5 Ways to Make Your Ministry Better This Year

Whether you are a big proponent of New Year’s resolutions or not, one must admit that the turning of the calendar seems to be a mental reset for most of us. Most times, we focus on our weight, our finances, or our family. Today, I thought it would be good to focus on our ministry instead. I am eager to take our Youth Ministry to the next level, and I’m sure you desire the same thing. So, I have compiled a list of a few ways you can improve your ministry this year. Know that I am writing this list as much to myself as I am to you, and I can’t wait to see God at work in the coming year.

1.  Try a brand new approach to an old event or program.

If your ministry calendar is like mine, there are certain events and activities that are annual “staples.” It can be easy to get into a rut, to do the same old thing in the same way, and fall back on what we know. This year, let me encourage you to approach your calendar with a fresh perspective. Shake it up, try something new, seek input from other Youth Ministers and get ideas from them that might breathe fresh air into that “same old” retreat.

After 13 years of mission trips over Spring Break, we are doing something completely different this year, emphasizing the mission field in our own community. It’s bold, challenging, and very different, but I think it could have a huge impact on our community and our ministry.

Try something new and creative – God may use it in a big way!

2. Give more ministry away to your leaders.

One of the most powerful things you can do as a leader is to multiply other leaders around you.  It becomes easy in ministry to try to be the hero, to do everything on your own.  If we aren’t careful, we will be setting up the chairs, doing the tech, leading the worship, teaching the lesson, stirring the lemonade, greeting the students, and counseling every student.  This, in my opinion, is egocentric ministry at its worst, and is a trap of the evil one.

This year, take your ministry to another level by giving more ministry away to your leaders.  Ask them to lead some of the upfront games and activities.  Challenge them to lead your small group even when you are there.  Encourage them and guide them as they try new things.  You may find out they are way better at certain aspects of ministry than you are!  And what better picture of the Body of Christ exists?  Try it – you might love it!

3. Commit to praying over your students and leaders with renewed fervor

Prayer is something I think we could all do better, so why not make this a fervent commitment this year?  Maybe you could use an app like Evernote or Reminders to record prayer requests your students mention so that you can recall them later.  Print a list of your students and commit to praying for a few of them by name each week.  Send them a card to let them know they’ve been prayed for.  Challenge your adult leaders to show up early to pray over the room before youth group.

The list of ideas could go on and on, so be creative.  But, as Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Make this a renewed priority.

4. Get out of your office and be with students.

We know the to-do lists that face us each day in ministry.  There is no end to the things we CAN be doing for the Kingdom.  But being busy doing ministry tasks in our office often means we are missing time with our students.  Don’t get me wrong; it is VITAL to spend the right amount of time preparing the messages and crafting the vision of your ministry.  But we have to find a nice balance between “getting things done” and building relationships with our students.

Go visit your school cafeteria.  Make a plan to get to your students’ ball games.  Send personal letters of encouragement.  Invite students over to watch an appropriate movie.  Make being with students a priority, and see what happens.  You’ll build deep relationships with your students, and meet students you would have never known if you hadn’t made the extra effort.

5. Plan ahead further than you normally do.

Sometimes, our ministry looks a lot like our checkbooks.  We often live week-to-week and end up doing things at the last minute.  When we are unprepared, no one wins.  Creativity suffers, leaders are frustrated, and our students see right through it.  This year, plan ahead further than ever before.  Invite a group of creative people (they don’t even have to be youth leaders) to meet with you and walk through your ministry calendar for the year.  Have them brainstorm about some creative ways you can accomplish your ministry tasks, retreat themes, lesson series ideas, decoration concepts, and more.

By planning ahead, you free yourself up to dream and be creative.  You free yourself up to be with students, and to stop running around putting out fires all the time.  Plan WAY ahead and see how God frees you up this year.

These are just a few of the ways I’m going to try to take my ministry to the next level this year.  What steps make your list?

Fresh Start: Youth Ministry Design Bundle

The new year is quickly approaching and you might be thinking that your ministry looks a bit drab. Before gutting the entire thing, why don’t you download this great design bundle we put together for you? Even the slightest changes can breathe new life into an old look.

For $15 you get access to 16 premium design files:

  • 5 Service Stills (Welcome, Volunteer, Small Group, Lifegroups, and Bible Study)
  • 2014 Spring Calendar Template designed for Apple Pages or Adobe Photoshop (January-April)
  • A small group starter kit (Sign-up form, Tracking, Charts, and Leader Info Cards)
  • The Bubble Branding Package (Business Card, Letterhead, and Timeline Cover)

The bundle includes fonts, .psd files, pages files, jpg’s, and png’s. Purchased separately, you would pay $30.00. This deal gives you access to great files at 50% off.

Visit our marketplace to purchase!

bumdle_thumb1 bundle_thumb2

The 2 Questions I Ask Every Volunteer Leader

There are countless things that I love about youth ministry; one of those things is the explosion of job descriptions for volunteers in the ministry. These job descriptions list qualifications and expectations, which are all good and needed things; but to be honest, it freaked some people out in my ministry.  I am not saying that my volunteers did not like to hear about what qualified them or what we expected from them, because they did, but it appeared that we were boxing it up too much.

In a lot of ways volunteer leaders are fragile.  They have many questions like:  Am I too young? Am I too old?  Am I cool enough?  Do I know enough? Do I have enough experience?  Will students like me?  Will staff like me?  Will my schedule allow me to serve for a long period of time?

There are so many questions that we all have to freak ourselves out in student ministry, but none of them them have ultimate importance.  Therefore, these aren’t the questions that should take precedence in the interview process; and therefore, they aren’t even necessary.

For a while I would lead interviews with potential volunteers with job descriptions.  I thought that by doing this I was so cool and so relevant… but I was SO wrong.  They just needed two really important questions and my willingness to figure out the rest, as their leader.  I needed them to give me the pieces and then the drive so that I could put it all together.

After talking to a lot of my leaders at Mariners Church these are the two questions I came up with.

1.  What are you passionate about?

2.  How much time do you have?

They may seem soft at first, but look closer; these questions are the backbone of all of the Junior High leaders we have.  I want to know what a leader’s passions are and what drives them.   I also want to know what their schedule looks like to fulfill that passion.  For every passion we can make a way to fit that in to Junior High Ministry.

We as staff need to be the creative facilitators for our leaders.  They don’t know ministry, so they don’t know how their gifts and talents can be used in the ministry. That is why they count on us without even knowing it at times.  It is our role to help send them to action.

5 easy excuses for subpar Youth Ministry

I doubt there is a Youth Pastor in the world that got into ministry to just coast. No, I believe more for Youth Pastors, and I believe each and every one of us started out with great dreams and visions of what God was going to accomplish through us and the ministries we would lead. But we can’t all start out in the Mega Churches, so most of us take jobs at smaller congregations, but we know that God has called us to be an Amazing Youth Pastor, and so we know that if we work hard enough, work long enough, and stay faithful, then God can turn this small church with a tiny Youth Ministry into something more.

But after a while, you haven’t seen the growth you were sure was coming, or your ministry hits a rut where it feels like you havent seen a visitor in months, and you’re wondering whats going wrong. You might start making comparisons with other ministries in your area or online, and if you do, you’ll probably start believing one of these excuses for the lack of growth in your ministry:

1. Facilities – if I just had better facilities, we could do so much more.

2. Volunteers - if we just had more volunteers, we could do so much more

3. Student leaders - if I just had some student leaders, we could do so much more
4. Time – if I just had more time, we could do so much more
5. Budget – if we just had more money, we could do so much more
The problem here is that these are all valid excuses. We could do more in our ministries if we had bigger spaces, bigger budgets, and more bodies.
But be that as it may, God doesn’t care. When it all boils down, God has placed you in your specific ministry in your specific church with your specific context to do his specific work. Just because there are other youth groups that can afford to give away iPad’s for door prizes doesn’t mean that that is what your called to do.
Does that mean we shouldn’t seek those things? Absolutely not. You could do more with more space and more money and more bodies.
But should that be an excuse to run a sub-par ministry? Absolutely not. If you can’t find a way to make what you have run effectively, you stand no chance of being more effective with those things.
So quit making excuses, quit being content with sub-par youth events, and make the most with what God has already entrusted you with.

Guest Post: Why we chose to only do Youth Group on Sunday Mornings

About 6 years ago we made the decision to cancel our Wednesday night youth group for middle school students and move everything we did to Sunday mornings. For more info about what our Sunday morning program looks like click here. We also chose to cancel our Sunday morning and Sunday night gatherings for High School and move everything to Wednesday night. We saw both numerical growth and the quality of ministry increase immediately and here’s some reasons why…

1. It was a win for volunteers’ and families’ schedules. Instead of running students around to church 2 or 3 times a week (or even more), or asking volunteers to serve multiple times a week, we condensed it down to one time a week – and for middle school that was Sunday mornings. It works for us because we have 2 adult gatherings on Sunday mornings (9am and 11am) and we do the same for our middle school gatherings now. It allows volunteers to go to church at one service and serve at the other. And it’s a win for families because now they can spend their weeknights together now or engaged more in their community.

2. It was a win for our church. If we’re honest, we understand that parents will sometimes choose a church to attend based on what it offers for kids. A lot of parents tell me they heard about our children’s ministry or heard about our middle school ministry and decided to bring their family to check it out. This is especially true with unchurched families; families already engaged with our ministry now have another reason to invite their unchurched friends to get engaged – “you guys should check out of childrens/middle school programs, your kids will love it”, and mom and dad get to go to church at the same time. I believe having a quality middle school program on Sunday mornings really helps in attracting young families to engage with your church.

3. It increased our volunteer pool. Because we canceled our high school program on Sunday mornings, it opened the door for high school students to serve and invest in middle school students. High School students that can’t drive or are busy during the week now have a place to use their gifts and are engaged as greeters, cafe workers, security, and even leading a small group if they are mature enough.

It also increased our adult volunteer pool because they are already there at church – they don’t need to come back another day and time to serve. This has been huge for us and makes it easier to find quality volunteers that may be busy during the week.

4. It increased the quality of ministry to students. Because we as a staff can focus all of our attention on just one gathering a week, we have a lot more time to invest in volunteers, develop our small group environment, develop our worship environment, plan our games/fun stuff, and prepare our messages. When we were preparing for 2,3, or more events or gatherings a week, we had a lot less time and energy for each gathering and the overall quality of each one suffered. And because we include small groups in our Sunday morning program now, that means every student we are engaged with is automatically plugged into a small group. Each student that walks through our doors is connected to an adult that cares about them and a community of their peers that is on a journey of following Jesus with them.

As you can tell, for us less gatherings = better ministry opportunity. I realize every context is different and our structure isn’t the “right way” or anything, but I just wanted to share why we chose to do it the way we do.

What do you think?

We value you’re input and want to have discussion with you. How is your youth ministry structured? What are the pros and cons of how you do it and what would you recommend to others that has been successful to you?

4 Things our Student Ministry is using this year

We’ve got some things coming up in our Student Ministry that we are preparing to launch that I am wicked excited about. Our school year here in Boston (did you catch the wicked?) starts in September, and so I’ve still got a bit of planning to do.  Yet, I wanted to share a few things that I think are going to make our Youth Ministry even better this year, and can help yours a bunch, too!

We’ve broken up our strategy with budget into three sections, and each one of these tools covers one of those main priorities.

We want to invest heavily in our leaders, so we’ll be using YouLead from Orange to train our team.

You can check out YouLead by visiting their site; but to wrap it up in a nutshell, YouLead is a strategic plan to make sure you are still learning as a leader and staying up to date on leadership principles. You get a weekly bit of training for yourself that doesn’t take more than 20 minutes, as well as tons of resources to send out to your team, your volunteers, and even event-planning guides for your leadership meetings. YouLead isn’t a communication tool, it’s a resource to blow up the ability and possibility of your leaders.

Let’s be honest: Every youth ministry in America would be better off if we had better trained leaders. Youth Ministries that kill it have multiple people on staff that have not just a passion for youth ministry, but also some pretty serious training and experience. Those of us in smaller contexts could absolutely use more qualified leaders, and that’s where YouLead comes in. Think of it like this, you can train your entire team for a year for less than the price of you going to one conference. That’s a heck of a bargain!

PLUSthe amazing folks over at Orange have given me a promo-code to give to you for $50 off the yearly subscription for YouLead! Just enter YLBLOG149 and you should be set for a 25% savings off this amazing product!

We want to partner with parents in a way that moves beyond just communicating announcements, and that’s where ParentMinistry.net comes in.

We recently did a Parents Forum, something that I’ve tried in past years in our ministry with no success, and it went above and beyond our expectations. We had to order twice the amount of pizza we had planned on because we had such great attendance, and where I thought families would rush out the door on a Sunday afternoon, they hung around after event talking in ways they had never talked with each other.

I was challenged this past year with the thought that if you want to really partner with parents, quit spending money only on students, quit only doing events for students, and do more for the parents. That became possible with this amazing resource that ParentMinistry.net offers. Once again, it’s a yearly subscription and the price appears high, but if you could see the stuff you get with this subscription, you would immediately see the value and the need for your Youth Ministry. Jeremy Lee has given you everything in a nice package to send to your parents for an online class. But he goes a step further; he also gives you everything you’d need to recreate the resources with your face and branding, to help YOU look like the rockstar, not himself. And that’s just one of the 6 amazing tools this subscription includes.

You can get a monthly subscription for only $35 to check out what the whole year could look like, and I’d highly encourage you to do so. I know this is going to be a game changer in our youth ministry, and if you check it out, you’ll see that reality in your ministry as well.

We want to invest relationally and spiritually in the lives of our students, so a 28-day devotional with weekly check-ins like Know God is perfect for kicking off small group relationships.

This is another great resource from Orange, and I was greatly pleased to pick up a copy at this past year’s Orange Conference. There are a ton of great devotionals for students out there, but what makes Know God stand out for me is that it is something the student is challenged and encouraged to do with an adult leader right off the bat; in fact, I don’t know that it is possible to go through the book without meeting with a leader at least once.

We’ll be buying a copy of this for all of our students in Small Groups and our Leaders to go through with them. You can check out Know God on the Orange Store.

Communication is something we need to improve, so we’re using Simply Youth Ministry’s Communicate texting platform.

I feel like every year for the past 4, I’ve tried to start off strong with a texting service at the beginning of the year. I’ve always shied away from actually investing in one, as I was looking for a free or cheap, bare bones service; but it always faded out after a few weeks in the fall.

This year, I finally decided that if it was something I was going to place importance on, I needed to invest in communication. The choice was simple: there are thousands of services out there, but Communicate from Simply Youth Ministry is for Youth Ministry by Youth Ministry. It’s a bit more money than I would like to spend, but the financial investment should also make it something we keep up with and not let go to waste.

Added Bonus: T-Shirts from Spreadshirt to make our brand legit.

I’ve been in Youth Ministry long enough now that almost every t-shirt I wear is from a youth group event. That collection will grow this year to include sermon series and other promotions throughout the year. Sometimes, we will order shirts for all of our leaders or all of our students, but often this year, we’ll be ordering one t-shirt of this design, one of another, and so on. The best website/service I have found for ordering single custom t-shirts has been Spreadshirt. Want to know how great T-Shirt Printing with Spreadshirt is? Leave a comment on this post with something new you’re trying this year in your Youth Ministry, and Wednesday, July 31st I’ll choose a random winner to get our new YouthMin.org T-shirts with the new logo, as seen in our Facebook community!