Thursday, September 27, 2012

Connect teens to your church

Many people spend tons of time looking at the statistics of how teens respond to the church when they graduate and head to college. The statistics can be discouraging and we are all trying to find ways to help teens discover faith in Jesus that endures beyond high school. Here is one idea that we all need to begin to embrace. If we want teens to be a part of the church after high school then we better connect them to the church during high school. If teens are a part of the church and not just a youth ministry during high school then they will look to connect with the church in college. Here are a few ways we are trying to make this happen week after week in our context...

Empower teens to serve now // we make every effort to give away important leadership roles to teens. Serving connects teenagers to other adult mentors and the heartbeat of the church.

Mission trips and serve events connected with the church // anytime a teen goes on a foreign mission trip they go with other leaders from the church. Our student ministry also joins our church in serving our city through several events we do every year uniting the church and our youth ministry.

Plan your worship gathering with the teen in mind // we try to always keep in mind with our service plans, series, worship sets, and stage look that teens will be worshiping with us. Allow teens to have a voice in your planning. This also allows teens and parents to worship together. We believe that makes a difference.

When we serve with teens, worship with teens, and encourage teens to be on mission with the church then we begin to place healthy adult relationships around them. Connecting teens to the church is not just about a healthy youth ministry it also demands a vibrant church who will make an effort. Teens know when they are wanted. Lets start making the connection.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

controlling meeting madness

Meetings...we need them but so many of us seem to be drowning with them at the same time. They control our schedule to the point we have little time to get the work done we just met about with some leader, board, committee, or group. We are a church that is seven years old and over the almost six years I have been here we have gone through different levels of meeting madness. I feel like just this semester we have found a flow that is working for our family ministry team and our staff as a whole. The best way to control meeting madness is to have an effective plan. The point of meetings is to accomplish work as a team so we want to make sure they are effective not out of control. Here is our meeting strategy for our staff right now at Grace Community. Thought you might want to see our flow and I hope it helps...
  1. all staff meeting [once a month] > our entire team gathers once a month for an all hands on deck staff meeting. Here we get to celebrate wins, cast vision, and focus on the big rocks that need everyone to give attention and effort.
  2. family ministry team meeting [once a month] > our entire family team gathers for lunch, training, and encouragement once a month. This helps to make sure we are all fighting together to create engaging environments for the next generation and also partner with parents. We are better when we are connected together.
  3. department meetings [twice a month] > on our off weeks departments (youth, kids, college, campus, worship, etc.) gather to make sure we are getting our work accomplished in our areas. This ensures we have enough time in between meetings to bring back progress after a meeting. 
  4. staff development days [three times a year] > we make sure and block off three days each year where we get away and connect away from the office for a day and just get work done together. These are days to talk vision, long range planning, and team building. We just want to make our church better on these days.
How have you learned to manage meeting madness in your organization?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

the power of a series

In every environment the use of series or themes is a powerful way to communicate big ideas and connect the dots with your teaching. I really feel like the use of the series is a needed asset for every next generation leader when teaching. The other option is to do a regimen of one night talks that struggled to help teens and kids connect where you are going as you teach. It really does not matter if you subscribe to an exegetical or topic approach to teaching, the right series title and graphics help communicate your end goal for the series. Here are 4 reasons why the use of series is important...
  1. Grabbing Attention / the use of series help capture the attention of your crowd because you are communicating a big idea with the series theme.
  2. Promoting Something New / people love things that are new and the use of series help you always have something new to pump every 3 to 6 weeks. (we try to not go longer than 4 weeks)
  3. Planing Better Talks / when we use a series we learn to spread out our content. Using a plan for your talks allows you to break what you teach down into segments and not be tempted to teaching everything at one setting. Less is more.
  4. Guiding Creativity / creativity thrives when there is a framework to work from. Boundaries actually help us see true creative potential. When you use a series your whole team has a guide to work with.
Would love to know if you use series in your next generation environments?

Monday, September 24, 2012

3 tips when immersed in a culture of controversy

If you follow the NFL at all you know that all off season the New Orleans Saints have been immersed in a controversy called "bounty gate" that led to the suspension of coaches and players. The result of all that controversy has led to three straight losses by a very talented team. Controversy can wreck any team in any organization.

For several years I served a church that had an extreme culture of controversy. Seriously, there always seemed to be a new controversy and someone was always being blamed for the situation. At every level of the church controversy seemed to always be right around the corner...another situation...a new problem...another big deal...another fight. Many of you leading in churches know exactly what I am talking about. Here are three rips when trying to lead in a culture of controversy.
  1. FOCUS // never allow other people to draw you away from your mission and into their controversy. Churches addicted to constant controversy have long abandoned their mission to make disciples and instead turned inward. If you are going to lead this kind of culture you will have to constantly help everyone focus on what matters most.
  2. CHANGE THE TARGET // if a culture is going to move away from the addiction of constant controversy then you will have to change the target. You have to define what the real win for the organization is. Trust me you can do this even if you only run your department in a church. Help your ministry move toward a healthy target. Changing the target is the heart of true leadership in any organization.
  3. LEAD COURAGEOUSLY // it will take courage to avoid the trap of fueling controversy and not move along with the crowd. You may have to stand alone and a healthy influence in a culture of dysfunction. Trust me, it's worth it and your organization needs you to be a solution instead of ignoring the problem.

Friday, September 21, 2012

5 favorite conferences for next generation leaders

I believe every next generation leader needs to get away at least once a year and hit a conference. At a conference you get to network, refuel, question, learn, worship, and reflect. It's worth the time and the resources. If you are thinking about hitting a conference this year here are my 5 favorite for next generation leaders.
  1. The Orange Conference / seriously there is no other conference out there where your entire next gen team can connect and grow together.
  2. Catalyst / really does not matter East, West, or one day versions. This is a conference every leader needs to hit.
  3. National Youth Worker Convention / every year the team at Youth Specialties does a great job of helping student pastors refuel and gain a bigger perspective in ministry.
  4. Kidmin Conference / our team has not found a better conference that focuses on reaching kids for Jesus. Amazing experience.
  5. Drive / this is a conference that North Point Community Church hosts to allow people a glimpse into their culture. Best conference I have been to hosted by a church.
What are your favorite conferences?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

community of innovation

Innovation doesn't happen in a vacuum because it always impacts other people. I know we all think that innovation happens when we hole up in isolation and come up with the next great idea. Sometimes innovation happens that way. Great ideas also happen in the midst of community when we see what others are doing, learning, teaching, and thinking. Other people help us see new possibilities and many times take our original idea to entirely different level. We all need a place where we know we will be pushed to think strategically, dream bigger, and take risks.

For me one of those places has been the Orange Conference because it's there every year I get to link arms with a larger Orange family and be encouraged to embrace innovation. During those few days we all embrace the idea that innovation is possible at every level of our ministry. We are pushed to go further, faster because we are surrounded by other people headed in the same direction we are. My staff, volunteers, and my Orange friends spread out across the country have become my community of innovation. We are pushing each other to take the risk innovation brings. That is my community of you have one?

You can join our community or innovation! Registration opens for OC13 next Thursday, September 27. For more information, please visit

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"Freeing" Your Volunteer Team

One of the best parts about the Orange Conference is getting to meet other leaders from across the country who are constantly thinking  about and leading next generation ministry. One guy I have been blessed to be able to learn from is a guy many of us call Shef. Check out this these ideas from Shef about how to change your volunteer culture...

"Freeing your volunteers." That statement can mean a million things and it really sounds good when you say it. This afternoon Tom Shefchunas helped us wrap our minds around creating ministries full of volunteers who are pumped to be there, using their talents, and seeing progress. Many of our ministries simply just have volunteers serving out of obligation. Freeing volunteers means we are actively create a culture where leaders thrive. Freeing your volunteer team is not about changing people it is about changing the culture. Here are some steps to creating that kind of culture...

Resolve yourself that this will take time. >> You don’t see a culture change your realize it has changed, change takes time. Changing a culture takes intentional long term attention and focus!

Get great people in the room. >> organizations have to get the right people on the team, the right people off the team, and the right people in the right seats. Nothing defines your team like the people on your team. A healthy culture can push people to be more! Look for people with time (willing to give their time), mature faith, and character.

Decide this is not your ministry >> Leadership is a stewardship and I am just leading once small part of it. We often build our ministry around our personality with no other foundation of a volunteer team. Not a good idea. Will my ministry outlast my time leading it? We have to empower team to the point when we leave it moves forward with strength!

Simplify your strategy and define the volunteer’s job and role. >> If you want your leaders to feel like they are important give them something important to do.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Making Exponential Change

When I go to conferences I am the guy who loves to hit every session and every breakout. I know I am sick but you never know what God has for you. This past year at the Orange Conference I had the chance to hear one of my favorite leaders, Carey Nieuwhof,  process the idea of leading our organizations through exponential change. Here are my notes from that session...

Leading change is one of the hardest things any leader has to do. Most next generation leaders love change. We love change because we know it will help the ministry grow. The people you lead are not always as excited about change because you are changing their routine. Our team at Grace Community Church understand this process because we are a little addicted to change. We also have experienced the pain of change when the people resisted the process. Today at The Orange Conference Carey Nieuwhof talked us through the process of making exponential change in our church culture. Check out these 5 steps to take and look for his ebook on this process summer of 2012.

1. Start by casting a vision bigger than yourself (your organization)
Outward vision attracts people.
A bigger vision implies bigger change.
Plot and share trajectory. Reveal where we are doing and what happens if there is no change.

2. Focus on the why behind the what.
Why is the best question a leader can answer.
Why unites.
How and what divides.

3. Set realistic expectation for everyone
Understand but don't be deterred by the cost.
People will leave.
Change before decline. Courageous leaders ask questions in their best days.
Changing what's working can create greater long term success.
Asking questions early leads to a season of conflict.
Conflict is not fun but you will have to make change before others see the need.
The greatest threat to your future success is your current success.

4. Communicate in concentric circles.
Make sure the people most invested have the most information.
Dialog with the core. / Don't make changes in isolation.
Get input from the committed. / Many times people don't want to make decisions they just want input.
Get information to the congregation.
Vision to the crowd.
Invitation to the community.

5. Be prepared to change again. You are never done.
Don't rest on your success. Don't trust in your success more than the need to change.
Stay committed to the vision but not necessarily to the methods.
Hold your model loosely and your mission tightly.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Why not unite?

What would happen if student pastors, kids pastors, college pastors, and all our volunteers united behind one unifying idea? What if we all worked together to reach the next generation for Christ and partner with parents? Truth is that this is happening all over the country as segregated ministries inside the church begin to work together instead of fighting against each other. Great things happen when we unite. There is one place every year I go to gather with next gen leaders so I can process what family ministry can be and that place is the Orange Conference. In seven months thousands of leaders will unite for several days and you join the movment by registering your team next week when registration opens. This week we have an Orange Blogger's week and several of my good friends are going to be sharing some thoughts about the process of thinking and leading Orange. Check these blogs out this week and follow along with the discussion!

Participating bloggers include:
Amy Fenton Lee, The Inclusive Church
Benjamin Kerns, Average Youth Ministry
Ben Read, Youth Min
Cass Brannon
Henry Zonio, Youth Min and Culture
Jared Massey, Small Town Kid Min
Jenny Funderburke
Jeremy Lee, Uthmin
Matt McKee
Matt Norman, It’s Pastor Matt
Michael Bayne
Nick Blevins
Sam Luce
Tom Pounder, Ministry Blackboard

Registration opens for OC13 next Thursday, September 27. For more information, please visit

Friday, September 14, 2012

a new rap...just for parents!

Not much to say other than thanks to all the moms and dads out there investing in your family. This one is for you. Check this out...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

5 ministry traps that destroy pastors

It's sad but we all know pastors and ministry leaders who fell into disastrous traps that destroyed their chance to lead their ministry. The truth is we are no different than any of our friends who fell and many of us are living life way too close to many of the same traps. Being aware of common traps can help us avoid major trouble. Here are a few traps to watch out for constantly...
  • out of control finances > nothing causes trouble like money. Financial trouble just leads to stress at home and that leads to stress at the office. Lack of discipline just pushes pastors to the the edge with an already stressful job.
  • isolation > when you try to lead alone you tend to make poor choices and push away needed healthy relationships. Leading in a vacuum only leads to bad decisions.
  • unhealthy relationships > we always have to guard against unhealthy emotional and physical relationships with the opposite sex.
  • unsustainable pace > an out of control work pace leads us to trust ourselves more that we trust God. When we trust ourselves we are simply open to tragic mistakes.
  • ministry amnesia > so many times we forget why we really do this and focus on numbers, buildings, and long range plans. Forgetting who called us and why we do this can lead us to nothing but selfish motivation.
Would love to know how you work to avoid these common traps? Praying that you and I will not be another leader who gets stuck. Fight to stay free and focused on Jesus!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

feuds, fights and the church you work at

We have heard of family feuds and recently many of watched the Hatfield and McCoy series the History Chanel produced. Feuds are messy and people always get hurt. The sad truth is that in many of our churches we have ministry feuds where people take sides and fight to win at all cost. One ministry area lines up against another and fight to protect their turn. Ministry feuds are fueled in two ways...
  • BLAME // we want our way and when another ministry area gets in the way we blame them for our lack of progress. If "THEY" would just get out of our way then our ministry would be thriving. It even makes us feel good when we have someone to blame even if they work in the office down the hall.
  • GRUDGES // we hold past struggles and problems over the other ministry forever. We never let anyone forget how the other ministry held us back. We our past memories of hurt as we negotiate to get what we want.
If you are in a feud I really don't care how your ministry feud started. There is simply no place for it in ministry and there is no way Jesus could or would ever endorse such an all too common behavior on church staffs. Feuds can only be stopped by brave leaders who will embrace humility and communicate. Embrace humility admitting you do not have all the answers and you are willing to fight for a healthy staff culture. Communicate by sitting down and working out a strategy that helps every ministry thrive in your church setting.

We have one mission and we are on one team. Let's start leading like it.

Monday, September 10, 2012

4 ways to be a better speaker for teens

Speaking in any environment is challenging. Speaking to a room packed with wild middle school students is a entirely different experience. Every week all of us who lead teens face the same challenge of connecting with a generation that demands effective communication if they are going to pay attention. Seriously, teens tune out poor communicators and it does not matter if you are leading a game, making announcements, or giving the message for the night. Teens demand effective communication so it's on us to get better at this speaking thing. Here are 4 ideas we stress with all our communicators in our student ministry...
  1. Set a time limit // seriously, 20-25 minutes is enough in your weekly environment. If you can't communicate your message with effectiveness in 20 minutes to teens they probably will not be able to retain it. Sure you will have weeks when you go over with a closing illustration but seriously set your timer because less is more when speaking to teens.
  2. Teach one BIG IDEA // we call this teaching toward a bottom line. Teach every message so teens can walk away with one big idea for the night. Teaching one big idea forces you to focus your talk and limit what you say. Focus leads to better communication.
  3. Be real // seriously teens just need you to be you. Nothing turns teens off like someone trying to be something they are not. Just be real, be you, be transparent. They need to hear from you not Andy Stanley or Louis Giglio. Nothing wrong with mentors but God wants to use you to be an effective speaker.
  4. Teach truth // I should not have to say this but never shy away from teaching the Bible to teens. They need to hear you teach the Bible in way they can grasp not 4 tips to be happy or have a better attitude in life. Teens need truth...have the courage to teach the Scripture with passion. If you have 20 minutes you better make it full of truth!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

reactivating the family in student ministry

Had the chance to do my first Google Hangout with Jeremy Zach and Andy Broad this morning to talk about the process of reactivating the family within the context of student ministry. At some pint we have to step back as student pastors and understand that our mission has to include partnering with the family...being for them...letting our guard down and inviting them to work with us. In this hangout we talk about some practical ways we are trying to reactivate the family in the student ministries we lead. Jeremy is on the XP3 team at Orange and Andy is the student pastor at Eastern Hills Church in Buffalo, NY. The hangout is around 15 minutes and I would love to hear some ways you are working to partner with families in your student ministry...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A MUST HAVE worship album for your youth ministry

A few months ago I was talking with a friend who serves on the North Point student ministry team and he told me about an album they were making for their student ministry. We got to hear some of the stuff live at the Orange Conference and now the new album from the InsideOut team at NP is available on iTunes and Amazon for you to grab.

There are 5 songs on this album that we are planning on adding to our song rotation for our student ministry. Each track is a great example of where song writing is headed when we want to connect with this generation of teenagers. Teens need and want sound doctrine and simultaneously embrace creativity. This album will push the teens you lead to embrace Jesus as their ultimate prize in life and your band will love leading these songs. Take some time and go buy the album here! Right now you can only buy the CD but I promise you want to get this quickly and start prepping your team to lead these songs!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

5 Ways to Set Your Volunteers up to Thrive

Volunteers...chances are the ministry you lead is filled with them and you need to know that a healthy volunteer team leads to a thriving ministry. Your volunteers need to be set up to make the biggest impact possible. You may not know it, but you play a huge role in that process. Instead of complaining about what your volunteer team is not doing make sure and process how you are setting them up to thrive while serving. Here are a few ways to set your volunteers to do big things in the ministry you lead...
  • Communicate consistently >> Make sure you are giving your team the info they need at the right times in the week. The right information can free a volunteer to lead with confidence.
  • Celebrate what matters most >> What is celebrated will be repeated. Make sure you and recognizing behavior that you want repeated and integrated into your culture.
  • Give your team the needed tools to succeed >> Fight to give them what they need to accomplish their mission.
  • Do what you say you are going to do >> Building trust means that you follow through with the promises you have made. Work hard at delivering on your commitments.
  • Give away significant opportunities >> Make sure your volunteers are actually able to do challenging and rewarding ministry. You want leaders not chaperones!
Healthy volunteers can make a huge difference in the ministry you lead. How are you trying to set your volunteers up to thrive?