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First 2 Years: The Three Things I Thought I Knew

Thought I Knew

The past six months or so have made up one of the most transforming seasons of my life. The Lord has taken almost everything I thought I knew and turned it upside down. He had me ask myself some really tough questions and put me into situations that were way out of my comfort zone. Of course when you are in the middle of it the season seems crazy, out of control, and totally overwhelming, but as I start to come out of it I am seeing the incredible things that the Lord taught me. The way I see myself, the way I interact with Him, and the way I do ministry is completely different now. There are so many things that He has taught me recently but I thought I’d share my top three with you.

Myself- I thought I knew my strengths, my weaknesses, my spiritual gifts, and how I related to other people. I thought I had myself figured out—but the Lord disagreed. He made me face the parts of myself that I didn’t want to deal with and had me take risks that I thought I’d surely fail. However, in the midst of my journey, the Lord revealed to me gifts I never knew I had. He showed me the depth of my mercy for other people and the passion I didn’t know I had for different parts of ministry. I feel like I have started to come into my own and He continually reveals that to me in the fruit of this new perspective

Faithfulness- It’s in the middle of a hard season that the Lord shows you the clear difference between your will and His will. Naturally, I didn’t want to face any of this, but I knew that I was exactly where He wanted me. As tough as it was, God truly revealed to me the blessings that come along with faithfulness. I have learned so much, have had incredible ministry moments, and have been given opportunities that I never thought I’d receive. Overall, the Lord is good and will surely reward your faithfulness.

Community- I thought I had a good understanding of community. I considered myself a good sharer and wasn’t afraid to ask for help with day-to-day tasks. But what I started to learn was that when it came to the things that mattered, the last thing I relied on was other people. I hated talking about what I was feeling, how I was processing, or even saying that I needed something. The thought of being vulnerable and admitting that I wasn’t in control was the most terrifying thing I could think of. But I’ve learned that He uses people in your life to reveal pieces of Himself and things He wants to teach you. God has placed some of the most incredible friends and mentors in my life that have helped me learn to experience emotions and ask for help. It’s still scary and it’s still uncomfortable, but I now know that it’s not going to kill me.

As youth pastors, we will surely go through dark seasons. We will be tired, confused, and want to give up. But let me assure you that God is good and faithful. He will redeem the messy parts of life and, in time, reveal incredible truths. So take a deep breath and as hard or impossible as it may seem, place your trust in Him.

Have you gone through a similar season? What has the Lord revealed to you?

Colton [Email||Twitter]

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First 2 Years: How to Feel Welcome

Feeling Welcome

I think the problem that we sometimes run into when trying to solve things like creating a welcoming environment is that we miss the target because we aren’t looking at the root of the issue. The actual root of the issue is the social need that isn’t being met. Some of the biggest needs that teenagers (or people in general) have are to be seen, to be known, and to belong. If you can create an environment that helps meet those needs, you’ll have a student that sticks around.

Seen- One of the most important elements of your youth group should be an at-the-door greeting. For a brand new student to be welcomed before they even set foot in the room is huge. Even though the greeting wasn’t incredibly personal, it tells the new student that someone noticed them. Try to include some way of getting their contact information so that someone can follow up with them later in the week. A simple phone call or letter saying how excited we were to meet them means the world!

Known- I would hate for our only interaction with a new student to just be an at-the-door greeting. We push our adult leaders and student leaders to be caring for new students or students that just aren’t connected yet. That means the new student isn’t sitting by themselves all service, that there is someone at this church that knows their name, their school, what they like to do, etc. That connection is essential for creating community within your youth group.

Belong- Keep in mind that new students are from all walks of life. Some are all-in with Jesus and some have yet to meet him. When you are onstage make sure they know, no matter what they are struggling with or what they believe, that they belong in your ministry. Invite them to events, tell them about small groups, and invite them to camp. Let them know you want them there.

What do you do to make your youth group welcoming?

Colton [Email||Twitter]

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What If I Just Don’t Show Up?

I used to think I was the only one that felt like this. I thought I was the only person who two hours before our youth event that my mind raced about what if no one shows up?, what if the night is a flop?, what if my talk sucks?, what if leaders no show? What if…….?

Last winter we held our first ever Winter Camp, and like anything that is new, there was a bit of uncertainty around student buy in as well as doubts around if we were as prepared as we needed to be. I like many of you work much of my week alone without the benefit of other full time staff in my department and in the midst of the quiet of my office I have allowed my mind to wander to places of doubt that are not healthy for myself, our leaders or students. The fact that leadership can be a lonely place is an accepted reality of ministry, but it is vitally important to understand that self doubt is a common experience and one that for many can be debilitating and draining.

On the friday morning of the first day of camp last year for the first time in my ministry career I woke up, checked my phone, and instead of getting out of bed, I covered my head with the pillow and thought:

What if I just don’t show up?

What was I saying? Just not show up? We had worked so hard to create an incredible camp experience, students were excited but somehow I wasn’t.

Now as I Look back now at that day and the year that followed, I have learned a lot about myself, about ministry and from talking to lots of youth workers about this exact thing. Here is what I learned and I hope can be helpful to you:

You are not the only one: That morning I felt like a total failure, I felt that I was the worst youth pastor, my students deserved better, my leaders deserved better, my church deserved better. I go on Twitter and Instagram and see great events and youth workers who are #Pumped about how great the event is going to be and that morning I felt like #crap a total #loser. As I shared with other pastors this year at various gatherings, conferences and events I realized something, I was not the only person who had felt like this, in fact far from it. Self doubt and feeling overwhelmed sometimes is pretty common, but no one ever tweets about that. Instead we let ourselves grow in discouragement from watching other leaders “highlight reel” posts, with no mention of the tension and fear that lies beneath. If you have ever felt worried that you event was going to be a total flop, you are not alone.

It’s not a lack of faith: This is probably the least helpful piece of advice that one could have given me when I was in that place of wanting to give up. It had nothing to do with my faith, it was simply a feeling of being completely overwhelmed with doubt. Doubt of my capability, uncertainty that I had done enough or that what we had worked so hard on would be any good. I wanted to simply pull the pillow over my head and give up. I knew God was going to work no matter what I did that weekend and that inspite of my best efforts or inspite of any oversight that I might have made in planning. I wasn’t lacking in my faith in God, I was lacking trust that I was still the right person to be shepherding my ministry and students. God hadn’t changed, I just felt that I did.

Bring people into your struggle: Having a trusted circle of leaders and mentors is key. Ministry, like life is not meant to be a solo sport. After feeling so discouraged and anxious about camp last year, this year I chose to do things differently. This time I brought others into the fold of where I was at, creating an open dialogue where we can encourage and pray for one another. I can say with confidence that this was the turning point for me as for the first time I didn’t feel alone. My core leaders knew for the first time where I was really at, where I was nervous, where I felt we were unprepared and where I needed an extra hand. Knowing where I was at a year ago, this year our team stepped up, we shared the load of camp in a way that we have never before. The same has been true of every event in the last 10 months which have all be joint efforts among many people. We’ve have shared the load, shared the wins and that has been the best outcome of all of this. I have watched as God humbled me to admit I don’t have it all handled and this has allowed our leaders to lead in new and bigger ways than ever before.

The single biggest outcome of all of this has been the slaying of the idol in my life, that I had to do it all and the success or failure of every element of our ministry was solely on my shoulders. This is the furthest thing from the truth, I am a part of a team, a team that supports me and that I am able to support, and a team that cares about my heart and encourages me. As we have grown in our ability to be honest with one another so to has our connectedness to mission that God has called us to as a ministry and for this I am very thankful.

-Geoff @geoffcstewart 

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First 2 Years: Don’t Follow Your Heart

Heart

I sat down with a student recently who wanted to leave our ministry. She said she didn’t really “feel” anything at HSM anymore and explained that it was because she “wasn’t getting fed.” She went on to say that she had been listening to a lot of Judah Smith sermons that she loved and wanted to find a church with speakers like that. Now I am just as big of a Judah fan as anybody else,  but I wanted to go a little deeper with her. Once we really got talking I told her to tell me what the last Judah Smith message she listened to was about. She had a really hard time articulating an answer for me and it turned out that she didn’t really remember. The thing is, she didn’t remember what the message was about, she just remembered how it made her feel.

I think that story is a representation of a ton of teenagers and young adults all across the country–even the world. You see tons of them going to several different churches for worship nights, speakers, etc. all because they are addicted to this emotional response. Students are terrified of the moment where they might not feel anything, because if they don’t feel anything, God must be distant from them. Students have the temptation to evaluate their relationship with the Lord based on how their heart feels. What they forget is that the Bible says the heart is deceitful and wicked above all things (Jer. 17:9).

This can manifest itself in something called the “camp high,” in which students come back from a winter or summer camp and feel “on fire” for the Lord. They commit to making all of these changes when they get back home and, when the feeling goes away, many fall back into old habits because the new ones are hard to keep when they don’t have that fire in their heart.

We need to focus on teaching students about this. It is so important that you talk with them about their feelings and emotional health. Being in the middle of winter camp season, we have a great opportunity to address this with students. A HUGE piece of volunteer camp training we often miss is teaching how to handle things like “cry night.” When a student starts crying, our volunteers should be asking them about it and unpacking it. Students are rarely challenged to identify the emotions they are feeling, so instead of coming to and understanding of their feelings, they are only left with the memory of it.

Have you noticed this in your youth group, too? What are you doing to tackle the topic?

Colton [Email||Twitter]

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First 2 Years: Christian Clubs

CO Blog

A few years ago we got frustrated with the status of some of our Christian clubs. It seems like they had just turned into a group of high school students that met on Wednesdays to eat pizza and listen to a 10-minute talk. The clubs rarely saw any growth and weren’t really known for anything but being pretty cliquey. So about a year ago, we decided to ramp up our campus outreach efforts and work more directly with the student-led clubs. What this meant was we needed to push them to fulfill more purposes of the Church on their campuses. Here are a few things that have happened:

Worship- About 3 times a semester, a few of the local clubs put together a worship lunch instead of their normal program. They get a few singers, a guitar player or two, and lead their students to encounter the Lord during their break. They do such a great job! One club even puts together a PowerPoint with all of the lyrics!

Serving- We have had clubs looking for the specific needs of their school and the unique ways that they can serve. One of our clubs (named Cookies and Christ) made the entire football team cookies and gave them out to each player in a bag with their name and jersey number on it right before a big game. We had another school serve their ASB team during the busyness of the homecoming season. We also did a sticky note project at a ton of our local schools. It has been fun to see what they come up with!

Evangelism- We want our Christian club leaders to teach their students how to evangelize at their school. I think too often we just say to our students, “go evangelize,” but they don’t really know what to do with that. So empowering our club leaders to empower their clubs allows for some really cool life change. They have put a focus on relational evangelism this year. The results have been huge–one our clubs has even doubled in numbers!

What are the clubs at your local school doing that are breaking the norm?

Colton [Email||Twitter]

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5 Questions to Ask Before Posting to Social Media

social_media_questions

I came across this awesome article that was posted on Relevant. It can be super easy to make a weird choice about what we end up posting on social media and the result can really bite us on the butt! This article covers multiple dangers of posting. Here is my favorite point from the article:

4. Is this a moment to protect?

When my son crawls into my lap, he doesn’t want me to take his picture and shoot it across Facebook. He doesn’t care who else thinks I have a cute kid. He just wants me to hold him and see him. To feel his soft, chunky arms and to focus on the way his eyelashes move when he blinks.

When we interrupt lunch with a friend in order to quote her on Twitter, we invite hundreds of people into a conversation that could have been sacred; and we miss the sweet memories that may have formed had her words remained simply between the two of us.

Not every great moment needs to be shared. In fact, some of the best times are most enjoyed privately. If we suspend the present in an attempt to capture its beauty in 140 characters or less, we sacrifice our experience of the moment itself. We also rob each other of something that has been lost in our digital age—keeping a handful of memories between us and those we are closest to, or even just between us and God.

Especially with Instagram, I don’t think we do a great job at protecting moments. Posting during those special moments in our youth ministry keeps us from being fully present, but sometimes we feel this odd need to–but why? I think we often say, “I want to share what God is doing in our ministry,” but we really need to be examining our hearts with that. We need to make sure we aren’t posting things to say, “Look how great my ministry is,” “Look what I did,” or “Look at how much students love me.”

In the pursuit of protecting moments, we find that we really need to be protecting our hearts. There is probably a follow up blog coming up about this soon.

Colton [Email||Twitter]

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First 2 Years: You Own the Small Group!

YOTSG

Once a year (usually around the new year), I throw a wrench in our small group calendar. Adapted from our You Own the Weekend series, I dedicate a month or so to have my small group be run by the students!

It is one of the most fun things that my group does and we look forward to it every year! I group them into pairs and assign them a passage of scripture (usually there is a theme, like parables or miracles). When it is their week, they are responsible for several things: bringing the snack, running “highs and lows,” leading the lesson, and overseeing prayer requests at the end. Of course I help prep them during the week leading up, but once small group starts it is all them!

Here are a couple reasons why I keep bringing it back:

-It is fun! You Own the Small Group (YOTSG) is a blast and allows students to express themselves and their creativity. Last year, when a group was teaching about the vine and branches, they brought in this HUGE tree branch, shears, fruit–everything! While it was super messy, it was super fun! The things that they do when they teach help make some really special memories.

-It helps the group. If you have ever worked in customer service, you find yourself having extra patience and saying thank you much more often when you go to restaurants. You do that because you know what it is like to deal with how crazy customers can be. This is the same principle. After leading their week, students know what it is like to try to get the group to listen and respect each other and how hard it can be to get people to participate. Students come out of it being a more productive and well-behaved student in group. It pushes them to take ownership in the group.

What are some things that you do to mix up small group?

Colton [Email||Twitter]

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First 2 Years: 4 Secrets to Listening Better

Listening

I’ve been really passionate about listening recently. Mainly because there aren’t that many people that do it. One problem is that I don’t think people know how to listen well. The other problem is that I don’t think people understand the power of listening well. I used to think that I was a great listener until I had two incredible and life-giving conversations with a mentor of mine that changed everything for me. Not just in how I encountered my own brokenness, but in how I encountered the brokenness of others. Here are four of the qualities I have noticed in great listeners:

Be slow to speak. We are in ministry for a lot of reasons, one being our addiction to life change. We love seeing students’ testimonies unfold before our eyes. But the problem with that is we sometimes try to cut corners and expedite the process. When students tell us about an issue, we can be quick to give life advice and layout a plan to make it all better. But most times, people are just looking for someone to listen to them. Let them ask you for advice. Have them talk far more than you. Some of the best conversations I’ve had were with people that spoke maybe 15% of the time.

Make them your world.  One of the most valuable things you can give someone is your time, but we cheapen that gift when we aren’t fully present. Whether it is checking your phone every five minutes or thinking about what you need to get done next, it can be such a struggle to make someone our world for just an hour. You want someone to open up to you? Be all in.

Ask Questions. Two of the biggest needs teenagers (and people in general) have are to feel known and to feel understood. One of the best ways to help meet these needs is to ask intentional questions. Ask questions that lead to discovery and for you to better understand them and for them to better understand themselves. In the midst of tragedy most people aren’t great at identifying their thoughts and feelings, so ask questions that help navigate them towards some kind of clarity.

Find the “why?” There is always a reason behind what we do. Never settle for what’s on the surface. It is impossible to compartmentalize our lives. Everything is connected to everything. So when something like an anger issue surfaces, the actual problem isn’t the student acting out, the real problem is something much bigger.  Find that “bigger” thing.

What are some qualities that you would add to this list?

Colton [Email||Twitter]

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First 2 Years: 3 (More) Onstage Rules

Onstage Rules

A few months ago, I wrote a post on 5 “rules” for being onstage and I thought I had to give it an update.

Have Fun. Having fun isn’t something that you do just for you, but for the audience as well. If you’re not having fun, they aren’t having fun. Sometimes I think we focus way too much on trying to be funny when we need to be focusing far more on having fun. When you play games, keep in mind that you are creating memories with your youth group. Laugh with each other. Don’t freak out when things don’t go as planned. Turn those mistakes into moments. Laugh at yourself, laugh at the hiccups, and just have a great time.

Timing is Huge. When you are onstage, you have to be paying attention to the clock. I think we will agree that we would never want our stage time to “drag” or be boring. A great way to avoid that is to time things out. Always look out for ways to “tighten up” your time by cutting out unnecessary sentences and filler talk. Have a rough idea of how long the segments of your stage spot should take. For example, if you’re doing 3 announcements at the open of service, know roughly how long each will take. (Note: Unless we have a video to go along with it, a single announcement for us rarely lasts more than 30 seconds). For things like games, always be thinking about pacing–never spend too much time on any one part (explaining rules, intro-ing contestants, etc.). When in doubt, feel it out. Feel the mood of the room, if you feel like you are losing them, wrap it up!

Be Mindful of Your Body (Follow-Up). Look out for your nervous body habits. Everyone does something without thinking about it. A lot of people do “pretzel feet,” which happens when they cross their legs while standing. Do what you can to prevent any distracting body movements. For example, if you are sitting on a stool for something, make sure it isn’t a spinning stool. It is incredibly tempting to move back and forth and spin on something like that. Those body habits seem harmless, but they can be distracting and keep us from fully engaging. Be aware of what you are doing. If you don’t know what “your thing” is, ask a friend after you get off stage or even ask someone to record you.

What are some things you would add to the list?

Colton [Email||Twitter]

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First 2 Years: How to Avoid a Coup

Change is inevitable. Whether your church seems to change on a daily basis or your church hasn’t seemed to change in years, it WILL happen eventually. I have worked for a lot of different bosses and I have seen some handle change well and some crash and burn. The biggest difference I have noticed between the two is communication. Communication is everything. If you do that well, you are paving the way toward a smoother transition. Here are the two big components of communicating:

Explain. Talk to your team. If you ever have the choice between announcing big change over email or in a meeting, always choose a meeting. Your team wants to hear from your mouth what is happening. When people don’t know the “why” behind your choice, you leave them to come up with their own story of how you came to your decision. That can be incredibly dangerous. Explain your logic and heart as clearly as possible and know that explaining isn’t for seeking their approval. Sometimes you are going to make a tough call that might not be popular for everyone and no matter what speech you give, you might not be able to change their opinion.

Listen. Sometimes this piece is forgotten in the communication process. If you want your team to be on board with you, they need to know that you respect them. If they don’t feel like you value their opinion then that respect piece can be hard to keep. Your team wants to feel heard and they want to feel understood. By no means does that mean that you have to take every suggestion, but take the time to make sure you do this step justice. About a year ago, our boss was thinking about making a huge change in our student ministries team. We had a big meeting about it where our team gave concerns and advice on what we thought about it. Some of what we said he took and some he left behind, but that didn’t matter much because we felt heard. We felt respected and were all on board with him.

Colton [Email||Twitter]

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What Really Matters To Students

The grind of youth ministry is unlike most jobs. Late night messages from a student in crisis, overnight events, ski trips, retreats, parties, recruiting and training volunteers to name just a few. For lots of us another part of our work involves connecting with other youth pastors through networking, social media, conferences and speaking events all of which make an already full schedule even busier. It is so easy to get caught up in all sorts of things that are peripheral to the job, and can come at the cost for the students we are entrusted to lead. This fall I have been really focused on being available to connect with as many kids as possible each week. Prioritizing my work in the morning and leaving the last few hours of my day for students has been life giving for myself and I pray, the same for the students.

Those times just sitting with a student, treating them to a coffee, focused on them, hearing their heart, hearing their struggles and encouraging them is powerful and in my mind a large part of what youth ministry it about. I know that an adult taking time out of their busy schedule was a huge moment in my story and I pray that I can create spaces for the same thing to happen in our ministry. Leaving a series of back to back meetings at our local McDonalds  yesterday I was once again reminded of the things that truly matter to our students and reminded of the things that don’t really matter.

What doesn’t matter to students:

1 – Who follows / mentions us on Twitter

2 – What conference or event we spoke at on the weekend.

3 – How many people read the things that we write.

What does matter to them:

1 – That we love Jesus and passionately model that relationship to them.

2 – That we sincerely care about their life and their story. We know their past, but remind them of the future they have in Christ.

3 – That we encourage them and pray for them often, they know we are for them and have their back.

4 – That they don’t feel like a burden and when we meet them, we are focused and nothing else matters.

In the midst of opportunities and distractions, it’s so easy to forget that the students that we lead aren’t very concerned about all the peripheral stuff. These things are important and valuable, but they need to be secondary to our primary call to Pastor our students. What our students need from us is to Pastor and lead them, to accept them and encourage them, be there when we say we will and passionately shepherd them. Our integrity to speak about leadership is rooted in us being healthy, rooted leaders at the local Church level working in the trenches.

Geoff Stewart  – @geoffcstewart

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First 2 Years: Controlling Chaotic Groups!

It is small group season once again and I could not be more excited! During small group season, each of our team members are assigned a few small group leaders to coach throughout the year. This year I got a bunch of freshmen boy group leaders—so fun!

We only got two weeks in before one of the freshmen leaders in my coaching group contacted me about how to keep order in his crazy group. I gave him a few of the classic tips (playing sports before to tucker them out, taking away certain privileges, and asking disruptive students to take a break from group for a week), but I wanted to give him more creative tips as well. I am convinced that my small group consisted of the WORST behaved freshmen of all time so I had a couple tricks up my sleeve. Here is my favorite one:

During group, if a student was being loud or disruptive, I would nominate them for “the worst behaved of the night.” At the end of the night, we would normally have about 3 nominees for the title. From there, I gave each of them 15 seconds to make a speech to the group about why they shouldn’t be “the worst behaved of the night” and after all the speeches the group would vote. The student who got the most votes had to clean up the entire room.

I loved it because it was discipline in disguise. It was something the students took seriously, but had a lot of fun with, as well. I want to know about the creative ways that you have kept order in your group.

What are some tips you would give to small group leaders that are losing control? 

Colton [Email||Twitter]

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First Two Years: 3 Myths About Introverts

Whether it is a student in your youth group or a member of your team, you have an introvert somewhere in your ministry. I recently got coffee with a student who happens to be an introvert himself. He spent the whole time venting about his frustrations with how people perceive introverts, really making me think of how our ministry cares for introverted students. I don’t think we can truly care for introverts until we throw out these three myths:

They can’t connect with others. I believe that when we see students hanging out alone or with just one or two people we think that they have trouble making friends and must have relational problems. While that may sometimes be the case, introverts often choose to have a few close friendships rather than a ton of people in their lives. There is a big difference between being alone and being lonely and we get the two confused too often.

They can’t lead. When we think of leaders, introverts are rarely the first that come to mind. When we think of leaders, we think of people that love being onstage, giving passionate speeches or giving orders to people. One of the biggest mistakes we can make is ruling somebody out for a leadership position because they are an introvert. One of the leaders on our high school staff is an introvert. She isn’t the one that is always the center of attention and she certainly isn’t the most outspoken one out of all of us, but when our leadership is out of town our team naturally looks to her.

They need to be fixed. Sometimes, I think we get caught up in this idea of a success story of someone that went from really shy to becoming the center of attention. This idea leads us to think that there is something wrong with someone that would prefer to spend a Friday night alone than out on the town. We commonly make the mistake of glorifying extroverts and push others to become one. When we think about ways to push and develop introverts, we will often try to get them to do extroverted things. So we will try to put them on stage, put them in a video, etc.—things that we think will put them outside their comfort zone. But is that really growing them? What we really need to be doing is getting them to further understand and grow in the gifts and strengths that the Lord has given them rather than force them to do things that focus on their weaknesses.

What are other myths you think youth pastors usually make when dealing with an introverted student?

Colton [Email||Twitter]

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First 2 Years: What I Learned From the Ultimate Warrior

UW

I have been a professional wrestling fan since the 6th grade. Call me lame, but I have always found something so exciting and interesting about the entire idea of the show, emotion, athleticism, and history of it. The Ultimate Warrior is one of the most famous wrestlers of all time. While he is well known for his time in the early 90’s, he is better known in the wrestling world for his poor reputation and his own self-destruction. Another title for this blog could be, “How to Not Be a Flash in the Pan.”  Here are a few things I learned from his mistakes that easily translate to ministry:

Don’t forget the purpose. The Ultimate Warrior was resented because most of the locker room believed that he didn’t actually care about the craft of wrestling and the history of it, he was only there to put on a show. He lost the purpose behind why he did what he did. He never pushed himself to get better and it led to consistent mediocre matches. We can’t forget the “why” behind what we do. Don’t get caught up in putting together a fancy weekend program for the sake of having a cool weekend. Make sure that everything you do points towards pushing students to know and experience Christ.

Don’t forget who you are. The Ultimate Warrior got so obsessed by his character that he even legally changed his name to “Warrior.” He found his identity in the person that he created. That is something that I have seen in ministry several times and have even fallen into myself. Don’t forget that you are not a youth pastor first. You are a Christ follower first. It can be so easy to find your identity in ministry and to find your worth in your performance. How you identify yourself determines where you place your priorities. Placing ministry as number one leads to a huge gap in your spiritual life, causing your ministry to suffer in a big way.

Don’t forget your community. The Warrior only looked out for himself. This led to the entire locker room turning against him and his complete alienation from the company. This translates into a couple different ways in ministry. The first is to not look out only for your own performance. Symptoms of this are throwing other people under the bus in order to make yourself look better, manipulating situations in order to get recognition or attention, and an unhealthy concern about achieving your own motives and goals. The second is looking out only for your ministry at your church. While you need to fight for your ministry (if you don’t, who will?), you also need to know that other ministries in the church are also important. Make sure you are always looking outside yourself.

Colton [Email||Twitter]

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4 Things Every Volunteer Leader Needs To Know

As the school year ramps up and our team begin to get back into the groove of things, it is important to give volunteer leaders a refresher on what being a leader is all about.  In the midst of communicating a lot of information to our team, that these were the 4 things that each of them had to know:

1 - They are frontline workers: As youth pastors I am convince we get way too much credit for the work that happens in our ministries. Our leaders need to know that they are the ones on the front lines. They know the pulse of the group, they know what students are struggling with, where they are growing and where they aren’t. Because they are so in tune with the lives of students, it is imperative that they keep us informed on the ebbs and flows of their group so we can know how to support, pray for and shepherd our students. When our leaders know they are responsible to keep their finger on the pulse of students, it builds the connection between Pastor and leader.

2 – They ARE Pastors: We may carry the titles, but the role of pastor in the context of a youth ministry really does end up on small group leaders and mentors. Odds are for many students in your ministry, their small group leaders is probably spends more time in a week talking to them and teaching them about Jesus than any other adult, including their parents. As the Pastor to their small group, leaders must understand their job it is to encourage, challenge, sometimes rebuke and help cultivate young people who are pursuing Christ. We are their to support and equip them, and when the challenges exceed their ability or pay grade, to step in and walk beside them.

3 –  Students are Watching: Like it or not, your life is on display online. Through Instagram, Facebook, twitter and any number of more obscure social media platforms, students have unprecedented access to the lives of your leaders. Volunteer leaders need to know that we are called to be set apart, and not just at Church and Youth Group. Our volunteers need to know that few things will be more destructive to the effectiveness of their leadership than living a double life and being seen as just another “hypocritical” Christian.

4 – Their Voice is Unique (and powerful): There are a lot of voices speaking into the lives of students, friends, family, teachers etc but the voice of the small group leader is unlike any other. Students have to listen to authority figures in their lives like teachers and parents, but there is something amazing about youth ministry leaders. They have authority, but students choose to come under it, students choose to listen. They have to listen to their parents, they have to listen to their teachers but them choosing us to mentor and lead them gives us a powerful influence that we of course need to be careful to no abuse. Recognizing the uniqueness of the leader student relationship allows leaders to encourage and challenge students in ways that others simply can’t.

Being a volunteer leader is no easy task, but keeping them focussed on what they’re doing and why will set your team up to have an incredible year.

Geoff @geoffcstewart 

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