Thursday, August 30, 2012

You need your own small group!

Yea, I am serious. You need your own small group and it does not need to be filled with kids, teens or college students. If you serve in any family ministry area you can never allow your passion to connect with the next generation to keep from from needed relationships with other adults. You need community and connection just as much as the teens or kids in the ministry you lead need it. Here area a few reasons you need your own small group...
  • You need real friendship not connected with the ministry you lead. // yep, you need adult relationships that have no connection on the ministry you lead. Having these relationships will help you have a bigger perspective and in end simply make you a better person!
  • You need to set the example. // you are asking people in your ministry to connect in small group so you need to set the example in your life and have that same community in your life. You are setting he example for your ministry but also for your own kids if you are a parent!
  • You need others who will help you grow spiritually. // living life, studying the Bible, processing big ideas, having fun, and processing pain IN COMMUNITY leads to growth. Growth in isolation leads to a false sense of progress that is only knowledge based. Community frames what we learn so we can apply it in real life.
I know for me I struggled with the idea of being in a small group since I was "doing" so much in ministry. Being in an adult small group was one of the best moves I ever made in ministry.

Have you struggled to find community outside your ministry?  If you are in a small group how has it made a difference in your life?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

4 reasons to join a coaching network

Coaching is a big deal these days. It seems that everywhere we turn there is a leader offering a coaching network. I know many of you out there might be skeptical of why you even need coaching but I promise that this new wave of mentoring is a good thing. Finally leaders across our country are blocking off time and offering one on one mentoring to help other leaders go further faster. I feel like it's a good trend and here are 4 reasons you might want to join a network...
  1. You are in a season of change >> in times of constant change or struggle coaching networks can help you stay sane. There is nothing like having a group of leaders around you during times of change who can have your back.
  2. You are in a new ministry role >> when you are starting a new position coaching networks can help you get a better foothold on leadership needs in your new setting. New brings opportunity to reboot!
  3. You need a new perspective >> many times when you are facing challenges during a season of ministry it is good to have an outside perspective to help you navigate key decisions. A coaching network can give you a group to help you gain that fresh perspective.
  4. You are looking for some fresh training >> many times leaders have been to several conferences and they just want to mix it up with their ongoing learning. Plugging into a coaching network is a great way to learn tons from other leaders right where you are at. 
Maybe it's time to check out a coaching network. If you are a student ministry leader my friend Terrace Crawford is putting together his next coaching group. Terrace is a leader who gives his group a ton of personal investment and connects them to other high impact ministry leaders. Check out what he is doing this year on his blog.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Why Holiness Matters

Holiness...not a word we enjoy to throw around very much. We say it and we immediately know it is something we are not. We see it as an unreachable idea since it's a word we use to describe God. We avoid it because we believe we can never match up to the power of the idea. We don't teach on it because it has been abused and turned into to a list of do's and don'ts. If we follow certain rules we will then be holy. The problem is that how can a list of behaviors lead to holiness when it is a word we use to describe the very heart of who God is. God is holy, without blemish, without fault. Seems impossible but still in the Bible we are called to strive for holiness. Yes it's in the Bible...God is calling us to holiness. That should be enough for our generation but we still make so little of sin and seem to embrace it as the new normal. We allow grace to cloud the needed tension in our call to be holy. I am working through a book from a young leaders named Tyler Braun called Why Holiness Matters. This is a needed examination of holiness from a next generation leader trying to navigate our current cultural context. I am in the middle of processing the book but I wanted to share some of the early highlights that stand out to me and encourage you to check out the book. We need young leaders to help frame doctrine in a way that people can embrace and live out today. This book is simply a call to not run from holiness but to confront it and strive toward it in the middle of our evident imperfection. This week I am going to give away a copy of the book. Just leave a comment with your name, email, and name of the church you serve at and I will draw a name at the end of the week and mail you a free copy. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from my time processing the book...
  • We've gone from a holy, set-apart people of God to a people with shared beliefs who live no differently than the culture around us.
  • Holiness is new affections, new desires, and new motives that then lead to new behaviors.
  • God is calling us to a better way. Will we reflect the world around us or the God inside us?
  • In a Christian culture that does not value innocence, it is no wonder our generation is often indistinguishable from the culture around it.
  • His (God's) holiness is incredibly intimidating to us, especially because we have been taught holiness is found in perfect living.
  • The consequences for sin are not merely found in God's wrath, but in the ruined relationships all around us.
  • As it burrows its way further into our minds, shame leads to indifference, intolerance, lack of vulnerability, and lack of intimacy with others.
  • In our desire to be noticed we often end up forfeiting the ability to live a humble life. Our eyes seem forever fixed on ourselves.
  • Holy life is found by engaging in relationship with God, who pushes us into vulnerable relationships with others.
I hope you will pick up this book and process it for no other reason but to take another glimpse at the idea of holiness. I believe God could use this book to help our generation reframe holiness and embrace a different way to live it out. Check the book out and make sure and leave a comment this week (August 27, 2012) to have a shot to win a free copy!

Monday, August 27, 2012

4 ways to be effective with multi-site family ministry

More and more family ministry leaders are having to figure out how to facilitate ministry on multiple locations as more and more of the churches we serve are embracing a multi-site strategy. We launched our second campus over a year ago now and it has been a learning process week after week. After a year I strongly believe that this will not be our last campus addition because it has allowed us to engage a local community instead of asking the communities in our city to come to one location. The fact that it's working is pushing our family ministry team to find ways be be effective at both our locations. Growth has pushed us to figure this out and figure it out fast. It has been messy at times but we have committed to being flexible and having fun as we learn how to make this work on multiple locations. Here are 4 ideas that have helped us be more effective as we have lived in the multi-site model the past 1 1/2 years. Check these out and feel free to jump in a let me know some lessons you have learned...
  1. Duplicate the environment and constantly cast vision // Give your new campus the best tools possible and duplicate the environments. Make sure that when a parent walks into any campus they see they same branding and quality. Set your new campus up with the tools you wish you had when you launched your first location. You have a strategy so make sure and put it into motion at every campus. You also have a new leaders that will need to hear the vision repeated over and over. Why is just as important as what on your new campus.
  2. Invest in the volunteer base and help solve problems // Launching a new campus demands high impact volunteers. You will need to make sure and invest in those leaders. New locations also bring new problems. Let your volunteers know you care about their success by helping solve their problems. Helping solve problems communicates we care and for a new campus that is so important.
  3. Be present and add staff ASAP // Your family ministry staff has to be present on the campus in order to build relationships but you also have to work to find your point leader for that campus quickly. If your campus grows you need to add family ministry staff as soon as you can. Adding a staff member who can focus will help the campus become more effective on a week to week basis. All our family ministry staff spends time on both sites. Bring present helps us put everything into the proper context.
  4. Embrace uniqueness and innovate // A new campus will form a new culture and you need to be ready to embrace the uniqueness. A new campus also gives you a chance to innovate in a smaller setting and try some new things out. Allow your new campus to dream and think outside the box. Go ahead, try something new on your second or third campus.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

minor changes can make a big difference

I know this picture does not make much sense to you but for our team at Relevant Student Ministry they know it is an aerial view of our Wednesday night venue we rent and a new traffic plan for middle school parent pick up. This is just one minor change that is going to make a big difference for our ministry this year. It will keep teens safe and maximize the limited space we have. Last night was our first night to try it and besides a little frustration from parents having to face a new system it changed the dynamic of pick up process. What I am learning this semester is that as you grow it is mostly overlooked systems like parking, small group space allocation, and people flow that will help your ministry grow. I know we all love new banners, t-shirts, projectors, or lights but at some point as you grow effective systems are the key to maintaining momentum. The best thing any student pastor can do as they grow is to allow gifted administrators to lead the process of system innovation. Listen to those leaders. Allow them to dream and create effective systems. Give them freedom to try new things out. When you let these leaders help you then you will find you have more time to cast vision, connect with teens, and focus on doing only what you can do as the leader. Want to keep growing? Just reminding you that you might want to do a systems check and make some minor changes for major impact!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

5 ways to set young leaders up for success

I am a huge football fan and love my Tennessee Titans and Volunteers. This week we found out that the Titans are naming their young second year quarterback Jake Locker as their starting QB. Jake is young with tons of potential and now this is his time to lead the team. There is a lingering question floating around with fans right he too young? Does he need to wait? These are valid questions but at some point this young quarterback has to be given the chance to lead and prove himself. I know none of us are general managers of an NFL franchise but even in our organizations young leaders need a chance to shine. Young leaders are most effective when they are set up to succeed. Yes, there are things you can do to help the next generation of leaders to have better chance of making a difference. Here are a few ways to set young leaders up for success...
  1. Never leave them on an island // isolation leads to mistakes and frustration. Young leaders need to know they are part of a team and there are others they can come to for advice and clarity. Leaders who have proper support learn quickly and lead with confidence.
  2. Allow mistakes to happen and embrace teachable moments // we all learn from mistakes but many times young leaders need help framing how the mistake impacts the organization. Young leaders need freedom to make mistakes with help from others to help place mistakes in perspective.
  3. Provide consistent feedback // we all need feedback but young leaders need it more frequently. Consistent feedback keeps everyone on track and fuels improvement.
  4. Define clear expectations // young leaders have to know what you want from them. What are your expectations. You will never be able to hold anyone to expectations they do not understand. Make sure you set the bar in a way that young leaders can embrace and work toward.
  5. Push for excellence and celebrate wins consistently // demand hard work and consistently celebrate wins. Look for wins everywhere. Celebrate wins even in the middle of hard times. Young leaders need to know what is celebrated in your organization because that is what will be repeated.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

4 marks of a great small group leader

It's fun to watch new small group leaders start the year off leading their groups. With the new school year cranking up this is the time when the foundation for a great year is constructed. I use the word constructed because a healthy small group never happens by accident. An effective group happens when a small group leader takes some intentional steps as they lead, right from the beginning. I have never met a group leader who walked into group with out a plan and had things go well. Great small group leaders have a few things in common. Great small group leaders are...
  • Consistent // great small group leaders make being present a priority. We only have a limited amount of hours to invest in our groups so not showing up leads to a lack of connection. The best group leaders try to block off time and make group a priority.
  • Prepared // great small group leaders walk in with a plan. It is amazing how being prepared helps bring confidence when you sit down with your group. Being prepared allows you to be fully engaged with the group.
  • Flexible // the best group leaders stay flexible. Group dynamics change over time and flexibility allows you to be effective as the group changes. Great small group leaders understand that even when all the plans change, God can still work!
  • Connected // effective small group leaders work hard to stay connected to the group. Texts, connecting at church, visits to ball games, Facebook, and email updates to parents all help group leaders stay connected and available.
When group leaders are consistent, prepared, flexible and connected to the students and parents they are leading they are going to be used by God. Help your leaders focus on these four areas and your team is going to thrive!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday Morning...

My Monday mornings have been significantly different over the past few years. In the past Monday was a day filled with excitement as our team worked toward our big day of ministry on Wednesday. Everything in me was focused on getting to our program, doing our thing, watching how God was going to work in the lives of teens at our "youth ministry." I would not say it out loud then but what mattered most to me was not what happened on Sunday morning but rather what was to come in the ministry I lead. The church I was shaping in our student ministry not the church I served on Sunday had captured my heart. When I came here to Grace Community I was determined to never go back to this place. With Grace I was able to embrace my full role as a pastor, serving the church, investing in families and not just a pastor to teens. I believe our churches need more of us to embrace our role as pastor and care about them just as we care about the individual ministries we lead. Mondays should become days where we process all God did through our church just as much as we work toward our own personal ministry goals reaching kids, teens, or college students. If you are out there and your can't embrace the church you serve in this way it's probably time to begin to ask God to give you that kind of church where you can serve, love, and live life with the same passion to give you the ministry you are called to lead. Jesus never said he was going to build his kingdom on your children's ministry or youth ministry. The idea Jesus had was the church and it is time we fight for it as much as we fight for our personal ministry areas. Your church needs your leadership and creativity. Your church needs you to lead just like you lead in your ministry area! You are a pastor so start serving on Sunday mornings like it!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

after night ONE

Last night we had our first night of the semester for our middle and high school ministries. We put hours and hours of work into publicity, planning, practice, and preparation. (that is a lot of P words!) We prayed and we wondered what God was going to do. Last night came and God honored our efforts and today we are excited about how everything went. Night one is very important but what you do the day and week after is also critical. Night one reveals so much that you can work on for the weeks to come. If we learn from night one and make adjustments we set the ministry we lead up for health for the year to come. Here are a few "after night one" areas every student and college ministry has to evaluate...
  • Environment // what was the energy like in the venue? Were people connecting? What was the vibe in the hall and in your large group room pre-service? Was there proper signage and volunteers spaced through the facility? Make time to process how you did creating the environment you wanted to create. We learned we needed a few additions to our main hall and we are working on that this week.
  • Parking and People Flow // our parking situation was terrible on night one and we had some issues moving people around. We worked on a new plan this morning. This is a big deal to parents so it has to be a priority.
  • Band and Production Teams // we try to see where our band is at and where we need to go. Night one is always a challenge but we can also learn where we need to head as a worship and tech team form night one. Proud of our team last night but I am already excited to see how our team responds next week.
  • Message // this is personal but you have to evaluate how the talk went. How was the length? Did the bottom line get communicated? Did teens engage with the series?
  • Volunteer Team // we have to make sure our volunteers felt supported and make sure we get feedback from them. I promise, your volunteers saw aspects of last night you missed. Check on how they did and what they learned.
When you process all those areas you will have a better plan for week 2. Week 2 is the week where teens are checking to see if we are real. Make sure you use what you learned after night one!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

FREE STUFF / event idea for Dads and Daughters

Helping dads of pre-teen and teenage daughters connect is not easy so when I find a good idea I have to pass it on. Every year we have a dad and daughter formal here in our area and it is a highlight for my girls. Some of my friends who run a web site called Stuff You Can Use have offered a great resource I am hoping student pastors will check out. Right from their site you can download a complete guide to how to pull off a Dad and Daughter date night in your student ministry. I can promise you if you try this event it will go well. Dads are looking for help to find ways to connect with their girls. You have the power to make it cool. It is a perfect partnership. Best part is that they are giving the packet away for free. Go check their idea out and also make sure you check the website out often. It is a great place to gain some really creative ideas to try in the ministry you lead.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

the numbers crunch

Numbers, we love them and hate them. When they are going up we celebrate. When they are lower we go into evaluation mode. When we talk about the ministries we lead we tend to mention them to our friends. Numbers are a factor for all of us but they can never be allowed to consume us. Seriously, I believe numbers can entrap us because we become addicted to them when we base our self confidence on what they are revealing to us. If we are not careful we begin to celebrate numbers more than life change in the people we lead. When it comes to numbers we have to learn to manage the tension they bring. Ignore numbers and you will not see clear and consistent trends. Hold them too tightly and your judgement will be clouded. When it comes to the "numbers crunch" here are a few rules to remember.
  • Always be honest // When we count we are always tempted to add on a few or estimate high. Trust me, don't do it. Inflated numbers never help anything. Be honest with how you track your numbers. Adding numbers that are not real always forces you to chase inflated numbers down the road. Honesty today helps you celebrate tomorrow when honest growth and life change happen. 
  • Track the data // I should not have to mention this but always keep recoreds of the numbers you want to track. Getting a count is good but being able to find that number in 2 years is priceless. Find a way to keep numbers safe so you can have needed data later.
  • Count and celebrate what matters most // Sure we track attendance in our weekly environments but we alo track stats that matter most. How many small groups are we launching? How many students are getting baptized? How many teens are plugging into our events and retreats? How many students are involved in mission trips and projects serving our community? Go ahead and have the courage to track what matters most to you!
  • Look for trends // stop reacting to numbers and start looking for trends. Numbers have to be examinded over a extended amount of time. Numbers can help you see trends that will help you plan and program more effectivly. Use data to help you make better choices. We can do all the right things and still not be effective if we are not paying attention to the data we track.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Connecting with a generation in a state of constant change

How do you create organizations, environments, and resources for a generation that is in a state of constant change? As a pastor that is what I do. I help lead an organization, create environments, and shape resources that help people discover and grow in Christ. What is tempting for me is to lead and create in a way that impacts the largest mass of people. The goal is to reach people. Seth Godin's book We are all Weird addresses the tension between marketing and creating for the mass verses trying to stand out by being often going against the grain of mass appeal. There is a tention to manage in this idea but Seth offers some great insight into the process of being OK with being a weird. The generation we are striving to reach is changing. Seth proposes that how we connect with them might need to change also because this people now embrace "weird" and many times push it forward. Here are my favorite quotes from the book. I have linked to the Kindle version on Amazon so go check it out!
  • From now on, mass market success will be the exception, the black swan. Mass is dead. Here comes weird.
  • The epic battle of our generation is between the status quo of mass and the never-ceasing tide of weird.
  • We shun the outliers, train students to conform and reward companies that create historically efficient mass market products.
  • The key element of being weird is this: you insist on making a choice.
  • Standing out takes time, money, and confidence. More of us have all three now.
  • Art at the edges is no longer an oddity, it’s the norm.
  • When we give people choice, we make them richer.
  • When an artist (not just a painter, but anyone creating new ideas and new work) is able to have his work amplified, it changes him and also raises the bar for those that would follow.
  • When you don’t feel alone, it’s easier to be weird, which sort of flies in the face of our expectation that the weird individual is also a loner. Social acceptance of weird behavior makes being weird more popular. 
  • The reason that people are walking away from mass is not so that they can buy more stuff. Material goods and commerce are not the goal, they are merely a consequence. The goal is connection.
  • We’ve been trained since birth to enforce the status quo. Our bias is to the many. To please the many. To sell to the many. To be organized to serve the many.
  • If you persist in trying to be all things to all people, you will fail. The only alternative, then, is to be something important to a few people.
  • The key lesson: humanity and connection are trumping the desire for corporate scale.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Why we believe "youth ministry" matters?

Because we host an annual open house for new families in our community and new 6th graders entering our middle school ministry our team is forced every year to ask one big question. Why do we do youth ministry? I love that we are forced to revisit the question very year because all of us drift toward auto pilot unless we are challenged. Our open house forces our team to cast vision to a new group of families every year. Here is why we create environments for teenagers at our church...

Our mission at Relevant Student Ministry is to provide every teenager in Clarksville a youth ministry that will help them find Christ and grow in Christ.

We try to focus all our energy on what Jesus said was most important ("relevant") in life...

29 Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. 30 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ 31 The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31 (NLT)

Because of our mission we have created an environment for middle school students called The Mix and one for high school students called Remix. Here is why we created this environments...
  • The Mix and Remix are two environments we have created to help teenagers gather with other teens and set aside a few hours of your week to LOVE GOD. We want to give teens a few hours to focus on what matters most!
  • The Mix and Remix are places where it is safe to set aside all our assumptions about faith and God and seek our clarity…TOGETHER. It is OK to doubt, it is OK to question. Our hope is that in the middle of the search teens will discover the unconditional love of Jesus Christ.
  • The Mix and Remix are here because there are people all around us wondering what is life all about? We want to partner with teens as they strive to lead their friends to faith in Jesus Christ. We believe that teens lead other teens to Jesus.
  • The Mix and Remix strive to help provide every teen with an adult who will invest in their life as their small group leader. Every teen needs a few adults and a few friends that will help them grow in their faith.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Top 25 Youth Ministry Blogs of 2012

My friends over at the Youth Cartel just released a great list of the top 25 youth ministry blogs. As I read the list I saw some new blogs I want to check out and some others that have been amazing resources for me over the years. You can go over to the Youth Cartel Blog and read how they came up with this list here. I wanted to share the list because following a few blogs you trust is a great way to widen your perspective and gain some new ideas for the ministry you lead. Here we go...your top 25 blogs of 2012!

2012 RankNameURL2011 Rank
1Josh Griffin
2Doug Fieldshttp://dougfields.com7
3Mark Oestreicherhttp://whyismarko.com2
4Adam McLanehttp://adammclane.com4
5Jonathan McKee
6Tim Schmoyerhttp://studentministry.org3
7Fuller Youth Institute
8Adam Walker Cleaveland
9Kurt Johnston
10Youth Specialties
11Brian Kirk, Jacob Thornerethinkingyouthministry.com13
13Jeremy Zachhttp://www.reyouthpastor.com9
14Greg Stiergregstier.org16
14The Youth Cartel
16Ian MacDonaldhttp://www.youthblog.org12
17Walt Mueller
18Youth Leader Stashyouthleaderstash.comNR
19Chuck Bomar
20Rachel Blomhttp://www.youthleadersacademy.comNR
21Mike King
21Jake Bouma
23Kenda Creasy Dean
24Matt McGillhttp://lovegodlovestudents.comNR
25Terrace Crawford


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Check out the first CD from the GCC Worship Team

This past Sunday we released our first worship album as a church. This is a five song EP that captures the five songs that have shaped our church the past 2 years. I could not be more proud of our worship and tech team for putting in the hard work to make this project a reality. After serving here 5 1/2 years I still am inspired every Sunday as I see people from all walks of life serve, worship, and live life together. You can grab the CD here online or if you want a hard copy you can also order it there also! The team called this “The Prelude” because we all believe the best is yet to come! Pumped about this first project and can't wait to see what is next!

Monday, August 6, 2012

responding to PROBLEMS

Sunday afternoon my oldest daughter and I were hanging out watching a movie when we heard a crash come from the garage. We have our priorities straight so we finished the movie together and then went to see what fell. A huge shelf, holding all kinds of stuff had came unlatched and fell on all our bikes. It was a huge mess that I had to clean up the mess. It took some time to figure out a plan but after cleaning up the disaster I found a way to anchor the shelves in the concrete blocks in our garage. In my frustration I wanted to take the whole thing out and throw it away but instead I made a few adjustments that saved the shelf for a few more years. When we have problems come up with anything we get frustrated and want to get a new car, house, TV, or phone. Problems slow us down and get in our way but rather than constantly try to "start over" we have to get used to making adjustments and moving forward. When leading a ministry the sames things happen. Volunteer problems, parent issues, lack of funding, or out of control small groups seem to pop up at the most inconvenient times. Never allow problems to cloud the goal of your mission and vision. When you face problems this fall confront them, evaluate, make adjustments, and move forward. Never let problems that come up keep you from serving the people God has called you to serve.