5 Simple Ways to Gain Respect from Your Church Leaders

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Having been a youth minister for well over a decade now, I think I have heard all of the ridiculous statements and stereotypes about youth ministers. We are lazy, disorganized, and never take anything seriously. We only work on Sundays. All we do is play games and order pizza. And my personal favorite: when we “grow up,” we might “get our own church.”

While I’m not certain where these stereotypes originated, the crop of youth ministers I interact with regularly just don’t fit that mold. Almost every youth minister I connect with regularly is working hard, giving and sacrificing time, energy, and resources, and thoroughly thinking through ways to improve the ministry God has entrusted them with.

Despite this trend, we constantly see youth ministers in the YouthMin Facebook group that are struggling to gain the respect of church leaders. So we created a list of some simple, fool-proof ways to gain respect from your church leaders. These won’t solve every problem, but they will till the soil so respect and admiration can grow.

1.  Work hard
One of the easiest ways to communicate your passion for youth ministry is to be a workhorse. Show up early, be prepared, go the extra mile, be available, and churn out great content. If people can’t find you during office hours, you are chronically unprepared, and regularly on the golf course, someone WILL question your work ethic. One of the most respected players in any locker room is the guy who shows up first and leaves last. Be that guy!

2.  Communicate…a lot
Leaders generally don’t like to be surprised, especially by an angry parent or concerned member. The best way to endear yourself to your leaders is to keep them informed. When I respond to a parent, I often carbon copy my ministry elder or senior minister. When I have a confrontation at church or an issue arises, I email my elders. When I taught on sex, love, and romance last week, I told the parents ahead of time and made sure to have a couple elders in the room as I spoke. Communication breeds trust.

3.  Be a great teammate
The hallmarks of a great teammate are loyalty, communication, respect, honesty, trust, and commitment. By being a great teammate to your fellow staff members and elders, you will receive respect in return. NEVER put down an elder or staff member to a person in your church. NEVER lie or stretch the truth to your teammates. Hold the nitty gritty details of meetings in the strictest confidence. Be loyal to a fault.

4.  Be consistent
Consistency breeds trust. When you are consistent in your dealings with people, how you plan and execute events, and the ways you communicate, trust will naturally follow. On our staff at Hazelwood, we have a Senior Minister who has led for 35 years. Other staff members have been in their positions for 14 years, 13 years, and 7 years. I can’t tell you how awesome it is to work in an environment where there is so much consistency. We know how our teammates operate, how we respond to criticism, and we know that loyalty is the norm. Consistency pays huge dividends, so make it a priority.

5.  Stick around for a long time
There are so many benefits of longevity that I can’t enumerate all of them here, but trust, respect, and added responsibility are certainly among them. When I came to Hazelwood as a 22-year old youth minister fresh out of college, parents and leaders questioned me a lot…and I don’t blame them. I was young, inexperienced, and learning on the fly. Having been here for 13+ years now, I am often given the benefit of the doubt instead of a barrage of questions. Our staff, elders, parents, and students know I’m here to stay, and that leads to a lot of trust.

As I stated above, this list won’t save you from every difficult situation or tough conversation, but you might be surprised how far they will take you when it comes to gaining the respect of your leaders. What would you add to the list?

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Planning a Mission Trip: Devil's in the Details

Let’s face it, youth ministers aren’t always known as the best planners. Sometimes, we do a great job of casting the overall vision of our ministry while neglecting the smaller details. A mission trip is not the time to miss the small stuff. Sometimes, missing a minor detail can result in major problems. As you set the wheels in motion for your next mission trip, here are some steps you can take to ensure that you don’t miss the details.

1. Have a great local contact
No matter where you are going, there will always be someone who knows the area better than you. Make sure that you have a great contact at your destination who can help out with the details, with accommodations, with local transportation, and can also be available in an emergency.

2. Pre-trip or no pre-trip?
If you are unfamiliar with the area where you are going, or don’t know your local contact very well, it might be a good idea to take a pre-trip to check out your destination. It might cost some money, but consider it an investment to save you a lot of headaches in the future. While on the pre-trip, make sure to see all of the work projects, where you will sleep, the kitchen where food will be prepared, and get the lay of the land. Make sure to meet up with your contacts and have them around to answer all of your questions.

3. Plan with a team
You’ve probably heard the old saying that “two heads are better than one.” This is totally true when it comes to planning a mission trip. Throughout the planning process, I will have conversations with all of the key players, including my local contact, my kitchen guru, my work project coordinator, and those who are driving the buses. Since all of these people are coming at the trip from a different perspective, they can often ask a question or point something out that I had never before considered. You might even consider running the details of the trip by some parents just to see what questions they ask. This will help prepare you for the parent meeting later on.

4. Day by day
The last advice I will share is to go through each day of your mission trip on a piece of paper and write down exactly what you think it will look like from breakfast to lights out. As you process each day individually, it will help you formulate the questions that have not yet been answered. I often make a phone call about a week or two prior to the mission trip to seek answers to these questions and confirm that everything is still smooth sailing.

I hope this has been insightful, and can help you as you plan the details and logistics of your next mission trip. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions, and make sure that every t is crossed and every i is dotted. In the end, planning ahead will allow you to be a better youth minister on the trip.

What has been the most helpful bit of advice you have ever received when it comes to planning a trip? What questions might you add to my list? Have you ever been burned because you failed to plan?

Planning a Mission Trip: Picking the Team

Once you have the location picked out and the budget set, the next step is to get the team you want in place. This can be a crucial part of the mission trip planning process. These will be the people that your students will interact with, work with, and learn from throughout the week, so choose wisely. Here are some practical things to think through as you set your team for your upcoming trip.

1. Handpick, don’t Cattle-call.
It can be easy to overreact and panic when it comes to getting your team in place. But this is too important for the standard ministry call-out. Posting the need for adults to go on a mission trip in your weekly bulletin is probably going to lead to some awkward conversations later on. Start planning early enough that you can hand pick the people that you most want on the trip. By asking them early, you will have time to go to Plan B instead of just having to settle for whoever is “available.”

2. Recognize there are certain roles you need to fill with qualified people.
On every trip, there will always be certain jobs that need a face to go with them. For instance, since we drive large buses to all of our destinations, I know that I will need at least 2 to 3 qualified, CDL licensed, passenger-endorsed bus drivers. Typically, you want someone who is very comfortable cooking for large groups to make your meals throughout the week as well. You may also need to identify key people who can help you complete the work projects that you will be doing. Write down the specific people that you need, and go get them!

3. Prioritize the people you want interacting with your students.
Having the right adults on your trip can make a world of difference.  Often, I have more issues dealing with the adults on a trip than I do the students.  Prioritize the people you want to be with you on your mission trip, and go after them. My priority list always starts with my normal adult leaders.  Having these trusted leaders with you can stave off a lot of headaches.  Plus, it will give them great opportunities to connect on a deeper level with students.  Secondly, I go after the skilled leaders I need.  Maybe I need a bus driver, an electrician, a contractor, or someone who has experience with drywall.  Look for people who can meet a need, and make it clear to them that they have the skills you need for this trip.  Usually, when you show them they bring something valuable to the table, they are more likely to go.  Finally, I pursue parents or other great people that I know will do well with our students.  By prioritizing and communicating, you can have a great team in place quickly, which can help you avoid awkward conversations with people you don’t really want to come along.

4.  Don’t fear parents.
I know parents can sometimes be a drain, and sometimes they can be very critical, but most parents want the exact same thing you do.  Most parents want their student’s life to be changed by the message of Christ.  If you truly want to partner with parents in ministry, consider taking a few of them along with you on your next trip.  It might be good to set a few guidelines before the trip, but with some clear communication, you might gain some great allies by bringing them along and letting them see your ministry up close.

5.  What “new” people is God putting before you?
Sometimes, before a trip, I will be approached by someone I would have NEVER considered as a potential mission trip leader.  Before I turn them away, I commit to pray over it and think about how they might fit.  Sometimes, God may lay someone at your feet that you would have never picked on your own, but they end up being a great fit.  So don’t forget to be open to the Lord’s movement when it comes to picking your team.

Setting the team can be one of the most important parts of planning a mission trip.  What challenges have you faced when getting your adult leaders in place?  What does your priority list look like?  Who do you seek out first?

Planning a Mission Trip: Setting the Budget

After you have picked the perfect location for your mission trip, the next thing you need to do is to figure out the financial part.  Setting the budget can be one of the most important steps in this process, because a few errors or oversights can mean thousands of dollars that your budget wasn’t expecting.  Since there are so many things to consider when it comes to finances, let me just share with you a list of questions you should consider as you set your budget.

  1. What is the ceiling for what I charge students?  At what point do I lose students because the cost is too high?
  2. What will it cost to travel to this location?  We drive to all our locations, so I figure out mileage to and from, gas prices, gas mileage of our bus, and how many students I think will attend to get a cost per student number for my budget.  You also have to take into account any vehicle costs, toll roads, etc.
  3. What will the materials cost for this project?  We typically try to “pay” for whatever work we will be doing.  That way, we can be both a physical blessing and a financial blessing at the same time.  Ask your contact to give you an honest assessment of what they need financially.
  4. What will it cost to feed your group as well as “extras?”  Food is a pretty large expense that can sometimes be overlooked.  We have a “pro” cook who does an amazing job with our food, and I trust her implicitly.  She usually budgets about $1500 for our group of around 50 to eat for a week.  In addition, she always makes extra food, because often people you’ve been working with will join you, sometimes unexpectedly.
  5. What are some expenses you might incur while you are there?  Over the years, we have spent a lot of money on crazy things.  Bus repairs on the road, additional food when plans change, fees to shower at a fitness center, cost of tools we didn’t know we’d need until we got there, additional travel and tolls we didn’t foresee, and more.  Give yourself a cushion, and give generously.
  6. What will it cost to take my adults without charging them?  I don’t know if this is a “norm” in your ministry, but we never charge our adults to go on a trip.  They are already taking a week off from work, sometimes costing them a week’s pay.  We usually ask them to pay for their meals while we travel, but that’s about it.
  7. How can I be a blessing to those who helped make the trip a success? Often, we will try to bless the people who blessed us.  If a church hosts us, we will leave a “love offering” to cover additional electricity they are paying for, additional cost of heating the building, and so on.  If I can leave some money with the ministry we are working with, I will.  Factor that in when you plan so that you don’t find yourself in a pinch later and incapable of being generous.

 

IMG_1979With those questions in mind, here are some great ways you can cut cost on your own mission trip.  As I mentioned in my previous post, the most I’ve ever charged for a high school Spring Break mission trip is $225.  Here are a few ways you can make that happen in your ministry as well.

  1. Plan your own trip from top to bottom.  Don’t rely on an organization or agency to plan your trip.  You plan it, answer the detail questions from top to bottom, and put in the hard work.  It’s worth it, and your students will gain a lot from it.
  2. Travel cheap.  We happen to own our own buses, which makes the transportation question easy to answer.  We drive everywhere we go, which saves a great deal of money.  Airfare is REALLY expensive.  We spend a LOT of hours on a bus, but honestly, our students look forward to the trip.  It’s a great bonding time, so use it wisely.
  3. Eat cheap.  Find someone who knows their way around a kitchen, and has some leadership skills.  Luanne Reitzel is our kitchen guru.  I give her $1500 for the week, and she handles the rest.  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner almost every day are cooked with love.  This year, she did meals for $2.85 per person roughly.
  4. Stay cheap.  Hotels are expensive, and so are retreat centers.  Plan to rough it by staying in a church nearby.  Air mattresses and sleeping bags will work just fine.  Don’t forget to figure out showers.
  5. Plan ahead.  Know the scope of your project, and send money ahead of time.  For our most recent trip, I sent $2000 ahead to help pay for the drywall we would hang and materials we would need.  This enables our contact to get the materials ahead of time, but also helps you gauge your budget.  Also, by planning ahead, you can take most of the things you need instead of having to pay for them when you arrive.  I always take about $500 in cash just in case something comes up.
  6. Invest in what matters.  For our most recent trip, I spent the most on transportation, meals, and building materials.  I spent considerably less on T-shirts (thanks www.amb3r.com), booklets, sightseeing opportunities, and “fun stuff.”  Put your money where it has the most impact.
  7. Ask boldly when budget time rolls around.  I had about $2000 set aside out of our budget for this mission trip.  This helps us to pay for our adults, to pay for students who cannot afford to attend, and to cover unexpected expenses.  Your leadership will never know your need if you don’t ask.

I hope this post will help you make the most of your next mission trip financially.  No matter what your budget size, these tips will help you to make a great, affordable trip that your students will not soon forget.

What budgeting issues have you had when it comes to planning mission trips?  How have you cut costs for your mission trips?