Friday, January 15, 2010

The things you do...

We all have them; you know what I mean. Those events that we hate to do but we do them because we know that the students love them. And since we live in the greatest state in the world, California, it means that the beach is always just a hop skip and a jump away. And one of the most favrit days for the world to go to the beach is the Fourth of July. I mean, we are talking straight up chaos. There is so much madness going on at any each that you are bound to have fun and prolly get in trouble at the same time.

If you have never been to the beach on Independence Day, you really must do it at least once. And for me, once was enough, but I somehow got suckered into going more than my quota-filling one time. There are so many peeps there that there is absolutely no parking, everyone sneaks in fireworks and booze and anything else you can think of. There is so much that can go wrong because all of the peeps are not paying attention for anything. However, the excitement of being there is off the hook. The kids always have a great time. They are away from the folks, they feel like they have freedom and it is just a downright good time. And that is why you have to be extra careful.

We would leave early in the morning to get there and try to stake out a place on the beach. There were fireworks shows all over the place and you were bound to have a great seat no matter where you were on the beach. The fuzz is all over the place just itching to give out ticket for anything. When we get down there and take accountability and give out the rules, stuff always changes. There is always some unforeseen circumstance that we would have to deal with. Like one year when we were there and there was not a bathroom in a square mile because someone had blown up the one closest to us with M1000's. Yeah, way to be mature. It was hilarious, I must say. But stuff like that.

By the time the day was over I was ready to roll and get anywhere but there. And I would vow to myself as I hit the pillow that I would never do it again. But come the next weekend and all the talk about how much fun everyone had, how could I resist? How could I say no to fun and relationships? How could I say no to ministry? You are right, I couldn't – what at push-over. What is the event you despise the most in your ministry, the one that makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck just thinking of all the prep and turmoil that it will put you through each time – yet, knowing that it is the best event that you put on, one that the kids love? My advice, keep doing it. Suck it up and just remember that you can always look back years later and say, “ahhh, the things I did for ministry opportunities...” Funniest part is, you will always have those events... good luck.

The wrong stuff?

I talk to youth pastors a lot about trusting your instinct and knowing what it means to run a good program. Although tons of peeps that I talk to nowadays think that program is dead and that we need to move in a different direction, I am a firm believer that if you run a bad program then you are going to have a hard time achieving a successful youth program. And I know that this is very subjective, but most philosophy is; I think anyway. Just remember that in all of your infinite, God-given wisdom, you could actually be wrong ever now and again. I know, I know, crazy but true.

I know that you have the pulse of your group and that you prolly do a great job in your ministry. I hope that you are giving tons of time to your students, but more to the peeps that put time into them on a daily basis. You know, the leaders in your ministry. The volunteers that give up a bunch of their free time to spend putting into the youth of today, building into the leaders of tomorrow. And since they are with the students so much, you need to listen to your volunteer staff.

If you are like many of the pastors I chill with, you have a full plate. There are things in your schedule that make your ministry difficult to keep up with and you need all the help you can get. And this is why the input you get from your staff is so important. When one of my peeps would come up to me to discuss an issue that s/he felt was important, in my younger days I would listen, but not really. This was the absolute worst thing I could have done. Just because I was the guy with the title did not make me the one with the best ideas all of the time. Yes, I think I had a pretty good idea of what needed to be done and I was very intuitive, but the stuff that was brought to my attention from others was equally important.

Had I listened to the suggestions of my staff back then I would have saved myself a lot of time. I had to learn to listen. Timing issues, themes, concerns, series suggestions, program glitches; these were all problems that I faced on a weekly basis and could have used the help that was right in front of me. Are you listening to your staff? Do you value their input? There are peeps that know ministry as well and many even better than you. They are there to help. They want the youth program to succeed just as much as you do. Listen to them, you would be wise to add their counsel to your decision-making process.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Train yourself, or else...

I know this may be shocking to a lot of peeps, but if you don't take the time to train yourself then you are going to be out of ministry sooner or later. And it is up to you. No one else is going to take the time to do it because they have their own stuff to worry about. They have lives and barely have the time to do stuff for themselves. The problem for you is that you have to worry about you and your staff at the same time. When others decide to do ministry with you and buy into your vision to put time into the students in your group, they are your responsibility. And if you don't want to have them on your team or do not believe in them or whatever, then they do not need to be on your team.

You have to give your peeps time. If you choose to have them on your team, then no excuses. When we were a smaller group and it was hard to get leaders for the kids, we were willing to take anyone at all. We just wanted warm bodies. A lot of you may be in the same situation. And if you are at the mercy of anyone who will give you their time then you have an obligation to them. And you have to give them your all. And that is why you need to be training yourself.

Good book to start with... Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People. Yeah, I know. This is a pretty straight forward book. And when it was suggested to me I was like, ok, I don't think I really need to read something like that. And that is exactly why I needed it. The stuff was so simple and easy, but so much of it I was not doing. Even the beest peeps in the world need help and the best leaders are constantly learning. Are you? If you are not reading till your eyes hurt then I would suggest that you carve out a little time to do so.

Train yourself or your peeps will end up leaving your team. When they know that you are not growing anymore they will peace out. They may not even know why they are leaving, but they will. I expect my staff to read and listen to stuff and put time into their own development. And the reason that they are willing to do so is that they know that I am always trying to do what it takes to get better at what I do.

I am not that good. None of us are. And that is why we need to continually stay on the cutting edge in our learning curve and training. If you devote yourself to making yourself better each day then you give yourself a better chance of adding value to others. And isn't that what ministry is all about? Do your best and never stop learning. Train yourself and always do more than your staff will. Let them know that you are serious about growth in your group and in each of their lives personally. It will benefit your ministry a ton.

Friday, January 8, 2010

You gotta' ask...

I was out jogging the other day and rolling through some of the neighborhoods to give me some scenery. And when I run I do not like to stay on the sidewalks because it is harder on your bones; and this old man needs all the help he can get. So, I run on the street asphalt to give me a little help in enduring the madness. But as you can imagine, this puts me in a better position of getting run over by vehicles – a chance I am willing to take, I guess. So, yeah, I am on my way and all of the sudden I can hear this truck race up behind me pull up next to me. I was thinking, oh man, i'm about to get an earful fro this guy. And then I hear a jovial voice, and as I look to my left, it is the dad of one of my former students. I have not seen this guy or his son in years, since his kid had graduated high school.

He got out of his truck and we proceeded to chat for like forty-five minutes right there on the side of the road. We were laughing so hard about all the stuff that we used to do together in ministry. This dad was one of the guys who you never would have thought would ever help out in ministry. Not because he did not want to, but because he had and still has one of the busiest schedules I have ever heard of. But it just so happened that this guy helped us out with one of our all-niters that we had for the sophomore boys. We were down a driver and needed to get one fast or else it was really going to screw up our toilet-papering escapade. And this kid was like, “Hey, I know my dad is off for a couple of days... maybe he will drive.” We called, he rolled over, and the rest is history.

Although I had known this dad for a some years before because he and his family had been members of the church for a long time, I never thought to ever ask him to be a part of stuff because he did not look to me like the type of guy who would want to spend what little free time he had with a bunch of students. I was wrong. That nite he had the best time and all the boys thought he was the coolest dad in the world. He even helped in the festivities. At the end of the nite he told me that whenever I needed his help to call him. Those are the sweetest words that any youth pastor can ever hear. And so I took him up on his offer.

Over the next few years he was one of the stalwarts in our ministry. He was the dad that put in tons of time on and off campus with our group. He had a great time, always. And when the peeps were around him, they loved it! This guy was a diamond in the rough. I would have never known. I would have never have asked him. And I would have missed out on tons of ministry with a guy who is still a blessing to me. That is the stuff that we talked about on the side of the road the other day. He went on and on about how appreciative he was of me and our staff at church for putting time into his family. I was humbled.

For a guy like him to feel like our team gave to him and not the other way around was incredible. He was thankful to be a part of our activities and on the parental staff. I was shocked. And I know I should not have been, but I always am. I don't know what I would have done without this dad and the time, effort and love that he put into our ministry. God is good. I realized after that first time that he helped us drive for the guys nite out that I needed only to ask more. I needed to be proactive with the parents in our ministry. And as I expected, there were many others who were just waiting to be asked.

Some know it and some do not. The peeps who will spend time in your ministry volunteering are waiting for you a lot of the time. You are the leader and they know that you have a plan, or that you should. Involve as many in the proces as possible. There ware some superstar peeps who are just waiting for an invitation. When is your next event? Who are the peeps you have been meaning to call to spend time in your ministry? Give them a call, you may be pleasantly surprised.