Monday, March 26, 2012

seriously, take a vacation!

This week I am using a few vacation days on Spring Break to take my family on a little adventure out of town. I am a big fan of vacation and I think more spiritual leaders need to get on board. I am shocked that so many leaders I know do not maximize their vacation time for their families and spiritual health. I seriously question if it is possible to be a healthy spiritual leader if you are not willing to let go and get away. Taking time off from work does a few things for your soul...

  • Things are going to be OK without you in the office // I know this is hard to come to grips with but when you go on vacation everything will be fine. If it's not you need to build a better volunteer base. Let go and realize things will move forward without you and that is just fine.
  • Your soul, marriage, and kids matters more than your ministry // Work and progress are deceptive at times. They lure us to believe that they are the most important things in life. Truth is that your marriage, your soul, your kids, matter so much more than anything else. Vacation helps us get a better perspective.
  • Rest makes you a better leader // A rested leader has better perspective and makes better choices. A tired leader operates on leftovers and that can be costly to the organization. Rest makes you better.
  • There is more to you than just your work // This is a needed reminder for all of us. There is more to us than what we do. Leaders who never rest become defined by what they do and not who they are.

Use your vacation. We budget and plan for it in our home because it's important to us. Even if you don't go anywhere stay home and tackle a project, read some books you have been wanting to check out, set up appointments with a local church you want to visit and learn from them. Getting away, using your vacation helps you be a better leader. Maximize that time so you can maximize your mental and spiritual health.


As for me and my blog this week, I'm on vacation! See ya in a few days!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

5 reasons not to quit

Had the chance to process ministry with some great friends last night. All of us serve kids and teens. All of us have been doing this for years. All of us have seen God do some amazing things in our family ministry here at Grace Community Church and Relevant Student Ministry. All of us still sat there, looked at the messiness of people and found ourselves asking...what are we doing wrong and why don't we see more people embrace the call to follow Christ? We all face those moments when we look around at our efforts to reach kids, teens, and families and wonder if what we are doing makes any difference at all. After an hour long conversation with my friends last night I was reminded that we simply can't give up. What we do in serving kids and teens matters too much. Reaching people is always messy, difficult and demands we walk with them through the mess. It's the mess that's hard and as long as there are people who need Jesus we have to keep waling through the mess. For all those who are tired and wonder if what they do matters here are 5 reasons not to quit...5 reasons to keep pushing through the mess...
  1. You are partnered with parents // I'm a dad and in 3 years my little girl will be a middle school student and I want mentors in my girl's life. As a parent I may not tell the small group leaders of my kids thanks but I am thankful. Parents need and want us in their kids lives. As you invest in teens and kids you are being another needed voice parents long for.
  2. Kids and Students need stability not more chaos // The next generation needs consistent leadership and when you stay focused your ministry helps create a safe place for them to confront the call of Jesus. In a world of chaos create a place of stability that can give kids and teens a safe place to grow and question.
  3. God changes lives, not your program or strategy // We know this but we often forget it. Our God changes lives. Jesus makes what was dead come to life. Our programs and strategies are not life giving, God is!
  4. You believe in your mission and calling // You believe in what you do...don't quit on the dream. God has plans and Satan would love to throw you off track. Don't quit.
  5. Your volunteer team experiences the same feelings, unite and keep serving // When you look around and wonder if you are making a difference just know you are not alone. Your volunteers are asking the same thing and I think it's healthy. When we question we evaluate and when that happens the only thing to do is trust God.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Plan now, not later

It's March. Summer is coming fast. Easter in on the horizon. You are extremely busy. I know it seems crazy but now is the time to take some time and start making some plans for fall. So many times the rush of now can push us to ignore our next big season of ministry. Now is the time to look around and see what is working and what's not. You have had plenty of time to see the results of your plans from last fall now you have to slow down and evaluate. Blocking off the time to evaluate means you take the data and feedback and try to figure out what thrived and what didn't. Planning without evaluation just leads us to the "next big thing" mindset. We need to work harder a being better at what we do rather than chasing after things that are constantly new.  Plan now because...
  1. Planning now allows us to actually spend time in prayer seeking God for wisdom. 
  2. Planning now allows us to get outside feedback. 
  3. Planning now makes sure we are in sync with other ministries.
  4. Planning now enables us to actually block time in our calendar to work on what is most important for the fall.
Planning now just makes sense but very few leaders slow down in the spring long enough to do it. Summer comes and we make rushed decisions about direction for fall. Take a day, slow down, get some planning done.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Leave chaos behind & start managing your time!

Last month our family ministry team went to a one day conference called Illuminate (great event go check it out) and got to hear Jim Wideman speak. I have never met a guy who accomplishes more than Jim. Jim writes, leads the family ministry at a thriving church, invests in his family, speaks at conferences, blogs, and coaches leaders all across the country. He even makes time to play a little guitar now and then! Jim accomplishes more than most people because he manages his time. We all have 24 hours to manage every day and we all have the same opportunity to maximize or waste the time we have been given. Most of us never actually plan when we are going to do each day. We allow other people to shape how we spend our time. Some of that is inevitable but the truth is that you can manage your time and you can accomplish more. Chaos does not have to be the norm, you can manage the gift of time God has given you. At Illuminate, Jim talked about some steps he took to start managing his time years ago. Check these out...

  • Planning / write how you want to spend your time, plan everything, writing, blogging, meetings, dates, birthdays, vacations. Determine what is important book it.
  • Preparation / remind yourself to get ready for what is coming up. Work ahead. Maximize the digital tools we have on our mobile devices to keep on track!
  • Evaluation / see what your results of time management was.
  • Stay on track / It is easy to get distracted and stop managing your time. Don't stop. Apply the Nike principle. Just do it.


Monday, March 19, 2012

when DRAMA strikes

Drama...if you have lead a student or college ministry for more than 2 months you have experienced it. Drama shows up because we lead people and people bring drama. You can't avoid it and you really can't prepare for it. This past week we had drama show up in our student ministry's and like always it showed up at a not so convenient time. One of our small group leaders (who is amazing) sent me a text and asked for prayer and advice and we worked through it. We never want drama but the maturity of our ministry will be tested when it comes. When drama strikes here are a few reminders...
  • Don't react, slow down and think // This is so important. Drama in our culture moves and spreads fast. Refuse to join in the fray. Stop and think instead of giving in to the pressure to respond.
  • Limit digital conversations // When drama comes text messaging and Facebook conversations really can get messy. It is so difficult to communicate your heart digitally. Make sure real conversations happen so you get the real story. Talking is much better than typing when drama hits.
  • Pray for God to be honored // Making drama disappear is not the change it the goal. Teens and college kids trapped by poor decisions need us to pray for them more than they need our advice. We forget so often that Jesus is the solution, not our advice.
  • Listen more than you talk // Most of the time we just need to be available and ready to listen. Give advice but make sure you are listening more than talking. Many times if we do all the talking we can just make the drama bigger.
  • Use drama to point people to Jesus // This is our place in the drama story...we constantly need to point people to Scripture and to Jesus. We step into drama and work to bring clarity!
What are some things you do when drama erupts in your ministry?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Dealing with chronically negative leaders

We all have them and we always will have them...chronically negative leaders. Ignoring them has serious consequences so we have to learn how to lead negative leaders. Griping about them will not help anything. These people need firm leadership and must not be allowed to wreak havoc in your ministry. Many times these are people who want to serve, want to make a difference, but for some reason always find ways to be negative. Nothing is good enough. There are always "other people" who are complaining to them. This type of leader always seems to be in crisis mode. These people need us to lead them and not give up on them because so many times these are just people who have been scarred in the past and they are serving "with baggage." They may not follow your leadership but here are a few things you need to consistently do when dealing with a chronically negative leader...
  • pray for them >> Dealing with negative leaders is draining and when we are tired and operating in our won strength it is easy to just give up on people. Pray for these leaders. pray that God will give you wisdom in dealing with them. Pray that God will soften their hearts. God can do what we can never do in the lives of negative leaders.
  • stay positive >> No matter what a negative leaders brings to you by email or in a meeting stay positive and never feed into their negativity. Negative people love negative company. Stay positive and keep revealing what good is happening all around the ministry.
  • define reality for them >> Negative leaders often get stuck on one issue which leads them to not understand the big picture. We have to have courage and define reality for people who are stuck in a negative cycle.
  • challenge them >> There will always come a time to challenge negative leaders. Challenge them to see the good. Challenge them to choose a better attitude. Challenge them to rethink their position. Challenge them to ask why they seem stuck!
  • confront them consistently >> If you really want to help a negative leader you have o be consistent in confronting them when they get off track. Make sure you consistently communicate with them, encourage them, and lead them.
  • be willing to let them walk >> At the end of the day we have to be willing to allow negative leaders to walk away from our church and our ministry. You can handle this with grace but there are times you just have to confront and allow them to walk away.
What are some things you have done to handle chronically negative leaders?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

inspiration is everywhere

Creativity is a needed asset for all of us who create environments for the next generation. As a culture we value innovation and creativity so why would we not want that to thrive in the churches we serve? We serve a remarkably creative God? Look around...He made all this. I like to think he uses a MacBook Pro right now to take care of official "Holy Business." (He might even already have the iPad 14) Seriously God is creative. God is an innovator. God also shaped and formed you to be a creative force in this world. It really doesn't matter how you are wired you can strive to be creative with whatever you are good at and with whatever you lead. If you are going to be a problem solver in the ministry you lead then you need to embrace the advantage of creativity. Inspiration really is all around you and to find it you just have to be looking.  Here is where I'm constantly looking for inspiration...
  • God's Word // Reading God's Word on a systematic basis simply opens our minds to think the thoughts of God. Naturally we miss they way God thinks. If you want to think as God thinks then read God's thoughts!
  • Blogs // I have a ton of blogs that I work through each month just to see what other people are doing. Blogs give you a chance to get inside the minds of other creative leaders.
  • Getting outside // I love to exercise and work outside. There is something about being in the space God created that brings inspiration and clear thinking.
  • Reading // Reading allows you to work through the thoughts of other leaders. Reading forces us to be focused and process with other creatives through their writing with more effort than a blog or magazine.
  • Commercials // I may be weird but I love to watch how other choose to brand their ideas and products. I love commercials! Telling a story in 30 seconds to One minute is hard work and demands creativity!
  • Conferences and Concerts // I love experiencing the concert and conference feel. I love watching how people choose to set up lights, stage, and video. I love to learn from conference planners because they are working hard to keep the attention of a distracted crowd.
  • Connecting with other leaders // There is nothing like taking time to hear the stories of other leaders. Creativity thrives in community not in isolation.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

change the pace

Every year you will have a season when you have to choose to change the pace of your ministry because the variables of your ministry change. We all have variables we face. School, sports, parents, and jobs are all variables and at different times of the year they come into play in different ways. For the student ministry I lead spring is a difficult time to connect with and invest in teens because the variables are INSANE. Honestly spring sports really have a impact on us from March to the first week of May and we have learned we have to change the pace. For two months the pace is different so our team has to choose to adjust. This is reality in our culture and we are called to serve teens in this culture. Here are a few things we do to change the pace...
  • mix it up // when it is time to change the pace it is a great tome to mix up what you do in your weekly environment. The leaders I serve with have great ideas and change of pace seasons are a great chance to try some new things. Taking some risks can really help keep people engaged.
  • embrace the surprise factor // kids show up and things are totally different. Seriously just do something crazy to surprise teens when they are get to be with you. Yea if they miss it they will regret it!
  • keep connecting // keep texting, keep calling, keep Facebook just have to keep connecting with teens even if they are too busy to be in your weekly enviroment.
  • show up on their turf // yea go where they are! Show up at a game, a play, a recital, at schoo, or at their job!
  • stay focused // our goal is to invest in each life not just draw a big crowd. Focus. Serve the teens who can be there each week and don't stress in a change of pace season. You have a mission, go for it no matter what is going on that distracts you.


Monday, March 12, 2012

the importance of youth ministry

I have been serving teens now for 15 years as a volunteer and on staff at different churches and I still need to be reminded why youth ministry is important. I need to be reminded because the truth is that student ministry can be difficult. Many times it's just easier to let teens do what they want and think they don't desire or need adults in their lives. It may be easy to ignore them but the truth is that they are desperate for adults to actually show up and invest in their life on a consistent basis. Consistency is big because so much of life today is inconsistent. The typical American dream is fading. Family life is always changing. Teens are being forced to make choices about their future (college and career) at a time when they are just figuring out who they are. Teens need consistency and they need it from the church more than ever. We named our student ministry Relevant Student Ministry because we really believe in a culture that is continually changing Jesus is the one thing that will always be unchanging. Jesus is relevant today and forever. Student ministries all across the country have the chance to partner with the church and with families to lead teens to Jesus. That's why what we do in youth ministry is important. Here are three factors that make what we do in youth ministry significant for the future of the church...
  • Youth ministry is discipleship not just gathering a crowd >> Our goal is to help teens follow Christ with all of their life. We are not just trying to reach teens, we are also trying to shape them to look more like Jesus. This is not hype. We see this happen by leading teens to engage in worship, study God's Word through relevant teaching, and process faith through small group led by adult mentors. Our hope is to lead teens to be followers of Jesus with all their life.
  • Youth ministry can reach teens in a city for the Church not just a church >> Many teens don't go to their church because it's unhealthy and they know it is not working. Youth ministry gives us a chance to reach teens in our city and lead them to Christ. Youth ministry is not just about a single church it's about advancing the mission of the universal Church God is advancing. We have reached teens in our city who will then plug into church with their family at a different church. We are here to serve our city not just our church.
  • Youth ministry can connect teens to the mission of the church >> Teens need a bridge to encounter the larger mission of the church and we can be that bridge. Teens can serve now with other adults in the church. Teens can go on mission trips now with the church. Teens can worship and grow together with the church. Connect a teen to the church today and they will connect with the church in college!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Take your kids on a mission trip! Here's why...

Involving kids in mission work is vital to helping them understand the mission of the church. We try to get kids plugged into missions as soon as they hit Kindergarten and enter our kids ministry by serving as families in a yearly missions experience we call Operation Serve. We want them to understand that the church was formed to serve the world, to spread the message of Jesus, and to join God in bringing healing where there is hurt. I have been taking my family on our high school mission trip to New Orleans for the past three years and I have watched that week shape the hearts of my little girls. Yes, I know taking kids on mission trips is risky. Yes, kids can see some crazy things. Yes, our work in New Orleans is hard. When we serve as a family we get to shape their perspective of what it means to serve others and the necessary risk it takes to obey the call of God. If you are a pastor and you have kids then here are a few reasons you should take them with you on your next mission trip...well this also goes for any of you who are parents...
  • Kids need to see other adults and teens serve // I have been so blessed to have so many amazing teens and adult leaders model what serving looks like to my kids on mission trips. My kids have found their ministry heroes by watching other adults, teens, and college students on mission trips. Kids need to see other people who get it besides mom and dad.
  • Kids need to understand what other people in our world go through // My kids have seen other children who don't have shoes. They have met other little girls who don't have any new clothes. My girls at 5 and 8 have seen poverty. When you take your kids on mission trips you get to help them process how God calls us to be part of the solution to poverty and injustice.
  • Kids need to see parents serve and sacrifice // You are the greatest influence in your kids life and they need to see you serve and take risks. I am convinced that when our kids see us serve they have a better shot and embracing mission work for the rest of their life.
  • Kids want to do ministry with you // Your kids want to be a part of your adventure. They see you serve week in and week out in the church so why not take them along when you go outside your normal routine to experience ministry in an entirely new setting. Some of our families greatest memories have come out of serving others during the summer in New Orleans. Those are memories of significance because they are connected to Jesus!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

FREE STUFF / Balloon Blob game

In our middle school service last night we played a game called Balloon Blob. Yea, it was pretty funny. we had 2 teams of three and we had guys go against girls. The goal was simple. Blow up as many balloons as possible and take them to one member of the team creating a blob. The girls won of course. There ya go, a free game idea and here is the graphic. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Connect teens to the #Kony2012 movement

We have believed in the work of an organization called Invisible Children for many years at Relevant Student Ministry and now the time has come to help students connect with a movement that is launching over the next two months. Our world has changed. We are connected. We cannot just ignore injustice and pretend it does not exist and the teens we lead know it. The film I am posting and asking you to watch was released 2 days ago. I watched it last night and by this morning I had been contacted by 6 teens and college students wanting to take action and join the movement. Teenagers have already formed a plan for our city and we will be supporting them in the effort. We will be leveraging a city wide worship gathering called REMIX UNITED on April 4 at Rossview High to help teens understand what Jesus says about the poor, the needy, the hurting, and His desire to rescue our own souls. I am asking student pastors all across the country to slow down today and process how we can use our influence to help young boys forced to be child soldiers and little girls driven into sex trafficking. Please take 27 minutes an watch this film and then pray about how you can be involved. Your teens are ready...will the church join them?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

4 ways for student and kids pastors to work together

For years there has been a great divide between kids and student ministry. We each did our own thing and ignored the other. The good news is that churches are figuring out that this mindset is not really helpful for families or the church. The bad news is that all of us (children's and youth pastors) have to figure out how to connect and serve together. Today I had the chance to connect with a Jonathan Cliff and the next generation team at Trinity Church in Lubbock, TX. We talked some about how youth ministry and children's ministry could connect and serve together. Here is what I think all of us can do to work together with a united vision to partner with families and reach students...
  1. Embrace the strategy not the details // Youth pastors and kids pastors need freedom to craft innovative environments that work for their target audience connected with a vibrant, intentional strategy. Most division comes when we mess with each others details. Leaders need freedom. When we fight for strategy and not details we give each other that freedom.
  2. Learn from each other // Youth pastors tend to take more risks because we were called to reach a very risk filled demographic. Children's pastors tend to create amazing structured environments that fuel spiritual growth and safety. What I have learned is that we need each other in order to really make an impact in the lives of families today. Stop, listen, and learn!
  3. Celebrate wins together // This flows from relationship! When kids pastors and student pastors know each other they begin to care for each other and know what is a win to each other. When we are connected we can celebrate wins together.
  4. Give advice and ideas. Don't make demands // We need each others input and not blanket demands of how things should be done. Take a step out and share ideas but also be willing for your ideas to not be picked as the best. Ideas breed innovation and both children's and youth pastors have great ideas for other ministries. Giving input is a gift. You give it then step away unless invited in to take it further.

Monday, March 5, 2012

CELEBRATE your volunteers

This month at Grace Community we are working hard to celebrate our volunteers. Every week volunteers make it possible for our church to reach people in our city with the message of Jesus. Volunteers at our church lead worship, serve in the parking lot to greet people, welcome guests at each door, lead kid's small groups, run sound boards, man the video cameras, rock babies in our nursery, sing with crazy preschoolers, and ensure that every guest who checks out our church has the best experience possible. Our volunteers are leaders who have a servant's heart. Here are a few things we try to do to celebrate what God is doing through them throughout the year...

  • Host a Volunteer Banquet // This year for the first time we are hosting a banquet for our volunteers and we are going to have a blast. We hope to inspire them, laugh with them, and encourage them on the same night. We do this once a year but we are placing a ton of effort into the night to make it special. Will recap this event after March 17!
  • Celebrate their birthdays // This year we are sending a small gift to every volunteer on their birthday. We found small basketballs and had them personalized for our voolunteers with our logo and a short message on them. We sign each one as a staff and mail them out each month. Everybody loves to be remembered on their birthday.
  • Honor them // In our student and college ministry we try to call out a few volunteers each month and honor them in our training meetings. We also highlight volunteers through social media throughout the church just so we can honor what they are doing to make a difference.
  • Encourage them // We try to make sure that everyone on our staff knows that encouraging volunteers is a big deal. We sent out emails and notes often just to let volunteers know we care and we value them. We also try to make sure that we are encouraging volunteers on a regular basis in our worship gatherings. We want them to know they are on our team.
  • Support them // Volunteers need to know that they have a group of people to support them when things are not going well. We try to make our teams feel like family. When volunteers hurt we all hurt with them and try to walk with them.
  • Make it fun // Every chance we get we try to have fun as we serve. Volunteers love to laugh and we try to do as much of that as possible. We are even brining in a comedian to our volunteer banquet because having fun is a big deal.



Friday, March 2, 2012

The end of youth pastors...not really

Mark Oestreicher, a distant youth ministry mentor of mine, recently wrote a post I hope you will read called the coming era of non-professional youth ministry. Things are changing in the youth ministry landscape. Not every church is opting to hire a staff member to just focus on reaching teens. Not every church has a full time position for their student pastor. Just like every other pastoral postion in the church, roles are being evaluated. Some people are being let go and some people are getting new jobs that meet the needs of the church in 2012. These are days of change and youth ministry is not exempt from the shift. One thing I know for sure is that God will continue to lead and gift people to invest in the lives of teenagers. Another truth is that God calls people to be pastors, to ministry not just to be youth pastors. If you serve on a church staff you are called to be a pastor not just an age group leader. People who serve on church staffs better begin to undertsnad that our role is to fight for the church and Kingdom of God not just our ministry area. The days of building a seperate youth ministy kingdom as an attachement to the church are coming to an end. If you want to do that then please go plant a church or launch a non-profit organization focused on teens. Youth ministry in the future is going to be about making disciples, reaching the unreached, empowering the local church, and partnering with parents. If you feel like God has created you to invest your life in the next generation then these are your next steps...

  • Don't worry about your title // your title might look a little crazy in the future. I have never "just" been the student pastor here at my church because I have been doing multiple things to advance the mission of my church. I love serving teens but I do many things here in my church.
  • Add VALUE to your team // be willing to not only lead your ministry to grow but help your church to grow. Be willing to partner with differnent ministries in your church to make things better. As a leader called to the next generation you have insight your team needs and gifting that other ministries in your church need.
  • Become a better pastor and servant leader // understand you can't live in a silo you build. You are a pastor on a church staff so step in and begin to invest in people and serve where your senior pastor needs you to.
  • Grow up // seriously get organized, start reading, keep learning, stay humble, and add disipline to your life. There will soon be no place to hide for people who are not willing to work hard and grow up. Be the best person, parent, spouse, and pastor you can possibly be. God will always open doors for people who are hard workers and gifted leaders.
  • Stay focused // reach teens, invest in teens, mentor teens, and push teens to serve in your local church. This is what we do and their will always be a need for it. Teens are not the future of the church, they are the church.


Thursday, March 1, 2012

FREE STUFF / home made fireworks!

Our team was shown this video today and I can honestly say I have not laughed this hard in a long time. We are going to use this video soon to promote, or an event, or a message series, or just to have fun! This is way too good, check it out. Enjoy the great FREE STUFF!