Archives For Leadership

Ministry Is Ministry

June 6, 2013 — 6 Comments

As I we are wrapping up this year’s small group season and breaking for the summer I have already been preparation for next school year. I have been able to talk to a bunch of other student pastors from a few different churches (LifeChurch.tv, Newspring, etc) and see how they set up their smal groups for the years. It’s awesome to see how other ministries do what we do just in a different context and setting. It got me thinking.

Ministry is ministry. I would assume that all of us believe in reaching students, or even just people in general, for Jesus. I would also assume that we would agree there is more than one way in doing so. As long as the truth of the Gospel is being preached, and it is doctrinally sound, ministry is ministry but the context changes. The Gospel will never change, it will always change lives and it is timeless. Ministry, depending where you are, will change. The context will always be different.

The moment we believe our way of ministry is THE way of doing ministry is the moment your ministry will become stagnant.

Your philosophy and methodology might change based on the area, church, culture you are in, but the theology should never change. As long as we don’t base our theology off of the culture we are in, what does it matter the whats, hows and whys of ministry? The way we do ministry in Southern California here, a lot of the things won’t work in the Mid-West and what works in the Mid-West probably won’t work in the South. But you know who knows? The people who are living there and doing ministry there.

I love looking at other pastors and how they do ministry from all across the nation. I want to learn what works best for them but realize what works best for them might not work best in my context in ministry. But it could spark some other idea in which would work.

Let’s just realize ministry is ministry. That never changes, but context does. Let’s be on the same team and reach students for Jesus, that’s it. Let’s be aware what is working and where and let us learn and adapt. The Gospel is an unstoppable force and it will change lives.

I remember is college one of my professors told me something when it comes to leadership that I have latched on to and practiced ever since then. And it keeps proving to me over and over that this is so beneficial to me and the ministry that I am a part of. I was reminded of way it is so important this week as I was able to talk to a good friend about some real stuff in my life to keep me in check and I thought I would share it. I do not know if my professor came up with it, or it is just something that is known in leadership but I know it has something I have seen played out so many times and I truly believe all in leadership need this model.

It’s the “+” model.

The top of the + is someone that is older and more experienced in you. A mentor basically. Someone who you can go to and be poured into. Someone who you can go to with questions about life, ministry and relationships. Because we as leaders are constantly pouring out into others, we need to make sure we have someone who is pouring into us. My + top is my dad, who is an amazing man of God and who I do to for anything and everything about the Bible, life, leadership. I also try and grab lunch with a few guys on our staff who I look up to in ministry a few times a month. I love those times where I can just sit and learn from some of the best leaders in our church.

The left of the + is someone within your own ministry or church that you have a good friendship with. They are you supportor and friend within ministry so if there is anything internal, you can go to them there and quickly run by something or vent something that you know is a safe place to do so. I have a few of those on my team and in the church and it is so helpful and awesome to know I can have friends whom I can trust internally.

The right of the + is a friend/friends who are in the same stage of life as you and in ministry who do not work at your church. They are in ministry but not at the same place. These people are safe people you can go to for help with your own ministry, to vent about your own ministry and to ask an outsiders opinion. I believe it is truly important to be able to have a safe person to go to outside of your own place of ministry because they won’t be biased and you know you can trust them with what is said. Sometimes you just need to let something out and it does not always work so well with someone in your own ministry. Because they are in ministry they understand and they might be able to speak into your life a little.

The bottom of the + is someone who you pour into. If you are in ministry, you got this one down. You are either pouring into your team, volunteers, students, etc. A lot fot he times we just do this and it can be draining because we are not being poured into ourselves. That is why I believe this + model is so important.

Who are your top, left, and right of the plus? It is important to get them in your life.

Yesterday I wrote about the advantage fo the slow season. Right is now is another time we need to be able to take advantage of as well. That is spring break season. Even though we have to be in the office, our students are out of school. If they are not going somewhere usually they are hanging around your area. What a great time to get some amazing one on one time with some students who you only see on the weekends or midweek services. This is an amazing time to go out and be relational.

Here are some things I am planning on doing during my students spring break so I can maximize my time in the office and to maximize my time with these students.

Get in a little earlier: I want to get into the office a little bit earlier this week so I can get all of my “need to do’s” done right off the bat. For the most part, students will not be getting up until around noon anyways, let’s be real. So if I can get all of my stuff I have to do in the office done before lunch, I can be out and about and get lunch with some students.

Take students with me: It sounds weird and impossible, but I will take students with me as I am running errands around town. If I say I will buy Starbucks for them if they go it will help, but for the most part just riding around town with a car full of students make running errands pretty fun and students will love being able to hang out with you as well. they don’t care if it’s “work”, they are with you and loving it.

Leave early one day: Thursday the guys in my small group want to do something. I’m thinking the beach and bon-fire. So I’m going to come in early, maybe take a few of them on some errands and when I have my stuff done, head down to the beach with them for a bon-fire. I am telling them to bring whatever friends they want. What a better way to meet kids who don’t come to church?

Hang in the office: Like I said yesterday, you would be surprised how many students would come to your office just to hang while you work. My office was filled with students last week. Work got done slower, but it was awesome just being with them. Listened to music, watched stupid videos, talked life. It was actually really fun.

Got any other suggestions? I want to make sure I take advantage of this time in our students lives before the finishing out the year and before the craziness of summer.

I love my job. A lot. But there are some things about the job and ministry that are just hard to swallow. It is always a bummer when you hear something about a student you have poured in to, make a decision or go down a path that you have, for what seems like you have talked about over and over, go the opposite direction.

Just the other day, my co-leader for our small group and I got a text from a mom. She just vented her concerns about her child, which is awesome she is letting us know, and she ended with, “Know I don’t expect you to fix him, I just wanted to let you know.” Which is a big thing for us I believe. My co-leader is new to ministry, this is first year leading a group and he just happened to come into the office to talk about how to respond to something like this. It ended up being a great conversation and training for him. I thought I would share some point from our conversation:

  • Our job as leaders is not to “fix” students, but be there to guide and teach them to follow Jesus so when our time is done with them they can and know how to be a follower of Jesus.
  • It’s huge for us, as leaders, to have the in and trust with our parents. They are with our students longer and for more time than we are during the week. They will know more and for them to be able to come to us with concerns and the insides of the family is a big deal we cannot take for granted.
  • I don’t want to go to the student with the info from the parents (in most cases) because I want him to feel like he can trust me, not conspire against him with his parents. But I can lead the conversation to see if he will talk about it with me.
  • A student will only share what they want to share. You cannot force it.
  • We need to be there and available for them when they finally do want to bring it up. And be loving while we do it.
  • My co-leader and I can do a better job at partnering with our guys parents and are going to figure out how we can do so.
  • More one-on-one time leads to better and deeper conversations with a student.

I’m sure there are more that we talked about and that can added. I just thought I would list some of the stuff we talked about today. What else would you add?

Why You Need Support

March 25, 2013 — 2 Comments

We're Better Together 8x10

Being connected is important. I don’t care how well you think you are doing, one day you are going to crack and if you are not a part of a well-connected team or a part of a network of other pastors it can be a lonely, lonely place. I am lucky to be on a great team. We talk ministry, we have good days and we have bad days in ministry. But they are there for all kinds of support. Even if I was not on a team, I still have a bunch of other pastors, both my age and older, that I am connected to and make sure I get together with them on a regular basis. I can go to them and vent, celebrate, ask for prayer etc.

Even if you are not on a team, creating sort of your own “team” to surround yourself with is important. Here is why:

Bounce ideas off of: I know how I work. When I have an idea, it’s okay. For me, I love to have people in ministry who I can bounce ideas off of to make them great ideas. I am a big supporter of the idea that you can do something good, but with a solid team that “good” thing can become a great thing. And it is just fun to talk and dream big with people with the same passion.

Celebrate with: Try high-fiving yourself. It’s lame. It’s just clapping. When your team scores a touch down, you want to stand up and cheer and celebrate and be with people who want the same thing. In ministry, it is always nice when God moves, but there is something about surrounding yourself with people who can celebrate with you is huge.

People to pray and support you: Not everyday is going to be a celebration. You might have a rough day with people you work with. You might have a rough day with a student. You might have a rough day with your boss. It is important to have this “team” of people you can safely vent to, talk through the situation with, and have them lift you up in prayer. This is one of the most important things you can do for yourself in ministry.

We are on the same team: I cannot believe sometimes how hard it is to get youth pastors together. I love just to talk ministry with, steal ideas from, get inspiration from, hopefully give a little inspiration as well. We are all on a team if you think about it. If you do not have the opportunity to work on a team of people, create your own. Create a network of other student pastors in your immediate area and get lunch once a month. Be encouraged. Pray for one another. Share ideas. Combine your heads. It’s huge and it’s a game changer.

Do not be an island. You were made to be on a team. We are better together.

1.  Small group leaders are important.- We might work on staff, but our small group leaders are the ones who are their “pastors. They are incredibly important to our ministry and we do our best to let them know they are vital.

2.  Small group leaders set the tone. – They need to know that they are setting the tone for the atmosphere. If they want it to be serious, they need to take it serious. If they are just going to mess around and just have fun, that is all the group is going to be. They set the tone.

3.  Small groups are not about small group leaders.- The group is about getting students to know Jesus better. It is not about the leader doing whatever they are wanting to do and to talk about. The goal is to have students experience who Jesus is to then express him in their lives. At the same time, the group is not about the group either. They need to know that they are there to learn.

4.  Small group leaders aren’t supposed to live on an island.- They need to know they are supported. Whether the group meets on the church campus or in homes, they have to know they are supported and are a part of the bigger picture fo the ministry. It is ultimately a team effort.

5.  Small group leaders must be invitational.-  Seems like it would be a given you would be surprised. I get the fact that you want to keep a small group small. It it needs to be an inviting place because from what I have seen is a ton of new students getting plugged into our ministry because they are coming and wanting to be a part of the small group community it provides.

6.  Small group leaders aren’t perfect.- Exactly. they are humans and have their own struggles and life situations happen. It’s okay to let us know they can ask the staff for help if they need support. Also, showing they are a “real” person and being transparent is one of the most effective ways to minister to students.

7.  Being a small group leader isn’t always easy.- They are in the trenches. they are dealing with, talking through, walking with students with issues and messy lives. It’s not always going to be easy but it’s always going to be worth it.

8.  Seek advice and wisdom from trusted advisers.- We have a coaching system lined up. I am a coach to 13 other guys small group leaders. If they need anything or have any questions about small groups, they know they can come to me for help and advice. It’s my job to care for and guide my team.

9.  Lean into the small group leader community.- It’s important to know they know they are not on an island by themselves. But it can be the exact opposite when they can lean into other leaders and get ideas on how to teach a lesson to their students or even get advice on how to handle a certain situation that another leader may have already gone through. Ministering to each other is huge.

10. Be patient and be passionate! – Because it is not always going to be easy, patience is key. If students are not “getting it” or if they are driving you crazy, be patient. God is working in their hearts. Nothing is better than the “light bulb” moment when they finally get it. AND BE PASSIONATE! If you are all in, your students in your group will be all in.

When I am in the zone, I’m in the zone and there is no stopping me. When it comes to leading a small group or running an event sometimes I get so into it and want everything to go so smoothly and perfect that I am on such a mission I don’t even enjoy what is happening around me. I’m focused. But that is not a bad thing right? Maybe sometimes it is when we are not focusing on the right thing. Sometimes we just need to loosen our grab of our ministry, allow the Holy Spirit do what he does, and we need to have fun with our students. Enjoy the ride. Enjoy your job. Have a blast.

I cannot tell you how many times I have been so focused on having everything perfect that I missed out on having fun with the students who are there. I’m not saying, don’t be on top of things but when you plan something there is only so much you can do sometimes and you just need to step back and enjoy.

Having fun with your students is the quickest way to the best relationship with them. Having fun with your students is the best way to break down any walls that where once there. Having fun with your students is part of your job; not the only part, but a huge part. If we are not stepping back at some point and thinking to ourselves, “I can’t believe I get to do this for a job (or volunteer)” then you are too wrapped up with a tight grip on your ministry.

I truly believe I have the best job in the world. I cannot believe I get to do this for a living. It is so much fun. So let it be fun and go have fun with your students. This is something I have been trying to do more and more in my own life and ministry because I get so focused on “ministry” but lose focus on having fun with my students and having real, genuine relationships with them.

When it comes to ministry and trying new things I go all in. Our team goes all in. The moto when it comes to trying something we never have done before is, “The best idea wins. If it worked last year it doesn’t mean we NEED to do it again. If there is something better let’s do it.” Let’s be creative. Let God move. Plan something that would not work unless God came through. Failure is something that will always be probable I guess. But…

IN THE EYES OF GOD THERE ARE NO FAILURES, BUT FORCED GROWTH.

What we are so worried about? Failing. We don’t want to fail, it makes us look bad. No one wants to fail. The idea that in God’s eyes there is no failure, only forced growth, is encouraging. Every time we fail to do something, it helps us grow in some way, shape or form. Failure forces us to grow, helps us learn from our mistakes. We can take this idea in our faith journey and in our ministry.

Are we ever going to stop messing up and failing? No, sorry. We are human and that is what we happen to do. It is what we do AFTER we fail which will define us. If we just give up, we fail. If we don’t, it was just an experiment and research on the right way of doing it.

James 1:2-4

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

I thought I would post something based on an article I read the other day. “Dear Youth Pastor; It Isn’t a Competition” on the Resurgence. Read it if you get a chance. But the post below is something I posted a few months ago but thought it went well with this post:

I’ll be the first one to admit it. I get jealous of other pastors or ministries. I’m human. There are other people who are just better at speaking than me, who are more creative than me, and you see it by how many people follow them, listen to them, show up to their events or services. But pastors cant get jealous of each other right? How does one combat not getting jealous of other ministries? Here are some things that I have to check myself on.

  • Jealousy will make a person lose focus. When you are jealous, you are focusing on someone’s else’s God-movement and not focusing on the one that God has given you. It causes us to loose sight of the responsibility that God has given us when we focus on someone else’s. I know for me, if I were to focus on what my ministry as much as I spent watching someone do theirs, I probably would do better myself. When you get jealous, your path is set by THEM rather than the Lord.
  • Admit it. There is no use of hiding it. Why? Because we know we’re in it for God’s Kingdom, not for ours. Does it matter if the church down the road is bigger, better, more influential if God’s Kingdom is advancing? Let’s just call it like it is, it is sinful and worldly. It is usually out of our own spirit of jealousy and it will cause us to say things and think things that are not kingdom building. Suddenly they’re not our brother/sister any more, they’re ‘competition’.
  • Turn it into inspiration. Obviously you think that person is successful, otherwise you wouldn’t have jealous feelings about what they are doing. Instead of sitting back and letting it happen, turn it into a learning experience. They are obviously doing something right in a way that you want to see your ministry succeed in as well. Seek them out and and take them out. Pick their brain. You never know what you can learn and maybe you will see what ever results you saw from their event at yours. If not, you have a new ministry friend and contact.
  • This might not be what you need. When people are jealous, it causes you to see things that your ministry may not need, but because you see “them” have it, you want it. But the thing is, a ministry might not have a strong fellowship aspect, so they try a dance party and it was a huge success for them. So you see it and you want it. But your group already has a great fellowship aspect but it really needs more people in small groups, but you dont see it because you’re so focused on their needs and not your ministry’s need.

When we are jealous it usually means that we are are not satisfied with what God has given us. Because when you look at what you have, you are blessed. If we are teaching the what the Bible says we need to believe that God will not forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), and we need to be content with what we have. In order to combat jealousy we need to be more like Jesus and less like ourselves. If we find ourselves to be jealous we need to in prayer and work on changing our hearts to those we are jealous of. Jealousy is such a human thing to be involved in and it has no place is Godly work.

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So a student starts coming to your group because they have hit rock bottom and wants to do something to turn their life around. So naturally, the church is somewhere they think they need to go. And they are right. They jump all in. Making friends, reading the Bible, praying, all the stuff. Real, authentic relationships are forming, they are opening up, they say they are getting closer and closer with God to where they just need one more step forward to start a relationship with Him…and then they are gone. They disappear. They stop coming, don’t call or text back. You see on Facebook they are back to their old ways. What the heck happened? What do we do?

This just happened to me. I thought I would share about how I go about it and hopefully it can help somebody else:

  • Let them know they are missed. Obviously something, whether inside them or inside the group, happened. I just to let them know they are loved and missed no matter what. Letting them know by either on Facebook or text or call, even when they do not respond back they will know they are not just going to disappear without a trace. I want them to know they are missed.
  • Pray for them. Might seem obvious but I think it’s huge. Something going on, and sometime the only thing you can do is pray for them. Pray for their heart to be opened to what you saw them leaning towards when they were around.
  • Sick the students from their school on them. I tell the guys in my group just to love on him at school. Not to over bearing, but even though he is not coming to the group anymore that doesn’t mean he is going to be ignored at school by the guys. They will talk to him at lunch, hang at school and always invite him to come back to group to hang out. They will feel the love from the group even if they stopped coming to the group.
  • When and if they come back, welcome them like the prodigal son returning and make it known they were missed and that they are loved. Make it seem like they never have missed a beat.

It’s always rough seeing a student walk away when they were so close to knowing Jesus. We just need to be patient and pray God is working in their heart.

*I wrote this post a few days ago, and last night I had to come add this part on because a student in my group who has seemed to do this just came back to group for the first time in a long time. So for me, this works. It worked. It’s working.