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Tag Archives | youth ministry

Too Much Change Too Fast Vs. Doing What You Got Hired To Do

As leaders we want to move forward and want results. But as a teammate with your staff and volunteers you want to be healthy. Coming in as the new guy there is the fine balance of changing and moving forward and not being “that guy” who comes in and does a complete overhaul on the ministry within the first few weeks. You don’t want to ruffle feathers too quickly (because I think leaders do and should ruffle feathers eventually because moving forward will scare people sometimes and leaders move forward) but you also do not want to sit on your hands and do nothing because the people who hired you didn’t hire you to do nothing. Chances are they hired you to do something and expect some sort of change in the ministry. So how do you balance this? How do we walk that tension?

Here are some thoughts about how I am going about it:

  • You are the leader and you are there to make decisions. Decisions fall on you and it’s up to you to make decisions on where you feel God is leading you and you don’t need to apologize for this.
  • I’m not making any big transitions right off the bat but I will start to meet, hang out with, coach, train our leaders to make sure we have the right people on board and we are all headed in the right direction. If I work from the inside out then when change does come on the big level, leaders will be on board and be your biggest cheerleader.
  • People are going to question decisions. It’s part of the game. What I hope is that I have communicated the vision of the ministry clearly so while they may question the decision, they would never question my intentions.
  • Change comes with resistance. Leaders push through resistance because they can see what things can be and help people to get there.
  • Leaders care for the team. They are willing to hear out, listen and be there for those they are leading, helping them to get on board with where the ministry is going. We are leaders, but we shouldn’t be ruthless. Pastors are shepherds, they gather, they move forward, they correct and they love their flock.
  • Respect the past while still moving forward. Great ministry has happened before you get there. Honor it, don’t just push it aside but don’t live by it. God has placed a vision and a passion on your heart and choose you to lead it in this time so move towards it.

If you have ever stepped into a ministry with a firm foundation, what are some things you have learned? What are the must do’s? What are the big no-no’s? How do you balance this? Comment below?

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Help Me Understand…

As I am getting settled in my new house, new city and getting to know my new staff I still have been meeting with people. I technically do not start my new position for another 10 days, but as of last week I still have been hanging out with my direct supervisor and every single person on the team in which I will be overseeing, as well as some great key volunteers. One, because there is only so much I can organize the house and sit at home and two, because I think it is important to get to know, see how people feel and ask them certain questions so I do not go into this new position blind. I want to be able to have somewhat of a pulse on the team and the ministry in which I am joining.

I think one of the most important things any leader will ever do is ask questions. Not only ask questions, but know how to ask good questions. Whether you are hanging out with a student, with a leader or joining a new team, asking questions allows for you to know them and them to know you. It gives them a sense that you care about what they have to say and that you are listening to them. Who doesn’t want to feel like they are being heard?

So here are the questions I have been asking everyone I meet with in some way, shape or form:

  • How are you doing right now? (Are they tired, excited, nervous, anxious, overwhelmed?)
  • What are you most nervous about the future?
  • What are you most excited about?
  • If there was only one thing you could change right away what would it be?
  • If there was one thing you think should not change because it’s really effective what would it be?
  • Can you please help me understand _________ (In conversation if there is something that does not make sense or catches you off-guard you can clarify. I always want to give the benefit of the doubt).

I’m sure there are more, but these seem to be the go-to ones for me at this point in time. Now don’t just ask the questions and that’s it. Take value, take notes and engage in conversation so when time does come for change, you know, value and understand where people are coming from.

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Fear Of Failing

So I have completely transitioned about of Saddleback HSM (just in case you missed this news, click HERE to read what has been going on in my life and ministry). It has been bitter-sweet. Sad to leave people I love but excited to work with some amazing people in the near future. This means the last 10 days I have had plenty of time on my hands. We have moved, we are setting up the new place but for the past few days have had no computer or internet at our house. There has been a lot of great quality time with my wife but there also has been a lot of time to just sit, reflect, think and pray.

A lot.

Maybe not a lot, but more than I am used to on a regular basis.

I don’t know about you, but when things get quiet, things that we tend to repress and avoid because we are busy tend to pop up and be a louder voice than usual. I think for any leader the voice and fear of failing on whatever next venture is (whether is a new position, next event, next service, etc.), is something we will always have to deal with. This is where the enemy loves to sit, fester, and try to pry in our lives cause doubt in our lives where God clearly has called us.

No one wants to fail but it is a constant fear, admitted or not, it is there. So how do you move past it? I have been asking myself this over and over the past few days as I am about to embark on a new adventure in which I know will bring challenges I am not used to.

Here are 3 things I have been constantly reminding myself of when these feelings of fear of failure seem to creep into my life:

  1. Remember what God thinks about me. I think we say this to our students all of the time but we as leaders forget to believe it sometimes ourselves. I need to be reminded daily that I am His child, His friend and that He is for me… even if I fail.
  2. Remember I sit in God’s grace…always. Even if the people around me show no grace, I am always in God’s grace. And this should be enough to pick my head up and keep moving forward. Proverbs 24:16 says, “For though a righteous man falls seven times he rises again.” This is the beauty of God’s grace.
  3. Overcome temptation. When it comes to leading there are many temptations. The temptation of if I fail, to get down on myself. The temptation of if I succeed, to become prideful and lean on myself only. The temptation to rely on me only and steamroll the team in which I work with. The temptation to try to do it all by myself because I know how I want it. As leaders, we need to over come these things and is something I have been in prayer about constantly.

Leadership is a great thing. Failure is not. But sometimes it takes some failing to make some great leaders.

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Weekend In Review: Volume 253

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Weekend Teaching Series: Stress Out
Sermon in a Sentence: When you are anxious and stressed, God cares for you.
Service Length: 85 minutes

Understandable Message: This was a 1-off message the weekend of HSM Summer Camp. I decided to speak on a subject I felt we do not talk about often but more and more students are coming to me with wanting to know how to combat stress and anxiety in their lives. The message went through 4 ways we can overcome stress and anxiety in our lives and how do we allow God to comfort us in those times (This will be out on DYM soon).

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We started off the service with a great live action movie trailer of Dora the Explorer, really funny. It was fun to see the student’s reaction when they realized what it was for. We played In Touch with Your Emojis 3 (which will be coming out on DYM soon but to check out all the hilarious games by Travis, click HERE). It is such a clever game and the students always love it. There were some tough ones on there and it kept it challenging and there was a ton of laughing and yelling out of answers.

Music Playlist: This Is Amazing Grace, How He Loves, Sinking Deep, Your Great Name

Favorite Moment: My favorite moment was that since it was summer camp weekend, the guys who usually run our weekends were on the early crew for camp and they were gone. So the summer intern under them, Chloe, stepped up to the plate and programmed, organized and ran the entire weekend herself. She did incredible! It was so fun to see her take on the beast of a weekend and do so well at it. It was flawless.

Up next: Summer Camp Stories Weekend (1-off)

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God Can Speak Through Your Spouse…

“I feel like we really need to be closer to family. It kills me a little bit every time we leave family and drive back here. I’ve tried to hold back the feelings, but I just can’t and I have to tell you and I think we should consider it.”

Heavy right? What does one do when their spouse brings up moving when things are going well? I’m going to be honest, it was not an easy thing to hear coming out of mouth of my lovely wife. If I’m going to be really honest, I was a little bit angry at first. I was thinking, “Why on earth would I ever consider leaving Saddleback and the HSM team? There is such a great thing happening here. I love the team. I love the ministry. I love the church. I love what I get to do.”

I remember going into the offices and having a conversation with Josh with tears in my eyes because I didn’t really know what to do in this situation. Neither did he. So we prayed and I had quite a few follow up conversations with Kristin to make sure this was not a one time thought. It wasn’t. I was praying the next night by myself, I felt the Holy Spirit speak to me saying, “If you felt called to go to a church in Montana, Kristin would be open to have a conversation and be prayerful about what I am doing in you, don’t ignore what I’m doing in her.” Dang.

So I started to pray for her… for us.

It’s amazing what prayer can do. God can change a heart, a desire, and open up doors in which you thought would never open. Prayer is powerful and God loves to answer prayers. Over the weeks as we have been talking, praying and discussing where we feel God is leading us, we are taking a huge leap of faith. I know I am called to lead a ministry. I know I am called to lead a team. Saddleback HSM has been an instrumental part of helping me understand how a healthy and effective team. Josh and the team have showed me how to love students and run an effective student ministry. They are incredible people and amazing pastors.

This is why I have decided to accept the lead Student Ministries Pastor position at Christ’s Church of the Valley (Shift Students) in San Dimas, CA. I worked here for a few years right after college and I’m really excited to be back doing ministry in a city I love, where we will closer to both of our families, and get to work alongside some great friends. I will be overseeing Junior High and High School ministry and leading a team of great people to reach students for Christ. I am really excited/nervous/anxious for what the future brings and I am excited to see how God is going to use both Kristin and I in this new season of ministry.

Just a few things that I have learned through this process:

  • My wife is one of the bravest people I know. She had the courage to speak her mind even though she knew it would be a tough conversation.
  • I couldn’t just let this conversation pass and sweep it away because my wife would not feel comfortable with bringing up tough things again in the future.
  • When I read passages like the ones from Ephesians 5, it challenges me to love my wife, putting her needs in front of some things that I really like or enjoy, and see how God can bless those decisions.
  • Praying with your spouse is super powerful and very encouraging.
  • God knows what he is doing and looking back in the process, I can see His presence in every step of the way.
  • It’s really easy to leave things are tough, but it’s really hard to walk away from something that is really good and going well.
  • It sucks saying goodbye to people and students you have been with for years.
  • Taking leaps of faith is frightening, but God wants to bless those who put their trust in Him and follow where He is leading.

My time with DYM will still be the same and I’m excited to share my learnings and what I will take part in during this whole new process. I would appreciate any prayers you can offer our way. This is going to be quite a journey.

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4 Things To Remember When Dealing With Parents

So this week is HSM Summer Camp. I’m going to be up front with you, I have nothing to do with the planning of it. But the week before we head out, its all hands on deck fro answering questions for students, leaders and mostly parents. For the most part, summer camp runs smooth, but there always is the dreaded “putting the cabins together” and not everyone is going to be happy with everything. That is okay, it is part of it.

All this last week, I would say I spent a good 2 hours on the phone with upset parents. These parents were not out of control; they were just worried because they were looking out for the best interest of their child. My phone calls with parents were great and it got me thinking about how we as youth workers deal with parents and some things we need to keep in mind.

When dealing and communicating with upset parents we need to:

Listen- I have heard of horror stories where parents don’t feel like the youth pastor actually listens to them when they are upset about something. I think one of the most important things we can do is just to listen. Stop talking. Hear them out whether they are being rational or not. Most people think they will get backlash right back so when we don’t respond and hear them out, it automatically lets them take their guard down and allow you to say what you need to say in a loving but clear way. Parents want to know they are being heard.

Affirm – Whether you think so or not, how they are feeling is a real feeling to them. We may not agree with what they are feeling or why they are feeling it, but regardless, it is how they feel. Saying, “I can see how you can feel that way” or “I understand where you are coming from” shows that you are listening and hearing what they have to say.

Inform – Remembering that their feelings are very real to them, we still need to explain why something is a particular way. If it was an oversight, we can apologize and fix it if necessary. If there was a reason you made the choice they are upset about, this is where you would lovingly explain to them why it is that way.

Encourage – We are to partner with parents. We want to listen to them, affirm their feelings, inform them, and then encourage them. If you do the first 3 things, usually the end of the conversation is much different from the upset beginning. It allows us to cool down the confrontation and then turn it into a conversation about the most important thing (and the reason why they are calling you so passionately) their child. We are to speak life into their family whenever we can.

Granted, some conversations don’t always end so nicely. Hopefully you will be able to figure the best way to represent Christ with a passionate parent. But I feel remembering these things while talking with an upset parent will help us get through a difficult conversation and turn it into an encouraging one.

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Fun Twitter Campaign Idea For Summer Camp

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This weekend we leave for HSM Summer Camp. It honestly is one of my favorite things we do all year long. The staff is pumped. The students are pumped. Our volunteers are pumped. I think it is easy to say, everyone and their mother is pumped for camp. One thing we have been trying to get pumped up (because we have not really focused on it besides the last few months) is our @SaddlebackHSM twitter. If I’m honest, we have neglected it but that has changed recently.

As I’m sure all of you know, many students are online in some way, shape or form. We have noticed many students have made the transition to Twitter so we want to communicate to them and get our ministry Twitter up on its game. So with camp coming up, I decided to launch a Twitter campaign of “100 Awesome Things About Summer Camp”. The goal was to get students to interact with it and in a way spread the word about HSM twitter to other students and friends while promoting our stuff. So we started to make a list of things about summer camp and used the hashtag “#100AwsomeThingsHSMCamp” and went to town.

I would have to say it was a success. Students “favorited” or “retweeted” many of the tweets and it was a really fun way to get students excited about camp. Go check out the rest of the tweets by clicking HERE.

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What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do

There are times in ministry (and life for that matter) where I come upon a situation and I really do not know what to do. I get a very angry email from an upset parent and my first response will probably not be the best. There is a leader in which I know is not working out and I need to ask them to step down. There is a student in which seems not to get anything I have been teaching or saying and they just keep doing the same thing over and over again. There is a decision that only you can make but you don’t really want to make it because you know you are going to get back lash. I feel like I have been in a season of all of these things happening at once and I find myself just standing scratching my head thinking, “What do I even do here?”

Here is a few things I do when I do not know what to do:

Stop. Relax. Chances are it’s not the end of the world, it just feels like it. One thing I know for sure, the best decisions are not the ones out of immediate reactions of anger and annoyance.

Forget about the overall outcome. Many times just the thought of what is going to happen down the line will freeze us in making a right decision, or any decision for that matter. When we don’t get too ahead of ourselves, we stop and think, we can make the best leadership decision.

Think about the next right, immediate decision. So instead of thinking so far in the future, ask “What would be the best next decision now to get towards the solution?” We can worry about whether or not this is going to pan out and stay stuck or we can think about what the next move is and move forward.

Pray about it. Sometimes I feel like it’s really easy to skip this step. We get so caught up in the anxiety, we miss probably the most important step. We know what Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” We have the power of the Holy Spirit to help guide us in decision-making. allow God’s peace to guard your heart and your mind. Give it to him.

Respond appropriately. When we give it to God and have spent some time in prayer about it, we can confidently know our decision is the best one we can make and we know we have gone about it the best way we humanly know how. Then respond appropriately and people will be able to see your leadership and how well you handle tough calls.

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5 Reasons the Church Needs Youth Ministry

I really enjoyed this video from Youth Specialties President Mark Matlock talking about the church’s need for youth ministry. Some good stuff here to chew on for sure!

JG

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Who Is Your Sounding Board?

In ministry we teach “it’s all about the community”. But sometimes we as the ministers don’t really follow our own advice. If you are not careful, leading can be a very lonely, lonely place. Because we are the ones students and leaders go to for help, the amount of time we actually have to get some help for ourselves get tougher. If we are not careful, this can cause some serious damage.

One of the most important things I would say in my own spiritual life is having people I have intentionally placed in my life who can be a sounding board for decisions I need to make in my personal, spiritual, and ministerial life.

These people I trust greatly. These people I know I can go to for anything. These people I know will tell me the truth and not just what I want to hear. They ask me the tough questions, question my reasoning, challenge me in areas of my life I need to be challenged in. All in all, they make me a better Christ follower which makes me a better pastor. When we do not have these people in our lives and ministry, you will not only pay the price but your students will suffer the consequences of your actions and decisions because you had no one to go to.

We really are better together. We were not created to do anything alone. God wants a relationship with us. He wants us to have relationships with others. Pastors and youth workers need relationships to thrive. Thriving ministers have people in their lives who ask them the tough things and thriving ministers have people they can go to for anything in life and ministry to be a sounding board.

So the question is: who is your sounding board and who are you being a sounding board to?

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POLL: Have you ever snuck out of an overnighter?

Fun poll today about youth ministry overnighters. Vote now!

JG

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That one time a pad commercial taught us something…

Check out this video from Always, yep that’s a feminine hygiene company, as they remind us to be careful with our words.

#likeagirl

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5 Benefits Of Involving Volunteers In Future Planning

We are winding down the small groups year this week. Most of our groups take a break for the summer. But just because groups are winding down doesn’t mean we get to stop working. We are already planning ahead for next years groups. One thing we are doing is putting together a meeting with some of our key volunteers to get their input on the direction of small groups and curriculum we are going to be going through next year. It is a simple brain storming meetings asking for their thoughts on the direction we should be going, what they think their students need to hear, and what was missed in the material we provided for them this year. I figured, who would have a better pulse on our students than the ones who spent the most time with them?

Here are some benefits for asking for volunteer’s inputs:

They feel/are valued - In general, when people are included in something, they feel valued. In instances like this, they are valued greatly. what they bring to the table is the best weapon for prepping for next year.

They feel they have a voice - When volunteers have an input in direction of anything, they feel like we actually listen to them. It’s not as easy to be given something and be passionate about it as it is to have your hand in something and be passionate about it. Curriculum and structure won’t be something ordered rather than something they helped create.

They feel ownership - When you have a say in something you feel like you own it. You’re proud of the end result. Therefore, you are excited about it and want to get others in on it. this is exactly what involving volunteers in brainstorming meetings does. Especially if you are going to change things up a little bit (which we are next year), it’s important they feel like they have a part in it.

They have the inside scoop - Small group leaders are in the trenches like we are. Yes, we might be paid for it (or not even) but they are the ones who are talking with, hanging out with, spending time with the students in your ministry. they know what topics are right on and they know what topics are missing. Lean into that.

We have a ton to learn from them - We have so many leaders who are just total studs. Leaders in which I get to hang out with and I end up walking away challenged and encouraged because of the ministry they are doing. There is a ton of great things to be learned when it comes to leading groups from some leaders. When we get all of our leaders together, they get a chance to share their wisdom and experiences with each other and they walk away feeling heard, inspired and challenged.

Moral of the story? Get your leaders involved, it will only make you better.

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Get Some “Ups” In Ministry

Ministry is a whole bunch of ups and downs. There are certain things we need to keep in mind when it comes to working in ministry, working or volunteering in a church, speaking with students, staff or parents and much more. There are certain situations in which certain leadership actions need to take place. We all like to be “up”.

Here are some “ups” to keep in mind while we do this amazing thing called “ministry”:

Step Up- A goal is given to you but not clear direction. Sometimes we just need to take it and run with it. Step up into it and make it awesome. Make it effective. Someone dropped the ball on something, step up and own it. It shows your team you can take some heat for them and then you can go back with them and walk them through to help avoid it again. You see a student sitting by themselves but your busy. Don’t let the excuse of, “Surely someone else will talk to them.” Step up and be a pastor and care for your flock.

Back Up- Sometimes we just need to back up and evaluate the situation before we rush in and try to fix it. This is my tendency. I want to just get it done. Back up and see what the big picture is and then try again. Sometimes we want teenagers and parents to figure it out. Back up, let them work it out. Come alongside them. Sometimes we need to realize we cannot do somethings be ourselves, we need to back up, swallow our pride and get help.

Speak Up- This tends to be one of the harder ones for me. I am a people pleaser. Sometimes when I have a great idea I let it go because I was not asked. When I see something that went wrong or is not a good thing, I have been trying to speak up more. Sometimes it will better the organization. Speak up in someones life when you see something, in a loving way of course. Sometimes I rather the person not be mad at me instead of being their pastor and help them with sin in their life and walk them through a difficult situation.

Shut Up- I need to work on this too. Sometimes I say things when I shouldn’t. Or sthings have been said but could have been said later, in private, to that person and not in front of everyone. Something I have been working on even more is just shutting up and listening. I am finding the best counseling sessions I have done have been the ones in which I barely said anything and just listened. Instead of jumping in right away with my thoughts on how they should fix it, just shut up and listen and then ask if they want your input.

Show Up- Sometimes we don’t need to say anything at all. Just show up. Just like Job’s friends when he was in pain, they didn’t say a word and just sat there with him. Show up to that football game or play. Our presence means more to students than we will ever know.

Pray Up- We sometimes forget this. We are never doing anything by ourselves when we are in ministry unless we make it that way. Pray it up. Every situation, conversation, action or decision, give it God. The Holy Spirit will guide us in our decisions, actions, words and thoughts if we let Him. This one is the most important.

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How Do You Recruit Leaders?

Two of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to small groups (I feel they are) are the following:

  • What do you feel your biggest need is?
  • How do you recruit small group leaders?

I feel the first one is easy. Biggest need? Probably like many churches, volunteers. We need people to lead groups. The second question however is a lot tougher. If you happen to know, please let me know. How do you make sure you don’t get just anybody but make sure to get quality, teachable, adults who have a heart for teenagers? Great question.

I feel like we have done an announcement in the bulletin. We have made announcement videos for the main weekend services. We have sent out emails to the church. We have talked to our college ministry. All of which we would maybe get a few good candidates out of all of those. Surprisingly the best way I have seen and have done is pretty simple.

Nothing beats a personal invite.

No one told me at the beginning of my youth ministry career that I would have to have the same qualifications as a college football recruiter. When you meet people around the church, look for people who you feel would be great to volunteer and simply just ask them if they ever considered leading a group. If so, then you got them. If not, you at least got them thinking about it and then follow up. Also, send your leaders out into the world and have them each talk to two friends they think would be a great group leader. You will be surprised a how many more quality hits you get from a bulletin announcement.

When someone is asked personally, it means you see something good in them. They feel valued. They feel like they can make a difference and you think they can as well. That’s powerful. Some of the greatest leaders are the ones you would never expect. the ones you would never have known about unless you or another leader saw something in them and planted a personal invite to get them thinking about it.

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