Why your Youth Ministry should be more like Apple

youth ministry planning

One of the things I love about Apple, that I believe (because they tell me this to be true) makes their products that much superior, is their patience. They have plenty of ideas for things that could make the iPhone or iPad better, but they don’t rush the product, and until they can make that idea the best idea, they won’t put it in the phone. Read More

Turning ideas into plans #leadingup

Last week, I was having a conversation with a fellow Youth Pastor and he said something that made me laugh and cringe at the same time. It’s an experience that every Youth Pastor has faced at some point, but the times when a church member hears about one thing going on for teens within 100 miles and approaches you with it, almost as a mandate.

“My Sister’s Church is having a lock-in this Friday and they are having someone come in and talk to the teens about not having sex. You should really go, it’s only 4 hours away.” Or “Pastor said that you we’re praying about the teens doing a mission trip, my garage needs cleaning if they want to do that for me.”

Great ideas, sometimes, but the reality of it is that even the greatest idea’s are worthless if they don’t fit into or accomplish plans. I spent the entire spring semester this past school year frustrated that a local para-church ministry and our student ministry couldn’t partner together because I wouldn’t get told about their events until days before they occurred. After a while, it just seemed easier to assume that our conversations weren’t going to amount to much partnership, because their was no planning.

Inevitably, in both cases, it leads to frustration, that either we blew off the suggestion, forgot about it and are thus unorganized, or just don’t care enough about the other person or ministry to do anything about it.

As Youth Pastor’s, we privately in our youth ministry circles like to laugh and complain about these types of situations. But when it comes to our positions in the church, we often times are just as guilty.

How many times have I had a great thought for something for the church, shared it, and been frustrated when nothing happens. Has that ever happened to you?

And this is why I cringed during the conversation last week, because I realized that oftentimes, I do to my leadership what others do to me: come to him with an idea that is out of the blue and is up to him to plan. There’s no room for Youth Pastors to be frustrated that our ideas aren’t heard when this is how we often present them.

So the short end of it is simply this: If you want to have your ideas actually heard, plan them out. Show your Leadership the need, how this idea helps solve that need, and your steps that you can and are ready to take to put this idea into practice, hand it off to someone else, or get others behind it. Show him that you aren’t just giving him work in the form of a creative idea, and you’re much more likely to Lead Up.

Turning ideas into plans #leadingup

Last week, I was having a conversation with a fellow Youth Pastor and he said something that made me laugh and cringe at the same time. It’s an experience that every Youth Pastor has faced at some point, but the times when a church member hears about one thing going on for teens within 100 miles and approaches you with it, almost as a mandate.

“My Sister’s Church is having a lock-in this Friday and they are having someone come in and talk to the teens about not having sex. You should really go, it’s only 4 hours away.” Or “Pastor said that you we’re praying about the teens doing a mission trip, my garage needs cleaning if they want to do that for me.”

Great ideas, sometimes, but the reality of it is that even the greatest idea’s are worthless if they don’t fit into or accomplish plans. I spent the entire spring semester this past school year frustrated that a local para-church ministry and our student ministry couldn’t partner together because I wouldn’t get told about their events until days before they occurred. After a while, it just seemed easier to assume that our conversations weren’t going to amount to much partnership, because their was no planning.

Inevitably, in both cases, it leads to frustration, that either we blew off the suggestion, forgot about it and are thus unorganized, or just don’t care enough about the other person or ministry to do anything about it.

As Youth Pastor’s, we privately in our youth ministry circles like to laugh and complain about these types of situations. But when it comes to our positions in the church, we often times are just as guilty.

How many times have I had a great thought for something for the church, shared it, and been frustrated when nothing happens. Has that ever happened to you?

And this is why I cringed during the conversation last week, because I realized that oftentimes, I do to my leadership what others do to me: come to him with an idea that is out of the blue and is up to him to plan. There’s no room for Youth Pastors to be frustrated that our ideas aren’t heard when this is how we often present them.

So the short end of it is simply this: If you want to have your ideas actually heard, plan them out. Show your Leadership the need, how this idea helps solve that need, and your steps that you can and are ready to take to put this idea into practice, hand it off to someone else, or get others behind it. Show him that you aren’t just giving him work in the form of a creative idea, and you’re much more likely to Lead Up.

The dilemma of going to a Youth Ministry Conference

Odds are, you aren’t on staff at a mega-church that puts on mega-conferences on a yearly basis.

Odds are you aren’t on the speaking circuit, traveling from city to city speaking to other Youth Pastors on how they can improve their Youth Ministries.

And odds are that you don’t go to conferences just for the free stuff, because you don’t need to learn anything in the sessions and workshops.

Because of that, going to a Youth Ministry conference usually instills one of two mindsets within us.

Two years ago, when I went to the Orange Conference for the first time, I was 3/4 of the way out the door at a church, and the worship, the sermons, the ideas being talking about in every workshop, they did nothing but brew within me resentment towards my ministry. Our church could NEVER do worship like that, our pastor would NEVER go for this idea for the church. I left that year with some great ideas, but mainly a heart full of bitterness at where God had placed me, because I felt stuck.

Last year, I was in a completely different position, and full of enthusiasm for where God had led me over the last year, to a new church, a new state, a new ministry. Every Session, every speaker, every workshop cultivated in me the thoughts “if we really wanted to, we could do that, but we’d have to be called to do it for it to succeed.” I left last year’s conference on a higher note than I arrived, filled with anticipation to get home and begin to build our strategy to incorporate some of these ideas.

It would be easy to say that because I was happier in a better ministry, of course I had a different experience these two years. But I believe there are things we can do to ensure that have a positive experience at conferences opposed to leaving dejected.

1. Understand the work behind the idea.

For every good idea that is presented at a conference, I bet those leaders and ministries went through 100 bad ones. The most basic, simple, “why didn’t I think of that” ideas come after exhausting other options , and though these might be what we get, we’re missing out on the countless hours in brainstorming meetings, “come to Jesus” you screwed up meetings, and many other things that led to the discovery of this Amazing concept being presented.

2. Understand your calling in ministry is different than every other church.

You just sat through a presentation on how to use motion graphics to engage the audience during worship, but you’re youth group has 5 students and you don’t even have worship because no one plays guitar. It’s easy to get jealous of how professional it looks with motion backgrounds, but don’t lose sight of the fact that God has called you to a specific set of students in a specific community. Live into that, not what the church putting on the conference is called to do.

3. Forget the unrealistic expectation of “right now ideas”

I don’t care how simple or basic of an idea you hear, there are hardly any ideas that you can hear and immediately put into practice in your Youth Ministry. If it’s something like “make sure you do your own devotional time” then sure, but for the most part, you’ll need time to plan for this idea to actually work in your ministry.

4. Spend at least a day of debrief after the conference.

Debrief after the conference. Make a list of everything you learned that you want to use to change the way you do ministry and spend some time working through each idea, how would this look if we put it into practice, how would it benefit the ministry to put this into practice, would we have to force it or is it something that others would easily buy into. Let your brain cool off and settle down, and then start figuring out how your ministry is going to look when you come up with a plan and stick with it.

Apple, Samsung, and the Church

As you have probably already read, Apple won their court battle against Samsung Electronics. Samsung was ordered to pay Apple over 1 billion dollars. After all the media reports and tech articles, I don’t blame anyone if they got lost in the shuffle. The jury even had over 20 pages to work through because the case was so complicated.

So, what did Apple win? They won the fight against copying. Apple claimed that instead of innovating after the iPhone was introduced in 2007, Samsung intentionally chose to copy their formula and design. The jury said it was an easy case and that Samsung got what they deserved–a bill for 1 billion dollars.

After the ruling, I had a conversation with one of my best friends and we got to thinking about this in a youth ministry context. What if a church sued another church for copying their ministry model, mission statement, and staffing structure? While I don’t think that would ever happen, it is a interesting idea. Stay with me here…

What if God is ordering us to pay the bill? What if God is holding back blessing because we choose to copy instead of engage in Holy Spirit driven innovation?

Here’s the issue I see: 

As Spirit-filled Christians, we should be the most creative people in the world. We have God living in us. Not figuratively speaking, but God the Holy Spirit really takes up residence in our body. He empowers, gives creativity, and shows us that innovation is limitless. But, here’s the problem: We don’t live like it. We don’t even lead our churches like we believe that essential truth. We copy. We steal. We immitate. We’re Samsung

Personally, I’m glad that Apple won their biggest lawsuit to date. You might think that is because I’m an Apple fan nerd, but it’s not. The reason I’m happy is because Apple’s victory will FORCE innovation. Armed with this victory, other cell phone companies will not be able to copy interface elements, cell phone designs, and the other things that make an iPhone an iPhone without facing the wrath of Apple’s lawyers.

What would happen if we were forced to innovate? What if we couldn’t read the latest book, check another churches website, or go to the latest and greatest conference? What would we look like? What would your youth group look like?

Short Term Mission Trips

Lately, there has been a lot of discussion about Short Term Mission Trips, and I just returned recently from one to Wimauma, FL , and it was probably one of the best trips my youth group has ever been on.

After I having read post after post about some of the issues with short term mission trips, and considering our Youth Ministry abandoning them next year , opting instead for a summer camp, I wanted to be intentional with this trip to get the most out of it. I came into this mission trip with this understanding: short term youth mission trips are not so much about the impact the students leave on the location or people that live there but rather to impact the students who are going.

With that being on my mind, here is what I did to make  sure the trip was the best trip I could possibly do.

1. Made my own devotionals

I had never done this before. In fact I wanted to make sure I didn’t waste my time if most youth pastors know of good pre-made ones. I even asked @Youth_min to see what they would recommend, and they made a great post to help me outline a devotional that I could use and customize. I was able to contextualize for my group and pin point exactly what my youth needed to hear so they could be challenged in their morning devotionals. In the evening, we had group discussions to help our youth see the gospel in a way to challenge them to not just believe it, but live it.

Also, one thing I learned, youth love quotes. You can write paragraphs and paragraphs of rich content but something about a quote that is a sentence or two impacts teens a lot. When we discussed the devotional at night the first thing they would mention when asked what they learned, they always talked about the quotes.

2. Never miss an opportunity

My youth group loves free style rapping, having wrestling contests, and doing push-up contests. Well, at least my boys do.

At midnight, when all their energy is spent from working out and pretending to be Lecrae ,out of no where they would ask me super big and heavy questions. “If God is sovereign, why do we need to pray?”, “What about people who never hear the gospel?”, or my favorite “Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons?”It is so easy after a long day of sweating in the Florida heat to just try to give a short answer so you can get some sleep.

Don’t miss those opportunities! I would much rather lose sleep to help a kid understand God better than be well rested while kids still have questions. Stay up late. Let them ask questions. Even if their questions are not orthodox, I will let a student plead their case on why they believe in Theistic Evolution so they can flesh out their thoughts so I can step in and help them see the truth.

3. Separate the Genders

I know this sounds like real 1990’s youth ministry but hear me out. I purposely scheduled the students to be in their rooms a little earlier so that the youth can build with their peers of their same gender. I think it is simple to understand. Guys will be more open and honest when it is just guys. The opposite is true too. This was probably one of the points that made the trip such a great success. The guys got to be open and transparent with other guys and the girls got to be open and transparent with the other girls. They left stronger and more united as a group.

4. Disney

There is no verse in the Bible that says, “Go and make disciples and then have 1 fun day”. Maybe it is in the amplified version.

Regardless, as much as we want to say there isn’t anything spiritual about having a fun day on a mission trip, I used it to leverage the idea of killing “spiritual highs”. In the morning, we talked about how we should never put our guard down and turn off  our Christian walk just because we are at a secular place. We encouraged them to be bold for Christ at the happiest place on earth as well as being intentional about being the hands and feet of Christ. My kids let families cut our large group in front of us in lines. They stood and held doors open. One of my girls cleaned up straw wrappers next to a fountain drink machine just because she wanted to find a way to serve. These “fun days” can be a way to put what they learned all week in action after the trip.

Another small note: We should probably change the name of “mission trip” when we take youth on these trips to “serve trip” or something like that. My youth did interact with people and there were opportunities for our kids to share the gospel, however when I think of missions there is no way it can be only a week long.

True missions is reserved for those people who spend the months and years at a place sharing the gospel, planting churches and doing life with the people. We are really just going down there to serve for a week.  I don’t think our youth will know or even care about the name change, but giving our youth a better perspective on missions is better than letting them think that full time missionaries are just people who wear bandannas on their head and just paint walls all day.