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!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Managing Life Series - Family

Sunday night at Student Church we continued our series on Managing Life and we talked about Family.  We opened with Good Good Father by Chris Tomlin and then went right into a rather lengthy message on Family.  Students responded well.  We followed up with Hang Time and during Hang Time we ate a large family meal together with ham, potatoes, mac and cheese and dessert.

Here is the outline:

Illustration:  My childhood and breaking my brother's cap gun.  Family can be tricky.

Genesis 1:24-28

  • Family is God's IdeaGenesis 2:15-25
  • You are a giftPsalm 127:3-5
  • God placed you in your family
    (we discussed God's sovereignty and broken families/world and parent's responsibility to God)
        Now What?
  • Be Responsible
    • Obedient
    • Respect
    • Honor
Ephesians 6:1
Colossians 3:20
Ephesians 6:3
Exodus 20:12

I talked about this cycle:
Parents tell you to do something > You Obey > Parents Joy > Leads to Trust and Freedom
Obedience has it's benefits.

Next Steps:  (Always give students an opportunity to move forward and grow in their faith)

____  Ask for forgiveness

_____ Ask parents to start having a family devotion/prayer time (this will blow them away, and you will grow closer together)  I set parents up for the win by sending them in advance a family devotion I wrote to go along with this message.

_____ I need to start showing respect and obedience

_____ Be Responsible  (fill a role, help out around the house, help out)

Friday, May 13, 2016

It's the New Youth Pastor!

I’ll never forget the handful of men from the church that drove a U Haul truck up to my house to move us.  Misha and I had packed everything.  We had it all boxed up and marked the boxes with what room.  We were ready for them by having all the furniture in the living room and all the boxes in the front bedroom.  The men showed up and loaded all our belongings into the truck.  Misha and I loaded the dogs and cats in our car and pick up truck and walked out of our house that we owned to head off to a house the church would be renting for us.  

When we arrived after the several hour drive there was a crew waiting at the house for us.  Ready to unload the truck.  People were carrying boxes and furniture and asking us where to put things.  Some ladies organized the kitchen with our dishes and kitchen stuffs, it’s always fun trying things in the kitchen because you didn’t unpack the kitchen, someone else did. 

The church was excited for us to be there.  They had been so long without a youth pastor they were ready for one and they settled for me.  

I remember unpacking what little bit of books I had in my office at the church.  I had never had an office in a church before.  This was all new to me.

I sat behind my desk and it hit me.  Now what do I do?  Remember I had no education or schooling in the area of youth ministry.  I had read some books and had hands on experience.  That was it.  What next?

So if you are the new youth pastor here are a few suggestions:

Get to know the church.  It takes time to get to know the people.  Learn who the leaders whether they are official leaders or the unofficial leaders.  Look to build relationships with the key power brokers in the church.  Meet them for lunch or coffee.  Figure out how to get invited to their house for Sunday lunch.  Invite them to your home for Sunday lunch.

Get to know the Pastor
.  It takes time to build a relationship.  I was blessed in that the first pastor I worked with was such a super guy and easy to build that relationship with.  I enjoyed his company from the get go and we “clicked”.  Ask your pastor to carve out even a half hour or a lunch with you each week so he can give you an “orientation” of the church.  He knows the Ins and outs of the congregation, who you want on your side, who will be a negative critic of everything you do. 

Get to know the students.  Plan some simple but fun events where you can spend time with the students and get to know them.  Drop in and have lunch with them at school if the school allows.  Open campus?  Great!  Meet them for lunch at Taco Joe’s.  Have conversations that ask open ended questions.

Get to know the parents.  If your group is small you have the luxury of meeting some parents for dinner or inviting them over.  If your group is large you may want to plan a “get to know you” event and fellowship together but also find out what the parents are expecting from you and let them know what you expect from them.

Discover Direction.  You are going to need to discover the direction of the youth ministry and where to take the ministry next.  Start thinking about a teaching scope, what will you be teaching the next several months to a year.  As you get to know the students better you will know better where to take them in the future.  Down the road a bit you can plan out your teaching that will cover from the sixth grade all the way to the senior year, after all you plan on being there a long time.  Right?

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

How to Last in Youth Ministry

One student ministry resource I love is LeaderTreks.  Great material for student leadership and for discipleship.  Check them out!  I'm honored that LeaderTreks invited me to write a blog post for them.
One student ministry resource I love is LeaderTreks.  Great material for student leadership and for discipleship.  Check them out!

I'm honored that LeaderTreks invited me to write a blog post for them.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Before You Sign the Dotted Line (part B)

you can read part A HERE

In my previous post I shared my experience of being hired at my first church.
If I had to do it all over again I would have done it differently.  If I were to be sitting across the table from a guy who is about to launch out in search of his first youth ministry position I would give him the following advice:

1.  Ask questions.  The church, search committee, pastor will ask you questions, lots of them probably.  So ask them questions:
  •     Why did the last youth pastor leave?
  •     What are the expectations of the church?
  •     What are the expectations of the pastor?
  •     What is the job description?
  •     How many pastors has this church had in the past 20 years?  (if the church is going
  •     through staff like a kid through candy in a Pez dispenser I wouldn’t proceed any further)
  •     How will the lead pastor support your role in the church?
  •     Is there a committee I answer to?  Who is my direct supervisor?
  •     What is the salary package?
  •     What are the benefits?  (vacation time, insurance, retirement, etc)

2.  Vision and Purpose.  Find out the vision and the purpose of the church’s student ministry.  If they have one that you can’t align with you may find your job to be a frustration rather than a joy.  If they don’t have a vision and purpose statement then you have a clean slate to create one. 

3.  Change.  How open is the church to change?  Each one of us have different strengths and passions.  You are different than the last guy.  How will those differences impact the direction you will take the student ministry?  Will you have the support of the church’s leadership?  You may find that the student ministry is meeting 4 times a week and that is way too much and want to change that.  Would they be open to that change?  You may find they meet only once a week and feel they need a second time to get together perhaps for deeper discipleship or for outreach.  Would they be open to that change?  Tell them up front some things might change and be done differently and see if they are open to change.

4.  Leadership.  Spend time with the church’s leadership and ask probing questions.  Interview them as much as they are interviewing you, if not more.  If the church is led by deacons ask to meet with them and come loaded with as many questions as possible.  Even ask them the same questions you ask the senior pastor, the committee, etc. to make sure the church is on the same page.  Point out any discrepancies you discover if the leadership, pastor, committee aren’t all on the same page.  Clarify with the leadership so you know what you are getting into.

Spend some time with the senior pastor asking questions.  You have to work with and support the senior pastor’s leadership so you better make sure he is someone you can get along with work with.

Meet with the youth ministry volunteers of the church.  They are vital to your success.  No volunteers may be a red flag.  The volunteer who plans on bailing when your hired may be a red flag.  The volunteer who controls everything and runs everything without the input of the other volunteers may be a red flag.

Meet with the parents of the students.  Find out their expectations.  Probe them with questions to find out their level of support for you.

5.  Expectations.  Ask for a written job description that lists expectations.  Most churches do evaluations and it’s hard to be evaluated if there are no known expectations.  This protects you and the church, the job description may also throw up some red flags you may need to investigate further.

6.  Be clear.  Be clear with your expectations of the church, senior pastor, committee.  Make sure they understand that while you know pastoring is an on call 24/7 position you also need time for yourself and your family.  If you have family make sure you clarify the priority that your family comes first in ministry.  You can’t help minister to families if you are neglecting your own.

7.  Doctrine and theology.  I’m amazed how many youth pastors take positions in churches they don’t even line up with doctrinally or theologically.  “Well I just want to minister to students.”  I get that, I understand that passion, but you are setting yourself up for a short term position in a church if you can’t agree with the church’s doctrine and theology.  I scratch my head when I watch a youth pastor go from a Baptist church to a Methodist church to a Church of Christ to an Assemblies of God.  I know those are “just denominations” but denominations believe differently about the Word of God and that’s why there are denominations.  Eventually it will get to you because you disagree.  You want longevity in a church?  Make sure your beliefs line up with the church’s beliefs.

8.  No guarantees.  From talking with other youth leaders in other churches, in hearing the “war stories” I know that unfortunately there are no guarantees.  If you are going to sell your house you can empty it out and paint it with a fresh coat but underneath that paint is the old paint, possibly bad wiring in the walls, plumbing issues.  Fresh paint can make the house appear in great shape but digging a little deeper can expose the problems that may be lurking beneath the surface of that home’s walls.

A church can do the same thing.  A church can paint a great picture, can tell you how much they want to see the church packed with students, how much they will support you.  A church can make it look like the ministry position of a lifetime.  Then you are there for several months and the honeymoon ends and you realize that you have no support, no volunteers (that’s what they pay you for), out on the end of the limb by yourself.

9.  Don’t rush.  Chances are the church has been taking months or even years to find a new youth pastor.  Take the time to do the due diligence.  In twenty-one years of full time ministry I have only been in 2 churches.  My goal when I came to each church was longevity.  I didn’t want to be that statistic of lasting only two or three years.  Rushing into a position or jumping at the first one to come along may be detrimental to you, your family and even the students of that church.

The above is not an exhaustive list.  I know that the more time spent thinking through a position at a church and praying about it the more likely the ministry will be successful.  I have seen many with a passion to reach students jump into an unhealthy church/ministry situation in the name of "reaching students" and then find themselves miserable and then that is followed by throwing in the towel at the church or in ministry all together.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Before You Sign the Dotted Line

Part A

I knew God was calling me into full time student ministry.  I also knew I had zero training, schooling, education in student ministry. I grew up as a pastor’s and missionary’s kid so I was very familiar with ministry and the church.  I had a couple years under my belt as a volunteer youth minister but that was it. 


My approach wasn’t the best but it seemed to work.  I looked to see what churches in our denomination in our state had openings for youth pastor.  I found three churches who were looking for a youth pastor.  So I sat down at my Gateway computer and typed up a resume.  I remember thinking, “Who is going to hire a guy with no education in youth ministry?”.  Several weeks later I received a call from a pastor informing me that their search committee would like to interview me.  I was quite shocked.  It worked!

I did the interview.  The position wasn’t offered to me that day but I remember, as I drove off with my lovely wife to make the several hour drive back to our home, telling Misha that we needed to start collecting moving boxes.  I was confident that this was the church.  Even without the job offer I knew that this was where I was going, it was that clear to me.

A couple of weeks later I was asked to come meet the church, share my testimony, and be interviewed again . . . by the entire church.  After the morning worship there was a lunch and then for what seemed like an eternity I was asked questions.  All kinds of questions.  Had I been older and wiser I know I would have had some better responses to the questions.  I also would have been able to see through the questions to the heart of the question, why the person was asking the question.

I made it through the process and the church voted and I was hired.  I had my first student ministry position.  I was thrilled and excited.  I’m an entrepreneur at heart so new adventures always excite me.  Honestly I’m surprised any church would have hired me.  

As I look back I feel sorry for that youth group.  I was green, fresh and fairly stupid.  I know that I would be a much better youth minister to them today then I was then but of course after we do something for a long amount of time we would hope we are improving and sharpening our skills.

In my next post I'm going to give my advice, for what it's worth, to the new guy who is about to sit down to interview at a church.

Made the Top 40 Youth Ministry Blogs

My blog made #30 out of the top 40 youth ministry blogs according to I don't know what that means but "thanks!&quo...