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

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.

 

Evaluating: Why It's Crucial For Youth Ministry

How’s your ministry going?

Good? or maybe not so good?

Why? What’s going well? What are you doing right, and what is God doing that’s really bringing great things into your ministry?

What’s not going well? Why is that?

If this feels very uncomfortable or new to you, you may be suffering from a condition known as Lackickus Evaluatius, or more commonly: lack of evaluation. If you are not regularly evaluating your ministry and reviewing your programs (and messages, and games, and services, and events, etc…) how do you know what’s working for you? How do you know what’s working against you?

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

– Benjamin Franklin

If you aren’t intentional about what you’re doing, then life and ministry are just happening to you. If you aren’t evaluating how things are going and identifying what’s working and what isn’t, then good and bad things in your ministry will surprise you and you won’t be able to sustain things in any meaningful way. As good ol’ Ben said in the quote above, a lack of planning and preparation will eventually lead to failure. And in ministry, that’s unacceptable. Our task is too important to just leave it to chance. Youth worker, you are tasked with discipling and shepherding students who will be the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth. You are following the Great Commission given by Jesus, the Christ, by the authority of nothing less than ALL of heaven and earth. You had better know how things are going, and what you’re doing about it.

Let’s be honest, there are bad things you are doing that are holding you back. I don’t care if you’re on day one out of college or if you’re Doug Fields, you’ve got some things you could work on. Since you’re not a member of the Holy Trinity, let’s just assume that you lack perfection. So what are those things? What are you doing to minimize the effects of your weaknesses? I’ve got a bad habit of just doing everything myself. I’ve been known to be designing last minute slides for the service with my Bible open next to me, where I’m trying to highlight the passage I’m preaching on tonight; and still waiting for the video to render so I can post it to Facebook, where I’m carrying on a conversation with one student who watched a video that gave them doubts about God, two different parents with questions about camp, and a leader who can’t make it; and still trying to direct the worship rehearsal going on while telling a new volunteer what the layout of the chairs is supposed to look like… I have to fight against that and use the amazing wealth of gifts, talents, and abilities in those around me to allow our service to be awesome. Not so it’s awesome, but so God can move in the lives of our students as they are excited to show up and experience what God has for them in this place. A lack of evaluation allowed that type of thing to continue for way too long (one day would have been too long…).

But, no matter how badly things are going and how much you get in your own way, God is still good. We have, at the very least, an amazing God who will do amazing things despite us. Does that mean we shouldn’t be on board with His plans and do all that we can to help and be a part of them? No way! He’s put his power in jars of clay, and that’s us. So what’s going right? Where is God showing up? How did that manage to happen? Did you pray extra hard before service? Did you give some responsibility to your leaders and find yourself with the time to ask Him what He’s up to and how you can be part of it? Maybe you cut your game time from 20 to 10 minutes and your students loved it… or maybe you added an extra song to the worship set and that extra 4 minutes made all the difference. If you don’t look at what went right and why, how will you keep that going?

This is just the intro to a series of posts on this difficult, scary, necessary thing called evaluating. I’m hoping to open up a conversation that carries on from here into your ministry. It’s amazing how many bad things we overlook when we’re not looking for them. And there are a ton of great things that God is up to that go by unnoticed if we don’t stop to acknowledge them. It’s like in Exodus 16, with the Manna and Quail:

6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, . . .”

At the end of it, look back and see God. Then, when you start up again, look ahead and see His glory. If you don’t look for it, you’re gonna miss it. And this is too important to miss.

So, let’s get the conversation started… what do you do to evaluate? What questions do you ask? I’d love to get some new ideas to add to my list!

Evaluating: Why It's Crucial For Youth Ministry

How’s your ministry going?

Good? or maybe not so good?

Why? What’s going well? What are you doing right, and what is God doing that’s really bringing great things into your ministry?

What’s not going well? Why is that?

If this feels very uncomfortable or new to you, you may be suffering from a condition known as Lackickus Evaluatius, or more commonly: lack of evaluation. If you are not regularly evaluating your ministry and reviewing your programs (and messages, and games, and services, and events, etc…) how do you know what’s working for you? How do you know what’s working against you?

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

– Benjamin Franklin

If you aren’t intentional about what you’re doing, then life and ministry are just happening to you. If you aren’t evaluating how things are going and identifying what’s working and what isn’t, then good and bad things in your ministry will surprise you and you won’t be able to sustain things in any meaningful way. As good ol’ Ben said in the quote above, a lack of planning and preparation will eventually lead to failure. And in ministry, that’s unacceptable. Our task is too important to just leave it to chance. Youth worker, you are tasked with discipling and shepherding students who will be the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth. You are following the Great Commission given by Jesus, the Christ, by the authority of nothing less than ALL of heaven and earth. You had better know how things are going, and what you’re doing about it.

Let’s be honest, there are bad things you are doing that are holding you back. I don’t care if you’re on day one out of college or if you’re Doug Fields, you’ve got some things you could work on. Since you’re not a member of the Holy Trinity, let’s just assume that you lack perfection. So what are those things? What are you doing to minimize the effects of your weaknesses? I’ve got a bad habit of just doing everything myself. I’ve been known to be designing last minute slides for the service with my Bible open next to me, where I’m trying to highlight the passage I’m preaching on tonight; and still waiting for the video to render so I can post it to Facebook, where I’m carrying on a conversation with one student who watched a video that gave them doubts about God, two different parents with questions about camp, and a leader who can’t make it; and still trying to direct the worship rehearsal going on while telling a new volunteer what the layout of the chairs is supposed to look like… I have to fight against that and use the amazing wealth of gifts, talents, and abilities in those around me to allow our service to be awesome. Not so it’s awesome, but so God can move in the lives of our students as they are excited to show up and experience what God has for them in this place. A lack of evaluation allowed that type of thing to continue for way too long (one day would have been too long…).

But, no matter how badly things are going and how much you get in your own way, God is still good. We have, at the very least, an amazing God who will do amazing things despite us. Does that mean we shouldn’t be on board with His plans and do all that we can to help and be a part of them? No way! He’s put his power in jars of clay, and that’s us. So what’s going right? Where is God showing up? How did that manage to happen? Did you pray extra hard before service? Did you give some responsibility to your leaders and find yourself with the time to ask Him what He’s up to and how you can be part of it? Maybe you cut your game time from 20 to 10 minutes and your students loved it… or maybe you added an extra song to the worship set and that extra 4 minutes made all the difference. If you don’t look at what went right and why, how will you keep that going?

This is just the intro to a series of posts on this difficult, scary, necessary thing called evaluating. I’m hoping to open up a conversation that carries on from here into your ministry. It’s amazing how many bad things we overlook when we’re not looking for them. And there are a ton of great things that God is up to that go by unnoticed if we don’t stop to acknowledge them. It’s like in Exodus 16, with the Manna and Quail:

6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, . . .”

At the end of it, look back and see God. Then, when you start up again, look ahead and see His glory. If you don’t look for it, you’re gonna miss it. And this is too important to miss.

So, let’s get the conversation started… what do you do to evaluate? What questions do you ask? I’d love to get some new ideas to add to my list!

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.