Ever wonder what meetings are like on the other side? At a different church? How have they already solved the problems you are currently having in your church? Take a closer look at the churches around you. What appears the same on the outside could be very different on the inside. [Read more…]
The only successful to-do list includes this formula: Assign + Execute = Done.
What appears to be a massive to-do list is almost just that. Some of these to-do’s will take 10 minutes while others may have taken 10 collective hours poured into them by our entire NextGen team. The multi-color spreadsheet to the right is our master schedule of 3 camps happening simultaneously at the same location on one weekend: 3-5 grade, 6-8 grade and 9-12 grade.
Assigning. This is probably more important than execution. If the task is assigned a champion to ensure it is completed then you do not have to worry about the 10 minutes – 10 hours it may take to execute the to-do. Evenly distributing your workload for a huge task like winter camp is the only way to go. It should never be one person’s job. If the item is not correctly delegated it will most likely not get done or present a source of frustration for the whole team. On our to-do board, in each checkbox there are initials representing the champion of that task, most of our team picked their own tasks to own. This came out of experience in a certain area or a gifting that made that task more preferable.
Executing. It usually always takes longer than you think, so allow double the time you think it may take so that you can produce quality work and not simply just get the job done. I’m not only talking about your input or work on the project: take into consideration graphic artists, t-shirt companies, shipping+handling timelines, and room for error if something needs to be redone. Set some timers. Today I had 15 minute timers going to keep me on task to execute my current to-do so I could move on to the next one. In the same manner, when a team-mate finishes their tasks you should start playing dominos (let one person that is finished fall into another persons task to help them until they are finished so that you can speed up the endgame)
This is probably not far off from what you and your team does before a camp or retreat. In a project as this you will be heavily reminded the importance of teamwork, if not you may be doing something wrong. You might be able to lift a few heavy things but you can’t do it all. Learn that now and you will still be sane in a few years and perhaps even your longevity in student ministry will increase.
A word of advice: Don’t wait until the last minute to think out loud with your team and start assigning and executing tasks. It’s never too soon to begin a project, but too soon can turn into too late very quickly. Set dates on your calendar now for planning your next big event, set alarms on your phone, and reminders on your calendar for certain tasks. I suggest 4-6 months ahead of time.
Do you want more students at your camp? Do some forward thinking like some of your families.
If your personal and work life feel like they are overflowing with to-do’s try this exercise, I call it the “brain dump”.
When your leaders win, you win. When you win, your church wins.
You want your leaders to feel like winners don’t you? They work with students every week for months and sometimes years at a time. This can be discouraging and feel more like a weekly task rather than an eternal investment. I want my leaders to feel like they have won each week. To do this I have developed a WIN calendar for them. Each week the WIN is a little bit different, they are made aware of the WIN earlier in the week through an email or our app. During our meeting (pre-game show) we discuss the WIN for the week and why it’s important.
Do you give your leaders a tangible WIN each week? Here are a few WINs that I rotate through:
- Make contact with the parents, ask how you can be praying for them.
- Attend your students lunch or extra-curricular activity.
- Throw a small group party.
- Tell a student how much you care about them.
- Send an email home reminding parents of upcoming events.
- Talk about camp in small group and how to sign up.
These wins are much more effective in and through small groups, more than they ever would be from the stage.
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” -The Way of the Shepherd
Putting processes over people can be a threat to your ministry, and I’ve been guilty of it. Naturally, we enjoy relational time over being talked to or informed by a single person. When there is relational time involved people make a connection with those they are talking to and are able to contribute to the relational aspect. When receiving information or being talked to, many shut down because it’s a one way street they can’t turn onto, they just have to sit at the red light awaiting staring at the traffic of information until the relational green light flips back on and they can once again engage with those around them.
I do my best to find a balance for my leaders. I try to start every meeting with a conversation starter that will help the leaders exchange personal experiences in life so that they can connect with each other. Although this is true I do my best to make the conversation starter tie to the thought or win for the day. I also ask them to rotate through different leaders so they can get to know some that they might not know so well.
My leaders look forward to connecting with each other every week, I don’t have to ask them to be on time to a meeting anymore. They show up expecting to have some relational time accompanied by some information for the week.
Do you simply hold the floor when it comes to talking or do you create a space for the leaders to engage relationally with one another?
It was 9:28AM on a fall morning last year, right before my middle school large group program was about to begin. The morning was going pretty smooth, everything seemed ready for the program and students were beginning to show up, signing in and getting their name tags. As I watched the second hand tic-toc on the clock I began to get overwhelmed with anxiety, “Where are our leaders?” I blurted out loud. The one leader that was always on time gave a knowing smile to remind me that this was an every week occasion. I knew in that moment something had to change. It was no longer an accountability factor, we needed a change in our leadership culture.
After talking with some other youth pastors and some of my staff I laid down the ultimatum. I announced the shift from what was normal and asked them to trust me and give it a try. The shift being, instead of asking leaders to show up 15 minutes prior to program and arrive where the students arrive, we would meet 30 minutes before program in the staff office space. This locker room mentality before the big game would allow us all to really dial in each week, look at our content, how we will engage the students and have time for Q&A.
The shift did not come without a cost. Yes, it’s one more thing the youth pastor has to prepare for, but it’s totally worth it! When you get 30 minutes to lead your leaders every week you would be amazed at how much closer your feel to them, the pulse you have on their leadership and the trust that is continually established.
Here’s the coolest thing, it creates community for your leaders. When you create a space for them that doesn’t involve the common denominator that which is students, they have to connect with each other. We throw in free coffee with the signature creamers and some snack food to show them we do appreciate them giving us additional time. I have stopped asking leaders to show up on time because I don’t have to any more, they want to show up early and hang with their friends! 90% of my 50-60 leaders show up 30 minutes prior to one of our three student services every week, they are rarely tardy.
When your leaders are getting more time with you and each other they are better equipped for ministry.
The time with my leaders include:
- A conversation starter, giving them 5 minutes to connect with each other.
- The WIN for the week.
- An overview of the message and small group questions.
- Push any events outside of regular programming.
How do you spend time with your leaders?
When we launch a new leader into a small group, it’s just another day in our world. We forget too often that this is not just another day for this new volunteer. For this new leader, it could be the equivalent of launching an astronaut into outer space, asking them to embark on a foreign journey. This journey will undoubtedly have unexpected turbulence and certainly new ideas and concepts never encountered before along the way.
A question I ask myself often, “If I were a leader or volunteer in my ministry, would I feel well equipped for my role?” And the answer I sadly give myself sometimes is, “no”. When this reality sinks in for any of your volunteer or leader roles you need to troubleshoot, problem solve and strive to equip or you are going to lose this volunteer you worked so hard to recruit.
Leaders and volunteers step out of youth ministry every year for various reasons, but a big reason that I continually hear from not just my own ministry at times but from others as well, “I just didn’t feel well equipped for my role.” Wow. We worked so hard as a church to recruit this person we just had to have in this serving role and now they are walking out the door after 6 months of volunteering their time. They head back to warming pews during sermons as we eagerly look to “fill the gap” that volunteer left behind.
It’s your fault. No, not all the time but most of the time you can attribute someone’s reason for leaving because they didn’t receive the continual training, encouragement, and guidance they needed during their season of serving. It may not be your role to do all the equipping but it is your responsibility if you are the leader of the ministry.
We are always refining and re-thinking the way we equip our leaders in my ministry. I want to make sure a new leader is very well equipped and educated before stepping into a small group setting, but it shouldn’t stop once they start serving…they equipping should be tailored to the leader.
In the same way an astronaut would use various equipment from mission to mission, your small group leaders need various means of support and tools for the various groups and ages that they work with. It starts simply with a conversation and a few questions for those you lead to see how you are doing in this area, starting with the one for yourself “If I were a leader or volunteer in my ministry, would I feel well equipped for my role?”
The pre-game show could be the most important piece of information for the viewer, especially if you haven’t been keeping up with your team all week. During the pre-game show you are filled in on all the facts, flaws, hopes and expectations for what you are about to watch. Whether it is tuning in 5 minutes before kick-off or an hour worth of discussing replays from last week and how the team hopes to overcome potential obstacles for this week, the pre-game show is a wealth of information.
Every student ministry has a pre-game show. How well are the leaders educated prior to the big game–the program or their small group? It has been my experience that much of the success of the program or small group will be determined by the quality of your pre-game show. Talking with other youth pastors I understand there are many different ways to run a pre-game show, that’s not the point right now, the point is to remember that you have a pre-game show whether you know it or not.
Last year I had the opportunity to observe another youth ministry, the youth pastor was a friend of mine. We were 15 minutes out from the program start time and I was in the back of the room chatting with some of his volunteers. The closer we got to program start time the more eyes of leaders would drift to the youth pastor looking for some sort of direction or instruction. Nothing happened. As students poured into the room the youth pastor went over the sound booth and grabbed the microphone, he was headed to the stage to kick-off a program the leaders knew nothing about. That was there pre-game show.
Every student ministry has a pre-game show. Your leader’s experience prior to your program or their small group can greatly benefit or unfortunately burden your ministry. Take a moment to evaluate your current pre-game show.
- If I were a leader in my ministry, would I feel well equipped for my role?
- Does our pre-game show (leaders meeting) feel rushed, do we need more time?
- Is there a good relational and informational balance in my pre-game show?
- Do my leaders understand what a clear WIN looks like for their small group on that specific day?
I’d like to take a closer look at these questions based upon my own experience in ministry over the next few days.
I know it’s bad writing to give it all away in the first few sentences, but I care this much for you, so I’m going to give you the nitty gritty up front. You need to look at things differently. We are all guilty of a biased view of most situations and that is ok, God gave you a perception and the free will to feel and observe differently than those around you. You as a student pastor may be feeling opposition, lack of support or feel like your entire staff or volunteers just aren’t seeing what you see. Take moment to look at your situation or problem from their point of view. Look at it through the lens of your senior pastor, your boss, your students, your volunteers, your parents, etc. This can greatly impact the way you lead through something or react to others during confrontation.
One of my jobs while being in college was wedding photographer on the weekends. Bumping up against other photographers I realized quickly that the art is totally subjective. A great angle to take a photo for one photographer, may be seen differently by another photographer. Art is subjective, one artist may love this style while another artist doesn’t care for it or think it can be done better. The way we run our programs, retreats, use of budgets, recruiting and developing of leaders is not too different. There are 200 different ways to do programs, 300 ways to develop leaders and a million ways you can shift your budget to fit your ministry goals and desired outcomes.
When someone critiques what you are doing or you are feeling big opposition, do yourself and the other party a favor. Look at things from their perspective. This should help give you a broader perspective so that you can make a better decision for yourself and your ministry.
A leader should be measured not only by successes but also by how quickly he or she can recover from failure. Great leaders are born out of failure. They’ve messed up, made a wrong decision, or perhaps tanked an entire industry. The defining moment will come 5 minutes after the realization of that failure. Will they sit and sulk? No. A leader will admit the fault, attack the problem and come out on the other side with a solution and move on to encounter another day of leading.
I’ve seen a variety of professional and personal failures that end up defining a leader for the worst, making them sound like “they were a leader once upon a time.” On the contrary, I’ve seen dozens of amazing leaders share their professional and personal failures and how they bounced back from them with the support of God, family and friends.
Don’t let the failure define you, overcome it with this truth from God’s word:
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Vocational ministry can be quite overwhelming at times, especially on top of family responsibilities and scheduling. This exercise is quite relieving, at least it was for me. I can’t promise it will make everything go away but perhaps make life a bit more enjoyable because you’re organized and your mind will be a little less… constipated.
Today amidst a busy schedule and to-dos that seemed to keep piling up I tried my hardest to collect and rationalize all my thoughts…but simply couldn’t, there was too much on my mind. What happened next was extremely satisfying. I took a brain dump.
Grab a stack of sticky notes and a pen.
Write down the first thing on your mind.
Take the next sticky note and write the next thing. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Organize all sticky notes into 3 categories – work, home, personal.
Rank the sticky notes in each category and assign calendar due dates for each one.
When it was all said and done my brain had more than it could handle! I ended up with 62 post it notes in a matter of 15 minutes. Give it try!
(My brain dump.)