We youth pastors can be guilty of spending too much time on the internet all with good intent… browsing, spiraling, ending up watching too many videos of cats. Your intentions are good and you are just trying to find a game for this coming weekend or hit a writer’s block so you hopped on facebook. When it comes to youth ministry related topics wether it be games, curriculum, or ideas, these are a few of my favorites [Read more…]
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?”