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Author Archive | Christopher Wesley

3 Action Steps To Improve Your Ministry

Two weeks left and then we’re done.  Thursday, May 1st we are going to wrap up the regular season of our student ministry.  Then we’ll break for a month before heading into summer programming.  Usually summer is organic with little structure.  It’s a time for us to be SIMPLY AVAILABLE.  

The reason for the change in structure is because we focus most of our energy to improve by fall.  Granted we are always tweaking and readjusting, but there are certain seasons when we break things open and really take a deeper look at what needs to be done to create a more effective ministry.  Three action steps we take to improve our ministry are:

ACTION STEP #1 – Survey The Rookies: No one has a fresher perspective of your ministry then the men and women who started serving in the last year.  Ask them to give you the brutal truth of what went well, what was not clear and where you could improve.  Their feedback might be sobering; however, it will help you get out of the trenches and see the big picture.

ACTION STEP #2 – Feed Your Team: During the year most of your focus is on the teens and their families.  Block out certain seasons where you just pour into your volunteers.  Survey where they would like to grow as ministers.  Give them resources to review.  Take them out for a bite one on one and just let them know how grateful you are for their commitment.  A team that feels fed will strengthen the core of your ministry.

ACTION STEP #3 – Rest: Everyone needs to take a break.  If you don’t find time to stop and breathe you’ll only find yourself resenting the job you love.  Their are spiritual, physical, and emotional consequences to not giving yourself some time to walk away.  Look at your calendar and plan a day (Or a week) where you just focus on enjoying life.  Put up away messages and turn off the wifi.  When you return you’ll have a clear perspective and a whole lot of energy.

You should always look to improve your ministry.  There are always more teens to reach and more families to impact.  Set aside seasons in your ministry when you can perform the right action steps.  Put them down, share them with others and watch your ministry grow.

What other action steps should youth ministers take to improve their ministry?

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3 Ways You Can Serve Your Volunteers

He was hurting.  He didn’t want to let me down, but he knew his family needed him.  I told this volunteer that we would be fine if he needed a break.  As much as I wanted to keep him around I knew I needed to serve him.  He took the next two months off and came back with a stronger commitment.

If you want loyal and dedicated volunteers you need to serve them.  Without them you are limited with who you can reach.  Your volunteers enable you to extend your capacity.  If you love your volunteers you need to know how to serve them.  3 ways you can serve your volunteers is by:

  • Giving Them Permission To Rest: It’s easy to get sucked in and overwhelmed by a commitment.  Your volunteers might not want to let you down by asking for a break.  You know ministry is a long journey, make sure your volunteers know it’s okay to take a break.  Schedule in seasons of rest or create terms of service.  Help them last for the long run.
  • Rewarding Them For Their Sacrifice: Serve your volunteers by rewarding them.  When you point out the good that they are doing you’ll boost their confidence.  Confident volunteers become confident leaders.  Reward your leaders by giving them gift cards, send them thank you notes or just give them a shout out on Facebook.
  • Challenging Them In Their Discipleship: Your volunteers need to grow.  The more they grow in their relationship with Christ the better they can serve the next generation.  Your volunteers need to be growing disciples who are growing young disciples.  Encourage them to join a small group of their own or connect them with a devotional.  Empower them to continuously go deeper.

While your ministry is to teenagers, you need to make sure your volunteers are at the forefront of your attention.  They are more than people giving their time, they care about your vision and mission.  When you serve your volunteers they’ll know that you care them as people.

In what ways do you serve your volunteers?

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5 Steps To Highly Effective Meetings

There was a meeting I used to attend that consistently went over it’s designated time.  It was frustrating and I found myself resenting the leader.  I was not alone so we addressed them.  They had not been aware of the issue and were thankful for the feedback.  That very next meeting…we still went over.

Running a meeting is difficult because the amount of pressure people put on you for using their time.  If you waste it  people are not going to be happy.  To avoid wasting people’s time and energy in a meeting you need the right steps to run it effectively.

Here are five steps I use to make sure tasks are accomplished and people feel like I’ve used their time wisely:

STEP 1: Set an Agenda

Meetings that have no direction are the most painful ones to sit through.  By creating an agenda you give people a framework of what to expect.  If the conversation goes off on a tangent you have a path to get people back on task.  Before your next meeting:

  • Take a few minutes to develop one.
  • Share it ahead of the meeting with the attendees. 
  • Ask for their feedback (i.e. what they would like to add).

STEP 2: Stay True To The Time

If a meeting starts late you will rush through important material.  To make sure you maximize your time, start when promised (even if everyone isn’t there) and be prepared.  If you promise people an end time then keep to it.  If you start to go over make a plan to continue at another time or ask people if it’s okay to go over.  When people see that you use their time wisely, they’ll trust your leadership.

STEP 3: Allow Conflict

In order for a meeting to be productive their needs to be conflict.  That does not mean fighting and yelling; however, tension can be good.  It allows people to express their thoughts which could lead to better ideas and outcomes.  If someone disagrees with you and holds that back they are doing you a disservice.  Also, unaddressed conflict can turn into resentment.  In the end it might feel uncomfortable, but it will allow everyone to be honest and authentic.

STEP 4: Conclude With A Plan

Your team needs to know what’s next at the end of a meeting.  If you do not develop action steps to take care of the topics of discussion your meetings will become repetitive and redundant.  Delegate responsibilities with tangible steps.  Write them down and review them at the conclusion of your meeting.

STEP 5: Follow Up

Doesn’t matter if it’s in an email or with another meeting, follow up is important.  It’s a way of holding other accountable and making sure deadlines are reached.  If your team accomplishes the goals that you have set forth then morale will increase.  Everyone loves being set up for success.

Make meetings worth it by putting effort and energy into the preparation.  Communicate the meeting’s expectations and allow feedback.  When people see that you care about their time, they’ll give you grace when you mess up.  They’ll also honor the time and energy you pour into becoming a leader.

What other steps would add to creating a highly effective meeting?

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Build Up Your Teens

Teens are facing voices every day of their life.  Some of these voices attack their image and integrity.  It’s a lot to handle, especially with all the responsibility they have on their plates.  This means that each week a few of them are walking into your ministry a little knocked down.  You and your ministry need to know how to build them up.  Here are a few step you can take:

  • Write Them A Note: One of the best ways to build up your students is with a note.  Take a few minutes each week to write some of your teenagers a note.  You do not have to write to every student, in fact it’s better if it’s random.  Encourage them in their gifts, thank them for their presence or encourage them where they need to grow.  A note is personal and will influence them greatly.
  • Greet Them At The Door: Nothing says, “So glad that you are here.” like greeting someone at the door.  Make it a priority to place an adult (or even yourself) at the door each week saying hello to the students.  It will break the tension and build them up to take on the world.
  • Brag To Their Parents: Parents need to know they are doing a great job and their kids aren’t going to always tell them.  Call a parent and let them know the good that is happening.  Encourage them to keep doing what they are doing.  It’ll be the pep talk a parent needs to walk with their child through adolescence.
  • Put Them On The Pastor’s Radar: Let your pastor (and the rest of the staff) know who is shining in your ministry.  Encourage your coworkers to recognize and build up your student leaders.  This will help your teens feel like they are a part of the larger church.  It’ll give them a feeling of ownership and in response many will raise up their level of leadership.
  • Invest In Them: Equip your teens like you would your volunteers.  Give them books on personal growth.  Take them to conferences.  Sit down one on one with them over a meal.  Get to know them and let them know that you want them to succeed.  When a teen feels valued he or she will be motivated to give back.

Build up your teens and you’ll find the mood and morale of your ministry deepen.  What you do inside your ministry will pour into their every day lives.  Someone who feels loved is going to want to share that with others.  Build up your teens and you’ll be building up the Kingdom.

How do you motivate or encourage teens in your ministry?

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Effective Volunteer Recruiting

Courtesy of libertygrace0/CreativeCommons LIcense

Courtesy of libertygrace0/CreativeCommons LIcense

This is the time of year when we start looking at the fall.  Granted summer has even started; however, it’s important for us to get ahead in order to be effective by fall.  One of those areas to be effective is recruiting volunteers.

Whether you have turnover or just a growing ministry it’s important to stay on top of recruiting.  While there are hundreds of ways to recruit volunteers, it’s important to know which methods are most effective.  A few of those methods (from least to most effective) are:

  • Utilizing Technology: Create a video or design a template to make your invitation attractive.  Email it out, post it on Facebook or post the video on your website.  The most important step is making sure people know what you want them to know and what you want them to do.  While it might not be the most effective you’ll hit your biggest audience.
  • Preaching It From The Pulpit: The person with the most clout in your church is the pastor.  Ask him to make an announcement or weave into his message your need for volunteers.  When he speaks he’s able to reach an audience you might not have had access too.  On top of it he’ll be validating your ministry.  This might be a challenge, depending on the relationship you have with your pastor.  That is why you need to start the conversation now and help him see the importance of his platform.
  • Advocating On The Weekend: Your presence on the weekend matters.  Spend time between services meeting people and forming relationships.  Over time you may discover people with unique talents who will be great for your ministry.  Your presence will help put a face to your ministry.  Even if you are not successful in recruiting, you will at least give your ministry more of a presence in the church.
  • Personal Invite: Do not let the burden of finding volunteers fall on your shoulders alone.  Encourage your current team to think of people they can invite into ministry.  Not only will people know who to ask, they’ll know how to ask.  When you have that type of focus you’ll find more success.  The highest level of effectiveness comes from a personal invitation.

By knowing what’s most effective you’ll know where to pour most of your energy.  Casting vision to your current team should take priority over the amount of stress you’ll expel on an email.  While what you craft in an electronic invite is important, the payoff will not nearly be as high.  Prioritize your methods so that you can be effective when it comes to recruiting volunteers.

Do you agree with this list?  Would you add any other effective methods?

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How To Lead Up

I’ve known my pastor for 10 years.  While our relationship is strong, it hasn’t always been that way.  I would get frustrated when he would say, “No.”  And then there were times when it felt like he didn’t care about youth ministry.  I grew miserable.

Two things changed.  I stopped always making everything about me and I realized that being a leader isn’t easy.  For one, it can be lonely.  You are out there in the public eye and you are vulnerable.  Instead of setting unrealistic expectations, I had to learn how to lead up.

To lead up means honoring your leadership and showing them that you are trustworthy.  In the end they’ll see you as a worthy advocate and allow you to have influence.  To build that trust and become a serious player at the leadership table you need to make sure you are:

  • Asking, “What Can I Do For You?”: If you want to build loyalty show your leader that you care about them.  People are demanding of their leaders, this turns the table.  That question, “What can I do for you?” shows them that your relationship isn’t always about you.   If they see that you care for them, they’ll trust you.
  • Never Criticizing Them Publicly: There are appropriate venues to vent frustration regarding the relationship you have with leadership.  However, every time you do it publicly you are creating several impressions.  People will form negative opinions about your leader as well as about you.  They’ll see you as someone who only complains instead of facing the issue.
  • Keeping Short Accounts: Leaders will make decisions you won’t always agree with.  They’ll do things to set you off.  Instead of storing them inside and allowing them to fester, release them.  This means finding the appropriate time to confront the situation.  If your pastor upsets you go to him in a time where’s able to hear your feedback.  When you keep short accounts, you keep the communication flowing.  When people are upfront and authentic with one another it builds a healthier team.
  • Praying For Them: They like you are in the trenches and facing spiritual battles.  To have a healthy organization you need a healthy leader and that means praying for him.  They are being tested, pushed and pulled.  By having their back you are showing that your church is more than one.

Lead your leadership by loving them and showing them that you are there.  When they discover that they aren’t alone and that you stand in their corner not only will they trust you, but invest in you.  When you lead up you show everyone that you are worth following.

How do you lead up?

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Finding Youth Ministry Exposure

I used to get jealous when people would talk about our church.  All they raved about was the preaching, the band, the children’s program, the parking lot and even the coffee.  What about the youth ministry?

The problem? LACK OF EXPOSURE

Like many, our youth ministry meets at times when most people aren’t in the building.  Some youth ministries meet in the depths of the church basement.  It’s no wonder people have no clue what your youth ministry does.

Instead of allowing feelings of jealousy and frustration take over, develop a strategy to get the word out.  Granted it won’t happen over night, but there are a few steps you can take now to build momentum.  Such as:

  • Connecting With Leadership: Whether you have an elders’ board or a parish council you need to make sure you have a relationship with it’s members.  When leadership is aware and educated you’ll see the exposure climb.  They’ll begin see it as an important part of the church’s investment.
  • Bring Them The Ministry: If you cannot bring people to youth ministry, bring it to them.  Encouraging your students to get involved alongside of adults is one of easiest and most organic ways to gain exposure.  You can also find opportunities to bring groups like the student band to play or present in front of the adult congregation.  Put together video promos that can advertise or showcase the youth ministry.  Show them online or in front of the main church.
  • Discover Key Advocates: While you might feel alone, you do have fans.  Ask parents you know who are on board to get the word out to fellow parents.  Ask volunteers who are key to ministry to share what they do on a regular basis.  Do not put the sole responsibility of advocacy on your shoulders.
  • Get The Pastor On Board: This might be a challenge depending on your relationship; however, get the pastor on board and people will follow.  Ask him to mention teenagers and/or the ministry in his message.  Bring him up to date on the good, the bad and the ugly of what’s going on.  Make him feel like he’s a part of the team.  The more confident he feels about your ministry, the more he’ll back it.

Finding youth ministry exposure is a challenge.  It takes a little extra work to get the word out because your location and times are usually not optimal.  Teenagers can be intimidating and it’s your job to show otherwise.  While gaining exposure might be difficult, embrace the challenge so that you can help the entire church grow.

How do you bring your ministry more exposure?

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Health Over Competence

Youth ministries fail for a variety of reasons.  Rarely will you see them fail because of a lack of competency.  According to Patrick Lencioni, (Author of the Advantage) while competency is important, it’s not nearly as important as organizational health.

Organizational health is something every youth ministry (And church) needs to address.  If people aren’t working well with one another, the ministry will fail.  According to Patrick Lencioni, in order to have health you need to have:

  • Cohesiveness: Make sure everyone is on the same page and working together.  That means having trust and respect.  When a team is cohesive they are able to approach any obstacle and rally around any issue.
  • Clarity: Everything from the vision to systems need to be clear.  This means making sure that people know the action steps and objectives that need to be approached.  Clarity needs to surround your vision and it should bleed through the organization.
  • Consistent Communication: Over communicating is what builds trust and leads to clarity.  A healthy team is one who is sharing what’s on their minds and hearts.  It’s a team that is honest and authentic with one another.  To build the communication make sure that people are given a voice and that as a leader you are listening.
  • Accountable: You need to make sure people are praised for what they do well.  You also need to make sure people are being held to their commitments and goals.  Creating an evaluation system is a key to this.  When people encourage and challenge one another the health in the organization increases.

An organization that is healthy will grow in competency because everyone is pushing their team to grow.  When a team is on the same page and working together for the same vision, no problem will be too big.

What other characteristics would you add to a healthy organization?

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Finding Peace In Your Schedule

This feels good.  I haven’t done this in a while.  I’m writing this post in a coffee shop on a Thursday morning.  There’s nothing amazing about this.  In fact it was a part of my routine for years.  Wake up early, head to a local coffee shop, write, blog and set up my social media.  Then life happened and my schedule took a hit.

Nothing bad has happened.  The pace of life just picked up and the last few months have been like putting together a 1000 piece puzzle.  It’s not the first time this has happened either, in fact there have been many times in my life where my schedule has been reshuffled.

Creating and maintaining a schedule is one of the best habits a youth minister (Any professional) can have for them self.  A schedule:

  • Gives Direction
  • Creates Margin
  • Produces Efficiency

The problem is when life happens.  Maybe your pastor is leaving.  Maybe a teenager passes away.  Maybe you are expecting a child at home.  Maybe you’ve just been battling personal demons.  Doesn’t matter what the cause when your schedule gets knocked out of whack, the question that you need to answer is, “How do I get it back?”

This is where you need to:

  • Set Aside Time: Sacrificing time when you do not feel like you have any is daunting.  When you set aside time to work on your schedule and priorities you build a plan.  If you use that time wisely you’ll not only make up for the times you’ve set aside, but you’ll find yourself getting ahead.
  • Find Cheerleaders And Coaches: You need people to hold you accountable.  That means asking people to encourage you in your journey to get back on track.  It also means finding people who will give you insight and tools.  Surrounding yourself with people who want you to succeed is key to finding peace in your schedule.
  • Reflect On Your Limits: When your schedule becomes chaotic it’s because you went beyond your limits.  It’s in prayer and during a sabbath when you can, with a cool head, focus on where you might need to say no.  When you reflect on your limits you can discover what needs to be delegated.  Reflecting on your limits will help you tweak your previous schedule so you don’t find yourself making the same mistakes.
  • Ask God To Carry You: Getting back on track isn’t as simple as saying, “I want to get back on track.”  It’s relying on God to give you the love, energy, wisdom and focus needed to get there.  Be direct and ask God to guide you and when the opportunity presents itself, jump on it.

Life will happen.  When it does you need to trust that God is with you.  Lean on Him, revisit what you were doing and see what needs to change.  When you are intentional about creating a schedule you’ll find order and that will lead to peace of mind.

How do you get back on track?

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Is Your Ministry Hospitable?

It only took me two seconds to realize, “I didn’t belong here.” but it felt too late.  Heads turned, I was spotted.  I had walked into the wrong room for a meeting.  No one asked, “Can I help you?” they just stared.

Ever have that feeling?  Like you don’t belong?  It’s a feeling many teenagers risk feeling walking into your ministry.  They walk in not seeing anyone they know and begin to question, “What on earth am I doing here?” The challenge youth ministry’s face is to be a hospitable environment.  If not intentional it can get really uncomfortable for them.

To create a hospitable environment where teenagers can let down their guard you need to make sure you:

  • Greet Them At The Door: You can take their fears away by placing a caring adult or a loving peer at the door to welcome them and even ask, “How can I help you?”  Make it seem normal that new people are coming in all the time.  Get the relationship started on the right foot.
  • Give Them Clear Direction: The first couple of minutes before everything gets started can be intimidating.  Give them someone to talk to by going up and breaking the ice.  Introduce them to others or invite them to engage in a variety of activities(i.e. deck of cards, ping pong, video games).
  • Be Weary Of All Calls And Silly Games: There is nothing wrong with having all of your students involved in an activity or to invite a new person to participate in a game.  Just be mindful of the embarrassment or discomfort factor involved.  Give new people an out if they feel uncomfortable.  Be hospitable by providing baby steps to engagement.
  • Thank Them For Coming: Collect contact information and follow up with an email, text or phone call thanking them for coming.  Let them know you really enjoyed their time and hope to see them the following week.  You might even want to say, “If you have any questions, let me know.”  Show them that you were glad they came.
  • Share The Vision: Encourage your leaders and regular students to be aware that from time to time you’ll have visitors.  Empower them to be hospitable by reminding them that your ministry is about growing disciples.  Expand your capacity by having them on the lookout for new teens.

Creating hospitable environments means being intentional with what you do and say.  Build systems that lead to irresistible  environments.  Let anyone who comes in through the door, “We’re so glad to see you.”

How do you make your environment hospitable?

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Taking Risks Like A Pro

A few years back we had a worship service on Good Friday.  It was an interactive arts performance, where we always look to try new things to enhance worship for teenagers.  This particular year we were using a software that allowed people to text their prayers to our screen, while the band played.  The software had a filter component; however, it was only available if you upgraded.  I didn’t want to take the risk of spending a lot of money on something that I wasn’t sure people would use, so we settled for the free version.  BIG MISTAKE.

In the middle of a worship set, as people were sharing their prayers, someone decided to text something inappropriate.  Let’s just say it went something like this:

“I LIKE…(use your imagination)”

Embarrassed we took it down immediately.  That night we failed.  While we knew we were taking a risk, we didn’t approach it in the right way.

People hold back from taking risks because they’ve failed before.  While failure will happen again, the way to take risks like a pro is by knowing which ones to take.  To know which ones you should take you need to make sure:

  • You Know Your Stuff: If you take the time to do your research you’ll know the calculated risks that come with what you want to do. If something seems like a long shot you can eliminate it or re-approach it from a new perspective.  Gather data, gain feedback and make sure you understand as best you can what you are getting yourself into.  Even if it means failure, you’ll know where to go back to take a look.
  • You Have A Purpose: Don’t just do something to do it.  Everything in your ministry needs a purpose from creating community to deepening a child’s faith.  If you add something to your ministry just because, then you’ll find yourself wasting time.  Know why, before you start figuring out how.
  • You Will Review It: Whenever you are taking a risk make sure you have an opportunity to review it afterwards.  Whether it’s success or failure you need to take time to analyze the big steps you are taking.  Ask people to help you analyze, create a feedback system with the crowds and give yourself a little margin to review.

Risks will help your ministry grow because they will:

  • Expand Your Comfort Zone
  • Bring You Humility
  • Keep Your Ministry Breathing
  • Challenge The Status Quo

When you take a risk make sure you calculate, focus and keep track of your journey progresses.  Do not be afraid to push your ministry to the limits, even if it means failing from time to time.

What risks are you taking in your ministry?

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Dealing With Difficult Teenagers

He kept talking and talking and talking.  I had had enough.  I stopped in the middle of my message and exclaimed, “Really?!”  I had lost control over a situation that had escalated over the weeks.  Everyone in the room knew it was coming the question was, “When?” and the answer was, “Right now.”

I was wrong in my actions.  I should have never let it go that far.  I’ve been doing youth ministry long enough to know how to deal with difficult teenagers.

There will be days in your youth ministry when you feel like you are shepherding little devils instead of sheep.  You’ll wonder why you have no patience and why the teens are extra difficult.  But, youth ministry isn’t about dealing with perfect teenagers, it’s embracing the good and the bad.  In order to survive the messiness and not lose your mind you need to:

  • Confront Them Early On: Never let a problem fester.  If a teen is difficult and you let it slide you could make the situation more complicated later on.  Find a time when you can address the issue privately, so that you do not embarrass the teen.  It also prevents a teen from being surprised if you address them over something big.  By leaning in early, you give them plenty of heads up to change direction.
  • Partner Up:  You might have an adult in your ministry that connects with the teen better than you.  By partnering up you not only protect yourself from here-say, you give the teenager an objective party.  Bringing in another person can diffuse and clarify a difficult situation.
  • Communicate With Parents: If a teenager tends to be a problem in your ministry talk with the parents.  You might find out that the teen is acting out because of something at home or school.  I had a teenager who was hard to deal with because I found out his parents didn’t give him his ADHD medicine on the weekends.  What I was witnessing was a release of energy.  Talk with parents to bring them into the know and to see if there is more to what you are seeing.
  • Develop A Plan: Do not carry the burden of addressing difficult teenagers on your own.  Empower your volunteers by allowing them to address misbehaving teens.  Know what you are going to do if a teen is disruptive once, twice and so on.  Get ahead of the problem by having a strategy in place.

Difficult teenagers are not out to get you.  They are reacting to what’s happening in their life.  By putting together a plan and sharing the burden you can approach teens and help them adjust so that they are no longer a distraction.

How do you deal with difficult teenagers?

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New Goals For The New Year

I used to start out the school year with the attitude, “This is the year!”.  This would be the year I:

  • Get better grades.
  • Ask out that girl.
  • Make varsity and start.
  • Make the honor roll

And each year, maybe one of those things would happen.  In the new year I would have a similar attitude.  I would exclaim, “This is the year!” This would be the year I:

  • Get in shape.
  • Ask out that girl.
  • Lose weight

And each, year maybe one of those things would happen.  It wasn’t that I was bad at setting goals, I just couldn’t keep them.

If you want your ministry to grow and move, it’s going to need you setting goals.  It’s going to need you dreaming big and casting vision.  The problem is that many of us hold back from dreaming big or setting new goals because it’s intimidating.  The idea of failing at your goals can be embarrassing and deflating.  To overcome those feelings you need to look at how you approach your goals.  To set proper goals and keep them for the new year make sure you:

  • Write Them Down: When you write down a goal you give it weight.  It becomes tangible and real, which means it’s hard to ignore.  Whether you write down your dreams in a journal or a post it in front of you, make sure it’s recorded and not forgotten.
  • Put Together A Plan: It’s one thing to dream, it’s another to work towards achieving them.  To reach your goals it’s important to put together a plan.  That plan might involve research or setting mini goals that lead to the big one.  No matter the plan make sure it’s there to help you move forward.
  • Share It With Others: Sharing your goals (And your plans) with others brings you accountability and additional resources.  Tell someone or a group of people what you hope to do.  Give them permission to ask you about it.  Someone might have a connection or ability to help you achieve them.  People will cheer you on and help you through the challenges.  Get them out there.
  • Celebrate Small Milestones: As you get closer to achieving your goals, celebrate.  Buy yourself a special coffee drink or throw yourself a party.  Share your accomplishments on social media and create some hype.  The more excitement around a goal the more you will build momentum.
  • Pray On It: It seems so obvious; however, it cannot be repeated enough.  Share your goals with God and see how He’ll work through them.  You might have the right intentions or a great vision; however, no strategy.  God’s going to give you that strategy.  He’s going to give you the resources and people you need to accomplish them, you just need to work on trusting Him.

Setting goals are easy, it’s keeping them that’s the challenge.  Make sure you take your dreams and give them weight.  Do not hold onto them secretly, and trust that God is working through you to accomplish them all.

What goals do you have for the new year?

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Rest When You Can

The summer after my freshman year of college I remember making the 10 hour drive from Cincinnati to New Jersey by myself.  After finally arriving home, I hugged my mom and went upstairs and just slept.  I cannot tell you for how long, but the rest did me good.  I woke up ready to take on the summer.

It’s difficult to talk about rest in the middle of one of the most hectic times of year; however, it’s important.  Without rest it’s easy for you to become burned out and lose love for what you do.  When you are restless you become easily irritated and unpleasant to be around.  You lose focus and make simple and avoidable mistakes.  You need to rest and while that might not always seem possible here are a few steps to change that:

  • Do One Thing Less: Maybe it’s watching one less hour of television or reading one less blog post (After this one).  Eliminate one thing from your schedule that might be using up your time.  Do not fill that time with something else, instead incorporate it into your schedule.  Build it into your sleep.  Enjoy the margin.
  • Share The Burden: If you are tired it can be a strong indication that you are doing too much.  Share the responsibility by asking someone to help you out.  There are people in your ministry and your life willing to help you out.  There are people in your ministry and life that have the margin and capacity to share the burden. Take advantage of it and breathe a little easier.
  • Write It Out: It’s easy to grow frustrated when you lose sight of what needs to be done.  Take a minute to write out goals, a check list or a to-do list that will help you stay on track.  When you are efficient with your time and energy you’ll find that you have some left over.  Keep the list visible and share with people to hold you accountable.
  • Connect With God: It’s so easy to forget that you need God especially when you work for the Church.  The Bible study you are planning or the message you are crafting can be fruitful; however, draining at the same time.  Make sure you are taking the time to connect with God so that He can fill you and fuel you with the Holy Spirit.  Do not be afraid to lean on Him.

Rest when you can so that you can be affective and efficient.  The more energy and focus you have the more you will be able to accomplish.  And sometimes in order to do more and get more you need to just rest.

How do you find rest?

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How To Own Holiday Stress

The ride home from work has gotten slightly longer.  The Baltimore Beltway is filled with tired commuters and anxious Christmas shoppers heading to malls and department stores.  I just want to get home, grab some grub and get some sleeping.  As I look at the endless stream of red lights I wonder, “Hasn’t anyone heard of Amazon?” I begin to feel the holiday stress.

As your ministry and church prepare for Christmas you might find that emotions are high.  Granted it’s the most wonderful time of the year; however, attitudes and actions could state otherwise.  To own the stress that comes around the holidays make sure you:

  • Create Some Fun: While it might seem like a waste of time it’s important to schedule in some fun.  Maybe it’s gathering your volunteers for a little Christmas party.  Encourage your staff to get together for lunch and play a game.  Or get some people together to watch a classic Christmas movie.  Find time to have some fun and laugh so that you can look forward to enjoying this time more in the future.
  • Communicate Frequently: When it gets busy it’s easy to let the communication drop.  When the communication goes away it’s easy to leave things up to assumption.  Do not be afraid to check in with people continuously.  Make sure nothing is getting bottled up.  Keep short accounts and if something is building set a time with that person to approach it intentionally.  Frequent communication prevents major blow ups.
  • Plan A Break: While youth ministry is like a marathon, certain seasons can turn it into a sprint.  To endure the holiday stress make sure you are planning a break right after.  Give yourself a couple of days to decompress and blow off any left over energy.  The margin is worth it, even if it means changing the way you celebrate Christmas.  Whether it’s a vacation or stay-cation give yourself time to rest and refuel.
  • Embrace Hope: This is truly a season of hope.  It’s a reminder of God’s promise and if we forget that it’s easy to get sucked up in the holiday craziness and the consumeristic trap.  Make sure you take time to thank God for what He’s blessed you with.  Revisit a few traditions (i.e. Advent prayers) that can remind you what this season is truly about.  When we have hope during the holidays it will help melt stress away.

Just like any busy season there is a lot to do and prepare this Christmas.  Instead of letting it weigh down on you, get out in front and own it.  Make a plan and focus on Christ and let this be a stress free season.

How do you own the holiday stress?

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