Wednesday, March 30, 2011

SYMC Conference - Day 3

The second day of the Simply Youth Ministry Conference was a great time of wrap up. We had some amazing worship in the general session with Shane & Shane, Tim Timmons, OC Supertones and Gungor. I loved it and almost lost my voice.

The second half of the Indispensable Youth Pastor was about keeping and loving your job. We started off the second day with a quote from Andy Stanley talking about mediocrity. "Momentum is never created by tweaking something old... get new choir robes. You can't tweak yourself into momentum. New triggers momentum. New is expensive and risky, so we default to tweak tweak tweak. Minor improvements doesn't create momentum. It just takes what's mediocre and makes it a little better." I think this says a lot about how some ministries and churches try to just change up the little rather than taking the big steps needed to reach people.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

SYMC Conference - Day 2

This post was started at the Conference but finished a couple weeks later.

This continues my first couple thoughts on the Simply Youth Ministry Conference.

Day two of SYMC was incredible. I started with worship and then moved into my Deeper Learning Track. I was really struggling with what to take and on the advice of a friend, I choose Mark DeVries teaching "The Indispensable Youth Pastor".

This learning track focus on Locating, Landing and Loving your youth ministry position. The first section was focused on the Locating and Landing pieces. Mark and Jeff talked about the following:

  • Find a church that is the right match. This means knowing what you are looking for in a church.
  • The Interview. Once you found that church, how do you make yourself look good on paper and in real life. (I will cover this in another blog series)
  • Making the Move. How will this affect your family? How much time will you need to commit to the church vs your family? What are some things you can do to start the ministry right.

When the track started, I wasn't sure I need to be there and almost left. Even though we had decided to leave, my brain wasn't computer it. I am glad I stayed. I learned some stuff that is going to come in handy as I begin to look for another position.

I day was filled with 4 hours of deep conversation about becoming an indispensable youth pastor. The following awesome points that Mark made that I think really show how to become indispensable.

Moving Toward indispensability:

  1. Your job is to do your job: You were hired to do a job, you need to do it. The youth pastor can sometimes become more than the youth pastor because we normally have other various skills but we need to focus on our job first. You can't complain about others not doing what they should, if you yourself aren't doing your job.
  2. Steward the Church's vision: We all have an idea of how the church should run but you weren't hired to change the church. You need to champion the vision of the church and that pastor. If you try to push your own vision, then only friction will occur.
  3. Kiss the Victim Goodbye: When you are employee, you have to do things you don't want to do. Mark talked about paying the rents in ministry. There are things that NEED to be done to be effective and by doing them and not worrying whether you agree or not is best. Paying these rents are about building trust and enthusiasm in the ministry you are trying to build.
  4. Get More than our Job Done: You need to go beyond what is expected of you. Mark told a story of a Pastor who knew the names of the majority of his congregation the first day he was there because he studied their faces and names. We need to reach out to the parents, leadership and congregation and help them be successful.
  5. Focus on Making Other People Successful: When you make other people in the church successful, you build up more rents. This also makes your ministry stronger by weaving the ministry throughout the church. Encourage your students to get involved and be successful in other ministries in the church. Volunteer your group to help when other ministries need it.
  6. Creativity can be learned: Don't limit yourself. All of us are creative. God created us to be creative. We need to stop worrying about coming up with bad ideas and just let the creativity flow.
  7. Tell the Stories -- Transform the Culture: Make sure others know of your success in ministry. Find ways to tell the good stories of what is happening in your ministry. You can use these stories to show others the excitement in your ministry and it will become contagious.

As I thought through these ideas, I began to think about the good things I did in our ministry and some of the rents that I didn't pay. If you are in ministry, are you paying your rents or playing the victim?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Stepping Out..

Do you ever think about the amount of faith it takes to live our every day lives? We put faith in the electric company when we flip a switch. We put our faith in engineers when we step on the brakes for our cars to stop. Our faith is tested every minute of every day, we just never think about it.

What about the astronauts we send into faith? How much faith do they have when they strap themselves into the chair of a rocket with thousands of gallons of explosive fuel. What about the astronauts who were the first to step on the moon. How much faith do you think it took for Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to step out of the lander module and onto the moon service. I can imagine the feelings they must have had. The feelings of incredible excitement and undeniable fear. What if their suits were not air tight? What if the ship never started back up to take them off? What if there was a monster on the planet that they didn't know about? There had to be so many questions going through their mind as they stepped off that ship to be the first human to ever walk on the moon. Their faith must have been huge.

Most of our world will tell you that they can't put their faith in things not seen but we do it all the time. They don't believe in God because they cannot see, feel, hear, taste or touch Him. I think even Christians are hard pressed to really put their faith in God. We talk about taking a step of faith but few of us rarely do. We have money in our savings accounts to keep us from getting behind in our bills. We meet new people only when it is convenient for us. Many of our churches are still doing things the way they always have because we are comfortable. We give only when it doesn't hurt us financially.

Our faith is something we say but not something we do. What would happened it we all listened to the call of God and stepped out on faith in whatever God has called us. What if we gave until it really hurt us? What if we reach out to everyone we saw? What if we stopped being worried about what the homeless man did with our money and let God worry about it. What if we quit our current job in favor of doing something God wanted us to? What if churches did whatever was necessary to reach those around them? What if we did everything we could to reach the lost of this world?

If we really put our faith in God, the feelings we will encounter will be so much more than what Neil and Buzz felt when they stepped off the moon lander?

What if???

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Leading vs Doing: Part 2

This was written pre-resignation...

My last blog talked about some stumbling blocks that I encountered when moving from DOING ministry to LEADING others to do ministry. This post is going to talk about my plan to overcome those stumbling blocks.

I believe that if you are doing ministry by yourself, you are wrong. We are designed to be relational people and as youth pastors, we need to work extra hard to make those relationships happen for our students. If you are the lone ranger, you students are missing out on the vast amount of influence they can have in their lives from other adults. I know it is hard to recruit adult leaders. Some churches can do it where others don't seem to have it.

If you have a youth ministry with any students in it, you need to be building an adult leader team. Yes, it may seem easier to do it yourself but you are building for the future and that means multiplying yourself.

Here are some ways that we are changing...

Change #1 Job Descriptions. Each position in our ministry will have a job description that tells the potential adult the time commitment, the goals of the position, what the job actually is and what skills are needed. Job descriptions help the potential adult know what they are getting into and it helps you recruit for that specific position

Change #2 Relational Training. This probably the most radical of all our changes but the most needed. Each adult you recruit is different. (go figure huh). They learn differently, have different personalities and different skill sets. Relational Training is a customized training to a specific individual. When you build the relationship, you begin to understand more about that person and how they learn. In your learning you can begin to help lead them in the direction they need to go in their position. This training goes along with all the other training your doing.

Change #3 Customized Communications. Each of your students has a specific way they communicate, so do your adults. Some might email, others text and other may prefer a phone call or face to face. I need to work hard to make sure I reach all our adult leaders in the best way possible. Example, I have one adult leader who reads emails but mostly on her phone, so I need to keep my messages to her short and sweet. While I can't do this all the time, knowing it in advance can help me to make her life easier.

I believe that if I can make these 3 changes, our adult leader team will grow stronger than ever. There are many more steps to building a strong leadership team and maybe I can post some stuff in the future but if you take the lessons I have learned and apply them to your ministry, you will be better off.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Leading vs Doing: Part 1

This blog was written pre-resignation...

I have done ministry in many different settings. Each setting brings with it a different set of challenges. When I was the only adult leader, it was easy for me to do whatever I wanted. When we started a small group program, I was the one leading it. When the students wanted a deeper Bible study, I led it. Easy stuff.

In my current ministry, I am not the only one. In fact, I am part of a team of paid and volunteer staff. I have a full-time assistant. I have a great group of 45 adult leaders doing various pieces of our ministry. I have gone from Doing ministry, to leading ministers. Each adult leader on our team is told that they are the Youth Pastor to their specific group of students. I cannot personally get to know each student on the same level they can. This has changed my entire approach to ministry and caused some stumbling on my part.

Stumble #1 - Doing ministry myself is easy, helping others do ministry is harder. I have learned that how I do things is not necessarily how others will do it. I may be able to look at a page of my notes and know exactly where to go but a mother of two leading a small group of 8th grade girls won't.

Stumble #2 - Being original isn't all its cracked up to be. In our Confirmation classes this year, I was going to write the curriculum because I have done it over the last few years. This is fine when I am looking at the notes but not as easy when I have to give those notes to an adult leader who doesn't have my background in ministry. Sometimes using pre-written curriculum is ok.

Stumble #3 - Thinking everyone is the same, is not even close. Each of our adult leaders learns differently. We have some that are very laid back and won't print out their small group material until right before they meet. We have other who need to have it 3 weeks in advance so they can start soaking in the information.

Each of these stumbles has caused me to really look at how I lead. I am working on becoming better at training and teaching. I am trying to be more clear on my expectations of each position in our ministry. We are now moving into a time of me leading leaders who then lead a group of adult leaders, so I will be switching even more to help our adults lead their peers.

how about you? What are some things that you have learned about being a leader of leaders?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I am leaving Platte Woods

One of the hardest things to do in ministry is to leave, especially when things are going great.  This is the situation that my family and I are in right now.  Last week, I resigned as Youth Pastor at Platte Woods UMC.  I have been in this position for almost 4 years.  In May of 2007, our family made the 500 mile drive from Nashville, TN to answer the call of God.

We have had an incredible time and done some amazing things.  Over the last 6 months or so, we have felt that God was calling us to something else.  We battled and prayed about it and finally made the decision.  We are taking a huge step in faith but we know that He has a plan for our lives.  

Friday, March 04, 2011

SYMC Day 1 - Pre-Conference Track

Each year that I do the SYMC conference, I participate in a pre-conference track on Friday. I did Small Groups with Doug Fields the first year. Last year, I took the Jr High Ministry with Kurt Johnston. Each has been valuable training for me. This year, I did Helping Hurting Kids by Marv Penner and Rich Van Pelt. I wanted to do this because I will be teaching a series on the subject in April and May.

Let me first say, my mind was blown. I have dealt with students who have struggled with all kinds of issues but the stories that Marv and Rich talked about during the session blew my mind. I can't imagine the hurt that our students feel today and most of it is at the hands of family.

The concept that stuck out in my mind was that within all of us, God has planted a thirst for community, purpose and unconditional love. In a perfect world, God would fill us full of all three. Unfortunately in our broken world, we try to fill the void with anything we can think of. As Marv unpacked what this meant in the lives of our students, I was amazed. As a parent, it was hard to sit and listen and to realize the things I wasn't doing with my children. As a youth pastor, I thought through all the lives in our ministry and where each of them might be.

Our students lives are changing so fast and the adults in the lives are not helping them make the transition. Adults are constantly letting the next generation down, and that generation is beginning to show us the damage we are doing. We have become a shallow society that doesn't know how to have real conversations and then we wonder why we have no idea our students are hurting themselves behind closed doors. We have taught them to hide.

I look forward to studying about this more and learning how I can help students struggling with this enormous pain in their lives.

The good part of the day was that it ended on a great night. The first General Session of SYMC was incredible, as always. The worship was led by Shane & Shane and then completed with a short concert by Matt Maher. The Skit Guys and Josh & Jake were funny as anything. I laughed hard. Doug brought us a message reflecting on his mothers voice in his life and the complexities of being in youth ministry.

Overall, it was a great start to what I know is going to be a great conference.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

SYMC and Continuing Education

I love conferences. I love the atmosphere, the friendship, the free stuff and more. I have been to many different conferences over the last 15 years. I have hit all the big ones and even a couple of the smaller ones. I am always on the look out to learn from those who have gone before me. One thing I know about myself, is that I don't know everything. Conference help me to learn a lot in a short amount of time, usually a weekend.

I have kind of settled on the Simply Youth Ministry Conference as my all time favorite. This is my 3rd year attending this conference. I am even a part of the Inside-Track team that helps to develop this conference. I have meet some great people and gotten some great ideas from this conference.

Now, I am not saying this is the conference for everyone but I believe it is a great conference for me. Group and SYM does an incredible job at making this a small conference in a big conference body. You leave feeling like you have met everyone and when you return, it is like a family reunion. I believe this is what sets SYMC apart from other conference. You get more than just learning, you get the ability to network and be a part of something bigger.

Group does a great job of bringing in the best speakers they can find. I have learned that it isn't just people who are good, but people they have relationships with. This means that the speakers will speak and not just try to sell their latest book. I went to another conference where this was the whole goal of each session and it was a big turn off.

I am looking forward to this weekend. I am approaching it with a whole new approach than before. I am looking to build more and deeper relationships with others. I want to meet and help as many people as possible. I want to learn but I want more to have great conversations.