Tag Archives: student leaders

5 Easy Excuses for sub-par Youth Ministry

One of the lies that is easy to buy into, particularly for new Youth Pastors in small towns, is that our ministries are not as effective as others. I mean, this past week, my dad sent me the video his youth pastor made at their church for their Student Ministries Promo, and man, it made you want to be a part of that ministry. It was awesome! There was evidence of lives being changed, kids coming to Christ, Parents supporting the ministry. It was enough to make one jealous.

So if you are feeling in the dumps about the effectiveness of your Ministry, here are five simple excuses to help you feel better about yourself and help your supervisors understand why your not having the same results as down the street;

1. Facilities – if I just had better facilities, we could do so much more.

2. Volunteers – if we just had more volunteers, we could do so much more
3. Student leaders – if I just had some student leaders, we could do so much more
4. Time – if I just had more time, we could do so much more
5. Budget – if we just had more money, we could do so much more
The problem here is that these are all valid excuses. We could do more in our ministries if we had bigger spaces, bigger budgets, and more bodies.
But be that as it may, God doesn’t care. When it all boils down, God has placed you in your specific ministry in your specific church with your specific context to do his specific work. Just because there are other youth groups that can afford to give away iPad’s for door prizes doesn’t mean that that is what your called to do.
Does that mean we shouldn’t seek those things? Absolutely not. You could do more with more space and more money and more bodies.
But should that be an excuse to run a sub-par ministry? Absolutely not. If you can’t find a way to make what you have run effectively, you stand no chance of being more effective with those things.
So quit making excuses, quit being content with sub-par youth events, and make the most with what God has already entrusted you with.

Big Church Envy

If you ever have a disagreement with someone and you want to win, just call them prideful. It’s flawless, because from that point on, anything they say is just their pride swelling up. As long as your the first person to play the pride card, you win, every time.

So say your having a disagreement over the vision of a ministry with someone, they aren’t seeing things the way you see them, just blame it on their pride. Case closed.

I hate that. Because unfortunately, more often than not, the person who plays that card is the one who’s pride is really in the way. Sure, there can be exceptions, but if you play that card, you better check yourself.

I got that card played on me a while back and it infuriated me. There was a real issue that needed to be fixed and is still yet to be fixed because of pride. I knew my intentions and motives going in, and they weren’t flowing from my pride.

But it did get me searching for ways I was being prideful, and unfortunately as a Human being, pride is always to be found.

I take pride in my education. I feel this is a good kind of pride, for the most part, because be it as it may, graduates from my school are sought after more than any other Christian college, and so being able to say I hold my degree from there gives me a bit of a swagger, which can be good or bad.

One of the negative ways it plays out, however, can definitely come out quite a bit. I am blessed to still keep in touch with my old class mates and see them in thriving ministries. It’s amazing to me that some of the guys I was in class with have been able to achieve some of the things they have done right out of college. It’s amazing to me how many went from classes and very little experience to big churches in big cities with established healthy ministries.

Unfortunately, I can often become envious of them. Being in a small town in a small church and seeing several of my good friends with less experience than I have graduate at the same time as me and get job offers from great, large churches, where as Im having to build in an extremely small town with what sometimes feels as not the greatest support, it can cause me to be jealous.

But I feel like this is something every small town youth pastor deals with. There is this unfortunate myth that small town student ministry isn’t as good, isn’t as important, isn’t as effective. We may not every even outright say that, but if we looked at our ministries, its being yelled.

I could never do that, my church is too small. I could never make a an atmosphere  in our youth services that beckons for visitors, I don’t have the resources. I could never plan as great of a camp as that church, I don’t have the time. Whatever it is that you feel you can’t do because of your context.

And though some of it may be true, and some of it may be unnecessary (like how I think it would be awesome to incorporate video’s into our pre-message every week, thats not necessarily important, nor do I have the time to invest in that because there are other important things to get done.)

So though that may be true, its also false, because there are things we could do, we just aren’t. We have boughten into the myth that our ministry can’t be as great as first united church down the street, so we stop trying those things and get content with what we have.

This is a very dumbed down sentence to describe it, so don’t hold this against me, but the #1 thing that grows any ministry is its leadership. I say its dumbed down because you could come back and say ” Well what about relationship with Christ, or biblical dependency, etc. etc.”

A real leader in a ministry already has that, its a given. But whats missing from that is the leadership attributes such as Vision, Delegation, Mobilization. A real leader in youth ministry will not only be teaching his students the bible, but also the vision of them mobilized to make a difference in their school. A real leader will give their students a purpose that is more than showing up on Sunday or Wednesday nights.

If you want to see your ministry grow, your students need to grow. And if you want to see your students grow, then you need to grow. Continually.

Thoughts on SYMC Day 2

I learned a few things about myself today, which I’m quite thankful for. And these two facts about myself are things I hope to go home and put to use in our ministry right away.

I love that statement, because I feel like so many people come to conferences and learn all these new things and want to get home and put them to use right away. Some times thats a Great thing, other times , not so much.

If you are at a conference looking for a quick fix for your youth program, you won’t typically find it.

Having said that, I feel like I found a quick fix for mine. But first how the day went.

For starters, Louie Giglio flippin’ brought it this morning. I absolutely loved his talk. And having been on plane rides similar to his, seeing the same thing, I totally resonate with this illustration (and this may not be exactly what he was saying, as well, I’ve had a long day). But he closed with this story of a flight he took from Portland, Oregon to Vancouver, B.C. and how the planes get just above the cloud line and you see the peaks of the mountains sticking out. And from my personal experience, this truly is one of the most beautiful things in the whole world. Taking off from a dark, gloomy, rainy land and going up to where the sun is shining above the clouds and you just see the peaks.

Louie shared how it seemed no one else on the plane even noticed, and he wanted to just grab the microphone and “tell everyone to shut up and look out the window out flippin Mt. Raineer. ”

And thats what Youth Ministers need to be doing. Forget the other distractions, set your eyes on the Lord, and get others attention on him. He’s far better than whatever else your doing.

At least, thats what I got out of it.

The rest of my day was bleh. I went to a seminar on Developing Student Leaders that basically just said “Get rid of Leadership Teams and just mentor students.” And for me, I have a problem when anyone says “this way is wrong, just do it this way,” because more often than not, it isnt One way or the Other, its how can these two seperate way compliment each other. (And please dont hear me saying that about everything, at first I had written coexist and instantly had flashes of a bumper sticker, thats not what I am saying).

But for me, I don’t think a student leadership team is at its strongest if you aren’t mentoring the students, and mentoring the students isn’t the strongest unless they are part of a bigger team, otherwise we just develop them living in a silo mindset to carry through out their ministry.

More general thoughts on that in a second.

The second training I went to was all about free resources to enhance your ministry. It should be noted both of these sessions were last minute changes where I thought, nah I think this one will be good, and then I got stuck in a seat I couldn’t leave the room from, or else I would have.

I wish that there would have been an asterisk on the description of this second workshop “*if You own a smartphone, dont come, if you have been on the internet in the last several months, dont come. Will not benefit you.”

I was amazed at some of the free resources this guy was talking and how amazed some of these people were at the sites. Like, honestly, 95% of them had never heard of 95% of this stuff. I mean sure, its one thing to not know every site he talked about, but to not know any was for me just a wow moment.

And the first training had those two. Just the moments of “wow, people really don’t know this yet?”

And so it taught me some things about myself. But in all honesty, this post is getting too long. I’ll post what I learned about myself seperately.

Evaluating Small Groups

Last week, I talked about the importance of Evaluating Programs, and I want to stress again that Evaluating the direction and purpose of a Ministry and its programs is one of the most Important things a Youth Pastor can do long term.

I mentioned how I try and do different levels of evaluation, whether its weekly and a quick few minutes after a service, or a more in depth evaluation every few months of the overall direction of the program or ministry.

This past weekend, our Youth Service was a big push for kids to sign up for Core groups, and I’m pretty pleased with the response we had when all is considered. And so over the next few weeks, we are going to be phasing those in, getting them started. And one of the things that will help us for the full launch next fall is the way we evaluate these small groups.

One of the ways we evaluate small groups is based on their effectiveness to their audience. So attached below are some files of a little 3×6 card that our small group leaders will fill out each week. These cards don’t go in to too much depth, but they leave enough room for the leaders to be aware of how deep the group got that night, and fill out to fill me in if something important is going on in the lives of one of the students.

They help us in evaluating because we can see “Alright, this group isn’t progressing, they are still just coming and goofing off, what do we need to change,” or to see “this group has great chemistry, how can we harness that for the betterment of the rest of the Youth Ministry.”

They also help because even though we have less than 30 kids, I can’t effectively minister to them as well as a team of us can, and so I can’t be Small group leader to every student. So it’s great to have on record when wins + losses happen (i.e. win, Joey got saved, win, Jake got his parents to come to church this past Sunday, loss, Rachel hasn’t been at small group in a few week, etc.) It’s also great to have the prayer requests on file for me to pray over, as well as to know what’s going on in the students lives.

These are a work in progress, I think we will be tweeking them for quite a while, but they still can be effective how they are, and if you want to tweek them, the photoshop files are available as well.


Evaluation card front

Evaluation card back

Photoshop file

Why we’re launching Core Groups mid semester

I mentioned earlier that this Sunday is the last in a big push for our Youth to sign up for Core groups to be starting soon, but I also am aware that launching something like this in the middle of the year doesn’t really make much sense. But really its phase 2 in a soft launch that we have been doing all year.

I’ve mentioned before, but when I got here last year, the church really had no idea what Sustainable Youth Ministry looked like. They had had several volunteers, and I don’t know them, I am sure they did great work, but none of the kids they built up are still here, specifically, none of the kids in our youth ministry came from those past experiences.

This past Fall I did a push for small groups, got kids signed up, and then it toppled. I didn’t build up a system to be in place for it. I didn’t show kids how awesome Core groups were or could be. So it quickly died off.

The in October we did a soft launch with some sr. highers, and I posted earlier of how successful that has been going, that one of our goals with launching it was for them to not want to miss it and not to lose the community, and how last night really showed how important their small group is to them, without it coming off as cliquish.

Now, in March, were doing phase 2 of our soft launch, and gauging interest. At the most, I hope to get 4-6 more girls to sign up and 4-6 more guys to sign up for small groups. If more sign up, then great, but my hope is to have enough to have 3 groups going for now to be influential in the fall to encourage others to sign up.

So though it may seem weird to be starting Core groups mid year, I’m having to remind myself, leaders, and students, that this is just a trial and error phase. Just because it worked with one group, doesn’t mean we can make it work with more, so we will see how it goes.

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