Andy is a Youth ministry, church strategy specialist. With lots of humor and with life-changing insights. For 25 years now he had the dream job of youth pastor. The past 16 years he have been the Student Ministry and Ministry Team Pastor at Nags Head Church in North Carolina. By following this blog get information on tips, resources and guidance required for youth ministry.
Having served in student ministry for over 25 years I have learned something about balance and time. This summer youth leaders you will be taking students to camp and on mission trips, water parks, amusement parks, the beach, etc. Make sure you balance your ministry time and your family time. If you are single make sure to balance your “you” time. I have heard of churches hiring youth pastors, church staff, who are single because, “they will have more time.” No one on this planet has more time than anyone else. We all have the same amount of time each day. Youth Pastors Take some extra time off. Summer can be super busy for you. Flex your hours. If you just spent 2 days on a youth trip take some extra time off, at least an extra day.If you take students to camp or mission trip try to take the next week off (as much as possible)Go in late to the office on the day after a trip. If you are a morning person like me take off early the next day.
Volunteer and Part Time I stand and applaud you. I’m sure the last thing you want to see on social media is a full timer complaining about being busy or working too much. You, of all in student ministry, need to be extra careful with your time. You are juggling family, your “real” job, and ministry. Make sure during the busy summer season you take time off from ministry and spend time with your family.Your FamilyI grew up a pastor’s son. I remember, as a little kid, sitting in the station wagon on Thursday evenings while my dad and a deacon were on visitation. Looking back I did that just so I could spend time with my dad who was bi-vocational. That is not the same as playing catch with your dad and having his undivided attention.I know when I’ve taken family with me to camps, while yes they are there with me, I’m not there with them 100%.Your family needs time with you 100%, they are your first ministry and first priority. Church Leaders Senior pastors, elder board, personnel committee, your student ministry pastor gears up and gets really busy in the summer. How can your church make sure he/she is taking some extra time off after a big event, camp or mission trip? Who will hold him/her accountable to take some extra time off? But what if leadership is on board with flex hours and taking extra time off that doesn’t count against vacation time and members complain? Have a pre planned statement, something like this: “Bobby works hard and puts in full work weeks all year long. When Bobby takes our students to _ he puts in lots of extra hours. We are allowing Bobby flex time so he can rest, relax and spend quality time with his family. Our church loves Bobby and we don’t want him to burn out or for his family to suffer. I’m sure you agree that Bobby’s health and family should come first so he can be more effective serving here with us.”
Guard your time this summer, find that balance between work and family and find that person to hold you accountable.
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
This is the 4th post in this series, “Do You Love Your Church?” You can read the first three posts, HERE, HERE and HERE.
Love is not jealous. If I love my church would I be jealous of other churches? In my years of ministry I have seen and experienced that jealousy. The times I would hear about the student ministry budget of another church and it was much higher than mine . . . jealous. Parents at another church really involved in supporting the student ministry . . . . jealous. Church with higher attendance . . . jealous.
I remember a local youth pastor telling me that his personnel committee telling him that “he needed to be more like Andy.” At that time our student ministry was the hot one in the community. That changed when another student ministry became the hot game in town and the same committee told the same youth pastor that now he had to be more like _____________. The standard changed for this poor guy. It was all based off jealousy. Look at that student minister, why can’t you be more like him/her?
God has placed us where we are. Jesus builds the church. Our role is to be faithful to serve in this calling and do our best for His glory, it doesn’t matter if our ministry is twenty-five people, Two hundred and fifty people, or two thousand people. When we become jealous of another church we will only find discontentment. When we live in discontentment we soon find ourselves looking at another church’s job opening and thinking the grass may be greener there. It’s probably not.
There is a difference between jealousy of another church and discovering what another church is doing to promote church health which leads to growth. Learning from other churches is a great thing. Trying to be that church is not a great thing. There are certainly models and strategies from other churches that we can adapt to work in our context. Why are there so many varieties of churches? Because there are so many varieties of people. This is why it’s important when we take that ministry position to make sure we are a fit with that church’s vision and purpose.
Jealousy leads to discontentment. Whenever I start to think about how much better so and so has it at his church or I see another church’s budget and I start to desire that and want that for where God has placed me I am reminded of this verse: 6 Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. 1 Timothy 6:6
Have I been jealous of another church or another minister? You bet. I’m human just like you. The key is discovering contentment in serving where God has placed me. Are there cases and times when it is best for a minister to move on to a new ministry, a new church? Certainly, but first the decision must be examined to make sure it’s not jealousy causing discontentment as the root for the desire to move on.
Ministry is about people and there is no getting around it. When we put people in the mix we open the door to frustration. We cannot let our frustration or disappointment lead us to be unkind. Do we love our church? Love is kind, in fact kindness is a fruit of the Spirit. When the Holy Spirit is active in our lives kindness should be evident. If kindness is lacking then we need to step back and do a heart check. I understand we are human and we have our days and our moments but as leaders we are held to a higher standard.
How I act or react to a church member will determine whether or not that church member will trust me as their leader. If I interact with a member in an unkind way I have lost trust with that person. My kindness towards them will lead them to view me as approachable and as someone they would turn to when they need spiritual help. The exact opposite is true. Recently in the news we have been stories of “celebrity” pastors and how those pastors bullied their way around in leadership. Love doesn’t do this.
At home I can ask my kids to clean their room in a kind way or in an unkind way. I can bark at them rather than talk with them. When they mess up I can choose to be kind or choose to belittle them. The same happens within the church. As a leader I can ask people to serve in a kind way or I can bark commands at them like a drill sergeant. The old saying is true, “You catch more flies with honey.” People are more apt to serve if dealt with in kindness.
I don’t think it’s an accident that in verse 4 we find kindness with patience. The two are linked together. If I’m impatient I’m more likely to react in an unkind way. When a member approaches us on a Sunday morning with an issue and we have so much going on and it’s our busiest time as a leader in our rushing around we can come across as unkind. Often our unkind reaction is tied to impatience.
How to focus on being more kind: Pray for God’s help. Doing life with people gets messy and difficult and frustrating. Pray for God to make you aware of kindness as you interact with those you serve. People above tasks. Yes, tasks have to be taken care of to do our job but our main role is to minister to people. Without the people we would be out of a job. Plan margin into your schedule. Make sure that there is some blank time in your weekly calendar so that when something comes up with a member you aren’t distracted from focusing on them because you are focused on your to do list and limited time.
Listen. Sometimes the best thing we can do is listen. I’m the worst at listening because of my ADD. When I’m in the big lobby at church full of noise, distractions it is the worst place for someone to talk with me. I’ve learned to let people know that I can’t focus on them in that environment. Find a place without distraction and listen. Communicate to your folks that, if its not an emergency, Sunday morning may not be the best time to deal with issues or solve problems. Ask to meet up during the week or point them to the staff person who could best help them with the situation. Think before you speak. Check your own attitude and mood and make sure you respond in a kind way.
As ministry leaders let’s let kindness lead the way in our own lives.
This is part two of a series. You can find part one HERE
I’m the worst at waiting. When I’m getting ready to go on a trip I want time to speed up. When I’m in line at the fast food restaurant’s drive thru I want and expect my food is less that four minutes of my order. It seems the faster our technology moves the more impatient I become. Remember the old days on the internet. You would click the mouse and then go paint your house and then come back and the page would be open. We are a “want it and want it now” society.
I’m the father of three children. My eldest man-child is fourteen, a freshman in high school. I have twin ten year olds, a boy and a girl. You know what I’ve noticed? They grow at different rates. They reach milestones and different ages. They are not the same. Even my twins are totally different. My youngest son was walking and riding a scooter when his twin sister was still crawling. Boy she would get mad at him for his mobility. It was fun to watch.
It is easy to carry this impatient attitude into ministry. We roll up in church on Sunday morning or youth group on Wednesday night and we act like everyone should be on the same level. We can become impatient with a person’s slow spiritual growth. We are not all on the same level in our spiritual growth. Church is a hodgepodge of people. Each person is uniquely wired and created by God. You can take two brand new believers and disciple them both together and one will probably grow faster than the other. Some of us process slower than others. Some of us have more junk attached to our lives that needs to be chipped and chiseled away.
So the question in today’s post is again: “Do you love your church?”
Love is patient and kind. 1 Corinthians 13:4
As church leaders we have to be patient with our church members. Some are just starting to grow, some have stalled, some grow by leaps and bounds. It is the nature of the church because the church is made up of so many different people.
What do we do? We show patience. We don’t push too hard. We have learn the balance between pushing too hard and too fast with actually challenging someone to spur growth.
We invest. Discipleship is not something that magically happens in a class. “I took the class so now I’m a fully mature follower of Christ.” No. Discipleship takes time and it takes mature believers investing in immature believers. In fact even mature believers need someone investing into them.
We get rid of the frustration. It is easy to get frustrated with someone who is not progressing as fast as we think they should. The problem is when we begin to express that frustration in a critical and impatient way.
We realize the time. Our timing is totally different from God’s timing. We view things in the here and now, God views things in an eternal perspective. Time means nothing to Him. Patience means we wait on God’s timing. We are the ones who counsel people telling them to wait on God’s timing but turn around and struggle with God’s timing ourselves.
Love your church? Express that love with patience.
Next post I will look at being kind to your church.
I hear some pastors and staff and volunteers talk sometimes and from what I hear there are some serving in churches and they don’t love the church? To me that would be like working at War Mart and hating Wal Mart. I would be miserable and that misery would show in my job performance.
I’m working through 1 Thessalonians and this morning I read this: 9 But we don’t need to write to you about the importance of loving each other, for God himself has taught you to love one another. 10 Indeed, you already show your love for all the believers throughout Macedonia. Even so, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you to love them even more. 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10 Paul is expressing how important it is for the church to love the church. For those of us that sit in that chair or pew week after week to truly love the church God has placed us in. Not just as members but also as leaders and staff and volunteers. If I love my church the results will show in how I do my job in the church whether I’m a volunteer or if I’m on staff.
My thoughts then turned to chapter thirteen of First Corinthians. I read the chapter with my church in mind. The pastor or teacher can teach and preach with great eloquence but if the pastor or teacher doesn’t love the church it’s just a bunch of noise. It is like the old Charlie Brown cartoon when the teacher is speaking “wha wha wha wha”. What you and I do in ministry amounts to absolutely nothing without love. If we give and sacrifice in ministry but don’t have love we have gained zero.
Love must be the motivational force behind what we do in ministry and serving. If love isn’t there we are just spinning our wheels. We are accomplishing nothing for the Kingdom of God.
Love is a powerful motivator. When I fell in love with my wife, Misha, over 30 years ago, I was motivated to do whatever I could just to spend time with her. I wanted to be around her. That love motivated me to decide to spend the rest of my life with her when she asked me to marry her. Just kidding! I did the asking. Love motivated and still motivates the commitment. How does love for your church motivate your commitment in serving?
Love should motivate me to be at my best as I serve in the church. If I’m a volunteer I should be serving and giving my best. Why? We are serving Christ and love doesn’t allow us to give our leftovers. We give our best.
In my next post I’m going to unpack “Love is patient” in relation to serving in the church.
I find myself thinking this morning about our mission trip in June with our students from G252, the student ministry at our church, Nags Head Church. For the past several years we have been taking our high schoolers and mature behaving middle schoolers to the island of Eleuthera to do work with Camp Bahamas and outreach into the settlement of Tarpum Bay. Last summer we added college students into the mix which was a great addition to the team. In addition to our student trips I also plan and take teams of adults on mission trips as well. I’m a checklist kind of guy.
So here we are about 6 months out from our trip. You may be in the same boat as we are, staring at the final push and punch list. So here are my thoughts on important mission deadlines:
Scheduled mandatory training meetings – by this point we should have our training dates nailed down. Each year our training gets easier and easier because we have so many veterans mission trippers on our team, they have been before and know the ropes. BUT it is still great to go over the things that will help us be a successful team. We cover in our meetings: Flexibility, Servant’s Heart, and Unity. We also look at how God has shaped us individually to serve.
Passports – deadline set for passport application. I’m not sure if the government shut down slows this down at all or not but by the end of February we want our team members to have their passport applications sent in to the Feds.
Support Letters – we are asking our team to have their support leaders all sent out by the end of February. Include in the letters the deadline for support to be raised, the dollar amount and a recruitment to personal prayer team. The support letter consists of a paragraph describing the mission trip, what the team members hopes happens in their own hearts on the trip as well as information on how checks or online giving should be handled. We don’t do fundraisers so our team members are responsible to raise their own support.
Final Payment – our final payment due date is set 35 days out from our trip because we need to pay our final airline payment and payment to Camp Bahamas for our room and board.
Final Team/Parent Meeting – at our final team meeting we ask our students to bring at least one parent. We cover everything from the moment we pull out of the church parking lot to the moment we return a week later. The daily schedules, collect medical releases, and any information parents may need. The trip’s mission supplies are also divided up for each team member to pack some gear/supplies with them.
If you are planning a student or adult mission trip I invite you to check out this post about two different mission teams.
Implementing change in a ministry setting can be tricky. Most people push back against change. In part one I suggested the following ideas for implementing change: Explain the Why The meeting before the meeting
Here are a few more thoughts on change: Be a mad scientist. Approach every change as an experiment. Let the team know this is what we are going to try and here is why. Let’s let it play out before we evaluate and let’s not be critical until we evaluate as a team. We are in this experiment together. So lets wait and evaluate together and not have mini meetings among our team where there is the possibility of allowing negativity sway us and feed tension among us possibly causing some division.
We are a team so we support the change or our team will crumble together. I am seeing more and more this idea where people think church is about me. Meeting my needs, making me feel good, me, me, me, a consumer mentality. We need a team reminder that church is not about me, we are the church, we are about ministering to people. We need to see more “It’s not about me” attitudes in the church today. Are some people hurting and need a little extra care? For sure. But some who should be mature by this point in their faith walk are still reaching for the bottle and want to be rocked and soothed. They don’t understand the concept of a team or why they are part of the church.
The buck stops here. Ultimately the leader is the leader so choices have to be made to do what is best for the church. Hopefully this decision was made from prayer and with the wisdom that comes from God. Are leaders perfect? No, only Jesus was perfect and people didn’t like his leadership either. Simply put someone has to lead. Which leads to . . .
You can’t please everyone. It is an impossibility. So as a leader our goal should be to do what? Please God. This will not win us a popularity contest. Those in our congregation who are not focused on self, who understand their leaders are human, who want to see the community reached for Christ will be the ones who understand that you can’t please everyone. I’m not always 100% pleased with the decisions made in my church but I understand that it’s not about me.
Some still won’t get it. When a person on the team is being divisive by their attitude and grumblings the leader has to step in to protect the team and the ministry. That is why we are shepherds, we protect and move the flock along.
Discovery. With the person who just doesn’t want to be a team player it may be time to help them discover how God has shaped them to serve and discover where it is that they would fit best in ministry. Help them discover a ministry team that they will function well with. It’s not fun but in order to help them grow this may be the step you need to take.
Without change we will go nowhere. Change is a must in ministry because what worked ten years ago, five years ago, last year or even possibly last month may not work now. Change has to happen to reach the end goal, to fulfill God’s vision and purpose for the ministry. Learning to navigate change with wisdom is key.
If we don’t change we get stuck in a rut and a rut is just a grave that is open at both ends. If you have been in ministry for any length of time you know that people will leave because of change. People will also leave because personally they have changed.
Many people in our churches and probably on our teams don’t like change. Some people really struggle with change, it stresses them. They like what they are used to. The older I get the more I understand why the Senior Saints ministry theme song is “I shall not be moved”. Literally, they won’t even change Sunday School classrooms even if the new room would be an upgrade.
Recently I heard this from a pastor who introduced some change during his first year of ministry in a church, “It’s hard to change the culture of a church”. As a result his team is experiencing some poor health as a team, they are grumbling, complaining and being critical behind his back. My knee jerk reaction would be to say hit the road to the complainers but then we would just be sending them to the next church with the same problem.
His comment sparked a few thoughts:
Most people don’t like change. I read a stat that 80% of people won’t change, they oppose change. Now I don’t know how accurate that stat is but I found it on the internet so it has to be true. I do know that most people I have encountered in life are not huge fans of change. It is like getting that lazy boy recliner broke in just right, worn out, tattered, but it is so comfortable you don’t want a new one. Change moves us out of our comfort zone.
Explain the “why”. Most don’t understand the “why” behind the change so they fight the change. This falls on us as leaders. Did we communicate the “why” behind the change? Did we communicate it clearly? Most reasonable people, once the “why” is explained, can understand the reason for the change. If we don’t clearly communicate the “why” then false perception becomes our enemy. People will resist change if they are going by a false perception.
The meeting before the change. Getting the team on board for change requires meeting with them or meetings with them to help them see the why and need for the change. To change the culture of what the team is used to doing in their ministry role without meeting with them first and thoroughly explaining the “why” and hearing their input sends a message, true or not, that their input as team members is not valued. When a team’s goal is to move the ball down the field everyone needs to know how and why they are moving the ball. They need a picture painted of the end goal.
If I walk into an old house that’s in need of great repair I can see in my mind what the house could be. I can look past the peeling wall paper, chipped paint, dirty floors, nasty carpet and design flaws to see what the house could be. Some people don’t have that ability so you must help them see it and it takes extra effort to make that happen.
In what ways have you successfully implemented change in your ministry setting? What made those changes successful? How well received were those changes?
In part two of this post I’ll share 5 more thoughts about change.
Hey friends! I’d love for you to join me at a Refuel Retreat with LeaderTreks March 5-7, 2019 in Pawley Island, SC. Refuels are always a time of great training, a space to plan for the next ministry year, and an environment to connect with other youth workers. Use code “FRIENDOFANDY” to take $30 off your Pawleys Refuel Registration.
I will be leading us through a Life Map and also through our daily quiet time. Doug Franklin will be leading us through the Leadership Pathway. Hope you will check it out and consider joining me!
Wow! 2018 is coming to a close fast. Christmas is right around the corner and it feels like we just celebrated Christmas. Time does fly when you are having fun. What is more fun than seeing lives changed and impacted by the gospel?
Sometimes at the end of the year we find we still have some money in the budget. The question is “what do we do with this money?” Some in ministry find themselves in a church with budget policy of use it or lose it. Sometimes we have been good with the budget that we have extra at the end of the year, we are looking to grow in the next year and we certainly don’t want the budget cut back because that could make doing ministry difficult and stressful.
I know in student ministry there were a few times I found us with money still in the budget at the end of the year and then trying to decide the best way to use it. Our immediate thought might be to add something fun to the youth room, a couple of new gaming units, a couple of flat screens, a giant bean bag sofa. Hey, these things will attract more students. Maybe . . . Maybe not.
What if we viewed the funds as an investment opportunity? I would say the best investment you could make that would have the greatest impact on your student ministry is to invest in your student ministry team. Your volunteers are in the position to make incredible impact on the lives of your students. So next year do a little more than buy them a personalized mug full of candy or takin them out to eat. I would suggest you take them to a training event. Load up the vans and drive the whole crew. If you are remote, like me, load up a few key leaders and fly them to a conference. The better equipped your team is to do ministry the more ministry is going to happen among your students. We are great at filling spots in ministry. How good are we at equipping those we put in the spots? Think of how easier your role as leader will be when your team is functioning like a well oiled machine.
My favorite, and I have been to most the big conferences, is Refuel by LeaderTreks. Two things happen at a Refuel: Equipping for student ministry, each Refuel is laser focused on an area of student ministry. Spiritual refueling, you are given time and space to be refueled.
You may not be able to take the whole team somewhere. Maybe you have enough to fly someone in to train your team or enough to purchase some downloadable training videos then you could create your own student ministry team retreat. There are some great student ministry trainers out there and some high quality training videos. You may have a student ministry buddy in your state who has a top notch volunteer team that you could bring in to train your volunteers.
Equipping your volunteer team is an investment of those funds into lives. It may be the wisest budget investment you could make for 2019.