ministries communication. Getting one page to do that helps! A brochure is informative–it doesn’t need every detail about your ministry.

Some questions to think about: Does your church have consistent branding? How can you protect that branding? Signage? How many brochures will you allow?

3. Stand your ground

Like I said above, a time will come when you get push back. This principle is easy but extremely hard to navigate. The senior pastor may want to use clipart or an illegal video clip. A whiney staff member may complain to everyone that you’re a dictator. Expect it and get ready to deal with it. While being graceful is essential, you must stand your ground. Remind the church leadership that they hired you to refine communication, increase quality, and make it easier for new people to get plugged in. Ask them to trust you.

Some things to avoid:

  • Getting hurt every time someone asks for a change to your design. Don’t take it personal…you must develop thicker skin.
  • Automatically saying no to everything.
  • Being a jerk. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

4. Simplify

Take a look at everything your organization or church is producing. Look for quality, consistency, and overall message. Once you do that, take another look at see what you can discontinue. I believe the goal of any great communications director is make sure you’re saying what you need to say in the least amount of brochures as possible. You’ll need to remember that each ministry will want some way of communicating their particular area. That’s ok, but it doesn’t mean that they need their own brochure or website. When I was going through this process we went from 30 or so brochures down to 5. I consolidated everything into 4 main brochures that covered all of our major areas. The 5th brochure was actually a booklet that was an overview of our entire organization. Everyone in the organization got their page. You read that right…one page. When I communicated the one page limit per ministry, I did get some push back. My response was a polite, “If you cannot communicate your ministry in one page, then it’s too complicated.” Stand firm on this. It encourages people to focus.

Forcing our organization to simplify helped to clarify what we were communicating and increased our quality of communication.

One last note, remember that your job is to see the big picture. Get out of the weeds.

Career vs. Calling: Making It Clear

We just wrapped up our Roundtable Tuesday and had a great discussion on Youth Ministry and the differences between Career and Calling. I wanted to follow up and write a little more about what I believe.

Calling

I truly believe that all Christ-followers are called into ministry. When you follow Christ he calls you to minister to the people around you, starting with your family, your work, your school, your city, your state, then to the nations! We see this in Matthew 28:18-20:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

God calls us all to minister once we follow Christ; I think through prayer and growth in your relationship with Jesus He gives you a more specific calling or a heart for a certain group of people. For some that calling/heart is for teens, children, adults, a different nation, and so forth.

As for making your calling a career, that is between you and God. Benjamin Graham Read said it best the other day at the Roundtable that (and I paraphrase),

“Some youth pastors would make great volunteers in a Youth Ministry, but the things a Youth Pastor is called to do require more commitment and sacrifice than they are willing to make. ” (Roundtable #16)

Career 

I believe that if your calling is to be translated vocationally in a church somewhere, that God will open those doors for you and give you the tools to do so.  Yet, ultimately, I believe that God has called you to minister to a certain group, and that no matter what you do for your “career,” you should use your “calling” to impact the group you are called to minister to where you are!

At the Roundtable, I stated, “If God lead me to some other job/career that took me out of youth ministry, I would still pour into the teens wherever I was.”

Just serve where you are, and follow God faithfully day to day and remember that “…I am with you always, to the end of age.” (Matthew 28:20)

 

What are your thoughts? Did this post help you? Leave us a comment below and let us know.

Protecting Your Investment: Helping Seniors Make the Transition

Helping our seniors make the transition from youth to young adult is one of the most important aspect of our jobs. Depending on when your students enter your youth group, you have spent the last six to seven years pumping into your senior’s lives, and not taking the time to give them one last push before they leave the nest is ridiculous. We have an incredible opportunity to walk next to our seniors as they enter their new phase of life, and unfortunately, we don’t rise to the occasion the way we’re supposed to.

If we think taking them on a special weekend retreat, giving them a book for their graduation present, or having a nice dinner for them is going to do the trick, we’re already in trouble. Our seniors deserve better from us. They deserve a real shot at keeping their faith when they leave for college. The statistics are against us, but that doesn’t mean we stop trying. If you haven’t thought about what you’re going to do with your seniors for their final year of high school, here is what you can do to help them make the jump from youth, to young adult.

  • Determine when your seniors should start attending the young adult ministry: This one can be tricky, but there are a few options you can choose from. In my post “The Future of Student Ministry,” James Blewett mentioned in his comment he starts his seniors in his young adult ministry the week after Easter. I start my seniors in the young adult ministry right after they graduate. I believe you can do either or, but waiting until the middle of the summer or the end of summer may not be a good idea. Seniors are ready to start college, and waiting till the last possible minute to move them out of the youth group doesn’t help them move on.
  • Give your seniors their own small group: Depending on how large your youth group is you may or may not have a seniors only small group. If you do great! You’re already set up to help your seniors, but if you don’t, then you need to consider making one, so your seniors can process the last part of their high school career together. This group can be guys or girls only, or you can throw them all together. Giving your seniors a time where they can work through all the highs and lows of their last semester of high school brings your seniors together, and helps them know they’re not the only ones going through this process.
  • Take an ample amount of time to prepare your seniors for life after high school: Life is going to be a lot different for our seniors when they leave, and if we think we can cover all the new joys and challenges they are going to face in the course of four to six weeks, we’re completely wrong. Don’t take the month before your seniors graduate to start preparing them for college. Their lives are in overdrive, and the odds are, trying to figure out their faith is the last thing that is on their minds. If anything, take the year, or at least a semester, to start going over what they will have to deal with when they leave home.
  • Use a good resource: This one can be tough, because in all honesty, there’s not a lot out there. You’re going to have to dig around to find something that you can teach from, or you can check out these two books I recommend: “Welcome to College: A Christ-Follower’s Guide for the Journey” by Jonathan Morrow, or “The Ultimate Guide to Being a Christian in College: Don’t Forget to Pack Your Faith” by Jeff Baxter. What makes these books great is (1) their chapters are short so your seniors will be willing to read them;  (2) they both cover everything under the sun your seniors will go through during their first year of college; and (3) they both have great discussion questions at the end of each chapter. You can’t go wrong using either of these books, so use them to your advantage!
  • Connect your seniors with your current young adults: Even though you are going to have students who will be leaving, you will also have students who will be staying, and you need to start connecting your seniors to their new peer group. Have special fellowships where your seniors are invited to an event with your young adults. Introduce them to their new teachers so they know who they are. Seniors are ready to start their new phase in life, and helping them connect with people who are in your young adult ministry gets them geared up to participate in the young adult ministry!
  • Introduce your seniors to the leaders of Christian ministries on campus: Give campus ministers a heads-up about your seniors who will be going to their campus. Introduce them to the campus minister, or invite them to your church to have a special orientation with them. Campus ministers want to see your students succeed in college too, and the more people helping them accomplish that the better.
  • Give them one last goodbye with their youth group: Our seniors have spent a good portion of their life in our youth groups. Their youth group was the place where they grew in their relationship with Christ in a special way. Its bittersweet from them, so give your Seniors one last chance to say goodbye to their peers. You can do this during a night at youth camp, mission trip, or a midweek gathering. Have their youth group lay hands on them, pray for them, and commission them. Doing this will help your seniors know their time as a youth has come to an end, but their time as a young adult has just begun.
  • Check in on them after they start college: It’s always nice to know people are thinking of you after you leave home. Take the time to see how your students are doing. Let your students know you’re praying for them, find out if they need help finding a church home, and make sure to encourage them. A phone call, text message, or message on Facebook goes along ways.

In the end, helping our seniors make the transition from youth to young adult is crucial to their success. They will still have times where they struggle with their new role in life, but we can take some of the burden off them by doing our part and preparing them for the obstacles they will be challenged with. Growing up is hard to do, but it should never be done alone. . Let’s do our part to commission our seniors as young adults!

What have you done to help your seniors transition from youth to young adult?

Passion of Presence

Have you ever been in a conversation that is engaging? You are talking and listening back and forth. But, something happens in the moment. It is that moment when their voice starts sounding like a car engine and just like that, your mind is now in a race car speeding down the track!

One of the areas of my life that I struggle with is being present. My mind is continually running towards what’s next and what I have to accomplish. Being present is to be dialed into the conversation where you truly listen to the other person and their heart. Drifting off communicates that the person or what they are saying is not that important.

I would say this is a chink in my leadership armor. God has been revealing to me that the goal of leadership is to lead people, not just tasks. By nature I am more task-driven. I want to accomplish the goal and see results. When someone wants to have “small talk” about the weather, my mind can quickly wander to more important things.

Okay, now I’ve been transparent. You see my weakness. You might struggle with me on being present. My prayer is that as leaders, we will be present.

Areas that we must be present

In our relationship with God:
Instead of simply clicking “share” on youversion’s Bible verse of the day, stop and memorize a verse and spend quality time praying and listening to God. We cannot microwave our personal time with God. Maybe turn off music in the car and listen to God’s voice and share your heart with Him. Maybe turn on music that leads you to worship. Fight the urge to DO and spend time BEING close to your Heavenly Father.

In our families:
One of the areas of my life I’m trying to improve upon is disconnecting from the phone and spending more time being present for my wife, Cassidy and son Micah. Turning away from the technology and giving full attention to them. Our first ministry is our families. Protect your day off and spend quality time. Pray together. Stop and listen to each other.

In our friendships:
Instead of looking at our phones together, put them aside and ask questions to grow closer as friends. When someone is talking, give them eye contact to show they are worth your time. Ask questions that help give you an opportunity to encourage your friend towards Jesus. Stop and pray for them. In person.

In our ministries:
If a person needs to talk, stop and listen. Fight the urge to avoid conversations especially when they are difficult ones. If we are running around trying to finish setting up the lights, stage or sound as students walk in, we cannot be present. Prepare well so we can show value to our students and their families. Remember we are not the Savior to our students. We simply serve the Savior. Pour out love into their hearts as you lead and leave the results up to God.

Take Away

  • Is it possible for us to perform all of our job description, home and friendship to-do’s and miss being present?
  • Is it possible to rush through life trying to complete a multitude of tasks and miss pouring God’s love into our own families?
  • Is it possible that we can spend life trying to come up with the newest, most creative approach to ministry and miss simply listening to a student’s hurts?

I believe so, because I am guilty. Let us all be present and sensitive to God’s voice.

“Be still, and know that I am God!” Psalm 46:10

One of my favorite songs to put our relationship with God in perspective:

Homosexuality, Christianity, and Student Ministry

Disclaimer: Before we can begin talking about this I have to put my cards on the table with where I stand and what I believe the scriptures tell us on this topic. If you fundamentally disagree with what the next paragraph says then this post will be meaningless to you and maybe even offensive. However, I am just being faithful to my convictions and my understanding of the scriptures.

I believe homosexuality is a sin based on Romans 1:26-27 & Matthew 15:18-19. Though I believe it is a sin, I don’t pedestal it above any other sexual sin. Matthew 15 says that out of the heart comes sexual immorality and in the original language, sexual immorality is porneia, which represents a bunch of sexual sins under one word. It is also where we get the word porn.  So I don’t look at the person who is homosexual as anymore sinful as an adulterer or a person addicted to porn. Because a Christian who lives in the south (or the south of the south because I live in Florida) we wrongfully see porn and even adultery as more acceptable sins than homosexuality. This is because more people can agree that homosexuality is a sin however calling out porn addiction or adultery may lower how much gets put in the offering plate or even lower church attendance. Regardless of why, it is wrong for pastors and the church to exalt homosexuality as a more grievous sin than others. All sins lead to death and according to Romans 1, the same heart that commits homosexuality is the same heart that slanders, gossips, and invents new ways of sinning. A sinner is a sinner and it levels the playing field for everyone.

With that being said, what do you do when a student in your youth group comes out as being homosexual? Homosexuality is a lifestyle being more and more accepted if not promoted by media and entertainment. Shows like Modern Family and the New Normal are only a glimpse at how major TV networks are trying to promote this lifestyle. Let’s be real, too, Modern Family does a good job at it, they were nominated for 14 Emmys.  Glee is another hugely successful show that has a homosexual agenda. Please, youth pastors, don’t be naïve to think that your youth group isn’t watching it. My homeschooled girls are watching it with their mom. Those kids can sing and if you deny it you are lying to yourself.

“The main thing we have to do when we find out or a youth comes out that they are homosexual is to not attack their sexual orientation but go towards their hearts orientation.”

The main thing we have to do when we find out or a youth comes out that they are homosexual is to not attack their sexual orientation but go towards their hearts orientation. Sexual orientation is a secondary issue. It is also a result of what is going on with their heart. Youth pastors and parents freak out too quickly and try to resolve the exterior issue when what first needs to be correctly aligned is their heart. What if we were able to “make” them straight? We just made a heterosexual who is going to hell. So I suggest we should do the following.

[dropcap type="circle" color="#ffffff" background="#000000"]1[/dropcap]

Talk to the parents

Tell them you are aware and you are there for them. This is a crazy time for the student and for the parents and our job as youth pastors is to minister to the youth and to their mom and dad. Parents sometimes feel like they have failed as parents. This is one of those hard moments where parents need to understand that all the great parenting in the world won’t stop a hardened heart and sin. They need Christ to break through that heart of stone and give him a heart of flesh.

[dropcap type="circle" color="#ffffff" background="#000000"]2[/dropcap]

Don’t bring up orientation, bring up the Gospel

Matt Chandler said once that “Transformed hearts lead to transformed lives.” I want to love the kid so much and saturated them in the Gospel where when they see me they just see the love of Christ on them. Now understand this carefully, what that does in the life of someone who is living in sin is they say to themselves, “Well Christ says this and to live like that. I live like this but to be a Christian is to do that. So what should I do?” That opens the room for the talk about sexual orientation. Again, let’s not be naïve, we live in a country where Evangelicals still say homosexuality is a sin. If they are still coming to your church and you are preaching the whole council of God’s word they are going to have in the back of their mind, “I know this is counter to what God wants but I am going to just keep coming to church.” The gospel changes people not your well played arguments against homosexuality.

[dropcap type="circle" color="#ffffff" background="#000000"]3[/dropcap]

Study

When I first became a Christian I was very indifferent on many things that I now have strong convictions on. One of which was homosexuality. I was never gay but had friends that were openly homosexual or bisexual and could come up with a few arguments that would questions the traditional Christian worldview on this. “Your sexual orientation is personal and doesn’t hurt anyone so what is wrong with it?” “Only Paul, who we know hates women and is a homophobe, said anything about homosexuality. The Old Testament is, well old and Jesus never said homosexuality is a sin so why does it matter?” “Homosexuality in the Bible is different than homosexuality today.” “If someone is born and wired this way, how can God punish them for it?” Even after I made my convictions on homosexuality, if you asked me these questions I wouldn’t know what to say. So I studied. Matt Chandler did an amazing job preaching and taking questions at a forum he held on the topic. Below are the videos of the forum. I would encourage every youth pastor and their volunteers to watch these. Perhaps even as a group. It is long but these three videos will change the way you interact and communicate with homosexuals.

http://vimeo.com/12086824

http://vimeo.com/12088496

http://vimeo.com/12110166

Site Disclaimer