Really great and accurate portrayal of modern church in this clever video from the DRIVE Conference. Ouch!
Really great and accurate portrayal of modern church in this clever video from the DRIVE Conference. Ouch!
I’ve been gone a lot from our high school ministry recently. All good things – but mission trips, conferences, vacation and events all take their toll on the decision-making ability of me as the leader. As I’ve gotten back up to speed, I’ve tried to be keenly aware of these potential drawbacks of the disconnected leader:
Poorly informed decision-making
Being absent or disconnected results in making decisions in haste or in ignorance without all of the information. If you feel you’re being pressured into a major decision, you might need to table it. Too many rushed decisions have become regrets. Be decisive, don’t let indecision paralyze you, but make sure you’ve taken the time to gather the details so you are making the right call.
Lack of clarity / purposeless
In your absence, people make decisions without you – and they should! And while I love leadership at all levels and the decentralization of authority, a disconnected leader runs the risk of personal agendas appearing and potentially the purposes becoming less clear. Make sure you’re not the bottleneck and design your student ministry so you can be gone once in a while, just make sure there’s enough clarity to hang on until you get back.
Team morale dips
You’re the team leader, and many look for you for the optimism that fuels them toward goals. Being gone too much sends a signal to your team that you’re not “in it with them.” There are responsibilities (and privileges, honestly) that do carry me away from my team, but there’s a lot to be said for a leader who gets their hands dirty.
Here’s the zinger: you may be present but still be disconnected. Being present isn’t enough! Too many disconnected leaders are physically around, they just aren’t invested in their team’s lives. I want to be a leader that is present, connected and empowering all of us to accomplish our goals.
We read Bible stories to our kids about every night as part of our bedtime routine. Chores, PJs, teeth, stories, Bible stories, prayer, zzzzzz. Even though our kids aren’t that old, we’ve gone through quite a few different children’s Bibles in the process – and we’ve recently fell in love with our most recent acquisition, The Jesus Storybook Bible.
Zondervan gave everyone who attended the Radicalis Conference a a free copy – I happened to be backstage with Mark Driscoll and he mentioned it was his family’s favorite book. So, we took it home and started reading that night – and I have to tell you, it is super. I put on my “narrator” voice and don’t want to stop it is so fun, clear and inspiring. Really good stuff – if you’ve got little kids, you’ll wear this Bible out.
Weekend Teaching Series: Simply Jesus (series finale, week 3 of 3)
Sermon in a Sentence: Jesus is forgiving, and we can experience and share it personally.
Service Length: 79 minutes
Understandable Message: We based this series on Simply Amazing, a series that Doug Fields taught in our adult services a couple of years ago. Each week we teach through an event from the life of Christ, this week was on the woman caught in adultery. Jake and I taught this weekend in two parts – the first half of the talk was about Kenya and how we are Jesus on the earth until He returns, and how a study of the life of Jesus will help show us how to love and live for him. Jake had a great big story up front that really captured everyone, and a great walkthrough of the story.
Volunteer/Student Involvement: Students were highly involved this weekend – greeters, band, control room, cameras, lights, sound and testimony. Several new weekend adult volunteers joined the mix as well, great to have more adults in the room on Saturday night especially.
Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We played a couple of games from NBC’s Minute to Win It. We usually don’t play such physical games in high school services (though we work hard to have some element of fun for sure), but had a total blast with these and the students seemed to be really enjoying it. We played Face the Cookie and Bottoms Up. More details on how this could be used in student ministry here.
Music Playlist: KIDS, You Deserve, Thank You For Loving Me, It Is Well, Came to My Rescue
Favorite Moment: Don’t have a specific moment, just really happy to be back after being gone almost a month between the Simply Youth Ministry Conference and our trip to Kenya. Good to be home!
Up Next: STORIES (1-off)
I am back from the Simply Youth Ministry Conference 2010 in Chicago! It took me a few days to recover from a packed weekend. I learned a lot of tips and youth ministry ideas, but the biggest thing I learned was this: Every involved youth worker should go to a conference like this. Here are 3 reasons why.
A time of learning – I learned a lot. There were so many opportunities to take a class on a subject that will help me to stay in ministry for the long haul. SYMC offered classes on marriage, volunteer training, games, counseling, conflict resolution, preaching, & teaching. I chose the Helping Hurting Kids track and I benefited from probably one of the least discussed topics but one of the most influential problems all teens face — teen depression and addiction. I believe we all need to learn more if we are going to help teens through their adolescence.
A time of encouragement – The worship and camaraderie I was able to participate in was very therapeutic. I met many people I have had the honor of speaking to online through the SYM Podcast. Getting to meet Doug, Josh, Matt, and Jana in person was awesome. It felt like seeing old friends for the first time in a long time. I also got to meet Andy B in person after so many emails for products. I also met new people like D.C., Matt K., Rick Lawrence, Tom, and many others. Tim Timmons really encouraged me through his worship leading and a few of his songs are STILL stuck in my head.
A time of rest – Youth Ministry is T. O. U. G. H. with a capital STRESSFUL. Dealing with tough kids, tough parents, boards, elders, pastors & ministers can take a lot out of you. We don’t tend to take time for ourselves because we are so committed to getting it right as often as possible. We overwork ourselves to the point we lose much of our drive and passion. Taking a weekend to listen to others who are doing what you do and understand your faith, love, passion, hurts, and struggles can only benefit. I felt loved on. It had been 7 years since I had been to a large convention like this. I forgot how much I needed it. Now that I am back, I feel stronger. There isn’t a huge list of things to tell people about the conference itself other than the encouragement I received. I did come back with this though: the passion and desire to help hurting kids. I think that was worth the admission alone.
Mike Lewis is the Youth Minister for the Westside Church of Christ in Beaverton, Oregon. He writes a blog that might be worth reading at www.bigmikelewis.blogspot.com and will gladly be your friend on Facebook, too.
Sometimes the best way to get a point across is to put it in a different light. You now know a few ways to botch up an altar call. Please do not employ them. Do the opposite. You may already do some of them. Don’t let pride keep you from changing and doing things in a Biblical fashion. The bottom line is how true we are to Christ and His word. Effectively reaching the lost is our purpose. Let nothing hold you back from that agenda. May God bless you as you seek to win people to Christ in youth group, Bible clubs, churches, conferences, and in on the street witnessing encounters.
Allen Atzbi is a Youth Pastor at Element Church – he’s botched a ton of altar calls himself.
While at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference I heard a couple people in different situations mention something that I’ve been wrestling with. And I know that this isn’t a typical venue for discussion. Typically this is more of a “here’s some info”, “here’s something to think about”, or “here’s a resource” and then you just do with it whatever you want. But this post isn’t so much a declaration of some kind of truth or some kind of ground breaking idea. It’s more of sharing my heart on an issue and hoping that there are others out there struggling with the same thing and ones that could share in this discussion.
The issue is not feeling like you can do ministry at a church building. I know this train of thought has been around for a while but I’ve encountered it more lately. If you haven’t come across this or don’t know what I’m talking about, the basic idea is that you can’t do effective ministry at a church building because teenagers (and some adults) feel uncomfortable at church. They say that when people who aren’t Christians are at a church they feel uneasy. They feel like they can’t be themselves. They feel like they have to be “good” or “fake”.
In some ways I can understand why a person would worry about this. Many church buildings are old buildings with a lot of ornate fixtures and there are even some “off-limits” rooms. This causes some to feel more like they’re at a library or a museum than at God’s house. (maybe they feel like they’re at their grandma’s house minus the plastic covered furniture)
But is this a true perception? Is this just something that those of us on the “inside” think that non-Christians feel? If this perception is true, do we just accept it and do our best to get away from the building?
Now, let me say that in my ministry, we do have groups that meet in homes on Sunday nights. We do that for a number of reasons but one of the biggest reasons is to create a comfortable, open feeling. So, in that way I understand this idea of feeling more comfortable elsewhere. But what are we saying to people and specifically to our teens when we say that we can’t do effective ministry at the church building. When we feel like we have to go to Starbucks or to the mall or someone’s house…what are we saying about the church building? Are we hurting the effectiveness of our programs that are at our buildings? I mean, more than likely, you have at least one program, and it’s probably your big, crowd program that is at your church building. And if you feel like you can’t effectively minister and connect with teenagers at that place, then your program is going to suffer.
Here’s the bottom line for me: we all don’t have nice, new buildings and we don’t all need them. But we should all recognize the privilege and the blessing that it is to have a place to call home for our ministries. If you feel like you can’t minister effectively there, then either you’ve got issues you need to work on and get past or you need to find a way to better utilize this ministry tool that God has blessed you with.
Joe Thompson is the Youth Minister at Fairmount Christian Church. I know him better as http://bethshusband.wordpress.com.
No red flags were waved, no sirens were sounded, and no one pulled me aside to sit me down and warn me. The day I answered God’s call to full time youth ministry I really had no clue what I was getting myself into. I’ll admit…if someone had warned me about the struggles of youth ministry I probably would have run the other direction. It’s been over ten years and I love what I do, but it’s come with many lessons not taught in any seminary class or youth ministry seminar.
I remember the first big lessons I learned in youth ministry. I had been serving as a volunteer Youth Director for a church in North Jersey for three years when everything came crashing down. I had turned ministry into a business and soon found myself stepping down from my position. Not because I wanted to, but because I was asked to stepped down.
During my three years as their youth director I accomplished some amazing things. Notice the key word; “I.” I was able to organize and prepare winter retreats, summer camps, and many other events. I was able to stand before a group of students and speak. I was able to lead my adult volunteer staff and persuade them to follow me. But what I wasn’t doing was allowing God to lead the team of adult volunteers or plan the right events. I wasn’t allowing God to speak to the students by allowing Him to speak through me. I wasn’t allowing God to train and teach me what I needed to know about youth ministry by deepening my own faith. Everything I did was centered on what I wanted to see happen. My view of youth ministry was based on what I saw in magazines, websites and the occasional youth ministry conference where entertainment was the focal point of the weekend. Bottom-line…I ran the youth ministry like a business. I operated the same way in ministry as I did in my secular job (I was customer business rep for a nation wide copy center).
It was spring and I was neck deep in planning the 30Hour Famine. A few days went by and I continued with my agenda, planning the upcoming 30Hour Famine. Then one night my roommate and youth leader at the time knocked on my door. “Can I talk to you?,” he asked. “We need to talk about this coming weekend and the 30Hour Famine.” Once again my all business attitude took over as I assumed he wanted to discuss the details of the weekend. So I went into self-centered mode and began to share my thoughts and ideas as well as how awesome (fun) the weekend will be with the many things “I” had planned. In the nicest way he could, he cut me off with these words; “Brian, the Pastor and the leadership has decided you won’t be involved in the 30Hour Famine. Pastor will be stopping by to speak with you. I’m just here to get any information you have about the event so the leadership team can make a decision whether to cancel or postpone the event.”
I was so wrapped up with my own agenda and my own way because I was a “big shot youth director” I totally missed what I had done. As a result of my pride and self-centeredness the pastor asked me to step down as the youth director for an undetermined amount of time. “Ministry is about your relationship with Christ. I’m afraid you haven’t grasped what that truly means. Ministry is not meant to be run like a business,” pastor stated.
My heart was broken as I realized what I had done. That night after meeting with Pastor I spent what seemed like hours on my bedroom floor crying out to God asking for forgiveness, asking for restoration, and seeking the Holy Spirit for answers. That night I realized the truth, but I had put planning and organizing ahead of relationships; relationships with people and my relationship with Jesus.
There’s more to this story, but for the sake of editing and size I’ve shortened it. The point is nothing you do in ministry will ever be more important than your relationship with Jesus. Focus on growing deep in your own faith, not running a business. Youth ministry is not about you.
Brian Ford is the TIMS Program Director at The Christian Retreat Center. Follow his blog right over here.