Tuesday, July 26, 2016

When Plans Fall Through

I recently wrote a blog post for LeaderTreks about when your plans for an event fall through.  This week we are in the middle of Plan B.  It is going great!  I'll post after the week of Night Camp 16 and let you know how it goes.

In the meantime I encourage you to jump over to LeaderTreks and read the article.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Family Mission Trip

Sorry about my lack of blog posts the past couple of months.  In the last 5 weeks I've been to 3 camps and we are launching our own "Night Camp 16" (which I shall blog about at a later date) on Monday night.   So busy and time is flying by.

If you follow the blog you know that the past two years I have taken students and team members to the island of Eleuthera on mission trips.  I'm so stoked to be going on our first family mission trip to Eleuthera in a few weeks.  Our family will be doing work with Camp Bahamas and in the community.
My kids, 12, 7 and 7, will get to experience missions first hand, and my whole family will get to see what I have been so excited about the past two years.

You can check out more about my trip HERE

Friday, July 8, 2016

My Family and Summer

Here we are in the midst of the summer break months.  For most student ministries this can be the busiest season of the year.  Many student pastors take advantage of the fact that their students have more free time.  It’s camp season!  It’s mission trip season!  It’s retreat season!  It’s  music festival season!  

If you are like me you are finding yourself out of the office more and around students more and this is what we thrive on because student ministry is our passion.

This can also mean less family time for us as student ministers if we aren’t careful about our scheduling and planning.  I get the question from time to time, “Why aren’t Misha and the kids with you?”. 

I have a few reasons why they aren’t with me: 

> Fresh.  I want student ministry events to be something exciting and new when my children enter middle school.  I don’t want them to be “pros” at youth camp or the mission trip.  I don’t want them to have the schedule memorized.

> Focus.  When I’m at camp or even at Student Church on the Beach (our Sunday worship gathering  in the summer months) I want my focus to be on our students and not on my children.  

> Simpler.  It’s easier for my family.  If you have kids you know it’s often easier to take care of them at home and stick to your normal schedule.  It is more work on my wife to care for the kids away from home.  Many times the accomodations aren’t equipped to handle families.  On Sunday night it is a lot of work for my wife to go home from the beach without me and get the kids showered and into bed.  Have you seen my daughter’s hair?   Getting sand out of her head is no easy task.  Beach clean up goes much easier when done in tandem as mommy and daddy, at least it is for our family.

Life can be stressful enough as parents of twin 7 year olds and an 11 year old and throwing a wrench in the routine, for us, doesn’t make it less stressful.

Because I’m at work and the students are my focus on a trip I may see my kids throughout the day but there really isn’t quality time.  In fact I get better quality time conversations with them if I Facetime them once a day from camp or the mission trip.

Doesn’t this take away from your family?  Yes and No.  There are some things that simply come with the territory when you are in ministry.  Your family learns to be flexible.  They get used to someone texting or calling you during dinner to ask a question that could have waited until the next morning when you are at the office. 

Last week I was at camp as the camp pastor.  My only real responsibility was to get up and preach the messages and then when I walked about camp or hung out I would strike up conversations with campers.  On this trip I took my youngest to hang out with me.  He loved being outdoors all week and since I wasn’t responsible for students it was easy and fun to have him along.

How do I cope with being away from my family?  

>Technology.  In the words of Kip, "I love technology".  I sat on the porch of my cabin on our mission trip to the island of Eleuthera with Camp Bahamas Missions and Facetimed with my wife and kids.  Each day I would communicate with them.  I do the same when I’m at camp.

>Church Support.  My church understands that I must first be successful as a father if I’m going to be successful as a minister.  I’m allowed to take some comp time after trips such as camps or mission trips.  I usually take them near the end of the week so I can spend 3 or 4 days at home with my wife and kids.

You may “tick” differently and function fine with your kids running around at camp or on a mission trip.  If that’s you I say “go for it.”

  Figure out what works for your family and make sure there is balance but most importantly keep your family as your priority above your job.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Teamwork Takes Work

You survived the interview process, you moved to your new church, you are still unpacking boxes at home.  You have sat in your nice new office and asked, “Now what?”.   What is next for you?

What if you arrive to a student ministry that already has an existing team of volunteers?  Great!!  What a blessing and what a place to find yourself in!  Now it’s time to work with this team.  If there is anything I have learned over the years about teamwork is that teamwork takes work.

Get to know them.

Spend some time with the team.  Create some space and time for your team to get together and just have fun.  Building relationships takes time but I have found that having fun together is a great way to start off a relationship.  
Spend some time with each team member individually.  You may meet them for coffee, lunch, have their family over to dinner.  Ask questions that will help you come to know them and understand their personality, their passions, what they view as priority in ministry.


Most of us who find ourselves in the position of youth pastor have the same gift as senior pastors, the gift of gab.  We like to talk and some even like to hear themselves talk.  We can’t get to know others if our voice is the only voice being heard.  Focus on listening.  Ask the questions about the past, ask about their dreams for the future of the student ministry.  Listening shows that you truly do care about their opinions.  It may not mean you are going to act on all of their suggestions but at least you will listen and weigh out what they have to say.


Pray together as a team.  Pray for each other.  Know their prayer needs.  Pray for them individually both in your own personal quiet time and when opportunity arises to pray with them.
Prayer can bring your together in unity like nothing else can.  Don’t get caught up in praying for Bill’s Aunt Ethel’s toe injury.  Focus on spiritual needs as individuals as well as what you feel you need to pray for the youth group.

Share the why.

Sometimes people struggle the most with change if they don’t know the “why” behind the change.  Your arrival represents a certain amount of change.  This team may have had a rough experience under the previous leadership.  This team may be tired having carried the load of ministry without a leader for months or even years.  This team may have been functioning great without a leader. 
There is so much potential for damage if the new youth pastor arrives on the scene and immediately starts changing things.  When change has to happen make sure to have the meeting before the meeting.  Sit down with the team and explain the coming change and why the change is going to take place.  Listen to their input and possible fears about the change.  Hopefully if we communicate the “why” behind the change the team will understand and follow and support the change.

Have Fun!

I know I mentioned this earlier but get together and have some fun.  When was the last time you took the student ministry team bowling without any students?  When did your team get together at someone’s house for a game night?  When did you eat pizza together because you didn’t have to? (the good pizza, not the single topping or just cheese)  Party together.  If you spot someone on the team who has a nack for organizing fun fellowship get together with that person and brainstorm on some fun your team could have together.

Love your team!  They are your biggest supporters and your best backers.  They will gladly dive in the trenches and serve with you when they know you genuinely love them.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Team Work!

You survived the interview process, you moved to your new church, you are still unpacking boxes at home.  You have sat in your nice new office and asked, “Now what?”.   What is next for you?

I remember when I started it was me, myself and I.  That is not the make up of a very good student ministry team.  I learned rather quickly that I needed to surround my self with others who love ministering to students and to lead the way on building a team of volunteers.

Not having a team is a dangerous place to be.

Protection - you need to be protected from any allegations that could jeopardize your ministry or the reputation of your church.  Never, never be alone with students.  A team gives you that safety net for you, the church and the students. 

Burn Out - you may start off killin it in ministry getting everything done, all details in order, planning great events but eventually is will catch up to you.  You will get tired, worn out and find yourself in a physical and emotional place that just isn’t healthy. 

Create a Culture - if you go for a year or two doing student ministry alone you will help create a mindset of “that’s why we hired you.”   You’ve been doing great all along without any help why should we jump in and serve now.

- when you serve alone you create a vacuum devoid of any input or advice from others who have the same passion to invest into students lives.  Everything depends on what you come up with.  Creativity can be stifled.  This is why some youth pastors only last a couple of years at a church.  Once their “bag of tricks” is empty they don’t know what else to do so they move on to a new church and start all over.

Build the Team

The List - compile a list of every possible type of volunteer your student ministry could use.  Small group leaders, foodies, event planning, transportation, teaching material, tech, etc.
I have always wanted a grandpa and grandma to be at our front door and high five and hug students as they arrive and then to do the same when the students leave.  Think outside the box.  If I could have a team with everything . . . .   You never know you might have some folks in your church who have incredible untapped talent and leadership skills to help you.

Eagle Eye - keep an eye out for the adults in your church who you see have an automatic connection to students.  That young couple you see standing in the aisle after every worship service talking with teens, go to them and invite them to coffee and discuss the possibility of them serving with you.  Let them know what you see in them and the potential that exists to impact the lives of these students.

Gather and Cast - gather together those who you think might have an interest in joining you on this adventure.  Make some coffee and buy some really good pies (everyone loves to be fed good food).  Have them over to the house for a meal.  Then cast the vision of where the student ministry is going and your ultimate goal for a student’s life.  Then let them know how they can be involved in helping change lives and disciple teens.

Share the Excitement - you are passionate about student ministry, that is why you do what you do.  Some people may not be involved but when they see your passion and hear the exciting things happening they may jump on board.  When we hear “Help!” we picture in our mind someone drowning.  We don’t want to ask people to help.  We want to invite them on an adventure.
I learned this at a Refuel Retreat with LeaderTreks: When someone in the church asks you how the youth group is doing don’t respond by saying, “It’s going great”.  Respond by first stating your purpose in a sentence or two, then follow that with a 3 or 4 sentence story of something exciting that has happened recently. 
Looks like this:
“Hey Andy.  How’s the youth group?”
 My reply would be, “You know we are reaching students to discover life in Christ.  We took students on a mission trip and for a total of 6 weeks they worked though a quiet time journal.  Billy asked me when he was done what he should do next and I suggested study the book of John.  Billy journaled his way through John and has told me he is now in the book of Acts.  We are seeing students growing in their faith.  Will you join me in praying for Billy and the other students to continue to grow in their faith?”
This is like fishing.  You throw out the bait and then you set the hook.  If nothing else you will be spreading the excitement of what is happening in student ministry in your church.  When people see something exciting they want to jump on board.

(my next post will be about arriving to an existing team of volunteers)

Monday, May 23, 2016

Great Mission Trip Opportunity

If your student ministry is in search of a great mission trip opportunity at an affordable price then I highly recommend CB Missions.  Camp Bahamas is doing incredible outreach and ministry on the island of Eleuthera and their camp is reaching the children and youth of the Bahamas.  Our group has gone to Camp Bahamas and Eleuthera the past two years and both trips have been a great students for our students and leaders. 

Here is our video from this year:

Team Eleuthera 2016 from colemanshots on Vimeo.

Here is our video from last year:

Eleuthera 2015 Short Version from colemanshots on Vimeo.

Friday, May 20, 2016

I have an office and a desk! What?!

I remember my first youth ministry office, it had a desk, office chair, a book shelf and two chairs for people to sit in.  On the desk there was an intercom an old school radio shack -like intercom.  Keep in mind this is the early 90’s so I was stoked about the intercom.  The administrative assistant’s desk was just on the other side of the wall but we had an intercom.  I found that to be amusing.  I remember the first day in the office I sat at my desk all excited about my new adventure and intercom.  I pushed the talk button and said, “Joyce, I would like my coffee with cream and sugar.”  The reply came back over the intercom, “Andy, you can get your own coffee.”  All this done with the door open between our offices.

So here you are!  Your new office!!  What are you going to do?

Publish Office Hours - Make sure the folks in your church know when you can be reached at the office.  This doesn’t mean you won’t be at the office more than these scheduled hours but it can help people know when you are available to talk.  In my setting I have a daily dry erase board on my door.  On the board, each Sunday, I write the hours I’m planning to be in the office.
It’s also wise to encourage people to call first and  make sure you are there and available to talk.  You can do this through a parent email or monthly newsletter or even put your office hours on a google calendar linked to your parent page of your web site.  (no website?  build a simple informative one using Wix or another web site builder app like it)  I’ll be honest, in our setting,
I maybe get visitors who come to my office on purpose about 5 times a year.  Texting and cell phones have changed much of church office interaction with church members.

The Closed Door - If you are writing your message, working on curriculum, praying, reading and don’t want to be disturbed you could have a closed door policy.  When the door is closed I’m focusing on a ministry task and I need some uninterrupted time to work on it.  For me, outside noise in the office area is tremendously distracting when I’m trying to work on a message/lesson so I will shut my door.  Does this means that someone shouldn’t interrupt if there is a ministry emergency?  No.  But don’t interrupt if you need to know who is in charge of ordering the paper products.

Let Someone Know - Youth ministry pulls us out of the office often, we aren’t like bankers who sit in an office all day.  We will leave the office to meet a volunteer over coffee, go to a ball game after school, go home early because there is a youth event later that night.  I recommend you let someone at the office know where you are going and what you are doing.  Accountability can be a good thing.  If you are in a situation where the youth minister before you could never be found and no one ever knew where he was it is vital you tell someone.  You also should have clarified in the interview process what the church’s expectations for office hours are and made sure they jived with what you know youth ministry will involve.

Keep it Straight -  My office isn’t the best example.  I’m not a neat freak but I can easily straighten it up in a matter of minutes.  I also have a system to my desk which helps me in my productivity.  If you do have people come to your office and it looks like their teenager’s bedroom you aren’t going to make a good first impression.  Mail, read it and file or throw away.  Yellow legal pads are my friends.  I have 3 stacked on my desk right now in a tidy corner.  One has camp messages I’m working on, another has the notes I’m working on for our current series, the third has projects I’m working on.

Google Calendar -  or something similar.  I love it because I can share it if needed but the main reason I like it is because on the right hand side of the calendar is my to do list and I can plug in deadline dates.  This really changed my unorganized office life.  I used to hate administrative type stuff but over the past several years I’ve started to like it and now enjoy my “to do” list.  Stay organized.  We don’t instill confidence when we don’t know what is happening or miss an event etc.

Get Out! - we can’t accomplish student ministry by spending all 40 to 50 hours a week in our offices.  We have to get out.  Go to a ball game, meet students for coffee, have dinner with some parents.  Also get out to spark some creativity.  I occasionally will find an off campus place to read and study or to plan.  The change of scenery really helps my mind.

Enjoy your new office!!